The proposed demolition of a historically significant building in Saratoga Springs isn’t all that common, according to Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation.
But a pair of homeowners are currently proposing to demolish not one, but two, historic homes built in 1851. On Wednesday, the city’s Design Review Commission will decide whether or not the property owners have proved the buildings cannot be saved. Neighbors and the preservation foundation think they can.
The boarded-up homes with “X’s” out front — 65 and 69 Phila St. — are owned by Helen Case LLC, according to the Saratoga Springs’ 2020 assessment roll. Company owners Helen and Case Simpson have owned the properties since 1994 and 2002, respectively, after purchasing 65 Phila St. for $125,000 and 69 Phila St. for $41,000. In the time that they’ve owned the properties, which are located in the Saratoga Springs’ Historic District, neighbors and others insist the pair haven’t properly preserved the two buildings and have rejected offers to sell.
Currently, the full-market value for 65 Phila St. is $270,000, while the full-market value for 69 Phila St. is $223,065, according to the assessment roll. The Saratoga Springs post office box attached to Helen Case LLC is also connected to several other Saratoga Springs properties, including 90 Catherine St., 32 Park Pl., 68, 74 and 76 Caroline St., 18 Russell St. and 135 Division St. Helen Simpson did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.
“We strongly oppose demolitions, especially in this instance, where these owners have willfully neglected these historic resources,” Bosshart said. “They have been a blight to their neighbors, the city has lost out on revenue because of their deteriorated condition. They don’t have much value if they were rehabilitated and restored. The value of them and how they would be taxed would be significantly more. I mean, the city spends resources to take these owners to court.”
On Dec. 9, the Design Review Commission voted that 65 and 69 Phila St. were historically significant after neighbors and others spoke and submitted comments about preserving the two buildings. Some neighbors called the decision to demolish the buildings “demolition by neglect” and said there’s still a chance for renovation despite the owners’ push to raze the homes.
“While they’re deteriorated, they still retain architectural and historical significance,” Bosshart told The Daily Gazette Monday. “Alexander A. Patterson [the architect and builder behind 65 Phila St.] later became the proprietor of the Patterson Mineral Springs Company. And so not only was this house built by an architect builder, which is fairly early when you think about 1851, it had an association with this history of springs in our community.”
As for 69 Phila St., the building was owned by a man who later established a long-lasting orphanage in Saratoga Springs, which Bosshart insists shows the philanthropic traditions of the community.
In an effort to advocate for the buildings, the preservation foundation is asking residents to donate $10 for signs reading “Save Our City’s Historical Buildings.” Bosshart said the two buildings have been on the foundation’s endangered “Ten to Save” list since 1998.
Those interested can register online to provide input during Wednesday’s meeting, which is at 6 p.m. on Zoom and the sign up can be found on the city’s website.
“We encourage people to provide public comment if they want to see the buildings preserved,” Bosshart said.