Skidmore Saratoga Memory Project

Interview with Samantha Bosshart

Dublin Core

Title

Interview with Samantha Bosshart

Date

February 20th, 2018

Is Part Of

Skidmore Saratoga Memory Project

Description

Samantha Bosshart talks about her experience preserving the history of Saratoga Springs.

Language

eng

Creator

Li, Hongqiao, '18

Format

Audio recording.

Type

Oral history

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Li, Hongqiao, '18

Interviewee

Bosshart, Samantha

Location

Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation

Transcription

HL: So...Um, this is um an interview um to Samantha...

SB: Bosshart.

HL: Um, Bosshart. Um, and at the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. This is um Ted, and the date is December 20th, and right now is 10:10.

SB: February.

HL: Yeah, February. Ok. So um, first, can you tell me something about yourself, like where are you from, um, like where do you live, and what is your job?

SB: Um, I'm originally from Ohio, I was raised in Kent, Ohio, um, that's where I went to grade school, and high school, and upon graduating from high school, I went to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where I got a Bachler’s of Arts in history and criminal justice. And then after that, I moved to Galveston, Texas, where I was fortunate enough to rehab some houses, and then also work for the Galveston Historical Foundation, which is the second, at the time, was the second largest local non-profit preservation organization, and from there, after five years, I've decided to um, pursue, um, a master's in historic preservation planning from Cornell University, which is what brought me to New York State. Um, I completed my course work with honors, um, but did not finish my thesis, and I um, after that, moved to Saratoga springs, where I took a position with Historic Albany Foundation, where I was the Director of Preservation Services, um, there for a year and a half, before I was fortunate enough to be offered the Executive Director position with the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation in 2008. So in June, I will have been here 10 years.

HL: Nice. Um, so can you tell me more about your job, like your current job, like, like what is like a typical day for the work?

SB: Well, um, there really isn't a typical day. Um, we, ah, the mission of the foundation is to preserve the architectural, cultural and heri... landscape, heritage of Saratoga Springs, and we do that through advocacy, technical assistance, education, and restoration. And um, so that involves lots of different things throughout the year. Um…For example today, I already helped homeowner providing him information on who could potentially, ah, repair his lotus stained glass window. Um, I, will be working with the First Baptist Church on a, actually, a grant to, I've helped them with a grant to restore their stained-glass windows and help to, help them continue to do fund raising for that project. We are also in the process of, um, helping, um, home owner, um, gets historic tax cutouts for a historic house on the west side, and we're in the mids of planning our historic homes tour, which is our largest fund-raising event of the year. Um, so any day can be different, ah, it really just depends on what the focus is at that immediate moment, ah, whether we're planning our summer Sunday strolls that take place every Sunday throughout the, the summer, working with volunteers, distinct home owners, providing comments on, preservation practice, um, to our city's Land Use Boards. For example, tomorrow night is the designer review commission meeting, so we'll be providing comments on several projects at that meeting tomorrow. Um, in particular, on the Rip Van Dam Hotel edition. So no day is typ, typical. Um, and we work on lots of different things, and we have lots of different committees, so we have a Fund Development Committee, and Advocacy Committee, an (a) Events Committee, Marketing Committee, Membership Committee, and Ad Hoc Saratoga Race Course Committee that reviews, um, plans for capital improvements of the oldest sports venue in the country, um, and, so there really isn't a typical day.

HL: Yeah. Um, can you, um, tell me more about the foundation, just in general? Like what's its mission, or, like, wh, what kind of people do you usually, you know, like, involve with or, jus?

