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935 East Avenue

November 6th, 2020

By Paul Mills

I have always had an affinity for the mansions on east avenue, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to tour, video tape and photograph the house at 935 East Ave. While it has been used as offices since the 1950’s, they maintained much of the original character of the house. Many of the mansions on East Avenue have been converted into apartments, condos or offices. While the outsides have mostly maintained their original appearances, the insides have been divided, and even in one building I have been in, they have covered or painted woodwork and used office ceiling tiles. Some have even had “additions” attached. There are still a few that remain single-family residences though.

I used the video to create virtual tours and uploaded them to Youtube. I also did extensive research on the property which is written below. I was amazed at the information I found however there are things I am still looking for. I have contacted many historical groups, libraries and others to locate as much as I could. While some of the information is incomplete, much of the article’s details are accurate from news articles or other information I obtained. Anything that is speculation or an educated guess, I will comment as to why.

I would like to thank Patrick Wahl, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with CBRE|Rochester for granting access and communicating with the owner. I would also like to thank the owner, East 935 LLC for allowing access and providing many materials that contained some of the history or at least information that pointed me in a direction to look for answers.

I would also like to thank the many people and organizations I contacted that took time out of their day to provide information, documents and photos. Some of them may be quoted here, but I want them all to know I appreciate their time and help.

History

The house was built by Rufus Sibley, co-owner and founder of Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Company, or better known as the department store Sibley’s. It was a wedding present for his daughter Elizabeth A. Sibley for her marriage to Kingman Nott Robins on April 22, 1913. According to historic city directories, they moved in sometime in 1915. Unfortunately, Kingman passed away in February 1923 at the age of 41. Its reported that he was taken to the hospital to have surgery for appendicitis when he contracted influenza.

Elizabeth stayed in the house when she remarried widower Edwin Allen Stebbins in 1928. The two of them lived there until 1954 when Edwin passed away on June 6 at the age of 75 and Elizabeth on October 1 at 65. The house, as well as two thirds of the estate, were willed to the executors John R. Sibley (her brother) and Russell A Sibley (nephew). Elizabeth did not have any children but a portion of the estate, including their summer home on Lake Road in Webster, was willed to Edwin’s daughter from his previous marriage.

The property was then donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester on December 30th, 1954. The Diocese maintained possession until it was sold to East 935, LLC on January 30, 2017. The current owner has listed the property for sale or lease.

About the Parcel

1900 Plat Map, Property owned by L. Douglas Ely

The property sits on the corner of East Avenue and Barrington Street. Somewhere between 1911 and 1912, Rochester changed the numbers associated with properties on East Avenue which changed the address from 359 to 935. From the records that I have found, there was a previous house located on the property until roughly 1904. While not as large as the current building, it was still a good size residence and was owned by L. Douglas Ely. I have yet to find any information on what happened to that house but according to a plat map from 1910, the property had no structures on it.

1910 Plat Map, Property owned by Mary E. Alden

According to a record of deeds, the property was acquired by Elizabeth C. Sibley, wife of Rufus Sibley, on October 19, 1912 from Mary E. Alden, the only owner I can find after Ely.

1935 Plat Map, Outlined section shows 14.33 ft section going to Marion L. Beach

On January 8, 1913, Mrs. Sibley transferred (sold?) a 14.33 feet section of the South (back) end of the property on Barrington Street to Marion L. Beach.

It was on June 3, 1913, before construction started, that the daughter, Elizabeth S. Robins, her married name, acquired the property.

Design and Construction

William H. Miller, Courtesy of Donna Eschenbrenner, The History Center in Tompkins County. Ithaca, NY

The architect was William H. Miller from Ithaca, New York. He was part of the first freshman class at Cornell University in 1868. He remained in Ithaca and did many projects in the area. Mary Tomlan, City of Ithaca Historian and has done extensive research on Miller, wrote to me in an email that “This house is particularly interesting in its similarities to two non-residential projects begun slightly earlier–the Ithaca High School (now DeWitt Mall) and Prudence Risley Hall, a Cornell University dormitory…”. He is also credited for two other mansions on East Avenue for J. C. Hart and Dr. John Whitbeck as well as many projects in Ithaca and for Cornell University. Miller was contracted in early 1913 to design the house. A copy of the Construction Specifications is dated May 13, 1913.a

Plaque on the front of the house. “1913”, year construction started.

