This week we look at the Greece Performing Arts Society.
Before GPAS formed in 1969
Between 1930 and 1950, people in the town of Greece had many opportunities to join in performing arts centered activities. Amateur theatrics were popular; not only was there the Paddy Hill Players troupe, but a number of churches, including St. John the Evangelist Church and Bethany Presbyterian Church staged annual plays.
By 1960 whereas students could join drama club or the school chorus or band, the opportunities for adults were fewer.
1969 – the Greece Performing Arts Society was formed
So, in 1969, the Greece Performing Arts Society was formed for just that purpose—as an outlet for adults who didn’t want to give up performing just because they were no longer in school. GPAS became the “umbrella organization to pull together and coordinate all the various community performing organizations.”
Initially there were four groups, the Community Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Society, and a Summer theatre group. That first performance year, 1970-71, 165 people were in the various groups; they performed 20 concerts with an estimated total audience of 5,400 people.
GPAS was born from the adult continuing ed experience of Robert Holtz who founded the community orchestra. Dr. David Felter founded the Symphony Orchestra.
Ralph Zecchino founded the choral society and was its director for 44 years from 1970-2014.
Over the years, the theatre group usually presented two musicals a summer with a mystery or comedy play or two until 2013. Now GPAS co-sponsors a student summer production.
In 1992 Greece Performing Arts Society put on Nunsense which was an off-Broadway Production that ran for 35 weeks in 1985 and it is a musical comedy with a book, music, and lyrics by Dan Goggin, who is an American writer, composer, and lyricist. The musical Nunsense is a hilarious spoof about the misadventures of five nuns trying to manage a fundraiser. Sadly, the rest of the sisterhood died from botulism after eating vichyssoise prepared by Sister Julia Child of God. It was based on Dan’s early life experiences, including schooling by the Marywood Dominican Sisters. The musical of Nunsense did have six sequels but Greece Performing Arts Society only put on the original Nunsense the musical.
The society had a regular schedule of annual events, such as
Some of Different Concerts GPAS puts on
Winter Blah Concert
The spring concert
Concerts at the Shore
And the Supervisor’s Concert.
And they were there for special occasions such as: The 150th anniversary of the founding of Our Mother of Sorrows Church
And a solemn ceremony for healing after September 11, 2001.
They regularly perform at the Eastman theatre.
A highlight in the history of the Choral Society was performing in France for the 50th anniversary of the D-day invasion at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Many Greece residents looked forward every summer between 1997 and 2016 to the GPAS annual garden tour fundraiser.
Today, GPAS is composed of three groups, the community orchestra, choral society, and concert band. As they have for more than 50 years, the Greece Performing Arts Society continues to offer musical enrichment to the Greece community.
Learn More about Greece Performing Arts Society and it history starting with The Prelude written by Bill Coons at www.greeceperformingarts.org/i-the-prelude. If you have any General Questions about GPAS then email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested in becoming a member of GPAS then check out their membership page https://www.greeceperformingarts.org/membership. You can subscribe to their monthly newsletter to stay up to date on upcoming concerts, events and more. The Greece Concert Band, Choral Society, and Community Orchestra are pleased to be rehearsing at 75 Stutson Street.
Today we are talking about the Dewey-Stone neighborhood, first called Barnard’s Crossing or simply Barnard.
After the annex of Charlotte by the city of Rochester in 1916, Dewey-Stone became the first and is now the oldest neighborhood in the town of Greece. It’s bounded on the south by the railroad tracks at Barnard’s Crossing, on the north by English Road, on the east by Stonewood Avenue, and on the west by Mount Read Boulevard.
Reflecting the times in which they were built, the homes are smaller and closer together than more modern houses, an arrangement that fostered neighborliness. Here you will find mostly Cape Cod-styled homes, but some lovely craftsman bungalows such as the one pictured here on Briarcliff Road. Dewey Stone has the largest concentration of bungalow homes in Monroe County and…
Unique garage homes. During the Depression, the town allowed people who couldn’t afford to build a home to build a two-story garage and live there until they could build a standard home. But in many cases, the larger house was never constructed. These homes are set far back from the road because the main house was going to be built in front of it.
