People still show up at the former Union Street Bed and Breakfast looking for sex parties, almost a year after it closed and was sold at auction.
But these days, they are greeted by a sign that politely tells them that the B&B no longer exists and that the building is under new management.
If they are looking for mental health services, however, they have found the right place.
“We take walk-ins,” said building owner Dr. Thomas Qualtere.
Otherwise, they have to find their entertainment elsewhere, Qualtere said.
“It no longer is a bed and breakfast, although people stop by Friday and Saturday. People still think it is a party place,” he said.
Qualtere purchased the 111-year-old mansion in August for $180,000. Former owner Robert Alexson sold the building and moved to Florida. He had operated a bed and breakfast there and also advertised weekly sex parties on the premises. The basement came with a fully equipped dungeon and a hot tub.
The city tried several ways to close down Alexson. In May 2008, city Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden served him with a cease-and-desist order, saying that an investigation proved that Alexson was running an adult business by hosting publicly advertised swingers’ parties in a part of the city not zoned for such an enterprise. The order gave him six months to “wind down” the parties before city officials took action on what they considered a violation of Schenectady’s zoning laws.
After buying the Victorian mansion, Qualtere spent several months renovating the 6,000-square-foot, 14-bedroom house into a professional office for Schenectady County Mental Health Associates. Qualtere opened the office in June, but he is holding a grand opening today.
Schenectady County Mental Health Associates provides outpatient mental health services for mood, thought and personality disorders; therapy for couples and individuals; treatment of emotional problems; medication management; and forensic evaluations. It also provides substance abuse evaluations.
The firm employs a team of psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and social workers plus three office staff, Qualtere said. The medical professionals have seen 400 clients since June, and Qualtere said he has added three new employees over the past month.
“We essentially renovated the building, emptying the prior contents of the B&B. We donated complete bedroom sets to veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and donated the commercial kitchen appliances and contents of the food pantry to Catholic Charities and soup kitchens,” Qualtere said. “We give back to community, especially to the food pantry.”
Qualtere said the donations of eight bedroom sets to military veterans happened by chance.
“One guy came in, a subcontractor, and I told him I was getting rid of the bedroom sets. He said he had a son coming back, and I told him to pick one out. He said ‘how much?’ I said ‘take it, you helped us,’ ” he said.
After that, the other sets disappeared through word of mouth.
The first and second floors contain reception rooms and private offices; the basement contains computer equipment. There are new carpets, new plumbing, electrical upgrades and a new security system as well.
As business grows, Qualtere said, he will lease space in the building to other mental health professionals.
“The idea is to facilitate more timely evaluations. We will make available intakes and initial evaluations within a week or 10 days’ time,” he said.
At least one neighbor is happy to see a medical office next door rather than a sex club. John DelRocco said another sex club would have been hard to take, especially if it held parties late into the night, as was the case with the previous owner.
Qualtere said other neighbors have been supportive.
“Several sent thank you notes for turning it into a professional building. One sent a housewarming gift, a plant,” he said.
Schenectady County Mental Health Associates office manager Ashlee Scott was unaware of the building’s notoriety. She moved to Schenectady recently, having lived in Georgia.
“I knew stuff used to go on,” she said.
When told the house contained a dungeon, she grimaced and jokingly said that she did not plan to go into the basement ever again.
Otherwise, she said, “I like working here a lot. It feels like I am home.”