Bicentennial Snapshot # 11 – The Ridge Part 1

This week we turn our attention to the central commercial district in the town most of you know as

The Ridge.

The Ridge today Satellite view via google maps

We at the Greece Historical society bet that most if not, every person in the town of Greece has at least one point in their daily life been to some part of the Ridge, which could be to the Mall at Greece Ridge formally Long Ridge Mall, and Greece Towne Mall, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Wegmans, or the number of other shops and stores along the Ridge.

According to the Diary of Eli Granger whose dairy we share a bit from in the King’s Landing snapshot, he wrote this entry in his diary about the ridge and why he thought it would be a handsome ridge for a road

[1 June 1797] came home on a handsom Ridge suitable for a Roade — got home on Monday 29th May after Spending 14 days 3 of us — 42 days in whole — my Expence for pilott — 8 dollars for Expence at Niagary for pilote &c — 2 dolars — other Expence — $3.90

Diary of Eli Granger

Those who may not remember earth science class or other science classes and parts of some history classes when they talked about the Ice Age and how most of the region was covered in ice and glacial valley, also called glacial troughs as seen in this map. Almost 13,000 years ago a large glacial lake, Lake Iroquois, as it is called by geologists, lapped the far eastern portion of what became the Niagara escarpment.  When the waters of Lake Iroquois receded, it left a ridge of land 400 feet above sea level.  You can see on this map, the dimensions of the prehistoric lake in relation to Lake Ontario today.

Map of Lake Iroquois

Notice the line in Red that is the portion of Ridge Road from the Genesee River to Lewiston. , the /// lines going from lower left to the upper right that is the outline of Lake Iroquois, and the cross lines ### in the pen are the ice sheet as the ice continued to recede north as the time when on from the ice age.

Greece Memorial Town Hall

In 1960, in front of the old Greece Town Hall, on W Ridge Road, a Monroe County historical marker was placed noting the history of the old Ridge Road. Before the town moved from the old Greece Memorial Town Hall offices in 1997 to the new Greece Town Hall located on Long Pond Road. With the center of the population being closer to the Latta and Long Pond area the town felt that they need to move all the town services to a centralized campus close to the middle of the town instead of being on a major corridor where it stood for almost 96 years. From March 20, 1960, to 1997 when you went to the Old Greece Memorial Town Halland you might have wandered over and look the historical marker that was in front of the Town Hall. On the historical marker, it explains Ridge Road was molded by glaciers and that it was a well-traveled Haudenosaunee (Indian) trail, then it was traversed by Pioneers’ ox-carts, stagecoaches, and covered wagons, and that the town of Greece was founded in 1822. The Old Ridge Road historical marker was removed for a short time while Ridge Ridge was being expanded into a six-lane with a raised median highway. It was placed in the care of the Greece Historical Society. The sign was reinstalled and now sits on the edge of the sidewalk and the strip plaza.

This sign was originally located right as soon as you walked out of the front doors of Greece Memorial Town Hall and to the left of the Flag pole on the sidewalk in the picture above.
Headline from March 24, 1960, Greece Press,
Strip Plaza at the location where the old Greece Memorial Town Hall stood, Photo Bill Sauers

How much do you think it cost now to start a road like the Ridge, back then in 1813 New York State appropriated $5,000 for construction work that cost would be only $90,346.56 this was mainly to cut down trees and build basic bridges over streams this does not include the veteran’s bridge over the Genesee River, Mount Read bridge, and the bridge at Ridge and I-390/NY-390. Those bridges would be built during Part 2 of the Ridge which will be next week.

We cover more on the Rowe Tavern in our look into the neighborhoods of Greece, which will be called ADA (Ridge) note that this is the only neighborhood that uses the ridge in its title.

Falls Hotel / Rowe Tavern
Stone Tavern

Travelers often stopped for the night at one of the two-story taverns along the Ridge, such as the Stone Tavern, or the Rowe Tavern.

Stage Coach Loaded with passengers
 in the 1860s from the Office of the Town Historian

Even though Railroads and by the time these taverns were open for business most of the transportation to these establishments was by stagecoach, and as many as twelve people might be stuffed inside the coach, but that was perhaps better than having to ride outside while being subjected to all kinds of weather that mother nature could unleash during this time period.

There were a number of small general stores that a lot of the early pioneers shopped at for daily goods and items they needed for daily living. Like Anderson General Store located at the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Mitchell Road and Gilbert C. Wagg’s emporium at Ridge Road and Pullman Ave, these two General stores as well as a well-known general store in the North Greece Area at Latta and North Greece Road will be featured in the bicentennial snapshot number 14 all about these general stores. Also, you can check out this article from October 2017, Corinthian called “A Tale of Two General Stores From Apples to Zithers” by Alan Muller

As for the nursery businesses, this was where Asa Rowe, the Lay Farm, the Ver Hulst Farm, and smaller farms operated from but most notably Asa, and the Lay Farm. In 1826, Asa Rowe established the first nursery business in Monroe County when he opened the MONROE GARDEN AND NURSERY on the north side of Ridge Road near where today, Mitchell, Long Pond, and Ridge Roads intersect. He offered a large selection of “fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbous roots, and green-house plants.” The opening of the Erie Canal made transportation fast and cheap and his nursery business thrived.

The Lay Farm, which later became the Ver Hulst Farm, now sits Bob Johnson’s Chevrolet.