There are even a few Sears homes built in the Dewey Stone area, these houses are assembled from a kit ordered through Sears Roebuck & Company. “Sears provided building plans and specifications, along with the lumber and any other materials needed. The shipment included everything from nails, screws, and paint, to prebuilt building parts, such as staircases and dining nooks.” This house located here on Swansea Park was constructed from The Barrington No. 3260 which was printed in the 1930s Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog and built-in 1935. There are a few other Sears houses built in the Dewey Stone area and throughout the Rochester area and other parts of the country, some are even built in the backyard of the Sears Roebuck & Company offices in Illinois. If it is a Sears house kit there will be located on one of the joists or beams in the basement with the Model information on it that’s if it is still there on the wood.
On this 1902 map, you can see that the area is still mostly farmland.
But by the 1920s, the land was being sold for residential development.
With the highest concentration of residents in the town, naturally, businesses and other services gravitated to the area. The logical site to establish a hub was the Dewey, Stone, and Maiden Lane crossroads. One of the earliest establishments was Norman Cooper’s grocery on the northeast corner of Dewey Stone. The gas station was Essig’s.
In 1928, next to Norm Cooper’s businesses, John Reid purchased the corner lot from Dewey Avenue to Almay Road, building a “block of five stores on Stone Road.” It was the first shopping center in Greece.
Reid ran the Barnard Market and was succeeded after his death in 1957 by his two sons, Jack and Jim.
This is what the Reid Block looks like today.
Leon Cox helped found the Barnard Fire Department, was a town councilman, and was a leading businessman in the area.
In the summer of 1929, he and his wife Bertha opened a simple roadside hotdog stand which eventually morphed into one of the best-known establishments in Greece—the Dutch Mill. They expanded the business into a bar and restaurant after Prohibition ended.
Over the years the building was renovated and enlarged to hold all sorts of gatherings from card tournaments to wedding receptions. The name changed to the New Dutch Mill but reverted to simply The Dutch Mill under its last owners. In April 2022 after 93 years the Dutch Mill closed its doors for good.
One of the first strip malls, The Dewstone Shopping Center opened in 1948,
and featured Star Market.
The year before Dewstone opened, in a building just to the west, Jack Symonds opened a bakery. In 1960 he purchased property across the street at 614 Stone Road for his Jackson’s Bakery. Today, “It still operates in its original 2,400-square-foot footprint, with a small retail area in front and production room in back.” People from all over the county come to Jackson’s for their kuchen, cakes, and cookies.
People who lived and grew up in the Dewey Stone neighborhood characterize it as a village. All the shops and services they needed were close by.
This ad listing the businesses in the neighborhood was prefaced with the text. “The thriving Dewey-Stone Rd. Shopping Section offers residents of this pleasant residential community a concentrated shopping service that is complete in every respect. All types of stores are included and they offer a large variety of merchandise at fair prices. You’re doing business with a friend when you shop at the Dewey-Stone Rd. center. You’ll find it most convenient, too. The professional services of doctors and dentists are also available in the neighborhood as part of this well-organized community.”
There were ten grocery stores, a shoe store, a jewelry store, barbers, a tailor, ice cream shops, and a candy store, such as Johnny’s Sweet Shop at the corner of Dewey and Beverly Heights where you’d also learn the latest gossip.
On the southeast corner of Dewey and Stone for many years was McBride Brothers Grocery which then became McBride’s Tavern and Restaurant.
McBride’s stood on the site of the old Sklar family home.
Not surprisingly, in addition to the commercial establishments, schools, and churches were centered here as well. Barnard School otherwise known as Common School District # 15 was located at Dewey and Maiden Lane.
The predecessor of Bethany Presbyterian Church, the Dewey Avenue Union Church, located at Dewey and Haviland Park, was founded in 1898. Bethany Presbyterian church was founded in 1910. In 1929 it was received into the Presbytery of Rochester and changed its name.
They moved to their current location, just north of the Reid Block on Dewey in 1952. Look closely at the church in the background of this photo we showed you before from the blizzard of ’66. Notice that there is no steeple.
The steeple which now dominates the skyline was completed in 1989.
St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Parish was established in 1929 with a church and school building across the street from Barnard School. On land that once was John H. Sheehan’s Property in 1924.
St. Charles Borromeo School did suffer a fire in 1938 and you can read about that story called A Community that Saved a School it was first published in the Greece Post on February 21, 2008 issue.
