Bicentennial Snapshot # 29 – Cobblestone Houses Part 1

This week and next we explore some of the cobblestones houses in the town of Greece. Did you know that when the mile-thick glaciers of the Ice Age melted and receded north thousands of years ago, they left unique marks on the terrain and interesting mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, valleys, and some rich and fertile land for growing crops, as well as boulders, cobbles, pebbles, field stones, gravel and sand deposits in different areas that make up different regions in the world? The glaciers left 5 big freshwater lakes behind, how many of the big lakes can you name?

Satellite image of Lake Ontario -November 2009 NASA Earth Observatory
Satellite image of Lake Ontario -November 2009 NASA Earth Observatory

We will go from the west to east starting with Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan, flowing into Lake Huron with Georgian Bay, a small lake between Huron and Eire called Lake St. Clair, then Lake Erie, at the Buffalo end of Lake Erie is the Niagara River which brings the water over the falls at Niagara Falls and in then into Lake Ontario after the water travels out to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River. But for this snapshot, we will be focusing on New York State. In New York State and more especially within minutes you could be at Lake Ontario from anywhere in the town or a 40-to-50-minute drive from Greece you could be in the finger lakes looking at the beauty that the glaciers left on this region. Remember when we explained in snapshot 11 The Ridge Part 1 about Lake Iroquois? 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 trough 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.

Lake Iroquois
Lake Iroquois

Notice the red line that is the Ridge Road portion from the Genesee River to Lewiston., the /// lines going from lower left to upper right that is the outline of Lake Iroquois, 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.

And in Bicentennial Snapshot # 19 – Henpeck, Hoosick, and Hojack, what’s in a name, part 2 we looked at some of the elevations in the town from its highest point to the lowest point the town and how the town has two natural ridges.

But that wasn’t all; hundreds of thousands of cobblestones, fieldstones, and gravel pits were deposited in the glaciers’ melting wake. Cobblestones have a round shape. Over the years water made boulders become cobbles, cobbles become pebbles, and pebbles become sand. According to the Cobblestone Museum, “Geologists classify cobblestones as being 2.5 inches to 10.1 inches in size. In lay terms, cobblestone is a stone that can be held in one hand.” This differentiates them from fieldstones, which were also used to construct houses.

During the Program “Set In Stone”: The History Of Cobblestone Masonry, on September 13, 2022, Douglas Farley mentioned that there was a least one cobblestone structure as far away as Colorado. This is mentioned at 12 minutes and 21seconds in the video. https://youtu.be/eJAgwjKHCcw?t=1286

closeup of cobblestone house photo Bill Sauers
closeup of cobblestone house photo Bill Sauers

Some of these cobblestones, fieldstones and gravel pits were found while excavating for the Erie Canal, some were found while farmers were prepping the fields to grow crops. The town has a few remaining cobblestone structures left. There are a couple of fieldstones and one other stone-style house in the town. One of the fieldstone houses in the town is on the grounds of Unity Hospital at 1563 Long Pond Road. Some of the cobblestone houses may have had the back walls built with fieldstones because beauty in the front and the so ugly back fieldstone was not seen from the front. Why wasn’t brick used for these buildings? Well, one writer said “In the early days of the western New York frontier, bricks were costly to transport. To make them locally was also costly since clay had to be procured and molded, kilns had to be built, etc.” The farmers and masons used the material they had readily available and that “material did not require painting or maintenance; and most important, was fireproof and weatherproof.”

1563 Long Pond Rd

School District # 9

  • School district 9 school also Greece Methodist Church mid1800s GHS
  • District School 9 Facing Southeast

One out of the 17 district schools and the 2 joint districts in the 1800s were built using cobblestone the rest of the school districts were built with wood. The cobblestone school was in school district 9 on the 1872 map of the town of Greece and it was located at 980 Long Pond Rd. In 1917 it was replaced by a two-room schoolhouse. The cobblestone school was sold for $ 5.00. Arthur Koerner and Willis construction firm were awarded the contract to build the new two-room wooden school at 1048 Long Pond Road. Also, The Greece United Methodist Church formed inside School Number 9 on July 25, 1841, when Reverend William Williams met with a group of people to start the church, and then another group meeting at the Greece Center schoolhouse at district school number 17 on Latta Road and the church grew to 21 members. The current two-room schoolhouse was later sold at a district auction in August of 1949 and was purchased by Harold Tebo. Harold then hired Arthur Koerner to draw up plans to convert the schoolhouse into a private home and one of the features of the old school hidden above the now lowered ceiling is a tin ceiling that was used to reflect the heat and keep it in the building.

