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William Clague House (1860s)

William Clague House (1860s)

The owners of this cottage and carriage house are a throwback to the 1970s when young couples would buy historic homes and invest “sweat equity” into renovating the property. It takes vision, determination and a lot of hard work to take what was old and make it new again. At the time of this writing, the house interior was little more than unpainted dry wall as they reconfigured a warren of small rooms into larger more livable spaces. It will likely remain a work in progress at the time of the tour.

As early as 1866, City Directories show that William H. H. Clague,a printer turned office supplies merchant, was “boarding” at this address, although a few years later he becomes its owner. In 1890, George Simpson purchased the property and, from the “brick barn” (as he once called it), he operated a livery business, renting horses, carriages and drivers. There was more than one livery operating in the Third Ward but “Simpson’s carriages had more style,” according to an early resident. In time, Simpson moved into the theatrical business and became president of the East Avenue Amusement Company, which built and operated The Regent, a grand movie house at the corner of East Avenue and Chestnut Street.

After Simpson, that “brick barn” served many other purposes: it housed a business devoted to “skill devices” (more widely known as pinball machines), which ran afoul of a law that considered them gambling devices; another person used it to sell pigeons; it became a parking garage; then a garage that serviced Buick automobiles and sold Sunoco gasoline; and later a tool and dye company. This property has a unique history of adapting to the times.

Mark IV House (1986)

Mark IV House (1986)

Anita Hansen sleeps in the guest room because it offers her better feng shui* than the master bedroom. Which one would you choose—although it’s hard to argue with a woman who retired from Kodak after thirty years to pursue a second career as an interior designer.

When Ms. Hansen moved into this recently built townhouse in 1989 as its first owner, it offered a fresh palette on which to realize her ideas. Over the years she has remodeled the kitchen, both bathrooms and a powder room and replaced the home’s mechanical systems. She has cast her creative eye on every square inch of this space to stunning effect, from the adobe-colored walls of her kitchen to the “Colorado room” on the second floor where she watches television.

It all seems perfect and yet it changes every six months—she has a summer look and a winter look, swapping the colors of her furnishings and even the artwork on the walls twice a year.

There’s more. The Ralph Avery Mall is just outside her front door where she can experience the changing seasons and the newly created Walk of Wisdom in a park-like setting. All of this offers Ms. Hansen even more inspiration. How’s that for feng shui?

*Feng Shui literally translates to “wind and water.” It is a Chinese philosophy that seeks to create an environment in which people can live harmoniously with the natural world. It considers everything from the orientation of buildings in a city to the arrangement of furniture and other items in a room. Proponents believe it promotes better health, stronger relationships and greater success in the world.

Mark IV (1982)

Mark IV (1982)

Artists live here…and it shows.

Jim Hansen, a highly praised choreographer, is Interim Chair of the Dance Department at SUNY/Brockport. Brian O’Neill is a fulltime professional artist whose work is beautifully displayed throughout their home.

When it was time to buy a house, they knew what they wanted—a home on this block. They wrote to residents along the street asking if any of them would be interested in selling. The owner at #235 said yes. Once they moved in, they committed a great deal of time and hard work to create an open, loft-style space on the first floor with very little clutter—a “minimum aesthetic.” Brian has a favorite spot where he likes to sit and view the results of their labors.

Walls were removed to achieve the desired effect, even along the stairway up to the second floor. That can be disorienting to visitors, so exercise some caution as you climb them.

The first impression is how modern the interior is. Look again and you will notice a retro motif—furnishings are right out of the 1950s. Take special note of the Danish Modern table and chairs in the dining area. The spacious kitchen, however, is right up to the minute. Just a sliding door away is a large deck that looks out over a beautifully landscaped back yard.

This is one stop where you might wish the tour were still part of the July Arts Festival. Then you could enjoy the plantings and flowers leading up to the front door. It is a sight that has caused many a passerby to stop and admire how lovely and inviting it is. Well, why not? After all, artists live here….

Henry G. Spurr/Soderstrom-Boyd House (1870s)

Henry G. Spurr/Soderstrom-Boyd House (1870s)

Corn Hill’s house tour tradition began in 1971 when the Landmark Society conducted a House and Garden tour during the third Corn Hill Art Show. When people got inside these old homes, many of them began to see the possibilities of living in Corn Hill.

