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Restoring the details of the past

When Eric Field goes to work every morning, he also travels back in time. At least it seems that way.
As the North Rose businessman behind Old House Restoration, Field specializes in restoring landmark properties in the Rochester area to their original form.
“I started as a mason’s helper when I was 17,” Field recalls. “I can restore everything.”
Field has built a reputation on his skills in masonry, plastering and woodworking and has been working for himself since 1984.
He has worked with the Landmark Society of Western New York Inc., doing contracted work on several historical properties, including the Hoyt-Potter House, which is home to the Society’s administrative offices. His success on that project led to a new assignment to restore the Shaker house that is home to the Irondequoit Historical Society.
The oldest building he restored is a Lima home built in 1795.
“It used to be used as an inn and I put it right back to the 18th century,” he says. Field did that by restoring a five-foot wide fireplace, lowering the ceilings and repairing the original brick floor.
He notes that he has made several discoveries during restorations that have confirmed or suggested the approximate date of the construction. While working on a wall in a home in Scottsville, Field found an intact remnant of the original wallpaper, decorated with a pattern dating back to 1830, when the house was built.
He left the wallpaper in place and covered it with plexiglass to preserve it.
Field says he is self-taught and owes much of his experience to his work at the Genesee Country Village and Museum, where he did plastering, masonry and carpentry from 1980 to 1986.
The project he enjoyed the most there was restoring the stonework on the Hamilton House. He also restored the brick pathway leading through the Livingston Gardens.
Field’s interest in older construction comes from his mother who, at 84, is still the town historian for Wheatland.
He always loved the old Scottsville home he lived in as a boy. It was built in 1865 and has been in the Field family ever since. Features such as pine floors and a two-story layout distinguish it as a classic farmhouse of its time.
He uses his expertise on several types of construction, including churches and old barns. Barns take him to rural areas such as Wolcott in Wayne County. He has found that the location of the property makes a difference in the type of materials he will work to restore. The elaborate homes he has worked on along East Avenue have costly, high-quality woods such as chestnut and oak. The homes in rural towns tend to use mainly pine.
Field has one assistant, Sabrina Harris, and his son Jason helps out sometimes. Business has been solid, and he says his revenues have grown steadily.
He plans to keep up his business as long as he can keep up physically. At 67, he is starting to slow down a bit and tends to work on restoring no more than two properties at a time.
Even when Field does decide to retire, he wants to keep his hand in older construction.
“I plan to build birdhouses, little antique homes,” he says.
(Lori Gable is a Rochester-area free-lance writer.)

12/29/00–Rochester Business Journal

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