The contract to build the house was awarded to John B. Pike for $20,000. Pike was an immigrant from Holland who started working in Rochester in 1873. He was a carpenter that specialized in fine millwork, which can be seen in the detailed woodwork inside the house. The company was John B. Pike & Son when the contract was awarded. His son was John D. Pike who became president of the company in 1915. It is still around today known as The Pike Company. Building permits were issued around July 12, 1913.

Basement showing Terra Cotta blocks and brick in the foundation

The house is framed and supported with Terra Cotta blocks and brick. The first and possibly second subfloor is poured concrete while the attic floor and roof is framed with wood.

Cast stone window frame

The exterior is brick with cast stone trimming. Most of the windows are also framed with cast stone. The interior is decorated with plaster walls with gumwood paneling and trim and most of the floors are oak.

First Floor

First Floor Plans Courtesy of East 935 LLC

The first floor consisted of a vestibule, reception room, living room, sun parlor, dining room, pantry, kitchen, servants’ room and store room. There is also a half a bath near the rear entrance and a T-shaped hall that allowed access to most of the rooms except the pantry, kitchen, servants’ room and store room. The pantry could only be accessed through the kitchen or dining room.  There’s a rear hall that could be entered from the main hall that allowed access to the kitchen, servants’ room and stairways that went up to the second floor and basement. The store room could only be accessed from the kitchen.

There are five doors that allowed access to the outside; The main doors, front and back; one off the sun parlor and one from the den that both accessed the back terrace; and a door off the kitchen which was the servants’ entrance and where deliveries and mail were received.

There are four total fireplaces on the first floor, the dining room, living room, sun parlor and den.

When entering the vestibule, you can already get a sense of the woodwork you will see throughout the house.

A view of the front door from the vestibule.

Reception Room

A view of the front door from the reception room.
From the front door into the reception room.

There are pocket doors on both the left and right side to the entrances of the living and dining rooms. The dining room door has a mirror on it. I was unable to slide the living room door.

A dedication for donating the house

The Diocese placed this plaque in the reception area to honor the donation of the house.

Dining Room

One angle of the Dining Room

The dining room has four built-in cabinets, two smaller and two larger. It also has a fireplace, bay window and intricate designs on the ceiling. The gumwood paneling runs from the floor to the ceiling.

Another angel of the Dining Room
A small built-in cabinet
Two large cabinets looking out to reception hall
Pocket door closed
Ceiling panel with a face in the center of picture

I am not sure if the ceiling pattern is made out of plaster or wood. The only thing that makes me think it’s wood is John B. Pike.

Fireplace with ceramic tile

Living Room

View of the Living Room from Reception room doorway.

The living room has gumwood paneling only around a third up the wall with plaster covering the rest. There are four built in book shelves, a fireplace and a different pattern on the ceiling. Both windows have a seating area.

View from the bay window.
The bay window.
Fireplace

If you look to the right of the fireplace, on the top of the panel there is a knob. That panel will come off and there is a wood box behind it where firewood use to be be stored. Unfortunately, when I looked, there was no hidden treasure, just old newspapers from the early 1950’s and some particles of wood.

Ceiling Pattern

A different pattern than is in the dining room, but just as detailed.

Sun Parlor

Entrance to the sun parlor from the living room. The door leads to the back terrace.

The sun parlor is off the living room. The many windows and quarry tile floor makes me believe they had many plants in this room.

Another angle of sun parlor including fireplace

Den

A view of the den with the fireplace

The den is the only room that has an arched ceiling. The built in cabinets also make me think this room was used as a library or office. There are two doors on either side of the fireplace. The door on the right is a closet. The door on the left leads to three steps that go down to the hall near the back door.

