Home of a different kind awaits historic designation

The James M. and Eleanor Lafferty House on Hedgewood Lane in Niskayuna is shown Thursday, July 28, 2016.The James M. and Eleanor Lafferty House on Hedgewood Lane in Niskayuna is shown Thursday, July 28, 2016.
INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER The current residents of the Lafferty House in Niskayuna: (starting from left) Bryan Cudmore, Amelia, Brayson, and Danielle Marquis. Monday, August 15, 2016.

The current residents of the Lafferty House in Niskayuna: (starting from left) Bryan Cudmore, Amelia, Brayson, and Danielle Marquis. Monday, August 15, 2016.

NISKAYUNA — On Hedgewood Lane, the neighbors are pretty close with one another, reminiscent of a time when the lane held just a few houses and was one of the original “GE plots.”
“We still have block parties and the neighborhood pool is one of our neighbors’ who always invites people over,” Danielle Marquis said. It’s an echo of the camaraderie among the engineers who first lived on the street.
Marquis, her husband, Bryan Cudmore, and their children, Brayson and Amelie, have lived in the Lafferty House on Hedgewood Lane for five years.
Earlier this month, the state recommended the house to be listed on the state and national registers of historic places.
In order to be on the list, a person of historical significance must have lived in the home or the architecture itself must be historically significant.
The Lafferty house meets both of those qualifications.
James Lafferty, the original owner, was an engineer at General Electric for more than 40 years and received 67 patents for his various works.
The house was designed by Victor Civkin, a modern architect who was most known for designing a kitchen space with modular cabinetry and with solely electric appliances. In 1935, he also worked to redesign the kitchen of the White House.
Although there are three other houses designed by Civkin along Hedgewood Lane, the Lafferty House remains one of the only ones that hasn’t been drastically altered from the original design.
Marquis and Cudmore were living in the Stockade in Schenectady when they first came across the house six years ago.
“Our kids were younger and they would fall asleep on car rides. One day, we were driving around when we passed a sign that said there was an open house going on,” Marquis said.
While Cudmore stayed with the kids in the car, Marquis went in to explore what would one day be her home.
“I went in and just got lost in it,” remembered Marquis.
Indeed, from the road, the house doesn’t seem as though it would be able to contain the number of rooms, closets and bathrooms that are inside.
“It was like a really cool time capsule,” Marquis said. There were green shag carpets over everything and there was a ’70s yellow color on the walls.
But instead of being turned off by the home, Marquis fell in love with the place.
“We weren’t looking for a house at the time, though,” Marquis said. They put information on the home on the fridge of their Stockade residence and it became
the idea of a “dream house.”
A few weeks later, a Realtor called and asked if the family was still interested in buying the house.
“She told us that we were the first people who didn’t want to destroy it as soon as we saw it,” Marquis said.
It wasn’t long before the family moved in.
The unique design of the home seems closer to a West Coast aesthetic, with large open spaces and a second-story balcony off the master bedroom where one can’t
help but imagine many a cocktail party taking place over the years.
The closets are lined with cedar and the window frames are granite. “They spared no expense when they designed this house,” Marquis said.
On the bottom floor of the house there are large corner windows that seem to give the space a sense of openness. At the time it was first designed, that was extremely uncommon on the East Coast.
Several rooms have their own fireplaces, including the master bedroom, which used to be Lafferty’s study.
While the home’s unique architecture speaks for itself, it would never have been nominated to be placed on the register had it not been for Amelie, who is just 10 years old.
“We were in Chicago and my mom took me to visit some of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and I saw that they had plaques,” Amelie said.
She asked her mother what they were and immediately wanted a plaque for their home.
Every summer, Amelie and Brayson work on a summer project, directed by Marquis.
“And there is a writing portion to it, so I told Amelie, ‘All right, this will be your writing portion,’ ” Marquis said.
The family did some further research on the home and filled out a lengthy application, which they sent to the National Parks Service.
That’s where Emily Gould of the New York state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation found their application and began to work on further researching the home to help get it on the national and state registers.
Gould researched not only the house, but the Lafferty family as well.
Evidence of Lafferty’s work can be found throughout the house. “He actually had a lab downstairs,” Marquis said on a recent tour.
The family found a scale and a beaker that were left behind, which they keep on display.
In what is now the movie theater/playroom, there is a small black box tucked into the wall. One of Lafferty’s engineering projects at GE worked to advance
color television technology, and Lafferty had taken his idea and installed it right in his home, creating his own movie theater.
Although they are still waiting on the official decision on whether the house will be on the registers, the family is considering opening the home to others to experience the time-capsule aspects of it.
When the family lived in the Stockade, they enjoyed the Stockade Walkabout events.
“It would be really cool if we could do an open house of Civkin homes,” Marquis said.
For now, they’re just waiting on what Marquis calls the “final stamp” — and the plaque, which Amelie is most looking forward to.