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October 12, 2016 - 11:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in landmark society, Le Roy, preservation.

The First Presbyterian Church of LeRoy

7 Clay Street, LeRoy

Tender Loving Care

Article by Jill Babinski-Weidrick

Situated at the most prominent corner in the Village of LeRoy sits The First Presbyterian Church of LeRoy. Although architecturally important, this church’s primary significance is in its association with the founding and founders of the Town and Village of LeRoy.

The Congregational Society was formed in 1812, the same year as the Town of LeRoy. This society became the Presbyterian Church a few years later, in 1815. Initially, the members met in homes and later in barns and schools.

The purchase of the original church property from Ezra Benson, Jr., Herman LeRoy’s land agent, is listed as costing $200. The land was 66’ wide on Main Street by 264’ on Clay Street.

The Church was constructed between 1825 and 1826. The original church building was a two-story wood-framed rectangular building in the Wren-Gibbs style with tall windows on the long sides and a primary entrance on Main Street.

Of course, this church had a bell. The bell was originally protected by an open sided rood structure on the tower in the ‘crown of thorns’ style. The bell, situated at the highest and most central point in LeRoy, was sounded as an emergency alarm from its hanging until the 1940s. The bell continues to be rung for Sunday Services and every daylight hour on Christmas Day.

Not long after construction, an abolitionist rally was held at the church in 1830. This rally featured a speech by an elderly former slave. A pro-slavery demonstration took place outside and passions ran high, leading to a number of broken windows.

Seven years after this rally, in 1837, Frederick Douglass spoke at the Presbyterian Church, impressing many with his oratory.

This same year, Marietta Ingham and Emily Ingham Staunton, members of the church, founded the first university for women in the United States. Ingham University was active with the church, supplying the pulpit was asked and assisting at services. Due to its affiliation with the church, the school received financial help from the Presbytery and local churches. In good weather, students were known to attend Sunday Services.

In 1839, the sanctuary was extended by a 20 foot bay on the south end. A straight vertical joint in the stone foundation and a change in roof trusses on the south end is the only evidence of this addition left today. Note, that this is the extent of the existing sanctuary today.

Between 1850 and 1851, a new one-story session room/lecture rooms was added and the church pews were remodeled. The LeRoy Gazzette and church records document the modernization of the pews from enclosures with gates, to open-ended pews with scrolled arms. These are still in use today. Also at this time, central heating was installed, along with new wallpaper.

According to church records, the bell was enclosed and topped by a spire in 1866. This bell tower and spire are as seen today. The LeRoy Gazzette noted that during this time only the stones foundation and church timbers were left; everything else was new, including triple-hung windows with round heads on the exterior in place of the original windows. At this time, a new pipe organ was also installed.

The earliest photograph of the church dates from 1867. This photograph dates from the memorial service for Phineas Stanton, Chancellor of Ingham University.

In 1912, the first electric pipe organ was installed and later, in 1929, would be re-built. The pipes were placed behind a new neo-colonial grill designed by Charles Ivan Cromwell, a local LeRoy architect, who was just beginning his career.

In 1945, a bequest by Allen S. Olmstead in memory of his mother, Elizabeth Allen Olmstead, was received. An addition of a wing to the east was begun, but not finished until 1951 due to shortage of material during World War II. Also designed by Charles Ivan Cromwell, a large meeting hall/dining room and kitchen, with full basement, was added on the east side of the community building. When finished, the entire single-story community building attached to the sanctuary became known as Olmstead Hall.

In the early 1950s, a member of the congregation organized the first nursery school in LeRoy. This nursery school was located in Olmstead Hall. More than 50 years later, this nursery school continues to be operated in the same location.

In 1976, the wood shingles on the steeple were removed and replaced with aluminum shingles for maintenance purposes. Sometime during the 70s, all of the windows, including those in the sanctuary, acquired slim white combination aluminum storm/screened windows.

Today, the church continues to hold services and other events. 

October 12, 2016 - 11:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in landmark society, batavia, preservation.


Gregg & Debbie McAllister

21 Ross Street, Batavia

Tender Loving Care

This elegant Classical Revival home was built in 1904 by Batavia jeweler CC Bradley on property he purchased from Dean Richmond.  Mr. Bradley commissioned architect M.P. Hyde. Located just north of the Richmond Memorial Library, the house remains largely unchanged over the decades.  In 1956, CC Bradley, Jr. moved in to the family home.

In 1992 Gregg & Debbie McAllister purchased the property. In keeping with the traditional colors of the Classical Revival style of the early 1900s, they chose a three color paint scheme: yellow body, cream trim, and forest green accent.  The McAllisters believe that the house has always been yellow. The dark green is to replicate copper, which would have been used in original Classical Revival architecture.  The copper would weather to a green patina.  The house is a study in contrasts of light and dark; light and heavyDistinguishing exterior features include the dormers with palladium windows. The McAllister installed custom made replicas when the original windows rotted.

Extensive architectural embellishments include Greek revival corner returns on the dormers and decorative brackets under the eaves.