The window with built-in book shelves on either side
More bookshelves and a door that leads to the back terrace
A pattern that is seen in all four corners of the room.

I didn’t notice these patterns at first since they are painted white like the ceiling. It makes me wonder if they were originally colored. For that matter, with the arched ceiling, was there a mural as well that was painted over?

Hallway

Hallway looking towards sun parlor

The Hall is essentially “T” shaped. The top part of the “T” runs through the center of the house and connects to most of the rooms and stairway to the second floor. It is almost 11 feet wide and over 33 feet long.

Hallway looking towards stairs and pantry
Fake windows that are on the wall that contains the pantry behind it.
Hallway towards reception room and front door

From the center of the hall, you can see both the front and back doors. The hallway runs to the back door.

Hallway towards back door
Left side of hallway near back door

As you enter from the rear door there is a seating area where you can remove your shoes/boots, or wait for the car to be pulled up to leave. The tile has been replaced. It was originally quarry tile, similar to what is in the sun parlor. The open area with the broom and what looks like a coat hanging bar is also pictured below.

Open closet with a door behind it.

Behind the bar and shelf is the door from the den discussed earlier. There are steps still here.

Right side of hallway near rear door.

Keeping everything symmetrical, this area accesses a half bathroom and the stairs to the basement.

View of half bath and hall.

The sink is visible. The toilet is behind the door that’s across the sink. There is a small closet behind the entrance door.

Stairs leading to the basement.

These are two sets of stairs (across from the bathroom) that lead to the basement. The further (and narrower) set is the original stairs. It had three to four more steps that curved up into the rear hall, which is behind the wall at the back of the photo. In 1956, the Diocese closed off that wall and opened it up to this area so the basement can be accessed from the main hall. The closer set of stairs was actually added by the Diocese in 2004. Since it is wider, I can guess it was to allow easier access especially to move furniture. It runs right below the grand staircase that leads to the second floor. Originally it was just a closet.

Pantry

Pantry from dining room door

The pantry can only be entered through the kitchen or dining room and both doors are double swing. I can imagine how much silver was in this room and the meals that passed through here.

View towards dining room door

Originally under the window was a sink. Probably where they washed the serving dishes before putting them away.

Kitchen

Looking towards servants/delivery entrance

Just outside the picture on the right is the doorway to the pantry. Straight ahead leads to the porch. To the right of the door against the wall was where the refrigerator should have been. It’s barely visible, but looking at the wall the leads to the porch, but around where the refrigerator was suppose to be, there is a square panel. Behind that is a space that leads to the porch. A milk box maybe?

Porch from the outside

I didn’t get access to the porch but this is a picture I took from the outside. I believe this area was used for deliveries, groceries, mail etc. I think it was also the servants’ entrance. On the right wall, the window and door is visible. Just above what I believe to be screens leaning against the wall, there is what I think is the milk box. To the left, not visible, but close to where I am is the entrance door. Outside, next to that door is a slot that says “Mail” on it.

Where the stove was

The stove would have been in the nook. Above it was a rang hood that had it’s own chimney flue. The doors to the left would have gone into the store room and servants’ room.

Sink, cabinets and doorway to the rear hall.

The sink would have probably been used to was all the dishes used to cook the food. The doorway leads to the rear hall. If you look closely, you can see the bottom of the servants’ stairway to the second floor.

Storage/Servants’ room

Looking into servants’ room

There are two doors that enter this area. It was originally two rooms. At the top of the picture, a section of the wall separating them still exists. The Diocese in 1956 turned it into one room for copiers. This picture is of what was the servants’ room. Most likely where they had their meals and breaks. The shelves were originally in the store room against the wall that no longer exists. The walls behind the door and over to the shelves enclose a second half bath that was added in 1956 taking away space and a closet from this room.

Looking into store room

The door on the right would have been the only access to the store room. You can also see at the top the remnants of the wall again.

Rear hall

Rear hall looking into added half bath

This is the half bath added from the servants’ room. Originally, the doorway led into the servants room with a closet to the left after you enter. Just before the door on the left wall was the original entrance to the stairway that led to the basement. On that wall you can actually see where the drywall does not line up.

