A Good Steward–Update on the Campbell-Whittlesey House

by Carolyn Bick & Cindy Boyer

It’s been awhile since we’ve updated our readers on the status of the Campbell-Whittlesey House so here’s a report on the newest steward of the house:

The Landmark Society is thrilled to announce that it has sold the Campbell-Whittlesey House to Landmark Society member Dr. Ronald Yearwood, who will be the latest in a line of good stewards for this 175 year old structure. The house was a private home from 1836 to 1937. In 1937 The Landmark Society saved and restored the house and operated it as a museum until June of 2010. It was decided to list the former museum in August 2010 as a result of several years of strategic planning and a refocused mission to promote preservation and planning practices that foster healthy, livable communities. Maintaining a static museum was no longer congruent to this mission.

The return of this building to private hands will ensure that this home remains a living and viable resource. The sale was accompanied by protective covenants that will ensure preservation of the home’s significant architectural details. These covenants will remain a part of the deed during Dr. Yearwood’s ownership, and will pass on to future owners, giving perpetual legal protection.

Dr. Yearwood is in the process of completing his residency in general psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He was born in Venezuela and raised in the country of Grenada. He attended college in England where he received his master’s degree in system analysis, design, and project management before embarking on his medical career. A full national scholarship awarded by the government of Grenada allowed him the opportunity to pursue his medical career in Rochester.

Dr. Yearwood proudly holding a ceramic model of the house.

Before deciding to finish his studies and settle in Rochester, Dr. Yearwood toured the U.S.A. He decided the location and the wonderful quality of life in Rochester was the most attractive option. Dr. Yearwood told us “I had no intention at all of buying a house. But then I saw information about the sale on the internet. I couldn’t believe what a unique opportunity this was. I saw it as a way to become part of and support the local community.” After the sale closed, he was struck with the enormity of the responsibility to safeguard and ensure the proper stewardship of one of Rochester’s oldest homes.

Dr. Yearwood comes from a family of architects, interior designers, and art historians. His mother is an art historian in London and will be consulting on this project. Dr. Yearwood will also call upon the expert advice from the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the Corn Hill Neighbors Association, and— of course—The Landmark Society.

Dr. Yearwood is proceeding very carefully. “I recognize this is not a project that will be completed quickly, and I am very comfortable with that.” He is working on a master plan that will proceed in stages, starting from the outside of the building with needed paint and repairs to the building envelope, then gradually proceeding to interior work. He expects the major work will take place over a timeline of 3 to 5 years. Dr. Yearwood is very familiar with long term goals: he still has 18 months to complete his residency.

Dr. Yearwood’s intention at this time is to keep the Campbell-Whittlesey House as a private residence. Future plans include locating his private practice in the building, Corn Hill Center for Healthy Living and Healthy Minds. Some of the additional space will be used to incorporate art, pet and humor therapy as part of the services offered to his clients.

The Landmark Society appreciates his passion and investment in the Campbell-Whittlesey House. Our whole community is incredibly fortunate to keep this property in such thoughtful and caring hands.

Adapted from the Fall 2011 issue of Landmarks, a quarterly publication of The Landmark Society.

All Good Things…

Campbell-Whittlesey House

Campbell - Whittlesey House

Is it really true, that “All good things must come to an end?”

You might think that being in the historic preservation field means that we want all good things – especially architectural and historic good things – to last forever.

Perhaps you wonder how an organization that supports “preservation” would be closing one of its finest architectural structures.

On July 1, 2010, the Campbell – Whittlesey House will cease operations as a museum. A month after that, it’s anticipated that the property will be placed on the market.

Campbell – Whittlesey was the impetus for the start of The Landmark Society. It was purchased in 1937 by Helen Ellwanger to save it from destruction. Miss Ellwanger and others formed “The Society for the Preservation of Landmarks in Western New York.”

How can we sell what so many have put their hearts and souls and pocketbooks into? Are we betraying the trust of the past 73 years?

I don’t think we are.

Their goal was to see an architecturally significant structure saved from demolition. At that time, the accepted procedure was to make such a structure into a house museum. But even at the start, their intention to form a historic preservation group, not a museum organization, was clear. They didn’t name the group “The C-W House” – the used the term “Landmarks” – plural.

But what about over 60 years of operation as a museum?

Yes – that is a good thing that is coming to an end. There is some sadness attached to this for many of us – myself included.

Why wouldn’t there be? It’s only natural when a good thing comes to an end. When a vacation is over. When a child leaves home. When a life well-lived ends. When the cherry blossoms fall.

The Japanese celebrate that moment of inevitable change by holding “hanami” – flower viewing parties under the cherry blossoms. They enjoy their beauty, but also acknowledge a belief called “mono no aware.” Literally translated this means “sensitivity to things” – an awareness of the ephemeral nature of all things in life. The Japanese believe the cherry blossoms are more beautiful because they last such a very short time.

Of course – you must first recognize the beauty or goodness of something, if you are to celebrate with a gentle sadness its passing.

Please join us on Saturday, June 19th th celebrate the “good thing” of Campbell – Whittlesey serving as a museum for many generations; at 123 South Fitzhugh in historic Corn Hill. We’ll be offering complimentary visits between 1 and 3 pm, refreshments, and a chance to share a memory about Campbell – Whittlesey to be saved in our archives. Click here for more details.

Yes – all good things must come to an end.

But it’s what comes next that helps us face the changes in our lives.

The end of vacation leads to refreshed body and spirit. The child leaves home to become an adult member of society. The life well-lived leaves a legacy through family and friends. The blossoms yield to the cherries.

Campbell – Whittlesey will continue beyond its function as a museum, its architectural integrity protected by legal covenants. We don’t know yet exactly what its new life will be – but our on-going watch will insure that it is cared for, so it may survive to be a part of our cityscape for many years – and generations – to come.

Posted by Director of Museums and Education Cindy Boyer