Friday, July 18, 2008

If walls could talk...

Sometimes, it’s better to simply avoid asking who once lived in your house. Sometimes, it’s better to think an anonymous family once occupied the dwelling. Sometimes, it better to not know your abode housed two of the Spa City’s most noted scoundrels.

Such is the case at the palatial early 20th century home built at 595 North Broadway along the wealth corridor of Saratoga Springs. The home was constructed by Harry Pettee in 1921, two years after he was chased out of the city mayor’s office and two years before he disappeared with more than $300,000 bilked primarily from local residents.

Pettee’s long-obscured legacy is now the subject of a television program scheduled to air on HGTV Friday evening, according to the Times Union. Hosts of the program “If Walls Could Talk” poured through the home and historical documents in an attempt to reinvigorate the bizarre circumstances under which Pettee built and later abandoned the mansion.

Pettee was among a long line of one-term mayors who just didn’t pan out for Saratoga Springs (see: Valerie Keehn, Michael Lenz). His popularity waned after his carbonation business nearly sucked the life out of the mineral springs located on what is now the Saratoga Spa State Park. He was forced to sell, was disgraced out of office and eventually fled the area for more posh accommodations on the Manhattan peninsula. He returned periodically until disappearing for good in 1923, having absconded with $500,000 of investor and family money. This part of the tale is told well.

Yet both the TU and the hosts of the nationally syndicated program missed the modern –and arguably more sordid –figure linked to this property. And one who bears an eerie semblance to Pettee in both tendencies and scruples.

The year was 1997, when a jogger happened to notice the stench emanating from the Seaman Farm off Old Ballston Avenue. She quickly traced the reek back to an open pit filled with thousands of black garbage bags that contained pet carcasses. Littered among mass burial were a few other trash bags containing medical waste, household refuse and junk mail listing the address of a naturalized Canadian living at Pettee’s old abode.

For more than three decades, Terence McGlashan claimed to make his living through the sale of veterinarian supplies and through contracting out animal creations. But instead of burning the carcasses, McGlashan simply dumped them off at the 500-acre farm and paid Ralph Seaman a sum of $2 for each body he dumped. State investigators later found four mass burial pits containing the rotting remains of more than 40,000 pets McGlashan had collected from 83 veterinarians across New York and New England. At the time, pet cremations cost upwards of $150, meaning he made quite a nice sum from his pet cemetery.

The story made national news and McGlashan, under the unwavering scorn of scorned pet owners and animal rights activists, admitted to the charges less than a year after they were lodged. He was sentenced to serve six months in county jail, fined $5,000, and ordered to pay $25,000 to local animal shelters. The furor over the incident also prompted a would-be arsonist to lob a pair of Molotov cocktails at Seaman’s barns after the case came to a conclusion.

Strangely, the link between McGlashan and Pettee extends beyond their simply building a fortune off of defrauding local residents. Prior to his disappearance, Pettee was known for his frequent sojourns to the Sunshine State. So often were his trips he became known as the “Palm Beach-going mayor,” according to local author Hollis Palmer. McGlashan fled to Orlando – where there just happens to be another Saratoga –perhaps compelled by the spirit of Pettee or maybe convinced by the homemade bombs Seaman was prone to receiving.

The entry on the TU blog suggests the HGTV producers carved into the floors of McGlashan and Pettee’s old homestead and surprisingly didn’t find the cash the latter disappeared with. No word on whether they found a new cache of animal carcasses. Needless to say, if the walls at 595 North Broadway could talk, the modern-day residents there should ask for an assessment reduction.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

HO:

Where's the "Manhattan peninsula" you say Pettee fled to?

The Manhattan in New York City is an island.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Get yer metaphors, here. Metaphors. Red hot metaphors...

...actually, it's called not enough caffeine with breakfast...but metaphorically speaking, Manhattan might as well be a peninsula.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Kyle York said...

OKAY folks, time for a Certified Manhattan TourGuide to set y'all straight-

The Northern edge of the Manhattan "Island" was in fact, a minor tidal trickle. That's how we "found" it in 1624. Them Pesky Natives had long-known and little-cared about the crik'.

BUT...as European peoples re-made the land, they found the trickle would serve them better if it were to follow a nice deep man-made DITCH. So it was dug and it was christened "The Harlem River."

The man*made tomfoolery is still seen on MAPS where the very Northern Properties of MANHATTAN are actually in THE BRONX, the Real Estate remnants of the original course of the feeble trickle of water.

SO IN FACT, our HOST HORATIO is certifiably/geographically CORRECT in calling Manhattan "a peninsula."

As usual, I must apologize for not inserting any 4-letter words... except for YORK.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone knows the current address or phone number of McGlashan?

