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Pittsford Village Historic District


The Pittsford Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1] Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.

Description

The Pittsford Village Historic District is located in Pittsford, an incorporated village lying just southeast of the city of Rochester. The predominantly residential district surrounds the village's central business district. The intersection of Main Street (the village's major north-south thoroughfare) with Monroe Avenue and State Street (the major east-west thoroughfare) creates the Four Corners area, no longer retains its historical and architectural integrity and therefore has been excluded from the Pittsford Village Historic District. The village's residential development occurred in all directions around the central business district; those substantially intact properties along sections of Church, Lincoln, Locust, South and North Main and Sutherland Streets, Monroe and Washington Avenues and Rand Place are encompassed by the boundaries of the Pittsford Village Historic District. The 120 contributing dwellings, three churches, two schools and contributing outbuildings, dating from the 1810's to the 1930's, reflect the development of the village from its early nineteenth century prominence as a canal-side commercial center to its twentieth-century prosperity as a bedroom community for the city of Rochester.

The historic building stock of the Pittsford Village Historic District includes examples of a broad range of popular American architectural styles, including Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Eastlake and Colonial Revival. Most date from the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century and are executed in wood, but there are several significant early nineteenth century masonry structures which reflect Pittsford's prosperity during the Federal and Greek Revival periods.

Most streets in the Pittsford Village Historic District are characterized by a heterogeneous mixture of structures reflecting a broad range of types, periods, styles and methods of construction. Monroe Avenue, the historic toll road to Rochester extending west/northwest from Four Corners, includes the village's most distinguished dwellings and the most diverse collection of examples of different periods and styles, including sophisticated early nineteenth century Federal style, mid-nineteenth century Gothic Revival style, late nineteenth century Queen Anne and early twentieth century Colonial Revival style dwellings. The imposing, well-crafted residences generally occupy large lots and most have period garages or carriage houses associated with them.

South Main Street, south of Four Corners, also exhibits a variety of architectural styles dating from a broad range of periods, with particularly notable examples of the early nineteenth century Federal and late nineteenth century Eastlake styles. Several vernacular Italianate style dwellings and the Pittsford Village Historic District's only High Victorian Gothic style structure (Christ Church) are also located on South Main Street.

Church Street, extending east from South Main Street, is distinguished by the Pittsford Village Historic District's highest concentration of early to mid-nineteenth century structures; high-style and vernacular adaptations of the Federal and Greek Revival styles predominate. District No. 6 schoolhouse, the village's only example of cobblestone construction, and Pittsford Presbyterian Church, a brick Romanesque Revival style edifice, are also located on Church Street. Sections of Rand and Locust Street, also east of South Main Street, are characterized by a variety of mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century structures, with modest vernacular form dwellings predominating.

A small residential section of North Main Street, north of the central business district, is also included in the Pittsford Village Historic District; late nineteenth and early twentieth century dwellings predominate. Village Hall, formerly a residence, is also located on this section of North Main Street.

West of South Main Street and south of Monroe Street, sections of Washington Avenue and Sutherland and Lincoln Streets are also included in the Pittsford Village Historic District. The majority of dwellings on Washington Avenue date from the 1880s and 1890s and are characterized by a variety of Queen Anne, Eastlake and eclectic style features. Sutherland, developed in the early twentieth century, contains the Pittsford Village Historic District's highest concentration of twentieth-century cottages and bungalows, most of which exhibit Colonial Revival style features. Lincoln Street contains a variety of modest, vernacular dwellings as well as St. Paul Lutheran Church, a frame, Carpenter Gothic style structure, and the Lincoln Avenue School, an early twentieth century brick structure with stone trim.

Significance

The Pittsford Village Historic District is an architecturally significant concentration of historic, residential properties in the village of Pittsford. The Pittsford Village Historic District contains the village's best, most sophisticated examples of a broad range of popular American styles, dating from the 1810s to the 1930s, including Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Eastlake and Colonial Revival styles. Vernacular and eclectic interpretations of the major styles survive as well, with early and late nineteenth century residences predominating. Significant non-residential properties include three churches and two schools. The high level of sophistication and fine craftsmanship exhibited by many of Pittsford Village Historic District's structures reflect the village's nineteenth and early twentieth century prosperity, first as a canal-side commercial center for the surrounding agricultural region and later as a bedroom community for the city of Rochester, New York.

