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How the Van Patten Homes defined a town

How the Van Patten Homes defined a town

'They've always been a tremendous value, and something that have been sought after by someone who is raising a family'
How the Van Patten Homes defined a town
Robert Van Patten is seen in an undated photo. His Van Patten homes helped transition Clifton Park from rural to suburban.
Photographer: File photo

There are a handful of frequently cited factors that, to hear it from residents, make the town of Clifton Park such a desirable place to live: low taxes, accessible parks and pools, a large, well-performing school district and close proximity to the Northway, which enables people to get to four area cities in 30 minutes or less.

But there's another component both longtime residents and those looking to start new lives in Clifton Park continuously laud: the iconic Van Patten homes, built decades ago by Clifton Park-based builder Robert Van Patten.

According to a history of  Clifton Knolls penned by the Clifton Knolls-Mill Creek Civic Association, Van Patten built the houses in assembly-line fashion, street by street starting in the northwest corner of Clifton Knolls. The first Van Patten homes were constructed in the 1960s.

There were no contracts involved in the deal, according to the Civic Association. Reportedly, only a handshake was needed to seal the deal between Van Patten and the land's previous owner.

Certain aspects of the Van Patten homes, including the names of the buildings, evolved over time. When first constructed, the homes did not bear Van Patten's name. The ranches were referred to only as "the four-bedroom" and "the three-bedroom."

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Two types of Colonial-style homes, according to the Civic Association, began to cause some confusion, because they had the same number of rooms. So, to differentiate the layouts, they were given the names of their framing foremen. The homes built by Hank Graves became known as the "Hanks," and homes built by Stan Marrick became known as the "Stans."

Later on, the names were formalized by Realtors who sold the homes. The "Hanks" became the Hanover Colonials, and the "Stans" became the Standish Colonials.

The four-bedroom ranch became known as the "executive ranch," and the three-bedroom ranch was dubbed the "raised ranch."

The Van Patten homes continue to influence the town's real estate activity, said Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett. That's partly because they retain high values and continue to be in demand. The homes, when first built, were affordable, a good size, and typically were built on at least a half-care of land, allowing spacious lawns and backyards.

Barrett himself lives in a Van Patten home, and he pointed out they usually have large kitchens and are perfect for families with children or couples who are planning to start a family.

"They've always been a tremendous value and something that have been sought after by someone who is raising a family," Barrett said. "They're still very relevant."

Barrett noted the smaller Van Patten ranches are selling in the high $200,000 range.

John Scavo, town planning director, also lives in a Van Patten home. He said the homes offer amenities for people of all ages, and the ability to move into a well-established neighborhood is attractive to buyers.

The homes, he said, also continue to be structurally sound. The only changes that are made typically come when new homeowners seek to redo parts of the house, or to modernize them.

"There's younger families who have moved in," Scavo said. "It offers a good mix to allow people to age in place."

"The Van Patten homes will continue to be sought after aggressively by families," Barrett said.

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