Ionic round columns support the porch roof.  Fluted square pilasters with Ionic caps adorn the corners of the house. Three round Ionic columns flank each side of the porch entryway. The frieze boards are lined with dentils.

A porch swing invites visitors to enjoy the shade. Turned balusters frame the porch. Natural wood bead-board covers the porch ceiling.

A two-story round bay window graces the north side of the house. Note the custom made curved rain gutter and the curved clapboards.

On the south side, a square bay window contains leaded beveled glass.  On the western, rear side of the house, the McAllisters added small deck off of the back door. A screened-in sun porch was attached in 1955. The Bradleys built an attached garage on the north side of the house and deeded the original detached carriage house to their neighbor. The garage is adorned with leaded glass, diamond-paned windows which were relocated from the living room.

The paneled front door is surrounded by sidelights and a transom made of leaded, beveled glass.  A heavy entablature perches above the Ionic pilasters flanking the sides.

The entry way is wood paneled.  One of many original light fixtures makes this cozy entryway even more inviting.  From the interior of the home, one can fully appreciate the ornate leaded glass surrounding the front door.

The sweeping staircase in the foyer leads to a landing with a bank of leaded glass windows. The glass in these windows are tinted a pale lavender.

Among the many intricate flourishes of the staircase are a curved railing at the landing return another decorative curve around the corner and another curve at the bottom of the railing.  A wave pattern adorns the stringer.  Delicate, turned spindles grace the balustrade. Fluted round newel and Ionic newel cap.

Given the sum of its parts, the grand staircase makes quite an impression.  Tucked underneath the staircase is a charming little powder room. This is the original sink. When it was evident that it would eventually need to be replaced, Debbie had the good fortune to find the exact same model at a salvaged home parts store. The sink still has the original faucets. The powder room has its original door knob and original light fixture.

The library is located through pocket doors in the foyer. The fireplace mantle design repeats the Ionic round pilasters found throughout the interior and exterior of the house.  One of the few light fixtures not original to the house, Gregg brought this lamp home from India and had it electrified.

A stunning four-tier wedding cake chandelier lights the foyer.  It originally hung in the living room in front of the fireplace. The Bradleys had it moved to the foyer in the 1940s. Four matching sconces light the living room. The McAllisters had the sconces refinished and rewired.

Dividing the living room from the foyer, this magnificent doorway incorporates the classical revival features found on the exterior of the house:  a heavy entablature with decorative brackets and dentils supported by round fluted columns and square pilasters topped with Ionic capitals.  The original wood floors remain throughout the house, beautiful oak with a mahogany border, even in upstairs rooms.  The heat registers are decorated with fleurs-de-lis in the corners.

A second, Adamesque style fireplace warms the living room.

Again, the leaded glass windows gleam when the light pours in through them. This is one of the windows in the two story square bay window. Debbie still marvels that every morning the house is full of rainbows on the walls created by sunlight streaming through the leaded glass windows. Similar leaded glass adorns the square bay window of the master bedroom of the second floor.

French doors divide the living and dining rooms.  In keeping with the attention to details in this elegant house, the French doors have glass doorknobs.

A third fireplace, identical to the one in the living room, warms the dining room. The McAllisters had this chimney completely rebuilt due to water damage. Built-in wood cabinets with glass doors surround both sides of the fireplace.  Again, decorative dentils mirror the classical features of the home.

The paneled wood in the dining room is painted a fresh white which draws attention to the decorative plates and china.

The original brass wall sconces light the dining room. And the original wallpaper still hangs. Although the electrical wiring has been updated, the original push button switches remain.

The McAllisters purchased the sideboard from the Bradley family as well as eight chairs and the matching dining room table with seven leaves.  The leaves have their own built in storage space in the butler’s pantry. The dining room pieces were custom made for the Bradleys by a New York City firm about 10 years after the home was built.

An original copper sink in the butler’s pantry is still functional. The cupboards in the butler’s pantry still have the original brass hardware.

In the 1940s, the Bradleys commissioned LeRoy architect Charles Ivan Crowell to design a sun porch; and open up the kitchen and pantry rooms into a large, open kitchen space. The McAllisters remodeled the kitchen in 1993. They modified the layout and installed oak floors, but kept the gas stove from the 1950s, bead-board wainscoting and cupboards.

Debbie stripped the paint off of this door to the basement and a bead-board hallway off of the kitchen. That had to have been a labor of love.

True to the experience of owning of an old home, updating the heating, plumbing and electrical functions in their house has been “ongoing” Debbie joked.  The McAllisters have managed to preserve the elegant features of this stately house while creating a warm, comfortable home for their three children, as well as the many foreign exchange students they’ve hosted over the decades.

October 12, 2016 - 11:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in landmark society, Stafford, restoration, preservation.


Garth & Amy Swanson

6209 Main Road, Stafford


Article by Brian Dougherty

The Swanson home at 6209 Main Road Stafford, was built in 1846 by Stephen Crocker, a local businessman for Isaac Newton Stage.  Stage was the proprietor of the Stafford Hotel. 

The house is a classic example of an early Victorian Italianate design with a low pitched hip roof, large eaves and prominent corbels that reflect the Italianate influences. 

