Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mike Chuttey's Map; Circa 1930

Some times in history we get to say Wow! and Huh! at the same time. Some times a artifact will answer a question and also create more questions. Here is a great example.

Mike Chuttey was born in Centralia PA in 1905 to Jacob and Mary. Shortly after, the family moved to Auburn and then finally settling in Throop. (If you don't know about Centralia, click the link) Around 1922 or 1925, Mike became a signalman on the New York Central RR. He died in1958 at the age of 53, still working for the railroad.

His work station was east in the Albany area, so he commuted each week. It is likely that he was able to hitch a ride on the trains, catching them at the station in Port Byron. (Port Byron had stations both on the West Shore and the NYC mainline. The West Shore was owned by the NYC.) At first, accroding to family lore, he may have been taking the Auburn and Northern Trolley from Throop to Port Byron, but when the line went out of business in 1930, we don't know what he did. Likely there was a bus route. He and his wife are mentioned quite a number of times as visiting people in Port Byron, so he had some knowledge of the village.

Sometime after 1931, Mike used the backside of one of his NYC waybills to draw a map of downtown Port Byron. The big question is why he drew the map. Was he showing someone something, much like we sketch out a map on an piece of paper; or was he just doodling? You can see that he carefully named all the stores on the west side of Main Street, but none on the east side. He leaves out the two large hotels and the mincemeat plant, but includes the location of a fire hydrant on Pine Street. He also notes where the nearest hospital is (Auburn), all the churches, and the auto repair shops.

What made me say wow was how Mike noted the location of the Main Street Garage and Ware's Garage. You might recall from a previous post that the Main Street Garage is a bit of a mystery. We cannot place where the first garage was located, and I am not sure if the location noted here solves that mystery. But we do know that Ware sold the business and opened another and this map shows that. We did not know until now that he had a garage in one of the old canal warehouses.

We also don't know if Mike Chuttey was trying to draw out what was at the time, or what used to be. Perhaps he drew this in 1940 attempting to recall what the village was like in 1920. You see how the map raises more questions then it answers.

 Here is a newspaper ad from 1932 that ran in the Chronicle. Remember that this is during the height of the depression, so getting people to shop was key. (also remember that you can click on the image and it will get bigger) It is fun to see what you use to be able to purchase in Port Byron.

We have a few photos of the downtown taken during this period. If I was good at dating cars, I could give a better date for the photos. You can see the historical markers in the park in front of the Hotel. Those were installed in 1932.

In the end, Mike Chuttey placed the map in one of his railroad books. Years later, his grandson Brian found it. He has donated it to the Historical Society.  For this, we thank both the Grandfather for drawing the map, and Grandson for the gift.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The American Legion Building

The nice folks over at the American Legion have been going through a remodel and I see that the grand opening is coming soon. So it seems a proper time to take a look at the building. Above we see the building as it looks today, Anyone who knows the history of the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Interurban system will know that this is one of eight stations located along the trolley line that ran between Rochester and Syracuse. Even if you are not a railroad fan, you can still look at this building and think "railroad depot". Below is a photo from the period of operations, between 1906 and 1931. However, we can see in today's structure that much has been changed. 
     So lets take a look at what was built. From a history of the system, we get this; "The standard village station on the RS&E was a very impressive looking and substantial structure. They were all constructed with the idea that the electric railroads were going to last more than their actual 25 year life. Designed by Gordon A. Wright, a Syracuse architect, the buildings were of frame construction on poured concrete foundations. The exterior finish was one and five eights Georgia Pine vertical siding separated by panels of rough cast Portland cement. Interior walls had a four and a half foot of wainscot of white oak with a "fumed oak" stain. The balance of the walls and the ceilings were plaster. Roofs were slate. Heat was supplied from a coal fired furnace in a small basement.
    Each station was divided into two portions; a sixteen by twenty-five foot waiting room seating thirty-five people at one end and a twenty by fifty foot fright room at the other. The waiting room included a ten by fourteen  foot ticket office and suitable restroom facilities. The freight room floor was, of course, on the same level as the freight car floors. On the one side of this room, two nine foot sliding doors opened onto a loading platform adjacent to the track. Wagons (and later trucks) were accommodated at similar doors located on the opposite side of the freight room." We also learn that the depots cost $6,000 a piece (about $157,000 today) and were located at Fairport, Palmyra, Newark, Lyons, Clyde, Port Byron, Weedsport, and Jordan.
    So what did this tell us? Well, the building served two functions; passenger and freight. Although we think of trolley lines as people movers, they also were very good at moving freight quickly between cities. The total trip time between Rochester and Syracuse was about three hours, much much faster than any railroad or canal boat.
   The people waited in a ground floor room that served as the ticket office and "suitable" bathroom, whatever that means. In back, there was a freight room that was built at the same level as the cars, lets guess about four feet off the ground. And we learn that there was a small basement.
This map from 1911, shows us the layout of the tracks in relation to the building. We can see three sets of tracks next to the depot. The two on the right were for the mainline and the other was for both freight cars and interchange with the Auburn and Northern trolley line that ran down Main Street to Auburn. The left most track dead ends just off this view.

