Preserve America Community:
Pittsford, New York
The Village of Pittsford (population 1,500) is located in western New York State. This small village, with an area of approximately three quarters of a square mile, has been remarkably successful in maintaining its distinctive small town character and quality of life despite the rapid growth of the surrounding suburban area.
First settled in 1789, Pittsford prospered as a local trading center due to its location on the primary road between the mills at the Genesee Falls in Rochesterville and Canandaigua, the region's oldest and largest town. In 1816 Samuel Hildreth established the area's first stagecoach line, eventually putting Pittsford at the center of a large stage network covering much of western New York. With the 1822 opening of the Erie Canal, the village grew rapidly, as speculators, contractors and merchants profited from the canal trade. The arrival of the railroad in the 1840’s added to the prosperity, and the surviving architectural legacy of fine 19th and 20th century buildings reflects the viability of Pittsford as a commercial center.
In the late 1800s, wealthy Rochesterians established large country estates in and around Pittsford, beginning its transformation from a farming community into a suburb. A trolley line and the arrival of the automobile brought Pittsford into easy commuting distance to Rochester, which lead to significant population growth in the 1950s.
Pittsford’s award-wining Comprehensive Master Plan addresses opportunities for preservation of local heritage while encouraging compatible development and growth. Most of Pittsford is included in one local preservation district and three individual properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of them is the 1807 Phoenix hotel, built in anticipation of the Canal opening. In addition to serving as a hotel for 100 years and then a restaurant and tavern for another 50, this property was a stop on the Underground Railroad, connecting with a cavern which lies under Pittsford. The Village also preserves an historic rural agribusiness complex along the Canal, including a coal tower, flour mill, grain elevator, and warehouses.
Adaptive reuse of historic structures along the Erie Canal has created a vibrant commercial center. The interesting architecture, the towpath setting, recreational facilities, and new amenities added for improving pedestrian and bicycle safety have enhanced the area in recent years. These canal improvement projects have benefited business owners, recreational boaters, residents and tourists alike.The volunteers of Historic Pittsford underwrite free consultations with architects specializing in historic preservation for local property owners, encourage the preservation of nearby farms, educate the community about local heritage, and maintain the 1819 Little House. Restored as a mid-19th century lawyer’s office in the heart of Pittsford, the Little House hosts school classes and scouts who visit as part of their local history curriculum and badge requirements, and displays a pictorial history of the village.
For more information
Village of Pittsford Walking Tour: www.villageofpittsford.org/history
Updated August 19, 2009