The property’s original name was “Boxwood”; a shrub that was prominent throughout the property during the 19th century. Garth and Amy Swanson purchased the house in December 2014 which sits on approximately 5 acres of land.

While none of the original plantings remain they have carefully sought to include a variety of boxwoods in their planting scheme as they begin to restore the lawn and gardens.

The previous owner started the renovation process by stabilizing the chimneys, replacing the Bilco door and having a metal roof installed. 

 Prior to the Swanson’s purchasing the house it had been unoccupied for 4 years (unless you count the resident woodchucks and raccoons).  The house lacked a heating system, running water, a working bathroom and the electrical wiring was from the 1920’s.  Most of the plaster walls were cracked, falling down or completely gone.

A conscious decision was made to invest in the “bones of the house”.  The interior of the structure was gutted to the studs.

They reinforced the structural timbers in the basement and raised the floor by approximately four inches.   The interior is more reflective of a 19th century farmhouse, emphasizing function over form and was in serious need of modernization but they wanted to retain the 19th century character of the house. 

All the existing wiring and plumbing was removed.  The house was completely rewired and plumbed with a modern heating system and fully insulated.

Structurally, they have tried to change the exterior appearance of the house as little as possible and where possible have attempted to restore original design elements. 

Sometime in the early 20th century the ceilings in the house had been lowered to 8 feet. In almost all rooms they were able to raise them back to their 11 foot original height.

They created a modern kitchen in a 19th century farmhouse style. 

The second floor is the only space to experience serious reconfiguration. 

They created two baths (there was previously no plumbing on the 2nd floor) and a master bedroom. 

This space was previously bedroom space for farm hands and hotel staff. 

They have retained the two seater indoor outhouse (not used), however; and added laundry facilities. 

They worked hard to re-use as much of the original material as possible restoring almost all the hardwood and pine floors in the house with the help of skilled craftsmen.  The original woodwork throughout the house was kept. 

The house retains two fireplaces—unfortunately, neither fireplace is currently functioning but the long-term goal is the restore them useful function.

They are presently working with a master craftsman to build new storm windows for the seven second floor arched windows.  These are a unique architectural characteristic that we don’t want to lose.

Many projects still remain.  They are working to replace several of the corbels and other exterior architectural details.  They have plans to replace numerous sections of molding and trim damaged over the years as well as continuing to stabilize and secure the exterior by pointing up the rubble foundation.

PhD Painting did a wonderful job overseeing the exterior painting of the house.  They chose colors similar to the earth-tone palette used in early Victorian homes.  

The renovation has restored “Boxwood” with all the modern conveniences and energy efficiency of a 21st century house within an graceful, original Victorian Era shell. 

September 18, 2015 - 8:53am


The Landmark Society of Genesee County is presenting awards to five local buildings for preservation or restoration work at its annual dinner tomorrow night. Dinner tickets are $15 and it starts at 6 p.m. at the Elba United Methodist Church.

The five winners are:

  • Tender Loving Care: Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, 8 Center St., Batavia
  • Restoration: residence at  5211 Watson Road, Elba
  • Tender Loving Care: Cornell Cooperative Extension , 420 E. Main St., Batavia (top photo)
  • Interior Preservation: Corfu Grange, 73 Alleghany Road, Corfu
  • Tender Loving Care: residence at 32 Tracy Ave., Batavia

(Photos by Howard Owens, except interior of grange hall)

Press release:

This year’s honorees have each spent decades preserving and maintaining their historic properties. Their conscientious care has improved their neighborhoods and helped preserve our county’s architectural history for future generations.

Adam Miller was the second owner of the building that houses Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle store at 8 Center St., Batavia. He owned and operated the store for over 30 years before passing ownership to his children, Joyce Masse and A. Gary Miller, in the late 1970s. They still own the building today, but in 2002, sold the retail business “Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle” to John and Cathy Roche. The distinctive neon sign was installed in the mid-1950s on the front of the building and was restored in the 1990s. The Miller family and the Roches are being honored for the Tender Loving Care they have given this beloved Batavia landmark.

When Michael and Alison Riner bought and inhabited their Greek Revival farm house in Elba, it was quite dilapidated. The home had been vacant for years and didn’t even have running water. One vision, 20 years, and a lot of construction later, it is now a charming, immaculate home for their family. The Riners have ingeniously blended original architectural features with modern conveniences.    

For over 60 years the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County has taken excellent care of this historically and architecturally significant building that houses their offices. The Tender Loving Care they have given their 1820s property has greatly added to the streetscape of Main Street, Batavia.

Charles and Mary Brenner have spent over 30 years maintaining and restoring their “Princess Anne” style home on Tracy Avenue in Batavia. They have performed all of the work themselves and it has truly been a labor of love. They stripped all of the paint from the interior woodwork to reveal the natural beauty of the wood. Using a palette of eight different colors, the home’s exterior has been painted so that its unique features stand out.

Corfu Grange #142 was founded in 1874 and the meetings were held in the homes of its members. In 1914, the Grange purchased the Universalist Church. Then in 1939, the building was moved across the street to the present location. The curved beadboard ceiling and original gaslight fixtures are notable features of this well-preserved interior space.


