By Mike Pettinella
While preserving the historical integrity of a stately home built 140 years ago, the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has advanced its mission to helping those in recovery by opening up five permanent housing apartments.
And members of the City of Batavia Historic Preservation Commission couldn’t be happier.
“It’s wonderful that they’ve made the effort to save the original detailing in the house — the stain glass windows, the woodwork and the trim and the fireplaces,” City HPC President Sharon Burkel said. “To be able to bring it back to a useful part of the community and to maintain the history of the house is outstanding.”
Burkel and City HPC colleagues Connie Boyd and Caroline Hosek recently toured the home at 434 East Main St., which is part of the GCASA campus along that stretch of the road. All three said they were thrilled with the renovations.
“I’m so impressed with the work that has been done, and especially pleased to see things that have been maintained that were original to the structure, such as the crown molding, the original mantles and the parquet floor. It’s just an incredible job,” Boyd said.
Hosek agreed, commending “the effort that has been put into bringing the building back to its original glory and providing such a valuable service to families who need the support.”
GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said the agency had its work cut out for it when it took on the project, which will provide low-income housing under the supervision of its Residential Program’s case managers. Three apartments are on the first floor and two are on the second floor.
“It was in very bad disrepair, really falling apart,” Bennett said. “The boards of the porch were literally falling off the ceiling and it was sagging. We’ve redone the inside in keeping with the historic nature of the building. We rebuilt the porch, put in new kitchens, restored the fireplace and had the house painted.”
Bennett said the goal was to be “good stewards” of the home.
The list of the general construction tasks is significant, including:
— Scraping and repairing all plaster walls, painting walls and trim;
— Replacing several kitchen cabinets and fixtures, and existing vinyl floors with new vinyl floor;
— Replacing bathroom fixtures and vinyl floor, and deteriorated wood windows with double hung vinyl windows of the same size;
— Refinishing wood floors, installing new carpet or vinyl as needed;
— Repairing and maintaining plaster scroll work on ceilings, and smaller specialty and stain glass windows, which were re-glazed and painted;
— Repairing the porches, rebuilding them to maintain the historic trim and woodwork;
— Repairing the exterior by power washing, scraping and painting with colors that match the existing color scheme.
According to the Architectural Heritage of Genesee County, the property apparently was bought in 1855 by Batavia brewer Eli H,. Fish but (per county tax records) the house was built in 1880. The house was greatly increased in size when Charles Hough purchased the property from Fish’s estate.
For many years it was the home of his son, Arthur Hough, and his wife, Colleen. In 1957, it was willed to the Genesee Community Chest and, two years later, that organization sold it to Lewis Root. In 1964, the Batavia Industrial Center became the owner and it was used as an office/apartment complex.
GCASA purchased the home in May 2019.
Because of its distinctive architectural styles, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival, and its contribution to a neighborhood that is rich in historical significance, the house was designated an historic landmark on Dec. 6, 2000 by the City of Batavia Historic Preservation Commission.
Burkel, who has been involved with the City HPC since its inception in 1996, said a project such as this is at the heart of the board’s mission.
“This is what we’re all about it.,” she said. “We have designated 46 properties sand we meet as a committee whenever we need to address something with the properties, such as giving them certificates of appropriateness for any work they want to do on the property.”
She credited GCASA for maintaining the architectural integrity of the entire block of homes, including its main office at 430 East Main St. and other agency buildings.