Preservation Matters: An evolution of design: 658 North Broadway
Charles Wait, someone who also enjoys history, knew quite a bit about his house – enough to know that when he recently read a publication that featured his home that some of the facts were wrong. The inaccurate publication piqued his interest and he wanted to learn more.
Charles approached me about the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation’s House History and Plaque Program because he had heard about the thorough house histories we provide. I was thrilled that I was finally going to learn about the grand white house that I have walked by hundreds of times thanks to Joan Walter, our research volunteer extraordinaire. Joan, who on average spends 25 to 30 hours researching each home, puts together a complete house history by looking through property deeds, maps, city directories, census records, and other sources of information.
The house that you see today is not the first house to grace this large lot. The original house was built in 1856 by Charles “Charley” Burr and his wife, Mary, one year after they were married. It appears that Charley was a bit of a character. He was an only child who was treated with disdain by his wealthy father and made an outcast, often living without shelter and eking out a living peddling books on the street. An August 8, 1855, New York Daily Times article described him as being only recognized as “a repulsive mendicant (beggar) in the streets.” When his father died, his relatives were shocked to learn that he had no will, leaving Charley with great wealth. They immediately, oddly with his consent, had him declared insane to protect his property and a clerk was appointed to keep his accounts. Three years later, supported by testimony of physicians and other reputable witnesses Charley had the decree modified to allow him to control his “immense estate.”
A New York Times article dated July 19, 1855, reported that attempts had been made to prevent his return to Saratoga where it was feared he would marry widow Mary S. Beach, who was “well known in fashionable society for her beauty, wit and social accomplishments,” interfering with the anticipated disposition of his wealth to his relatives. Upon learning of these attempts to prevent his marriage, he returned immediately to Saratoga to wed Mary, who prior to the ceremony received a marriage settlement of $200,000. Following their wedding tour, Charley and Mary returned to live in Saratoga. In 1860, Charley passed away and his wife Mary inherited the property at 658 North Broadway among many other assets.
Mary married Reverend John Wayland a year later. She continued to reside at 658 North Broadway following his death in 1863. According to maps and tax assessments, Mary demolished the original 1856 house and constructed a new house in 1876. The following year, Mary moved to 607 North Broadway and rented the house to Maria Root, who operated a boarding house there named Wayland Mansion until 1887.
In 1887, Mary passed away and her daughter from her first marriage, Katherine Ehninger, sold the house to Eugene O’Connor, an attorney. In 1888, Eugene made extensive renovations to the house that were designed by prominent local architect S. Gifford Slocum, according to the “City Historian’s Treatise on Saratoga Springs Architects.” Eugene and his family summered at 658 North Broadway until 1893 when he began to summer at 143 Caroline Street. He rented 658 North Broadway to James Moore of New York City the following year until 1904, the same year that Moore passed away. The house remained vacant until 1909 when Eugene defaulted on his mortgage and the house was sold at public auction. Mrs. Frank Leslie, the wife of the publisher of “Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly” purchased the house and owned it until 1918. The house continued to be vacant during her ownership according to the city directories.
In 1918, Alice C. Van Deusen, the wife of Charles Van Deusen, acquired 658 North Broadway. At that time Charles Van Deusen owned a retail grocery store at 420-422 Broadway. In 1921 Charles became active vice president and then three years later president of the Adirondack Trust Company, a position he maintained until his passing in 1938. The same year that the Van Deusens acquired the house, they hired Alfred Hopkins to renovate the house. Alfred Hopkins was also the architect who designed the beautiful white marble 1916 Adirondack Trust Company building at 473 Broadway.
Completed in 1919, the renovations that we see today were made in the popular architectural style at the time, Colonial Revival. According to a May 10, 1919, article in The Saratogian, “many thousands of dollars have been expended making it modern in every particular.” The renovations included significantly altering the primary façade by removing the wrap-around front porch, changing the front door to include sidelights and a decorative fanlight transom, and adding the two-story bay window as well as the double-gallery porches to the south elevation that are the current owner’s favorite spaces of the house.
Following the passing of Charles, Alice remained in the house until her death. In 1948, per Alice’s will, the house and its contents were bequeathed to Newman E. Wait “in recognition of his loyalty and devotion to my late husband, and his kindness to me.” Newman had been the vice president of the Adirondack Trust Company during Charles Van Deusen’s tenure as president and then succeeded him as president in 1937.
In 1948, Newman and Dorothy Wait, the current owner’s grandparents, conveyed the house to Willard J. and Madeline Grande. Willard, a successful contractor and builder, and his wife raised their children and lived in the home for 31 years.
In 1979, Jane Wait acquired the property. She was wife of Newman Wait Jr. and mother of the current owner. Newman Wait Jr. joined the Adirondack Trust Company in 1946 and became president in 1964. Following the tragic passing of her husband in 1984, she conveyed the property to her son, Charles, and his wife, Candace. Following the tradition of the previous owners of the home and his family, Charles joined the Adirondack Trust Company in 1974, where he also served as president.Today, he is the chairman and CEO. Like other owners, they have made changes to the house. In 2004, they removed the rear porch to build a one-story extension for a family room.
When asked if there was a value in getting his house history, Charles Wait responded enthusiastically, “Of course! It is interesting and fun to learn about the house you live in. You may learn something you didn’t know.” Charles sees a house history as not only a way to learn something for yourself, but as a base of history for future generations to build upon. “I urge everyone to do it,” said Charles.
If you want to learn more about the history of your house and receive a bronze plaque for your house, a deposit of $175 is required at the time of application and additional $200 prior to ordering the plaque. You can see a sample house history and order online at www.saratogapreservation.org.
Founded in 1977, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that promotes preservation and enhancement of the architectural, cultural, and landscaped heritage of Saratoga Springs.