32 Tracy Ave., Batavia


5211 Watson Road, Elba


Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle


Corfu Grange

February 19, 2015 - 12:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, preservation, D.A. Tufts Construction.

There are few examples of Mid-century Modern architecture in Batavia, especially among commercial buildings, and one that has been neglected for a long time has found a savior.

D.A. Tufts Construction has purchased 438 East Main Street, which is at the corner of Main and Harvester and is perhaps most often thought of as the former WBTA building.

Dave Tufts said he's admired the building since he was a little kid and is a big fan of Mid-century Modern, so he want to be sure to preserve the era's clean lines and Jetson-style modernism of the structure.

"It's one of my favorite periods, so we're excited about it, to be honest with you," Tufts said. 

Tufts plans to convert the 2,900-square-foot first floor to office space, suitable for business or medical use, and the second floor will become two large apartments (1,300 square feet each) with open floor plans (appropriate for the era) and high-end amenities.

In a statement about their plans, the Tufts said, "The repurposing of the building goes along with the current trend of people returning to urban areas to enjoy downtown living."

They will also construct two more apartments on the property and all four apartments will have private garages.

The exterior will be upgraded with a new entry way and balconies for the apartments, but preserve the stamped brick facade common to the Mid-century Era and simple lines that dominate the look and feel of the current building.

The last tenant of the building, T-Shirts Etc., moved downtown four years ago, and the building has been vacant since. It's sort of gone to seed over all those winters and summers of emptiness.

Renovation work has begun inside, but there's a lot of work ahead for his crews, Tufts said, to bring out the best the building has to offer.

Tufts said Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for the city, has helped them throughout the planning process.

Pacatte said she helped the Tufts by developing a marking list for potential office space tenants and also helped them with an application for a grant from National Grid for main street revitalization projects, which she expects will be approved.

"We're thrilled about the project," Pacatte said, because it hits on so many of the city's economic development goals -- from providing mix-use buildings; bringing more viable commercial space and residential space to the central city corridor; and providing higher-end housing (apartments with garages) that doesn't currently exist in the market.

"We love that they're honoring the architectural style of the property," Pacatte said.

Lucine Kauffman, president of the Genesee County Landmark Society, said the Tufts' plans sound like good news.

"I think it's great to start raising awareness to start saving Mid-century buildings," Kauffman said. "When we think about preservation, we usually think of buildings from the 1800s, especially in this area, but there are a lot from the first half of the last century that are certainly worth preserving."

Converting a former commercial building into a mix-use structure (apartments and commercial) fits right in with the trend nationally toward what planners call "new urbanism," Kauffman said, which has so many benefits for local communities, such as economic growth and reduced crime, and it's good for the environment, by reducing the need for commutes and not filling landfills with demolished buildings.

"It's especially true in a city like Batavia, where there has been so much urban renewal and so much devastation," Kauffman said. "I think it's important to move forward and make the best of what we have now. When you see the plans for the Save-A-Lot building, what was done with the Williams building (Alberty Drugs), and what Tompkins has done with their building where WBTA is now, where they're kind of dressing it up, that's the best we can hope for, where people make the best of it."

Kauffman is aware Mid-century Modern may not be to everyone's liking, but that doesn't mean Mid-century Modern shouldn't be preserved.

"Buildings don't have to be grand," Kauffman said. "They don't have to be fancy. They don't have to be anything. They don't have to be esthetically pleasing to everyone. So long as a building represents a specific era or a specific architectural style, it's worth saving."

November 16, 2013 - 1:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, preservation, James Pontillo.

It's a beautiful day. Maybe one of the last great days to get outdoor projects done before winter hits. At least that's what James Pontillo had in mind when he pulled a high lift into the parking lot of Stafford Trading Post (he says with the shop owner's permission) so he could work on his building at the corner of Main and Morganville roads.

By now, today's roof work and gutter repair would be done, Pontillo said, if not for the trespassing complaint leveled at him by neighboring property owner Tom Englerth.

A deputy has been to the property twice today. The first time after Pontillo parked the high lift in the parking lot, the second time after he parked it in front of the parking lot. Pontillo contends that area is owned by the State of New York, not Englerth. Englerth apparently contends he controls it.

Englerth was no longer on site by the time The Batavian arrived this afternoon.

Pontillo half expected to be arrested and charged with trespassing.

Deputy Brad Mazur told Pontillo it's a complex situation given the nature of the property and the state highway right-of-way issue. He said he would need to consult with the District Attorney's Office.

Meanwhile, Pontillo has a storm drain he is worried might fall and hurt somebody, and a roof he wants to finish replacing on an arguably historically significant building and he's being prevented, he said, from getting the work done.

Previously: Fences, and more, divide business neighbors in Stafford

November 7, 2013 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, preservation.

The view of Batavia a space alien might get, as revealed by an image from Google Maps, tells pretty much the whole story of the community's economic struggles, Tim Tielman told members of the Genesee County Landmark Society last night at their annual meeting.