Rear hall in opposite direction looking into main hall and dining room.

In the opposite direction, the hall leads to the main hall. On the right is the servants’ stairway to the second floor. On the left, there is part of the frame of the doorway to the kitchen.

Below is a link to a virtual tour of the entire first floor.

Stairs

Looking up the stairs

What is a mansion without a grand staircase. Beautiful woodwork, a large window letting in a lot of light and two panels on each side of the window currently painted in red and trimmed in gold. There must have been a mural under the red paint.

A different angle looking up
Painted wallpaper

A section of the wall before the first landing where the wallpaper was painted over white. This isn’t the only spot on the house where I found paint covering something. It also makes me believe there were mural’s around the house that was painted over.

From the first landing
From the second landing
Looking down to the first floor
Showing how bright the sun shines through the window
Detailed look at the window panes

Second Floor

Current Second Floor plans Courtesy of East 935 LLC,

The first floor is the only floor of the house where I have the original and remodeling plans. While some of the rooms on the second floor are obvious as to their use, there are a few that can be up for debate. There are three rooms that were definitely bedrooms and I am speculating there were four. There are another four rooms on the floor but I don’t think they were all bedrooms.

There are three bathrooms. There is evidence of a possible fourth full and another half bath. All the bathtubs/showers have been removed, and one bathroom currently has no fixtures at all.

View of the main room from the stairs

I am not sure what this area would have been called. Plans of other large houses have called them lofts, balconies or foyers. Just to the right, out of this picture, there is a doorway that enters a spare bedroom.

another view of the main room from the stairs

If you look at both of these pictures, there are two large archways leading out of the room. These are not original. Parts of them are drywall, which is not part of the original construction. There is also missing woodwork that is located on all the other walls attached to this main room. Finally, all other areas that lead to somewhere else are trimmed with that gold pattern that follows the arches. The large ones do not.

The archway on the right side from the stairs

The doorway on the right side of this photo is the bedroom at the top of the stairs. You can see that the wood paneling ends at the archway but should continue into that area.

Archway on the left side.

On the other side, the wood paneling doesn’t even cover the small sections facing the main room. On the left is a hallway that has the paneling all the way down. Plus, there is drywall in this area. I am not sure if originally there were any doors or halls around these arches. My suspicion is that there weren’t and they were solid walls.

Master Bedroom

Entrance from main room

The entrance to the master bedroom has the gold around the arch with wood paneling going all the way up to the door.

At the doorway
Master bedroom
Dedication to Elizabeth Sibley Stebbins

Installed by the Diocese, a dedication to Elizabeth for the estate’s generous donation.

Doorways to and from master bedroom

To the left is the entrance to the room from the main room. On the right enters a walk in closet and access to the bathroom. That hall also goes to the next room over without having to go back into the main room.

Master Bathroom
Another angel of the bathroom
Closet space

Shelves originally for wardrobes. Across the hall is the entrance to the bathroom.

Sitting Room?

A look into the room from the main room

There are a few reasons that I would consider this a sitting room although it could possibly be used as a spare bedroom. While its possible a bedroom could have built in shelves, no other bedroom in this house has them.

Gas fireplace

This looks to be originally a gas fireplace. The chimney in the attic is only brick about 4 feet tall, then it is piped out the roof (actually, it’s been disconnected and does not go out the roof, but I think all the fireplaces in the house have been capped and not usable).

A look from the windows

Another reason why I consider it a sitting room: The doors on each side of the room go into the closets and bathrooms from the bedrooms. I wouldn’t believe as a bedroom that it would share closets. Also the cabinets on the far wall are not deep enough to hang clothes.

Bedroom 2

Entering the bedroom

The second bedroom has a similar entrance as the master bedroom. One difference, off to the right there is the doorway that goes into the closet and bathroom. That hallway is “L” shaped where as the master bedroom one is straight.

Also in this picture, the door is glass. The Diocese replaced many of the doors center panels to glass on the second floor for offices.

