Proposed Community Center and Park

In June of 1929, our town of only 13,000 was growing rapidly and there were no provisions for playgrounds or rec­reation. Then W. Chandler Knapp, chairman of the Greece Planning Board, with the backing of leading residents, proposed purchasing 85 acres of land, known as Glendemere Farms, on Dewey Avenue. The land, to be used as a community center and park, was ideally suited for such a purpose, with a large barn that could be used as a community center and gym, and a building that would serve as a library, and enough land that could provide excellent facili­ ties for bridle paths and a playground. The owner had, over the past 19 years, actually developed his farm as a future park and, at age 69, was ready to sell. He had already donated some of his property to the local fire department the year before. The town council was not ready to commit to such a large endeavor at that time but would take the question up with the Monroe County Parks Commission, relative to their buying the property.”

Plat book of Monroe County, New York. Plate 33 (1924) shows you the location of George H Clark’s Property and where the proposed park would have been

In the civic planning process timing can be crucial and the summer of 1929 was definitely the wrong time. The County was in the process of acquiring land for Churchville, Mendon Ponds, and Ellison Parks, and by the time any­ one gave the Greece project any consideration was the beginning of the Great Depression. The thought of pur­ chasing more land was the last thing on anyone’s mind.

The particular parcel of land that the Greece Planning Board was interested in was owned by George H. Clark, one of the most well-known and wealthiest individuals in Monroe County at the time. At the age of 24, he and his father purchased stock in the Eastman Dry Plate & Film Company, thereby becoming one of the original investors in what would become the Eastman Kodak Company.

GEORGE H. CLARK (Kodak Magazine, June 1938. Courtesy of George Eastman Museum)
Aerial view of St. Joseph’s Villa from GHS
Aerial view of St. Joseph’s Villa from GHS

Eight years after the Greece project died, the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, negotiated the purchase of the farm from Mr. Clark for $25,000, forever ending any possibility of a town park and community center at that site. Although now in private hands, and developed for other purposes, the land would be used by neighborhood youth for quite some time. Ball diamonds had been laid out by its new owner, and they were open most of the time for pick-up games, the large field was excellent for Fall football, and an adjacent gully made for some of the best, although very dangerous, winter sledding in the area. For many years, long before environmental and safety rules, it was also the site of an annual community Christmas tree burning.

Barnard Fire Department Plaque photo by Bill Sauers
Barnard Fire Department Plaque photo by Bill Sauers

Most people in Greece have long forgotten the name George H. Clark, but his legacy lives on. In 1928 the Barnard Fire Department built their firehouse on the land he donated. That original firehouse still stands today, albeit with a few additions. In June of 1942 several children and nuns took a bus from the City and moved into their new home, named St. Joseph’s Villa. (now the Villa of Hope) That barn, the one George built years ago, still stands today, although the building that could have been the library is long gone due to the reconstruction and re-alignment of Dewey Avenue.

Barnard Fire District Volunteers, 1931, from the Office of the Town Historian
Barnard Fire District Volunteers, 1931, from the Office of the Town Historian

It took 77 years from that proposed community center and park at George Clark’s Glendemere Farms to the opening, in 2006, of our Greece Community and Senior Center on the Greece Town Campus. So what would we have called that community center and park in 1929? I’m sure no one will ever know, but in 1949 when Supervisor Gordon Howe announced the name of a new street connecting Dewey Avenue and Almay Road, a street that was on the land once owned by George Clark, the land that may have been our town community center and park, did he realize the irony in the street’s name, CLARK PARK?

This building might have become our Town’s community center.

This a condensed version of a story originally published in the Greece Post in 2006

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Back to School in 1911 – From the Historian’s Desk

As the Greece kid of 1911 were headed for the first day of school It doubtful if they were singing a popular song of the day, “School Days”. The refrain asks one to “take a trip on memory’s ship back to the bygone days” – “sail to the old village school… The chorus follow after a few more lines with “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days” -“readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic – taught to the tune of a hickory stick”.

The cover for the sheet music "School Days" by Cobb & Edwards.

The cover for the sheet music “School Days” by Cobb & Edwards.

District school # 17 at Latta Rd. N.E. of Long Pond Rd. still stands there.

Already the small, sometimes cramped, one room school was seen as an object of noatollga. But the one or two room school was still thenorm for Greece. In the late 19th century Greece had almost nineteen seperate school districts, each with one school. The village of Charlotte had a two story brick grammar school built In the 1870’s and a new high school had been opened in 1908.

A four-year high school education was not what a farm child would expect. Eight grades were considered enough with perhaps two years of further education. Farm boys often went right from the eighth grade to work on the farm or employment with the ever-expanding company on Lake Avenue at Ridge Road, The Eastman Kodak Company. The extra income helped the farm family to survive The teachers, usually, women, were sometimes hard to supply for still rural sections of Greece. She taught all eight grades unless the school was a newer two-room building. Then two teachers would split the grades between them. It was expected a teacher would leave her position if she married. In addition to the three “R’s” of what was considered the basics in the 19th century, there was added Geography, English grammar, world, national and local history. Several of the early one-room schools were replaced with four or six-room schools, and they often had central heat plus electric lighting. Gone were the coal stove In the center of the room and a few wall-bracket Kerosene lamps.

1908 Charlotte High School with the 1869 Grammar School behind. The Roch. Fire Dept. now stands there.
District School Number 9 with a larger class size in front of the school
Lane’s Corner, Joint School District No. 14

Though it was evident that larger and more adequate schools were needed It took another almost twenty years before the start of consolidating school districts began in Greece. By World War Two few of the old district schools were left. The last few were gone by the early 1950s.

Our museum exhibit of a mall one room school gives a fair approximation of a school room of the early 1900’s. You brought your lunch and ate at your desk or outdoors. Drinking water was from a nearby well. The privy was well away from the well and the school. The long desks with several students In a row on a long bench had given away to the Improved individual desks by the 1900″s. Sports, were usually simple games, or a rude baseball diamond was fashioned on a plot of relatively flat ground. Each district school had textbooks and a small library. These were the property of the district. Writing on or defacing a book was not tolerated and parents were often assessed for such damage.

Frisbee Hill on the ground of the Frisbee Family
Jane’s Road

Some of the venerable school building were converted long ago to business or private dwellings, while others just vanished. Few Greece resident’s of today can boast that they attended a small village school of fewer than four rooms.

Frederick Lay’s Two Room School #11 at N.W. corner of W. Ridge Rd. & Mt Read Blvd.
Class photo of District #11, located on Ridge Road (where Home Depot is currently located), 1906. William Britton is far left, back row.

Photos, Data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office, Greece Historical Society. A full look at the Common School Districts of Greece New York is now available to look at in the following two Bicentennial Snapshots:

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