In the light
Windows the draw for owner of Spa City house
By Leigh Hornbeck
Originally published in The Times Union of Albany. Reprinted here with permission.
Updated 5:14 pm, Thursday, August 15, 2013
It was not merely the historic nature of the pre-Civil War house that attracted Judy Harrigan, or the North Broadway address or even the strong lines of its Italianate design — although all of that was important. It was the light that brought Harrigan home.
The house at 649 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, is defined by its windows. Ten feet tall on the first and second floors, four windows across the front of the house on each story and three across on both sides allow light to flood the interior of the brick house.
When Harrigan was house-shopping in Saratoga Springs, her criteria were light, walking distance to downtown and character. She paid nearly $1.7 million for the house and left Manhattan’s Upper West Side to move in in 2008. Harrigan holds a doctorate in experimental psychology, made a career in marketing and research and is now semi-retired.
A graduate of Shaker High, she has always loved Saratoga. Old houses have always appealed to her, because of the character and history they contain.
“My attitude is, I’m not really an owner of the house, I’m a temporary caretaker,” she said.
Upkeep on the house, which has more than 4,000 square feet, is significant. When Harrigan moved in, she focused first on the windows, which had all been painted shut. A crew from Old Saratoga Restorations spent four months removing, sanding and repainting; Harrigan then commissioned custom-made screens and storm windows, which must be hung and removed via cherry picker.
The work isn’t required because of the home’s location in a historic district or because it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Harrigan just wants it to look nice and as true to its original character as possible.
Every year she has the white, wooden steps to the front porch and the railing painted. If she were to make a change other than paint color, the city’s design review committee would have to approve the plans.
Harrigan’s closest neighbors are in a shingle-style house at 655 North Broadway, built in 1897.
Her neighbors to the other side are Ron and Michele Riggi, who built their 21,000- square-foot stone mansion in 2000. Harrigan said the Riggis, as well as everyone along North Broadway, are fabulous neighbors.
Harrigan has an unfussy decorating style, which allows the arched doorways and 14-foot ceilings to stand out. Of her decor she is fondest of her collection of carousel horses — two in the foyer and one in the library.
“I loved carousels as a child, I love the horses,” she said. Since she has the space under 14-foot ceilings, she might someday buy a carved wooden giraffe for the house, she said.
The dining room is painted russet, but the color scheme is largely creamy white and light yellow. Chandeliers provide ornate touches.
Harrigan was provided a wealth of history on the house when she moved in.
Built around 1856, the first owner was Lewis B. Close, who became the city’s postmaster and a prominent businessman, according to research by the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. When he died in 1872, the house went to his oldest daughter, who lost it to foreclosure.
Fewer than a half dozen people have owned the house since then. Each left their mark on it.Jane St. George did the most restoration work. She bought it in 1982 after it had been used as a boarding house and had brown paint scraped off the bricks by hand, replaced all the ceilings and the wiring in the second floor and replaced the oil furnace with gas.
In 1993, the house was the setting for a designer show house fundraiser for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center; The New York Times covered the opening reception.
Another set of owners in the early 2000s added a breakfast nook and a covered walkway between the house and the three-car garage. They also added a marble bathroom and steam shower, which Harrigan hopes to someday remodel into a space more appropriate for the style of the house.
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