Archive for the ‘Architecture’ category

Illuminating Frank Bown

December 20, 2014

On June 17, 2014, Illuminated History held its third annual cemetery tour in which twelve actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum due to inclement weather.  Greenvale Rural Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts of Greenvale’s featured eternal residents will be posted until all twelve have been illuminated.  Although the scripts are based on in depth historical research, some creative license may have been taken.

The fourth Greenvale resident to be featured is Frank Bown.

If any of you lived in Fairport before 1970, you might remember the Bown block, a three-story brick building where the library and Village Landing are now. I’m Frank Bown, and that building was built by my father, George. He ran a carriage factory and blacksmith shop there for many years, and later we sold bicycles and automobiles there. But that was many years ago.

My father George was born in Canada, and came to Penfield when he was twenty-five to learn blacksmithing from his uncle. He moved to Walworth and ran a blacksmith shop there, and met my mother, Mary Jane Foreman. They had nine children, including me. I was the oldest, born in 1857. When I was 4, we moved to Fairport, into a house on South Main Street near the four corners. My father opened his carriage factory, and at first he worked alone. But as it grew, he built several outbuildings, including areas for construction, painting, a sales room, and an office, and eventually employed 14 people, including wood workers, iron workers, and painters. His carriages were known for their strength, durability, and elegance of finish. His carriages were shipped to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and other states for both personal and business use. He built lumber wagons, delivery wagons, 3-spring wagons, and both top- and open buggies. His carriages won top prizes at fairs and competitions.

Frank Bown, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Frank Bown, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

In December of 1887, George faced his most serious setback. Most of his enterprise, including our home, was destroyed in a fire. The newly-formed Deland Hose Company was able to save several small portions of the property, but we were devastated to see all those years of work laying a pile of ashes. In 1888, my father bought land closer to the canal from C.J. DeLand, and built the building that would bear his name: the Bown block. He rebuilt his home on the original site, but moved the carriage factory to the new location right by the canal. We had a blacksmith shop, where I worked, a sales room for bicycles, and a carriage shop for carriages and wagons.

The new building housed many other businesses and shops in addition to our own, including a drug store and the library. The Post Office was relocated into the building from West Avenue, and my father served as Postmaster for several years. My father served the village in other ways, as well, including as village trustee, overseer of poor, and school board member. He and my mother were very active in the Raymond Baptist Church. He died in 1904, and my mother followed a few years later.

When my father arrived in Perinton in 1862, my wife Ella Ellsworth’s family had already been here for almost 30 years. Her grandparents, William Ellsworth and Irena Cady, were from two of Perinton’s earliest pioneer families. William and Irena bought a farm on the corner of Turk Hill and Ayrault, where they were very successful farmers. In fact, it is a sheep farm today and is still in the Ellsworth family. Ella’s grandfather ran one of Perinton’s first banks, loaning money to his neighbors at reasonable rates, and keeping people’s important documents, like deeds, in a safe at his house. Her grandmother, Irena, ran a school across from their house, and she was a skilled draftsman, renowned for drawing up plans for mills. She was also a land surveyor, and was a fine shot with a cross-bow, to boot!

Ella and I were married on New Year’s Day in 1880 when I was 22. Ella was very active in our church, the the Raymond Baptist church, and chaired the fund-raising committee for many years. We loved to entertain, and she hosted many special events in our home for our friends and for the church. She also helped me recover from emergency surgery in 1915 when I had appendicitis.

Bown Block in Fairport, New York.  Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Bown Block in Fairport, New York. Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

After my father’s death, my brothers and I continued the carriage and bicycle business, but in the nineteen-teens, we also began to sell automobiles. We sold Maxwells, Chalmers, Chryslers, and Chevrolets to the likes of Levi Deland, Martha Brown, and Will O. Greene, the newspaper man, and also provided a fully-equipped garage for servicing of vehicles. Cars needed more attention than wagons or horses, that is for sure! Business was booming in the 1920s. But we had two more fires, in 1920 and again in 1925. Having a blacksmith shop and garage was a recipe for danger, and in the second fire, our entire structure was destroyed, along with several cars that were on the property awaiting repairs. Luckily for us, this time around we had insurance to help rebuild, unlike my poor father. And when we rebuilt in 1926, we said goodbye to the blacksmith shop for good. There had been a smithy on site for almost 60 years, but with the advent of the automobile, there was so little need of it that we decided to forgo that part of the business.

