Local Matters

Community Sponsors

history

April 10, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in news, history, batavia, street names.

In 1802 Joseph Ellicott, the founder of Batavia, and first local agent and surveyor of the Holland Land Company, made his first map of the village.

He divided the area into lots and groups of lots that eventually became streets. Ellicott made lots on both sides of Main Street.

They were commonly called Holland Alleys because he laid them out while acting as agent and surveyor of the Holland Land Company, which owned the village's land.

Most of the city streets are laid out along Holland Alleys. From the west end of the village, on the north side of West Main Street to Jefferson Avenue, Ellicott numbered his lots consecutively with both odd and even numbers.

After Ellicott divided the village into lots and created the early roads, his next step would be to name the roads.  

The names may have changed, but Ellicott’s surveying skills can still be seen today.

What we know as East Main Street he named Genesee Street. West Main Street was Batavia Street. Court Street is Court Street today because Genesee County’s first courthouse was located on that street.

There was a Tonawanda Street in Batavia, which today we call South Main Street. Buffalo Street is now Pearl Street. Lyon Street was once known as Brewery Street because Eager’s Brewery was located on the south end of the street. Oak Orchard Street is the present Oak Street.

Bank Street was formerly called Dingle Alley because Cochrane Bell Foundry was located on that street. Vine Street was once known as Cummings Street. Harvester was once called Cemetery Street. The name changed to Harvester Avenue when the Harvester Johnston Company built its factory on that street.

South Swan Street from Ellicott Street to South Jackson Street was formerly called Grand Street. Maple Street was known as Hill Street. The hill where Dr. Ganson built his home today is called Ganson Avenue.

Ellicott Street was known as Big Tree Street not because there were big trees but because it ran to Big Tree, which today is called Geneseo.

The prominent people of Batavia lived along Main Street and on Jackson Street. Some streets are named after them. Streets such as Chandler Avenue, Seaver Place, Tracy Avenue, Redfield Parkway, Bank Street, Mix Place, Harvester Avenue, Wiard Street, Eleanor and Margaret Place, Trumbull Parkway, Pringle Avenue, to name just a few, have some history behind their names. 

Ebenezer Mix, an excellent mathematician, became known as one of the best civil engineers in New York State. The frontage of his home was on Main Street from Ellicott Avenue to Oak Street. Today it is called Mix Place. The home with modifications still stands on its original property. 

Evans Street was laid out in 1847 and was named after David Ellicott Evans, nephew of Joseph Ellicott.

Tracy Avenue was named after Phineas L. Tracy, a prominent lawyer. He was also a U.S. Representative from New York’s 29th District in 1827 and was a county judge.

Wiard Street is named after Thomas Wiard, a blacksmith and farmer, founder of the business Wiard Plow. His business was located on Swan Street.

Pringle Avenue was named after Judge Benjamin Pringle. 

Cone Street’s name came from Nathaniel K. Cone, the county judge who lived on South Jackson Street's north side. 

In 1875, Union School, the first high school, was built on School Alley just south of the Batavia Middle School. Today that alley is called Ross Street.

Jackson Street is one of the streets that has retained its original name. 

Chandler Avenue was named after Rear Admiral Ralph Chandler. He served in the Navy. He saw action during the Mexican–American War and the American Civil War.

Heman J. Redfield (1788-1877) served in the Army during the War of 1812; he was also a postmaster and a Genesee County district attorney. Redfield Parkway was named after him.  

Dean Richmond was a railroad magnate; he was a leader in the movement to consolidate seven railway corporations into the New York Central Railroad in 1853; he served as vice president and president of the New York Central. Richmond Avenue and the Richmond Memorial Library are named after the Richmond Family.

Seaver Place, which no longer exists, was named for William Seaver. He was the author of a book called "Historical Sketch of the Village of Batavia. You can read this book online. 

Trumbull Cary played many vital roles in the development of Batavia. He was an early postmaster and served in the War of 1812.

In 1815, Cary was very instrumental in establishing the St. James Episcopal Church. In 1829, he helped finance the creation of the first bank west of the Genesee River, the Bank of Genesee. Cary named Margaret Place and Eleanor Place after his wife, Margaret Eleanor. 

John Dellinger came to Batavia in 1855. He built and owned the Dellinger Block and Dellinger Opera House block. Dellinger Avenue is named after him. 

We live on Chestnut Street and we are surrounded by Walnut, Maple, Cherry and Elmwood streets.

If you want to learn local history, visit the Genesee County Holland Land Office Museum (HLOM). Information for this article came from the Genesee County History Department and our Batavia City Historian, Larry Barnes.

Photo by Anne Marie Starowitz.

April 8, 2021 - 12:43pm
posted by Press Release in news, Town of Bergen, history, geneology, archivist.

Submitted photo and press release:

Bergen Town Historian Thomas M. Tiefel recently welcomed Jodi L. Fisher as the town’s newly appointed genealogist/archivist after a recommendation to the Bergen Town Board by the town historian.

Fisher holds a master's degree in Geology from the University at Buffalo along with a Professional Business Management Certificate.

She has worked at local well-known organizations such as GO ART!, as the DEC Grant coordinator, and most recently, the Holland Land Office Museum, where she was the director of marketin.

From a very young age, Fisher has had an interest and love of history.

As a teenager, she had the opportunity to live in France for a year with her family. While she was there, she got a chance to not only travel around Europe and emerse herself in history. But she met up with family in Belgium and soon learned they had compiled a complete genealogical research on her family’s ancestry.

Genealogy is literally in her blood, and she will undoubtedly bring this same enthusiasm to the Bergen Historian’s Office.

Although her higher eduation is not directly related to museum studies, she has accumulated a great deal of experience on how to properly conduct research, and archival and promotional techniques, which will help greatly in her new role.

In addition, she is currently continuing her educational studies in genealogy and research. Bergen welcomes Fisher to the community, and she says she is looking forward to meeting the residents who may need her assistance.

April 4, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in batavia, history, nostaglia, news.

Recently, we were all vaccinated against coronavirus and off to finally visit our grandchildren. How wonderful to finally see them in person. On our first night together, we were talking about what they were doing to have fun.

The conversation turned into what we did for fun at their age. 

A typical day in the '60s would be playing kickball with our homemade bases and arguing about who was out. In the afternoon, we would go to the end of our street, where there was a swampy area, and we would try to float on our makeshift raft.

At night we sleep outside in a tent or at a neighbor's house on their back porch. We actually caught fireflies and put them in a jar.

We would ride bikes when the park was open and spend afternoons at the community "New Pool." We would go over to our neighbor's for her Kool-Aid popsicles.

The highlight of the summer would be a block party. If you notice, none of these activities cost any money, just our imagination and the participation of neighborhood kids. I guess you could call those our playdates.

If we fought with a neighbor kid, which happened often, the moms and dads never got involved. It was a life skill to learn how to get along.  

The other part of growing up, and the most important part, was your family. My memories are going to church and being separated from my brother, so we didn't fight in church. As we entered the pew, our dad would give us a tiny pinch just to remind us to behave in church.

We were usually late because getting eight family members ready for church was an event.   

We took a memorable trip to Florida when I was in fifth grade in our station wagon. My parents in the front, with my youngest brother in the middle, I was in the middle seat with my grandmother, and my other two brothers were in the backward seat. My sisters were too little to travel.

The trip only took four days to get to Florida. It included bathroom stops about every hour. It was like one of those movies about a crazy vacation adventure.  

Family holidays were so important with grandma, all the aunts, uncles and cousins with a food table that would feed 100!  

So now that I'm in my 70s, my memories seem to mean more to me. When I'm with my siblings, we love to talk about growing up and sharing our stories.  

One Christmas, when we were over at mom and dad's, and our children were running around, our mom gave us each a photo album filled with pictures of each of us growing up. I can't express how much those albums meant to all of us. She captured our childhood with photos and her love.  

Now I've turned into my parents -- telling my grandchildren what it was like when I was growing up.