First Christian Church

The First Christian Church was a church that was built out of cobblestone, and it was located at 3194 Latta Road, it was close to the Larkin-Beatie-Howe House where that house used to sit where Wegman’s now sits. The Frist Christian Church used the church until 1866, then Greece Methodist Church used it from 1867 to 1874. Then Greece United Methodist Church built a new church with brick on Maiden Lane and has been there ever since. The former church at 3194 Latta Road was torn down around the 1950s.

First Christian Church then Greece Methodist Church Latta Road GHS
First Christian Church then Greece Methodist Church Latta Road GHS

Davis-Bagley-Hazen House

The first cobblestone house we will look at will be the Davis-Bagley-Hazen House at 149 North Greece Road it was built in 1845 in the Frisbee Hill area, and it was built by Edwin Davis. Lucius Bagley purchased the home from Edwin Davis in 1856 and the 100 acres surrounding the house. The house is a 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathrooms and 1 Half Bath the house has one fireplace. The property now sits on 2.61 acres out of the 100 acres that used to be farmland owned by Lucius Bagley, and the house’s living space is 3,376 square feet. It also has a cobblestone-built smokehouse in the rear of the house.

Davis-Bagley-Hazen home from Town Historian
Davis-Bagley-Hazen home from Town Historian

One of Lucius’ children, Henry Joel, inherited the house and farm; he lived there all his life until he died in 1942, at the age of 90. A Bagley cousin remembered that “it was a standing tradition among the Bagley descendants to celebrate Christmas Day with grandfather Henry Joel at the old cobblestone farmhouse.” Bagley descendants also remembered watching their “grandfather salting and preparing bacon and hams to hang in the cobblestone smokehouse that remains by the driveway today.”

Henry Joel Bagley
Henry Joel Bagley
149 North Greece Road smokehouse
149 North Greece Road smokehouse

The next longstanding owners of the house were Stanley and Mary Hazen. After purchasing the home in 1958, the Hazens made substantial upgrades and improvements to the old cobblestone farmhouse; nevertheless it “retains its rural, exterior dress, yet tasteful planning has transformed the dwelling into a modern up-to-date home. There is a definite feeling of preservation from within with no sacrificing the conveniences of utility, interior decorations, and livability….” In 1989, the Finegans became owners of this historic house.

The Landmark Society considers this house “architecturally significant,” not only as “an outstanding intact example of cobblestone construction in New York State,” but also as a significant “example of mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival, rural domestic architecture in the Town of Greece.”

District School # 7

District School 7 Map
District School 7 Map
District School at 150 Frisbee Hill Road
District School at 150 Frisbee Hill Road
150 Frisbee Hill Road Today
150 Frisbee Hill Road Today

Children attending District School #7 on located at 168 Frisbee Hill would come down the hill with pails to fetch drinking water from the pump by the front porch of the Bagley house. Their teachers were often boarded there during the school season. The schoolhouse was built for $700 on a quarter-acre plot of land leased by Edward Frisbee, a North Greece pioneer, in September 1833, and stipulated that the land was to be used for school. Mrs. Cancella was a teacher at the one-room schoolhouse. Lou Frisbee was the bus driver. The school had about 15 students and went from K – 10 or 11 grade. In 1899 the original schoolhouse on Frisbee Hill just past North Greece was torn down. District 7 lost its old school by Court rule. Florence Haskins at 150 Frisbee Hill Rd. sued Myron B. Kelly, serving as a trustee of the school district for possession of the schoolhouse and the quarter-acre of land her great-grandfather had turned over for school purposes. Dorothy Frisbee used to serve soup, sandwiches, and cookies to the kids if they didn’t bring any lunch says Ruth a former student. The most difficult time was in the winter on the bus because she said the winters were tough and it was difficult for the bus to get through the snow. The roads weren’t plowed like today and the drifts were quite high. She didn’t remember how they heated the school, but she said it got quite cold inside on occasions in the winter.

