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Tremont Circle ~ 1860

Holdsworth Main

The Holdsworth-Bertch Home on Tremont Circle, c. 1860

It has been ten years since this circa 1860 Victorian brick farmhouse was last seen on the Holiday House Tour. Like a pair of comfortable slippers, it has been shaped and worn by its various caretakers through the years. Features include original painted woodwork and fireplaces along with a rear attached apartment. Thanks to urban renewal in the 1960’s this home benefits from an unusually large city yard, originally the back yards of previous homes and businesses that faced Clarissa Street. Like many throughout the neighborhood, this home was in a state of disrepair before its early 1970s rehabilitation.  Several updates were made then while keeping the character of the house in mind, and previous owners Bill and Shirley Lowe later designed the generous front porch and first floor kitchen addition.

In 2005, the front porch and large yard were important attractions for the current owners, and the inviting Corn Hill neighborhood sealed the deal for them! Recently they have begun the process of making their own mark on the home with recent improvements to the floor plan along with updated wood floors through most of the first floor. As with all owners of older homes, they are now considering several other projects on their “to do” list.

Tremont Circle, Apartment ~ 1864

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The Webster-Kirley House Apartment on Tremont Circle, 1864
Weimer Home

The rear apartment at this Tremont Circle residence was fashioned out of the original kitchen and servant’s quarters. Like the main part of the house, one of the apartment entrances was converted from an original window. In 2010, the apartment was renovated extensively, including a restoration of the original pine flooring in the living room. Hand-scraped hardwood flooring was installed on the entire second floor, and crown moldings added to the main floor. Wood paneling from the 1970s was removed to create an exposed brick stairwell. Modern fixtures were added throughout and an antique leaded transom glass was installed over the main entrance door in an attempt to combine historic beauty with contemporary convenience.

South Plymouth Avenue ~ 1985

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The Giles Home on South Plymouth Avenue, 1985

In 1982, the Mark IV Construction Company completed the first phase of its Corn Hill Commons townhouses. This was the City of Rochester’s first comprehensive housing development in 30 years! These residences were advertised as maintaining “the flavor of Victorian America, coupled with the convenience of today.” Over a five-year period, hundreds more housing units would be constructed on 12 Corn Hill acres. Note that this particular row of South Plymouth Avenue townhouses changed their appearance to multi-colored exteriors during the 2011 Corn Hill Commons re-siding project.

Today, this charming townhouse is opened on our Holiday House Tour for the first time. Visitors will be awed at the dramatic red, black, and grey Art Deco interior setting. The owner has enjoyed 12 years of living here and collecting artwork that reflects New York City, Jazz, and Fashion. Be sure to enter his basement “man cave,” where it’s all about African art. Our host extends a cordial “Welcome to my home!”

The Hoyt-Potter House ~ 1840

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The Hoyt-Potter House on South Fitzhugh Street, c. 1840

David Hoyt, a prominent Rochester bookseller and stationer, had this fine Greek Revival house built on South Fitzhugh Street about 1840 for his wife and family. In 1850, Hoyt sold his house to successful businessman Henry S. Potter.  In 1851, Hoyt became one of the organizers, directors, and largest stockholder of the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company—later known as the Western Union Telegraph Company. Henry Potter died here in 1884 at the age of 83. His daughter Henryetta Potter lived here until 1907.

The house suffered from neglect and, in 1969, Jack Lubelle purchased the house, then a boarding house. By 1972, all tenants had vacated and the owner began a 20 year process of suing the city for permission to demolish the building. Because of its historical and architectural significance, the Rochester Preservation Board protected the building from demolition. The empty building suffered vandalism and a 1976 fire caused substantial damage, including a hole in the roof that admitted the elements for over 11 years.

In 1989, a judge denied a final demolition request and the City of Rochester won final appeal to take title to the house. A request for proposals followed and was answered by Hoyt-Potter Associates with a plan to rehabilitate the house. By 1991, renovations were almost completed and the Landmark Society of Western New York purchased the building for their offices and library. The Corn Hill Neighbors Association is also housed here.

Today visitors can stroll through the double parlors, which have been rehabilitated and furnished to reflect the time of Mr. Potter’s greatest affluence—the mid-1850s.

Atkinson Street ~ 1870

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The Conklin-Porter Home on Atkinson Street, c. 1870

When this Italianate style brick house was built, the mode for illumination was gas, but in the 1920s the house was electrified. In the early 1960s, the house became divided into 5 small units, each with its own utilities, furnace, and water heater in the dirt floor basement. Fortunately, very few major alterations occurred in this division. Forced air ducting was run on the surfaces of the walls and some doors were nailed shut with dead bolt locksets added to others. The real damage to the building occurred in 1972 when the building suffered a fire that left a void from the rafters through the kitchen area and into the basement. The house was boarded up and left vacant for 8 years allowing water from the gaping roof holes to destroy any plaster cornice moldings that had survived the fire. At this time, the original front doors also “went missing.”

The current owner purchased the house in 1980 when “most sane folks had already walked away.” After five years of removing plaster and lath, pouring a new basement floor (after digging the basement a foot and a half deeper by hand) and rebuilding two chimneys, the house then had one finished bedroom and a “temporary” kitchen set up in the front parlor. In 1985, with these two rooms habitable, the owner and his wife moved in. With help from friends and family more rooms were finished, gradually expanding the living space.

