The Phoenix Hotel was undoubtedly the largest
and most imposing structure in the Village prior to the completion
of the Library. Now that building is larger (and more modern)
but still in keeping with the architecture and design of its much older
neighbors at the Four Corners.
Architecturally, the Phoenix building can
be classified as Federal style. Steeped gables, double chimneys and
elliptical arches over doors and windows emphasize this. If you look
at the old buildings in the village of Pittsford, you will see these
features on many of the structures.
Pittsford was first settled in 1789 in what
was then Ontario County and had one of the County's first taverns;
located at the site of what is now known as the "Phoenix Building".
Before this current imposing edifice was built, a frame building stood
there whose owner and host was Glover Perrin. In 1814 fire destroyed
the inn and John Acer, who built the current structure a few years
later, purchased the property. Included were wide porches and a spring
floor ballroom on the third floor. Named the Phoenix Hotel, it served
as a hostelry for about 150 years.
Pittsford was a stop on the stagecoach line
from Canandaigua to Rochesterville by 1816. Unpaved roads which became
deep with mud and holes in spring and winter made for slow travel and
almost every community had an inn or hotel in which weary, dusty passengers
could get food, drink, and lodging. The tavern was also usually the
liveliest spot in town. By 1825, the number of stage lines had increased
with two from Canandaigua and one from Palmyra. A 60-foot horse barn
was added and connected to the Phoenix Hotel in the rear in order to
serve more patrons and stages.
When DeWitt Clinton was surveying the route
for his "Big Ditch", (the Erie Canal) he stopped at the Phoenix. He
wrote a not very complimentary, but graphic account in his day book. "We
drew lots for the choice of beds, and it turned out in my favor. But
I chose the worst bed in the house. I was unable to sleep on account
of fleas, etc." When the Marquis de Lafayette made his grand tour
of the country in 1825, he left the Erie Canal in Rochesterville and
was taken by carriage to Canadaigua, stopping at the Phoenix on route.
Daniel Webster was also a guest at the Phoenix, and in 1837, a party
including some of the Vanderbilts of New York City stopped at the hotel.
The hotel changed ownership a number of
times in its long life, but always remained a tavern of sorts. In 1927,
new owners were George and H.L. Tyler who had been proprietors of the
Hotel Despatch in East Rochester. They renamed the established Tyler's
Inn. We have a wonderful old menu with prices of meals and liquid libations
not exceeding $5.00 for Tyler's Special Club Steak Dinner Deluxe (for
two). Printed on the flyleaf is this charming poem: "The
House is Yours – Its portals open wide, And welcome you to all inside.
Dear friend and guest, Enter in peace and rest – The House is Yours."
In 1933, it was sold again and remodeled
extensively. It opened as The Old Heidelbert, a Bavarian Inn. It featured "Otto
Thurn and His Bavarian Entertainers, with Rudy". There were 20 musicians
and dancers dressed in Bavarian costumes. A remote radio line was installed
and the group was a regular feature on WHAM radio.
It was a very popular and successful operation
until World War II when being associated with anything German was not
good for business. In 1942 the name was changed to the Pittsford Inn.
During all of these changes, there were
also changes to the exterior of the building. A beautiful veranda was
removed, entrances changed, chimneys removed, and the exterior painted
white. In 1956 the corner lot was leased to a gas station, which was
built against the north side of the building, completely covering that
entrance. Two disastrous fires occurred and the building stood empty
and unused. There were rumors of destroying this historic building
until 1964. It became the property of Andrew Wolfe, owner and editor
of Wolfe Publications.
Almost immediately renovation began. Many
features were retained and some that had been changed were restored.
The tall chimneys were rebuilt and the white paint on the exterior
bricks was carefully removed to restore the original appearance. The
lease for the gas station was not renewed and it was demolished. A
period doorway was installed on the north side and the third floor
again looked like a ballroom. The building changed from being a hostelry
to housing the headquarters for Wolfe Publications.
Pittsford is fortunate to have been able
to preserve this historic and architectural treasure, now owned by
Michael J. Newcomb .The building, according to historian, Paul Malo, "must
be recognized as a genuine monument of the earliest architecture of
Western New York". We are, indeed, blessed to have it located
prominently on the Village Four Corners, setting the tone for the charm
and ambience of the rest of our community.