In December 1977, a young couple, Christian Soderstrom and Bonita Boyd, bought this Italian Villa style house built by Henry G. Spurr in the early 1870s. The following July, they welcomed visitors into their home as part of the 1978 tour. Among many improvements they had made in six months, two small rooms had been turned into one large living-dining room, a space you will see today. The house was also on tour in 1981 and one final time in 1984, the last year that tours were part of the summer Arts Fest before becoming a holiday tradition. This is the first time that any part of the house has been open to the pubic since then.

Chris Greenlee, the current resident in the apartment open today, calls himself a “rescuer.” Some of his furnishings have been salvaged after being relegated to the curb by previous owners. This is a long-standing tradition in Corn Hill where many families have restored their older homes by using discarded items such as plumbing fixtures, fireplaces, and even wrought iron fencing.

Chris has carefully integrated these acquisitions with pieces that once belonged to his mother and grandmother.  The walls are decorated with posters and artwork he has accumulated over the years. Some items are original works given to him by friends. The entire apartment is tasteful and calm, a reflection of the man who lives here.

Doody-LoPresti House (1867)

The Doody-LoPresti House (1867)

This Victorian house, built and owned by carpenter William Doody in 1867, almost got away from us. It is very representative of what took place in our neighborhood when the old Third Ward was being reborn as Corn Hill.

In the mid-1960s, many local properties were owned by an elaborate system of corporate slumlords, a practice exposed in a 1965 series of articles that appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle. The owner of this house at 34 Atkinson was cited in that series but, coincidentally, he died even as the articles were in the news.

The house sat empty for many years as the city struggled with the owner’s estate. A blight on the neighborhood, demolition orders were imminent. Although the home clearly needed a lot of work, the Landmark Society found it to be structurally sound and fought hard to save it. In 1974, an electrician named John LoPresti, president of the recently formed Corn Hill Neighbors Association, bought the house and gave it new life. By 1981, it was offered for sale as an “outstanding brick 2 family” home.

Almost forty years later, the current owners, Nancy and Blair Brown, appreciate the improvements that LoPresti made, even as they add renovations of their own. They have completely modernized the kitchen but have been respectful of the house’s long history as they work their way through other rooms. On the first floor, the living room’s yellow walls and high ceiling create a cheery, spacious ambiance. Upstairs, each bedroom is taking on colors and decor unique to each family member.

Best of all, a family has brought new life to a house that is now fully recovered from a time when its future was bleak.

The Campbell-Whittlesey House (1835-36)

The Campbell-Whittlesey House (1835-36)

Corn Hill was once known as the “Ruffled Shirt District” for its wealth and large mansions. Only two of those great homes remain at their original location: The Hervey Ely House on Troup Street where The Daughters of the American Revolution reside today and The Campbell-Whittlesey House.

This Greek Revival home was built in 1835 by Benjamin Campbell who made a fortune in the milling business after the Erie Canal made Rochester America’s first boomtown. Seven years later, he lost a fortune in the same business when the industry moved west for those “amber waves of grain.” Thomas Rochester, son of our city’s founder, purchased the home and, for several years, rented it back to Campbell who, with his wife, ran it as a boarding house. In 1848, ownership passed to Frederick Whittlesey, a city attorney who once served as a justice on the New York State Supreme Court. When he died in 1851, his daughter took it over and it remained in the family until 1937.

By then the house was in danger. It was the Depression and the house was on the approach to the Troup-Howell Bridge, then under construction. Helen Ellwanger, fearing for its future, purchased it and then led the way in creating the Landmark Society to protect this house and other historic buildings like it.

For the next 73 years, the house survived as a history museum until, in 2010, it reverted to being a private home. The current owner Ron Yearwood has made many improvements to make it more livable in the twenty-First Century but he has also been respectful of the home’s long history by preserving original wall colors and architectural detail.

The Pratt House (1860)

The Pratt House Adams St.

A far cry from the one bedroom bachelor pad/music studio/fixer upper purchased by Craig Iannazzi in 1999, Corn Hill Cottage at 111 Adams St. has evolved into a true urban oasis fit for a growing family with a diverse set of interests and a passion for both historic and city living. Through extensive renovations and restorations dating from 2009 through the present, Craig and wife Kristine have rediscovered many interesting facts regarding the home and surrounding double lot property. While diligent neighborhood historians have recently traced the tax record on the house back as far as 1860, the Iannazzi’s believe it is even older due to the crafted details made without tools including the field stone foundation and hand planed rafters. Until 1970, 109 Adams street stood in what is now the Iannazi’s side yard, a large multi family home just feet from the original brick home. The first owner after the Riots of the 1960’s paid a mere $800 for the home at auction, and began its current transformation from a rubble filled shell to a proper home. Since 2009, the home has been completely remodeled inside, with an additional bathroom and bedroom constructed on the first floor, as well as a redesigned master bath, spiral staircase addition, sky lights, and a re imagined open concept flow. The exterior gained a face lift in the summers of 2014 and 2015, with a new roof, front landscape, and the current Corncord creme color. 2016 brings the addition of Kristine’s garden shed and Craig’s epic workshop in the back. Always striving for “ease of living” the Iannazzi’s chose gravel rather than sod to trim outdoor entertaining areas. On any given summer evening, the family can be found lounging on the front bench or enjoying dinner al fresco under the cafe lights in back