Just inside the room
A different angle

The door to the right of the fireplace enters a small passage with another door into the next room.

Part of the closet space in hallway off bedroom

Closet space in the small hall. Just to the left of where I am standing is more closet space.

bathroom off hallway with closets

The bathroom off the closet hall. To my right would be the entrance to the sitting room.

Bedroom 3

Looking in from the main room

I would label this as the third bedroom. Its the one just off the top of the stairs.

Different angle looking in
From the other side of the room

You can see the top of the stairs just outside the door.

Looking into “hallway” next to the bedroom.

The entrance to the bedroom is out of the frame off to the right. The reason I am showing this view is there are doors off the bedroom that enter the area just past the large arch. Just inside the arch on the ceiling there are remnants of a ‘T’ shape wall that also runs down the wall just before the glass paneled door. It’s an educated guess, but I think the left side was a closet and the right side may have been a hallway. What I can say with good certainty is that the section back by the radiator on the right was a bathroom. There are remnants of ceramic tile under the radiator and there is a hand drawn “floor plan” that lists it as a bathroom.

Second Floor Sun Room

Looking inside from the doorway

I call this a sun room because two of the four walls are completely widows, much like the sun parlor on the first floor. I do not believe this is an original part of the house but also do not think it was added by the Diocese. The archway and part of the walls are plaster, not drywall.

Another view

The windows area also different from most of the rest of the house. And that particular wall just seems like it should not have been designed that way. It actually runs in between two windows.

Outside look at the Second Floor Sun Room.

While talking with Pat, the real estate agent, he pointed out a couple of things that make sense. The second floor is not brick like the rest of the house. Yes, it could have been originally designed that way but the biggest clue is where the wall meets the brick. Looking at both of the windows in the brick on the second floor, there is a distinct pattern surrounding the windows. Where the wall meets near the one window the pattern is cut off. I find it hard to believe that would have been a design flaw from the original architect.

Bedroom 4?

Entering the bedroom through the passage from Bedroom 2

The more I think about it the more I am convinced this was another bedroom. At first I thought it was another sitting room, but why would there be another one? It is much smaller so it may have been designed for a younger child.

Fireplace
From Bedroom 4 looking into the main room.

The wall is framed with drywall, so I wonder where this room actually ended.

Looking into bedroom 4 from main room

From the outside there is still plenty of room from the archway to the door. So what rooms were in there? How was it divided up? Was it a closet? Something else? I couldn’t think of how this area originally was.

Back Hall

Back Hall from stair case

The back hall leads to bedroom 4, a bathroom and servants hall. It’s a best guess at what the hall is called. The red carpet turns at the end to the right into bedroom 4. Acroos the hall to the right is a doorway that leads to another door into one of the back rooms.

Central vacuum

One of a few central vacuum connections located around the house.

Bathroom at the end of the hall

Servants’ Hall

Doorway from back hall to servants’ hall

This doorway from the back hall is the main reason I separated the halls. On the right side of the frame, the hinges from the door that was removed are still there. If there was a door then it was probably meant to be separate.

Just inside doorway showing most of the rooms.

Another view from inside the doorway where most of the rooms can be viewed. Looking inside the first door, there is a doorway that allows access between the two rooms. This is the only remodel on the second floor I can confirm from plans. It was not there originally. Also in the room at the end of the hall there is an air-conditioning unit and is now a utility room. I believe it was originally a half bath.

First room in Servant’s hall

The first room has a closet and a passageway to the back hall. The door on the left has a second door going into that hall.

Second room in servant’s hall

The use of both of these rooms are unclear. They are too small to be bedrooms. Due to their location and the reasonable expectation from Rufus Sibley to have grand-children, it could be a nursery room. Due to the location near the servants’ stairs, they may have just been some sort of work rooms or break room for the servants as well.

Half Bath in servant’s hall

The medicine cabinet on the wall is why I believe the room at the end of the hall was a half bath.

Original gas lamp found around the house

I was told that the house was originally lit by gas lighting. There are many fixtures that look like this one that was converted to electric at a later time.