Right in the center of the city, Tielman said, is this big mass of gray. It's a dead zone, he said. It isn't built for the human animal. It's built for cars. That's no way to design a city.

It hasn't always been that way, of course. Tielman displayed a parcel map of Batavia at the end of the 19th Century. Downtown was filled with structures -- brick commercial buildings and hundreds of houses.

That's a city, he said, designed for human scale and one that is culturally and economically vibrant.

Tielman has worked tirelessly as a preservationist in Buffalo for decades. His list of accomplishments is impressive. Larkin Square, Canalside, the Lafayette Hotel, the Ellicott District, the H.H. Richardson Towers and the Webb Building, among other "saves" and restoration projects.

His work has been recognized in a John Paget documentary, “Buffalo: America’s Best-Designed City.”

The same kind of revitalization going on in Buffalo now could be Batavia's future, Tielman said.

If it's going to happen, it will be up to the preservationists, the people who understand human scale.

"One of the biggest issues every city faces is dead zones," Tielman said. "Batavia has dead zones up and down its streets. Dead zones are devoid of commercial activity. You chain too many dead zones together and you destroy your local community."

When you build your commercial district around the car, the district losses its appeal to pedestrians, and it's people walking and interacting that creates commercial activity and a sense of community.

"It isn't cars that make a place a commercial success," Tielman said. "It's a success (based) on how well the human animal can get about certain places. It's what appeals and what stimulates them to walk."

Batavia used to be that kind of city. From Harvester on the east to the Old Courthouse on the west, the old maps reveal, it was a walkable city.

Tielman used a Google Maps view to show Batavia today. Our picture above is from the county's GIS map. Below is a county aerial photo of the city from 1934 (a period, Tielman said, when Batavia was at its peak culturally and economically -- the 1920s through 1930s). Tielman used a turn of the century parcel map.

There's no reason, Tielman said, Batavia can't become that kind of city again.

He recommended the approach being used with Canalside now -- start small. That's how Joseph Ellicott started.

Canalside is the terminus of the Erie Canel at Lake Erie. Early development was small businesses in tents and small buildings. The larger, commercial brick structures came later. Tielman's suggestion is to start the commercial activity at an affordable pace, and it will grow.

He suggested the Genesse County Economic Development Center has it's economic development priorities backwards. The $1.7 million in tax breaks given to COR Development to lure large national chains to Batavia could have been used more productively to help start 50 small businesses downtown.

He called small businesses the "farm system" for greater economic growth. Communities that lose their ability to encourage and attract entrepreneurs stop growing.

There was a time when each small community was unique and the competitive advantage each had was that you had to be from the city to know how to get around the city and prosper in the city, then urban planners started coddling the national chains, creating a sameness in each community so the chains would be comfortable opening businesses there. That's helped destroy the small businesses that used to make cities and towns vital.

Tielman helped lead the successful fight against Bass Pro building at Canalside.

Rather than trying to attract national chains, Tielman suggested, planners and economic development agencies should be creating environments were local small business owners can thrive.

"Retail is important in a city," Tielman said. "It's not a primary economic activity, but it's important to bring people out, to have people in the streets, people who bump into each other and make it lively. Dense cities, dense streets, create economic activity."

When people visit a city, they want to see other people, smiling people, he said.

"If they see glum people on the streets, or worse, no people on the streets, but just tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street, they're not going to want to come back," Tielman said. "They're not going to want to move there. They're not going to want to move or start a business there."

And these days, Tielman noted, people don't even need to visit your city to form an impression. They can use Google Maps and Street View.

Tielman used the Google Street View image below to illustrate his point.

Tourists, prosective residents, and most importantly, site selectors for semiconductor companies, are going to look at a picture like this and conclude Batavia isn't a very attractive place to be. There's no signs of life. There's no economic vibrancy.

Handing out tax breaks to bring in a Dick's Sporting Goods doesn't fix this problem.

Tielman pulled up this Google Maps view of Batavia again and noted the one area of Old Batavia still left, the block between Jackson Street and Center Street, south of Main Street. It's the only part of Downtown that is still densely built.

"This is the kernel from which you can hit the reset button on Batavia," he said. "You can start here and work backwards toward that which you once had."


August 19, 2013 - 11:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, preservation.

A group of property owners on Main Street in Le Roy have expressed an increased interest in forming a historic district, so tonight, Cynthia Howk, of the WNY Landmark Society, gave an informational presentation at the village hall.

Park of Howk's talk was to clear up myths about historical preservation designations.

The biggest myth is that getting a property on the state or national register, or a whole district, gives the government some level of control over the property.

That simply isn't true.

"I could take all of you on a bus tour right now and show you dozens of buildings that have been torn down that were on the national register," Howk said.

If your property is on the national register you can paint it whatever color you like, you can put vinyl siding on it, you can let it rot away, you can convert to a fast food restaurant -- all of the things you can do with a property that isn't registered you can do with one that is, so long as it exists with current code enforcement and zoning regulations.

Asked if there were any cons and Howk said, "I don't know of any cons. You can tear your house down if you want. You can still put siding on it. You can have the worst taste in the world and paint it red, green, purple and black. You can cut all the trees down. All of that, so long as it is in the village code."