My dad's favorite story to tell was about how he had to walk miles to school and home for lunch in all weather conditions. We live in the house he grew up in, and walking from our house to Ross Street wasn't that far, but he sure loved to tell that story, and we never got tired of listening to it.

Growing up in the '60s, a tablet was something we wrote on, a screen was on a black-and-white TV, and our phone was attached to the wall.

If you were lucky and had a Kodak Instamatic camera, it would have a little tower on it where you would put a flashcube to take a picture. It would take a week for the photos to develop.

So, I have lived through my childhood of the '60s, our daughters' in the '80s, and our grandchildren's in the 2000s.

I hope they have memories that they will cherish growing up during their time and the same for my grandchildren.

Yes, times have and will always change, but I hope everyone can still hold on to those memories of growing up.

I think we baby boomers have the best memories!

If you are fortunate to have your parents, ask them to tell their story, write it down or tape it. You will never regret their memories.

Always feel free to share your memories with me.

Photos of the Peca family, courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz (née Anne Marie Peca).

Top, Anne Marie with her dad and two of her brothers - and two cameras!

Below, the nuclear Peca family all dressed up.

Bottom, the extended Peca clan, each member looking sharp.

March 14, 2021 - 2:45pm

Submitted photos and information from Jason Smith.

As part of the Faith Formation program at Resurrection Parish, grade 9 and 10 students were given a tour of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church this morning. It is located at 18 Ellicott St. in the City of Batavia.

The tour included information about the stained-glass window panels, the altar and sacristy.

The students' teachers are Judy Clark and Ron Chrzanowski.

Newspaper clippings and old photos were displayed. One taken in the 1920s shows the altar in its original splendor with elaborate white steeples, which were later removed.

Another is of the church's once-trademark mural, an enormous painting done in four sections by Buffalo artist Alex O. Levy that was completed in 1940. It weighed 800 pounds and depicted incidents in the life of the Virgin Mary. The mural deteriorated and was subsequently covered with wallpaper.

March 3, 2021 - 5:31pm

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next Trivia Night at the Museum on Thursday, March 11 at 7 p.m. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the topic will be Irish History. You can either join us in person at the museum or via Zoom.

Our in-person audience will be limited to 12 people, and masks and social distancing will be required. If you would like to attend in person, please preregister by calling the museum at 585-343-4727.

If you would like to come in person we are asking for a donation in place of the regular admission. For the links to attend via Zoom please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com, for more details.

The Holland Land Office Museum welcomes back No Blarney on Wednesday, March 17th at 7 p.m. for another St. Patrick’s Day concert. No Blarney will play all of your favorite Irish tunes from every era.

The concert will only be available via the museum’s YouTube channel, Holland Land Office Museum, as it will be livestreamed thanks to Paul Figlow. Please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandoffice.com, for the details to watch the livestream of the concert.

The Holland Land Office Musuem welcomes Nellie Ludemann of the Seneca Falls Historical Society on Tuesday, March 30 at 7 p.m. for its next edition of its Guest Speaker Series. The presentation will be on the life of an early women's rights activist, Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

The presentation will be available via Zoom and in person to a small group of up to 12 people to come to watch on our big screen.

All those in attendance must wear masks and follow social distancing protocols. If you would like to attend in person, please contact the museum by phone at (585) 343-4727 to preregister. Please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com for more details.

February 28, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in nostalgia, history, batavia, news.

When folks get older and nostalgia sets in, one strong memory is of the pets they had when they were kids. Dogs and cats of course were the favorites, but rabbits, horses and even pigs were popular, too, especially in rural areas like Batavia.

People of a certain age (i.e.: elderly) might recall Richard Nixon's famous career-saving speech about his dog “Checkers.” Elvis Presley had an infamous monkey he called “Scatter” whose shenanigans were renowned among the singer's entourage. Later in the '90s the Clintons' cat “Socks” seemed to get as much media time as Bill and Hillary.

My family only had a few furry housemates as I was growing up.

My dad loved dogs and had a number of them when he was a young man, including a couple giant Saint Bernards. But my mom was reluctant. She had a traumatic memory of a family dog biting someone and being dispatched in a gruesome way so I think that limited our number.

But, I still recall our pets fondly and humorously for their companionship and animal antics.

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Before I turned 10 when we lived on Thomas Avenue we got a male cat. Because he was a dark gray color we named him “Smokey.” That moniker didn't last long though. My mother kept tripping over him as he plopped down wherever it suited him and you'd hear her exasperated cry of, “Move you stupid cat!” So, very quickly he became "Stupid."

Although he was mostly an outdoor cat, which normally doesn't bode well for the feline lifespan, Stupid stayed with us through two years on Ellicott Avenue and then moved to North Spruce Street, too.

He loved living at North Spruce because in the '50s and '60s our house was surrounded by woods. Woods that were full of mice, birds, moles, and were just generally akin to a giant cat grocery store. We would find carcasses of Stupid's dinners on our porches and patio.

As if he didn't have enough free grub at his literal disposal, for some reason my mother also fed him like a king. She'd send me to a grocery store (I think A&P) on the south side of Main Street between Liberty and Center streets to buy him fresh chicken kidneys, which she would then cook for him. Talk about spoiled.

Although mostly an outdoor cat, Stupid didn't care for cold weather and would grace us with his indoor presence in the winter. One time he was outside, but then we heard him crying at the basement door into the kitchen. When we opened the door, out he came.

“Hey, I thought the cat was outdoors,” my mom said. “How in the world did he get in the cellar?”

Upon investigation we found a broken basement window. Stupid had huge seven-toed front paws that looked like snowshoes and the only thing we could figure was that he batted on the window until it broke. We could never prove it, but the window wasn't broken before. How else could it happen?

Eventually, as sometimes happens with outdoor cats, Stupid disappeared. Whether something happened to him or he just took his aging self off to die in peace we never knew. I think at some point I considered making some kind of wooden marker in his memory, but etching R. I. P Stupid seemed... well... stupid.

Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow

When I was middle school to early high school age we briefly had a black and white rabbit. I do not recall where we got him or why.

His name was Herman and I'm unclear on why I called him that. Although I'm almost certain it wasn't for Hermann Göring, the head of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) during World War II.

Herman's brief time with us was spent in a hutch outside the back door.

My job was to line his pen with straw, feed him, and clean out the bunny manure. His food was some kind of brown pellets, which to be honest looked about the same coming out as they did going in. We also gave him lettuce and other leafy vegetables. It was always a mystery to me how he could seemingly turn a pound of food into two pounds of poop.

Herman came to an inglorious end one winter night from unknown causes. I went to feed him in the morning and he was frozen stiff. I guess if we wrote an obituary, we could've said no bunny compared to him.

(Above, Skippy, Dave and Jim at Godfrey's Pond in the 1970s.)

Shaggy Dog Story

When I was in high school, one day my grandmother stopped by for a visit and she had a box with something covered up inside.

“I brought you a present,” she said with a big smile. When something moved in the box my mother had the opposite of a smile. “Uh oh,” she muttered.

"Skippy" the dog had arrived.

I don't remember specifics, but knowing my mother it must have taken a lot of begging and whining by my two younger brothers to get mom to say we could keep him. Being in high school I was (in my own mind) too cool to get excited about a dog. I had sports and girls to think about.

Skippy was a full-blown mutt. You really couldn't distinguish any breed that he was descended from and it would be fair to say that he wasn't going to be entered in any dog shows. To paraphrase an old saying, he was a dog that only his family could love.

Back in the '60s and '70s there were no leash laws. So Skippy (and just about every dog in Batavia) was free to roam around town. As he got older, and since he wasn't neutered, this resulted in some dicey situations.

As I have mentioned in some of my previous stories, I had two unmarried aunts who lived together in the longtime Reilly family home on Cedar Street. Sometimes when my brothers and I would walk there from North Spruce we'd take the dog along.