Next week

Next Tuesday will look at a few other cobblestone houses but for one it was not able to be saved and that is a tale for next week. Bicentennial Snapshot # 30 – Cobblestone Houses Part 2

For More on Cobblestones buildings from this Snapshot

The Cobblestone Church at the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, NY
The Cobblestone Church at the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, NY

Some of the information for this week and next week’s snapshot comes to us from the Douglas Farley and the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, New York you can check out their museum at https:/www.cobblestonemuseum.org/ as well as the program he did at our Tuesday program called “Set In Stone”: The History Of Cobblestone Masonry

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 15 – Erie Canal

We explore the impact that the canal had on the Town of Greece, in the state of New York. In 1817 the idea was formed to create an easy way to get products from Lake Erie, and the other Great Lakes to New York City and back.

According to Wikipedia, The canal was first proposed in the 1780s, then re-proposed in 1807, and the survey was authorized, funded, and executed in 1808. Its construction began in 1817 after proponents of the project gradually wore down its opponents; and it opened on October 26, 1825. The canal has 34 locks with an overall elevation difference of about 565 feet (172 m),[1] starting upstream with Black Rock Lock and ending downstream with the Troy Federal Lock. Both locks are owned by the United States Federal Government[2].

Sea level elevation of the Canal route
Sea level elevation of the Canal route

The Canal Started at Lockport and ended at the Hudson River.

The Erie canal had received some nicknames for the Erie Canal project because of New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, his project received some interesting names, and his political opponents wanted to call the project, here are a few of the names they called the Erie Canal, the first name it was derided as was “Clinton’s Folly”, another one was “Clinton’s Big Ditch”, and “Clinton’s Ditch”. Over time the folks realized that the Erie canal helped bolster the port at New York City with a strong advantage over other port cities on the eastern seaboard and helped make it easier to travel by water than it was to portage the goods to stagecoaches or other modes of early transportation in the interior of the United States.

The Erie Canal was one of the great civil engineering projects of its time, and the cost to build it was $7,143,789. The total length of the Canal is 363 Feet(584 km) and 50 Locks made up the canal to traverse the change in elevations of sea levels to get it from the Hudson River elevation to the elevation of Lake Erie.

Asa Rowe Ad in the Genesee Farmer Monroe Horticultural Garden
Asa Rowe Ad in the Genesee Farmer Monroe Horticultural Garden

If you remember when we told you about Asa Rowe and his Monroe Horticulture Garden and Nursery he took full advantage of the Erie canal for shipping all his plants and seeds to other states, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconson, featured in Bicentennial Snapshot # 13.

Terry Burns

As the canal was dug by hand it required an army of laborers. Some of those laborers, such as Terry Burns, one of the pioneers of Greece, decided to stay after working on the canal, settling in Greece in 1823.

South Greece did have one Lock and it was only used when they did the expansion in 1919 till about 1923 then after it was used as a dry dock for the rest of the 1920s on the canal but later it was decommissioned and blocked off the dock is now just being overgrown with trees and other wild plants.

Erie Canal Completion Medal, 1826 this one is in The Henry Ford Museum
Erie Canal Completion Medal, 1826 this one is in The Henry Ford Museum

During my Visit to the Henry Ford Museum in August, I saw this sitting in the Driving America Exhibit in front of an 1891 Abbot Downing Concord Coach.

The Buffalo Maritime Center is in the process of building a replica of a packet boat at the Longshed at Canalside in Buffalo at the end of the Commerical Slip and they believe it will take at least 2 years to complete the boat project and set sail in 2025 for the 200th anniversary of merging of the waters. In 2025 they will be traveling the Erie Canal and stopping in each community along the Erie canal so people explore the replica, as well as displays about building the boat and how they built it, and the materials they used in the process you can learn more about the project at https://buffalomaritimecenter.org/

1. Finch, Roy G. (1925). The Story of the New York State Canals (PDF). New York State Engineer and Surveyor. Retrieved June 28, 2022.

2. “Locks on the Erie Canal”The Erie Canal. Retrieved June 28, 2022.