Anderson General Store is located at the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Mitchell Road. circa 1912
 Gilbert C. Wagg’s emporium
Gilbert C. Wagg’s emporium was located at Ridge and Pullman Ave where Tim Horton’s is now located. and a portion of the smaller shops attached to Wagg’s still stands on Pullman Ave as apartments.

How many recognize these two buildings here?

Craig Apartments
David Todd Mansion from History of Monroe County, W. H. McIntosh, 1877
Ridgemont Country Club
Upton Manor from GHS

These are two structures that can be seen on the ridge the first one on the left is the David Todd Mansion which became a small apartment complex and the one on the right is The Upton Manor which is now the site of Ridgemont Country Club. For more information check out this article from our newsletter about the Craig house called The Victorian Survivor on the Ridge by Alan Muller written for the September 2020 issue of the Corinthian.

We wonder how many of you know that George Eastman and Eastman Kodak Company started the first plant for filmmaking not in the City of Rochester but in Greece, New York. In the 1890s, George Eastman decided that 16 and a half acres of farmland in Greece, “out in the country” where there was fresh air, plenty of clean water, and railroad terminals, was ideal for his new film-making plant. He constructed it on the corner at Ridge and Lake across the street from Wagg’s Corner. The Town of Greece would never be the same. But that’s a tale for another episode.

Kodak Park, 1894, Office of the Town Historian

The Victorian “Survivor” on the Ridge

More than 170 years is a long time for a structure to survive on West Ridge Road. Di­rectly across from the south end of North Avenue at 3349 West Ridge is one of those survivors, a house built of brick in the Victorian-Italianate style, a very popular style of that period, especially for upscale homes.

The Todd-Casey-Craig House Circa 2010
David Todd
David Todd

Built by David Todd, it once was part of a substantial farm. The Todd name disappeared long ago in town history. No street carries the name, let alone a public building. In the late 19th century a large volume titled ‘The History of Monroe County, N.Y. illustrated” was published. Within its pages are several par­agraphs on the Todd family and specifically David Todd, plus a double-page lithograph of the vast acreage, the farm­stead, and out-buildings as they appeared in an 1877 artist’s rendering.

David Todd was born in Peekskill, Westchester County in April 1820. With his Scotland-born parents, he moved west with them six years later to Genesee County. He married Elisa Speer in 1843, daughter of Abram Speer, an early settler in Greece, and engaged in farming for himself on a seventy-acre tract, not far from the family homestead. By the 1850s the elegant brick house was the home of David and Elisa, plus two daughters, Mary Frances, who never married, and Sarah Elizabeth, who married Thomas Pryor of Greece. He kept buying and selling adja­ cent real estate until he finally owned 340 acres of fine farmland. Mr. Todd became interested in town government. He was the town supervisor of Greece in 1874 and 1875.

Postcard of Ye Olde Farme, advertising luncheons, bridge parties, weddings, and tourist accommodations.

Eliza Todd died in 1884, leaving David a wealthy widower living with his unmarried daughter. At the age of 60, he decided to leave farming and sold the house and extensive property for $40,000 ( over $ 1,000,000 in today’s money). He and his daughter, Mary, moved to Rochester. He spent the rest of his retirement at his Fulton Avenue home, dying at age 79, on March 21, 1899. Little is known of the Ridge Road property until a Mr. James D. Casey is shown owning 206 acres in the very early 1900s.

William H. Craig enters the picture as the last of the owners of 3349 Ridge Road West to operate the farmland. William H. Craig was the son of Charles and Mary Craig, born in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. Craig and Mary hailed from Ireland. William was an entrepreneur like his father. He ran a livery stable and managed his father’s hotels in Charlotte. He helped to develop Ontario Beach Park into an amusement park. Loving horses, he had many winning racehorses. While running a successful livery business for 16 years, he was elected an alderman for the Fourth Ward for four years. Albany called and he was assistant sergeant-at-arms of the New York State Capitol from 1897 to 1900. Sheriff of Monroe County ( 1906-1908) was his next job. Then in 1908 he be­ came the superintendent of the Monroe County Penitentiary on South Avenue, Rochester. He purchased the Ridge Road farm about 1912 and sent his only son, Charles E. Craig, to Cornell Agricultural School to learn about farming. Now in charge of the farm, Charles made many improvements. There were a variety of crops, including fruit-bearing trees. He also had a herd of high­ grade milk cows.

Modern farm implements and crop techniques were put into practice by William’s son. William died about 1928 and by the 1930 census, the property no longer belonged to the Craig family.

Times were changing by the early 1930s. Greece’s population had expanded in the 1920s and many farmers were discovering it was no longer profitable to farm a small acreage, but selling land to a developer had its advantages, putting some money away, they sought factory jobs. The depression halted much of that. The Todd-Casey-Craig property of 206 acres began to shrink in size, until in 1959 it was only about 144.23 feet wide by 170.73 feet deep.

The 1940 suburban directory lists a Herbert and Bess Manly running “Ye Olde Farme” tearoom with tour­ ist overnight accommodations available. Remembered by several local folks, the restaurant lasted until the early 1950s.

In the last almost seventy years it has been “remuddled” into a number of apartments by several different owners. Ridge Road went from barely a two-lane, dirt wagon trail to four wide lanes. The house that Da­vid built overlooks The Ridge, and weathers storms, pollutions, and humans!