A Brief History of the Town of Greece, New York

This Brief History of the Town of Greece is broken out into five topics:

EARLY HISTORY

Haudenosaunee Painting
Haudenosaunee painting Painted by Walt Goulding

This was covered in Bicentennial Snapshot Number 2

1300 A. D.

As early as 1300 A.D., nomadic indigenous tribes settled in the Finger Lakes area and moved northward to Lake Ontario, Irondequoit Bay, and the ponds of Greece. Hunters and gatherers, they followed the herds of migrating animals for food and clothing and made tools from their bones. They fished in our waters and hunted the migrating fowl along our ponds and the Genesee River. They were Iroquoian tribes, early cousins to the present-day Seneca, who regularly traded with the Algonquin and the Huron and created villages in the area.

1500 A.D.

Around 1550, the dominant Native American nations in the region – the Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, and Onondaga – joined to form the Iroquois Confederacy. (The Tuscarora Nation later came from North Carolina and joined the Confederacy.) Over the next two hundred years, the members of this Confederacy were the primary occupants of Western New York as the French and British began to settle, explore, and fight over control of the American continent. The tribes hunted and fished in the area during the summer and then returned to established villages for the winter.

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FIRST SETTLERS

All of this changed with the successful conclusion of the American War for Independence in 1783. As part of the treaty granting American independence, the new country obtained vast lands to the west of the established colonial settlements. The new government moved quickly to enable its citizens to settle these untapped regions. Companies were established to manage the sale of the land.

William Hincher

One of the first settlers, William Hincher, a veteran of the American Revolution, came in 1792 with his son, William, to explore the land and built a cabin where the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse stands today. In February of the next year, he brought his wife, Mehitable, their children, cows, pigs, and household goods. (It was easier to transport heavy loads by sled over the ice and snow.)

Kings Landing

King’s Landing, the First European Settlement, and Lake Port west of the Genesee River. Natives of Sheffield, Connecticut, in 1797. the King and Granger families established a settlement on the banks of the Genesee River. They cut roads, built a bridge over the ravine, cleared the land, built a wharf and a schooner, sailed to Fort Niagara with their first load of produce and wheat, killed rattlesnakes, and went about their daily lives until the settlement was decimated by malaria or Genesee Fever as it was called then. In 1807, the seven Hanford brothers renewed the King’s Landing settlement and built a mill, hotel, and shipping center.

The Latta Family

In 1805, James and Sarah Latta, who lived in Big Flats, purchased lots in Charlotte for their family.

His son, Samuel, built a home and warehouse and, in 1806, was appointed Customs Agent for the Port of Charlotte (now the Port of Rochester) by the President of the United States. (The home still stands today at the corner of Lake Avenue and Latta Road.) His younger brother, George, moved to Charlotte from the Lewiston area to work at Bushnell’s Store and later became a major entrepreneur in the area.

The Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse

This was created from a deed that Mehitable and the United States Government to establish a lighthouse on that site. And it connects the Hincher Family to Giles H Holden together.

Giles H Holden

Bicentennial Snapshot # 9
Giles H Holden

And The First Lighthouse Keeper that actually stayed in the lighthouse was Giles H Holden because the original keeper appointed David Detman was unable to fulfill his duties because he passed away in 1822 at the time the lighthouse was ready to be used. And when his time was up Giles H Holden used some logs and rolled the addition he put on the lighthouse and rolled it across lake ave to his new property.

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THE OFFICIAL BEGINNING

Bicentennial Snapshot # 01: The Founding of The Town of Greece

During the 18th century, the state established counties to provide governmental support over this area. Ontario County was created in 1789. In 1797, a region called Northampton was established within Genesee County. encompassing what is today, the Towns of Parma, Riga, Gates, Ogden, Chili, and the Town of Greece. It was formerly part of the Phelps & Gorham land purchase, commonly known as the “mill seat tract.”

