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Andy Wolfe: Champion of Pittsford preservation

Local History Published 5/9/2007

A small booklet entitled "A Talk With Andy" written by Joe Lee says that pamphlet is a gift to the Pittsford community. That's what many of us think of Andy Wolfe - as a gift to the Pittsford community and the preservation efforts that have been completed.

In December 1964, Andy Wolfe purchased the Phoenix Building. It had stood at Pittsford's Four Corners, bruised, burned and empty for a number of years and was in very poor condition. That important building was in jeopardy, but Andy, a true preservationist, could see its architectural worth and its value to Pittsford Village. Pittsford was being threatened by "progress". Developers were vying for lush farmlands and merchants were salivating for property to purchase and demolish in which to house fast food restaurants and trendy shops.

Mr. Wolfe went to work almost immediately to begin the restoration of the Phoenix. It had been very remarkable for its time - a large 3 story structure with an elegant third floor ballroom. It was the largest commercial building in all of Monroe County when this area was still considered a "frontier".

The ballroom was a considered a priority to Andy and he spent a great deal of effort in trying to find the correct colors and effects. That room had been divided into many small rooms and the lovely elliptical ceiling had been almost obliterated. Finding pieces of plaster from the original ballroom and bits of original paint, made it much easier to restore the room to its former grandeur complete with fireplaces at either end.

One day, while sitting at his desk on the 2nd floor, he was horrified to see a crane about to begin an expansion of the unsightly gas station that was snuggled almost against the north side of the large brick building. Fortunately, Andy, with all of his contacts, knew the correct person to call to arrange for the purchase of that property and get that station moved. The space left has allowed the delightful little park on the north side where the Holiday tree is located, as well as the installation of the beautiful leaded glass door.

After all restoration was completed, there was a party to show off the newly created space for the offices of the Brighton-Pittsford Post. A very large crowd attended - all eager to see what could be done to a tired, distressed, burned out old building. Many residents were heard remarking that, "we ought to be doing more of this kind of thing in Pittsford".

A great deal of interest was generated by that open house and Historic Pittsford was incorporated a few months later on February 24. 1967 with a membership of 57 interested citizens. From the beginning, the organization was "committed to the preservation of Pittsford's rich heritage, the special character, and the sense of place it provides." Today there are over 500 members who help continue Andy Wolfe's crusade for protecting and preserving the town and village's architectural heritage.

Andy was instrumental in aiding in the relocation of the Little House, which was also in jeopardy of being razed. He was able to persuade Mr. Fletcher Steele to make space available on his land on the other side of Monroe Avenue and allow Mr. Burdett to construct a driveway into his establishment. The superb booklet entitled Architecture Worth Saving in Pittsford, Elegant Village was also the brainchild of Mr. Wolfe. Many hands contributed to it and it remains today, reprinted through the generosity of a member of Historic Pittsford, available at the offices of Historic Pittsford.

Historic Pittsford, and the community as a whole, should be forever grateful to the perceptive vision of our champion, Andrew Wolfe.