SARATOGA SPRINGS – A few years ago, John and Michelle Haller were looking to downsize, to move from their spacious Loudonville home into something a bit smaller.
Then they discovered a historic, 7,000-square-foot Queen Anne house on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs — and those plans quickly changed.
“The original plan was going to be to downsize and get a nice, small house within walking distance [of town]. We ended up going the opposite way,” John Haller said.
In 2016, they purchased not only the 1884 Queen Anne home on Union but also the carriage house behind it. For nearly three years, they lived in the carriage house while the Union Avenue home underwent major renovation work.
Builders Bob and Doug Courtney of Robert Courtney Enterprises did much of the construction, and the Phinney Design Group helped with the design and planning work.
Part of the house needed to be gutted and the foundation had to be reinforced.
“There were structural issues. Everything was sagging,” Haller said.
Beyond addressing those issues, the couple also reconfigured one of the staircases so they had access to the basement from inside the home. The reconfiguration made the third floor more accessible, and they replicated newel posts from the original main staircase at the front of the house to maintain the aesthetics of the home’s history.
Another key change was the location of the kitchen. Previously, it was set in the back of the house.
“We wanted to move it up and center it because we really liked the front of the house. We wanted to increase the chances of us using the front of the house,” Haller said. “We cook a lot. This is usually the main hangout.”
The kitchen cabinets and appliances were thoughtfully designed. Nothing looks strictly utilitarian, as many modern kitchens tend to look. Instead, some of the appliances are disguised as furniture, featuring gold-colored hardware and a soothing shade of light green.
“We had Colleen Coleman help us with the kitchen layout and then a lot of other details in the house, like the wallpaper and lights,” Haller said.
The kitchen cabinets stretch up toward the high ceiling. There’s a ladder that connects to rails to access the higher shelves. The kitchen also features an original fireplace with dark-colored tile. The Hallers incorporated the design of the fireplace’s metal riveting into the oven hood’s design.
They also repurposed some wood paneling to create a hidden bar off the kitchen.
The Hallers maintained the aesthetics of the house’s exterior, along with the sitting room and game room. Those spaces look quite similar to how they might have been when John M. and Henrietta O. Jones first had the home built in 1884.
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The latter was the daughter of French composer Jacques Offenbach, who created a type of light burlesque French comic opera known as the opérette that was popular throughout Europe. John M. Jones was a jeweler and watchmaker. The couple lived in the house mainly during the summer seasons, and after their deaths the home changed hands several times. It was once owned by John F. Primrose, president of the National Oil Company, and Caroline “Carrie” Eighmey, who was one of the first women to receive a diploma in nursing from Saratoga Hospital.
William and Olive Vaughn also owned the home at one point. William worked as an architect and designed the Regent Street Theatre, the first structure built specifically for Skidmore College.
In the 1980s, the first floor of the house was converted into a dentist’s office and the owners, Adolph and Judith Valente, resided on the second floor.
The home has an asymmetrical façade, a steeply pitched roof and a wraparound front porch with turned wood columns. The front door — as well as a stained-glass window that features poppy flowers — and the richly lacquered staircase are original to the home.
In the game room there’s another original fireplace with intricately decorated metalwork. The Hallers have also added period furniture, including a casino table with green felt on one side.
“It’s in pretty good shape. We come out here to play our games,” Haller said. A painting of the casino hangs on the wall.
There’s also a large hutch that was passed down from John Haller’s grandmother and built around the same time as the house was constructed.
Across from the game room is a music room, with a piano and a large hutch built specifically to hold piano music. The medallion design on the hutch matches the detail in the molding seen throughout the home.
Upstairs, the main suite connects to a sitting area and a sizable porch. The bathroom, which was quite narrow and minimalist when the Hallers first bought the house, has been expanded.
There are two other bedrooms on the second floor, which house the couple’s three adult children when they visit. They installed bathrooms off each bedroom, complete with a timeless aesthetic.
“We tried to pick things that are kind of universal. They’re not real modern or clawfoot, but just something that will endure,” Haller said.
The third floor was once an apartment with a small kitchen and bathroom. The Hallers removed the kitchen and instead created a craft room, as well as a children’s room or playroom and a guest bedroom.
The other portion of the third floor is Haller’s office. Haller founded SportsSignUp — an app that provides youth sports organizations help in managing teams, leagues and schedules — and is a board member of the Saratoga Preservation Foundation.
“I was not very excited about seeing my office up on the third floor. But we put that skylight in and they just put these cabinets in. … It was pretty dark and kind of sketchy before. It just felt very closed-in. I like it [now]. It’s kind of neat up here,” Haller said.
While the renovation process was a lengthy one, it was well worth it for the couple.
“We fell in love with [Saratoga]. Once our kids moved on, we decided it would be a great town to live in — much more interesting than suburbia,” Haller said.