Closet in Servants’ hall

A store room off the servants’ hall with another of the converted lamps.

For a virtual tour of the second floor and staircase, click below.

Third Floor

Courtesy of East 935 LLC, Current attic plans

The attic appears to be for servants’ only. They must of lived here at least part-time. There would have been three bedrooms, two full baths. The unknown room looks as if it was built later.

A look from the stairs

There are two directions heading off from the top of the stairs.

The windows on top of the stairs
A look down the hall on the left
Room on the right
Bathroom
Room on the left
View from the bathroom
Entrances for the three rooms in the hall going straight from the stairs

These are the entrances to the three rooms off the hall that runs straight from the stairs. Not pictured is a closet next to the door on the right. The room on the left is the other bedroom. Also, this picture shows where the bathroom floor is raised a few inches.

Room at the end of the hall

This would have been the largest of the three bedrooms. Maybe it was for the house manager/butler. Not sure how the house was run.

Room to the right of the bathroom

I do not believe this room is original based on the carpet (every other room is hardwood) and the walls. It could have been built later for a servants’ living room or something. I do not have any paperwork on the Diocese adding it.

Entrance to unfinished attic from room with red carpet
A deeper look inside
The north east corner above master bedroom

Around the windows there are exposed Terra Cotta blocks which the house is framed with. However, it is shown that the roof and floor of the attic is wood.

Unfinished attic space

Two things to note of the above picture. A little to the right there is a partial brick chimney rising from the floor. This came up from the sitting room discussed earlier. Notice there is a metal pipe that leads from this and angles up and over. It goes to the flat part of the roof and use to exit there. The roof is closed off and there is evidence of new wood used to cover the hole.

Also, in the back there are spare doors, possibly removed from the hallway on the second floor and other locations. To the left outside of the picture there is more wood, framing, doors and even parts from a fireplace. I think the Diocese did a great job leaving everything available incase someone wanted to restore it.

Stairs to the roof

There is a section of the roof that is flat. The ladder lead to an access panel to the roof. There is also an air conditioning unit that is attached to the roof trusses straight ahead. The silver ductwork leads to it. The compressor is on the roof.

Basement

Current basement plans; Courtesy of East 935 LLC,

The basement was reportedly unfished when the Diocese took possession. Rooms were added for offices and archive storage. There are a couple of interesting rooms that will be commented on. They are all down a hallway to the right of these stairs.

Stairs from the first floor.

These are the two sets of stairs viewed from the basement. The one on the right is the original set accessible by the rear hall. It didn’t come down to the main room here. It was changed. Previously at the bottom of the stairs it went to the right entering the hallway. It was altered in 1956.

Main room. For reference, stairs are on the left wall around the red box that’s a fire alarm.
With so many fireplaces, there are a few of these located in the basement. This is in the main room.
The door on the left is the servants’ staircase, on the right enters a hallway down the back of the house.
The hallway down towards the back.

Down this hallway there is a set of stairs leading to the door with “EXIT” on it. Up closer, on the left side where it is flat before the brick, that is where the servants’ stairs use to exit into the basement. Off to the right there is a room that I am pretty sure was there originally.

Basement room off hall

In this room there is a set of shelves that look original. But there is a surprise!

Safe hidden behind shelves.

There is a safe behind the book shelves. No hidden treasure in here. On the floor (not pictured) there is a semi-circle that the wheels for the shelves scratched into the floor. Also in the floor (and throughout the basement) are handles on the concrete to access the piping underneath the floor.

Down the steps in the hall.

Further in the hall, down the steps, there are three more doorways and the exit. The exit door is right below the rear entrance door on the first floor.

Old bathroom on the left

This looks like a utility closet. But according to remodeling plans, this was actually the only bathroom, half bath, in the basement. The toilet was removed and this sink put in it’s place. The original sink was across from the current one, but is only shelves now.

One of two bathrooms on the left

The two doors on the right are new bathrooms the Diocese installed, men’s and women’s.

Past the first door with “EXIT” on it.

