A Webster bike route mystery solved (mostly)

10 Sep

Sometimes the most interesting journey can begin with a simple question.

The journey I want to tell you about today began for me in July, when I’d stopped by the Webster Museum. I noticed a blue and yellow metal sign in the exhibit right inside the front door, next to the tall antique bike. It read, “James W. Carnevale Bike Route.”

I asked one of the Museum Ladies, “Who’s James W. Carnevale?” She thought for a second, then responded, “I don’t know.”

Thus began my quest. I knew I had to find out who Carnevale was, why a bike route was named after him, and where that bike route was. It’s been a journey that’s stretched over two months and involved almost a dozen other inquisitve folks who helped me along the way by poking into genealogical records, tracking down old newspapers, and asking around to those who might have known Carnevale.

I started by doing some quick internet research on my own, with little success. At the suggestion of the Museum Ladies, I reached out to the Webster Public Library to see if their research professionals could do a little digging.

With help from the NYS Historic Newspaper Database, in no time, my friends over there — Laureen Anthony-Palmer, Doreen Dailey and Sarah Hodges — had unlocked all sorts of articles and photos. We learned that:

  • Carnevale was born in April 30, 1930 and died suddenly in Syracuse on Jan. 22, 1977
  • he graduated in 1950 from RIT
  • he enlisted in the Army in 1951, served in Korea as an intelligence officer, and was awarded the bronze star for his work in photography
  • he worked as an engineer at Kodak
  • he served as Webster’s Recreation Commissioner and was an active member of the town’s Democratic Party
  • he’s buried at Webster Union Cemetery

Perhaps the most interesting photo we found was one from Nov. 5, 1986, which appears to show the Town of Webster presenting Carnevale’s widow Nancy with the exact Bike Route sign which now hangs in the museum. The caption mentions that the new signs would replace ones on the “established bike route.”

Another clue.

The pieces were coming together, but we still didn’t know where the bike route was and why it was dedicated to James Carnevale. But I was undaunted.

Knowing that Carnevale was a former Recreation Commissioner, I got Webster Recreation Director Chris Bilow on the case. Chris checked with some of the Rec Center’s long-time employees to see if they knew anything about Carnevale, with no luck. BUT, in another email that same day, Chris sent two photos someone had snapped of a James W. Carnevale Bike Route sign which is still standing at the corner of Drumm and Herman roads.

That was exciting news. But the trail seemed to have reached a dead end there (no pun intended).

Until just two weeks ago, when I received an email from museum volunteer and research goddess Cherie Wood, who had the bright idea to consult Esther Dunn’s Webster Through the Years, a comprehensive guide to Webster’s history. Sure enough, Cherie found a huge piece to the puzzle.

The article Cherie found explained that the bike route was originally established in 1968 to, in part, “create additional interest in healthy recreational activity that can be practiced as a family group.” The 14.5-mile route took riders (in general) west from Holt Rd. to Klem, then along Bay, Volk and Dewitt roads, ending at Inspiration Point. There riders would turn around and wind their way back. (An image of the whole article with route details follows this blog.)

While there’s nothing in the article about this being that “established route” referenced in the caption above, I think we can assume so. And perhaps we can also infer that naming the bike route after Carnevale was a way to honor his service to Webster as Recreation Commissioner.

So that’s where we are right now. It’s been fun unraveling the mystery, and I deeply appreciate the help that I got from the library, the museum, and the Rec Center folks in tracking down all these details. I feel like I’ve gotten to know James pretty well; I even visited his grave at Webster Union Cemetery to pay my respects and thank him for his service to the town. (And for providing such a fun mystery.)

If made it all the way to the end of this very long blog, thank you for your interest. And if you happen to know anyone who knows anything about James Carnevale, or if you see one of the signs in your travels (rumor has it there might be one at Klem and Five Mile Line), please snap a photo!

* * *

email me  at missyblog@gmail.com“Like” this blog on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

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A few notes of interest:

10 Responses to “A Webster bike route mystery solved (mostly)”

  1. Kathy Taddeo September 10, 2021 at 8:04 am #

    Wonderful! What a dedicated researcher you are. So glad other folks were able to support your determined search as I dropped the ball due to garden, Mann events and barn sale. I should have thought of and passed on all those sources.

    Cherie Wood is a brand-new volunteer and has already made an impact in so many ways. Glad she and the library and the Rec center were so helpful!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Charlene September 10, 2021 at 8:35 am #

    I enjoyed this article. I didn’t know James, but I worked with Nancy at the Webster Public Library and we were good friends. I also went to school with their son, Matt.

    • websterontheweb September 10, 2021 at 10:24 am #

      Nice! If you’re still in touch with Matt, perhaps you can send him the link.

  3. readmybook2002 September 10, 2021 at 8:55 am #

    In 1968 when I was twelve, I remembered a news report (? channel 8 way back Bob Mills era) that this was one of the first bike trails as an organized function using the side roadway in New York State. It was the first time I noticed part of the road on the side just for bikes. Back then it was special. It was more noticeable on Klem Rd because we went from Greece through Sea Breeze (after eating a Vic & Irv’s) to go to the cider mills on 5 mile line rd so we used Bay to Klem to 5 mile. I remember those signs well. Some are still around as you have seen.

  4. Jo Oneill September 10, 2021 at 9:39 am #

    Hi Missy,

    Nice article about James Carnevale! I don’t know if there’s any relationship or not, but our Chief Wastewater Plant Operator’s name is John Carnevale. He’s on vacation this week, but I can’t help but wonder if he is related to James in some way or another. I will try to remember to ask him next week. You have piqued my curiosity!

    Thanks, and have a nice weekend!

    Jo O’Neill
    Village Deputy Clerk
    Village Deputy Treasurer
    Village of Webster
    28 W. Main Street
    Webster, NY 14580
    P: 585-265-3770
    F: 585-265-1004

    • websterontheweb September 10, 2021 at 10:22 am #

      That would be cool. There can’t be too many Carnevale in the area

    • Kathy Bills September 13, 2021 at 9:35 am #

      Jo – I wondered that too! John is a longtime friend of my son Ryan. Let me know.

  5. Jacqueline LaBarge September 11, 2021 at 11:06 am #

    I read to the end. Very interesting and thank you for your investigation!! I always enjoy your adventures 😊

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