Meaghan M. McDermott
Staff writer for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

(October 3, 2007) — BRIGHTON — When the town of Brighton purchased the old home at 1341 Westfall Road in 1997 as part of a land deal to make a new park, officials didn’t have much hope the house could be saved.

“It had been vacant for many years, and vandals had gotten in and destroyed the walls,” said Jerry LaVigne, the town’s director of parks and recreation. “Never, beyond my wildest dreams, did I think we could get it back to the way it was before.”

But after a communitywide drive that started in 2004 to restore the property, the town celebrated a grand opening of the Buckland House on Sept. 8. Total repairs to the property cost just over $400,000.The house is “a significant Brighton landmark that tells the story of our town’s evolution from farming and brick-making to a thriving residential community,” said Supervisor Sandra Frankel.

The Brighton Rotary Club was instrumental in the building’s renovation. Beginning in 2004, the club raised more than $100,000 for the restoration project.

“Rotary International was 100 years old in 2005 and had asked every club around the world to find a community project that would make a difference, and to call it their centennial project,” said Peter Schwarz, past president of the Rotary Club, characterizing the local project as “kind of ambitious.

“Some clubs put up street clocks and things like that, but we thought this was a good way to get started.”

The Rotary Club sold commemorative bricks, and held golf tournaments and gala parties to raise money.

“We managed to pull it off,” said Schwarz.

State Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, found $150,000 in grants to fund the project, and Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, provided an additional $50,000 in grant money.

The town paid for the rest of the work.

According to town officials, the original one-room brick house dated from 1820, the same year that Brighton’s Buckland family began its brick-manufacturing business.

The property was owned by the Rochester Orphan Asylum from 1911 to 1939 and was purchased by cattle-raiser Max Gonsenhauser in the 1940s.

The town acquired the 35-acre Gonsenhauser property in 1997 and developed the land into Buckland Park.

Renovations included replacing portions of the structure’s walls, repairing plaster, cleaning years of old paint off the original brick building, replacing clapboards, installing new electrical and heating systems, installing sprinklers and more.

The Allyn’s Creek Garden Club donated more than $40,000 in landscape plantings, and Rotarians volunteered to paint the interior of the house.

“We kind of had fun with that,” said Schwarz.

LaVigne said plans are to make the Buckland House an interactive history center and museum. Already, it features some period furniture, such as a rope bed and a dresser set, and the town is seeking donations of additional pieces.

LaVigne said the recreation department would like to partner with other groups, such as Historic Brighton, to offer educational programs and special events at the house.

The building will be named the Brighton Rotary History Center at the Buckland House.

MCDERMOT@DemocratandChronicle.com