No, this is not the same exit door. This one has a break away bar. These rooms are under the driveway and porte-cochere. The exit door leads to stairs that I will show with outside photos.

Coal room on the left

This room is on the left of the hall. It stored coal for the furnace.

Shoot to drop coal through

This is one of two shoots that use to go up to the driveway. One shoot was under the porte-cochere.

Boiler from room on the right

This room is on the right of the hall and housed the coal burning boiler. It has been updated and now runs on natural gas.

Another part of the room on the right.

Another section of the boiler room where the water service enters the house.

Here is the rest of the basement. I apologize but I am missing pictures from a room or two, but they all look similar.

The hall in the other direction

Heading in the opposite direction from the stairs, there is another room used as an office.

Rooms on the other side of main room

These two rooms are on the other side of the basement from the stairs. One room does have a closet and a utility room off it.

Inside the room
Utility room accessed from above room
Inside other room

Garage

1913 plan for garage; Courtesy of East 935 LLC

The garage was constructed at the same time as the house although it went through a modification and then an addition. Above is the way the garage was at construction. It was only a one car garage and the passage door was on the same wall as the garage door. On a side note, on the left side of the plan, the location of the boiler is drawn in.

1926 Garage remodel plan: Courtesy of East 935 LLC

In 1926, changes were made to the garage to allow a second car to be parked there.

1929 garage addition plan; Courtesy of East 935 LLC

After the marriage to Stebbins, additions were made to the garage. It was lengthened and the passage door was moved to another addition on the side of the garage. This allowed four cars to be parked in it as well as still allowing room for a bathroom. One of the garage doors also had a passage door built into it.

Inside the garage

The Diocese turned the garage into a book store. The garage door wall was closed off.

Inside the garage

The bathroom is still there and the entrance was off the parking lot.

View of where the garage doors were

There is wood paneling where the doors use to be. I have a suspicion that the wood is the original doors. According to the plans, the doors had windows just like the ones that are here now.

Side of the garage where yard was (Currently a parking lot).

Where the door is now was part of a six foot addition when the garage was expanded.

Cast stone on two sides of the garage.

There are two of these cast stone decorations and both are the identicle. One is above where the garage doors were and the other faces Barrington Street.

Porte Cochère

Porte Cochère from the yard/ parking lot

There are a couple of different names for this structure; Car port, portico and porte cochère. The one I used is the most accurate description. A car port does not have to be attached to a house. A portico can be used as just a covered entrance for a person but porte cochère defines a covering for a vehicle that allows a covered access to a building. Before the parking lot, the driveway ended at this end of the porte cochère.

Porte Cochère from the street
Access gate to yard and view of staircase

There is a gate on the right. On the left is the stairway that leads to the basement and can be accessed on the other side.

Porte Cochère from exit of garage
Carved faces on Porte Cochère

There are a total of fourteen of these carved faces on the porte cochère. There are seven different faces and each one is on there twice. Also, the glass was installed by the Diocese supposedly to keep snow and leaves from going down the stairs to the basement.

Front Terrace

Terrace looking West

The front terrace is large. I don’t think they used it or had tables set up on it.

Terrace looking East

There is an original brick path that leads to the front door. According to the original plans, the rest of the terrace would have been earth (maybe grass, or gardens were planned?). The other block, I am speculating, was put in later. Maybe they were the original driveway pavers when it was repaved.

Terrace looking towards East Ave
Terrace looking across front of the house.

Gardens

The gardens were pretty much paved over. There are remnants of what use to be there but until photographs were located, it was speculation as to what they were.

Landscape Architect

Fletcher Steele was responsible for the majority of the lawns designs, if not all. He was born in Rochester as John Fletcher Steele on June 7, 1885. After graduating from Williams, College he entered the Master of Landscape Architecture program at Harvard in 1907. He left early to work for Warren H. Manning in his Boston office. In 1913 Steele toured Europe for four months to study European designs. When he returned to America, he opened his own practice in Boston, however he did have many projects in Rochester.