Well, I guess he enjoyed Aunt Kate's and Peg's company (or maybe they gave him treats) because we'd sometimes get a call saying he was lying on their porch.

That doesn't sound like a big deal until you realize he had to cross East Avenue, go through the Eastway Plaza parking lot, navigate East Main Street (routes 5 and 33) and go over the Erie Railroad tracks to get there.

My dad would go pick him up in the car and bring him home while we'd wonder how many close calls he had on his adventure.

Another of his favorite destinations was a farm somewhere to the east out off Clinton Street Road. We'd get a call from the irate farmer telling us that Skippy was out there, "…trying to get at his female dog.” Once again dad would have to go fetch him home, but also take scolding from the rightfully upset owner.

After a few of those incidents Skippy the randy canine had to be tied up for his own protection. We did wonder how many of his progeny were spread across Genesee County though.

Because for most of his life he was allowed to run free, Skippy often got into and ate things that weren't exactly approved by The American Kennel Club. This would result in trips to the veterinarian for intestinal disorders.

One time, perhaps to save us money on medication, the vet told mom to, “...give him a clove of garlic and that should clean him out.”

I don't recall if this treatment cured the dog but about two hours later we had to evacuate our house. If they had haz-mat teams back then I'm not sure even their sophisticated breathing apparatus would have been enough to handle the noxious fumes.

But, generally, Skippy was a good dog and after my brother Dan and I left for college and beyond he became dad's closest buddy. When the fateful day came and he had to be put down, my youngest brother Jim says that was one of the few times he ever saw dad cry.

At various times through adulthood I had a number of friendly cats and one beloved dog. But, it's still enjoyable from time to time to think back on those pets we had in our childhood.

Top photo: Dave Reilly in 2014 with his pal Deuce.

Below: James Reilly Sr. in 1939 -- a young man with his best friend.

Photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.

February 10, 2021 - 3:56pm

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to welcome on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. Michael Broccolo of the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center as our next presenter in our Guest Speaker Series. The topic will be "The Underground Railroad in the Niagara Frontier."

The presentation will be conducted virtually via Zoom. To watch the presentation via Zoom please visit the museum's Facebook page or website for login information.

If you would like to witness the virtual presentation on the museum's big screen there will be a limited audience of 12 people. Those in attendance will be required to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols and must preregister by contacting the museum at (585) 343-4727. We are asking anyone in attendance for a small donation.

February 3, 2021 - 4:15pm
posted by Press Release in Holland Land Office Museum, news, hlom, February 2021, history.

Press release:

On Thursday, Feb. 11th at 7 p.m. the Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next edition of its Virtual History Trivia Night at the Museum. The topic for the month of February will be Abraham Lincoln, in honor of his birthday and President’s Day.

The program will be conducted via Zoom. If you would like to join and test your knowledge of the 16th President visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com for the login details.

On Thursday, Feb. 25th at 9 a.m. the Holland Land Office Museum will be hosting its next edition of its Virtual Java with Joe E. morning presentations. This month we welcome back local author Greg Van Dussen as he shares excerpts from his latest works on the early Methodist Church.

His latest works that will be covered are: "Circuit Riders on the Road to Glory" and "Circuit Rider Devotions Vol. 2." Both books are also available for sale in the museum bookstore.

The program will be conducted via Zoom. Please visit the museum’s Facebook page or website, www.hollandlandoffice.com for the login details.

For more information please call the museum at (585) 343-4727 or email at:  [email protected]

January 28, 2021 - 2:21pm
posted by Press Release in news, Holland Land Office Museum, batavia, history.

The Holland Land Office Museum will be returning to its normal operating hours beginning Tuesday, Feb. 2nd.

The museum will again be open on Tuesdays.

The museum will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For any questions or further information please contact the museum at (585) 343-4727 or [email protected].

January 13, 2021 - 2:38pm
posted by James Burns in news, Basom, Alabama Hotel, art, mural, history.

untitled_shoot-7696.jpg 

A new mural was commissioned for the dining room of the Alabama Hotel, located at routes 77 and 63 in Basom.

Owner Bonnie Woodward says, the mural in the main dining room was painted as a display of gratitude for all the hotel’s guests, and it encompasses many the highlights of the local area. The theme of the mural is “All Roads Lead to the Alabama Hotel.”

Bonnie explains the elements in the mural:

  • The Alabama Hotel -- The painting of the hotel is a depiction of the structure dating back to the 1840s when it was first built. The entire section of the wall is a time capsule originating from the inception of the building, moving forward into the 1950s when the Woodward Family bought the Hotel, then forward to 2019 when Bonnie Woodward purchased it, and then finally to you -- the viewer at present.
  • 1957 Buick Convertible – Bonnie wanted to embody the time period when the Hotel was acquired by the Woodward Family – 1956.
  • Gas Pump – The building across from the Hotel, on the southwest corner, was at one point in time a gas station. The gas pump is from the 1950s and indicates the price of gas for that time period ($0.29/gallon).

untitled_shoot-7674.jpg

  • Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge – A very short drive west is this habitat which supports approximately 266 species of birds, 42 species of mammals, as well as fish, reptiles, amphibians and insects;
  • Giant Wheel – Representing Six Flags Darien Lake in the Town of Darien. The real Giant Wheel propels riders 165 feet in the air.
  • Darien Lake Amphitheater – Hosting performances from all your favorites with a capacity of 21,600 people.
  • Steam Engine Tractor – The steam engine is a great way to represent the nearby Town of Alexander, which has hosted the Western New York Gas and Steam Engine Association and their respective annual rally since 1967.

untitled_shoot-7682.jpg

  • Old Lockport Locks – Running 524 miles with 57 locks, 17 lift bridges, and 13 movable dams, the Erie Canal is yet another designated National Historic Landmark. The Canal was fully operational in 1825. There is an elevation change from Albany to Buffalo of 571 feet. Although the mural depicts the Lockport locks from their historical perspective, the locks have been reconstructed and now are the only double set on The Erie Canal. They raise boats 50 feet using three million gallons of water.

untitled_shoot-7688.jpg

  • Buffalo City Hall – Just a short distance from here is Buffalo – the second largest city in New York State. Buffalo City Hall is a historical Art Deco masterpiece that is at the center of what's happening in Buffalo today.
  • McKinley Monument – The obelisk painted in front of City Hall is the McKinley Monument. This 96-foot tall structure defines the center of Buffalo where all the main roads converge. The monument was dedicated to the memory of President William McKinley who was fatally shot in Buffalo. On Sept. 14, 1901, following McKinley’s death, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated at the Ansley Wilcox House in Buffalo. He became the 26th President of the United States.

untitled_shoot-7690.jpg

  • Niagara Falls – Niagara Falls is considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. This major tourist destination is the result of Lake Erie dumping into Lake Ontario and it straddles part of the border between New York and Canada. You may find it interesting to know that the rate of water traversing the falls is controlled by employing a weir with movable gates upstream from the Horseshoe Falls. Peak tourist season as well as hydroelectric facilities are determinants of such control measures, as well as the extreme importance of erosion control. Niagara Falls, with its hydropower, is the largest electricity producer in New York State.
  • Wine Barrel – Since 1850 more than 5,000 people have either intentionally or accidently gone over the falls. The first person, in 1901, to survive was 63-year old school teacher, Annie Edson Taylor. She successfully performed the stunt in an oak barrel. Of the thousands of subsequent attempts, only 16 others have reportedly survived. Stunting at Niagara Falls has been illegal since 1951 and surviving such a feat could still cost a daredevil up to $25,000 (USD) in fines. 