SB: Well, I think I, I, I touched on the mission in the last question, which again was, um, the mission of the foundation is to um, promote, um, protect and preserve the architectural, cultural landscape heritage of Saratoga Springs, and as I said, we do that through advocacy, technical assistance, education, restoration. Um, the foundation was founded in 1977, so we are just completing our 40th year. When the foundation was founded, it was founded as an outgrowth of the Saratoga, um, plan for action. Ah, at the time in the 1970s, Saratoga Springs was not the community that you see today, was not a vibrant, thriving year-round destination. Um, downtown had vacant store fronts, it had vacant upper floors, the large beautiful homes on North Broadway was selling for 10,000 dollars. They were being sub-divided into apartments, the carriage houses being sub-divided. There were, um, so, ultimately, ah, the Saratoga Plan for Action, which is a traceries community let effort for community leaders, they chose to, um, enact a plan on how to revillize downtown, and one of that aspect of that plan, was to create a grant program to assist building home, building owners rehabilitate the facades and buildings downtown. Ah, it was identified that they needed it to be a separate organization from the city, and that organization was identified and established was the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation. So we initially oversaw, um, we, ah, 25 grands for buildings downtown, and then exchange for that grand funding. The foundation will receive a preservation easement for 25 years, meaning any exterior changes made to a building, the foundation would have to approve. So, um, since then we've involved with, um, establishing state and national historic districts, expanding local historic districts. Um, we've been involved with, um, restoring the Gideon Putnam Cemetery, the oldest burial ground in the city. We have, um, rehabilitated several buildings, ah, one on Clinton Place, one of the road houses is there, along with 117 grand former Adirondack Railway Station, ah, then we were also involved with New York State Main Street Grant for Beekman Street, which, ah, initially provided, ah, 190,000 dollars and funding, and, I always, it was for 3(ah)50,000 dollar building rehab grants and 4 for facade grants, um, each building owner had to match each grant, dollar for dollar. And in turn most exceeded that, and we believe that estimated, um, investment on Beekman Street as a result of that grant was nearly three quarters of a million dollars. So we were also involved with that. Ah, we were also, ah, involved with, when Skidmore College, ah, had the opportunity to move their campus to North Broadway, nearly 90 buildings, mostly, historic buildings on Union Avenue and the east side neighborhood were left vacant. The foundation, ah, worked with local realter John Roohan and others to, um, ensure that those buildings were gonna be rehabbed and, and, and made into single family residences or business or what have to make them survive, and we were fortunate enough that we did not lose any historic buildings as the result of that, um, then most recently, ah, our largest project was the Spirit of Life, an Spencer Trust Memorial restoration which we partnered with the city, for the national, nationally significant sculpture, and surround that was designed by Daniel Chester French, and Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial. Charles Leavitt, Jr., who was landscape architect, he was also responsible for, um, many race tracks in the country, but he was responsible for re, large reconfiguration at the turn of the century, Saratoga Race Course, and we worked with the city to raise, um, 450,000 by, by the foundation the city matched that amount, and we were thankful to have the generosity of individuals, um, businesses, and ah, foundation support that effort. That project also was a total of 750,000 dollars, and its, um, rededication took place on centennial of the original dedication, which was June 26th, 1915. So those are some of the history of the foundation, um, I'm sure there's much more, but there's some highlights for you.

HL: Um, so my next question is, what kind of difficulties do you think you have encountered, um, while preserving the architectures of Saratoga Springs?

SB: Um, well, I, I can't speak to the early times, I think I'm sure times funding was a hard, um, was a challenge for building owners, and I think that's why it was so important for the foundation to assist home owners with the tax credit program, the federal tax credit program, so we're available then, I think, um, the Historic Preservation Act was established in 1966, so it was relatively still new when the foundation was founded, so preservation well, um, Saratoga had a history of wanting to preserve its heritage I think was relatively in new concept. I think, building owners ah, often don't fully understand the importance of being in a historic district, and can be frustrated or upset when they can't do what they would like to do to their building. I think that is a challenge. Um, I think, one of the challenges that this organization faces now is those who were here in the 1970s and 1980s when Saratoga was, um, not vibrant in a destination recognize the importance of historic preservation. They recognize that it had an important role in Saratoga's economic vitality and success. And they think a lot of new people who move here that are transplants take for granted that historic preservation takes effort. It doesn’t just happen. And that our organization is the one to promote it and ensure that what we have that so special is retained, and that it doesn't just happen. So I think that's one of our biggest challenges that we face now.

HL: Ok. Um, so my next question is, can you tell me like, one story you remembered the most in your work, like?

