Skip to main content

Augustus Elliott Home

The articles in the Brighton-Pittsford Post written by Brighton experts regarding the "Brighton Bricks" have been very enlightening. Pittsford also had a brickyard that supplied materials for some of the earlier homes near the center of the village. That brickyard was located in "Lusk Hollow" near the corner of Stone Road, & South Main Street. That yard contained the type of clay needed for making good, substantial bricks and was operated by Elihu Doud.

The brick house, about which this article is written, sits well back from the road and is currently adjacent to St. Louis Roman Catholic Church. Augustus Elliott who operated a general store in Pittsford where the building that used to be the Methodist Church and is now Pittsford Picture Framing built the home about 1814. He also operated a distillery located across the street from his house. It was reported that Mr. Elliott made a great success of his business during the War of 1812 and reputedly sold large stores of whisky to the government for army supplies. The house which he built was supposedly for his bride to be, Jane Penfield. Jane jilted Elliott shortly before the wedding and it was reported that he was so despondent that he committed suicide. That legend has been proven untrue, for he left his beautiful home and moved to Pennsylvania.

Few changes have been made to the exterior of the home. A "herringbone" design can be noticed when the building is closely studied. At each gable end there are four chimneys very similar to the Phoenix building which leads many to believe that this house and the Phoenix were designed by the same architect and built by the same builder. Steel rods were secured at each end of the home to make sure it stood straight and tall for many years.

Minor changes have been made to the interior. The home is entered through the beautiful doorway with its fan light, into a spacious hall, where a gracefully curving stairway with smooth balustrade of mahogany leads to the upstairs rooms. The mantles over the numerous fireplaces are Adams in design and were depicted in 1904 in the "American Architect".

Elliott sold the home to Judge Sampson who, in turn, sold to Mr. James Guernsey, of Lima, one of the first preachers in the community. Mr. Guernsey installed an elaborate system of water supply from "Osgoodby's Hill", about where the south end of Eastview Terrace is located. He also had a very successful business of exporting ginseng that he grew in the gardens behind the house. The property extended to Rand Place and Locust Street.

The home had many owners from the time of Elliott. It eventually sold to the Hargous Family, members of New York City's "Four Hundred" and used it principally for a summer home. This house is often referred to as "The Hargous House".

In 1921, Mr. William Briggs and his family purchased the home. At his death, his son, Mr. Theodore Briggs inherited. Theodore was the City Manager for a time and then president of Lawyer's Cooperative in Rochester.

St. Louis Church acquired the house and grounds in 1955 and turned the home into a Parish House next to the newly erected church. It has been used as a school, a library, a convent, and now a parish house. The home is still beautiful and well cared for and stands as a special landmark in the Village.

Augustus Elliott House History

Mr. Augustus Elliott came to Pittsford in 1810. A man of some means, he built a store at the corner of what is now Church Street and South Main Street. He also operated a distillery and an ashery at what is now #52 South Main Street. His distillery brought him a great deal of wealth and with it he began building this fine home for his future bride, named Jane Penfield.

The home was begun about 1812 and completed about 1815. Great care was taken with the design and the interior design and trim and much of the interior wood trim was brought from Albany. The large double parlor features beautiful fireplaces copied from 18th century homes. The windows over the front door and the woodwork in the foyer are all original. The archway in the foyer blends beautifully with the curve of the staircase and the floor above.

Everything had to be especially beautiful for Ms. Penfield, but unfortunately she jilted Mr. Elliott and later married a man named Daniel Brown for whom Brown's race in Rochester is noted. It has been said, (not truthfully, however,) that Augustus Elliott committed suicide. He was devastated by Jane Penfield's betrayal and he left Pittsford and went to Pennsylvania, where he died a lonely bachelor.

Other owners of the home included Mr. James Guernsey who was a very wealthy man as well as a very innovative one. He established a sort of "running water" system in his fine home. The grounds of this home were extensive, including all land to and including Rand Place, as well as the upper end of Eastview Terrace. From that elevation, Mr. Guernsey funneled water through a complicated series of pipes and troughs to bring water into the cistern in the home and from it would be pumped up to sinks in the kitchen. Not quite the system we have today, however.

Another thing for which Mr. Guernsey was noted was the amazing ginseng plants found on his property. He was widely known for this unusual herb and it was exported for a goodly amount of money to the Orient and to countries which used this spice in preparation of food.

When Mr. Guernsey's home became the home of the Briggs family from New York City, their gardener, not knowing that this was an expensive plant, destroyed all of the plants and the crop was lost.

The exterior of the house was constructed of bricks which were made in Elihu Doud's brickyard which was located in "Lusk's Hollow" near the Milepost. If you haven't already, do notice the "herring bone" pattern of bricks on the front of the home. Notice, also, the four chimneys which are very similar to the Phoenix building and we believe were designed by the same hand.

There are many rumors about this house and its connection with the Underground Railroad. It is reported that there was a room in the basement, small and dark, where runaway slaves were hidden. We have no documentation of this and so we can only conjecture what might have happened. It is also rumored that there are caverns under the village which may run from near this home on South Main Street to the four corners and a little way to the west and east. Again this cannot be verified, so it remains as "legend"