untitled_shoot-7693.jpg

  • Fresh Produce – Agriculture is a major component of the local economy. The Hotel is positioned in Genesee County, which is part of the Finger Lakes Agricultural Region -- the center of NY agriculture. This region hosts the largest amount of farmland in the State and ranks first in total amount of farm sales. The neighboring Western New York Region comprises of 5,100 farms and 870,000 acres of farmland (2012 U.S. Census Report).
  • Maple Tree – The maple leaf is the chosen emblem of Canada. We are grateful to our friends to the north who have always contributed to the culture and tradition of the Alabama Hotel.
  • Apples – At one point Western New York was the leading apple producing area in the country. Today, NY State farmers grow 40 varieties of apples – more than any other state. The state is currently the second-largest apple producing state in the nation (USDA). 
  • Onions – Neighboring Elba is known as the Onion Capital of the World in large part to the fertile mucklands. This title is upheld by the town’s annual Onion Festival and the crowning of its Onion Queen.
  • Cary Seminary – Consistent with the theme of the other landmark structures, the artist captured the historic essence of the Cary Collegiate Seminary in neighboring Oakfield. The Seminary was opened in 1844 as a select boarding school and later became Oakfield High School. The building is now School House Manor – 27 apartments for the elderly.
  • Milk Can – This is a symbolic homage to the local dairy industry; which is a major part of the economy. “The state has more than 4,000 dairy farms, is the fourth largest producer of milk [in the Nation], and is the largest producer of yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream. The dairy community includes both large dairy operations and small, family-run farms. It also boasts processing of various types and sizes, from major global processing companies to small artisanal dairy product makers.” 
  • Holding Lantern – Homage to the Underground Railroad. The entire area of Western New York was filled with stops or stations with major stations in Buffalo and Rochester. At the stations, weary slaves were given food, rest and a change of clothing before continuing the last leg of the journey to freedom in Canada.

untitled_shoot-7671.jpg

  • Holland Land Office – Located in Batavia, the image is of the third and last office of The Holland Land Company. In 1960, the building was declared a National Historic Landmark, the first one in Western New York. If you’re keeping track, that is the third National Historic Landmark on the mural tour. 
  • Kodak Building – Nearby Rochester is known for the cultural icon of Eastman Kodak. With the slogan "you press the button, we do the rest" George Eastman put the first simple camera into the hands of a world of consumers in 1888. In so doing he made a cumbersome and complicated process easy to use and accessible to nearly everyone. Eastman’s Company has been at the center of most milestones in photography and digital imaging ever since.” 

untitled_shoot-7679.jpg

Signatures of artists Susan Weber from Alden and Daniel Riggs originally from Elba

untitled_shoot-7680.jpg

January 3, 2021 - 1:59pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in nostalgia, batavia, news, history, urban renewal, downtown, main street.

I always have been a follower of Hallmark movies due to their storyline's simplicity and happy endings. What I think that most intrigued me was when the main characters always seemed to go home to save a part of their town, from historic buildings to Main streets.

These stories always take me back to our Downtown. I've written many articles about urban renewal, its history, why it happened, and how it happened.

But it never illustrates the sadness we endured or the memories we cherish.

Watching a Hallmark movie with its predictable ending always makes me think about going home or being home in Batavia.

Many of these movies take me back to the '60s and the daily ritual of walking home from Notre Dame High School. As my best friend and I would cross Union Street to Main Street, our first stop would always be the Red Barn for a little snack. The next stop would be Oliver's for Molly Pops.

It was a simple time, but the memories of walking down Main Street are as vivid today as they were in the '60s.

The big red brick square building on the corner of Court Street and Main Street always intrigued me.

I knew it must have been a hotel, and standing on our tiptoes, looking at the dusty lobby always made me curious about that building.

Many years later, as I was researching the hotel, I returned to that window scene imprinted in my mind, imagining people dancing and eating in that beautiful Richmond Hotel, named after the famous Dean Richmond family.

I think some of my favorite memories were shopping. I love the clothes of the '60s. Favorite places to shop were Alexander’s Clothing Store and C.L. Carr's department store. It was always so much fun to go into the stores and look at the newest styles.

Being a Notre Dame student, we had to wear the ugliest uniforms.

What were they thinking by having the girls wear a bolero? So, the idea of getting new clothes was a big deal.

 Alexander's on the north side of Main Street had a section in the store called The Barn. It was like walking into a teenager’s fashion dream, showcasing all the newest styles.

When I was a freshman, there was a dance called the Christmas Dance, and I remember buying my dress from The Barn.

It was pink, and since this was my first dance (I was 14), and my dad being a dad, he made me add a big black velvet bow to the neckline of the dress. I always thought that was funny since I weighed about 93 pounds.

I also remember in my senior year buying my formal for our senior prom at Alexander's.

I can't forget my other favorite store on the south side of Main Street, C. L. Carr. It was like entering into many little departments that, together, created a building where you could buy almost anything.

I loved their clothes. Somehow, there was a deal with my parents, or I should say with my mom, that I could take home clothes on approval.

That was always exciting because I could pick out my favorite clothes and take them home and show my mom, and hopefully, I could keep one or two of them.

My mother would say, "Don't show your father today; wait a few days, and the day your father asks 'When did you get that new outfit?' you can say, 'Oh, I’ve had it awhile, Dad.' ”

Since we had to wear such attractive uniforms one year, the store sold mohair sweaters that we could thankfully wear over our school uniform. I didn't care that I was allergic to wool. I would wear that sweater, so did my best friend, Cathy. I think she might've had a blue sweater and I had a pink one. I loved that sweater.

I have so many memories of that fantastic store in which you could buy a particular card, vacuum cleaner, a rug, sewing supplies, pots and pans, and have gifts wrapped all year long.

I can remember buying my wedding gown in 1974 with my mom, another memory I will cherish.

It was the way the sales clerk treated you with such kindness and respect that left such a remarkable impression. I picked out our everyday dishes and "good china” at Carr’s.

They also had a travel agency kiosk called Travelore on their first floor where we bought our honeymoon tickets. You really could find everything in that store. 

Years later, I had my first child and couldn't wait to buy baby clothes.

I also would buy gifts for other friends and relatives, and somehow the sales clerks at the store knew if that new baby had already received the gift I had picked out.

When our daughter was in high school, she was one of the Christmas wrappers in the store's basement.  

With their fake snow and predictable storylines, Hallmark movies take me back to my hometown to remember what it was like before it was taken away.

The one thing the wrecking ball couldn't take away are the treasured memories of my hometown Main Street.

PHOTOS:

1) (Top) Demolition of Downtown Batavia in the name of urban renewal, courtesy of Genesee County History Department;

2) Red brick building -- Hotel Richmond, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum;

3) Hotel Richmond lobby, coustesy of the Genesee County History Department;

4) Notre Dame High School class photo of girls wearing boleros, from a ND yearbook;

5) Anne Marie Peca in her Senior Prom formal from Alexander's clothing store, courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz;

6) Anne Marie Peca wedding photo, courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz;

7) C. L. Carr store drawing, Pat Burr;

​8) (Bottom) Main Street Downtown Batavia, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum.

December 27, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in batavia, history, nostalgia, wintertime, news.

Growing up in Batavia in the 1950s provided kids with a lots of opportunities for winter outdoor fun. There were a couple reasons for this: first, there was a lot more snow to play in.

The average temperature in this area has risen almost a degree and a half in the last 50 years and the average low temperature has gone up double that amount. Even though we receive more winter precipitation, a lot of it falls as rain. You can't really build a rainman or have a rainball war.

Secondly, there are a lot more indoor electronic entertainment options now. I'm not gonna go all grumpy old guy (although I sometimes am him) and criticize kids for phones, video games, etc.. It's just a different time.

All Bundled Up

Back then in order to make it through a snowy cold outdoors day, kids had to dress warmly. This involved a lot of bulky clothes and some help from your mother. I have mentioned the movie “A Christmas Story" in my reminiscences before, but if you picture Ralphie's little brother Randy having so many clothes on that his arms wouldn't stay down, that describes us perfectly.

A bittersweet memory for me is that in 1997 my mother had a heart attack. The doctor told us that it was fatal and she only had a short time to live. As I sat trying to comfort her, I asked, “Mom, what's your favorite memory from when we were kids?” She replied, “ I think it has to be you guys (I had two younger brothers) going out to play in the snow.”

