Sunday, December 7, 2014

Shop Local!

The downtown of Port Byron has certainly had its up and downs. The old photographs and postcards show stores, restaurants, and garages, and all the needs to serve the local population. But it is safe to say that prior to 1920, the local stores were well patronized as they really were the only option. However, once the trolley line started service between Port Byron and Auburn, or even to Syracuse and Rochester, the locals had many more choices as to where to shop. And at the same time, automobiles were becoming more accessible, and the roads were getting better. Hence, we have a push by the local shops to get shoppers to shop local. These ads certainly reflect that push. The top ad is from Christmas in 1922. Need a last minute gift? Don't run to Auburn, shop here!

I ran the two page ad in another post, so you may have seen it before, but not in this context. It comes from 1932. Port Byron, like the rest of the world, was in the grips of a depression. This amazing spread shows almost every business and shop in the village, and lays it out; "Let's All Get Together and Boost Port Byron".

The struggle of the small local business to survive in a much bigger world has been going on for 90 years.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Octagon Cabins

 These photos have been kicking around for a long time, but I never tire of looking at them. Thanks go to Bill Hecht for cleaning them up.

In case you don't recognize these, they are the waiting rooms from the old Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Interurban trolley line.  You can see the location of the stops still attached to the two that are being moved. The top cabin, Stop 2, was from the Auburn and Northern line. From the look of the area, it looks like the pull off area about half way between Port Byron and Throop. Off in the bushes, you can see an old trolley car being used as a house. The second photo was taken on West Brutus. (It is a bit blurry) You can see the downtown area of Weedsport in the background.

 This set of two photos show the stops in place as cabins. Remember that Route 31 was the main drag before the Thruway, so these were right on the main highway. Looking at the photos, it does appear that the cabins were right on the highway. There isn't much room between the road and the buildings. And where did people park their cars? The upper photo shows the office and store.

After I wrote a short piece on these cabins back in 2009, Mrs. Hitchcock said that the cabins were located right where her house was today; at 105 Rochester.

 The Auburn paper carried a 1940 story about seven of the old stops being purchased at auction and being reused. It appears that the first owner was Fred Thrush. Later papers called these the Octagon Cabins, ice cream stand and gas station. The owner was Sam Harnden. In the late 1950’s Mr. Harnden runs ads selling the business. So what happened to them?


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).