So what's the advantage?

Tax credits when you want to repair or restore. Buildings that have received a national registration designation or are within a district are eligible for credits on contracted labor (not DYI labor) and materials.

So how is a building or district designated?

For a building, whether commercial or residential, there are pages and pages of applications to complete. The application is reviewed by a department of the state's parks service and if granted, the application is forwarded to the national park service for designation.

The process for a whole district is similar, except that 51 percent of the property owners in the proposed district must support the application and the paperwork isn't quite as detailed.

Any area or building in Genesee County with potentially historic buildings has a good shot at such a designation because the average income in all parts of Genesee County is below state average.

The main criteria is that the buildings look much like they did when first constructed and that they have some local historical significance.

"This isn't some Martha Stewart beauty contest for rich people's houses," Howk said. "Houses that go onto the national register go on because they're important to the local community."

It's also important to recognize, Howk said, that there is an important distinction between a building on the national register and a national landmark. A landmark -- such as the Eastman Mansion or the Susan B. Anthony House -- are historically important to the entire nation, not just a local community.

Nobody is talking about landmark status for anything in Le Roy.

There is a definite benefit to local communities that create historic districts -- they attract tourists.

"There's prestige with a historic district," Howk said. "There's such a thing as heritage tourism. Yes, there are nuts like me, and there are lots of us, who like to go to places and look at pretty buildings."

Studies show, she said, that heritage tourists stay longer and spend more money in the communities they visit, and once you have a designation, tourism magazines are more likely to write about your community.

Village Trustee Jennifer Keys attended the meeting and said she thinks that's an important point to consider.

"Any time we can get people to come into Le Roy and spend money and see how beautiful it is, that's a win," Keys said. "That's what we want to do."

According to Keys, about 50 percent of the business district property owners have already expressed interest in a historic district designation, and with that interest, a few folks on East Main Street are talking about forming an East Main district, and there is some interest on Church Street. West Main is also a potential district.

While designated structures are eligible for tax credits for repairs, and you can do what you want with your property, modifications that don't fall within preservation guidelines are not eligible for tax credit. 

About 50 village residents attended the meeting.

July 2, 2013 - 9:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Old Courthouse, preservation.

It's time for the Old Courthouse in Batavia to get a new roof.

The current roof was installed in 1976. That restoration included replacing the copper around the edge of the roof and restoring the cupola, which had deteriorated to nothing but a frame.

Frank Ciaccia, facilities management for the county, said this afternoon that the copper should last 100 years, so it won't need to be replaced, but it's time for the cedar shingle roof to be replaced and the cupola needs some repairs.

The Ways and Means Committee approved a contract with SEI Design Group of Rochester to provide design services for the project.

Once plans are in place, a bid will go out for a contractor to complete the work.

The request for proposal for SEI is divided into two parts. There is a $15,790 cost for basic design work and $5,213 for hazardous materials design, if it turns out that phase of the project is required.

Ciacca told legislators he thought the two-part RFP was necessary to ensure the winner of the RFP would try to pull money from the hazardous materials design into the main design phase if it proved hazardous materials weren't necessary.

The current roof has been leaking but Terry Ross, supervisor of buildings and grounds, said the leaks have not caused any damage to the interior of the building.

May 7, 2013 - 3:52pm

Story by Larry Barnes. Photo by Howard Owens.

405 E. Main St., Batavia
Tower Restoration and Tender Loving Care

The Landmark Society is recognizing the St. James Episcopal Church for its recent efforts to restore this wonderful Batavia landmark.

William Seaver, writing in 1849, stated that for several years, little attention seemed to have been paid to religious matters in Batavia except that religious meetings were occasionally held by “pious” laymen or at irregular intervals by itinerant preachers. One Presbyterian of the time noted that “Mr. Ellicott disregarded the Sabbath and was hostile to religious institutions…it was a common observation that Sabbath-day did not extend westward beyond the Genesee River.”  When a member of a missionary society arrived in Batavia in 1805 to preach, he notified residents of his planned evening lecture, but nobody came. James Brisbane, Batavia’s first postmaster and owner/operator of its first general store, was described by his son, Albert, as a “cold atheist” whose religious skepticism grew with the years.

It was within this context that Episcopal missionaries began visiting Batavia in the period between 1812 and 1815. Services were held in Hickox’s Inn, a tavern located in the county courthouse, Ellicott Hall. By 1815, a sufficient following had developed so that in June 1815 a group of 11 men met for the purpose of incorporating a parish: St. James Parish.

Ground was broken in April of 1816 for a brick church located where Rancho Viejo Mexican Restaurant now stands at 12 Ellicott St. The congregation struggled financially and it took six years to finish the structure. The construction of this first church was of inferior quality and by 1833 it was apparent that the congregation needed to rebuild. Plans were made to build another building on the same site.

The second Episcopal church, built of stone, was consecrated in September of 1836. In keeping with the most popular architectural style of the period, it was of a Greek Revival design.

