Today our topic is Gordon A. Howe, longtime Monroe County and Greece political leader whose career spanned 43 years.
When he died in 1989, Gordon A. Howe was eulogized by US Representative Frank Horton: “He was a great leader and an unusual person in that everyone respected him. He made tremendous contributions to county government and to Greece.”
Gordon Howe was born January 19, 1904, the son of Frank Howe from Hamilton County, New York, and Agnes Murray, a native of Scotland. He was one of five children. They moved to Greece in 1919, residing on Denise Road (where the Pine Grove apartments are today).
Howe was an all-around student at Charlotte High School this was when the high school just getting ready to move across the road to its new location to house more students.
an outstanding athlete,
member of the student council, president of his class his senior year,
and on the yearbook staff.
He even drew the cover for the 1921 Witan.
He graduated in 1924 and although he wanted to go to Columbia University and major in journalism, he had to forgo college and worked several years for Rochester Gas And Electric (RG&E).
However, it didn’t take him long to find his true calling—a life dedicated to political service. He became involved with Republican politics as soon as he could vote. In 1930 at the age of 26, he was elected to the position of Justice of the Peace—he was the youngest person in the state at the time ever elected to be a JP. He was self-educated in the law.
In 1933, due to the Depression, he lost his job as an insurance adjuster. He said: “I had to do something” so he decided to run for Greece Town Supervisor in 1934. He won at the age of 29, and continued to win, ultimately serving 13 two-year terms as Supervisor.
In 1937 Howe married Lois Speares, a former schoolmate.
They first lived in the historic Dennis Denise home at 486 Denise Road not far from his parents.
They had three children, Gordon II, Gretchen, and David.
In 1941, they purchased the historic Larkin-Beattie home, which was then located at 3177 Latta Road. Today it is the home of the Greece Historical Society on Long Pond Road.
The house came with 25 acres of land, perfect for hosting the annual picnic for the Greece Republican committee or the Barnard Fire Department of which Howe was a former volunteer.
Howe, along with his good friend and fellow Republican Al Skinner, who was Monroe County Sheriff from 1938 to 1973, dominated Greece politics for years.
During the Depression years, Howe secured WPA funds to improve roads, including filling in marshland to extend Edgemere Drive from Island Cottage Road to Manitou Road and Braddock Bay,
providing employment for 1500 Greece families on welfare. Another project was the installation of sanitary sewers in the Dewey-Stone area.
During Al Skinner and Gordon’s Political term, they also had to deal with the Second World War 1940-1945. More on World War II and its effects during Gordon’s Term.
While supervisor, Howe saw the town grow from a population of 12,000 to well on its way to becoming the largest Rochester suburb. The population of Greece rose 402% between 1930 and 1960.
The frist recorded population for the town of Greece was in 1825 it showed that the town had One Thousand Five Hundred Forty Seven people living in the town. In 1830 Depending on the U.S. Census or Landmarks of Monroe County Published in 1895 reports two different populations either it is 2,574 or 2,571 Depending on which data you are looking at in terms of the population.
The biggest change in population amount from 1910 to 1930 was when the city of Rochester wanted the Port of Rochester and the Lake Ave corridor this caused the town to lose population from 7,777 in 1910 and in 1920 to a population of 3,350 and a lose of 56.9% of the towns population. But in 1930 after the dust finally settled from the annexations of parts of the town of Greece it rose 261.60% to a population of 12,113, and every year after 1930 the town grew in leaps and bounds and in 2010 the town reached a population of 96,095. In 2019 the town started to see the population dip under 96,100, some of that is because of how New York State is ran, but also people move to where the work is and able to make more income and have better life for their families.
Historical population Of Greece 1825-2019(Est.)
|1830||2,574† or 2571*||—|
†U.S. Census Report
* Landmarks of Monroe County – Pub 1895
** Census of New York State – Pub 1855
§ City of Rochester annexed Charlotte 1916
Under Howe’s leadership, Greece set the standard for housing tracts, requiring developers to meet requirements regarding the installation of asphalt highways, concrete curbing and sidewalks, street lights, and sanitary and storm sewers.
In 1948 Howe was elected as chairman of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors a position he held until 1960 when the Board appointed him County Manager.
During his twelve-year tenure, Howe was responsible for building the Civic Center Plaza,
And expanding the airport
He was a pioneer in consolidating county and city services “moving the community toward a more metropolitan government. Parks, health services, and social services were taken over by the county when he was manager.”
Others have praised him for his “far-sighted” initiative of the Pure Waters Project beginning the process of cleaning up Lake Ontario and the Genesee River by halting the discharge of sewage into them. One editorial said: “Today at a time when other metro areas face disastrous water-contamination problems, the Monroe County Pure Waters System, in the opinion of many, is the finest in the country.”
For Gordon Howe, personally, was proudest of establishing Monroe Community College, as seen in this oil painting it was once in the dining room at the Society but has since been transferred and put in archive storage for safekeeping and better preservation of the picture.
Howe served as County Manager until 1972. Former long-time Monroe County Sherriff Andy Meloni said about Howe: “He was a quiet man…a good man…a very kind man who could settle disagreements and never provoke animosities.”
After his death in 1989, the Monroe County Office building was named for him.
And the Portrait seen on the left is located in the Gordon A Howe Monroe County office building on the first floor.
And in 1988 the House where he raised Gordon II, Gretchen, and David grew up was moved to the location it is today as it became the home to the Greece Historical Society and Museum.
Thank you for joining us today, next week we’ll tour the Dewey Stone neighborhood.