See also: Pittsford Village: Beginnings

The first structures, log cabins and crude frame buildings which no longer survive, were located about a mile south of what is now known as Four Corners, the present commercial core of the village. (This commercial core, the focus of Pittsford's nineteenth and early twentieth century development, has lost its original historic integrity and has therefore been excluded from the Pittsford Village Historic District). By 1810, when the route of the Erie Canal became known, the development of the community shifted northward to its present-day canal-side location. The examples of Federal period architecture in the Pittsford Village Historic District reflect Pittsford's first period of prosperity, which was created by land speculation associated with the construction of the Erie Canal. The era of prosperity continued in the late 1820s and 1830s as Pittsford developed into a thriving canal-side commercial center. Although no canal-related commercial structures dating from this period survive intact in the Pittsford Village Historic District, there are numerous residential properties reflecting this era of the village's development. One of Pittsford's best, most sophisticated examples of Federal style architecture is the Hargous-Briggs House (52 Main Street, ca. 1812). Like the Phoenix Inn at 4-6 South Main Street (ca.1812, National Register August 7, 1974), the large, brick Hargous-Briggs House embodies the distinctive characteristics of the period and style including symmetry in plan and delicacy, attenuation and curvilinearity in architectural detailing. The five-bay, center-hall configuration, the step-gable roof, the brick interior corner chimneys and the delicate entrance detailing, including pilasters, half-sidelights and semi-elliptical fanlight, are characteristic Federal style attributes. The house retains substantial interior integrity, including original woodwork, Federal period mantelpieces and a gracefully winding front staircase. The house is historically associated with Augustus Elliot, distiller and speculator, one of Pittsford's most prominent early settlers.

Other significant examples of Federal style residential architecture located in the Pittsford Village Historic District include the Geutersloh House (21 Church Street, ca.1816), the Sylvanus Lathrop House (28 Monroe Avenue, c.1826) and the Ira Buck House (31 Monroe Avenue, ca.1830). Like many fashionable Federal style village dwellings of the period in the region, they are two-story, three-bay side-hall brick structures featuring gable roofs, brick interior corner chimneys and delicate detailing. Notable Federal style ornamentation exhibited by the three dwellings includes oval or semi-elliptical fanlights in the gable ends and attenuated pilasters, half-sidelights and transom lights surrounding the entrances. Notable Pittsford citizens associated with two of the houses include Dr. William H. Geutersloh, a twentieth-century mayor of Pittsford for whom the Geutersloh House was named; Dr. John Ray, believed to have been Pittsford's first physician and the first occupant of the Geutersloh House, and Sylvanus Lathrop, a land speculator who made his fortune in real estate when the Erie Canal was constructed.

The Pittsford Village Historic District contains several examples of modest, vernacular Federal style residential architecture, including the houses located at 24 and 34 Church Street. Representative of their type, they are characterized by wood frame construction, three-bay, side-hall configurations and restrained, attenuated detailing. Although slightly altered, they retain distinctive features of the period and style, including narrow friezes, slender corner boards, slight cornice returns and delicate entrance detailing.

Several architecturally significant examples of Greek Revival style architecture reflect Pittsford's continued prominence as a canal-side commercial center during the 1830s and 1840s. A very early example of the influence of the style is the Little House (18 Monroe Avenue, ca.1819).

Although characterized by small-scale, Federal period features, its pedimented front portico supported by Doric columns foreshadows the heaviness and monumentality which characterized Greek Revival style structures in the region during the 1840s. Pittsford's Greek Revival style residences of the 1830s are generally vernacular interpretations of the style; those included in the Pittsford Village Historic District reflect the persistence of Federal period forms and configurations, including three-bay, side- or center-hall configurations and gable roofs with gable ends oriented towards the street. Structural elements and architectural detailing, however, are much less delicate: friezes and corner boards are much wider and entrance detailing is much heavier. Trabeated entrances with recessed doorways surrounded by broad pilasters, sidelights and a rectangular transom light are typical of the Pittsford Village Historic District's 1830s dwellings. Exaggerated cornice returns or pedimented gable ends, as seen, for example, on the front wing of the Fletcher Steele House (20 Monroe Avenue, ca.1830s), are also typical attributes of the period and style. Pittsford contains no examples of mature, high-style Greek Revival architecture, such as the temple-fronts commonly found throughout the region. This phenomenon reflects the village's slight mid-century decline as Rochester, a burgeoning city slightly north of Pittsford, ascended to regional prominence. The Pittsford Village Historic District does, however, contain two representative Greek Revival style residences: the Drake Homestead (73 South Main Street, ca.1845) and the house at 99 South Main Street (ca.1840). Typical attributes of the period and style exhibited by the Drake Homestead include pedimented gable ends with oculi, a wide frieze, prominent corner pilasters and a trabeated, recessed side entrance surrounded by pilasters, sidelights and a transom light. The dwelling at 99 South Main Street is distinguished by its wide frieze and exaggerated, boxed cornice. The eyebrow windows in the one and one-half story wing are also notable features of the period and style. Also dating from the Greek Revival period is the 1842 District No. 6 Schoolhouse (17 Church Street) Pittsford's only example of cobblestone architecture. Particularly notable is the stone quoin work at the corners of the structure, a characteristic feature of masonry structures of the period in the region. Window trim is also of stone.