Sledding And Skating

Until age 10 I lived on Thomas and Ellicott avenues, so sledding at the State (Street) Park (now known as Centennial Park) was one of our winter activities. It was a pretty short walk there with our wooden Flexible Flyer sleds and we'd stay there all afternoon until our hands were frozen into our mittens.

I recall that over toward the west end of the park hill there was a tree that for some reason had a raised earthen circle around its base. It wasn't that high, but everyone tried to start from it to get a little extra boost in speed.

In 1957 we moved to North Spruce Street and had a lot more yard room to make snow forts and have snowball wars. Also, in the late '50s and through the '60s we got a LOT of snow.

Like most kids then, we did get ice skates for a Christmas present one year. I never did enough skating to be any good at it, but I do remember going to a rink at Williams Park on Pearl Street. One time my friend Charlie's older teenage sister who could drive dropped us off and agreed to be back at a certain time. Well, she was a teenager so she was late. Very late. By the time she got there we were on the verge of crying because our feet were so cold. I think Charlie blistered her ears pretty good as we drove home to thaw out.

On Jan. 15th 1994 I went to the coldest game in Buffalo Bills' history, a playoff game against the (then) Los Angeles Raiders with a wind chill of -32 degrees. My feet did not get as cold as that day skating in Batavia. Mostly because I was prepared with three pairs of socks and felt-lined boots. Also, because a teenage girl didn't go necking with her boyfriend and leave me there.

When we moved to North Spruce we were the last house on the east side of the street. A couple years later someone began constructing a house on the lot to our north.

Something got delayed and the basement walls were poured, but then it was left open and water got in there. We discovered by climbing down a wooden ladder that there was a sheet of ice there when the water froze. So one winter before it was closed in, we'd go down there and play hockey. Well, hockey as played by several kids who really couldn't skate on a rink about 25-yards long.

Snowball Shenanigans

Snowball wars were usually fun unless you caught one in the face. When we lived on North Spruce Street we used to go to East Main Street and bombard semi-trucks. On the north side of Main between North Spruce and Eastown Plaza there was a hill with apartment buildings on top (I'm not sure how long the hill has been gone, but I only noticed it recently). We'd go up there at night and launch our icy missles at the rear part of the trucks as they lumbered by.

While living on Thomas or Ellicott avenues my younger brother Dan and I used to take hikes out State Street Road to the airport and back. In the cold weather Mom would pack us some sandwiches and a thermos of chicken noodle soup to fortify us on our journey.

One time though snowballs got us in trouble. We got the less-than-brilliant idea to throw them at cars on the New York State Thruway from the State Street Bridge. A State Trooper saw us, turned on his flashing lights, pulled over, and came up the embankment after us. We were too terrified to run (we were probably 9 and 6 years old) and appropriately froze to the spot.

The trooper gave us a good chewing out and told us if he caught us endangering drivers like that again he'd put us in his car and take us to our house. He ordered us to be sure to tell our parents what we had done, but I can't remember if we actually did or not. That might have been one of those cases like climbing the water tower when you told them years later -- when there was no chance of punishment.

Getting the Boot

Another memorable winter incident happened on Cedar Street. My aunts Kate and Peg lived by the sand wash (now DeWitt Recreation Area) and one snowy day my brother and I had been playing somewhere past there by either the Peanut or Lehigh Valley railroad tracks.

On the way home I decided to take us on a shortcut by skirting the icy edge of one of the ponds. Suddenly, my boot sank into the snow and water started coming up around it. I was overcome by fear since us kids had heard that those ponds were hundreds of feet deep. I pulled and tugged, but my booted foot was stuck solidly.

Dan started toward me to help, but I yelled at him to get back fearing the extra weight. I yanked my leg one more time and my leg came free but the boot stayed entrenched in the slush.

I scrambled up the bank onto solid ground (under the snow), but momentarily debated in my mind whether to try to get the boot. I had seriously pictured the ice giving way and me sinking underneath so it wasn't much of a choice. I was getting the heck out of there.

I began running as fast as I could with only a wet sock on my foot through the cold and snow to our aunts' with little brother tagging behind.

As I was running, already my devious kid mind, while glad to be alive, was thinking of a way to get out of trouble. We had been warned many times to stay away from those ponds.

Aunt Kate's face turned white as I came bursting through the door possibly crying (although mostly fake I think) and blurting out a story about how I made a mistake and my boot got stuck in some water and I had to run miles (maybe a quarter of a mile) through the snow in my sock and that I'd never go near there in the winter again, and so on.

I don't think I ever saw Aunt Kate wear anything but what she called a “house dress” and she was certainly not an “outdoorsy” person, but she took Dan and went and retrieved my boot. I don't think I ever asked how, but she lectured me at length about going near the water. I don't think she ratted me out to my parents though.

Driveway Duties

At some point in the late '50s, not too long after we moved to North Spruce Street, my dad had to have surgery, so at age 11 or 12 I became responsible for shoveling the driveway. As I mentioned earlier, we got a lot of snow those winters and it was a constant battle for a kid to keep that passage cleaned out.

We had not added a garage onto the house yet, so fortunately for me my mom would park close to the street so I wouldn't have to shovel too far. I remember that she would give me the keys to start the car up and I would take breaks in there. We probably had something like a 1956 Pontiac and I'd listen to The Tommy Shannon show on WKBW radio with The Rebels playing “Wild Weekend."

Drifting Away

In the rear of our ranch-style house on North Spruce Street we had a picture window in the living room. I can recall several winters where my brother and I were sent out to shovel the windblown snow away from it so we could see out. Also, I remember drifts in the front that went up almost to the level of the rain gutters.

I would be remiss if I wrote about memories of snow in Batavia without mentioning the blizzards of 1966 (one of my previous stories was about my adventures during that epic event) and 1977. So many Batavians recall being stranded for days, getting groceries by snowmobile, and cars being buried in the piles of snow until spring.

Judging by the large number of former Batavians who have moved to Florida and other Southern environs, not everyone shares my fondness for winter nostalgia. However, I still enjoy the change of seasons in Upstate New York, but will admit that I wouldn't complain if it only snowed on Christmas Eve and Day (which it rarely does). Nonetheless, sometimes in the winter I'll “drift” off to sleep thinking of my kid days in snowy Batavia, New York.

Top photo: Dave Reilly (left) with brothers Jim and Dan 1960.

Middle two color images: Before and after photos of little Dave when a sled ride went bad.

Bottom two photos: Two views of the back of 122 N. Spruce St., Batavia, circa early 1960s.

Photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.

December 6, 2020 - 2:41pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Peca family, Christmas 1960s, history, nostalgia, batavia.

I was reminiscing, thinking back to Christmases in Downtown Batavia circa 1960.

I recall a Friday night, and Main Street was decorated with holiday cheer. People from all over Genesee County had come to the city to shop and reconnect with friends.

I had made my list for Christmas, and my first two stops were Newberry’s and W.T. Grant’s. Those two stores carried everything you would need -- from a picture with Santa, a hot dog at their food counter, to a new dress and plumbing supplies. The stores were crowded, and the Christmas music was coming from outside of C.L. Carr’s.

The windows of the Carr’s building would mesmerize young and old with their moveable musical figures. It was a much slower pace in the ‘60s. People working behind the counters of the various stores knew your name and would ask about your family. Genesee Hardware was on Main Street at that time and sold toys. I remember going there to see if the wedding dress for my Barbie doll was still for sale. It was!

Other stores I remember were Thomas and Dwyer and C. F. Knox, shoe stores that were run by families. A winter ritual was driving around the city with my family to see the Christmas decorations. There was always one particular house you had to see every year with the most sparkling Christmas lights.

Your next stop would have to be NY State School for the Blind to see the magical, miniature Christmas village on the school’s snow-covered lawn.  