All of us that were victimized by this guy dhould say 'hi' to him -- just to let him know we haven't forgotten about him.

Any help?

5:28 AM  
Anonymous agphoto said...

Rock on Kyle...

a different perspective on le' affaire McGlashan:

i was at the house the night before all hell broke loose (eg: FOX23 on the lawn, etc.)... actually, there was a wedding there in the evening, and i got the privilege of escorting the groom's sister to it (Terry's stepdaughter- a 10 dressed to the 9's ...thanks for the daydream...)

But i digress. We were sitting outside waiting for things to get going, and it was a fairly hot day-- all of a sudden, the coldest wind blew thru, and i remarked to Krissy how refreshing it was.

When i looked over to her though, she was white as a sheet, and said: "No, that's an evil wind--something bad is going to happen." (and no, she didn't know what was going down...nobody did.)

So the wedding goes off w/out a hitch; bride and groom off to Kennedy airport or whatever, and the elated /drunk people went to sleep (me, alone- dammit. Remember, it was daddy's house.) i digress again...

Being a health freak at the time i woke up early and went out for a jog. And there was 3 news trucks when i got back. An evil wind.

I have no clue as to the guilt or innocence of Mr. McGlashan. I do know he signed what i believe is a consent decree or something similar.

Let he who is without sin post the first comment.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Alicia said...

horatio, what I truly don't understand is why you don't just start your own newspaper. you love saratoga more than anybody else writing about it.

just do it. the industry needs you. and i'll buy you lots of wine and help you start it.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

agphoto,

That is indeed bizarre; eerie even. Good post, as always.

5:28,

The last known address county Probation had for him was Orlando, Fl. Not surprisingly, his number isn't listed. A quick records search turned up little in his name, other than the mass burial event that made the national news circuit.

Alicia,

Show me the money, sister. Or rather, show me the wine.

7:24,

I've humored you enough to post this off-topic tripe simply because my curiosity is getting the best of me. I'll make you a deal: You explain to me in full detail what the hell you're talking about and I'll leave your post there for people to speculate. As always, you can either e-mail me directly or you can post another comment with directions on whether or not you want this information posted in the public domain. Otherwise, I'll delete your comment and any others like them in three days.

Cheers!

7:38 AM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

I don't know about you... but my balls itch.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Mamie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Mamie,

Just humoring the trespassing theory for a second, what exactly does it have to do with Southworth and his ability to be a candidate for the state committee? Like I said to the other poster, if you guys are going to continually reiterate this line every time I post, at least explain the relevance to everyone else and its bearing on anything.

On a side note, I'd love to post about the fight in City Hall, but no one has been that forthcoming with information. My understand is that it never came to fisticuffs and was largely blown out of proportion, considering the usual verbal bouts that happen among out city's leaders. But I'd be happy to hear more about it.

Faulkner,

They sell creams for that kind of thing.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

My condition reminds me of a favorite poem, An Itch Deferred:

...does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore... and then run?... or maybe it just sags like a heavy load...

or does it itch?

(Ho: I don't know if they make an over the counter cream strong enough)

4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, if I were the Southworth's I would get an attorney and file a slander suit against Thompson and his cronies. You really should have proof of something so serious before you accuse someone of something like this Shawn...Did you ever think of IP tracking?

5:13 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

7:24 and Mamie,

Last call, guys. Explain your full story before I delete your posts and put this topic to bed once and for all. Which will it be? You have until midnight.

5:13,

This is a blog, not the Gestapo. And I do track IPs. My next step is to start blocking certain egregious posters. But what I'll probably do before that is ban all posting with out a login. It would be an inconvenience to some. However, it prevent a handful of overly excitable sophomoric posters from ladening my sight with graffiti.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear HA.The battle in city hall was started by lew benton and directed at dept. com.Boxley.because her boss john franck does not support the police palace.

4:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe John Franck should re-think the Police Palace. This way it would be more suitable to lock Benton up!

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Pettee family member I would to say that Harry did not "eventually fled the area for more posh accommodations on the Manhattan peninsula". The family had, for many years, owned homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan. This is where Harry's business was. He was a "frequent sojourns to the Sunshine State" because the family also own land in Florida and vacationed there. When Harry ran off with the $300,000 the family was shocked and disgraced. Harry's father and step-mother were very honorable people who raised Harry and his brother's to be honorable. Why don't you let the family who was dishonored by this mistake rest in peace?

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Stacey said...

Such a great article which The story made national news and McGlashan, under the unwavering scorn of scorned pet owners and animal rights activists, admitted to the charges less than a year after they were lodged. In which Littered among mass burial were a few other trash bags containing medical waste, household refuse and junk mail listing the address of a naturalized Canadian living at Pettee’s old abode. Thanks for sharng this article.

10:22 PM  

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