Corn Hill was once known as the “Ruffled Shirt District” for its wealth and large mansions. Only two of those great homes remain at their original location: The Hervey Ely House on Troup Street where The Daughters of the American Revolution reside today and The Campbell-Whittlesey House.
This Greek Revival home was built in 1835 by Benjamin Campbell who made a fortune in the milling business after the Erie Canal made Rochester America’s first boomtown. Seven years later, he lost a fortune in the same business when the industry moved west for those “amber waves of grain.” Thomas Rochester, son of our city’s founder, purchased the home and, for several years, rented it back to Campbell who, with his wife, ran it as a boarding house. In 1848, ownership passed to Frederick Whittlesey, a city attorney who once served as a justice on the New York State Supreme Court. When he died in 1851, his daughter took it over and it remained in the family until 1937.
By then the house was in danger. It was the Depression and the house was on the approach to the Troup-Howell Bridge, then under construction. Helen Ellwanger, fearing for its future, purchased it and then led the way in creating the Landmark Society to protect this house and other historic buildings like it.
For the next 73 years, the house survived as a history museum until, in 2010, it reverted to being a private home. The current owner Ron Yearwood has made many improvements to make it more livable in the twenty-First Century but he has also been respectful of the home’s long history by preserving original wall colors and architectural detail.