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When is a house just half a house?

22 Oct

You might have noticed the recent “Bit of Webster History” feature I wrote for the Webster Museum when it was published in the Webster Herald and the weekly Town newsletter. It told the story of two houses, which now sit across from one another on Corning Park in the Village of Webster, and how they used to be one house.

I heard the story from my friend Karen a few years ago and it has fascinated me ever since. I knew it was going to be one of my first History Bit features when I took over the reins a few months ago.

The story reads:


Anyone who’s ever walked or driven down Corning Park in the Village of Webster probably hasn’t noticed anything unusual about the houses on that peaceful little street. However, two of those houses, which stand across the street from one another, do have a curious history: in the early 1900s, they used to be one house. 

Around 1859, a spacious boarding house was built at 71 Corning Park, to serve students from the adjacent Webster Academy. The Academy and boarding house were discontinued in 1876 when the Union Free School was established, and for the next 50 years, 71 Corning Park remained a two-family dwelling. In 1928 it was purchased by Gordon Witmer and Amos Taylor, who divided it into two units. The larger portion remained at 71 Corning Park, and the smaller north wing was moved across the street to 76 Corning Park. 

Unfortunately, no photos of the original boarding house have ever been found, but the two, now separate residences, still stand across the street from each other on Corning Park. Additions and renovations have changed their appearance significantly from when they were one house in the early 1900s. But if you look carefully and use your imagination, maybe you can picture what they looked like together. 


For the sake of newsprint space, I try to keep these bits fairly short. But it was story that so intrigued me that I wanted to dive deeper into it for my blog. So several days ago sat down for coffee with Dave and Kathy Whitlock, longtime owners of 76 Corning Park, the smaller, former north wing of the house. They provided some interesting details I hadn’t come across in my earlier research.

Kathy first gave me a quick tour, explaining the many renovations and additions completed since they bought the home in 1965. I learned about the huge, 7-inch beam holding up the living room which still has bark on it, and how some of the original beams are charred, perhaps from a fire at the adjacent boarding house before the wing was moved. A few hand-wrought nails, found during a renovation, are displayed in a small shadowbox.

Dave and Kathy think they know why it was divided. When the two-family home was bought in 1928 by Gordon Witmer and Amos Taylor, Witmer — who was getting married — wanted a separate house for himself and his bride. So he divided it, moving the north wing directly across the street, so that the back of the house became the front, and the front the back. (Too bad no photos of that move have been found.) Witmer was going to move into that half, but as it turned out, the new, smaller, house sold first, so they moved into the larger half.

There’s a woman buried in the back yard of 76 Corning. The Williams family, who lived there decades ago, had a relative who would visit from England. At the time, the land was a huge apple orchard (The Corning Farm). The woman used to love sitting under an apple tree in the back yard and drinking beer, and asked to be buried there. The apple tree is gone, but her ashes are still there.

Dave also tells the story about how the man from whom they bought the house in 1965, a Mr. Jenkins, emphatically denied that it had once been connected to the house across the street. I would have thought that’d be a unique selling point for the property, but apparently he didn’t think so.

On a side note, I mentioned earlier that I heard about this story from my friend Karen. She remembers learning about the houses during a village tour her fourth grade class took decades ago. That tour has long been dropped from the elementary school curriculum, but maybe that decision should be reconsidered. After all, look at how much that little piece of Webster history interested that young person, and then me, and now you.

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(posted 10/22/2022)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween

18 Oct

A few readers have responded to my call to let me know about especially nice Halloween and autumn decorations, and I’ve snapped a few photos of my own as I’ve walked through the village neighborhoods. I’d love to highlight many more displays in the next week or so, but here’s a sampling of what I’ve gotten so far.

The beautiful autumnal display above and the scene below can be seen on Dunning Ave. in the Village of Webster. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, the folks on Dunning always do a spectacular job with decorations.

This next one, on London Rd. in the village, is probably my favorite so far. Like many other displays, it’s a graveyard scene, and it’s busy, with a lot of elements to look at. But clearly much thought was put into the placement of the gravestones and other unique features. I would have stopped longer on my walk to get a closer look at all the pieces, but it was beginning to rain.

These following one are also from the village.

This last photo is from Hatch Rd., suggested to me by a reader.