Here we see a car on the Auburn and Northern track, and below we can see cars on both the main and Auburn line.  In the below view, we also get to see more of the building, although the back end is fairly under exposed and hard to see details.

 In the colorized postcard, we can see the freight house doors and if you really look, you can see the the rear house of the depot is inset so wagons could back up to the large doors and be under the cover of the roof line. If we could see the other side of the building, we would see a wooden platform that filled this area. Again, this platform was under the roof line. (If you click on the images, they get larger, and if you click on the map, you can see the outline of the building under the dashed outline of the roof.)
 So lets get back to today's building.
     Many of the architectural details are still visible on the front half of the building. The front door is the same, but a large bump out has been added to the south side. We still see the three sided ticket office window, designed so the station master could look up and down the line. But behind that, the depot floor has been enclosed and sided with basic white siding.
    When you walk in the building, you can either go up stairs or into the basement. Basically, the freight house floor was extended all way across the building, allowing for a full basement.(remember that the history said they had a small basement) (In Weedsport, the same thing happened, except that the front door was raised to match the floor and a porch was added.)
    In the history, it was said that the buildings were designed and built to last. These buildings remain in use in various forms in Lyons, Clyde, Port Byron, Weedsport, and Jordan. I don't know if they remain in Fairport, Palmyra, and Newark. (later checking shows that the Fairport Depot may be the most intact in original form).

Sunday, September 21, 2014

On the Search for Brigham Young's house(s)

The Society received a request from someone in California asking for a photo of Brigham Young's house. This person was a direct relative of BY and her (many great) Great Grandmother was born in Port Byron. Quite honestly, for me, there are many other great stories to tell about Port Byron and Mentz, that I really have not taken the time to study BY. I know that he lived here before he became involved with the Mormon faith and that was around 1820-1829. (A newspaper article from 1876 states that BY moved to Port Byron in 1820 and Richard Palmer writes that BY moved to Mendon in 1829. The actual dates seem to bounce around in every article written.) I know that he was a painter and builder, and I know that the Canal Society has a signed receipt from BY for work done at the Milliner Boatyard.  In my walks, I had also seen that the house at the corner of Pine and South Street has a plaque that says this is the BY house. So I went and took a photo of the house and then sent it to the relative.

 At a Society meeting, Hellen Davies said that the Mormons had told her that that was not the house and that the house off of Seneca Street was the house. So I went for a walk and closely read the historic marker in the triangle.

So did Brigham live in both houses? Seeing as he was the leader of the LDS church and they are the leaders in ancestry research, I checked to see if they had anything. In a website, they point at the yellow house as the house. I asked a friend who had written a book about Brigham and his New York days and he said that he never found out which was which. To confuse matters I found an article that said that the house Brigham lived in was owned by David B Smith and it had been sold to someone who moved it and turned it into a summer kitchen. I sort of let it go at this point.

So when I was researching another topic: "what was the origin of the term Nauvoo?", I came across more BY info. Many use to refer to the upper section of Pine Street as Nauvoo, so why? Is it because BY lived there? And the Mormons named a town in Illinois Nauvoo. Was this because of Port Byron? Then I stumbled across this from 1907.
So after this, the search was on. Further searching found this article from 1902-1904.

The problem with this article is that it is so full of mistakes that the entire article has to be questioned. However, it does mention the house on Pine and South. It also mentions that parts of "the house" was moved. I have also found mentions that BY lived in Haydenville, Auburn, and perhaps Throopsville.

So we are left with many questions still;
Did BY live on the corner of Pine and South?
Did BY build and live in the yellow house off Seneca Street?
Was this house moved?
What are the actual dates of BY time in Port Byron?

