Silas Adams, 43, grew up in a large family in West Shokan in a house that had been in his mother’s family for six generations. For years, the pediatrician’s son bounced between Manhattan and San Francisco, managing a diverse range of construction endeavors before buying an 1850 home in the Saugerties hamlet of Malden in 2008. Since then, Adams has earned a glowing reputation as the diplomatic go-to general contractor for owners of antique homes.
“My neighbors are diverse, interesting, and worldly people,” said Adams, who earned a master’s in architecture from RISD in 2005. “But there are a lot of houses in the area which are in desperate need of repair.”
While not a realtor, the Internet adept is using his contact network to interest potential buyers in several extreme fixer-uppers nearby that may soon become available. He’d like to ward off more tear-downs of bargain-priced properties over a hundred years old that have recently been condemned or repossessed. Impecunious hippies once populated the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, still delightfully free of McMansions.
Adams’s strength lies in guiding old-house owners toward appropriate, environmentally friendly construction and renovation that also makes economic sense. Communication skills honed during the three years Adams worked in hospitality management at Manhattan’s chic Royalton Hotel clearly help. That’s also where he discovered a world of people working in niche construction trades by choice, not default, and that many held advanced degrees.
Bluestone industry workers built most of the 19th-century structures in Malden, using whatever building materials were readily available, employing a pastiche of architectural styles. Typically, Malden-made bricks topped by layers of wallpaper provided the insulation.
From Adams’s residence he can see the Bristol Plat House, built as laborers’ rooming during the shipbuilding boom when the village was called Bristol. That framed stone house dates from the early 1800s; the Cooper-Hewitt Museum has dated the base layer of hand-blocked wallpaper from 1790.
Present owners Bill and Geri Baker bought the dilapidated structure for $5,000 three decades ago. Its preservation has proved a fascinating hobby for the retired publishing executives who primarily live elsewhere in the state. But before the Bakers met Silas, they’d had a series of experiences with contractors that were as uneven and hodgepodge as their remarkable time-warp getaway, featured on May’s Saugerties Bicentennial Historic House Tour.
Together with his brother Jeremiah, Silas is currently installing a cedar-shake roof on the Bristol Plat House and structurally correcting and beautifying a dormer built by someone without the benefit of Adams’s taste and education. The Bakers sing his praises. He’s getting lots of work by word-of-mouth.
“I like the problem solving aspect of what I do,” said Adams. Silas Adams Contracting