My memories take me back to my family — the Pecas — and those Christmas mornings with the opening of presents and the five-course meal prepared in the kitchen. One Christmas, our mother gave each of us a photo album she created with pictures of each of us in our album. I remember sitting in the living room with my brothers and sisters looking at our albums. We laughed at how we looked when we were young and couldn’t believe that our mother of six found time to create such a timeless memory.

Another favorite memory was Christmas dinner. We would eat for what seemed like hours. Our family was so big we needed the large kitchen table and the dining room table for a holiday meal. You had, to begin with, our dad saying grace and thanking God we could all be together. The feast started with an antipasto, followed by Italian wedding soup, lasagna, and a full-course turkey dinner. Later we would have a wide variety of choices of homemade pie.  

This Christmas will be different for many. I know we will not be able to see our children and grandchildren. We will be filled with memories of Christmases past and hoping all our families and friends stay safe and healthy and are filled with beautiful memories from yesteryear.

Top photo: The Peca family dressed their best for a Christmas Card photo.

Below, two of Anne Marie Starowitz's sisters, Gina, left, and Terry.

Below, Tony, Sam, Anne Marie, and their dad, with sisters Gina and Terry on his lap. (Not pictured: mom and brother Johnny.)

November 15, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, news, batavia, LeRoy.

In the '80s, I was a fourth-grade teacher for the Batavia City School District, and one of the many highlights of my career was teaching local history. This year, I was again able to show children where they came from through the lens of local history.

I had the opportunity to take my second-graders from St. Joseph Regional School on walking field trips to the Holland Land Office Museum. I am fortunate to meet with my students physically every day; this is not a reality for many schoolchildren.

Even though it is 2020 and the children use technology every day with Chromebooks, a tablet, or a computer, they still enjoy going back in time and learning about their history.

Every child chose a famous local person to learn about and research. With the help of their parents, the students visited various famous places in Batavia.

Since I had children from LeRoy, we also added their local history; they researched Ingham University, Orator Woodward, Herman LeRoy, and Stein Farms. I know the children and parents found this interesting. 

As we walked down Main Street and stopped at The First Bank of the Genesee, I told the story of Trumbull Cary. Our next stop was James Brisbane’s Mansion. They also enjoyed looking at the Upton Monument and learning about our famous Civil War hero, Union Colonel Emory Upton.

On our trip to the Historic Batavia Cemetery, the children connected with where their renowned person was buried. To see the children looking up at the height of William Morgan’s monument was priceless, or connecting the Richmond Memorial Library with the Richmond Mausoleum was a wonderful moment.

So, as they say, some things change, and some things stay the same; the children are the constant in my life as a teacher. Children haven’t changed. 

What is different in 2020 for all of our children is the coronavirus pandemic -- they sit at a desk 6 feet apart; they walk the halls wearing their mask and sanitize their hands entering the classroom and going out of the classroom. When they get a chance to go on recess, the children can run and skip, play tag, enjoy the playground equipment, and, most of all, just laugh.

I mostly enjoy their laughter and watching them run. I am so proud of them, so even though we live with the tangible specter of COVID-19, the children are still children and want to hear about Joseph Ellicott, Dean Richmond, and take a visit to the beautiful Historic Batavia Cemetery.

What I find so sad is that these young children don’t know what it was like before coronavirus.

They are missing sitting on a rug listening to a story, working in groups, singing in Glee Club, or playing sports. What they hear now is the humming of room air purifiers and the smell of disinfectants. Good thing that our history will never change.  

Hopefully, we will be able to return to “normal times,” and this, too, will become part of our past, not our day-to-day lives.

Photos courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

Top, St. Joseph Regional School second-graders on the steps of the Brisbane Mansion, now housing the City of Batavia Police Department.

Below, St. Joseph Regional School students at the gravesite monument of Joseph Ellicott in Batavia Cemetery.

Bottom, teacher Anne Marie Starowitz stands behind her class in front of the Holland Land Office Museum.

November 1, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in news, history, batavia, railroads.

From the mid 1800s until the 1960s Batavia could rightfully be called a railroad town. With four different rail lines going through it from Walnut Street, through the Jackson / Ellicott area and across Harvester Avenue and Cedar Street, there was train traffic 24 hours a day.

Many of the local men employed by the railroads were of Irish or Italian descent. So, on a summer day along the line you could probably smell the aroma of boiling potatoes and corned beef (on the rare occasions when it could be afforded) or garlicky marinara sauce made with homegrown tomatoes wafting from open windows.

There are many former or current Batavians of a certain age (meaning old) whose parents or grandparents made their living working for one of the rail lines in some capacity. I think my grandfather was unique in that regard because in his 30-year career he worked in several varied job positions for three different railroads: the Lehigh Valley, Erie, and New York Central.

James D. Reilly was my paternal grandfather. He died in 1931, 16 years before I came along. He was born in 1870 in Mendon to Irish immigrants Patrick and Bridget Costello O'Reilly. Patrick, who was a farm laborer, and Bridget raised six children in a house about the size of today's two-car garage. The term “dirt poor” certainly applied to them -- all the way down to the earthen-floored root cellar of their tiny house.

Rochester Junction

The house was located very close to Rochester Junction, which was a stop and transfer point on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. From there some passengers would switch trains onto a spur, which went to downtown Rochester to a station now occupied by the popular Dinosaur Barbecue Restaurant on Court Street.

As today's patrons gobble down ribs and sauce-slathered brisket they might picture in their mind the chaotic hubbub of travelers in their suits, bowler hats and corseted dresses rushing to and from the steam-emitting trains.

About 1900 James D. Reilly got a job as a laborer working for the Lehigh Valley. By 1905 he had moved to the position of Towerman and worked in the interlocking tower at Rochester Junction. It was the responsibility of the men in the tower to operate the switching equipment to enable trains to change from one track to another.

Every model railroad enthusiast worth his salt (or coal) knows that each rail company had their own distinctive color scheme for their towers. The Lehigh Valley was light and dark gray, the Erie was dark green, and so on.

The Batavia tower shown in the top photo of the track gang at the Jackson and Ellicott Street crossing was eventually bought and moved to Fairport and placed next to the Erie Canal, where it now serves as the office for a canoe rental company. This is somewhat ironic because it was the boom in railroad transportation that sounded the death knell for the canal in the late 1800s.

When James was a towerman, according to the 1905 State Census and the Mendon Town Historian Diane Ham, it is likely that he was living on railroad property in a small “shanty” with his wife, Catherine Nussbaumer Reilly, whom he had married in 1904, and her elderly father George.

By 1910 James was promoted to foreman of a track crew. It was harder work but more pay. Track maintenance was backbreaking work in the blazing heat of summer and even harder in the freezing and snowy winters, but the family needed the money.

By then his father-in-law had passed away and he and my grandmother had two children, George and Margaret. They moved to a rented house still near the railroad but near what is now Clover Street in Mendon.

Moved to Batavia

In 1911 my father James Francis was born and then my aunt Katherine in 1913, both in Mendon. At this point the Reillys (the O had been dropped from their name) with a growing family had need for better housing. You can almost hear my grandmother saying to her husband, “James, I'm sick of living in shacks with all these kids! We need a house!” So, about 1915 the family moved to Batavia. Their final child, Mary, was born there in 1919.

In Batavia, James continued as a track gang foreman, but with the Erie Railroad. At first the family lived in a rented place on Wiard Street off East Main Street between Bank and Summit streets.

But sometime before 1920 he finally was able to purchase his own home at 27 Cedar St. The house wasn't large, but had three bedrooms and two floors, which must have seemed like a mansion to someone who grew up in what was little more than a shack.

The house was directly adjacent to the four tracks of the New York Central Railroad. Chugging and hissing steam engine trains passed by at all hours of the day and night, plus they lived next to a crossing so whistles had to be blown on every approach.

This cacophony of sound might have bothered some people, but the Reillys were used to it and slept like proverbial babies.