Bricks from the first church were saved and used to build a rectory immediately to the west.  More than a century later, when this building was about to be demolished during Urban Renewal, the Landmark Society purchased it and restored the structure, as much as possible, to its original appearance.

Just as the first building was plagued by poor construction, the new church also had its problems. Due to faulty materials or inadequately supported beams, only six years after the church was built, the roof and ceiling had to be completely removed and replaced. (Don’t tell anyone, but a pattern seemed to be emerging.) By 1904, this building was deteriorating fast.  The neighborhood had also changed in undesirable ways. Consequently, a decision was made to build anew once again, but elsewhere this time.

This was the home of Adelaide Richmond Kenny, daughter of Dean Richmond, who lived here after her husband and both her parents had died. By the mid-1800s, as historian Kathleen Kutolowski pointed out, the locus of political, social, and economic power of Batavia’s elite “rested within the walls of St. James Episcopal Church.” Adelaide was among those elite. For example, she eventually served on the boards of seven local manufacturing concerns and owned half of the stock in the Johnson Harvester Co.

Circa 1905, property previously owned by the Tomlinson’s was purchased for a new church, using $15,000 provided by Adelaide Kenny. A barn on the property was sold (and presumably moved elsewhere) and the house was torn down, saving the lumber for future building purposes. Only the fence was left untouched, a fence that still exists.

In 1906, 26-year-old Robert North, a Batavian who had recently graduated from Cornell, was chosen as the architect for the new church. Adelaide Kenny had previously expressed a desire to see a building similar in style to the parish churches in the English countryside. In fact, she had given Robert North, in today’s money, $11,000 to go to England for the purpose of studying church architecture. So, it was pretty clear from the start what the style of the new building was going to be.

Adelaide Kenny, with a gift well in excess of $1 million in today’s money, funded the construction of the church as a memorial to her husband, Dr. William J. C. Kenny.  She provided another sum, nearly as large, which was to be invested with the interest used for general church purposes. The cornerstone for the building was set in place in 1908.

The new building was completed in October 1909. Windows from the stone church were reused in the clerestory. The organ, purchased in 1877, was also moved to the new church. The bell, originally cast here in Batavia on Dingle Alley (later Bank Street), having hung both in the first church and the second, was re-hung in the new building. The massive bell tower has been described as an excellent composite of those English towers that are known for exuding dignity, strength, and a feeling of power — features that stem from such towers originally serving as fortresses.

In "A Cycle of Praise," a 1965 publication about the history of the St. James congregation, the authors describe the building this way: “St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia is a handsomely designed building which utilizes, unifies, and richly combines characteristics from many different English parish churches. It has a unity and rational symmetry that is the result of being designed as a complete unit and immediately constructed in toto. The effect is that of a very conservative 15th Century assemblage of components…Gothic principles of building are employed with reserve…All arches are pointed; buttresses reinforce points separating the bays. The roof is relatively steep.”

Eventually, water began leaking into the building causing damage similar to this. In the mid-1960s, the interior water damage was repaired, some gutters were replaced, exterior stonework was repointed, and waterproofing was applied to the exterior.

In the last few years, it has become apparent that another round of restoration work is necessary. Most notably, the mortar used in the repointing of stonework in the 1960s was an inappropriate material and stonework began falling from the tower. (If there were still people alive who had lived through the history of the first two churches, they would probably be saying, “It’s deja vu all over again!”)

There was some discussion about whether the tower should be razed and the building scaled back. But that soon ended and restoration became the goal. Fund-raising began in 2009. A capital campaign among congregants has resulted in pledges totaling $370,000. Another $40,000 has been raised through bicycle rallies, garden tours, a calendar sale, and other such efforts. A total of $109,200 has been received in the form of grants from the New York Landmark Conservancy Sacred Sites Fund, Pepsi-Cola, and the Rochester Community Foundation.

Especially worthy of observation is the fund-raising work undertaken by Laurie Oltramari who, although not a member of the congregation, has devoted a huge amount of time and energy to the effort stemming from her dedication to historic preservation in our community. I understand that Marcia Gann, Jon McManis, Dave Lange, and Father Metcalfe have also played a prominent role in the fund-raising and subsequent restoration work.

In 2011, work began on the stonework of the tower. The focus was on the top 20 feet of the 86-foot structure.

To enable work to continue through the winter, the scaffolding was wrapped. Note the “ribbon” that graced the wrapping at Christmas time.

In addition to the tower stonework repairs, the stained glass window in the tower was also repaired. Glass was re-leaded and cleaned, broken glass was mended, and damaged masonry around the window was fixed.

This work is only the beginning, of course. The road ahead is a long one. But, a good start has been made. The next work will most likely involve refinishing the exterior doors.

And there is more stonework to be repaired.

Those of us in the Landmark Society who have been involved in similar restoration projects especially appreciate what has been achieved so far. It is an honor to award St. James Episcopal Church with this Certificate of Recognition.

May 7, 2013 - 3:47pm
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...”

May 7, 2013 - 3:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Landmark Society of Genesee County, preservation.

By Lucine Kauffman. Photo by Howard Owens.