In 1936, Ella and I celebrated 56 years of marriage! It was a special occasion, with our friends joining in to wish us well. In the fall of that year, I passed on at age 78. Ella died 3 years later. We loved our town, and served it well over the years, both the Ellsworths and the Bowns. The next time you drive by Village Landing, think of my father George and me, working over the anvil and producing the finest carriages and wagons available to keep Fairport moving in style.

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

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Illuminating Charlotte Clapp, The First Perinton Town Historian

November 26, 2014

On June 17, 2014, Illuminated History held its third annual cemetery tour in which twelve actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum due to inclement weather.  Greenvale Rural Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts of Greenvale’s featured eternal residents will be posted until all twelve have been illuminated.  Although the scripts are based on in depth historical research, some creative license may have been taken.

Our third Greenvale resident highlighted is Charlotte Clapp, as portrayed by Anne Johnston.

Charlotte Clapp, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Charlotte Clapp, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Because of my dedicated service to Perinton, I became known as the “Town’s First Lady”. It is a title of which I am extremely proud. My name is Miss Charlotte Clapp. I suppose I should begin at the beginning, as they say. My father, Dr. Wesley Clapp, came to Fairport in the 1870s from Oswego County. He began to build up his medical practice and, by 1879, had met and married my mother, Roxa Jane Hodges. I was born in Fairport in 1884, the third of their five children.

Although I never married, my life was rewarding and very happy. My quest for knowledge led to many opportunities personally and professionally. In 1921, I became Perinton’s first Town Historian. Three years later, I was appointed Town Clerk for Perinton and served proudly as the first woman in that position. Thinking about it now, I seem to have led a life of firsts. Along with several others, I was a charter member of the Fairport Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1927. They even named me “Career Gal of the Month” in 1956! My passion, however, was for history. That passion was foremost in my mind when I, along with nine other women, founded the Perinton Historical Society in November, 1935. At the organizational meeting, I was named as the first Custodian of the Perinton Historical Society. My job was to record and preserve the artifacts and documents donated to the society, a position I undertook with zeal. I was also a member of the Fairport Historical Club.

Despite these professional successes, I did know my share of personal sadness. In 1911, my older brother, George, who was a coroner in Genesee County, died in a terrible automobile accident. George was on his way to the County Fair in Batavia and traveling at a great speed. Going around a curve, he lost control of his automobile and died almost instantly of multiple injuries. He was just 30 years of age. Our father was the first to hear the news. Father had traveled on the train hoping to surprise George. After stopping into a hotel he frequented with George, Father asked if George had come to dinner yet. The young fellow at the hotel was new and, not knowing to whom he was speaking, told Father, “No, and he never will. He has just been killed in an automobile accident”. That is how Father learned of George’s terrible accident. This was the first visitation of death in our family circle, and certainly not the last.

My oldest brother, Lewis, was the next to leave us, in 1914. We were so proud of our Lewis. He was a brilliant physician and a good man. Lewis died at age 33 following an operation for appendicitis, leaving a wife and two little daughters to mourn him. Father passed on in 1921, and my sister, Marion, died in 1933 at age 43. Marion loved to hike. When she didn’t return from a hiking expedition, a search was conducted. One week later, the body of my only sister was found at Hemlock Lake. The official cause of death was drowning. Those losses haunted my mother, who passed away in 1935. My youngest brother, Robert, died in 1980 at age 85. He and I were the only children in our family to live long lives.