Their next-door neighbor was Marty O' Brien, another Irish immigrant and also a railroad employee. Back in those days, crossing gates had to be raised and lowered manually and that was Marty's job, so he just had to walk past Reilly's house to his work shanty by the tracks. Marty played the violin and would bring memories of faraway Ireland with his tunes.

Cedar Street was the ideal place for railroad employees to live because the tracks of four rails -- Erie, New York Central, Peanut and Lehigh Valley -- all bisected that road at some point. But, since three of the railroads crossed Cedar at street level (the Lehigh had a bridge) traffic could be held up interminably -- horse-drawn wagons and later automobiles.

Union Man

James was a loyal union man and paid dues of $3.50 every six months to The United Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employes (sic) who were affiliates with the American Federation of Labor (AFL).

This union membership paid off for him when sometime between 1920 and 1925 he sustained a serious leg injury on the job. Apparently, a section of track was inadvertently dropped on his limb causing a severe enough injury so as to make it impossible to continue on the track crew.

However, the union stepped in to make sure their brother and his family would be provided for by arranging a transfer to the New York Central Railroad. In the late 1800s that railroad had built and staffed a nursery in Batavia for the purpose of growing and providing plants and flowers for all the grounds of NYC Stations between Buffalo and Syracuse. 

James was assigned to that nursery to raise and care for the flowers as it was a less strenuous task for a man with a debilitating condition, but one that continued to enable him to earn a salary.

The End of the Line

Unfortunately, my grandfather was stubborn about his medical care, as it seems many men were in that time, and he refused to see a doctor on a regular basis. In 1931 he developed sepsis (blood poisoning) due to continued infection in his leg.

He passed away at the age of 61 in his home on Cedar Street next to railroad tracks that had been a part of his life for 30 years.

It is a fanciful notion, but it gives comfort to think that perhaps as James D. Reilly passed from this life a lonesome whistle blew on a passing train signaling the end of shift for a hard-working railroad man.

Epilogue: Even though James D. Reilly had passed away, the house at 27 Cedar St. remained a part of the Reilly family for almost 60 more years. In 1939 his wife Catherine, my grandmother, also died there.

Their son George, my uncle, married in the early 1940s and purchased a house up the street at 5 Cedar St. He and his wife, Helen, lived there until the 1980s when he passed away.

James' and Catherine's daughters, Catherine and Margaret (my aunts Kate and Peg) never married and lived at 27 Cedar until 1990. Neither of them ever had a driver's license but they both managed to work at the P. W. Minor Shoe Factory on State Street for more than 40 years.

My brothers and I spent many an hour and night at our aunts' house. We could always count on two Christmases, two Easters, and two Halloweens, courtesy of aunts Kate and Peg who fondly (and embarrassingly) called each of us “Honey Boy."

The New York Central was moved farther down Cedar Street in the late 1950s when the tracks became an interference with traffic in the City of Batavia. You could certainly still hear the sounds of the trains, but it no longer seemed that they were barreling right through the living room.

In 1989 Kate died and soon thereafter Peg went to a nursing home. The contents of the longtime Reilly home were disposed of at auction and the house was sold. It was the end of a 75-year era of Reillys at 27 Cedar St. in Batavia. 

Top photo: Track crew at the intersection of the Erie and New York Central railroads in Batavia circa early 1900s, from the Dan Orr Collection courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum.

Photo below: James D. Reilly, right, his daughter Mary Reilly and an unidentified man sitting outside a railroad crossing guard shanty in Batavia in the early 1920s. Courtesy of Dave Reilly.

Below: Interlocking tower at Rochester Junction in the early 1900s, courtesy of Diane Ham, Town of Mendon historian.

Bottom, postcard of New York Central Railroad Station in Batavia in the early 1900s, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum.

September 20, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, news, nostalgia, LeRoy.

Photo: Miss Anne Marie Peca's third-grade class at Wolcott Street School in 1972.

It was September 1972 and I was about to begin my first year of teaching at Wolcott Street School in LeRoy. My whole life I had wanted to be a teacher but to be able to teach where my mother grew up and where my grandmother still lived made it all the more exciting and memorable.

I have so many memories from that first year. My first week at Wolcott Street School I was in the workroom making dittos (mimeograph copies) by hand when a teacher who I think taught my mother came in and yelled at me and said students are not allowed to use the machine and ordered me back into the high school building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will always remember my very first class, of third-graders, and the many rules I broke. I didn’t realize you needed permission to take your class for a walk or you shouldn’t adjust the thermostat in your classroom to 90 degrees to teach the children about what it’s like to live in a desert. My thermostat regulated the heat for the entire second floor.

That year we did the play "Mary Poppins" on the big stage (above is a "ditto" of the program).

I do have so many treasured memories of being a teacher in LeRoy but I also have so many memories living in LeRoy.

One highlight was visiting my grandmother who lived at 25 South St. I loved going to mass with her at Saint Joseph’s Church and visiting Saint Francis Cemetery. We would water all the flowers on the graves of our relatives and it seemed like it was half the cemetery.

Later on, when I was a teacher in LeRoy I learned to appreciate the beauty of the village.

In 1974 I was married and we moved to LeRoy and lived at 15 Lake St. in Mr. Miceli’s upstairs apartment. It was a beautiful two-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen and a storage room. The rent was $100 a month and that included utilities.

I always enjoyed walking to school to teach because walking down Main Street was so beautiful, plus we only had one car. I would walk past the village hall and I would wave to Mrs. Fernaays, who I always thought was the mayor of LeRoy.

After school on my way home I would stop at the LeRoy Drugstore to pick up a prescription or a card. My next stop was Peck’s Meat Market to buy two pork chops or a half pound of ground beef. On Saturday, our date night we would walk to the LeRoy Theater and watch a 50-cent movie and then stroll home.

I do remember one thing that took getting used to was a very loud siren that would go off if there was a fire. We lived very close to the village hall and the first time we heard the siren go off, we jumped out of bed and thought we were being attacked.

I will always treasure my time in LeRoy, not just the beautiful village, but the wonderful friends I made, and the outstanding teachers I had the privilege to work with. I was also able to create treasured memories with my beautiful grandmother, Jennie Bellow.

Now when I visit St. Francis’s Cemetery it is to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncle and baby sister’s gravestones. As I sit there I remember that little girl running all around the cemetery watering flowers with her grandmother.

The Village of LeRoy is as beautiful today as it was when we lived there in the '70s.

My memories can’t compare to someone who is a true LeRoyan but I want to thank all of you for letting me be one for a few years!

Images courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

September 15, 2020 - 4:03pm
posted by Press Release in hlom, Holland Land Office Museum, batavia, history, news.

Press release:

Have you ever wondered how Genesee County came to be? What was the Holland Land Purchase? What is a Gibbet? How did Batavia get its name? If any of these questions peak your curiosity among many others, then volunteering at the Holland Land Office might be perfect for you.

The museum is reaching out to anyone with an interest in local history who would like to volunteer. Any amount of time that can be given is welcome, even an hour a week can make a great difference.

Volunteers can work in many different areas, and interests and strengths will be used to the most optimum affect. Areas of need include: cleaning, gift shop, docent/tour guide, documenting of artifacts, exhibits and displays, landscaping, etc.

Volunteer hours would be during the normal hours of operation of the museum are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

If you have an interest in volunteering with the Holland Land Office Museum, please contact Director Ryan Duffy at (585) 343-4727 or email: [email protected]

Information can also be found at the museum’s website.

September 13, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in news, batavia, history, education, nostalgia, covid-19, St. Mary's School.

After attending school (elementary, high school and college) for 18 years and teaching school (fifth and sixth grades) for another 33, I have been a part of opening day 51 times. And that doesn't include the overlapping times when my own two children headed back to their educational journeys.

But nothing in all that time is going to compare what the beginning of this school year will be like due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking temperatures, wearing masks, social distancing, plexiglass separating panels, lots of sanitizing, and a whole lot more that teachers and students are going to face including some days at school and other days virtually, all because of COVID-19.

