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Old becomes new again as a treasure is restored


If you have taken a stroll along the Erie Canal in the village of Pittsford, you have probably noticed it. A dilapidated warehouse stands beside Schoen Place quiet and broken. Windows are cracked and missing. Layers of the exterior have worn away leaving only the original clapboards underneath. Since 1996, these buildings originally known as the "Pittsford Milling Company" built in 1882, have been empty and useless. Warehouses such as these are becoming obsolete in a day and age of retail. This is all about to change.

About a year ago, four local businessmen bought the mill complex, which includes a grain elevator, a warehouse, two silos and the mill building.

Fathers and sons Al Longwell and Todd Longwell and Michael Newcomb Sr. and Michael Newcomb Jr. of Schoen Place LLP, bought the buildings from previous owner Ted Zornow in the spring of 2004. Al Longwell said, "we are anxious to restore the building and did not want to see it torn down."

After a series of meetings with the Village Planning and Zoning Board and the Village Architectural Review Board, the owners have approval to move forward with their restoration project.

The first phase of the project will involve the main mill building closest to the road. This will be housing to all new office space. There are no current plans for any retail space.

The second phase will be the grain elevator. This also will be remodeled and transformed into office space.

Things are beginning to take shape already. A rear warehouse built in 1915 was demolished in order to allow for necessary parking for the new space. Some of the blocks from this building were salvaged for different projects, including a local porch restoration project within the village.

The two silos behind the warehouse were erected in 1920. Over the years, these silos have posed a safety hazard due to loose tiles. In 1925 a portion of the east silo actually gave way and subsequently spilled approximately 25,000 bushels of wheat.

Due to the continued safety hazard, the silos were also demolished. Although parts of the mill complex have undergone demolition, the main mill building will maintain its original look with six-over-six wood windows, beautiful stone foundation, all new clapboards and the original "Pittsford Milling Company, Inc." reprinted on the façade.

Michael Newcomb, Sr. said he feels that this project is "something that will help Schoen Place." These buildings make up a significant piece of Pittsford history as well as the landscape of the village canal front.

Restoring these buildings to their original state further improves the canal district in the village. This area has undergone substantial beautification due to a grant known as the LWRP or Local Waterfront Revitalization Project.

According to Remegia Mitchell, chairperson of the Village Planning and Zoning Board and member of the Comprehensive Plan Committee, this grant has occurred in four stages.

The Erie Canal Waterfront Improvements Project started with Phase I in 1994 and involved the Waterfront Park and Sam Patch pavilion.

Phase II was the fuel dock, lighting and landscaping and park expansion.

Phase III involved the pavilion and dock at the canal's east end, new curbs, landscaping and guardrails.

Mayor Bob Corby said he feels that this project is "a great opportunity to preserve part of village history." He also noted that this project presents a challenge because "the proposed use is different than its original use." The owners have run into slow-downs as a result.

The basement recently flooded because of an underground culvert to the canal. Additionally, due to the historic sensitivity of this building and the requirements set forth by the village to preserve buildings such as these, there have also been times when work has been stopped when plans were not to exact specification.

The owners hope to have the first phase of this project completed this fall.

Timeline:

  • Sept. 10, 1882 - mill building constructed and operated by Vought and Son
  •  Concrete block warehouse built in 1915
  • Tile silos built in 1920
  • Jan. 25, 1921 - Henry Perrigo bought the mill along with the Victor Flour Mill.
  • The mills began producing 1,000 barrels of wheat per day instead of the previous 20 barrels a day.
  • The sign on the outside of the mill was repainted to read "Victor Flour Mills"
  • Grain elevator built in 1939
  • Lathrop Green bought the property in 1945
  • In 1948 the mill was sold to the Muller Co. of Rotterdam, Holland.
  • Ted Zornow bought the mill for a grain and red kidney bean business in 1953
  • The last shipment of beans was shipped in the spring of 1996 and the mill was closed.
  • After eight years sitting vacant, Schoen Place LLP bought the building from the Zornow family with plans for restoration.