“The Mill” – 125 High Rock Avenue
Architecture and History of Saratoga blog series
by commercial REALTOR®, Olivia Huffman, and Professor James Kettlewell
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.
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.
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.
“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)
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.
“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).”
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.”
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.
About the Authors
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