As I did with the Pool controversy two years ago I plan to put up an informational blog about the Wiss Hotel controversy. As I was typing it, though, I was reminded that I have always been an old building person and that most of you do not know me on a personal level, so I thought I would give you some background to lay the foundation.
I grew up in Canandaigua. My family lived in ½ of a house across from the Army Depot until I was nine. It was a great house with a lot of turns and character. There was even a cast iron claw-foot tub! The full size attic was truly amazing. The only access was through the raised panel door in my parents’ bedroom. I loved playing up there. My best friend down the street had an attic I loved even more. I am pretty sure our attic was bigger, but her attic was accessed through their bathroom. That was so cool! I remember as a small child comparing house features. Our stair case had about three steps up to a landing where you turned to go straight up to the second floor. Their staircase went straight up to a slight curve near the top. They even had a laundry-shoot that went from the second floor to the basement. Our friend around the corner lived in a “mansion”. It was an Italianate with a cupola, TWO interior staircases, a side porch and a barn in the City. The first time I visited there I decided I would live in a house with two interior stair cases. The ceilings were so high and the bedrooms were huge.
When I was nine my parents bought their house. I spent my childhood imagining how I could build a second stair case and turn the one stair case around because it does not make sense the way it is. There is an attic room at the top of the stairs on the second floor. Throughout my life I have imagined it as a bathroom, bedroom, home office, play room, you name it.
My dad grew up in a house where his family was only the second family to ever live there. I loved to go to my grandparents’ house to play. They had TWO front doors off of the front porch. There was a name plate on one of the doors that covered the key hole. It had the names of the people who built the house engraved on it. The best part, though, was their basement. My grandpa had finished it into an amazing work shop and food pantry. You could get to the basement from either the kitchen or the exterior “loading” doors as I called them.
As an adult my husband and I have lived in apartment complexes (I hated them, they were so cookie cutter and there were too many rules), an apartment in an old house, and have owned two Victorians. I loved it when we moved to the apartment in the old house. There was plate rail in the dining room. I have spent the last 18 years scouring the countryside for plate rail for both of my subsequent dining rooms. The butler’s pantry was probably my favorite part of that apartment, though. The land lord allowed us to work on the apartment in exchange for rent reduction. That place was gorgeous when we left.
My husband and I purchased our first house when I was 26. It was an 1880 Queen Anne in Rochester. We renovated every single room-4 rooms down stairs, 2 bathrooms, and 4 bedrooms upstairs. We took it down to the studs in every room except four that were already done by the previous owner. We tore out all of the carpets and redid every floor in the house, sanding some, installing new ones as well. We also painted the outside. When we were finished there were eight different colors on the outside bringing out every single exterior detail that was left on it.
Our current house in Le Roy is an 1884 East Lake where we have removed the remaining carpets, renovated two bathrooms, restored the plumbing to two that were not working properly, renovated the kitchen, the laundry/mudroom, and two bedrooms including the floors in the bedrooms (the others were already done). This past weekend we restored a window door and opened up a door-way that had been covered over by a previous owner decades ago and started in on the gigantic living room (with a lot of help from my brother).
I distinctly remember as a child falling in love with old architecture. Second Empire with its Mansard roofs is my absolute favorite and always has been. Brick or clapboard (no vinyl), it does not matter; I adore Second Empire. I also adore Gothic architecture with all of its angles and points. Both are a visual feast. Queen Anne is amazing, as well, with all of its curves and stained glass and turnings. Gingerbread details are a feast to behold. I do like classic Italianate structures as well with their cornices and cupolas. In truth East Lake is not my favorite, but I do not dislike it. It is a little too square for my personal preference, but I have come to adore this house. In fact as I sit here and type I wonder if the chimney next to me is encased in drywall. When we get to this room I am totally going to expose the brick!
Victorian architecture, as you can tell, is my favorite, but I also adore earlier architecture. My husband’s college roommate grew up in houses built in the 16 and 1700’s. They were equally as beautiful with their gigantic cooking fire places and low ceilings to keep the heat in. My love of old buildings goes as far as being able to identify who were the wealthy builders based on the windows.
Old houses and old buildings have such stories to tell. You can see the renovations, the additions, the changes, even the people who have been there. This amazing house we currently live in has two interior staircases. There is a small second story addition that houses the second one which was the “servants’ staircase, along with their bedroom and their kitchen/bathroom. There is something in the basement below the original farmhouse sink that makes me think it was originally a cistern. Last weekend I found what I believe to be the original screen doors for the front of the house. I cannot wait to get them up so everyone can see our gorgeous East Lake front doors. The best part of all of this is that our children (7 and 10) love it when we start working on the house. They want to tear down the other two walls that clearly are not original. I have never pictured myself living in a new or modern house. I was always meant to live in an old house.
I remember as a kid driving through Le Roy on the way to see my cousins in Pembroke. I always loved Le Roy’s main street. It reminded me of home, but smaller, with all of its old houses and old business district. In truth, I never really understood Batavia’s main street. I am sorry to say that as it sounds so harsh, but it is the truth. As a kid my parents drove us around the entire east coast. I remember liking places like Geneva, Le Roy, Naples, villages in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and Virginia.
I think this is a good place to end for now. I hope you have enjoyed the foundation of our story. Within the next few days I will post the next installment.