SARATOGA SPRINGS – The dilapidated but historic house at 65 Phila St. — a near-wreck threatened with demolition as recently as March — has been purchased by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, which plans to make the structural and cosmetic repairs needed to make the building saleable, officials announced Thursday.
The foundation has secured $235,000 in low-interest financing through foundation board member Mark Haworth to buy the building, and is launching a campaign to raise an estimated $250,000 to make the necessary basic repairs, said foundation Executive Director Samantha Bosshart.
The foundation this past winter fought against a proposal by the previous owners to demolish both 65 Phila — a wooden structure with peeling paint and rotting steps — and neighboring 69 Phila St., a red brick building that has also seriously deteriorated.
The city’s Design Review Commission, which has authority over demolitions in the city’s Historic District, in late March rejected the proposal to demolish 65 Phila, leaving its fate in limbo. The building at 69 Phila secured a private buyer shortly before that meeting and is now slated for repairs.
“Now, after more than 30 years, both these buildings will receive the much-needed attention they deserve,” Bosshart said.
The house at 65 Phila was built in 1851 in an Italianate style by Alexander A. Patterson, an architect and builder who later owned a mineral springs company. It was in the Patterson family for 90 years, and then became a boarding house. For several decades prior to 2002, it was a summer residence owned by a Hasidic Jewish congregation in Brooklyn.
The house at 69 Phila, meanwhile, was owned in the second half of the 19th century by the Rev. Bostwick Hawley, who established a Saratoga Springs orphanage and a charitable foundation that still exists today. The new owners have consulted with the foundation, Bosshart said, and told her they plan to make repairs and use it as a single-family residence.
Both houses are listed as contributing buildings to the East Side Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, they sit at the point where the restaurants and storefronts on lower Phila Street give way to residential housing.
Neighbors, most of whom have extensively rehabilitated their own homes while maintaining their historic facades, are thrilled that something is being done with the buildings after decades of neglect. Neighbors were outspoken during the city review, saying the buildings shouldn’t be demolished. “Save Our Historic Buildings” lawn signs remain around the neighborhood.
“I’ve been here 30 years, and it was in bad shape back then,” said Willy Browne, who lives across the street. “[Rehabs] can be done. All these houses were in that sort of shape … Restoration is a difficult thing. It will be a beautiful house when they are done.”
Foundation board Chairman Adam Favro said the rehabilitation will be a chance for the foundation to show what it can do with a building, after years of primarily providing advisory and technical opinions on preserving buildings in the city. When the foundation was established in 1977 it did some building rehabs, but it hasn’t in recent years.
“This is an exciting opportunity to take on this challenging rehabilitation and allow us to walk our talk,” said Favro. “We will develop plans working with local architects, hire local contractors, present to the Design Review Commission, and more,” Favro said.
The first step, Bosshart said, will be a complete evaluation of the building, but a new roof, structural repairs and repainting are already planned. The foundation wants to bring the building into good enough shape to interest a private buyer.
“Our goal is to make it safe for future owners and the neighborhood, something that is long overdue,” Bosshart said.
Any proceeds from selling the house would go back into the foundation’s preservation work, possibly including another building rehab, she said. “We hope to be able to start as soon as possible,” she said.
The foundation is starting a “Revive 65” campaign to raise the estimated $250,000 cost of the rehabilitation.
State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, who is a former executive director of the foundation, praised its work, and said Saratoga Springs’ efforts to preserve its historic architecture are a model for all of upstate New York.
“The foundation recognizes that our built environment is what carries our shared history,” she said.
Saratoga Springs, Woerner added, “is a beacon across the state for what can happen when you invest in preserving the historical character of the community.”
Matthew Veitch, a city representative on the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors and former president of the foundation board, said the preservation foundation was formed in 1977 in response to specific concerns, including the loss of a number of historic buildings during the urban renewal era of the 1960s and 1970s, when the federal government paid for the demolition and replacement of aging downtown structures across the country.