- PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
- The Stone-Tolan house in Brighton was built in two phases. The rear portion was built in 1792 and the front farmhouse in 1805.
The Landmark Society of Western New York plans to use a $9,500 preservation grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and the Preservation League of NYS for a building conditions report on the Stone-Tolan Historic Site on East Avenue, just outside the city of Rochester.
“It’s a special building and everything that’s possible should be done to keep it alive,” said Mary Jo Lanphear, Brighton’s town historian.
The report will focus on the house and look at other buildings on the historic homestead, such as the shed, smokehouse, and outhouse.
Cindy Boyer, director of public programs for the Landmark Society of Western New York, likened the process to a routine physical. The idea is to identify problems that may not be apparent.
The document will also help the Landmark Society, which is the property’s steward, to make any needed repairs using materials that are period appropriate and to justify the repairs to potential funders, Boyer said.
“So we try to avoid deferred maintenance, but there can be issues that we may not see just by our casual observation,” Boyer said. “Even with our experience with the building, we need the experts who can come in and look at the structure, look at the materials, tell us what issues they see.”
Bero Architecture prepared the last building condition report on the site in 1986 and it has overseen several repair and restoration projects since. The firm has been hired to prepare the new building condition report.
The homestead traces its origins to Orringh Stone, an early settler in Brighton who first built a house on the property in 1792 and added a two-story, Federal-style farmhouse in 1805. Soon after the first part of the house was built — now the rear of the building — Stone and his wife, Elizabeth, started taking in travelers in need of a place to stay. The later addition included a tavern with a large fireplace, taproom, tables and chairs, and room for cots.
- PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE
- The tavern at the Stone-Tolan house was a rest spot for the travelers, land buyers, and merchants that passed through the area.
The tavern — about the size of a dining room in a modest house and purportedly the first to be established between Canandaigua and the Genesee River falls — was pivotal in Rochester’s development as America’s first boom town. It provided lodging to the merchants, farmers, and land buyers that traveled the nearby routes.
One of the early guests at the tavern was the Duke of Orleans Louis Phillipe, a noble who supported the French Revolution and a move to a constitutional monarchy. He traveled the United States from 1796 to 1800, during a period of the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror. For nearly 20 years starting in 1830, he was king of the French.
The tavern also served as a meeting place for the growing settlement of Brighton. The town’s first officials meeting was held there on April 5, 1814, and during the proceedings the town’s first officers were selected. At the meeting, the new town officials established a pound for loose livestock and put a $5-a-pelt bounty on wolves.
The present-day Stone-Tolan site covers four acres and includes an apple orchard, garden plot, and educational center. The tavern has been furnished to show how it would have looked in the years between 1790 and 1820. Second- and fourth-grade students regularly tour the site as part of their lessons on community and government.
“It’s important to keep that appearance and to preserve those furnishings ... to provide another sense of history to the children and the grown-ups that come to see the place,” Lanphear said.
For Boyer, the Stone-Tolan provides a reminder that Brighton was not always a suburb, especially in the way the farmhouse contrasts with the more modern houses and apartment buildings nearby.
But it also offers an entry point into aspects of local and American history, particularly the birth and evolution of the country’s governments. For example, when the town of Brighton was formed, only white, male landowners could vote, Boyer noted.
“It’s a good reminder of how our democracy has changed, how it is still changing,” Boyer said. “And it’s a good placekeeper of what was happening in the past so that we don’t forget.”
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at [email protected].