Saturday, March 24, 2007

Elgin Then & Now - The Gifford House

This article is courtesy of The Elginite.

Link to the location.

Gifford house

James Gifford house at the turn of the century

James Gifford house in current condition

James Gifford house west facade

This was the home of Elgin’s founder, James T. Gifford. Originally a simple stone house, it reflects a contruction technique native to New York state. Note the cobblestones laid in courses with stone quoins at the corners and stone lintels. The mansard roof and classical detailing (added later) show a Second Empire influence. This is one of the few remaining works of builder Edwin R. Reeves. Gifford Park and Gifford Street are named for the original owner of this home. (source: Gifford Park Association)

The home of Elgin’s founder dates back to 1850. It has been divided into four apartments. I’d like to see it deconverted and restored to its former glory. I wonder if the city should offer special incentives for the rehabilitation of buildings with historic significance (those on the National Register of Historic Places), such as this one. Such a policy would cover only 8 buildings. It’s something we can afford.

I’m especially interested in seeing this building restored, not just because it’s the home of Elgin’s founder, but it’s the finest remaining cobblestone home in Elgin, and probably over a much wider area. It would serve as a fine example for what a distinctive local vernacular architectural style might look like.

It could serve as an inspiration for local builders and developers. If they pick up on the use of cobblestone as a facade element, it could help create a distinctive local architectural style. Even though cobblestone construction is associated with Rochester, it would be pretty much unique in this area.

By the way, this house is for sale at a price of $470,000. The listing says the building is eligible for $70,000 in rehabilitation/deconversion grants, which I don’t think is enough to persuade anybody to convert it into a single family home. After the grants, they would still be paying $400,000, which is excessive for the neighborhood. The city should consider increasing the grant for a house of special historic significance, such as this. Otherwise it will remain a dilapidated apartment building.

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