Friday, July 10, 2009

Vanished Rochester: The Butts-Swayze House

The northwest corner of Main and University (formerly Fifth Street) has been the site of a gasoline service station for nearly forty years now, but for more than a century before that, it was the location of the Butts-Swayze house, a part of the village landscape since before the Civil War.

The exact date that the Federal-style residence was built is unknown, but a remark by Lyman Wilcox that was published in the Rochester Era in 1909 related that Alonzo Rosier, who owned the property from 1837 to 1853, originally built the house. In any case, it was sold in 1859 to William Swayze, who operated a livery stable located immediately west of the house on Fifth St. (University Drive). When Swayze died in 1887, he left the house to his wife, who in turn, left it to her son, Dr. Philip C. Butts. After the death of Dr. Butts in 1914, the house passed to his daughter, Edna, but was sold in 1919 and remodeled for use as business space and apartments.

Shearer's Barber and Beauty Shoppe was located in the Butts-Swayze house for about four decades; the building also housed Kremer Electric in the late 1930s, and the Rochester Camera Shop in the 1950s and 1960s. I can remember going with my Dad to the camera shop to buy film for my first camera (a Kodak Instamatic 44 that used the 126 cartridge).

The Butts-Swayze house was razed on April 13, 1970, at which time it was somewhere between 117 and 133 years old. An automotive service station replaced the stately home on the northwest corner of Main and University.

Photo: This view of the Butts-Swayze house by Clarence Whitbey was taken not long before the house was torn down in 1970. The camera is looking east along W. University Drive toward the intersection of Main. The gas station shown in the background on the east side of Main is now the location of Knapp's Donut Shop. My thanks to Clarence Whitbey for sharing the photo.

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