I still have a few more to capture “on film,” and hope to drive around some evening soon to capture some nice lights. If you know of any I should check out, please email me at missyblog@gmail.com. Or take a photo for me and save me the trip!

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

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

(posted 10/18/2022)

Please keep an eye out for nice Halloween displays

7 Oct

Halloween-time is my favorite time of year for a lot of reasons, but one of them is seeing all the Halloween decorations that pop up at the houses around town.

Last year I walked around a bit in the village on Halloween night while my husband manned the trick-or-treat table, and photographed some of the lights and scary decorations. I posted them here in this blog, if you’re interested. I’d like to do the same again this year, but I don’t want to wait until Halloween, and I don’t want to limit my photos to the village.

So, if you see any especially nice decorations going up on houses in your neighborhood (or you’re especially proud of your own spooky display), I hope you’ll me know about them. And I’m not just talking about tombstones, coffins and skeletons. I love taking photos of holiday light displays. I’ll take all your suggestions and drive around a few weeks from now to snap some photos.

You can comment on this blog, message me on Facebook or send me an email. Thanks for your help!

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

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

(posted 10/7/2022)

On behalf of Mrs. Claus, thank you

5 Oct

I want to send out a quick public thank you to everyone who has reached out with offers to provide new toys or winter wear to held Florence Kinney, a.k.a. “Mrs. Claus,” reach her unbelievable goal of 100,000 gifts given to children.

If you missed that blog, here’s the story in a nutshell. For the last 32 years, Florence has been purchasing (almost exclusively with her own money) gifts for children who might not otherwise get anything for Christmas. By the end of last year she had donated more than 97,500 gifts, and this year hopes to top the 100,000 mark. Click here to read that blog.

If anyone is still interested in helping out, some of the items she’d especially appreciate include winter wear for children ages infant to 18 (like hats, gloves, scarves, lots and lots of socks); toy trucks, Little Peeples, Barnies, baby dolls or any toys without small parts; and storybooks. Bottom line, though, if you’d like to donate any kind of new toy or winter wear, she’ll find a child who will greatly appreciate it.

Drop me an email anytime at missyblog@gmail.com if you’d like more information or would like to arrange to have me pick up your items.

And thank you again!

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

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

(posted 10/5/2022)

A small slice of Webster’s musical history

28 Apr

Over the last several weeks I’ve been having a very interesting email conversation with one of my readers, a gentleman who lives in San Diego.

Mark Peacox is a former Webster resident who first wrote to me back in early March in response to a blog I wrote about all of the live music available in the Village of Webster. The email began,

It’s great to hear about the growing musical scene in Webster, although I’m saddened that I can’t partake in it as I’m living in San Diego. You may not be familiar with some of Webster’s musical history, so I’ll tune you in.

Mark then proceeded to share with me some of the wonderful memories he had of Webster’s music scene when he was a teenager. In the following weeks, Mark followed that original email with several others, all long and well-written, painting a detailed and very entertaining picture of what village life was like for kids back in the 1950s and 60s.

With Mark’s permission, I’d like to share some of his stories with you today. I think you’ll be as fascinated as I was. He began with his memories of musical Webster:

When the Beatles made their first appearance on the Sunday evening Ed Sullivan Show, America was transformed. My friends and I raided our newspaper route money and bought guitars and started to teach ourselves how to play. Our first few gigs were house parties. Eventually, the town started to warm to the idea of long-haired teens playing loud rock music and soon, we were playing at all the churches: Webster First Methodist, Webster Baptist, Holy Trinity, Webster Lutheran, and more. The churches would sponsor weekend dances. We expanded to the Teen Canteen at the Webster Town Hall, the basement of Empire Lanes, the golf course on Salt Rd. and other venues in Fairport, Penfield, Ontario and Sodus.

A young man convinced the village to allow him to develop a center for teens to hang out. Somehow, the village was convinced that teens needed their own place away from home and school, and the “Rec Center” or “Rec Hall” was born. They converted the town’s maintenence and vehicle repair center (site of today’s Webster Museum) on Lapham Park into the Webster Recreation Center, and held concerts and dances for the local teens. The Rec Hall became THE PLACE to go. Later, the Rathskeller and other teen musical venues popped up on Main St. and Commercial St.

