The Howe residence was built in 1869 in the distinctive Second Empire Style. Elements of this style on this house are the slate mansard roof, dormers with elaborate surrounds, and symmetrical facade.
The most interesting feature of the house is the unusual two story privy with its flared slate hipped roof and finial. This is one of very few examples of a a two story privy that still exists in the United States. The house is constructed of local brick with limestone lintels, water table, and foundation.
In 1899, Dr. Howe added a tasteful office addition to the west side of the house, faithfully maintaining the three decades old style in design and materials.
In comparing the house’s current appearance with historic views, it appears that a canted one story bay on the west side was removed, probably at the time of the office addition.
At the same time, the front porch to the residence was modernized in the popular Colonial Revival style with a heavy ashlar granite foundation, deep porch, and short round columns. The ghost marks of the original porch pilasters are still evident on the brick wall.
The interior of the house reveals a combination of 1869 and 1899 decorative elements. Most of the trim and doors and the stair railing are from the earlier period but the parlor on the west side is lavishly trimmed in quartered oak paneling, trim and mantle. As was custom, the upstairs personal family spaces are simply detailed.
The Howe House was purchased in February 1999 and donated to the Phelps Community Historical Society by an anonymous donor. Since the structure was in very poor state of repair it was decided to engage an expert to guide them though the renovation process.
Bero Associates, in Rochester, was hired to inspect the property and give recommendations for renovation, keeping the age of this 1869 Victorian building in mind. A very comprehensive report was issued and the community was approached to aid in funding the costs.
Over the two year period of this project the membership and community raised over $100,000 to do the work. Not only were the contractors involved but hundreds of hours of volunteers were used on this project.
The major work performed is as follows:
- Complete reconstruction of the front porch.
- Complete replacement of all roofs on the structure.
- Complete removal of rotted out northeast porch and reconstruction as per original details.
- Complete zoning of heating system.
- Pointing of two exterior walls with four more major surfaces to be done over the next four years.
- Rebuilding of west back porch.
- Refurbishing of all window shutters and installation of same. These had been stored in the attic and two story outhouse for over 75 years.
- Installed all new wooden soffits on the house.
- Painted exterior woodwork and shutters with recommended original colors.
- Replaced all sidewalks on the property.
- Installed an historic finial on the 2-story outhouse (the original was not found).
- Replaced the chimney that had deteriorated to the roof line.
- Repapered and painted throughout the house as needed.
- Rebuilt driveway with crushed stone.
- Installed fire and burglar alarm throughout the house.
- Rebuilt two parapets on the north roof and copper coated same.
- Rebuilt all porch brick piers in original fashion.