Albion couple has lovingly maintained one of county’s grandest homes

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 July 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – This house was built in 1893 at the corner of East State and Platt streets as the manse for the First Presbyterian Church in Albion.

ALBION – I have admired Phil and Harriette Greaser’s house in Albion for many years. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s part of the Courthouse Square District, which includes 34 sites on the National Register, including seven churches.

The Greasers were often out on the front porch together. I would wave, and compliment them on their house. They told me I could get a tour sometime.

I didn’t pursue a tour until Thursday. I wish I had tried harder sooner. Mr. Greaser passed away at age 88 on June 30.

The house has several oval-shaped windows that face the Courthouse and other historic sites in Albion. Mrs. Greaser says this is the half-moon window.

The Greasers bought the house from the Presbyterian Church in 1987. It had been the church manse, the home for the pastor, since the house was built in 1893.

The Greasers were downsizing after restoring a 22-room house in Eagle Harbor that they called “The Four Chimneys.”

The house in Albion was designed by acclaimed Rochester architect Andrew Jackson Warner. It was constructed in the Queen Anne style.

“To have this architecture – an Andrew Jackson Warner house in Albion – was a great privilege to take on,” Mrs. Greaser said.

Harriette Greaser is pictured with the staircase made of golden oak.

The Greasers would transform the house, scraping away paint and bringing back woodwork. They planted trees, hedges and a big garden of flowers and vegetables.

The Landmark Society of Western New York took notice and gave the couple a Historic Home award in 2002. In 2007, their house was featured in a Rochester magazine.

The reception room in the Greaser home puts the woodwork on display. The house includes red birch, golden oak and cucumber wood.

Mr. Greaser grew up in Pennsylvania, the son of a Baptist minister. He moved to Holley when he was 20 after serving in the Navy. His father was leading the Baptist church there at the time.

Phil Greaser would work 37 years for Kodak. He and his wife were married for 51 years and they raised four children.

He loved architecture, music and literature. One of the rooms in the house includes his library. He liked to read by a window while birds fluttered nearby outside.

The library at the Greaser home lets in lots of natural light from the windows.

Phil Greaser enjoyed the many birds that were in the backyard at the Greaser property in Albion. His children gave him the stained-glass artwork for his 80th birthday.

The house in the village, across from the Courthouse and next to the Presbyterian Church, proved convenient. Mrs. Greaser is the organist at the Holy Family Catholic Parish. Her husband was the organist for more than 50 years at the First Baptist Church.

They each have a piano in the house. Mr. Greaser played a Steinway and his wife a Knabe. She continues to teach piano lessons from her home.

After years in the country, the couple enjoyed the easy access to the library, Post Office, grocery store and other amenities in the village.

But the Greasers weren’t used to such a public location, especially when they were out weeding and doing other yard work.

Harriette Greaser is pictured in the backyard of the property at 31 East State St., where she and her husband created a garden with numerous types of flowers, as well as a sandstone walkway. The yard used to be all grass.

Many pedestrians pass by each day on Platt and East State streets. Mrs. Greaser is aware of the location’s prominent spot in a historic district and busy part of the community.

“This is a very public place and the grounds need to showcase the house,” Mrs. Greaser said. “It’s wrong to have a house like this and not invest it.”

She and her husband preferred to spend money on bushes, flowers and the landscape, rather than go out for dinner.

Mr. Greaser loved Daylilies, his wife said. They have Daylilies in several different colors.

About 20 years ago a man stopped by the Greasers and offered them this sandstone bench, thinking it would go nicely with their backyard. The couple gratefully accepted.

Mr. Greaser took on many of the building projects at the house himself. He and his wife did lots of scraping, and Mr. Greaser liked to pick reproduction wallpaper to give the interior a feel from a century ago.

His wife said the community is fortunate to have contractors who can skillfully work on historic houses. They hired Panek Coatings to paint the house on three different occasions. Steve Ernst has helped them with some of the bigger projects, especially with the chimneys.

The front room has windows with refracted glass that send bursts of light in different directions throughout the day.

“The light comes in and just sparkles,” Mrs. Greaser said.

Mrs. Greaser said she and her husband enjoyed the house, tending to details inside and outside.

They enjoyed sitting in the patio, chatting with their friends and family.

She was asked why she and her husband tried so hard to decorate the house and keep it up.

“It’s your home,” she replied. “It’s want you want to live in and be surrounded by.”

The Greasers preserved many of the historical features of the house, including this communication system within the home. People could talk to each other from the top to bottom floors with these phones mounted on the walls.

Builders of the house didn’t cut corners with the woodwood. The Greasers also kept many plants inside the house, including one that hangs from the top staircase.

This plaque notes the house is on the National Register of Historic Places.