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Restoration efforts continue at Canfield Casino

Restoration efforts continue at Canfield Casino

Some projects completed; more planned for 2018
Restoration efforts continue at Canfield Casino
DPW Commissioner Skip Scirocco speaks in the ballroom at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park on Wednesday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

Editor's note: This story was updated at 12:10 p.m. Sunday to correct John Morrissey's name.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Congress Park's Canfield Casino has been the focus of several restoration efforts this year with more planned for 2018. 

The front portion of Canfield Casino, which houses the parlor room and bar and Saratoga Springs History Museum, was built in 1870 by John Morrissey, a former professional heavyweight boxing champion and founder of the Saratoga Race Course. 

The building, which was often used for gambling, was called the "Saratoga Club House" and drew visitors such as Mark Twain and the Vanderbilt family. 

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The ballroom was added on in 1902 by the second owner, Richard Canfield, who sold the building to the then village of Saratoga nine years later. 

When Anthony "Skip" Scirocco became commissioner of Public Works in 2008, he said he made Canfield Casino a prime focus. 

"I don't think anything had been done to the building when I came in since the '80s," he said. 

Each year, Scirocco works to secure approximately $150,000 to $300,000 in funding to restore the 6,000-square-foot building.

The first projects under Scirocco's administration included a roof replacement, addition of a drainage system and basement moisture remediation. 

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Deborah LaBreche, assistant city engineer, said while building's initial projects weren't visually noticeable by the public, they were some of the the most important. 

"The basement looked like a frog pond," she said. "The building is located on one of the lowest points in the city and it was built on a swamp, so that's been our biggest challenge from the beginning."

LaBreche said in order to host weddings and events, the floor also needed to be addressed and has since been supported by columns and steel beams. 

Scirocco said Canfield Casino, which is booked several years in advance, generates nearly $400,000 for the city each year.

Rental rates for city residents are $2,800 and $3,000 for non-city residents in addition to kitchen and chair rental fees. 

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A year after Scirocco took office, a piece of plaster fell from the parlor room, which LaBreche said signified that more work needed to be done to the building. 

"It was a red flag that something was wrong," she said. 

Scirocco said a temporary fix was completed in order to secure the plaster in the parlor.

"We secured it to keep everything intact with the idea that we'd do extensive plaster work at some point in the future," he said. 

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Ceiling plaster work as well as an attic structural investigation and stabilization project, and cupola restoration are planned for next year in the casino's parlor. 

One of the most notable changes to Canfield Casino this year was that all 60 stained glass windows on the ballroom ceiling were backlit with LED custom fixtures. 

"They were backlit originally and then had florescent lights, but without a custom job, it was never done the right way," LaBreche said. "It looks amazing at night."

Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Preservation Foundation, said she appreciates the efforts of the Department of Public Works to restore Canfield Casino.

"What the department has done to the building has brought a new life to it," she said. "It's a gem and they've been wonderful stewards to the building."

Bosshart said Canfield Casino, which is designated as a National Historic Landmark, is both locally and nationally significant.

"Many people in the community identify it with being a symbol of our heritage and have many fond memories of going to events there," she said. "The department's continued commitment to preserve it allow it to be a wonderful gathering space for people in the community and for special events."

The second project that began this year at Canfield Casino was restoring the sconces in the parlor room. 

"They're made from light tin and have to be handled carefully," LaBreche said. "They were also piped for gas and along the way someone made them electric and they weren't put in strongly, so they need to be stabilized."

She added that the sconce stabilization project would commence in 2018. 

Canfield Casino, Scirocco said, is a work in progress. 

"It's a treasure we want to preserve," he said. "We want it to be here for another hundred years."

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