Even though I felt like a tourist on my first day at saratoga living (and on my second, even more so, when I got a parking ticket), I was determined to blend in. Back in March, my boyfriend, Ben, and I made the drive from Albany up to Saratoga Springs and spent an entire day exploring Downtown Saratoga’s streets, eateries and shopping destinations, so that I’d have a clue as to where things were when I came back to work at saratoga living in June. (Apparently, I should’ve paid more attention to the parking signs.) As we strolled up North Broadway, the houses seemed to get bigger and grander with every step, and we paused outside a 20,000-square-foot mansion, sporting intricate stonework, majestic staircases and a sleek, black-and-gold front gate. I nudged Ben’s arm and wondered aloud, “Is this someone’s house?” Later, I learned that the home in question was conceived by the award-winning Saratoga-based building firm, Witt Construction, which this year, is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Witt Construction’s Founder and Owner, John Witt, tells me that it was a summer job on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, framing houses in the early ’80s, that sparked his interest in construction. A few years later, that interest grew stronger, while he was traveling the world as a member of the US Freestyle Ski Team. Witt visited architectural and artistic hubs such as Milan, Rome, Paris and Monte Carlo, absorbing each city’s architectural subtleties. “I remember driving through Italy and seeing villages with houses built on top of houses, overlooking the ocean,” says Witt. “It was something totally different than what we have here.” He spent the majority of his downtime abroad teaching himself the ins and outs of architecture and construction, reading everything he could about the industry. Then, in 1988, soon after retiring from professional skiing, Witt Construction was born.
Setting up his home base in Saratoga, Witt began to incorporate European influences into his firm’s projects—and that Old-World ethos has become one of his firm’s signatures. His most recent project, for example, a condominium neighborhood that he’s calling Downton Walk, reflects the nuances of European architecture and is the company’s most unique project to date, he tells me. “We have seven single-family homes on a small piece of property, so it has that very European feel,” he says. While Witt certainly caters to his clients’ own visions and specs for their dream home concepts, they choose him knowing that he’s a master builder with a flair for the incomparable. “A Witt house is truly custom,” says Beverly Tracy, who spent seven years as Witt Construction’s in-house interior designer. “John starts the design process with a napkin and a pen. He draws as he listens to new clients talk about their dream house. He’s a true designer.”
Regardless of architectural prowess, though, local builders such as Witt Construction know that they must follow strict guidelines—and seek prior approval from Saratoga’s Design Review Commission—before starting new builds or doing renovations within Saratoga’s historic and architectural districts. Firms must also be able to straddle the line between modern architecture and Saratoga’s classic look. “Not everything we’ve done matches what Saratoga is,” says Witt. “Projects that fit into the scale of the city are very important. The city holds us accountable, but it’s for good reason. That’s why we have such a great city, because we can’t just build anything anywhere.” Tracy, for one, believes her former employer’s work fits the bill—and has even made the city better. “Witt Construction has changed the landscape of Saratoga Springs with John’s vision, talent and unique use of materials,” she says. “Celebrating the anniversary of Witt Construction is celebrating the very best of Saratoga and our thriving community.”
Despite all the red tape, Witt takes great pleasure in building homes that families can enjoy for many years to come—especially in a city as remarkable as the Spa City. “Saratoga’s the place to be,” Witt says. “I’ve traveled quite a bit, and every time I come home, I feel privileged to live in such a great community.” Three decades in, Witt has no plans to call it quits anytime soon, either. “I don’t think I’ll ever retire,” he says. “I could see myself running the business forever.”
Good news, Saratoga. We have an eternity’s worth of John Witt’s award-winning work to look forward to.