Chartered in 1799 as the First Great Western Turnpike, the nearly 400-mile-long highway known as State Route 20 features some of the most outstanding architecture in New York State. One of the best examples is the cobblestone residence at 1160 Routes 5 and 20 in the town of Seneca, just west of Geneva. Built in 1848 by successful farmer Thomas Barron, the house took two years to complete at a cost of $2,100. The large limestone lintel over the front door has “T. Barron 1848” incised across the front. The perfectly matched, red cobblestones came from Sodus on Lake Ontario, making the trip in wagons that hauled Barron wheat to this port. One of the most imposing examples of a cobblestone-built Greek Revival house, this landmark building was described as “one of the most luxurious of cobblestone houses” in a 1980 Americana magazine. Cobblestone buildings are works of art created by pioneer craftsmen in the middle third of the 19th century. Using fieldstones for the actual structural walls of the buildings, they added a veneer of rounded native stones for the exterior finish, thus creating a form of folk art that was without precedent in America
For most of the 20th century, this house was owned by the Gracey family, who were excellent stewards of this unique property. Their respect for the house resulted in the preservation of its many original details, including fluted Ionic columns, original window sash, hand-wrought hardware, wide plank floors, Greek Revival mantels, and distinctive plaster moldings.
As you enter the house from the main portico, you step into a spacious, light-filled entrance hall that is the epitome of Greek Revival design with its robust moldings, and handsome staircase with original newel post and railing. To the left is the living room that features an elaborate Greek Revival mantelpiece with later 19th-century tile hearth. Both the living room and adjacent study are highlighted by the distinctive Greek Revival window moldings and paneling. Across the hall, the dining room retains its original fireplace mantel, a plaster ceiling medallion and window moldings. Adjacent to the dining room is the master bedroom, full bathroom, and laundry. An enclosed rear porch and kitchen with contemporary stone flooring and pantry complete the first-floor layout.
The second story features four bedrooms and a full bathroom, as well as a second staircase that connects the kitchen/pantry area with the upper-story of the house. Hardwood floors, paneled doors with original hardware, and numerous windows with views of the 12-acre site add charm to this part of the residence.
The house offers many opportunities, including commercial/residential use. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it could be eligible for the 20% Investment Tax Credit for rehabilitating income-producing properties. The house includes gas-fueled, hot-water, baseboard heating. There is a septic system and public water. Although in the town of Seneca, residents attend City of Geneva schools. With a picturesque site landscaped with mature trees and flowering shrubs, this 2,834-square-foot house has an asking price of $299,000. Taxes are $5,850. To learn more, contact Sue Ellen Balluff, Seneca Cayuga Properties at (315) 568-9404.
Cynthia Howk is the Architectural Research Coordinator at the Landmark Society of Western New York.