The Lee House (1864)

Lee House - Glasgow

Records say this house was built in 1864, but the current owner has found documents indicating that it is older. City directories report Elizabeth Lee, widow of Rochester attorney Charles M. Lee, was living here as early as 1861. Philadelphia-born in 1805, she arrived at the tiny village of Rochester in 1821. She immediately committed herself to a lifetime of service as one of the founders of the Rochester Orphan Asylum and the Female Charitable Society, Rochester’s earliest organization dedicated to social reform. She died in this house in 1893.

Today’s owner is Corn Hill historian Jim DeVinney. He has filled the home with family mementoes including a china cabinet owned by his great-grandmother. Before retiring, he was a television writer and documentary filmmaker—you might spot some his television Emmys stuck up in a corner somewhere. But watch out! He’s an Irish storyteller and, once he gets started, you may not want to leave.

Irwin-Goodling House (1872)

A Second Empire Victorian Landmark

Home of Rob Goodling

Irwin Goodling House - Adams St.

The distinctive Italianate tower, iron cresting, “widow’s walk”, French Mansard slate roof and embellishments of double bracketry under “Yankee guttered” eaves, all characterize the style of this well-known Second Empire Corn Hill mansion. Completed by Rochester manufacturer, Jacob Irwin in 1872, this house remained the residence of his daughter, May Irwin Montague, until the 1930’s, when it sat empty for several years. By the 1950’s this once proud home had been broken up into eleven apartments, occupied by R.I.T. students. In the 1960’s the Landmark Society bestowed its “Landmark” status, and the house was converted into the current three-family designation.

Purchased by the current owner in 1982, care has been taken to preserve existing interior moldings and ceiling medallions. A variety of Rochester artists and craftsmen have contributed to its restoration and to the trompe l’oeil, faux painted woodwork found in the gracious parlor and dining room as well as a dramatic upstairs bathroom. The kitchen has been restored in an Arts and Crafts style and Mr. Irwin’s former first-floor bedroom is now an elegant library with linen-covered walls. Recent restorations include the exterior copper roof moldings and dormers, the replacement of hand-cut roof slate, and the installation of antique glazed tile chimney pots.

This home has been opened to the public on various “house-tours”; has been photographed for numerous books and publications of Rochester architecture and history; was filmed and featured in a six-part television series on Rochester preservation; and was the inspiration for local novelist, T.M. Wright’s ghost story, “The Woman Next Door.”  In November 2003, owner Rob Goodling was presented with the Landmark Society’s “Historic Home Award” for his “care and commitment to the preservation of an architecturally significant house.”

Dewey-Arnold House (1870)

2016 Corn Hill Holiday Tour of Homes - Merriman

Built in 1870, this two unit row house was originally owned and occupied by Fred W. Dewey, a lumber dealer, then by Charles G. Arnold, a bookkeeper and, later, by Mary Rohde.  Like several of the houses on today’s tour, this two-unit row house was once a boarding house and was scheduled for demolition in the mid to late-1970s.  Part of the urban renew plan to level every dwelling possible to create low-income housing, the home was one of the reasons that the historical and preservation community came together to say, we will save every house possible.

In 1978 Norm and Eleanor Burgess bought the entire structure. They retained this side and sold the other half to Bob and Marion Sherwood. Both families took great pains to restore their homes to their former splendor. The current owner purchased the house in 1990.  Many colorful stories have been passed along as the structure has gone through several transitions.

While these Second Empire attached houses share a mansard roof of bracketed slate and arched windows, each structure has unique characteristics. On the east side of the touring house, find an oriel window of a semi-square plan projecting from the face of a wall and supported by a corbel or bracket.  This house has a wrought iron fence with pineapple finials. The raised basement, at one time, likely housed the kitchens but today contains an upscale efficiency apartment.