The church was completely remodeled in 1952 with a Spanish mission motif.
In 1966 ground was broken for a new church which would be set closer to Dewey Avenue.
It opened on Easter Sunday 1967.
“Early in 1927, a group of civic-minded citizens of the Barnard District seeing the rapid growth of the section, decided that some form of fire protection was needed. This group set about to organize a fire department, and on April 14, 1927, this was realized by having the incorporation papers approved by the Greece Town Board.” We’ll talk more about the Barnard Fire District in our next snapshot.
Property north of stone on the east side of Dewey Avenue, formerly the Vick Seed farm Snapshot 13, was purchased by George H. Clark in the early 1900s and was known as Glendemere Farm.
George Clarke donated 1.90 acres of that land to Barnard Fire Department in 1928 and sold 36.29 acres of the 55 1/2 acres of his property to the Diocese of Rochester in 1937 for $25,000.00. The Diocese then in turn donated it to the Sisters of St. Joseph who operated as an orphanage called St. Joseph Villa, which later became Villa of Hope.
The Remaining 20 acres north of the Villa of Hope were split into lots for single-family homes and then land to the south of the St Joseph’s Villa and in the back of Barnard Fire Department went to parking lots for Barnard Fire Department, Rochester Telephone, and Bethany Presbyterian Church.
In the late 1930s, as foster care was beginning to supplant orphanages, three in the city of Rochester closed their doors, but there were about 70 boys and girls for whom homes could not be found. The Sisters of St. Joseph opened St. Joseph’s Villa. Eventually, their mission transitioned to helping children in crisis.
The children were housed in “English Cottages.” Thomas Boyde, Jr., Rochester’s first African American architect, had a hand in designing some of the features of these cottages. You can learn more about Thomas Boyde, Jr. and the Boyde Project at the top of the page.
In 2013, since it was no longer affiliated with the Diocese of Rochester or the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Joseph’s Villa became Villa of Hope.
The Dewey Stone area had regular library service, but not its own public library. The book caravan stopped at the Dewey Avenue Union Church beginning in 1923 and was succeeded by the Monroe County Bookmobile for decades. The Willis N. Britton school library served as a public library for the community every six weeks the county library truck would drop off 50 books and the school would open up each night for a few hours so that adults could borrow books to read as well as the caravan traveling around the town to other spots so people could borrow books. In Hoover Drive’s Odyssey on page 7, the fourth sentence states “One should note that the Greece Public Library was not organized until the late 1950s, and there was no actual library building until the early 1960s.”
The Greece Public Library was established in 1958 with its first home in Greece Olympia high school. Between 1959 and 1963 before the Mitchell Road Library opened the library was housed at Greece Olympia High School, Greece Baptist Church, and Ridgecrest Plaza.
A main library was constructed on Mitchell Road in 1962. Above is the Groundbreaking for the Mitchell Road Branch. The Mitchell Road Branch officially opened in April 1963, and the hours of operation at that time were Monday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 1 to 5 p.m.
Four additional branches were added, to the Town’s Library system as well as the Monroe County Library system in order of library the year the branches came to exist, starting Paddy Hill in 1968 when the library board and the town entered into a lease with Mother of Sorrows Parish Committee to renovate the old church as a library, then came the North Greece branch which was located in the North Greece Plaza at 610 North Greece Road and that sits behind where Station 1 used to be for North Greece Fire Department and some people may have gone to the library there and then went to Hotel De May for Dinner or Lunch, that was followed by Lowden Point branch which was at 105 Lowden Point Rd, Rochester, NY 14612, not too far from where Milton “Midge” Staud’s Cottage you can learn more about the Staud Brothers in Bicentennial Snapshot No. 44: Prohibition, Rumrunners, and Bootleggers and just up the block was Grand View Heights Frie Company located and finally Dewey-Stone in 1980. This branch was a storefront library located in the Dewstone Shopping Center. The Dewstone was not the only storefront library before the Mitchell Branch opened it was in a storefront at the Ridgecrest Plaza.
The branch was moved to Dewey Avenue at Florence Avenue in 1998 and was the only branch retained after the new main library opened on the town hall campus in 2000.
In 2014 it moved again, a bit to the north on Dewey Avenue between Odessa and Shady Way. It was refashioned into a popular reading library.
