What is better than a gorgeous spring evening, great food, live music and history?
The Saratoga Springs Historic Homes Tour weekend was kicked off last Thursday, May 12, at the Saratoga Preservation Society’s Porch Party on Union Avenue, helmed by Honorary Co-Chairs Julie Bonacio and Angela Amedio. At the first stop, guests were greeted by Samantha Bosshart, executive director of the Society and walked up the stairs onto the grand front porch of the Lillian Russell Mansion, 48 Union Ave.
If you have been on this street you know the former home of actress and singer Lillian Russell whose popularity and fame swept the 18th and 19th centuries. The mansion looks like that of a movie and was the perfect porch to show of Saratoga’s beauty. The party took place over three incredible porches, also including the Union Gables Inn and the former home of “Diamond” Jim Brady.
Several homeowners who opened their homes for the historic homes tour on Saturday were at the party including Joan Smith, enjoying the party with Michele Funicello, Monica & Mike Winn, Lucy Tower, Anne Trainor & Mark Gelber, James and Eilis Petrosino, as well as Doug Kerr and Cynthia Corbett. Others in attendance included Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation President Linda Harvey-Opiteck, Bart and Jeff Altamari, Judy Harrigan, Event Committee Chair Jessica Niles and her parents Victoria and Tom Niles, Maryanne and Dan Moerschell, Tom Frost, Elisa and Mark Haworth, Bill Willard and Mary & Tom Quandt.
With a bar at each home, guests were able to try the signature cocktail “the Lillian”, a bubbly pink mix of prosecco and cranberry juice with lemon lime sugar rim. The romantic theme of Jim Brady and Lillian’s rumored Saratoga love affair was present in the evening. Their neighboring homes, her classic beauty and his larger than life persona have led some to suspect.
At Jim Brady’s home we learned of his affinity for jewels, especially, you guessed it, diamonds which won him his title. To offer a more masculine feel to Jim’s Saratoga home, cigars were sold, adding to the gilded age atmosphere.
Tables filled with bite sized cupcakes, chocolates and a chocolate mousse that was hard to put down, also shared fun history facts of Lillian and Jim. Guests learned of Jim’s more than healthy appetite, his favorite chocolate brand, “Jim Page and Shaw and the bicycle Jim embellished for Lillian in Diamonds. No wonder an affair was suspected, clearly he knew the way to a woman’s heart.
The Ballston Spa based restaurant, Zest, catered the three porches with delicious hand-held snacks perfect for the warm evening. Guests lingered at the Union Gables Inn for the incredible parmesan- truffle deviled eggs, as well as to get a front row seat for one of Saratoga’s favorite musicians, Rich Ortiz who provided live entertainment for the entire street. At the Inn guests were also able to participate in a fundraising “wine pull” for the Preservation Society and for $20 were able to select a wrapped wine bottle which could be worth up to $50.
Saratoga preservation society board members mingled between the porches, as well as some donors to the event. Spotted were Peter Martin, Laura Manning, Laura Chodos, Allie Dockum (whose Life & Love Events did the decorations for the party), Jillian Mayott, Cindy Spencer, Pat Friesen, Marcy Dreimiller and Molly Brindle of NYRA. Donors included Bonacio Construction, Miller Printing, First Fairfield Associates, NYRA, Freihofer’s Bakery, the Saratoga cycling studio and many others. The rich history of Saratoga Springs was certainly highlighted with this soiree and set the stage for the weekend’s fabulous Historic Homes Tour.