The gutted house was rebuilt from the “inside-out” with all new walls, electric, plumbing, heat, and insulation. Much care was taken to restore as much as possible, retain, replace or duplicate missing details. For example every piece of door, window trim & base board was removed, sent out and stripped of 10 coats of paint, then carefully re-fitted to original positions & re-painted. All but three of the doors are original to the house, but the replaced rear porch door and the parlor pocket doors are true to the style and period of the house. All porches are new and are copies of the originals. A new garage was added to the rear of the house, with a Beaver Street access. The “temporary” parlor kitchen remained for 20 years until the current kitchen was finished in 2005. Please note the full size paper mock up of the NEW doors for the front hall. The clear pine to fabricate these doors was purchased 31 years ago and is still is in the garage.

This house harkens back to the original purpose of the Landmark Society’s first Third Ward House and Garden Tour of 1971, when tourgoers were given the opportunity to witness restoration projects still in progress. One has to have vision with an undertaking like this!

Adams Street ~ 1892

Adams Street 1892 - Main

The Wickham House on Adams Street, 1892
Browne and Walsh Home

Built originally on Genesee Street, this tri-gabled “L” structure was the home of the Wickham family for approximately 40 years. The last Wickham was Margaret, who operated a millinery business from the house. The neighborhood saw many changes over the years, including the circa 1925 construction of the Madison Theatre, a mere foot away from Margaret’s business. As a result, that side of the house never saw another coat of paint. Years of decline followed. The house became rental property and was finally abandoned in 1975.

In 1980, with the threat of demolition looming, the house was given a new lease on life when it was moved to its Corn Hill location on Adams Street. When the current owners took possession, the house was a shell with many broken windows. The only functioning item in the house was the Victorian doorbell, which still graces the solid oak front door. There was no plumbing—the copper pipes had been removed. There was no heating system—the steam radiators had also been removed, although their footprints can still be seen in the oak floors. All the wood in the house, with the exception of the downstairs floor and the front door, had been covered with so many layers of paint that many of the designs were completely obscured.

The plumbing, heating and electricity were brought up to modern standards. After removing multiple layers of paint, it was revealed that the window casings were chestnut, and the floors were oak or pine. In one of the upstairs rooms, many long pins were discovered—a legacy of Margaret Wickham’s millinery shop. Also note the elaborately turned spindles, posts and railings on the front porch—a reminder of the craftsmanship that could be found even on the smaller houses of the day.

Tremont Circle ~ 1864

Tremont Circle

The Webster-Kirley House on Tremont Circle, 1864
Butler and Baird Home

Corn Hill is famous for its dramatic renovation success stories, but few are more dramatic than the rebirth of this Tremont Circle house. Built in 1864 by Mr. H. Webster of Clyde, New York, this brick Italianate house was soon sold for $2,500 to Philip Kirley, a leather dealer and shoe manufacturer. The Kirley family lived in the home until 1919, after which the home was partitioned and transformed into a multiple residence—a change that led to the house’s decline. During these years, the house served as living quarters for a professional lacrosse team (which painted the house in team colors), and as an R.I.T student residence. By the 1960s the house was dilapidated, abandoned and singled out for demolition by a city councilman. Although the house itself was boarded up, the front double doors had been removed, leaving the large entryway open to rain, snow, stray animals, and vandals. During this time a fire destroyed much of the interior.

Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. David (Libby) Stewart, of the Genesee Landmarks Foundation, the house was spared demolition and sold in 1967 to Mary Grooms for $2,500, the same amount for which it had sold 103 years earlier. Ms. Grooms, a small building contractor, renovated the house, converting it into its current state as a two family residence. The handsome entrance porch was restored, and the original entrance doors, which were found rotting in the back yard, were returned to their hinges. In 1972, Ms. Grooms received a Gannett Newspaper Award for her efforts.

Inside, the house features twelve and a half foot ceilings, original crown moldings, and a prominent medallion in the dining room designed to complement the existing architecture. The foyer features a curving staircase and original pine flooring. The current owners have restored one of the two marble fireplaces, which originally burned coal, to a working gas fireplace, and, like recent owners of the house before them, have made various updates to the home.

End Time Deliverance Miracle Ministry ~ Gathering Place

End Time Deliverance Miracle Ministry - Corn Hill
The red Medina sandstone outer walls of this church are what remains of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style exterior of Corn Hill Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1900. Due to declining membership, the United Methodist denomination donated the building to the African Methodist Episcopal denomination in 1969. Several suspicious fires damaged the building in 1970-71. After the last and most disastrous fire in August 1971, the handful of members left in the congregation banded together to build a new sanctuary within the surviving sandstone walls. The building now houses the End Time Deliverance Miracle Ministry.

The Hervey Ely House ~ 1837

2012 Corn Hill Holiday Tour of Homes Hervey Ely 1

The Hervey Ely House sits like a Greek Temple atop a hill in Corn Hill near the site of the Seneca Indians’ Last Sacrifice of the White Dog. It is the sole remaining testament to the grandeur that once was the historic Third Ward’s Livingston Park. Boston architect S.P. Hastings was commissioned to design this grand mansion. The style is Greek Revival, with freestanding Doric columns guarding the portico. Various entablatures, paneled pilasters, and carved capitals are other important external features. Inside the elegance continues with lavish parlors, elaborate plaster decorations, and nine fireplaces.

Mr. Ely was one of Rochester’s leaders during the booming flour milling period. He made his fortune by running a general store, a sawmill and the Red Mill gristmill. Hervey Ely and his wife Caroline lived in this gracious mansion on Livingston Park, the social heart of the Third Ward for only four years. After the collapse of the grain market in 1841, Ely was forced to sell the house. He passed away at 71 and is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Over the years, this historic mansion passed from prominent owner to prominent owner, including William Kidd, president of the Rochester Savings Bank. In 1920, it was acquired by the Irondequoit Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for their headquarters. The Hervey Ely House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a landmark by the Rochester Preservation Board.