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Adelphi Hotel not a haunting, but a old beauty


The Adelphi Hotel, A Saratoga Grande Dame, Gets A Little Work Done
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Step into the lobby of the Adelphi Hotel on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, New York, and step back into history.

Built in1877, the Adelphi is the last of the grand hotels that graced the main thoroughfare of this small city nestled among the Catskill, Adirondack, and Berkshire Mountains. Known for the mineral water that courses beneath it, feeding the bathhouses and giving the town its name, Saratoga in the 19th century was the summer destination of the rich, the social, the ambitious, the corrupt, the adventurous.

Already a resort town by 1863, when the first Thoroughbred racing meeting was held, Saratoga Springs has seen its fortunes rise and fall over the last century and a half. A small city of nearly 30,000, it’s currently experiencing something of a construction boom, with modern buildings and condominiums springing up all over town, at times dwarfing the 19th century architecture that is one of Saratoga’s hallmarks.

By this time next year, the Adelphi will, according to one of its new owners, combine the best of the old and the new in Saratoga.

The Adelphi was purchased this spring by Simon Mildé, his son Toby, and Larry Roth. Simon is the chairman and CEO of Richbell Capital (RBC); Toby is its president. RBC has been involved in real estate in the area for the last decade, including building a multi-family development called The Paddocks on the outskirts of town, and owns the Greenwich Group International and Terra Capital Partners.

“My father and I had our eye on the Adelphi for a while,” said Toby recently. “It was originally on the market for about $10 million, but that was at the height of the recession, so it wasn’t the right price or time for us to invest in it.”

They watched the price move down, and when the hotel became available this year for $4.5 million, both the time and the price were right.

“We pounced on it,” said Mildé.

While balking at calling the hotel a steal at that price, he allowed, “It was an opportunity. We can invest back into the hotel, putting $6 or $7 million into renovating it, and end up with a first class hotel at the original asking price.”

The four-story building is located on a prime block in downtown Saratoga. Though locally owned businesses have in recent years given way to some chains, Broadway still has the feel of a Main Street, lined with restaurants, cafés, bars, and shops; wide sidewalks invite visitors and locals to stroll leisurely, as their 19th century predecessors did.

Mildé’s plan for the hotel is to continue to evoke its Victorian past while updating its amenities to appeal to a contemporary customer.

“It’s a very old building and there are certain things that people put up with to stay in a historic property,” he explained. “What is most important is obviously the façade, the hallways, the 11” foot ceilings and the grand staircase. That is what really makes this the grande dame of Saratoga.”

As Mildé described the planned improvements, he stopped himself each time he started to use the word “modern.” A resident of the area for a decade, he’s well aware of Saratogians’ fiercely protective approach to their town’s history and architecture.

“The community definitely gets concerned when a property like this changes hands, but I can tell you one thing: we are not trying to change it. We are trying to turn it into an asset for Saratoga–not just for high-end travelers, but for the community. We want this to be a place that you can go and eat and drink and be entertained, and we’re also preserving an amazing asset that deserves to be preserved and that has been by each owner, going back in time.”

In recent years, the Adelphi has been a seasonal hotel, opening in May and closing in October. It will close this fall as usual, but when it opens next spring, it will be, Mildé says, open for good. Over the winter, the hotel will be emptied and a major renovation will begin.

“Basically,” said Mildé, “our plan is to take out everything in the hotel, put in modern amenities, and shore up the building so that it can last for another 150 years.” He stressed that the current furnishings will be put back after the renovation; each item in the hotel is being catalogued and photographed.

Joining Mildé and his father as they create the next era in the Adelphi’s life will be Glenn Coben, who has designed upscale restaurants Del Posto and Esca in New York, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World, whose portfolio includes the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid and the Cranwell in nearby Lenox, Massachusetts.

Among the innovations guests can expect to find will be an iPad in each room, from which they can make restaurant reservations, order room service, and communicate with the hotel’s concierge.

Traditionalists may begin to tremble as the details of the plans emerge, but Mildé is mindful of what has attracted guests to the Adelphi for more than a century. “The hotel’s gems,” he said, “are the second floor piazza, ground floor lobby and bar, courtyard garden, and pool.”

The piazza recalls the grand hotels that used to line Broadway, all of which, except for the Adelphi, were gone by the middle of the 20th century. Though use of the pool and piazza is restricted to guests of the hotel, the public is invited to take advantage of the lobby, bar, and courtyard.

Guests who stay at the hotel can do more than observe its history; they can also participate in it. One of the Adelphi’s 40 guest rooms belonged, at one time, to John Morrissey, the man who brought Thoroughbred racing to Saratoga in 1863 and who died in the hotel in 1878. An Adelphi habitué, he and Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt would reportedly spend hours talking—scheming?—on the piazza.

As Mildé talked about the future of his and his father’s latest acquisition, he also invoked its past, suggesting that the two are intertwined and will continue to be, even as the Adelphi moves firmly into the 21st century.

“We’re just the next generation,” he said, “to love this asset and take care of it.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/teresagenaro/2012/08/16/the-adelphi-hotel-a-saratoga-grande-dame-gets-a-little-work-done/

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