For Robert Bolen, his Saratoga Springs home is more than a place to live. It’s a way to carry on a family tradition.
“I grew up in a house pretty similar and my father’s father also had a house that’s very similar,” Bolen said. Built in 1845, the three-story home is a cross between Greek Revival and early Italianate styles, with white fluted columns along the front and side.
The house—located at 108 Circular Street—is just one stop on the Historic Homes Tour on Saturday. Organized by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, the event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and gives attendees a glimpse into nine homes that have become integral to the city’s history. Several of the homes on the list this year are on Circular Street, in the East Side neighborhood.
While each home has its own story in the context of local history, Bolen’s also plays into his family history. His father’s side of the family is from the south, his mother’s family is from the Saratoga Springs area. 108 Circular Street takes inspiration from both sides.
According to Samantha Bosshart, the executive director of SSPF, it was built by James Savage, an entrepreneur who also owned a local hardware store. During the 1920s, the home was purchased by Joseph and Fanny Sovatkin, who turned it into a hotel. Circular Street was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood at the time and the hotel catered to the community, offering Kosher food. Though the ownership of the building changed hands over the years, it remained a hotel until the 1960s.
The home sat dormant for well over 10 years until John Hettinger bought it in 1980. He renovated it and occupied the home until a little over a decade ago, when Hettinger died.
“I bought it from his son. I think they live down in Tampa and they didn’t get up here too often,” Bolen said.
Ever since he moved in with his two children in 2016, the home has been more or less a construction zone. As the owner of Bolen Builders Inc. and 911 Restoration of Saratoga Springs, Bolen is well equipped for restoring the home.
So far, he’s made mostly cosmetic changes, adding a few modern touches here and there. He’s working on updating the kitchen, redesigning the entire layout to include modern appliances and cabinets, as well as marble top counters.
Replacing the 1970s wallpaper in the living room, Bolen painted the walls a bright white, bringing out the trim on the ceiling. The room is filled with pieces antique furniture that have been in the Bolen family for generations and with pieces that Bolen has added to the collection. The dining room table, which is set up in the next room, has also been in the family for years.
Bolen’s father collected the table as well as the furniture, which mostly features wingback chairs and couches with carved feet.
Even the staircase, which features intricately carved balusters, incorporates his family history. On the landing going up to the third floor, cheery family photos of his grandparents and of his grandparents’ extended family are hung on the wall, combining family and local history.
Many of the cosmetic projects that Bolen began when he first moved into the home in 2016 are nearly done. However, he’s still working on converting what was once a covered porch to an all year round family room, which he’s hoping to complete by this summer.
The Historic Homes Tour features nine homes, including 46 Circular Street, 108 Circular Street, two condos at the Stone Abbey at 125 Circular Street, 172 Circular Street, 201 Circular Street 89 Court Street, 30 North Lane and a “Rehabilitation-In-Progress” at 184 Spring Street.
The Van Raalte Mill at 125 High Rock Avenue and the New York State Military Museum at 61 Lake Avenue, will also be featured.
Tour tickets are $30 for SSPF members and $40 for non-members. They can be purchased online and by phone, as well as at all Adirondack Trust Company locations. Tickets can be purchased the day of the event for $35 members and $45 non-members at 112 Spring Street from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For those looking for more in terms of local history, Saratoga Springs’ City Historian Mary Ann Fitzgerald will present “Echoes from the Mill: Tales from Between the Lions” about the Van Raalte Mill. The event, called Breakfast & Buildings, will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Van Raalte Mill and breakfast will be provided by Spring Street Deli & Pizzeria. Then, at noon on Saturday, Charlie Kuenzel and Dave Patterson will give a presentation about the development of the city called “High Rock to High Stakes.” The program will be held at the New York State Military Museum, with a boxed lunch provided by The Inn at Saratoga.
Tickets for both events are $20 for SSPF members and $25 for non-members. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
For more information or to purchase tickets please visit saratogapreservation.org or call (518) 587-5030.