Watts, Ebenezer, House - Rochester, NY
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member sagefemme
N 43° 09.226 W 077° 36.812
18T E 287502 N 4781206
Quick Description: Currently, the oldest residential building in the city of Rochester. Built 1825-27, this brick Federal style building was built by Rochester's first merchant, who specialized in hardware.
Location: New York, United States
Date Posted: 5/15/2013 8:09:49 AM
Waymark Code: WMH3C7
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 10

Long Description:
"The Watts house is a two story brick structure with a hipped roof and cupola. Stone is used for the sills, lintels and water course. Beneath the wide overhanging eaves of the roof are frieze windows with decorative cast-iron grilles. The windows have six-over-six double-hung sash, and the entrance, located on the north side of the three-bay facade is sheltered by an enclosed vestibule. The sidelights and fanlight of the vestibule mirror [are among] the more ornate design of the Federal style entrance. In addition to molded pilasters, this doorway features a fanlight with leaded glass in an ornate pattern.

"The interior of the house retains some original Federal style woodwork. This includes the staircase, with its curly maple hand-rail, and molded archetrave trim around doors and windows.

"The Ebenezer Watts House is architecturally and historically significant as a rare surviving example of domestic architecture in the Inner Loop Multiple Resource Area that retains architectural features from the Federal and Italianate styles and as the oldest surviving residence in downtown Rochester. Built between 1825 and 1827 as a Federal style residence and remodelled during the 1850's in the then popular Italianate style, the house retains significant architectural features from both periods. Its continued and unexpected survival in the middle of the densely developed central business preserves rare evidence of the character of early residential development of Rochesterville and the nineteenth-century town house character once prevalent on South Fitzhugh Street near the Erie Canal.

"The house was built for Ebenezer Watts who came to Rochester around 1810. By 1817 Watts had established Rochester's first copper, tin and iron business, which later evolved into the growing village's first hardware business. Watts purchased the South Fitzhugh Street lot in 1825 and completed his house by 1827.

"In its original Federal-style configuration, the house incorporated a three-bay side entrance facade with a gabled roof parallel to the street. The elliptically-arched entrance with sidelights, the fenestration and some interior features such as moldings and the staircase remain from its original date of construction. The hipped roof cupola, and iron-grilled frieze windos illustrate a major 1850's remodelling, and were also undertaken during Watts' ownership. A common practice, this updated of earlier houses with Italianate roofs, cupolas and porches can be seen throughout early Rochester neighborhoods and the region. The modernization often left the best details of earlier styls and added Italianate styling to them; such as the case of the Watts house. The existence of Greek Revival style attic window grilles and absence of brackets beneath the cornice were typical of early transitional Italianate contruction in Rochester.

"Watts lived in the house until his death in 1873. From 1874 until 1911 this was the home of the Lorenzo Kelly family. Kelly's occupation was business manager of the Rochester Union & Advertizer, one of the major daily newspapers. Following World War II, the residential buildings that used to line both sides of South Fitzhugh Street were demolished for new commercial and civic development. Only the Watts house survived and was converted to office use, the Italianate style front porch was removed and replaced withe the existing entrance vestibule.

"The Watts house was one of the early residences that clustered on the streets near the Erie Canal (50 feet north of the house) when residential, commercial and industrail buildings were all close together in the downtown area. Along with the c. 1830 Nellie Loomis house in the Bridge Square Historic District (National Register listed in 1984) and the c. 1840 Washington Street townhouses (an individual component of the multiple resource nomination) the Watts house represents and important resource illustrating Rochester's early canal-related residential developments."

At the time of this building's nomination for historical preservation status with NY State in 1985, it was privately owned and used as office space. Since then, the building was sold to Monroe County. It is currently being used as a conference center (around 1997?)
Street address:
47 S Fitzhugh St
Rochester, NY USA

County / Borough / Parish: Monroe

Year listed: 1996

Historic (Areas of) Significance: architectural, historic

Periods of significance: 1825-27, 1850

Historic function: Residential, single dwelling

Current function: Commercial

Privately owned?: no

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Season start / Season finish: Not listed

Hours of operation: Not listed

Secondary Website 2: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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sagefemme visited Watts, Ebenezer, House - Rochester, NY 5/16/2013 sagefemme visited it