It is rather ironic that I served the town so diligently as Town Historian, and yet my own home and its history

Clapp family home, formerly located at 15 Perrin Street in Fairport, New York.  Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Clapp family home, formerly located at 15 Perrin Street in Fairport, New York.

were taken when urban renewal reared its ugly head in 1972. Our home at 15 Perrin Street, of which my father was so proud, had been in the family for over 100 years. I have a photograph of it here.  My father started his medical practice there. I was born in the house in 1884, and my parents raised five children in the warmth of its embrace. Yet, the proud history of the Clapp family could not overcome progress. I would not have been able to bear the sight of my ancestral home being torn down to make way for a parking lot of the new Village Landing. The only saving grace was that I had passed away in 1964, just three weeks shy of my 80th birthday. Even though I am gone, the work I have done on behalf of the town and of the Perinton Historical Society remains. I am proud to have lived a life of firsts, paving the way for those women who followed in my footsteps.

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Resources:

Perinton Historical Society & Fairport Museum:  http://www.PerintonHistoricalSociety.org

Arcadia Publishing’s Newest Book – “Pittsford”

May 31, 2013
Pittsford cover high resolution

Pittsford by Audrey Maxfield Johnson and Vicki Masters Profitt

I’m pleased to announce the publication of Pittsford, the newest title in Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series.  Pittsford Town and Village Historian Audrey Maxfield Johnson and I have worked on this pictorial history of Pittsford, New York, for the last eighteen months and are thrilled with the results. 

Pittsford chronicles the lives of the earliest settlers of the town, who arrived in the late 1780s, to their descendants who reside in Pittsford to this day.  Other families have shorter roots in Pittsford soil, but have made significant contributions to its history through commerce, agriculture and education.

This book is truly a community effort, and we wish to express our appreciation to the people who shared their family photographs and stories with us.  We are grateful for the opportunity to illuminate Pittsford’s history in such a personal way.

UPCOMING AUTHOR SIGNINGS and APPEARANCES:

Friday, June 21, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. – Barnes & Noble Pittsford Book Signing, 3349 Monroe Avenue.  Open to the public

Sunday, July 14, 2013, time tbd – Historic Pittsford Annual Meeting and Picnic with Book Signing.  Open to members of Historic Pittsford

TO ORDER PITTSFORD:

Pittsford is available through

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/073859900X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=073859900X&linkCode=as2&tag=illhisshialig-20

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pittsford-new-york-audrey-maxfield-johnson/1114923118?ean=9780738599007

Historic Pittsford’s Little House (www.HistoricPittsford.com) – signed copies available

Church Records: A Gift from Above, Part I

December 10, 2010

When Private Homer Rayson of Co. G, 308th Infantry, 77th Division, was killed on October 19, 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, he was mourned by two families – his birth family and his church family.  Homer was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford, New York.  A newspaper article stated that  Homer’s church had erected a plaque in his honor.  Intrigued, I contacted current Associate Pastor Carrie Mitchell for more information.  Ms. Mitchell directed me to First Presbyterian’s Historian, Dick Crawford.  Mr. Crawford graciously offered to meet me at the church to show me the plaque which still hangs in a place of honor. 

World War I plaque, First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford, NY

A week later, we met and discussed the reason for my visit.  After photographing commemorative plaques bearing the names of the men and women who had participated in both World Wars and being given a tour of the church by Mr. Crawford, we ended up in the administrative offices.  It was there I saw the records.

First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford, New York, has been in existence since the mid-1820s.  During that time, the church endured two fires; first in 1861 and then again in 2004 when it was struck by lightning.  The resilient churchgoers, with the assistance of the community, rebuilt both times.  Despite these trials the church records, dating back to 1825, miraculously remained intact and untouched by the flames.  It was these record books that Mr. Crawford showed me. 

My excitement grew as I perused the records.  The names of many of my Civil War boys were recorded in the older books.  Wiltsie.  Light.  Shepard.  COOK.  Finally!  The Cook family that no one seemed to remember was listed in the records of the First Presbyterian Church.  It served to validate the fact that they were real, and not just a figment of my active imagination. 