One of the more amazing events to ever occur during my early teen years was when the village shut down the four corners of Main St. and Route 250 to sponsor a musical streetfest. The band, “Wale” (with lead guitarist Mike Marconi of East Rochester – years later he played for the Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper’s band) were setup on a large stage in front of the Marine Midland Bank (formerly the Webster Hotel) and entertained a packed crowd on Main St. with music from the Beatles and other British Invasion groups.

Mark was born in 1950, in a house on Doran St. in the city of Rochester. His family moved to Iroquois St. in the Village of Webster before he turned 1.

In Webster, I lived the bucolic life, playing with my neighborhood friends in the Cape Brothers’ (farmers) field behind the house. We helped to bale hay, feed pigs and cows on occassion, build tree houses and snow forts for snowball fights, and sled down the hill in the farmers’ field. We swung from vines in the woods at the end of the street, playing Tarzan, and we caught tadpoles in the creek. If we weren’t climbing or hiking and exploring, we were riding our bicycles everywhere. We would camp out in a tent in our backyard during the summer and gaze in awe at the twinkling stars. …

I think one of the things I miss most is the Firemens Carnival. Its arrival always brought so much anticipation and excitement every year. From the Kiddies Parade to the Firemens Parade, the rides (the Round-Up was a terrifying rite of passage) to the steamed clans and ultimately, coming of age to pass through the gates of the Beer Tent.

Mark served as an air traffic controller during the Vietnam conflict and three years in Korea. Afterwards, he spent a short stint at Kodak before landing a job as an air traffic controller in Newport Beach, CA. He and his wife moved there in 1981. He remembers when he came back for a visit and showed his kids around his old home town.

Around twenty years ago, my wife and I were on another annual (or more) visit with family in Webster (she is from Webster, too) while our sons were somewhere between 8-10 years old. I took them on a tour of my old neighborhood and into the deep, dark woods at the end of the street.

These two California boys were terrified of the woods. The trees blotted out most of the sunlight and they had never seen such dense foliage. But what most impressed me was that NOTHING HAD CHANGED since the ’50s. So many features of Webster were still the same, which stood in great contrast to Southern California where every patch of dirt is quickly developed in a tract of homes or an industrial park or a strip mall. For me, it was refreshing and reaffirming that Webster was Where Life Is Worth Living.

Mark’s emails brought me back to my own youth, growing up in small-town Owego, and all of the simple fun we had riding our bikes, going to the community pool, sneaking into the County Fair. They’ve helped me picture what life must have been like growing up here. I long for the simple days we had back then.

It’s so neat to hear that folks are using my blog to keep in touch with their hometown. One day I hope to meet up with Mark when he comes back into town, so I can spend a whole afternoon reliving the old days.

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

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The museum is seeking West Webster history

25 Feb

If you haven’t heard the exciting news yet, the Town of Webster has secured a grant to revitalize West Webster’s four corners area. In anticipation of that, the Webster Museum would like to gather as much information and history about the area as possible.

If you live there now, or are a former resident of the hamlet, they’d love if you could share some of your memories and old photos, anything that could help tell West Webster’s story. They’ll even copy or scan your photos so you don’t have to give them up. Who knows? They might even show up in future exhibits and programs.

If you have stories, old posters, postcards, photos or other memorabilia to share, please contact Jan Naujokas at 265-3268 or Webster Historian Lynn Barton at 265-3308.

Click here to read more about the revitalization plan.

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

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Who WAS that masked woman?

24 Jan

Despite how it might seem — given my peculiar habit of wading barefoot in the snow — I really don’t like winter or cold weather. I don’t like it when my nostrils freeze every time I take a breath. I don’t like having to baby-step down the frozen sidewalk so I don’t take a fall. And I really don’t like it when the wind is strong enough to freeze my wire-rimmed glasses to my face.

But I fancy myself a runner, and since running and walking are my main forms of exercise (especially when my bikes are hanging in the garage), hiding out on cold and snowy days is just not an option. So even on these sub-zero windchill days in January and February, you’ll find me out there, plodding along on one of my regular routes through the village.

You might have seen me. I’m that crazy person who looks like a terrorist.

