History of the Batcheller Mansion Saratoga Inn
The Batcheller Mansion Inn, a stately and renowned Saratoga Inn, has a notable history. One of the outstanding landmarks of Saratoga Springs, it is an architectural pastiche of High Victorian Eclecticism combining French Renaissance Revival, Italianate and Egyptian influences. It is crowned by a mansard roof and its tower is topped by the evocation of a minaret. Built in 1873 by George Sherman Batcheller, it still sits majestically on the corner of Circular Street and Whitney Place with a commanding vantage of Congress Park, the heart of historic Saratoga Springs. Resplendent with beautiful gardens, architectural detail and magnificent views, this Saratoga Bed and Breakfast now hosts guests in the timeless tradition of grace and ease, reminiscent of another century.
George Sherman Batcheller began life on July 25, 1837 in the tiny village of Batchellerville, in the township of Edinburgh, Saratoga County. He was related to Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as to the great orator and statesman Daniel Webster. Batcheller received his legal education at Harvard Law School where he received a LL.B in 1856. When at age 21 he was elected to the New York State Assembly he was at that time the youngest person yet elected. In 1861 he married Catherine Cook, daughter of the state’s comptroller, and they had three children but only their daughter Kate, born May 19, 1870 survived infancy.
It was in 1873 that Batcheller commissioned the Albany architectural firm of Nichols & Halcott to build the magnificent mansion at 20 Circular Street, which Batcheller named Kaser-el-Nouzha, Arabic for palace of pleasure. Built at a cost of $100,000.00 its three floors contained, among other features, eleven bedrooms, five bathrooms, two steam-vapor furnaces, a music room, a library, and was fully illuminated by gas light. Its large basement kitchen feed food to the butler’s pantry off the formal dining room by dumbwaiters. The plans for the house were considered so unique and its modern features so effective that they were copyrighted.
In the same year he began his famous house Mr. Batcheller was again elected to the New York State Assembly. In 1875, however, President U. S. Grant, who had already been a guest of the Batchellers at their Victorian confection of a house, offered him the prestigious position of Judge and American Representative in the Court of First Instance in Cairo and for the next ten years Judge Batcheller, his wife and daughter sojourned in Egypt. In 1885 Jude Batcheller resigned his position to the Court of First Instance and returned to Kaser-el-Nouzha where he again served in the New York State Legislature in 1885 and 1888.
In 1890 the Batchellers hosted what was perhaps the most glittering social event of that year’s season when they entertained the Lord Chief Justice of England and the American Bar Association at the mansion. For the occasion Mrs. Batcheller purchased a couture dress: purchased at a cost of $5,000.00 it is now in the collection of the Saratoga Springs Historical Society.
By 1891 the Batchellers had again left their Saratoga Springs home for Europe where Judge Batcheller was appointed minister to Portugal. This was followed in 1897 by his appointment as President of the Universal Postal Congress and various diplomatic and business positions in Europe and Washington. In 1898 President McKinley offered Judge Batcheller the choice of another European diplomatic assignment or a return to his old post which had been recently vacated on the International Courts in Egypt. That was followed in 1902 by President Theodore Roosevelt’s appointment of him to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Alexandria, Egypt.
A year later, in 1903, Judge Batcheller’s wife Catherine died in Egypt where her funeral was practically a state occasion and her obituary was published in the Herald Tribune. She was buried in Egypt for one year and then exhumed and returned to the Batcheller’s Egyptian style mausoleum in Greenridge Cemetery in Saratoga Springs. Five years later, in 1908, Judge Batcheller would pass away while in Paris and his body would also be brought home to repose in the pink granite mausoleum so close to the magnificent home that had seen so little of him during his life.
Kate Batcheller would sell her family’s home in 1916 and thus would begin a saga of riches to rags to riches for the Batcheller Mansion. Purchased in 1916 by D. Walter Mabee for use as a private residence the house was vacant by 1937. By 1940 it was owned by Edward & Pauline Muscovier who in 1942 were advertising it as a rooming house. By 1952 the mansion that had been transformed into a rooming house was purchased by Meyer Goldman and was further debased by being cut up into a 28-unit retirement home. Mr. Goldman renamed the house Goldman’s Park View and most of his tenants were orthodox Jews. Upon Mr. Goldman’s death in 1965 he left the house to his daughter A. Plampion who, having no use for the house, allowed it to sit empty.
From 1966 until 1973 the house became a magnet for vandals and vagrants and suffered severely from both human and nature’s destruction that very nearly brought the once glorious house to an ignominious end. In November of 1973 the City of Saratoga Springs Department of Public Works felt compelled to condemn the house out of concern over the very real risk the house presented to the vandals, vagrants and party-prone kids that continued to wreck havoc upon it. It was at this time that the first of the mansion’s white knights rode to its rescue. Once the house was condemned Mrs. Plampion finally agreed to the tenders of a buyer. Mr. Eugene Turchi, a local attorney, and his partner Ray Marshall, a graphic artist at the Saratogian, purchased the house for $40,000.00. After removing between 30 and 100 dump truck loads of trash and debris (newspaper accounts vary wildly as to the count) they began a $250,000.00 restoration campaign. Their renovation of the house included the installation of the three 23’ windows that now illuminate the modern three-story sun-filled kitchen. The windows, which had been salvaged from a bank being demolished in Boston, create a scenic draw for current guests of the Mansion.
By 1983 Mr. Turchi was ready to part with the house and it was sold to current owner, Bruce J. Levinsky, owner of Merlin Development of Saratoga Springs, who bought the house for $500,000.00 and proceeded to embark on the second wave of restoration and development. By 1994, having both lived in the house and used it as a corporate office, Levinsky moved from the house so the mansion could be transformed into the resplendent inn that it is today. In honor of its creator and its history he named the property the Batcheller Mansion Inn.
Having operated as the “Crown Jewel” of Saratoga Springs inns since 1994, the Batcheller Mansion Inn continues to stand ready to offer the carriage trade hospitality of a more gracious era.