SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s Design Review Commission has voted unanimously to prevent the demolition of a historic but neglected residential building at 65 Phila St., in the city’s East Side Historic District.
The owners had sought to demolish the houses at both 65 and 69 Phila, which were both built in 1851. The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation and Preservation League of New York State had urged their preservation as historic, and the commission had been reviewing the matter since December. Most people who spoke at a virtual public hearing on March 3 called for their preservation.
At a virtual meeting held Wednesday using Zoom conferencing software, the review commission was told that there is now a contract to sell 69 Phila St., and its demolition is no longer being sought.
The Design Review Commission has the authority to ensure the architectural integrity of the city’s Historic District, including the review of demolition permits, which it can deny, as it did in this case.
After about an hour of discussion, members of the commission found that the owners hadn’t met the city’s criteria for demolishing a historically significant building, including good faith efforts to sell the property, seek another reasonable use for it, or properly maintain the building. It also noted that the owners never met with the Design Review Commission to discuss ways to save the building before filing the demolition application.
The boarded-up two-story homes, which have condemned markings placed on them by the city, are owned by Helen and Case Simpson, who bought one property in 1994, and the other in 2002. In the time that they’ve owned the properties, neighbors and others said they haven’t properly preserved the two buildings and have rejected offers to sell.
The wooden house at 65 Phila is in Italianate style, constructed in 1851 by Alexander A. Patterson, an architect and builder. That same year the house at 69 Phila was built by mason Robert Hunter, also in an Italianate style, but of brick, according to a Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation description.
The two buildings sit on Phila Street less than a block from the Saratoga Springs Public Library, at the point where commercial buildings located closer to downtown give way to residential structures.
On Dec. 9, the Design Review Commission voted that both 65 and 69 Phila St. were historically and architecturally 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,” Preservation Foundation Executive Director Samantha Bosshart told The Daily Gazette in January. “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.”