The Spa City is known for its grand historic homes and hotels, but let’s not forget The Mansion of Saratoga, a Victorian beauty seven miles from downtown, in Rock City Falls.
“The original fixtures are still intact, unlike many historic buildings in Saratoga Springs,” says Lori Wodicka, The Mansion’s general manager.
The chandeliers, marble fireplaces, staircase, windows, tile and brass doorknobs are from 1866, when the elegant Italianate Victorian was built for George West, a Ballston Spa industrialist and “Paper Bag King” who made a fortune as the world’s largest manufacturer of folded paper bags. A philanthropist, state assemblyman and Congressman, West had three homes in the area. “This is the only one still standing,” Wodicka says.
In 2001, Jeffrey Wodicka and Neil Castro of Saratoga Springs bought the neglected four-acre estate on Route 29, had the house restored and hired noted interior designer Edward DeRocker. A year later, the home opened as a bed and breakfast, and today, the elegant mauve mansion has Rick Bieber as its executive chef and operates as a venue for private events, especially weddings, and a supper club with Broadway entertainers.
On Saturday, The Mansion will host its first Summer Arts Fest. There will be live music, readings by local authors and more than 30 vendors with clothing, jewelry, fine art and craft. Chef Bieber’s menu of “take & go” food will be available along with a full bar.
The Arts Fest “will be all over, mostly outdoors, under the tent and in the garden,” says Wodicka, who is Jeffrey Wodicka’s daughter and self-described “mistress of the mansion.”
Visitors are invited to roam the peaceful, landscaped grounds with their food and drink or relax at tables under huge shade trees. There are flower beds, fountains, a gazebo and an old-fashioned porch with white wicker furniture and giant hanging planters of ferns.
Many of the vendors will be set up under the 50-by-50 foot tent and deck that is used for weddings.
Walt & Whitman, the craft brew business that plans to open a beer hall and coffee house in the former Saratogian newspaper building in Saratoga Springs, will be offering beer samples.
The music will happen in the 19th century barn behind the house. First up is Peter Pashoukos, acoustic blues and soul guitarist, followed by The Jeanne O’Connor Trio, with Peg Delaney and Pete Toigo. At 1:30 p.m., soprano Carla Fisk will sing selections from opera. From 3 to 5 p.m., The North & South Dakotas, a band known for blending bluegrass, country, folk, rock and honky-tonk, will perform.
Wodicka purposefully decided to book very different kinds of music and mingle fine art with craft. “I didn’t want to stay boxed into one thing,” she says.
Visitors can watch oil painter Brendan Clancy work at his easel or sign up for a hands-on workshops with Saratoga Paint & Sip and Razimus Jewelry.
There will be book signings or readings by Tony Scaringe, author of “Mighty Mary,” a novel about international yacht racing and the first all-women’s America’s Cup team; Danielle Searles, author of the children’s board book “A Colorful Way to Learn & Play Saratoga Springs,” Linda McCann, author of “The Alchemy of Reiki: Opening the Door to Energy Work”; and Anthony Richichi, an artist and illustrator who has exhibited his work at the Hyde Collection and galleries across the state.
Every hour, on the hour, Lori or her father will meet visitors at the front doors of the mansion and conduct guided tours of the mansion. Donations of $5 are suggested, with 100 percent of the money going to pay medical-related expenses for Regina Bennett-Wodicka, a 31-year-old relative who is battling brain cancer.
One more thing about Summer Arts Fest: Please don’t fret about the weather.
“It’s rain or shine but we’ll have a big basket of huge umbrellas,” says Wodicka.
Summer Arts Fest
WHERE: The Mansion of Saratoga, Route 29, Rock City Falls
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (July 20)
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: themansionsaratoga.com, Facebook
(Performances indoors on main stage of The Barn)
10-11:30 a.m.: Peter Pashoukos, acoustic blues & soul
12-1 p.m.: Jeanne O’Connor Jazz Ensemble
1:30-2 p.m.: Carla Fisk, operatic soprano
3-5 p.m.: The North & South Dakotas
WORKSHOPS: Razimus Jewelry, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., $70. Fee includes materials for making bracelet plus tea and sweets. Sign up at www.razimusjewelry.com. Saratoga Paint & Sip, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., $45. Fee includes materials for painting, drink ticket and light snacks. Sign up at www.paintandsipstudios.com.