Blog Master G

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Flaunting Homes

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005 · 4 Comments

front0927house.jpg America: Land of the free, home of the brave, and playground to the filthy rich. In America, big is never big enough, espeically if you have deep pockets and a need to flaunt your individualism. I read in this month’s Vanity Fair about Rising Sun, Larry Ellison’s new $250 million 454-foot yacht, the largest in the world.

It’s no Woodside or Bel Air, but for 200 years, Saratoga Springs has been a destination whose name alone “evokes privilege and leisure.” I’m lucky to live in a town of leisure and appreciate a beautiful home, but, owning an 80-year-old Craftsman-style home myself, tend to lean more toward the historical home, be it a 150-year-old Victorian, a restored Greek Revival, or anything else that’s survived the years on the merit of its character and architectural integrity.

Sadly, the new housing norm in America, like everything else, seems to be bigger, bigger, bigger. (I realize there’s always going to be a need for housing and there are only so many historical homes in existence, but their uniqueness is part of what gives old homes their charm. It’s too bad all the money poured into new construction couldn’t be directed toward historic preservation.)

Contributing to its image of eliteness, Saratoga Springs is home to some flaunting single-family houses that give new meaning to the word “mansion.” Tucked among the beautiful Victorians on North Broadway is a fairly new $4.9 million, 19,341-square-foot mansion. As if to one-up what is currently the biggest house in town, another big-wig is building a 61,403 square-foot mansion on a 29-acre site (when the plans were first released, Justin was interviewed about it in a “man on the street” segment on a local TV station). The house is bigger than the White House and more than three times the size of the North Broadway home.

Does anyone really need a house that big? Why not buy a big beautiful old home in town, build a hospital or school, and set up a fund to help educate children in impoverished nations? To each his own, I supppose.

Times Union: Sometimes, a man’s castle is his home / A person who values privacy is attracting a lot of attention with a mansion fit for a king:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Through the ages, males have attracted attention. This is biological. Birds plume. Men rev Harleys.

(The) eye-popping cottage (has) two art galleries and 2,486 square feet of living-room space. Dozens of craftsmen arrive daily in pickups at the 29-acre site, toting security systems, copper roofing and heating equipment past a chain-link fence.

They have been told not to talk about it. And trespassers will be prosecuted, a sign warns.

The rich like to distinguish themselves from others, Witold Rybczynski, author and expert on architecture and housing, said in a recent interview. And big homes are the ultimate luxury.

Americans are particularly driven to accumulate a bigger house, a faster car, the latest styles, says Peter Whybrow, a psychiatry professor at UCLA and author of “American Mania: When More Is Not Enough.” Whybrow says our society is off balance due to materialism and celebrating the individual at the expense of community.

Such values are sometimes echoed in Saratoga Springs, which has always retained a hint of the Gilded Age. Today, the city suffers from a dearth of affordable housing. Condominiums sell for $400,000.

“It’s Aspen East, it’s the Hamptons, that’s what it’s become,” said Rory O’Connor, broker-owner of Saratoga Real Property. “It’s gentrified to a point that has surprised even the locals.”

It’s beyond McMansion. Past Whopper. More monster house, with a construction contract of $4 million and a potential property tax bill of $100,000 a year. The land alone: $140,000, what many entire houses in the region sell for.

Tags: saratoga springs

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Johnny Arrr // Sep 27, 2005 at 11:31 am

    Hey Gabe,

    I thought I would chime in on this one. I know you don’t know me. I found your blog through Xose.
    I love old houses, and historical building in general. They literally don’t make them like they used to, and once they are gone, they will never come back. If you are interested, there is a link to pictues of the house I am restoring @


  • 2 Nat // Sep 27, 2005 at 11:03 pm

    new money ***cough*** Riggi Mansion ***cough***

  • 3 Bill Murray // Oct 2, 2005 at 5:36 pm

    Gabe: Your comments on over-development seem well-attuned to this year’s mayoral campaign in Saratoga Springs. While incumbent Republican Michael Lenz plays the role of lap-dog for mega-developer and political boss Tom Roohan, Democrat Valerie Keehn won her party’s primary by questioning the explosion of million dollar condos and chain stores on Broadway. What’s your take on Keehn’s campaign to replace the corrupt Republican administration in Saratoga Springs?

  • 4 Milhouse // Oct 6, 2005 at 10:46 am

    Geez Bill, nothing like a little slander/libel/whatever to stir things up, eh? No doubt Lenz kowtows to Roohan and his cronies, but corrupt is a pretty strong allegation. The lack of any meaningful substantiation of the charge, either in your post or elsewhere, weakens the rest of your post.

    I agree that Lenz is not what this city needs, but I’m afraid the Democrats are so eager to look like The Anti-Lenz that they’re hurting themselves. I think the city’s going to be facing a serious fiscal crisis soon, and we need someone who understands how to increase the tax base without overburdening residents.

    Unfortunately Keehn (along with The Saratogian and most of the politicians and citizens) repeatedly link increasing property values with increasing taxes. Increasing taxes are a result of increased spending and, assuming you have capable and intelligent leaders, nothing else. If property taxes increase, the tax rate (set each year by the city council) should decrease to keep taxes level.

    We need to encourage development, but do so intelligently with forethought. We need to get rid of a bloated bureaucracy in the planning department that adds weeks, if not months, to the planning and permitting process. Time translates into money.

    We need to stick to the comprehensive plan already developed, showing a real commitment to it, so that developers understand what this city is willing to accept. A consistent, logical and clear plan makes it easier for developers to work with the city and residents, and will result in more efficient use of land.

    What we don’t need is backroom dealing in clear conflict with the comprehensive plan (see Lenz and most Republicans), or political grandstanding against all development (see Keehn and most Democrats).

    So, you ask, who do I think would do the best job? Honestly, I think McCabe would, but he’s not running. He’s the only person on the political scene that appears to have a level head. (Although I must say that I thought Hank Kuczynski had a pretty rational approach as well.) Whether it was the Curley/Dreyer situation, last year’s outrageous tax increase, or this year’s budget, McCabe’s been the most practical and realistic.

    I guess Keehn will do, not for her ideas though. She’s pretty much the Democratic Party’s parrot, and they’re too busy being The Anti-Lenz. To me, Keehn is appealing only because she’s a newcomer to the scene. It’s a very dangerous proposition, as she’s just as likely to get steamrolled by people more politically savvy than she, but I’m a gambler.