Restoration Watch: 878 Main Street
One of Buffalo's biotechnology stars is making significant progress restoring one of lower Main Street's last remaining mansions. ZeptoMetrix bought the fading structure at 878 Main Street from the City in December 2007 and will be relocating its corporate offices from its current building next door. The circa-1875 Hoyt Mansion (yes, that Hoyt; more on the history of the house tomorrow) had been abandoned for nearly two decades.
ZeptoMetrix, owned by partners James Hengst and County Executive Chris Collins, is spending upwards of $800,000 on the renovation of the three-story, 5,010 sq.ft. mansion. 878 Main was constructed in an architectural style known as Second Empire, a style that was popularized in Paris during the mid-1800s. The hallmark of a Second Empire building is the Mansard roof, which permitted complete use of the third floor as living space.
The exterior of the building is triple-layered structural brick that required only cosmetic masonry repairs, though the chimneys needed substantial work. The interior of the building has been gutted by a previous owner.
Some original trim work, crown moldings and doorways were salvaged from the building. These pieces will enable Zepto to create perfect replications throughout the entire building. Bloch Industries of Rochester is handling the interior work. All of the new interior woodwork will be crafted from solid cherry, and the exterior facing woodwork, solid mahogany. Bloch is well known as an interior specialist; the company has restored a number of mansions in exclusive areas, such as the Hamptons.
Proud owner James Hengst points out original hardware on one of the doors.
"All in all, things are shaping up. We've gone through the inside, replaced floor joists or supported the existing joists, added upright supports to interior walls that needed them and we're almost finished with all the subflooring," says James Hengst, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of ZeptoMetrix.
Each floor has 11 foot ceilings.
The building had no utilities; therefore, all new plumbing, electrical and HVAC will be installed. Work crews are currently busy framing new interior walls.
Past and future meet on the third floor.
"The brick work and stone work on the front of the building clearly shows that there was a large front porch on the building," says Hengst. "It may have been similar to the old Mark Twain House on Delaware Avenue."
Staining on brick work shows previous extent of porch.
The Twain House was four blocks away and was built in 1864, approximately ten years before the Hoyt Mansion. Now demolished, it was also a Second Empire design with many similarities to the Hoyt Mansion such as same window design, same dormer design, and similar slate roof according to Hengst (photo below).
If anyone should have a picture of the mansion, Hengst is interested in obtaining a copy.
"The problem is if I can't find a picture of the original front porch, I'm stuck with the ratty little thing that is there now," says Hengst. "The one that is there now was probably added in the 1940's when the building was converted into apartments. I ran across the 1942 plans for the apartment conversion and they had over 15 small apartments in the building."
ZeptoMetrix expects to move into its new offices in April. When complete, the company plans to have the building listed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings.
Get connected: ZeptoMetrix, 716.882.0920