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Historic home gets the wrecking ball

A moratorium on demolition of historic buildings in Saratoga Springs expired on April 30, and with it, so will 23 Greenfield Ave., site of the 1853 Wayland House which is included in a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, since it's not in the City's protected historic district, it will now be demolished by its owner.

Today's demolition of 23 Greenfield Avenue is a sad day for Saratoga Springs' proud legacy of historic preservation, said Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. "We are seeing the demolition of a beautiful and significant historic structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This building was in excellent condition."

The foundation tried in vain to save the house. After its owner applied for a demolition permit in June 2009, the foundation asked the City Council to enact a temporary moratorium on demolition of historic structures until the City reviewed its historic preservation ordinance and considered expanding historic district boundaries in portions of Spa City.

"Many neighbors and members of the community were upset," said Bosshart, of the impending demolition.

Although the proposal, which would have protected other historic structures in the neighborhood from demolition or inappropriate alteration, was considered by the council, it failed to win support of the majority of neighbors and was abandoned, said Bosshart.

"It's distressing to see it lost to the wrecking ball. Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call that preservation of our past is an ongoing effort," said Bosshart.

The two-story red brick Italiante style house was built by Mary Burr Wayland, the daughter of a colonel from Ballston who was also a prominent lawyer and Democratic politician, serving as New York's Secretary of State, Assemblyman, State Senator and County judge. It went on to acquire a rich history, becoming home to the man who designed the Seal of the City of Saratoga Springs, John W. Ehninger, and his wife. The owner of Congress Hall Hotel made the house his home too, as did the owner of a popular monthly journal that was a national magazine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the original incorporators and trustees of Skidmore College, Lillian Bockes, also inhabited the house at one time.

The property's owners, Ron and Michele Riggi, have not made their plans for the lot public, said Bosshart. The property is valued at about $1.1 million, according to a previous Spotlight article.

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