Construction in Pittsford during the third quarter of the nineteenth century reflects the village's continued economic stability, although, by the 1850s, Pittsford was clearly eclipsed by the thriving metropolis of Rochester to the northwest. The completion of rail service through Pittsford in the 1850s assured Pittsford's economic security and slow, but steady, expansion after the mid-century. The influence of the romantic picturesque movement of the 1850s is reflected in the Dr. Hartwell Carver House (41 Monroe Avenue, ca.1853), a board-and-batten, Gothic Revival style cottage. With its steeply pitched cross-gable roof and ornamental bargeboards, it embodies the ideals of the period. Historically, it is associated with Dr. Hartwell Carver, one of Pittsford's most prominent mid-nineteenth century citizens. Carver was influential in the development of transcontinental rail transportation. The picturesque cottage of 77 South Main Street is also a representative example of the period and style with its saw-tooth bargeboards and asymmetrical configuration.

The Italianate style, popular in the region during the third quarter of the nineteenth century, is not well represented in the Pittsford Village Historic District, again reflecting Pittsford's slight economic decline in the mid-nineteenth century. The village's best, most intact example of the style is located at 44 Main Street, north of the historic district across the canal, which, pending further research, may meet the National Register criteria for individual listing. Less elaborate and vernacular interpretations of the style are scattered throughout the Pittsford Village Historic District, with representative examples located at 35 Church Street, 66 South Main Street, 18, 27, and 31 Lincoln Avenue and 12 Washington Avenue. Typical, modest structures of the period and style, they are L-shaped, frame structures with cross-gable roofs and Italianate style detailing such as rounded-arch windows, projecting bay windows, ornamental miter-arched lintels, rounded-arch doorways and elaborately ornamental porches. More common than new construction in the Italianate style was the embellishment of older structures with Italianate style detailing such as elaborate porches and projecting bay windows. Numerous examples of such embellishment are scattered throughout the Pittsford Village Historic District.

Significant religious structures located in the Pittsford Village Historic District dating from the third quarter of the nineteenth century are the First Presbyterian Church (27 Church Street, ca.1861) and Christ Church (34 South Main Street, ca.1868). The Presbyterian Church is Pittsford's only example of Romanesque Revival style architecture, exhibiting typical attributes of the style such as a corbelled brick cornice and large, rounded-arch stained-glass windows. Christ Church is a significant example of High Victorian Gothic style architecture with its polychrome stone exterior, picturesque asymmetry and large, Gothic-arched stained-glass windows.

The development and prosperity of the village during the last quarter of the nineteenth century is represented by numerous residences exhibiting a variety of Queen Anne, Eastlake and eclectic style features. Examples are located at 9 Washington Avenue and 21, 25 and 55 Monroe Avenue. They exhibit characteristic features of the period and style including large-scale, picturesque asymmetry, multi-gabled roofs, scallop shingles or imbricated woodwork in gable ends, and distinctive scroll-sawn or turned woodwork embellishing eaves, cornices and/or verandahs. A particularly distinguished example of the period is the Queen Anne style dwelling located at 27 North Main Street, the only masonry structure of its type in the Pittsford Village Historic District.

Early twentieth century residential construction in Pittsford is represented by numerous cottages and bungalows scattered throughout the Pittsford Village Historic District, with a particularly notable concentration along Sutherland Avenue. Most exhibit restrained, Colonial Revival style features. In addition to new construction in the early twentieth century, a common practice was the modernization of nineteenth-century dwellings with Colonial Revival style decoration. The Lincoln Avenue School (Lincoln Avenue, ca.1916) is the Pittsford Village Historic District's only twentieth-century, non-residential structure.

Pittsford has been, for much of the twentieth century, a bedroom community for the city of Rochester. Most modern residential construction has occurred on the fringes of the village, thus preserving the nineteenth and early twentieth century character of most of the best residential neighborhoods that immediately surround the central business district. Together the buildings included in the Pittsford Village Historic District reflect the development of a western New York canal village through the nineteenth century as well as its transformation early in the twentieth century into a suburban community of an almost exclusively residential and retail/service character.

References

Albany, New York. Division for Historic Preservation. Research files.

Peck, William F. Landmarks of Monroe County. Boston: Boston History Company, 1895.

Wolfe, Andrew, ed. Architecture Worth Savings in Pittsford, Elegant Village. Pittsford: Historic Pittsford, Inc., 1969.

Wolfe, Andrew, ed. "Highways, By-Ways, Folkways of Metropolitan Monroe County," Pittsford: Wolfe Publication, 1976.

  1. Johnstone, Janetta, N. Y. State Division for Historic Preservation, Pittsford Village Historic District, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Pittsford Village Historic District Map

Street Names
Church Street • Elmbrooke Drive • Jefferson Avenue • Lincoln Avenue • Main Street • Monroe Avenue • Rand Place • State Street

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