Fading 1851 Brockport hotel building to be resurrected as a Bed & Breakfast

By on April 16, 2018
This stately building at the intersection of Main Street and Park Avenue has been a Brockport landmark for nearly 170 years.  Since 1851, it has changed ownership many times as a hotel, a nursing home, a private home, and a multi-family rental. In an estimated two more years, it will open as a Bed & Breakfast. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

This stately building at the intersection of Main Street and Park Avenue has been a Brockport landmark for nearly 170 years. Since 1851, it has changed ownership many times as a hotel, a nursing home, a private home, and a multi-family rental. In an estimated two more years, it will open as a Bed & Breakfast. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

The large brick house at the intersection of Main Street and Park Avenue in Brockport is an imposing sight.  Stopping at the traffic light, the viewer sees the faded glory of a stately old two-story building. With remnant flecks of white paint on the bricks and plywood replacing glass in the belvedere, it is wedged on a pie-shaped lot created by Park Avenue and Fair Street.  It was built in 1851 and became Porter’s Hotel serving passengers on the new railroad which came through Brockport in 1852.

The neglected structure seems a contradiction in Brockport which calls itself “The Victorian Village on the Canal” and boasts many restored historic homes.  But inside, Valerie Ciciotti and Kevin McCarthy are bringing the historic structure back to life. Having purchased the building in November, 2017, they are undertaking an extensive do-it-yourself rehab project, estimated to take over two years, turning it into a Bed & Breakfast inn.

The couple has a record as hands-on advocates for restoring historic homes in the village. “There are seven homes we have purchased and rehabbed in the past 19 years,” Valerie said. “We also have helped rehab five other homes in the past five years,” adding that all but one of the 12 homes are located in Brockport.  “All of the homes are at least 100 years old.”

Community support

To garner financial support, Valerie prepared an extensive marketing statement for seven potential local investors whom she invited to a presentation.  The business plan outlines a private financing opportunity with investors being paid back over three years.  Many facts were provided regarding assessed value, the condition of the home and mechanics, and projected income based on current lodging locations in Brockport, and unique qualities of the projected B&B.  Their record of refurbishing historic Brockport homes also was given.

Valerie Ciciotti and Kevin McCarthy stand in a first-floor room of the 1851 building which they are renovating to become a Bed & Breakfast. The room will be returned to its original purpose as a sitting room. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Valerie Ciciotti and Kevin McCarthy stand in a first-floor room of the 1851 building which they are renovating to become a Bed & Breakfast. The room will be returned to its original purpose as a sitting room. Photo by Dianne Hickerson

Valerie and Kevin were pleased that their guests unanimously committed to provide the purchase capital in the form of a mortgage and in addition provided capital for renovations.

The collaboration of community in this project is further shown in a grant of $7,000 from the Greater Brockport Development Corporation. Jo Matela, president of the GBDC Board of Directors, said, “Our board congratulates Kevin and Valerie on receiving this grant and wishes them well in bringing this historic home back to life so it can again welcome visitors to our historic village.”  She also affirmed the grant as an example of GBDC’s commitment to “looking for ways to fund important and lasting contributions to our community through economic development.”

The building’s changing uses: Past to Future

Built in 1851, Porter’s Hotel changed owners many times until purchased as a private home in 1865. The home was sold and re-sold to many families, until 1944 when it became the first Cupola Nursing Home. In 1950, it became a family home again, and eventually turned into rental units decades ago.

A recent tour of the home with Valerie and Kevin revealed large original rooms divided into multi-family apartments, one downstairs for the owner, two for renters upstairs, plus one apartment in the garage.

The couple’s plan for a Bed & Breakfast includes two restored first-floor sitting rooms in the front.  A guest room with private bath in the back will be adapted for physically-challenged guests. The second floor will have four guest rooms with private baths in the front and Valerie’s hostess quarters in the back.  The apartment in the garage remains.

Valerie, as live-in hostess, will operate the B&B, greeting guests and serving meals.

The work to be done

Two major tasks are under way.  One is in the living space, removing room partitions and the false ceilings to open the rooms to their original size, including 10-foot ceilings.  Another undertaking is repair of the infrastructure.

Kevin detailed the problems with the brick wall bowing out in front.  It’s a “three-brick-structure” home, meaning there are really three integrated walls holding the structure, not a brick façade. Rods inside attached to “Rosetta plates” outside are supposed to hold in the walls in place.  These have failed and must be replaced. The wall will be stabilized but cannot be fully corrected. A mason will repair foundation which has eroded in places due to poor drainage. “Once the yard grade, the gutters and the foundation are secure,” Kevin said, “our historically-sensitive mason will point up the terracotta brick and fix larger cracks.” Valerie said bricks cannot be sandblasted; the speckled white paint will remain as a patina. All of the plumbing and wiring will be replaced also.

“Who are these people?”

Kevin McCarthy and Valerie Ciciotti live in an older Brockport home they restored.  They also own six other houses in Brockport as rentals.

Kevin McCarthy.  Kevin was an instrument mechanic at Kodak for 36 years.  He went to Delhi Tech in a carpentry program right out of high school. His carpentry skills are essentially self-taught over many years of refurbishing 12 local houses. He works one day a week making custom cabinets for a cabinet company.  “I love the neatness of an old house,” he said, “the trim, the craftsmanship you don’t see much today.”  As an advocate for restoring historic homes, Kevin has been chairman of the Brockport Historic Preservation Board for the last two years and a member for six years.

Valerie Ciciotti. Valerie’s background seems to be a good preparation for operating the coming Bed & Breakfast.  Her roots in a family-owned business, Ciciotti’s Music Store, spanning three generations, taught her first-hand the importance of providing excellent customer service.

The range of her experience in the hospitality industry — from restaurant server to dining room manager, to assistant to the maître d’ at the exclusive Genesee Valley Club in Rochester — provided her with years of know-how in food preparation and dining service.  She has worked as a nanny over the past dozen years, caring not only for families but for their households as well.  Valerie served as a trustee on the Brockport Village Board from July 2013 to December 2015.  The combination of all of these experiences, she said, have honed many skills necessary to run the B&B business and to provide that guests are well cared for and feel at home.

“Kevin and I are grateful for this unique opportunity to partner with the community in preserving this home,” Valerie said.  “We feel this is a natural progression for us to be caretakers of this home and to preserve it for future generations.  We sincerely appreciate not only those that made financial contributions but all that gave of their time and talents.  We look forward to a long and happy partnership between this home and the community.”

(Note:  Progress of the project can be followed at www.facebook.com/205-Park

(Note:  Thanks to Carol Hannan for detailed history of the house, summarized here.)

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