With the continuing population growth in the area, more government services

were needed. In 1808, Northampton was divided into four towns; the areas that are now Gates and Greece kept the old name Northampton until the name changed to Gates in 1813.

In 1821, Monroe County was created from parts of Genesee and Ontario counties and on March 22, 1822, the State passed legislation dividing Gates into two towns, Gates and Greece, effective April 1, 1822. It is said that Greece received a larger portion of land because, at the time, the northern section of the town was thought to be worthless swamp land.

There is little doubt that it was so-called from the European country of Greece. Long-held beliefs state the Town was named after the country of Greece as a show of support or sympathy for the Greek people who were fighting for their independence from Turkish rule. Although this is most probably true, the seems to be no original documentation verifying this fact.

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THE FIRST 100 YEARS

By 1822, the Erie Canal was completed in our town and packet boats plied the new waterway between Rochester and Brockport. The hamlet of South Greece, located near current-day Henpeck Park, was developed to support the needs of canal travelers and workers. The South Greece Inn, the Eight Mile Grocery where supplies could be purchased and mules housed, and Dr. Buell’s medical office became popular stops on the canal. Twenty-five homes (many of which still stand) and a school were also built.

Henpeck Historical Marker at Henpeck Park on Ridgeway Ave near Dr. Adiel Sherwood Buell
Hamlets of Greece Overlayed on 1872 Map of Greece
Peter Larkin from Mother of Sorrows Herald No. 2 Easter 1930 from GHS
Peter Larkin from Mother of Sorrows Herald No. 2 Easter 1930 from GHS

Stonemasons, who came from Europe to help build the canal, often settled here. Many people believe these craftsmen built the cobblestone homes unique to our area. Cobblestone buildings used glacier-washed stones, gathered from fields, and used as veneer on inner fieldstone walls. Other hamlets, including North Greece, West Greece, Greece Center, Barnard’s Crossing, and King's Landing/Hanford Landing, formed as population clusters arose. Throughout the 1800s the local economy centered on agriculture, with the population hovering around 5000 people. Like Asa Rowe and his Monroe Gardens Horticulture and Nursery featured in Bicentennial Snapshot Number 13. Farms and orchards built on the fertile soil produced fine crops that were sent to market using the Erie Canal and, later, the railroads. It was also during this time that many of the stately structures still found in the town were built. The Upton-Paine house was featured in Bicentennial Snapshot Number 11 at the end of the clip, it is now home to the Ridgemont Country Club, which is one such home. The Larkin-Beattie-Howe house, built around 1855 and purchased by John Larkin in 1860, is the present home of the Greece Historical Society. The Our Mother of Sorrows’ second church, at the intersection of Latta Road and Mt. Read Blvd., was consecrated in 1860. The home of Peter Larkin, who was one of the general contractors for Our Mother of Sorrows and personally built the lentils and windows of the church, now a dental office on Long Pond Road.

Late in the nineteenth century, Greece’s access to Lake Ontario made it famous as a vacation destination. Ontario Beach Amusement Park, located at the point where the Genesee River enters Lake Ontario, became known as the Coney Island of the West because of its boardwalk, amusement rides, and hotels. The Manitou Trolley also carried summer vacationers to the many resort hotels along the shore of Lake Ontario. It cost only a nickel to go from Charlotte to Manitou Beach, where there was another amusement park. This fame was short-lived, however, as disastrous hotel fires and the coming of the automobile resulted in people pursuing other entertainment options.

Manitou Beach Trolley

The turn of the century also brought about changes which began to shift the economic focus of Greece from agriculture to industry. It was in 1891 that George Eastman opened the first Kodak plant. Kodak eventually became the largest employer in the area and its success fueled the town’s growth. The history of Greece would not be complete without mentioning Charlotte. Incorporated as a village within the Town of Greece in 1869, Charlotte was the center of the community for many years. Shipping was the main industry of the village with as many as 100 ships in port and along the

Genesee River in a day. Its lighthouse, built in 1822, has been pictured in the Greece town seal and flag since its inception in 1954. In 1916, a narrow strip of Greece adjoining the west side of the Genesee River and including Charlotte was annexed by the City of Rochester and become the 23rd Ward.