SB: Well, there's a couple. Um, when I first started at the foundation not long after there's a handsome, um, Pre-Civil-War Italianate house that I always, um, admired, walking by with my dog, even before I joined the foundation, and I remember one day, walking by this house, and the windows were being taken out, and, um, the house had been purchased by the adjacent owners who lived on North Broadway. And they wanted to demolish the house. It was in good condition, they had paid for over a million dollars for the house. And, um, it was sort of shocking to see a home so beautiful and in good condition, sold for a million dollars, being proposed to be demolished. So that was a memorable moment. At that time, we, the foundation, ah, asked for a demolition moratorium in the city, which we were successful in getting and throughout that period we attempted to expand the local historic district, which would have given oversight, ah, for demolition, ah, to match the boundaries of the national register historic district. And unfortunately, as I mentioned before about challenges, many of the home owners in that particular area did not want to have any oversight by the design review commission. They did not want to have to seek approval to make changes to their building. So with that we were unsuccessful and ah, it was difficult to watch 23 Greenfield be demolished. And today it is a fenced yard, with no building. Ah, another, sadly, another one I think the loses are the hardest ones, and those are the ones you remember most, um, would be 66 Franklin, which um, was a beautiful Second Empire house granted in poor condition, um, maybe not beautiful to most immediate glance, um, but, um, was designed by J.D.Stevens, who would also design our, um, historic hotels, ah, the Grand Union, ah, the Grand Central, and this was one of his last works in Saratoga Springs, there are still a couple that remain, but one of his last, and ah, building owner want to purchase the home and demolish it, ah, unfortunately he was unwilling to share, at the time, what he was proposing to build in its place, which was a, um, the historic review ornaments requires that building owner provide an acceptable post-demolition plan, and he was not, by the foundation standards providing that. Ah, this was ah, I believe a four-year court battle. We were in city court, we went city court, we wanted the state level more than one case and ultimately it was returned back to the designer review commission who accepted a fence and a sign as an acceptable post-demolition plan. So that was another one that was tough to watch, however I'd say one of the most rewarding was the Spirit of Life and Spencer Trust Restoration, because it's truly transformed the way people use the northwest portion of the park. Um, when I first came to Saratoga, the entrance um, the walkway entrance of Broadway was sort of hin, it was dark, um, there, the trees and bushes were overgrown. It was not welcoming, sadly it was the respite for the homeless. There was no lighting at night, ah, there were no benches, ah, there was little landscape, but some of the trees immediately that variety along the reflecting pool wherein overgrown. And, um, today it is an active, vibrant part of the park with people sitting on benches, having picnics, um, there's people walk through there at night, um, it's just really transformed how people walk and use of the park. So that's probably been one of the most rewarding for me since I've been here.

HL: Ok. Um, I guess my last question is, what do you want to say about the history and environment of Saratoga Springs?

SB: Saratoga is, Saratoga Springs is this amazing, little spot in upstate New York that has a great college, more than one actually, with Empire State College, but Skidmore College it has um, the oldest sports venue in the country, ah, with one of the oldest, the oldest state race, Saratoga Race Course, which is truly magnificent. It is wholly intact from its early time from 1840s to today, um, we are fortunate to have the SPA State Park with SPAC, amazing performance venue that is home to New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra, and we have this great downtown and neighborhoods, and that's all walkable and it's a variety of architecture, and it's just has a really rich history...

[Long Pause] [She starts to cry]

There aren't many [Long Pause] cities that have what we have. And such a community that has embraced it, and supported it at least up til this point, and hopefully that doesn't change.

HL: Ok. Um, do you have anything else you want to contribute to the interview?

SB: No. I think you've covered a lot.

HL: Ok. Alright. Thank you so much, um, for this...

SB: Sorry.

HL: No, no, it's totally fine, yeah.

Original Format

.m4a

Duration

21 mins

Bit Rate/Frequency

64kbps

Record Creation Date

08/03/2018

Collection

Citation

Li, Hongqiao, '18, “Interview with Samantha Bosshart,” Skidmore Saratoga Memory Project, accessed May 22, 2018, http://ssmp.skidmore.edu/document/775.

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