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May 7, 2013 - 3:47pm

Le Roy House honored as 'vernacular example of mid-nineteenth century Italianate residential architecture'

posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Landmark Society of Genesee County, preservation.

Story by David Gann. Photos by Howard Owens

Landmark Society Preservation Awards
Edgar Praus
15 Church St., LeRoy
Exterior Restoration

In this presentation, I’m referencing and borrowing from the nomination prepared by Cynthia Howk of the Western New York Landmark Society for the house to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house, now owned by our award winner, Edgar Praus, was known as the “Tryon House” and dates to 1867. It was described in its application for placement on the National Register of Historic Places as, “a distinctive vernacular example of mid-nineteenth century Italianate residential architecture...

“The large house was built for Augustus S. Tyron, a businessman and farmer who settled in Le Roy after returning east from his adventures in California during the Gold Rush."

The design of the house was one of many styles promoted in the mid-19th Century by authors such as Andrew Jackson Downing, who were instrumental in setting the tastes and fashions for buildings in communities in the United States. In 1881, Tryon sold the house to Charles Prentice. The house, located on the east side of the Oatka Creek was in close proximity to Prentice’s mill located on the west side of the creek.

Prentice had only a short commute from his new home on the east side the creek to his mill on the west side because a suspension foot bridge which spanned the creek from the area of a barn on the 15 Church St. property to his mill on the west side of the creek. Prentice’s mill produced flour and he later ”…expanded the milling operations to produce feed, meal, buckwheat and then adapted the building to produce electric power."

The mill…”was demolished in 1923 and the U.S. Post Office was built on the property.”  

Prentice, in addition, to his other businesses went on to organize the Le Roy Salt Company, which became one of the largest salt producers in the country. Prentice also served as president of the bank of Le Roy and a trustee of Ingham University. He died in 1917 at age 87. Prentice’s wife lived on in the house until 1928. The house was subsequently sold to the Powers family who resided in the house until 1979. In a 1929-30 renovation, the house was divided into four apartments.

Our award recipient, Edgar Praus, has owned the home since 1993 and in addition to restoring the exterior so wonderfully, he is working on restoring the interior as well, which despite the division into apartments remains “highly intact.” The house was white with green shutters when Mr. Praus bought it. 

The “…house had clapboard and flush board siding over an asymmetrical plan. The main, two and one-half story section had a set-back, southern L-section and a two-story west (rear) wing.  Downing, the author who inspired the design “…believed that porches were important to residences…” The original owner, Mr. Tryon ”…had a porch built across the main block of the façade and Prentice extended it across the entire east elevation. The new, expanded version featured decorative brackets, railings with elaborate turned balusters, and large-scale, square, chamfered columns that are particularly distinctive...”

The front porch and the north porch were extensively restored by our award winner in 2007.  “New cedar porch decks and decorative lattice-work screens below the porch decks were installed on both porches. Many of the original porch balusters had been previously removed and replaced in-kind, based on the surviving fabric. Three new square, chamfered porch columns replaced deteriorated columns during the restoration."

The windows on the house are "...symmetrical and regular. Windows feature six-over-six double-hung wood sash on all four elevations. … The windows include longer, floor-length openings on the façade (east) and south elevations (in the south window bay). The windows on all elevations feature shouldered, decorative trim. The 19th Century window lintels and decorative bracket on the south, east (front) and north windows remain, where originally installed. Nineteenth-century louvered wood shutters remain with the second-story windows on the front (east) elevations. While evidence of window shutters remains with many of the other exterior windows, the original shutters and hardware on these windows were removed by previous owners.” Since the house did not have storm windows, our award winner had wooden storm windows made.

Note the low-pitched overhanging roof with decorative eaves brackets on the house and porch, Note the arched double-wood entry door. Note the “tall, narrow windows with eared moldings on the first-floor façade, projecting lintels with small decorative brackets over six-over- six windows.” Note the original limestone stairs to the porch.

The south side of the house features a projecting three-bay first-floor window with a small second-floor porch above. The first-floor window bay ”features three, floor-length, windows with six-over-six sash on the first story…”  The decorative balcony on the second floor features…”original turned posts, railings, and spindled frieze…The turned balusters on the second story are identical in design to the balusters on the front (east) porch.” The second-floor porch is accessible by opening the window. 

The barn and suspension bridge just north of the house no longer exist.  But just south of the surviving limestone foundation to the barn, there survives a vertical limestone retaining wall with two large iron “I-bolts” and attached iron rings which supported the 19th Century suspension bridge.

While our award is for the exterior, we stole a peak of one of the remarkable fireplaces inside, in the south parlor. “The north and south parlors feature original white marble mantels and marble hearths. Each mantel is decorated by a central, marble bracket or cartouche. The mantels include shallow round-arch fireplace openings with cast iron inserts. The fireplaces appear to have been fueled by gas, rather than wood or coal. The fireplace in the south parlor also includes its original cast iron fender and is still attached to a gas supply pipe...”

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