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THE SECOND HUNDRED YEARS

The shift from an agricultural to an industrial/commercial economy continued throughout this period, with the population of Greece increasing rapidly. The success of Kodak, with its proximity to Greece, greatly expanded the number of industrial jobs available to Greece residents. At the same time, weather extremes, such as an unusually severe freeze that destroyed many orchards in 1934, resulted in devastating crop losses that farmers were unable to overcome. World War II brought about the building of factories to support the war effort, the Odenbach Shipbuilding Corporation facility off Dewey Avenue near Lake Ontario being an excellent example.

Following the war, an increase in home construction to support returning soldiers led to even more industrialization and commercialization. The population of Greece grew from approximately 15,000 people in 1940 to over 25,000 in 1950. Northgate Plaza, the first suburban shopping plaza in Monroe County, opened in 1953. The Dewey-Stone area was built up and became a commercial center for Greece. By 1960, the population had increased to almost 50,000.

Northgate Plaza
Northgate Plaza
Greece Towne Mall GHS
Greece Towne Mall GHS

In 1967, with the population now approaching 75,000 people, Greece Town Mall opened. This was followed in 1971 by Long Ridge Mall. (The two malls were connected in 1994 to form Greece Ridge Mall.) Access to Greece was greatly enhanced by the extension of Route 390, first to Ridge Road in the early 1970s and later to the Ontario State Parkway in the early 1980s.

In the 1970s, Park Ridge Hospital, now Unity Hospital of Rochester Regional Health, moved to Greece, and with it came medical offices and facilities adding to the economy. Also, in the 1970s, the town obtained Braddock Bay from New York State and developed trails, picnic facilities, and landscapes of indigenous plants and trees.

But in 1978 tragedy struck at one local hotel where the Holiday Inn was destroyed by fire and ten guests lost their lives, seven of those guests were from Canada and the other three were Americans in town for different activities. But to this day this case has remained unsolved.

Aerial image of the Braddock Bay, NY located on Lake Ontario.
Aerial image of Braddock Bay, NY located on Lake Ontario. - SUNY School SOAR
Town of Greece Complex
Town of Greece Complex

In the 1980s the first proposal was made to move Town Hall to the Latta and Long Pond Road area. The concept was to be called Northampton Town Center. Today’s Greece Town Campus is a modified form of this concept. For those that have the Eight Miles Along the Shore, the image of the Northhampton Town Center can be seen on page 102, that plan was created by architects Barkstrom and La Croix, and then there was another plan created with the Greece Historical Society & Museum as the entrance to the town complex but neither idea came to be a reality so the current design is the one that finally got the approval on and is how the town campus is laid out as is and where tractor supply now there was a plan was to move the school district offices on to the town campus as well to make all of the town facility onto one campus and make it centralized.

In 1988, The Larkin-Beatty-Howe house, whose last occupant was Gordon Howe, Town Supervisor for 26 years and later Monroe County Manager, was sold to the Greece Historical Society by Wegmans for $1, an arrangement facilitated by Donald Riley, then supervisor of the town. The house was moved from Latta and Long Pond Roads, at Wegman's expense, to its current location on the Greece Town Campus on Long Pond Road.

The town has continued to develop westward with the coming of Elmgrove Plaza and Lowe’s Plaza (Formerly Ames Plaza) and the move from the city of many car dealerships. Greece’s population continues to grow as new housing tracts are built on what was once farmland in the western part of the town.

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Written by the Greece Historical Society, March 14, 2021

Credits:
1) Greece Historical Society staff.

2) “Eight Miles Along the Shore” by town historian Virginia Tomkiewicz and historian Shirley Cox Husted (1982).

3) “Greece: Images of America” by Shirley Cox Husted (2001).

For more information, please call us at (585) 225-7221.