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 14 – General Stores

This week on our Bicentennial Snapshot we explore two of the most visited General Stores out of two neighborhoods the first one will be H.C. Phelps Located on the southwest corner at Latta and North Greece and the second one is Gilbert (Burt) J Wagg’s Groceries and Provisions Located where Tim Horton’s is today at Lake Ave, Ridge Road and Pullman Ave.

Disclaimer The references to tobacco products in this Bicentennial Snapshot are for historical purposes only, recounting an individual’s reminiscences of a bygone era. The Greece Historical Society does not encourage the use of any tobacco products.

Today we take it for granted how easy it is to buy food, clothing, and other products from various stores and within easy travel distance or online via Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers. But in the 19th century and even into the 20th century, Greece residents depended on General Stores for their purchasing needs.

When the American colonists mainly started expanding west word they would set up General Stores that would be where the travelers or residents of the small villages or towns would gather to buy, trade, or sell items that they needed for a day-to-day living unlike how it is now that you purchase Clothing from Store A and then go to store B to get you Garden supplies, then maybe you go to Store C for your meats, and then finally get to the Produce Market for all your fresh produce these good would last longer or shorter depending what the product was intended for like planned obsolescence.

The invention of the Ice Box did help out with some growth of General stores but some of the General stores evolved with the times where they kept up with the changes evolving into smaller corner stores which some people will call the store a bodega, especially in New York City. In other parts of the country, the Mom and Pop General stores are somewhat making comebacks in your rural communities because these are now becoming small access points for online orders and delivery hubs for pickups for places like Amazon, UPS, FedEx, DHL, LaserShip and even the post office still because the cost is still worth them to operate just to help the people that cannot get the packages delivered to the porch of the local farmer or rancher, or even the smallest campgrounds.

Question of Week:

How long do you think it would take for you to get from Hoosick Cemetary (West Greece) Manitou at West Ridge Road to G.C. Latta House at Lake Ave, and Latta Rd in Charlotte?

But for this question, we will be starting at the Hoosick Cemetary Manitou Road at West Ridge Road, proceed heading north on Manitou road until you come to Latta Road, and then make the right on Latta Road passing H.C. Phelps General store on the right at North Greece and Latta road, and continuing on Latta you will be passing Green Acres on your left, you then continue on Latta and cross over Long Pond Road, maybe stop at Apple Anne’s for some apples, after that you maybe stop to worship at Mother of Sorrow’s church and then head down the hill and cross over Dewey ave and a much smoother path on Latta road you pass on your left the Fleming Homestead now a nursing home to then you should get to your destination at Lake Ave and Latta in front of the G.C. Latta House

Here is the formula to solve for each type of mode of transportation

time = distance/speed

Your Distance is 9.5 Miles

Your Speed is based on the mode of transportation you take to get to the destination.

Traveling by car at 35 mph

Traveling by a Horse at 5-8 mph

Traveling by a pedal bike can vary depending on how fast you can pedal it can be as low as 8 mph and high as 26 mph

Traveling by public transit is not available for this example.

The answer to this will be at the end of this post with the solution to this question.

H.C. Phelps.

H.C. Phelps is located on the southwest corner at Latta Rd and North Greece Rd.

Henry C. Phelps built his store on the North Greece Road in about 1870. The area was then known as Jenkins Corner at Latta Rd. By 1900 it had the name, North Greece, as it’s known today. Henry carried a varied lot of merchandise. Just about anything that would fit in the store and would sell found a place on the floor or a shelf. He catered to the farmer and his family. It helped that the local U.S. Post Office was also in the building. The opening of the Manitou (seasonal) Trolley in the 1890s expanded the number of cottages along the lake and bays. Several times a week Phelps would send out his horse and wagon filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, and sundries. Going door to door, the “huckster” (an old term for a peddler) would often empty his wagon by the end of his route. After Mr. Phelps retired the store continued under several owners and name changes well into the 20th century. The post office moved to its own quarters and other business enterprises took over the site until we arrive at the 21st century. Except for the loss of the front porch and several horse hitching posts, the building remains much as it was built over 145 years ago. An insurance office is now the proud caretaker.

Gilbert “Burt” J Wagg

Gilbert (Burt) J Wagg’s Groceries and Provisions is Located where Tim Horton’s is today at Lake Ave, Ridge Road, and Pullman Ave.