I have never regretted being retired, but I am even more happy about it this year and convey my best wishes to all those who will try their best to make the 2020-2021 academic year a productive one.

Back in the 1950s at St. Mary's School in Batavia, we certainly had a less worrisome time when our summer vacation ended. Some preparations had to be made, but nothing approaching what parents and kids have to do now, even before the virus.

Bow Ties and Buster Browns

There was no fretting about what to wear to impress our classmates. We had uniforms, so each kid looked as plain and mundane as every other one. For the girls, it was a light blue blouse with a dark blue skirt, and the boys wore a light blue long or short sleeve shirt with dark blue pants. The pièce de résistance for the boys was a blue clip-on bow tie. If I had a nickel for every one of those I lost I could have bought a lot of Junior Mints.

I'm pretty sure that the school had a deal with Charles Mens' Shop (which is still in business) to stock the uniforms and each year my mom would buy me two shirts and two pairs of pants. Between roughhousing on the way to and from school and outdoors at lunchtime, by June those pants would have been patched more times than a pothole at Ellicott and Main.

When it came to shoes, things were pretty simple. We'd head to Thomas and Dwyer's Downtown and Mr. Dwyer or Skinny Weiss would find a new pair of Buster Brown's in our size. We hated those goofy-looking round-toed things, but Mom was paying so that's what you got. The girls would arrive on day one with new saddle shoes or Mary Janes. I don't think sneakers were allowed.

Lunch Box and Lunchroom

In the '50s we didn't have backpacks, but choosing your lunchbox was a big deal. This was before everything was plastic and they were made from metal and most contained a Thermos.

Howdy Doody ones were a favorite of the younger kids, while the older boys wanted Davy Crockett or The Lone Ranger. By the way, those metal boxes could come in handy if you had to defend yourself from a bully.

During the first couple years of St. Mary's existence we were housed in the basement of adjoining Notre Dame High because the elementary school was still under construction. Once we got in the new building our lunch habits changed because we had a school lunchroom.

Mrs. Isabelle Suranni, who was a chef at various restaurants in the area, prepared the food right on the premises. Unlike most other lunchroom food I encountered over the years St. Mary's was tasty, especially the spaghetti. My mom worked in the kitchen for a couple of years and whenever spaghetti was served she'd bring some home for dinner.

So, that was about it -- uniform, shoes, lunchbox. Maybe a couple pencils and a box of eight crayola crayons. There was no list sent home of all the things the parents needed to buy.

As far as teacher preparations that were made for school's opening, it was certainly a big deal for me when I was teaching. We'd head back to our classrooms a week or two early to get the classroom ready. Desks were arranged, bulletin boards decorated, name tags made, lessons prepared, and so on.

'Convent'-ional Classroom

For seven of my eight elementary school years, my teacher was a nun -- a Sister of the Holy Cross (inset photo below right from the 1950s). I don't know how many of them had formal teacher training but I'd guess not many.

I could be cynical and surmise that the nuns spent their summer sanding and honing their rulers and yardsticks to use on us little delinquents.

But, since most Catholic schools had 40-50 students in a class, more likely they were catching their breath and recuperating from the previous semester.

Maybe they had nun spas where they would go to get refreshed. Probably not.

I don't recall much about bulletin boards or decorations, but with 50 desks there probably wasn't room for any. There were always a bunch of strategically placed statues though. Some saint was always looking over your shoulder when you were about to launch that spitball.

A Long Year Ahead

I can't imagine having more than 30 kids in a class, but it must have given the nuns some preopening day anxiety. Actually, I could identify with that feeling somewhat because my very first teaching job after graduating from college in 1969 was in a Catholic school, Sts. Peter and Paul in Rochester.

I was also similar to the nuns in that I really didn't have much preparation for teaching. I had, quite honestly, taken the job in order to secure a deferment from the military draft. I had only taken a couple education classes at St. John Fisher and never did any student teaching. Essentially, I was winging it.

My very first day I started out by handing out index cards to my sixth-graders and asking them to write down their name, address, phone number, and parents' names. I had a boy in the class who was from Lebanon named Toufik. 

As I circulated around he raised his hand. “Yes, Toufik,” I said. “How can I help you?”

“Mister,” he replied. “How do you make a T?”

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What have I gotten myself into?

First Days

Only two of my St. Mary's opening days stand out in my memory of boyhood, both of which I mentioned in a previous story.

In first grade, school started on a Wednesday, but because I had strep throat, I didn't arrive until the following Monday. I was a shy kid so I was probably terrified to come in on my own.

A boy named Lenny, the briefest of classmates, had the absolute greatest opening day entrance in my 51 years when he showed up with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and promptly got expelled. There was an ad at the time which said, “I'd walk a mile for a Camel.” Lenny only got to walk about 50 feet before the black-habited arm of a nun whisked him off the premises forever.

On my first opening day after retiring, I took my boat and went fishing. On the first opening day of my longtime girlfriend's retirement, we took a day trip to the pretty little Finger Lakes Town of Skaneatles.

What will we do on the first day of school this year? I'm not sure except that it won't involve little kids. Or nuns.

Photos and images courtesy of Dave Reilly.

September 12, 2020 - 4:00pm

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History Derek D. Maxfield (above photo) had a reception this afteroon at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia and signed copies of his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY."

He became an expert on the excruciating conditions at the infamous POW camp while researching material for his book.

He will be featured on C-SPAN tonight at 6 o'clock sharing what his research uncovered about this notorious time period in Elmira's history.

It is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

Called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Most of the information in this post provided by GCC.

September 9, 2020 - 2:14pm
posted by Press Release in GCC, news, Derek Maxfield, civil war, Hellmira, POW camp, history, C-SPAN.

Submitted photo and press release:

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History, Derek D. Maxfield (inset photo, left) will be on C-SPAN at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, sharing what his research has uncovered about the excruciating conditions at a POW camp in Elmira.

Maxfield became an expert on the subject while writing his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" which explores this notorious time period in the history of Elmira.

Elmira is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

In "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" Maxfield contextualizes the rise of prison camps during the Civil War, explores the failed exchange of prisoners, and tells the tale of the creation and evolution of the prison camp in Elmira.

Long called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Always interested in collaboration, Maxfield partnered with GCC's Associate Professor of English Michael Gosselin who wrote an essay on Mark Twain as an appendix to the book.

The essay, called "A Foretaste of Heaven: How Elmira Gave the World Mark Twain" is about Samuel Clemen's summer home at Quarry Farm in Elmira, where he wrote many of his most famous works.

Maxfield's "Hellmira" also features a variety of photos and images contributed by GCC's Professor of English, Tracy Ford.

Since joining Genesee Community College in 2009, Maxfield has been actively involved in GCC's campus community and dedicated to providing students with an exceptional learning experience. Described by many as a gifted storyteller, Maxfield has a way of reaching students in the classroom that is memorable.

He incorporates applied learning, which gets his students beyond the classroom and experiencing the preservation of history on the ground, has created unique and engaging assignments, created new courses, and coordinates the GCC History Club's Historical Horizons Lecture Series which brings history to life for students and the College community.

Maxfield was awarded a "SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching" in 2019, holds an M.A. in History from Villanova University and a B.A. in History from SUNY Cortland.

He currently resides in Churchville.

A book publication reception is being held at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. Roman's is located at 59 Main St.

All are welcome to come and meet Maxfield, purchase a copy of "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp - Elmira, NY" ($14) and even have it signed! Masks are required and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

The publication of this book marks the second time Maxfield has appeared in GCC's Recognition Matters series. Officials at GCC have embraced this series as a way to acknowledge not only the achievement, but also the high quality of the College's recognized faculty, staff and students.

Subscribe to

Calendar

S M T W T F S
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30
 
31
 
 
 
 
 
 

Copyright © 2008-2020 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
 

blue button