Throughout the year I receive many inquiries from people who are interested in purchasing historic homes in Saratoga Springs. In October 2015, I received an email from Kira Karbocus. She explained that she and her boyfriend, Adam Favro, were seriously interested in purchasing 32 Park Place, a neglected vacant historic house listed on the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation’s “Ten to Save” list. After a short exchange of emails, we met. I provided them with a history of the house and discussed how the Foundation could offer assistance. After meeting, I recall being excited not only about the possibility that 32 Park Place would be preserved, but that two enthusiastic, young professionals would preserve it made it all the more exciting. “We had our hearts set on 32 Park Place,” shared Kira. Unfortunately, the owners were unwilling to sell at a reasonable price.
Kira and Adam continued their search for a historic house located within walking distance of downtown since both were commuting, Kira from a house she renovated in Charlton and Adam from a house that he renovated in Schuylerville. At the time, Kira was CFO for Fingerpaint, a marketing agency located on Broadway, and Adam had recently moved his practice, Turning Point Chiropractic, to the historic Van Raalte Mill on High Rock Avenue. In addition, they both were actively involved with the community – Kira serving on the board of directors of Caffé Lena and Adam serving on the board of directors of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.
There was not much on the market at the time. A patient of Adam’s arranged for Adam to tour his neighbor’s house, 230 Nelson Avenue, before it went on the market. “Adam put an offer on the house despite that I could not leave work to see it. He texted me pictures and I knew when I saw the staircase and the woodwork that it could be our home,” Kira shared. Unfortunately, the owner, Selma Harwood, did not accept their offer and listed the house. Once it went on the market, Kira viewed the house. “Stepping through the beautiful, solid wood front door and seeing it in person, I knew the house was a gem. I just saw so muchpotential,” said Kira.
“It went on the market at noon and by 8:00 p.m. there were more than 10 showings and multiple offers on the house. We chose to increase our personal best and final offer by an additional $500 in hopes that it would ensure that we got the house,” shared Adam. Kira found out that they got the house while she was at the Newport Folk Festival. “I laughed, cried and fell in love all at the same time,” said a smiling Kira. “The amount of work needed was a bit daunting,” Adam added. “It is crazy. I am now COO of the organization that produces that festival, Newport Festivals Foundation - it is as if the stars aligned,” mused Kira.
The Queen Anne was built in 1900. However, this was not the original house on the property. Kira and Adam learned that and more through the Foundation’s House History and Plaque Program. In 1854, Wilks S. Alger and Joseph Wood, real estate speculators, sold the property to Martin Casey who built the first house. Casey operated a saloon and hotel, Town Hall Hotel, at 18 Front Street (now Maple Avenue), where he also resided with his family. He rented the house at 230 Nelson Avenue to others, including Henry Kratz, a paperhanger and musician who lead the Kratz Orchestra, and David H. Noonan, who operated a Sweeney & Noonan, a saloon on Railroad Place.
Casey passed away on May 18, 1884. He conveyed the property to
David Noonan, Jr., an infant. The appointed special guardian was David H. Noonan, who no longer resided at the house. David moved to 12 Lake Avenue, where he operated the Eagle Hotel. On October 9, 1899, David, acting as special guardian, sold the property to Mary A. Meehan.
Mary and her husband Michael, owner of a plumbing shop, lived at 196 Grand Avenue with their six children. In 1900, the Meehans demolished the existing house and constructed a new house. While the Meehans owned the house for 30 years, they never lived there. John King rented 230 Nelson Avenue in 1926 and three years later, he purchased it from Mary’s heirs. The King family resided there until 1946. The house had a series of owners until 1966 when Gilbert and Selma Harwood acquired the house.
Gilbert and Selma raised their three children in the home. He and his wife joined a small group of Jewish families to help build what is now Temple Sinai. Gilbert was appointed to the Saratoga Urban Renewal Commission where he served to “ensure that every person had a voice in the redevelopment of the community, especially those directly were affected by urban renewal.” He also served as legal counsel to Mario Cuomo when he was Secretary of State and Lt. Governor. Gilbert died on February 29, 2016. In October, Selma sold the house to Kira and Adam.
Despite the house not being located in a local historic district, Kira and Adam have embraced preserving the original features of the house – the floors, radiators, doors, and windows. “We spoke to several contractors who told us to replace the radiators with a forced air system,” said Adam. “I loved the radiators! I did not want to see them go so Adam read the 300-page book The Lost Art of Steam Heating and began tackling the radiator system,” shared Kira. “I’m so glad that we chose to keep them. They provide the best heat!” added Adam.
Many of the windows were painted shut, had broken sash cords, or cracked window panes. Over time, Adam has been restoring each window. Where panes were broken, he purchased salvaged glass from Historic Albany Foundation’s Architectural Parts Warehouse. “The windows bring me such joy! They are so big and provide lots of light – I love looking through the wavy glass,” said Kira.
Working with architect Brett Balzer of Balzer & Tuck, Kira and Adam built an addition to enlarge the kitchen and added a mud room and a full-width rear porch as well as made a master suite out of two small bedrooms. “We wanted to make the house suitable for the next 100 years,” said Kira. “We had Northern Hardwoods create 1000’ of moulding based on the original woodwork and mill heart pine salvaged from a historic barn to match the original flooring in the house. Working with Harbrook Fine Windows, we matched the new windows in the addition with the original windows. “We did everything so that the new would seamlessly blend with the old,” added Adam.
When Kira and Adam bought the house, they naively thought they would be able to host their wedding reception there. They soon learned that would not be possible. “We had no sink. We were washing dishes in our only bathtub. We had a mini tefrigerator and a single burner for cooking,” said Kira. Rather than postpone, they got married in the midst of the work on Kentucky Derby Day, 2018. The date they chose was because they both enjoy horse racing so much. Their work on the house was such a big piece of their lives that in between their wedding in Congress Park and their reception at Caffé Lena they had photographs taken at the house.
The last project, the front porch restoration, is currently underway by Adam. It is his favorite part of the house because they have met neighbors and interesting people walking by. “It is a smile on a house and I wanted to make sure it was done well, so we saved it for last!” laughed Adam. Local craftsman, Chris Bennett, replicated the porch columns and the project will be completed this spring.
“While we both already understood that Saratoga Springs would not be what it is today if it had not been preserved, our appreciation of preservation and the efforts of the Foundation grew so much more as we worked on our house,” said Kira. “We found the Foundation to be a great resource for us not only for our house, but we learned so much more about the history and architecture of Saratoga through their walking tours,” continued Adam. “It wasn’t until we became members of the Foundation that we learned of the important role the Foundation has in preserving the historic character of the Saratoga Race Course, a particularly special place for me since growing up and competing at the
St. Clement’s Horse Show,” shared Kira.
Their increased awareness and appreciation of the work of the Foundation inspired them to become more involved. Adam joined the board of directors and now serves as president. Kira volunteered this past fall for the Foundation to help maintain the landscape of the Spirit of Life and Spencer Trask Memorial in Congress and plans to do so again in the spring. While Kira and Adam’s appreciation of preservation has grown so has the Foundation’s appreciation of their dedication to preserving our community.
To learn more about the Foundation visit www.SaratogaPreservation.org
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