Robin Karson, Executive Director of the Library of American Landscape History, wrote a book on Fletcher Steele in 1989. In a email response for information about this house’s gardens she wrote “There wasn’t enough paper trail for me to write anything specific about the project  for my book. There wasn’t much left when I looked at the place 25 years ago”, which is well after when the parking lot was paved in 1961. She also stated that “It did look like an interesting design, though.” She was able to point me in a direction to locate some photos and plans.

Tea Garden

Back Terrace and access to tea garden

The Tea Garden was most likely the first to be installed. I am not sure it was a Steele project, although I do have evidence that says he was involved. The garden would have been entered off the back terrace.

Remnants of Tea Garden wall

Remnants of the Tea Garden. When I walked around with Pat, no-one knew what this actually was. Pat speculated there was an area that looked like steps up to a garden.

Remnants of wall, sidewalk and spiral edging

Another angle of the wall that includes a narrow walkway and spiral edging. Speculation was the walkway led to the steps.

Close up of spiral edging

A closer look at the spiral edging and “walkway”.

Plans from Fletcher Steele for spiral edging and s from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

The main reason I believe Steele was at least involved in the Tea Garden is this drawing of the edging that was used.

View of the sitting area and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

Finally, an answer. this picture shows that there were not steps but actually a built in sitting area that had plants surrounding it. It also explains the “sidewalk”. While it may have been walked on when the grass was wet, it was more for a pattern or design.

A view from the yard into the Teagarden and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

The tea garden was surrounded by a metal fence that had planting to make it more private. I am guessing that there were some sort of flowers that were planted between the edging and fence.

Shelter

Drawing of the shelter and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

Near the back, southeast corner of the property there was a small shelter. Enough room for a couple of chairs and a small table. There is evidence that there was a walkway that went the entire length of the back yard that allowed access to the rose garden from the shelter. Back by where this would have been located, there is still metal edging in the grass formed in a circular shape. It was most likely to hold the edge of a brick or paver sidewalk.

Plans of the shelter and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

Rose Garden

A view of the area before the installation of the Rose Garden and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

Unfortunately there is nothing left of the Rose Garden. The photo above shows what the spot looked like before they began work. The date on the plans show February of 1934. However, there are receipts from Henry Kohankie & Son out of Painesville Ohio dated April 21, 1947. I am not sure if they waited to build it until then or (more likely) they replanted the garden.

Plans for the fence of the rose garden; Courtesy of East 935 LLC
Picture of the Rose Garden and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.

Photographs from shortly after planting. The only thing missing is the water fountain that was reportedly in the center.

Another picture of the Rose Garden and is from the collection at the Terence J. Hoverter College Archives, F. Franklin Moon Library, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY.
Plans for the rose plantings of the garden; Courtesy of East 935 LLC

Actual image of the rose planting plans. It shows what color goes where.

Below is the final virtual tour. It includes the attic, basement and grounds.

Other renovations

There have been other upgrades and renovations done aside from those already mentioned. In 1961 The backyard was paved for a parking lot. In 1991, the roof above the porte cochère and the porch were redone.

In 1997, plans were started on a major repair work. I believe it actually happened in 1998. From documents I read through, there was major work done on the roof of the house. The Slate was removed as well as the flat roof. All of the asbestos was removed, the deck inspected, copper was laid down and the roof reinstalled. There was also asbestos removed that insulated the pipes in the basement.

Besides that, there were indications of basic upkeep, painting, window repairs etc. There was also air conditioning added but there was no paperwork I found on it.

That’s it!

It was a lot of fun looking into the history of this property. There are still questions unanswered and I am going to continue looking for information but I was surprised at what I was able to find. I am hoping someone purchases this house with the resources to restore it to a single family residence. I can only imagine what it was like back in the day. Maybe that’s why I became a big fan of Downton Abbey.

View the property listing here →

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 6th, 2020 at 8:27 pm and is filed under Architecture, Rochester History, Rochester Homes for Sale, Rochester Images, Rochester News, Urban Exploration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “935 East Avenue”

  1. Lonna says:

    Thanks. That was fun to see


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