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The Mill: Architecture and History of Saratoga

“The Mill” – 125 High Rock Avenue

Architecture and History of Saratoga blog series

by commercial REALTOR®, Olivia Huffman, and Professor James Kettlewell

Exterior facade of 125 High Rock Avenue in Saratoga Springs, New York, otherwise known as The Mill

Exterior facade of 125 High Rock Avenue, otherwise known as “The Mill”

125 High Rock Avenue is at the important intersection of High Rock Avenue, Nelson Avenue and Circular Street, next to High Rock Park and behind Excelsior Avenue.

Close up of the entry way of 125 high rock avenue (The Mill)

Close up of the Mill’s entrance way

Located near the famous High Rock Spring, this remarkable, historic property contains a mineral water fountain called the Empire Spring, which in 1904 sold at auction to Joseph Clark for $76,000. By 1906, the Clark Textile plant was erected on the Empire Spring property. The plant employed many Saratogians for nearly two decades, and was sold to the Van Raalte family in 1919. The sale price was $1,870,000, and the facility covered 120,000 square feet.

Workers exiting The Mill after their shift

Workers exiting the Mill after their shift (Circa. 1950s)
George S. Bolster Collection/Saratoga History Museum

Van Raalte produced high end silk gloves, mesh stockings, and later rayon underwear, for high fashion stores, including Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan. The products were highly regarded, and the business was profitable during the Great Depression. During the fifties, they employed over 700 Saratogians. Eventually the employees purchased the facility and the new Saratoga Knitting Mill operated until 1986.

Van Raalte Vanguard advetisements

vintage Van Raalte Vanguard advertisement

“Many Saratogians had their first job there, and the Van Raalte Mill was a big part of the community. People could walk there easily from any point in the city.” — former Van Raalte employee (from 1951-1953)

Newspaper clipping of workers sewing garments at The Mill in Saratoga Springs NY

Newspaper clipping of workers sewing garments

The massive building had fallen into disrepair when Tom Roohan of Roohan Realty and Sonny Bonacio of Bonacio Construction took on the task of renovating the facility. A good part of the structure was beyond repair, and the present building is a fraction of the size of the original factory.

“I am proud to have been part of the effort to save this building and see it become a vital part of the fabric of our community [again],” said Tom Roohan.

Reception area at 125 High Rock Avenue as it looks today

Reception area at 125 High Rock Avenue as it looks today

“The renovation was a challenge, and we saved as much of the original structure as possible,” agreed Sonny Bonacio, President of Bonacio Construction Inc. “The old wood beams give a great rustic feel, combined with the structural steel we added. A nice touch is the fountain to the right side of the entrance, which dispenses the famous Empire Spring during spring, summer and fall (it is protected during winter months).”

Old Mill Plant to the left, brick portion of the building to the right is newer construction

Old Mill Plant to the left, brick portion of the building to the right is newer construction

According to Professor Kettlewell,  “The Van Raalte building, in its perfect proportions and strong architectural effects, is one of the most impressive buildings surviving from the historic past of Saratoga Springs.

Down the street is High Rock Park, where George Washington once stayed and tried to buy up land with a mineral spring

Down the street is High Rock Park, where George Washington once stayed and tried to buy up land with a mineral spring.

125 High Rock Avenue is a striking example of the post-Victorian Beaux-Arts classical style that dominated world architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ground floor of massive rusticated piers establishes a firm base for the second story, organized into five bays by Michelangelo’s colossal doric pilasters in high relief, rising through two stories.

A later addition of the plain facades perfectly frame the more architecturally elaborate center, the profile of the roofs associating them with Gustav Stickley’s Arts and Crafts style, which immediately followed the Beaux-Arts fashion later in the twentieth century.

An interesting feature are the Gothic stepped buttresses on the western facade, and around the corner on the eastern end of the building. The Arts and Crafts style often borrowed from the Gothic style.

Today, 125 High Rock Avenue is a stunning 48,529 sq ft office complex, home to a range of technical and professional businesses.

Lease commercial space at the Mill
1,350 square foot suite – more info
7,054 square foot suite – more info


About the Authors

olivia huffman commercial real estate agent saratoga springs ny

Olivia Huffman is a commercial real estate agent at Roohan Realty with an interest in Saratoga’s history. Olivia’s Agent profile | Olivia’s Linkedin

Professor James Kettlewell graduated from Harvard Magna Cum Laude honors in the field of American Architecture. He began teaching at Harvard University and was a professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs for many years. He was also the curator at the Hyde Museum in Glens Falls. His book on Saratoga architecture (pictured above) is available at Lyrical Ballad bookstore on Phila Street in downtown Saratoga Springs and on Amazon.  www.jameskettlewell.com | Get his book on Amazon

Stay tuned for another Architecture and History of Saratoga post next month!


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