During the Covid pandemic, Barnard Crossing was closed and there are no plans to re-open it.
Over the years some annual traditions developed in the Dewey-Stone neighborhood. For example, every summer Norman Cooper would give a bicycle to a lucky child. In this photo, children are gathered around Mr. Cooper in hopes that their name would be called.
From 1938 to the early 1960s, the holiday season ended and the new year was celebrated with a Twelfth Night bonfire on January 6. Residents would bring their Christmas trees to a site, for many years at St. Joseph’s Villa on the baseball field, and it was a huge controlled bonfire lit by members of the Barnard Fire Department in case the bonfire got out of hand. In 1938 there were more than a thousand trees in pile 20 feet high.
Barnard Carnival a fundraiser for the Barnard Fire Department
Every year people would line the streets to watch the parade that kick-offed the annual Barnard Fire Department’s Carnival and Parade. The Carnival was held every year the week after the Fourth of July from 1928 to 2016. Here is a collection of photos that we have in our digital files of the parade and the carnival as well as the Barnard Carnival Rest In Peace T-Shirt.
The Barnard Carnival and Parade were replaced with Bands at Barnard. You can find more information online for the 2023 schedule for Bands at Barnard by going to their Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/Bandsatbarnard.
Some additional related content to the Dewey Stone Area are:
Thank you for joining us today; next week we look at the Barnard and Lake Shore Fire Districts.
After reading Bill Bartling’s story about Dewey Stone in the 1940s in our May Corinthian, GHS member, Richard Laurette sent us his story about the 1950s.
My parents moved to the suburbs in February 1944. I came along in November. (You can do the math.) Coincidental ly to Mr. Bartling’s previous piece, we moved to 42 Dalston Rd. We lived four houses from the two pillars at Dewey, Gulf & Sunoco Gas Stations. Moving north there was a building between the Gulf station and Beaumont Rd. Like ancient Gaul, it was divided into three parts. Esler’s was on the South, Lincoln Bank in the middle, and a toy store on the north next to Beaumont. The toy store had Yo-Yo contests at the beginning of each summer. It was quite some thing when my sister won one summer and beat all the boys. The toy store moved out and Loblaw’s moved in. Eventually, Loblaw’s moved into the field just east of Barnard school. Esler’s moved to the north end and Cadet Cleaners took its place on the south end.
Dew-Stone plaza was built north of Beaumont. It was cool because you could enter Star Market from either Dewey Ave. or Stone Rd. On the south end next to Beaumont was a bakery and then later Fay’s Drug Store. The Dutch Mill was always a presence. One thing I could never figure out was when I delivered the Times-Union newspaper, how could so many guys work at Kodak days and yet be on a bar stool at 3:00 p.m.
I happened to know that Mr. Jackson learned the bakery business at Schliff Bake Shop downtown, went in the Navy, and then came home and opened his business at the corner on Beaumont & Stone. He moved his place across the street for better parking. Have you tried parking in front of Jackson’s lately?
Directly across the street from Dalston was a Laundromat, and then going north was Veltri’s Shoe store and then a children’s clothing store on the corner of Shady Way. I still see Carl Veltri at the YMCA.
Across Shady Way, the central point of the neighborhood (except for those on the bar stools at the Dutch Mill) was, for some, Johnny’s Sweet Shop Restaurant (a place to also buy your Easter candy). Next to Johnny’s was the Towne Men Shop. I personally worked there for Harry Melon for 10-12 years. Going north in the same building: a Barber Shop, Dance Studio, and Mortillaro’s Paint Store as well as Mortillaro’s Jewelry Store.
Continuing north, they tore down an apartment building on the corner of Shady Way. Lincoln Bank built a new building and moved from across the Street. Jumping up to Stone Road there was the Corner Service (my favorite place to get junk food), Barnard Meat Market, another bakery, Bill’s Barbershop, and Kujawa’s Television Repair. West across Dewey was a Rotary Gas Station. Between it and Barnard were the new Loblaw and Cramer’s Rexall Drug Store.
Beyond the two schools (Barnard & St Charles) & the two churches (St. Charles & Bethany Pres) was the firehouse. Where would any kid have been without the 12:00 & 5:00 whistle or the field next to Clark Park to play sports?
Finally, Nick & Erwin’s Dry Cleaners certainly added to the neighborhood.