First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford, NY

The records of the First Presbyterian Church have given me a fresh insight into these families.  In them, I have discovered the middle name of the missing Cook boy, Edward.  Information about W. Miller Shepard’s death and surviving family members were listed.  Who knows what other nuggets of information will be gleaned from them as I read from page after page?  Time will tell.

Special thanks go to First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford Historian Dick Crawford and Associate Pastor Carrie Mitchell for allowing me access to these local treasures.

Coming soon:  Church Records:  A Gift from Above, Part II, a visit to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Mount Hope Cemetery Civil War Tour

August 1, 2009
Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY

Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY

It was an unusually beautiful day today in Rochester, New York.  Warm weather prevailed as puffy white clouds filled the skies – a perfect day for a cemetery tour.  How fortunate that Mount Hope was holding their annual Civil War tour this afternoon!

Local historian and columnist Bob Marcotte led the tour, assisted by Friends of Mount Hope president Marilyn Nolte.  We began the tour with Major George B. Force of the 108th, who fell at Antietam.  You’ll recall that two of the Ambrose boys, Robert and Edward, were with the 108th.  Next was Frank A. Badger of the 140th.  Frank was missing and presumed dead after the battle of the Wilderness.  His body was never recovered, but there is a stone in his memory.  One of my Pittsford boys, Matthias L. Lord, was Assistant Surgeon of the 140th.  I wonder if Matthias knew Frank Badger?  We eventually visited seven Civil War soldiers, some of whom died in action.  Others, like Albert Hotchkiss of the 8th NY Cavalry, died at Andersonville Prison.  Several of my Pittsford soldiers were with the 8th Cav.  They will be discussed in upcoming posts.

After the tour the group, about 40 strong, headed back to the cool confines of the gatehouse for some refreshments.  Bob graciously signed his book, Where They Fell, for the interested tour-goers.  As always, it was a pleasure hearing Bob speak.  He is so knowledgeable about Rochester’s Civil War soldiers.

If you haven’t been on a tour at Mount Hope, I’d highly recommend the experience.  There is a lot of walking and many hills, but there are so many beautiful and unique monuments to see.  If you are interested in historical figures, you can find those residing at Mount Hope as well.  Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Western Union founder Hiram Sibley and architect Fletcher Steele are among the many notables whose earthly remains were laid to rest at Mount Hope.

George Wiltsie’s Wartime World

June 11, 2009
George B. Wiltsie, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

George B. Wiltsie, 4th NY Heavy Artillery, standing second from left

In April I received an incredible gift in the mail, courtesy of Bill Keeler of the Perinton Historical Society and Fairport Museum.  Bill has spent much time transcribing the Civil War diary of George B. Wiltsie which came into the possession of the Fairport Museum last year.  The disk I received contained the transcription, and soon I was transported back in time, into George Wiltsie’s wartime world.

George B. Wiltsie was born on May 16, 1837, the seventh child of Thomas Wiltsie and his wife Rachel Brownell Wiltsie.  The Wiltsie family homestead was located in Duanesburg, New York until the spring of 1834, when the entire Wiltsie family traveled by packet boat on the Erie Canal toward their new home.  Maps of the time show that the Wiltsies settled on land west of the Erie Canal in Perinton, New York, right about where Route 31 passes over the canal between Mill and Kreag Roads.  It was here that George Wiltsie’s story began.

Little is known of George’s early life in Perinton.  We can imagine that life must have been hectic in a household that eventually grew to include 11 children.  Thomas Wiltsie was a farmer, and George followed in his father’s footsteps until August 12, 1862.  That was the day that George enlisted in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery.

