our bonobo blood
will soon respire
into a billion years of
clouds and dew.
Doomed yet profitable.
Photography by George Cassidy Payne
Designed by Gervase Wheeler, a prominent 19th-century English architect, the rose brick and limestone mansion is considered one of the best examples of the Victorian Italian villa style in the country, according to Cynthia Howk, architectural research coordinator at the Landmark Society of Western New York. It was designated a city landmark in 1970 and is part of the Mt. Hope/Highland Ave. Historic District that is listed at the federal, state, and local levels. The 16-room mansion boasts eight carved marble fireplaces, 11-foot faux grained doors, original gas chandeliers now wired for electricity, and numerous collections of portraits, furniture, silver, dishes, glassware, and linens from the Barry family. On the grounds, scores of rare specimen trees are a living legacy of the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery.
The house was given to the University of Rochester in 1963 by the heirs of Patrick Barry’s daughter, Harriet Barry Liesching, who had lived there until her death in 1951. A careful restoration was carried out from 1964-65 under the direction of Elizabeth Holahan of the Society for the Preservation of Landmarks in Western New York. According to Holahan in a 1981 UR press release, the Barry House is the nation’s “outstanding” example of the Italian style of the Victorian period. The one comparable residence, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was razed in the 1970s despite protests from preservationist groups. In 1969 the Barry House parlor and library were featured in in Nancy Comstock’s 100 Most Beautiful Rooms in America.
The development of the nursery industry in Rochester presents a fine picture of the transition of culture from the Old to the New World. Not only were the horticultural beginnings transplanted during the previous century in New York and the East moving slowly westward, but several of Rochester’s nurserymen came more or less directly from the Old World, equipped with the theories and techniques of its more advanced centers. Houghton, Kedie, and Bateham, and later Joseph Harris and James Vick, all from England, Patrick Barry from Ireland, and notably George Ellwanger from Germany, brought a valuable contribution to Rochester, and their eager readiness to send abroad for new seeds and plants as well as fresh ideas was no small factor in the rapid rise of the western town to horticultural leadership.
Expansion was one of the secrets of their success, for, by adding new acres every year or so, they were able to develop mature and model orchards on older nursery grounds. The plan enabled them to obtain an accurate knowledge concerning their fruit, a reliable stock from which to take their cuttings, and a means for demonstrating their fruit to visiting customers. With this latter point in mind they announced in successive catalogues that since their location was “nearly opposite the celebrated Mount Hope Cemetery, both places can be visited at the same time … An omnibus runs from the center of the city … every hour carrying passengers each way for one shilling.”
Photography by George Cassidy Payne
Alexander Jackson Davis, or A. J. Davis, was one of the most successful and influential American architects of his generation, known particularly for his association with the Gothic Revival style.
By 1850, the population of Rochester had reached 36,000, making it the 21st largest city in the United States. Westward expansion had moved the focus of farming to the Great Plains and Rochester’s importance as the center for flour milling had declined. Several seed companies in Rochester had grown to become the largest in the world, with Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co. the largest. Rochester’s nickname was changed from the Flour City to the Flower City.
Plant the love of the holy ones within your spirit; don’t give your heart to anything, but the love of those whose hearts are glad. Rumi
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson
George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry were owners of one of the largest nurseries in Rochester. Ellwanger began the business in with Thomas Rogers in 1839 but by 1840 he had bought Rogers out and partnered with Barry who was more knowlegeable than Rogers. Their first site, the Mount Hope Garden and Nurseries, grew to 43 acres by 1843 and was the basis of an extremely profitable wholesale business. By 1860 Ellwanger and Barry would control over 500 acres in the area. They grew a wide variety of plants, including fruit trees. They earned an impressive seven awards at the 1849 NY State Fair in Syracuse. Ellwanger frequently traveled to Europe, bringing back seeds and cuttings to cultivate here.
If we don’t plant the right things, we will reap the wrong things. It goes without saying. And you don’t have to be, you know, a brilliant biochemist and you don’t have to have an IQ of 150. Just common sense tells you to be kind, ninny, fool. Be kind. Maya Angelou
The success of the Rochester nursery trade, as exemplified by the Mt. Hope Nursery, earned Rochester the title “The Flower City.” The Lilac Festival maintains the heritage of that name, and Ellwanger Garden gives you the chance to experience the inspiration of that heritage.
Gothic Revival (also referred to as Victorian Gothic, Neo-Gothic or Jigsaw Gothic, and when used for school, college, and university buildings as Collegiate Gothic) is an architectural movement that began in the late 1740s in England.
The Gothic Revival was to remain one of the most potent and long-lived of the 19th-century revival styles. Although it began to lose force after the third quarter of the 19th century, buildings such as churches and institutions of higher learning were constructed in the Gothic style in England and in the United States until well into the 20th century. Only when new materials and concern for functionalism began to take hold did the Gothic Revival disappear.
Menlo pl. backs into Highland Park, right across from Mt. Hope Cemetery. It is a little explored side street on an extremely busy road. Since it is a dead end, only pedestrians who are not trying to get to the South Wedge or downtown have any reason to wander down it. Those who do will find a terrific collection of houses that represent many of the most influential architectural styles of the early 20th century, including Modernism, American Foursquare, and the Victorian style.
The fact that it is adjacent to Mt. Hope Cemetery only adds to the street’s intrigue. It also shadows the urban woodlands of Highland Park, which gives this out of the way pocket- neighborhood a serene luster. It is a pleasant diversion.