Getting back to Nauvoo, if the written record is to be believed, the use of Nauvoo predates Brigham Young's arrival in Port Byron, so it may be that he took the name with him as he moved west. Nauvoo means "To be beautiful", which BY may have found in Illinois, or it may have reminded him of Port Byron.

Just to complete the story, at least for this blog post, here is the plaque that sits at the corner of Pine and Main.

I cautioned my corespondent in California to be careful and asked if she was able to determine what was what, we here would be interested in a answer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Presbyterian / Federated Church

Thanks to Jodi Yale, we are able to complete our photo tour of Port Byron's old churches. The Presbyterian Church was later to become the Federated Church which made headlines everywhere when it was destroyed in the 1998 Labor Day Storm. The clock tower was a prominent feature in almost every old view of the village.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Enlarged Lock 52 From Maiden Lane

Back in the days before the Thruway was constructed, Maiden Lane use to leave the village and continue out into the muck lands. Now of course, Maiden Lane is a dead end, replaced by Maiden Lane Road. Both these views were taken from Maiden Lane, offering a panoramic view of the west end of the village and the area around Enlarged Lock 52.

The top view looks east along the road to the Erie House, showing the hotel as it was first built. Behind the hotel, we can see the mule barn and the back half of the blacksmith shop. To the right of the hotel, we see the smallwhite ice house. Although you can't see the canal, the dark building to the right of the ice house is part of Tanner's Drydock, which was on the south bank of the canal.

As you move from left to right, you can see the embankment of the canal. Directly in the center right of the photo, you can see parts of Lock 52, which is the western end of a level that extended from here back to Lock 51 in Jordan. To the west, the canal will pass through Montezuma, cross the Seneca River by way of the Montezuma Aqueduct, pass over the Cayuga Marshes and end at Lock 53 in Clyde.

The buildings around the lock fill much of the photo. Directly in the center of the photo, the building that looks like it is up on blocks is thought to become part of the Erie House. The building today is in the shape of an "L", and this building looks a lot like the new wing. Just to the right of that building, we can see the lock tenders shack, which sits on the island between the two chambers. And to the right of that, we see Kern's Grocery Store.

To the right of the buildings, we see the stone steps and the wooden deck that was part of the late 1800's lengthening of the lock. We are also offered a rare view of the houses up on the hillside to the west of the village.

The second photo extends the view to the west. It does appear that the one small building up on blocks is a house as there is a outhouse near by. The other structures look like barns.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Letter to the Village Board

July 28, 2014

To the Honorable Mayor and Village Trustees;

Over the past week, I, acting as President of the Lock 52 Historical Society, have been dealing with the issue of a upcoming fund raiser and where to locate it.

Two years ago, the Board of the Lock 52 Historical Society signed up with Doug's Fish Fry to act as a host for the traveling food wagon. At that time, the wagon was a new idea and not too often seen in this area. This year, we have all been disheartened to see the number of times that this wagon has been in the area, especially when it comes to being the last in a long line of events this year. However, as a Board, we made the choice to move ahead with the event, if we could find a place the was suitable.

Last week, I was notified by Mentz Town Supervisor McBath that the Village had passed a resolution banning all outside food vendors on public property. This is a concern as we had asked the Town for permission to locate the truck on Town owned land next to their offices. After speaking with the Village Clerk, I was under the impression that the resolution only applied to Schasel Park, not all public property. I have passed this information along to Supervisor McBath and she has allowed us to move forward with this one event.

While I fully support the business owners of the village and town, I do have concerns over such reactionary responses to this perceived problem. Every organization has to fund raise. Every scout troop, ball team, school group, service group and historical society needs to make money in order to carry out it's mission. How to make the money is a real issue for everyone. And fund raising is a thankless, time consuming task that no one likes to do.

I see any law or regulation that bans this type of fund raising as a slippery slope. Where do we set the limits of local volunteer organizations to fund raise? When someone supports the Girl Scouts by purchasing cookies, or the Boy Scouts by purchasing popcorn, they might not purchase cookies or popcorn at Ed and Jeans. Don't church dinners or the Lock 52 spaghetti dinner steal patrons from local or even regional restaurants? Even when someone buys seasonal vegetables at the Farmers Market, they might be buying less from Ed and Jeans or the grocery in Weedsport. And banning food vendors and other sales from public spaces will not significantly ease the problem. As I understand it, the churches can set up in their lots, the school groups can set up in the school lot, even Lock 52 could set up on its property.

