Developer Jason Moskowitz of Brooklyn, a summer resident for the past several years, purchased the property at a county foreclosure auction Thursday, April 23. He declined to say how much he paid, but said, even with nearly $90,000 in unpaid taxes and other costs, the amount was less than half what the previous owner was asking, around $900,000.
The house was built in 1882 by Saugerties industrialist William Sheffield. It served as a hotel and restaurant before closing after a fire nearly 20 years ago. Most know it as the Dragon Inn, its most recent incarnation. But the historical-minded call it Clovelea, the original name of the estate.
Moskowitz said it’s early to offer specific information. He’s spoken with various people interested in investing and needs to look into available grants for historic properties. Broadly speaking, he’d like to build a separate structure to serve as a small hotel, probably close to the rear and to the side of the original building. Clovelea would be used as a common area. He said estimates given by the previous owner’s contractor of up to $10 million for renovations were inflated; he expects renovations and new construction to cost between $1 and $3 million total. He did allow a bit of caution, noting that these plans assume, “that this current structure can be saved, which is what we all hope.”
Moskowitz said he felt it was a shame that the property, located in the village’s southern gateway, had become an eyesore. He said he’s been in real estate for 17 years and has a good rolodex. Though he doesn’t own any other properties in the area, he believes Saugerties, and the area in general, has a lot of potential to attract more well-heeled city residents. He said it could be an alternative to the Hamptons, without the traffic.
Mark Smith, chair of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Friends of Clovelea preservation group, is excited. “This sounds like the best thing that’s happened since I’ve been involved,” he said. (The group was formed several years ago when the property was under threat of demolition.) Smith likened the property to the Wilderstein Historic Site in Rhinebeck, also a Queen Anne-style mansion. Though, as a private venture, a restored Clovelea would be a little different, it could still be a draw, said Smith. The proprietor of a bed-and-breakfast himself, Smith agreed that the market could support a hotel of this kind. He cited the success of Diamond Mills. He also mentioned the view from the top floor, which looks out over the Esopus and Catskills from a high point in Saugerties.
Previous owner Ching Ya Wu had secured the property after the fire, which originated in the kitchen of the restaurant, and made several improvements (and built a little-loved addition that collapsed two winters ago). But in recent years the work slowed and Wu began searching for a buyer. A proposal to demolish the building and develop the property several years ago was dropped following opposition by the village Historic Review Board and other preservationists.
Moskowitz said it’s possible we may see some activity at the site by the end of calendar year 2015, though most of the year will be taken up with planning.
“I just want to see an economically feasible and aesthetically pleasing future for this piece of property. What it’s become is a shame and it’s been unnecessary… The future is bright for Clovelea.”