Mansion considered Rochester’s original ‘trophy house’ goes on market for nearly $1.3 million

·6 min read

What is believed to be the Rochester area’s largest single-story single-family home, built during 1966 and '67 for self-made millionaire William J. Brown and his wife, Janice, has been listed for sale for $1,295,000.

Located at 200 Sheldon Road in Mendon, and once characterized by Cynthia Howk of the Landmark Society of Western New York as suburban Rochester’s original “trophy house,” the sprawling pinkish-white brick ranch includes 10,593-square-feet of living space split between a main residence (measuring more than 8,400 square feet) with a heated 45-foot indoor swimming pool, and a guest house (measuring more than 2,100 square feet).

In all, there are eight bedrooms, 11 bathrooms (eight full and three half) and six fireplaces. A great room with 17-foot ceilings is just off the main entrance, and the large kitchen has a breakfast nook.

The semi-circular driveway stretches more than a mile, according to a 1979 Times-Union story, and the garage can accommodate up to five vehicles.

Offered through Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the fully gated estate — originally dubbed Brown Manor — sits on more than 21 acres of land less than a mile west of Mendon Ponds Park.

A sprawling single-level mansion at 200 Sheldon Road, Mendon, pictured here in 1980, has been listed for sale for $1,295,000.
A sprawling single-level mansion at 200 Sheldon Road, Mendon, pictured here in 1980, has been listed for sale for $1,295,000.

The house was created by local architect Don Hershey, renowned for his mid-century modern designs. Prior to his death in 1993 at age 89, Hershey, who built around 500 homes in the Rochester region, often spoke of Frank Lloyd Wright as a major inspiration, states donhershey.com, a blog devoted to Hershey's life and work.

However, you would be hard-pressed to discern that influence when viewing 200 Sheldon Road from the street.

“I would have loved to have seen the looks on the faces of the people at Mendon Town Hall when he came in for the building permit,” Howk told the Democrat and Chronicle in 2015. “There was no precedent for it.”

And not just because of its mammoth size, clearly meant for entertaining. The structure also is a unique blend of modern and classical architectural styles.

That stems from the fact that Brown — an inventor who founded Dynacolor Corp., which made color movie film for amateur photographers and pioneered photographic processing equipment — and his wife were at odds about the home’s look.

He wanted something modern, but she favored a more formal aesthetic, Hershey’s son Ken told the Democrat and Chronicle in 2015. So, the front of 200 Sheldon Road features a two-story Colonial center entrance with columns and other Colonial features (Janice Brown characterized them as “modified French provincial and Georgian” to the Brighton-Pittsford Post in 1970), and the back is more streamlined.

The main entrance 200 Sheldon Road, Mendon, pictured in 1980.
The main entrance 200 Sheldon Road, Mendon, pictured in 1980.

“It’s like a ranch house on steroids” is how Howk described the overall effect when she spoke to the newspaper six years ago.

She recalled passing the home during Sunday drives with her family in the late 1960s and assumed it to be some sort of private club.

"You're driving along, looking at lovely vistas of agriculture and historic farm houses and barns and — surprise! — here's this house," said Howk, who recently retired from the Landmark Society as its full-time architectural research coordinator but continues to volunteer for the agency. "It just didn’t resemble any residence we’d ever seen,” including the mansions lining East Avenue, which are classically inspired.

Then again, "George Eastman didn’t have a wife to tell him to do something different with the design,” she said.

The swimming pool wing at 200 Sheldon Road (created with separate men’s and women’s changing rooms and showers and a wet bar with seating for at least eight) is part of the back area. At one time, a portion of its cathedral ceiling could be opened to the elements with the push of a button, according to the Times-Union feature. It isn’t clear whether that is still the case; the home’s sellers declined to comment for this story.

The swimming pool room at 200 Sheldon Road, Mendon. At one time, a portion of the room’s cathedral ceiling could be opened to the elements with the push of a button, according to a Times-Union story from 1979.
The swimming pool room at 200 Sheldon Road, Mendon. At one time, a portion of the room’s cathedral ceiling could be opened to the elements with the push of a button, according to a Times-Union story from 1979.

The property also includes a horse barn with 13 stalls. Back in 2015, Ken Hershey (who died this past October at age 89) said his mother, after attending an open house hosted by the Browns during the early 1970s, joked that the then-carpeted outbuilding was nice enough for people to live in.

According to the Brighton-Pittsford Post story, in 1970, there was a fountain just outside the pool area and beside it was a large marble statue from the Memorial Art Gallery.

The current listing notes the interior’s marble flooring, a “west wing en suite,” a sunroom, a library and, outdoors, gardens and a pond.

The annual property taxes are $36,944.

William Brown (whose Dynacolor Corp. eventually became a subsidiary of 3M) listed the residence, and its contents, for $950,000 in 1972 when his health began to falter, but it didn’t sell. He then gifted it to his alma mater, Carnegie-Mellon University, according to the Times-Union story.

Brown, who also shared a large Florida home with his wife, died in 1978 at age 67. Toward the end of his life, he spent summers at a relatively modest brick ranch in Pittsford. The university tried to sell the Sheldon Road estate for $875,000 but gradually reduced the price and in December 1979 accepted an offer of $500,000 from Henrietta businessman Jess Williams.

At that time, it was the largest price paid for a home in the 54-year history of the MLS at the Real Estate Board of Rochester.

Based on records from the Monroe County Clerk's Office, it appears that Robert H. Hurlbut, founder of Hurlbut Care Communities, acquired 200 Sheldon Road in 1982, but it isn't clear what he paid for it. Records also show that in 1987, he took out a $500,000 mortgage on the property, where he lived with his wife, Barbara, until his death in 2013 at age 77. Barbara Hurlbut died in 2020 at 85.

Despite the continuing trend toward ever-larger suburban homes, there remains no truly comparable property.

"First of all," said Howk, after learning it was for sale, "it’s got an indoor swimming pool." Any number of other trophy houses have been built in this area over the past 50 years or so, she said, "but has anyone put a swimming pool in one?"

The fact that the home is on one level also sets it apart.

A residence at 1555 Creek St. in Penfield that was built in 1982 and measures a total of 10,876 square feet is on the market for $1.9 million, but it is two stories, said Lanie Bittner, president of the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors.

And even today's grandest residences tend to reflect a traditional style because they are easier to resell, she said.

The Browns wanted something one-of-a-kind.

"And that’s what Don Hershey gave them," she said.

Reporter Marcia Greenwood covers general assignments. Send story tips to mgreenwo@rocheste.gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @MarciaGreenwood.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Homes for sale in Rochester NY: Mansion in Mendon listed for $1.3M