Photography by George Cassidy Payne
First Church of Christ Scientist
Attributes of Victorian Houses
- Steeply pitched roof of irregular shape, usually with dominant front-facing gable
- Textured shingles (and/or other devices) to avoid smooth-walled appearance
- Partial or full-width asymmetrical porch, usually one story high and extended along one or both side walls
- Asymmetrical facade
The Colonial house style consists of many styles built during the Colonial period (early 18th Century) in America’s history when England, Spain, and France had colonies scattered across what is now the United States.
English colonies closely mirrored housing fashions of England although they were 50 years behind. Early on (pre 1700) the First Period English style houses were based on the building practices of late medieval Britain. After 1700 the English colonies evolved their building style into the Georgian style.
When the American Revolution arrived the architectural fashion evolved into the Federal style and persisted until around 1820. The next housing fashion to develop was based on the ancient Roman architecture that inspired the Renaissance and was labeled the Early Classical Revival Style. This style was popularized in the southern U.S. by popular southern architects such as Thomas Jefferson. Also, during this time the French colonies in Louisiana developed the French Colonial style and further west the Spanish Colonial style evolved. Both Spanish and French Colonial styles are very rare in today’s popular Colonial styles.
It is the form of a Foursquare, more than its trim and materials, that makes it distinctive. In its purest rendition, it is a simple box, roughly as wide and deep as it is tall. Each of its two stories is quartered into four roughly equal spaces. Often a kitchen will occupy one of the quarters, but they were just as likely to be found in additions off of the main structure. Another distinctive feature is a dormer on one of more of the roof slopes, often with a miniature roof just like the larger version it sits on.
Mt. Hope Cemetery
Most Modern (1900-1950) house styles of American architecture include familiar and very popular architects. This list includes Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret), Charles and Henry Greene, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius just to name a few. What they had in common was an attempt to design inexpensive housing that was not only eye-pleasing and functional but could be built quickly to keep up with the fast paced affects of the industrial revolution.
Streetlamp in Highland Park
Photography by George Cassidy Payne
On the corner of Spring St and South Washington St, Rochester, NY, stands one of the finest examples of the Italianate style in the city. Featuring a hipped roof with cupola and an entrance porch with carved Moorish Revival ornamentation, the Brewster-Burke House was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 .
Today, the French Quarter Cafe is located inside this historic building.
“The Brewster-Burke house has a chhattri porch with a scalloped ogee arch and quatrefoils cut out in the spandrels. The brackets are oversized and are an s and c scroll shape with interesting spirals cut out. Candelabra columns are also included, but these are far more angular and have deep fluting that make them look like grass bundles. The windows have lintels with simple triangles. A monitor caps the roof and a long wing to the side has a porch that mimics the central porch. The house ends in a structure with three pointed Gothic arches, that served as a summer kitchen and carriage house according to the plans, demonstrating the stylistic link some theorists of the period found between Indian and Gothic architecture. Throughout the house has ironwork balconies on the windows, while the main porch has a fantastic wooden balcony with exotic finials on the posts. The side seems to have had a porch that was as fantastic as the main porch with carved ornament, but this has disappeared along with an exceptional fence, pictured below from HABS. The house was threatened many times with demolition but has been saved mostly intact, despite some losses.” (http://picturesqueitalianatearchitecture.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-brewster-burke-house-rochester-ny.html)
“We wander through old streets, and pause before the age stricken houses; and, strange to say, the magic past lights them up.” – Grace King, French Quarter Guidebook
” Emphasizing the rambling, asymmetrical character of Italian farmhouses, the style easily fit into the informal, rural ideals of picturesque movement. Because of the increasing complexity of American building types by the 1850s – from train stations and commercial buildings to townhouses, apartments, and suburban homes, the style was modified to fit a building’s particular function. The style’s use for many of America’s main-street commercial buildings provides for one of America’s most distinctive symbolic landscapes of midwestern town centers. Like Gothic Revival, Italianate and its cousin, the Italian Villa style, was heavily promoted and popularized by Andrew Jackson Downing by the 1850s as the preferred suburban country house. By the 1860s, Italianate overshadowed Gothic Revival as America’s most popular romantic style.” (https://architecturestyles.org/italianate/)
AUSTIN, Merwin (1813-1890) was a successful architect in Rochester, N.Y. from 1845 until 1869 who executed several important works in Port Hope, Ont., a popular summer destination for visiting Americans who lived directly across Lake Ontario. Born in Hamden, Connecticut, he joined his older brother Henry Austin (1804-91), the eminent architect of New Haven, Conn., when the latter opened an office there in 1837. Merwin Austin moved to Rochester at age 31, and by 1850 had established a local reputation there with his Greek Revival design for the Monroe County Court House, Rochester, 1850.
The villas of Renaissance Italy inspired the Italianate style. It was popular from the 1840’s to the 1880’s. The people who preferred Italianate homes wanted their residences to look like they had been added onto over the course of several centuries, so the houses were often composed of a series of rectangles.
- Low-pitched, often flat roofs
- Heavy brackets under the eaves
- Elaborate detailing around windows
- Windows often curve-topped
- Cupolas or belvederes
- A mix of rectangular sections
- One-story porches
In New Orleans…..You can’t separate nothing from nothing. Everything mingles each into the other…until nothing is purely itself but becomes part of one funky gumbo.” – Mac Rebennack A.K.A. Dr. John, Musician
Everything in New Orleans is a good idea. Bijou temple-type cottages and lyric cathedrals side by side. Houses and mansions, structures of wild grace. Italianate, Gothic, Romanesque, Greek Revival standing in a long line in the rain. Roman Catholic art. Sweeping front porches, turrets, cast-iron balconies, colonnades- 30-foot columns, gloriously beautiful- double pitched roofs, all the architecture of the whole wide world and it doesn’t move. – Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Vol. 1, 2004