Wagg’s Grocery and Provisions store could hardly be called a general store in the same sense as Henry Phelps’s business. Gilbert (Burt) J. Wagg started in business in the early 1900s with several small grocery stores in Rochester. Since he was a natural salesman and “go-getter” (a favorite saying of the day), he decided to open yet another store on the north-western edge of the city. Streets along Lake Avenue were developed because of the expansion of the Eastman Kodak Company, and Kodak Park Works. An ideal place for Burt’s new store was on the east side of Lake Avenue near Kodak. The business grew, with departments added almost yearly. A bakery, a meat department, groceries, and produce were sold there from the start. Furniture, china, yard goods, clothing, shoes, phonographs later called gramophones now called record players or turntables depending on your generation, and records all became integrated into Wagg’s, especially after the business was moved nearby to a building with ample floor space about 1912. The business eventually took a building on Lake Avenue as well as a number down Pullman Avenue.

Burt is at the telephone in one of the photos and his sister Grace is at the adding machine to his right.

One photo ( 1920) shows the business with a bus at the corner of Lake and Pullman. Most people referred to it as Wagg’s Corner. The mini-department store then employed 28 clerks and drivers to cover the departments and five delivery wagons. Burt is at the telephone in one of the photos and his sister Grace is at the adding machine to his right. Grace was as astute about the business as her brother. Burt passed on in 1944. Grace took over and ran it until it became clear newer and more modern stores had opened on West Ridge Road. The business closed in 1964 and the building was torn down in 1988. Parts of the other shops that were to the right of the G.J. Wagg’s store are still standing but now are apartments at 17 thru 29 Pullman Ave. Pullman ave was redesigned to come back a bit from the corner that Lake Ave and Ridge Road to prevent sharp turns onto Pullman ave from coming from the Veterans Bridge or from lake ave turn on to Ridge Road and then a sharp left onto Pullman Ave and then the raised median makes it impossible to turn on to Pullman ave after the light on at ridge and lake coming from the Veterans Bridge.

Answer to the Question

How long do you think it would take for you to get from Hoosick Cemetary (West Greece) Manitou at West Ridge Road to G.C. Latta House at Lake Ave, and Latta Rd in Charlotte?

Your Distance is 9.5 miles in one direction

Your Speed is based on the mode of transportation you take to get to the destination.

Mode of TransportationSpeedOne Way TripRound Trip Time
Car 35 mph15-17 minutes30-34 minutes
Pedal Bike †8 mph1 hour, 11 minutes, 15 seconds2 hours, 22 minutes, 30 seconds
Pedal Bike †26 mph0 hours, 21 minutes, 55 seconds0 hours, 43 minutes, 51 seconds
Horse Trot‡5 mph1 hour, 54 minutes, 0 seconds3 hours, 48 minutes, 0 seconds
Horse Trot‡8 mph1 hour, 11 minutes, 15 seconds2 hours, 22 minutes, 30 seconds
Walking §3 Hours 10 Minutes6 Hours 20 minutes
Calculation of Time

† Traveling by a pedal bike can vary depending on how fast you can pedal it can be as low as 8 mph and high as 26 mph

‡ Traveling by a Horse at a trot at 5-8 mph

Traveling by public transit is not available for this example based on the chosen route that was selected

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William A. Payne House

William A. Payne House ~ 505 Elmgrove Road ~ Greece, New York

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places: June 2012
Town of Greece Designated Landmark: October 2012

The William A. Payne House is located in the southwest quadrant of the town, south of the Erie Canal near the former hamlet of South Greece. The designation area is approximately 1.6 acres of land and includes the main house, which was constructed around 1905, and a carriage barn. Historically, the property is associated with the early nineteenth-century pioneers who settled in South Greece near the Erie Canal. The hamlet of South Greece, also known as Elm Grove or Henpeck, was located near the intersection of the Erie Canal and what was then known as South Greece Road (later renamed Elmgrove Road). William Payne made an impact on local and state commercial practices through his work as the Monroe County Sealer of Weights and Measures. He was one of the founders of the statewide association that worked to develop fair and uniform methods of weighing and measuring for merchants and consumers, and created education programs for fellow sealers. Payne was also a fire commissioner in the Town of Greece, and a member of the Greece-Ridge Fire Department.