Because, of course, surviving a run these days is really just a matter of preparation. That means layers, a neck and cheek warmer, knit hat and heavy gloves. (Add sunglasses on a bright day and the terrorist look is complete). Equipped thusly, even the coldest cold can be managed for the few miles I’m out there. Reflective gear and a pair of Yaktrax cleats for the bottom of my sneakers are also must-haves to safely navigate our slippery streets and sidewalks.

Of course, I’m far from the only crazy person who thinks winter running is fun, and most of those others run longer distances than I do. They include the members of my Barry’s Runners group, which meets every Tuesday evening at Barry’s Old School Irish in the village. Even in the coldest weather, the runs will attract a half dozen or more die-hards, and sometimes we’re the only people at the pub because no one else is crazy enough to come out.

The conversations over our post-run beers on these nights often turn to winter running shirts and jackets, traction gear, reflective equipment, and how many layers you should wear when it’s 5 degrees out.

So I’ll keep running, nostril-freezing cold or not. It’s my way of enduring the winter. And not for nothing, when I head out for a walk, running instead gets me home a lot faster.

(And P.S., new runners and walkers are always welcome to join Barry’s Runners!)

Thanks to my GoPro-finding friend DP Dunn for this blog idea. If you have any ideas to throw my way, email me at the address below!

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

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

Looking back at the year in blogs

31 Dec

As another challenging year comes to a close, I took a moment the other day to look back through all the blogs I wrote in 2021. It was a fun tour and I was a little surprised by the sheer number: 248. I really thought there’d be fewer than that, given that we were still dealing with the pandemic, schools were still ratcheting up from remote learning and many regularly-scheduled special events were scaled back or postponed entirely.

But it turns out I still had a lot to write about. For that matter, the largest percentage of those blogs were about special events that continued to be held despite COVID, or returned this year after being put on hold in 2020. They included Village events like the Trick-or-Treat Trail, White Christmas, the Family Games nights, Beer Walk, and the holiday summer parade. But several other Webster events also got my attention, including the St. Rita Fiesta, Waterfront Art Festival and the XRX Radio Club Field Day.

I wrote a lot about businesses, especially highlighting the new ones that opened this year despite the pandemic. And there were several of them: Whimsies, Crafty Christy’s Boutique, Village HandWorks, Cobblestone on Main, Polar Freeze, To the Core Pilates and Nourished. I wrote about the new owners at Diamond Collsion, yoga classes at Welch’s Greenhouses and anniversary parties at my two favorite pubs, Barry’s and Knucklehead. I lamented the passing of The Music Store, and explored a long-time village business, Village Mall Video, for the first time.

I spread positive news from our schools about the Webster Marching Band’s Autumn Fanfare and State Championship; the schools’ musicals and dramas, Plank North and Schlegel Elementary Schools’ Tour Around the Lakes; and the creative ways the PTSA found to help the Class of 2021 feel special.

I highlighted local organizations that create the fabric of our community (most of them several times), including the Chorus of the Genesee, Webster Museum, Webster Public Library, Friends of Webster Trails, Miracle Field, the Webster Theater Guild and Bella’s Bumbas.

Then there were all those blogs which I can only characterize as snippets from small-town life, the kinds of simple things and wonderful people that make living in Webster special.

I shared photos of many of our village’s beautiful gardens, charming village porches and Christmas decorations. I told stories about neighbors helping neighbors: the Curtice Park homeowner who hosted a COVID-friendly Easter scavenger hunt for kids; a porch concert on Park Ave.; and the kind person who’s created a wild animal sanctuary on the Hojack Trail. I especially liked giving shout-outs to kids doing great things, like the young artists who created a chalk garden on Baker Street, and the six-year old who sold lemonade on South Ave. to benefit St. Jude’s.

I’ve met many wonderful people through this blog, and shared many of their stories with you. Like “Webster’s Mrs. Claus,” Florence Kinney; Brandon Schafer, the “North Ave. Artist”; and the new director of the Webster Library, Adam Traub.

Finally, I shared some personal stories, and wrote others just for fun (like the recent one about the hit-and-run at the Irondequoit Rec Center).

I got a proclamation for outstanding community service from the Town of Webster in August, and displayed many of my blog photos at the Webster Public Library. I shared both of those accomplishments with you all. I introduced a new website, Afterthoughts, and a few enhancements to my Webster on the Web site, links to local services and a village directory.

