247 East Avenue in Batavia, NY

Diana Kisiel Kastenbaum wrote the wonderful article, “Mid-century Moderns:
Batavia and its environs hold wonderful specimens of architectural style” for The Daily News. It features a Don Hershey designed home at 247 East Avenue in Batavia, NY. An excerpt from this August 3, 2013 article follows:

“Dr. William Pierce and his lovely wife, Barbara, graciously allowed me to write and have photos taken of their home for this article.  Barbara told me the builder was Edward J. Bryant, who had built several homes in Batavia.  He was a carpenter working in a partnership with Kenneth G. Beesley in Beesley and Bryant.  However, she did remember that she had the architect’s name written on a piece of paper somewhere.  When she uncovered the name, it turned out to be the brilliant and renowned Rochester architect, Don Hershey.  

Hershey was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1904 and graduated from the School of Architecture at Cornell University.  Hershey was inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.  He was not an imitator of Wright, but was influenced by his use of stone and open design plans, both of which are evident in the Pierce home.  In fact, Medina stone is used throughout both the exterior and interior of the house.

The original owners of the home were Jacob and Frances Pies who contracted with Hershey to design a home for their family in 1958.  The three Pies children remember the house well.  Last year, Harvey, the eldest and an attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, returned to the home and knocked on the door hoping to get a tour from the Pierces who had purchased it from Jake Pies.  

Harvey had only lived in the home a short time as he was in high school and by 1961 he was already in college.  Ronald and Diane, his younger siblings, lived in the house longer than Harvey and have a better memory of it.  I had a conversation with Harvey on the phone not too long ago.  Harvey corroborated the information I had gleaned from the wonderful website www.donhershey.com about how Hershey always collaborated with both the husband and wife on the design.  From Mr. Hershey’s own writings, “Women usually have the best ideas,” he says.  “I always said, let me design this house for both of you.  After all, the woman is the commander of the house.”  

And such was the case with Frances Pies as she worked closely with Hershey on many of the design elements.  She even had all the children give their input.  Harvey put in his two cents and made sure his room was downstairs at the bottom of the circular staircase so he wouldn’t be disturbed by his brother and sister.  The very large bedroom upstairs was split by an accordion-like wall for his siblings.

Pies wanted electric drapes in the sunken living room and Barbara Pierce still has them in good operable condition, as she demonstrated to me.  

The original baths have also been well preserved in the home.  The exterior is Medina stone and cedar wood which is intact as the natural materials complement the natural landscape.  This was a key element in mid-century modern design and homeowners that retain this element only increase the value of their home.  The Medina stone is carried through the interior of the house with a convex wall in the living room which contains the large fireplace on a raised hearth.  The interior cedar wood breezeway leads to the private patio outside.  Stepping down into the sunken living room and den, the panoramic floor to ceiling windows invite the outside in.  The Pierces’ appreciation of the natural beauty and design of the home and their loving stewardship of a Don Hershey original makes this one of the purest and most valuable examples of Mid-century Modern architecture in our area.

(Click on the thumbnails for enlargements.)

247 East Ave Batavia, Prime example

247 East Ave Batavia, Prime example

247 East Ave Batavia, Unique centerpiece

247 East Ave Batavia, Unique centerpiece

247 East Ave Batavia, Sunken living room

247 East Ave Batavia, Sunken living room

247 East Ave Batavia, One with nature

247 East Ave Batavia, One with nature

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