May 2019 Blog

While it’s true the upstate NY region, especially Saratoga County, has experienced a boom in new construction, our community remains a rich repository of culture, history and tradition. When I bought my home in downtown Saratoga Springs, I was told it was a historic home (although it turned out not to be), yet, it was built in the early 1900’s.  Still, it wasn’t until recently that I decided to delve a little deeper into the history of my home.  

In the process, I learned so much about family who built this old house and I became familiar with their unique and special story. It got me to thinking there are probably a lot of people who would love to learn more about the back story of their home. Even if you live in a newer home, this region is so rich in American culture, the piece of land your house was built on very likely has its own story to tell. 

So, for those of you who want to do a little domestic sleuthing, here are a few easy tips to learn more about the history of your home, neighborhood or community. 

Conduct a search
Go to the County Clerk’s office and  research all the deed associated with your property… see how far back they go.   Some of these searches can be done on-line. No matter which way you chose to do your search, you’ll be able to track the history of your home’s owners all the way back to the original owner. 

The same is true for land. Hey, who knows! Maybe a famous battle was fought or a Native American group lived in what is now your community neighborhood. 

Visit your local library or historic preservation society 
If you don’t want to do the leg work of conducting a title or deed search, get in touch with your community’s historical society or preservation society. Chances are, they will have records, including photographic details of your home’s place in the community.  This is how I started, I contacted the Preservations Society of Saratoga Springs, NY and they dug into the history of my house.    As with many people on the West side of town, Gideon Putnam himself used to own the land where my house sits.    I received much information from the Preservation Society and that got me to want to investigate still more. 

As a member of Ancesty.com (at the time), I was able to look up some names and actually found the grandson of the builder living in Arizona. The Blanchard family was positively thrilled as I showed them pictures of our home. The Blanchard’s were also able to provide us with more accurate name information and history of their family. The Blanchard family even planned a trip to come to see the house “Grampy” built, but… alas, illness delayed that trip (which all hope will still happen).   

Here is the website for the Preservation Society.     

Ask your Realtor 
We may be able to find out information as to whether your home has been designated as an historic landmark, or if It has any other distinguishing characteristics. If your home is newer construction, the Realtor can find out about the history of the property. For example, is it situated near an historic event? Was it originally a farm or ranch? Or, perhaps it was located along a stagecoach route. 

Explore your home and yard for clues 
I have a friend who decided to update her 140+ year old home. The bathroom was the first room to see the crowbar. As she worked on the renovation and tore down walls and old tile, she came across a written record of the family who occupied the house fifty years before, written on the sheetrock. In the 1960s, the father remodeled the already old bathroom himself and, in the process, his ten and twelve-year old kids decided to leave a written record of their family and their life in the home. Their handwritten message to the future homeowner welcomed them and even told them about a ghost who supposedly inhabits the house. For my friend, it was a very special experience that only added to her love of her old house. She felt a kinship to her predecessors who, just 50 years earlier, were making the same effort to modernize the home for their growing family. 

Finding out about your home’s history can turn into a remarkable journey that leaves you cherishing even more all the quirky, charming and unique features of your home. So, what are you waiting for? Put on your sleuthing cap and get searching! 

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