George’s first journal entry is written one week later, and expresses his reasons for joining the fight:  “August 19, 1862 …I bid adieu to friends and old associates, feeling it a duty to [fight] for home and its comforts, to assist in the rescue of a Government in peril.”  The next few entries in the journal tell of traveling with the Army, and of the poor food and filthy conditions.  It occurred to me that through most of the diary, George was very optimistic and upbeat.  He mentioned having leave and seeing the Smithsonian and the Liberty Bell.  He commented on the beautiful architecture that he saw on his travels with the Army.  Soon after arriving at Fort Pennsylvania, George came down with typhoid fever.  He managed to pull through and rejoin his unit.  However William Cook, who was a comrade in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery and a fellow Monroe County resident, became sick at the same time as George and died within one week from the disease.  William Cook is another of my Pittsford boys who will be mentioned in upcoming posts. 

George’s happy frame of mind continued even through August of 1864 when, on the 25th, George matter-of-factly mentioned that “…the Rebels advanced on us and the battle commenced which ended with our defeat and capture of a large number of prisoners myself among the number.”  I can’t even imagine the terror I would feel at being captured by the enemy.  However, George took his imprisonment in stride and even managed to joke about his new surroundings, “Paid adieu to Libby [Prison] this morning and went to the famous resort of Uncle Sam’s boys for three days better known by them as Bell Island.”  Ultimately ending up in Salisbury Prison, George’s journal chronicles the boredom, crime and lack of proper shelter at Salisbury but still sounds optimistic.

As the days turned into months of imprisonment, George’s optimism began to fade.  The entry for November 8, 1864 noted that it was Election Day and George wished he could vote for Abraham Lincoln.  The last journal entry was made on December 9, 1864.  He may have already been ill with the typhoid fever that would take his life in Annapolis, Maryland on March 21, 1865.  His body was returned home and buried at Pittsford Cemetery beside his sisters Antoinette and Eliza and his brother Frank.  The man who remarked on the beauty of architecture and who took joy in historical monuments was dead at the young age of 28.

I have seen a photo of George B. Wiltsie.  It is in the personal collection of Jason Puckett, a Wiltsie family descendant.  Unbelievably, Jason bought the photo on eBay.  It was labeled with the names of the four soldiers pictured – William B. Lyke, George Wiltsie, Henry Root and Albert E. Lyke.  The Lyke boys are mentioned several times in George’s journal.  George is standing second from left sporting a bushy black beard.  Military service records provided by the New York State Archives show that George had brown eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion, and that he stood 5′ 4 1/2″ tall.

After sharing his photo of George Wiltsie, Jason shared something with me that meant even more.  In an email, Jason wrote to me, “You have taken it upon yourself to remember my ancestors and acknowledge their existence when others might just think of them as headstones in the cemetery. I honestly doubt that there is anyone that goes to visit George’s grave anymore out of remembrance of his life. You still do that, and I thank you for that respect for my family.  I really just want to say thank you because it is an honor to me and my family that someone cares enough to remember. Your passion for the Civil War and the men who chose to serve inspires me.  Thank you so much for taking your time to remember my family and the other men who were willing to give their lives to defend my family.”  Jason’s eloquence moved me to tears. 

The goal of my Civil War project, cemetery tours, speaking engagements and my Illuminated History blog is to remember these men who took time out of their lives to serve our country during a period of division and strife.  It honors the memories of our hometown heroes because their stories deserve to be told.   Every time I place a flag by a Civil War soldier’s grave, I speak their name and promise aloud that they will not be forgotten.

Mike Battle Illuminates Rochester History with the Flour City Post

June 7, 2009

Many people know that Rochester, New York is nicknamed the “Flower City,” due in large part to the Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co.  Fewer people know that Rochester’s original nickname was the “Flour City” because of the numerous flour mills that were located all along the Genesee River.  Mike Battle knew about Flour City, and chose to name his new business the Flour City Post.

State Street in Rochester, NY

State Street in Rochester, NY

Mike Battle is dedicated to reviving Rochester’s past by the digital restoration of vintage Rochester postcards.  His Flour City Post sells black & white, sepia tone and color prints in three sizes based on these amazing images of Rochester history and architecture. 

Check out the Flour City Post website at www.flourcitypost.com.


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