The real problem is traffic and that is generated by offering a product that people want to buy. We at the Lock 52 Historical Society struggle to offer a product that people want to “buy”. We need to convince enough people that what we do is worthy of supporting, either by memberships, donations, or through fund raisers. If we don't, we will fade away. The Scouts, the Legion, the Little League; all need to “sell” themselves in order to stay in business. And all this “selling” will place us in conflict with the local traditional business owners.

However, it needs to be understood that local service and volunteer organizations can help the local business owners, and there should be a symbiotic relationship between the two sides. When people come to Port Byron to watch a ball game, visit the Historical Society, or even attend a church; the potential is there to have someone stop at the local gas station or restaurant. But it goes much further that this.

Let me speak directly about Lock 52 for a moment. If you search the Internet for Port Byron, you are likely to see the work of the Lock 52 Historical Society, not posts or ads from the local restaurants. As I said before, my goal is to put out a product that attracts people to the work of Lock 52 and see it as worthy of support. And, I will put forth that this outreach helps to sell all of us in the village and town. My goal is to inform the people of the world about the town and village, and as a result, draw people to visit. I know this works as I have emails and letters from people that who that people have found us on the Internet and have arranged to come see something in the area.Certainly, there may not be streams of people visiting Lock 52 and then flowing into the restaurants, but I am willing to bet there are some that do.

This outreach doesn't cost the business owners a dime, and we need to be finding ways to encourage all the local organizations to expand this outreach, not restrict their ability to do it. It really is that simple. When someone comes to Port Byron, Montezuma, or Weedsport to see a historical bit of canal, or see their family burial plot, hike or bike, or play ball; we all have the potential to benefit.

I am sorry that some local businesses feel that the many fund raisers are harming their businesses. I wish there was a way to acquire the funds necessary to keep the doors open and not fund raise. If the business owners have ways that we can all achieve our goals and not fund raise, I would be very happy. Personally I hate fund raising. But until then, I will argue that Port Byron is stronger with us all here and all of us being active, even if that puts us into competition with local businesses on occasion.

As the president of a local volunteer organization, I feel it only proper that if such a resolution were to be passed, it would be nice to be given some sort of time frame before implementation, such as 30, 60 or 90 days, so that current and future plans could be adjusted.

I thank you for your time,

Michael Riley
President- Lock 52 Historical Society

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Harvey Ware Sr.

Do you know this man? Unlikely that you will as he died in 1926. This is Harvey C. Ware the senior. His son was Harvey C. Ware Jr., the man who ran a garage on Utica Street. In researching Harvey Sr., I came across this article that received play in many local newspapers. I print it here as it was written in the Syracuse Standard of November 24, 1885. By the way, the marriage lasted until his death, some 41 years.



Miss Crosby Eludes Her Mother and Travels Twelve Hundred Miles to be Married




A Young Man of Port Byron and a Young Woman of St. Louis Made Happy in Spite of an

Obdurate Parent


Weedsport, Nov. 23- [Special]- Harvey C. Ware, of Port Byron, and Alice L. Crosby, of St. Louis, were married at a late hour to-night at the residence of Burt Brown, on Jackson Street, by Rev. A.H. Hewitt. Miss Crosby’s presence in Weedsport was known only to a few intimate friends, she having made a hasty journey from St. Louis to elude her mother, who is expected to reach here at midnight for the purpose of preventing the marriage of her daughter. Until June last Mrs. Crosby and Alice were residents of Port Byron. Ware’s attention to the girl so annoyed the mother that the young woman was sent away to school at Brockport. Learning where she was, young Ware made the girl frequent visits, which, becoming known to Mrs. Crosby, Alice was sent to St. Louis, whither she was soon followed by her mother. In that city the young woman was employed as an amanuensis [ed- secretary] by George Barnes, a wholesale stationer. From a liberal salary she soon accumulated a considerable sum of money, which she intended to use in coming East again, but she was outwitted and her money disappeared. During all this time a close watch was kept on her movements, but she finally eluded the vigilance of her relatives, and with the aid of some sympathizing lady friends so disguised her identity that she reached here unrecognized. On Miss Crosby’s return, Ware was hastily summoned from Port Byron and the couple were promptly married, saving the solicitous friends of the young woman all further anxiety for her future happiness.