And finally, there were the mysteries you worked through with me: Who lost that GoPro in the lake? Who WAS James Carnavale? Who was that man who painted the Holt Rd. sign?

Whew.

I know a lot of you are still reading this blog, three or more page scrolls down from where it began. I know that because you are the folks who’ve been with me all year.

You’re the reason I write this blog. Because even though I enjoy doing this, it would get pretty old if I thought my words weren’t making a difference.

So thank you all for being faithful readers. I wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2022, and I look forward to continuing to spread good news from our hometown.

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

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.

I finally got a village Halloween

1 Nov

My husband and I moved into the village the summer of 2019, so this is our third Halloween here. We were told by our neighbors to expect hundreds of kids, many of them arriving in minivans (imported from other neighborhoods where the trick-or-treating is not as plentiful, I suspect). And, they added, people will sit outside in their driveways aside their fire pits to welcome the kids.

We and our firepit and several bags of candy were prepared for our Halloween in the new house. But it rained hard that evening, which kept a lot of trick-or-treaters at home and the firepit covered.

Last year, of course, was COVID. ‘Nuff said.

So yesterday, when the weather was expected to be dry and comfortable, we were ready again. And we were not disappiointed. The trick-or-treaters started arriving at 5:30 and we didn’t pack up until 8. Granted, our little corner of Fuller Ave. doesn’t attract nearly as many kids as the Dunning Ave./Park Ave. neighborhoods, so we overbought candy. But I dressed in a scary costume, and we sat by our fire pit with some adult beverages, finally enjoying a REAL Webster Village Halloween. (We even had a cooler full of “adult trick-or-treats” which turned out to be very popular.)

I did take a quick walk down to Dunning, since I was told the homeowners there go all out on Halloween with their decorations. I’ve posted some photos here. A lot of those houses were really neat.

But what I especially loved seeing was how everyone was greeting the kids OUTSIDE, on their porches or in their driveways. It’s so much different from the North Penfield neighborhood we came from. So … village-y.

I’m already looking forward to next year. And I think I’m going to like having all that leftover candy, so I might overbuy again.

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Porches, fairies and whimsy make our village special

23 Sep

You may remember a blog I wrote a few weeks ago about all the gardens I pass by on my regular walks through the village. The flowering bushes and shrubs in manicured rows and gardens brighten my every morning.

But the gardens are not the only charming thing I see on my walks. There are so many other things I come across that make my heart smile and given me that warm “Wow, this is a really neat village” feeling. On the top of that list: porches.

In the older neighborhoods on the east side of the village in particular, I walk by dozens of beautiful, large porches, most of which stretch along the entire front of the house. Many of them are framed by stately Greek columns, have detailed ornamentation and fretwork, or are accentuated with flowers. At night they often take on a special brilliance, tastefully lit with twinkly lights.

The porches are not only magnificent to look at, but are neighborhood gathering places. When I take my evening walks, I often see neighbors sharing comfortable chairs and conversation with their after-dinner drinks, greeting everyone who walks by. Because they know, even if you live two or three streets over, you’re still a neighbor.

It’s a very village experience, kind of a Tom Sawyer, Hannibal, MO vibe.

Here are just a few photos of some of those beautiful and happy porches. Most of them are from Park Ave., Elm Street and Dunning Ave.

And did you know there are fairies in our neigborhoods?

The photo on the left is of an entire fairy village set up on Park Ave., near the intersection with Lapham. And if you walk up Dunning, you’ll pass a house which actually has fairy doors by two or three of its trees. Earlier this summer, I didn’t see any fairies there, but there are now … so the invitation must have worked.

Two more things I’d like to share. The first is a stand of sunflowers along the sidewalk on Phillips Rd. When I first showed them to you in my gardens blog, they weren’t as spectacular. But these days, they’ve grown so magnificent that it’s like walking through a sunflower tunnel.

The second is a sign which stands in front of a house on Elm St. It makes me giggle.

Happy walking, my friends, and keep your eyes open for these — and other — village charms alonmg the way.

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

You can also get email notifications every time I post a new blog by using the “Follow Me” link on the right side of this page.