Landmark Preservation Award
Michele & Robert Bialy
312 E. Main St., Batavia
Outstanding Exterior Paint Treatment

Michele and Robert Bialy purchased this 1856 Italianate-style home in 2009. Native Western New Yorkers, they had been living out of state when their jobs brought them back to this area.  They settled on Batavia, because it is half way between Buffalo and Rochester.

A slate walkway leads up to the front porch. The Bialys found a sandstone slab underneath the porch and set it in front of the porch steps. 

Robert rebuilt the porch railings before embarking on his painting project. 

And they stripped the paint off of the front door. The double-leaf door with an arched surround is especially decorative.

The Bialys picked a four-color scheme for their grand house and Robert did all of the painting himself:

  • Navy for the front porch floor and window shutters;
  • Pale yellow for the body of the house. The clapboards are set flush on the front of the house;
  • Gold and white to accentuate the architectural details such as the oversized paired brackets with pendants that appear to support the deep eaves of the hipped roof;
  • Corinthian capped fluted columns and pilasters;
  • The windows are topped by jigsaw-cut ornament and small bracketed hoods.
  • They pulled out some ragged holly bushes and finished up the exterior with new landscaping. At present, the Bialys are working on the interior.

It is with great pleasure that the Landmark Society of Genesee County presents Robert and Michele Bialy with an award the outstanding exterior paint treatment they have given their home; this historic, elegant Italianate-style house. Their efforts have made a significant impact on Main Street in the heart of the City of Batavia.

May 7, 2013 - 3:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, Landmark Society of Genesee County, preservation.

Article by Loren Pflaumer. Photos by Howard Owens.

Landmark Society Preservation Award
John and Cleo Mullins
4928 Watson Road, Elba, NY

This Greek Revival style home is built on a portion of land originally acquired in 1798 by five Dutch immigrants and was part of the original Holland Land Purchase. 

The carriage barn is the oldest structure on the property and is dated around 1850. In a print showing the property when owned by Orlando Hoyt, you can see the home and the carriage barn.

The back barn burned in a fire and was replaced in 1919 with the barn that stands today. The deed for this property lists 14 previous owners, but none have owned it as long as the Mullins, who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in the house next year.

In the fall of 1964, John and Cleo Mullins had successfully relocated from Nebraska to Western NY. John was working for Acomb Appaloosas in Stafford and Cleo had accepted a job as a medical technologist at the Batavia VA Hospital. They were ready to find a property with plenty of land and barns for their horses, as John was planning on stabling and training horses as well as giving lessons. 

The property at 4928 Watson Road gave them what they were looking for with three barns, an outbuilding and 80 acres of property, but the house was another matter. 

Built around 1850, there was only cold running water, no indoor bathroom and one heat register for the entire house. The Mullins had no choice but to tough out the first few months, as winter was fast approaching and plumbing or heating reconstruction during the winter wasn’t practical.

Within the first five years, the Mullins had blown-in insulation added throughout the house, which was the only option in order to retain the plaster and lathe walls. Notable renovations that followed were the addition of an indoor bathroom, a new multi-fuel heating system and duct work, new roof and custom windows.

Cleo and John have made extensive efforts to retain the original details of their home.

Dog-eared doorway and baseboard molding was restored or duplicated exactly. Where there was no baseboard or crown molding, they had it created. The floors are original and years-old burn marks were ripped out and new wood feathered in. 

When the Hotel Richmond in Batavia was torn down in the late 1960s, John rescued some large pieces of marble from the shoeshine counter which were repurposed into a utility room counter top and a bathroom sink top. 

The kitchen remodel is the most recent renovation. The new kitchen is double the size of the old one, and features beautiful views of the back of their property.

Years of reconstruction have uncovered many old trinkets and antiques which can be seen throughout the house, such as a small collection of pistols and an antique vacuum cleaner.

Changes to the outside of their home have been no less dramatic. Although we are not sure of the home’s original color scheme, it was painted red and white when they bought it. 

Louis Cecere was invited to consult on renovation ideas and any historic significance. He suggested that the red color scheme made the house look too much like one of the many barns on the property. Louis suggested something muted and neutral to make it stand out. Cleo was not in favor of this idea. After much convincing, briarwood tan and antique white were chosen, and the end result did exactly what was intended and the house now stands out proudly. The Mullins also replaced the front door, adding dual sidelight panels and installed new custom windows.

The house that was an initial afterthought has turned into a source of pride and joy for the Mullins. They credit a few key individuals for the overall success of the job, and thank: Louis Cecere for his input on historical accuracy and color suggestions; Erik Roth of N.J. Philipps Builders for his carpentry work, especially his plans and designs for the kitchen and replication of the original moldings; and Gary Deiboldt for his time spent recreating a section of the 16” floor baseboards in the main room. 

A final thank you goes to Catherine Roth for instilling in the Mullins a love and appreciation of historic homes. It was her passion that fueled their decision to restore rather than remodel. 

Cleo and John have been faithful stewards of this historic property and their passion is evident when they talk about their memories and future plans. It is with great pride and appreciation that The Landmark Society of Western New York awards John and Cleo Mullins the Tender Loving Care Award.

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