Elizabeth G. Holahan was born in Mumford, NY, in 1903. She was raised in Rochester, and was educated at East High School and the old Mechanics Institute (now the Rochester Institute of Technology). Although she was by profession an interior decorator, her life-long interest was centered in the restoration and renovation of historical sites and buildings in the Rochester area. She served as president of the Landmark Society of Western New York from 1954 to 1962, and was president of the Rochester Historical Society from 1977 to 2000. Miss Holahan was also involved in several initiatives launched by the University of Rochester. In1962 the beautiful Patrick Barry House on Mt. Hope Avenue was given to the University of Rochester. Miss Holahan was commissioned for the restoration and renovation of the interiors of this building (1963-65). This house has great historical interest: it was originally designed by the famous English architect Gervase Wheeler and built in 1855-7. Miss Holahan was also actively involved with the Friends of the Library of the University of Rochester for a number of years.
The Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation, at the University of Rochester, received part of Miss Holahan's library through a gift from the Rochester Area Community Foundation. These books are not only a faithful testimony to her passion for architectural preservation, but they also reveal a wide range of intellectual interests, including horticulture, travel literature, eighteenth-century architecture, British literature, European and American history, fine arts, and, particularly, the intellectual circle of Samuel Johnson. Many of these titles perfectly match the current collecting interests of our library. For instance, the books on gardening are a wonderful addition to our collection of horticultural books. Our department houses the archives of the Ellwanger and Barry Company founded in 1840 as the Mt. Hope Nursery by George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry. These archives include the firm's library: a collection of 560 titles (1,600 volumes), particularly strong in nineteenth-century horticultural books. Miss Holahan's books on horticulture will complement the working library of the Ellwanger and Barry Company, especially fitting as we recall that she was to a great extent involved with the history of the Barry family through the restoration of their house on Mt. Hope.