The Hoyt-Potter House
133 South Fitzhugh Street
Rochester, New York
This magnificent c. 1840 Greek Revival mansion in Rochester’s historic Corn Hill neighborhood, saved from almost certain demolition, has been rehabilitated as Landmark Society headquarters.
The Hoyts and the Potters
David Hoyt, a prominent Rochester bookseller and stationer, had this fine Greek Revival house built on South Fitzhugh Street about 1840 for his wife Mary and family of seven sons and one daughter.
Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt were also involved in social and spiritual works. Mary Hoyt helped found the Rochester Orphan Asylum, and Mr. Hoyt was active in the Society of Promotion of Evangelical Knowledge.
In 1850, Hoyt sold his house to successful businessman Henry S. Potter. Henry and Harriet Potter had resided in Pittsford for 32 years. As appropriate for a family of wealth, they decided to leave Pittsford country living for the elegant Corn Hill neighborhood. In 1851 Hoyt became one of the organizers, directors, and largest stockholder of the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company – later known as the Western Union Telegraph Company. Henry Potter died here in 1884 at the age of 83. His daughter Henryetta Potter lived here until 1907.
Demolition by neglect
In 1969 Jack Lubelle became sole owner of the Hoyt-Potter House, then a boarding house. The building was already in bad shape – it was cited for 89 building code violations. By 1972, all tenants had been vacated. The owner began a 20 year process of suing the city for permission to demolish the building.
The building was protected from demolition because of its historical and architectural significance by the Rochester Preservation Board. Unfortunately the codes that prevented a building from being torn down or changed could not force an owner to maintain a building. The building was threatened with demolition from a lack of maintenance – “demolition by neglect.” The empty building suffered vandalism for over 20 years, A fire in 1976 caused substantial damage, including a hole in the roof that would admit the elements for over 11 years.
Finally, in 1989, the judge denied the final demolition request and the City of Rochester won final appeal to take title to the Hoyt-Potter House (the owner received fair market value payment). A request for proposals followed, and was answered by Hoyt-Potter Associates with a plan to rehabilitate the house.
In addition to being the Landmark Society headquarters, the building also houses our library and archives. The Wenrich Memorial Library in the Hoyt-Potter House is a community asset of unparalleled importance. One of the finest collections in this region of materials on architecture, preservation, horticulture, local history and decorative arts; and photos, slides, drawings and architectural surveys of our area’s landmarks. Research in the library is by appointment. Please contact Cynthia Howk to schedule an appointment.
The Corn Hill Neighbors Association (CHNA) is also located in the Hoyt-Potter House.