Beatrice W. Sill House

Tour Year: 2018
Year Built: 1878
Street: South Fitzhugh St

History begins before you even walk into this remarkable house. The iron steps leading up to the front door came from the long-gone Eastman Building, once part of the downtown campus for the Rochester Institute of Technology. The newel posts at the bottom of the stairs carry letters that were the emblem of the Rochester Atheneaum (Nathaniel Rochester helped found it), forerunner to the Mechanics Institute (Henry Lomb helped found it), forerunner to R.I.T.

The original owner appears to have been Beatrice Witherspoon Sill, a widow with three children who shows up at this address in 1878. Her husband Ebenezer E. Sill, who died in 1875, had built a highly successful business, the Sill Stove Company, after getting a patent that improved the efficiency of cast iron stoves used for heating and cooking. Within hours of the 1871 Chicago Fire, the benevolent Mr. Sill sent two of his commercial stoves by train to help feed the many residents left homeless. Each stove working day and night, it was reported, could do the cooking for ten thousand persons. “In feeding multitudes nothing like it was ever invented.”

Last year, a young professional couple, the Semlers, acquired this house. Acacia is a chemist for Bausch and Lomb (Henry would be pleased) and Dylan is an astrophysicist and software engineer. They admit they don’t have the furnishings to fill a four-story home, but in a short time they have already put their stamp on many of the rooms—a top floor apartment is nearly complete—while appreciating the home’s long history with its many adaptions installed by previous owners, such as the large round window in the back room overlooking a koi pond.

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