Don Hershey was one of the foremost architects in the Rochester, NY area. He designed about 500 homes, and for over fifty years he conceived his plans, executed his drawings, contracted builders and fashioned a few ideas and dreams into someone’s home at a small drawing board in his home on Landing Road.
“Frank Lloyd Wright was my inspiration,” Don says. “I didn’t imitate him, but I’ve always been fascinated by the strength of his designs, his hip roofs, open plans, and his use of stone.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Don graduated frpm Cornell’s College of Architecture in 1929. He came to Rochester and worked as an architectural draftsman for a few years with C. Storrs Barrow, Dryere and Dryer, and Carl Ade. During the lean years of the 30’s, he teamed with Walter Cassabeer, Carl Schmidt and others in a government relief program to make drawings of historic homes in Rochester, Canandaigua and Geneva for the Congressional Library.
“This had been done with some very early homes in the east, and the project allowed us to contribute drawings of somewhat later historic buildings to the collection.”…
… Don can recount many anecdotes from his years in the business. He has always worked alone, and “this put off some people who wanted to see a big office full of people.” But in discussing the design of a home with a client, “many of whom became our best friends,” he has always insisted on talking with both husband and wife. “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.”
Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs being close to his heart. Don was appalled when, sometime in the 50’s, the Boynton House (a Wright design on East Blvd. in Rochester), was rumored to be undergoing some drastic architectural changes to make it more “convenient” to live in. (This was before the house came under the protective wing of the Landmark Society.)
“They wanted more closets and so on, and they were going to cover up some of the windows, which of course were crucial to Wright’s design. I went right over there and talked to them. They agreed to let me make changes that would accommodate their needs and leave the design intact. It worked fine, and they asked me for my bill. I told them there was no charge, but, if I ever saw those windows covered up, I’d send them the damnedest bill they’d ever seen!”
Don suffered a stroke in 1979, which has hindered him somewhat in drawing. He is very active in church and college alumni affairs now. he is chairman of the Cornell Class of ’27’s 55th Reunion this year, and interviews students from this area who apply to the Cornell College of Architecture. He also writes a regular column for the Cornell Alumni News.
“I enjoy helping young people who are interested in studying architecture,” Don says. “I also get calls from clients and other architects in the area; I guess I’m sort of a consultant. You need interests and activities to stay young andy vital.”