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The Mushroom House of Powder Mill Park

Powder Mill Park in Perinton, just southeast of the city of Rochester, is notable for its history. It was originally a hidden location where gunpowder, dynamite, and artillery shells were manufactured by the Acadia Power Company.

While that interesting tidbit speaks to the fact that this area has always had a weird element, there is something in the park today that is a much more visceral representation of how strange the place can get.

There is a private residence at 142 Park Road that rises above a stream at the Powder Mills Park entrance that has come to be a head-scratcher of a sight for generations of people who have grown up in the surrounding area. Visible from the road, the abode appears to be a number of mushrooms growing out of the wooded hillside.

Though commonly referred to as the “Mushroom House,” architect James H. Johnson actually fashioned this unique dwelling after a stem of Queen Anne's Lace. Built in 1970 for Robert and Marguerite Antell, the house was sold in 1999 to Steven and Christine Whitman. The home's distinctive retro-modern "pod" design earned it a designation as a Perinton landmark in 1989.

Johnson studied with Bruce Goff, a professor of architecture at the University of Oklahoma, who combined unusual materials in unexpected ways to create buildings that are both futuristic and plantlike at the same time. Johnson has been the architect of dozens of custom designed homes and numerous religious buildings found throughout New York and

around the world. The Mushroom House consists of a series of pod units, which look similar to lily pads from beneath, that are suspended on stem-like stilts. There are even underground pods, a car-pod garage, and a mosaic-lined inter-pod tunnel. According to one homeowner who lives in another house designed by the architect, "Jim Johnson's houses are like sculptures. We're living in a sculpture."

To us it would seem more like life in the ape city from the Planet of the Apes movie. Or perhaps like inhabiting one of the fantasy toadstool-like landscapes depicted on an old album cover by the band YES.

Weird New York


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