This sounds interesting! Tickets are still available.
Museum & Library of Local History in Brockport, NY
The Emily L Knapp Museum is a municipal museum associated with the Village of Brockport. The museum is located on the second and third floors in the former home of one of Brockport’s most prominent families, the Seymours, while the first floor contains the Village of Brockport offices. Those who visit Brockport’s collection of local history will feel they’ve entered a time when the Erie Canal was the bustling commercial center of this Victorian village: when ladies wore high-laced shoes and skirts that scraped the slate sidewalks, and the gentlemen sported tall silk hats; when phonographs and stereopticon views as well as novels by our famed authoress, Mary Jane Holmes, entertained the masses. Don’t take our word for it, see for yourself.
This sounds interesting! Tickets are still available.
The Emily Knapp Museum proudly announces the publication of Helen Hastings’s Art in a Trunk. Using Hastings’s handwritten notebooks detailing her studies and the actual paintings, author Sue Savard spent three years creating a detailed look at the art studies of a young woman in the 1890s who wanted to become a serious artist. This beautifully produced book includes many of Hastings’s paintings and is a great addition to any Brockport history collection.
The book is now available on Amazon.
Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday night and visited our museums. We hope you enjoyed your visit to The Emily Knapp Museum as much as we enjoyed having you visit.
Hope to see you again!
Don’t forget to come out and visit Brockport’s museums on Saturday evening, May 4 from 5-8:30pm! All 5 of the community’s museums will be open.
The Emily Knapp Museum has never looked better and we’re hoping you’ll come see all the changes and our 1900’s Street of Shops.
Hope to see you tomorrow!
Come and explore Brockport’s history!
Mary Jane Holmes Fun Fact #7
Two of MJH”s most popular novels were made into stage plays and movies.
Tempest and Sunshine, her first novel (1854) was turned into a dramatic play which toured the country in the early 1900’s.The play was staged in big cities like San Francisco and small towns like Medina. It also became a drama club favorite in the 1930’s and 40’s and was presented in high schools across the country.
Tempest and Sunshine was also filmed several times but these silent films are considered lost.
Lena Rivers (1856) was filmed several times as a silent movie and a sound film. The 1932 Pre Code version can be seen on You Tube. While not a cinematic masterpiece, it’s fairly true to the plot of the original novel.
MJH’s characters and plots kept audiences interested for 80 years after she introduced them!
Mary Jane Holmes fun fact #6:
The Holmes were world travelers. They visited all 45 states and many European and Asian countries with many of their travels lasting a year or more. In June 1890, they embarked on a trip to Alaska, stopping for a few weeks in Tacoma before boarding the Princess of the Pacific for the long trip. Mrs. Holmes gave a lengthy interview to the Tacoma Ledger which was condensed and reprinted in the Brockport Republic. She discussed her love of travel and her writing schedule. The reporter described her clothing, diamond jewelry and blue eyes in great detail but Daniel Holmes was described as a slight white-haired man with weak eyes.
Our heroine concluded this interview saying American women were treated shabbily by authors such as Henry James, who “colors everything British”.
These pictures are from Digital Commons SUNY Brockport.
More fun facts about Mary Jane Holmes:
4. During the mid1890s, there was a serious economic downturn (Panic of 1893). MJH sponsored a soup kitchen at her house on College St for hungry area residents.
5. 2 million copies of her books were printed during her lifetime. Each book was undoubtedly read by more than just one person so that 2 million can be doubled or tripled to get an idea of how many women read her novels.
Happy 196th birthday to Mary Jane Holmes! From her Brown Cottage on College Street she wrote 38 novel and was one of the most popular writers of her day. For the next few days we will share some fun facts about her.
1. Mrs. Holmes usually wrote in the mornings. When a neighbor’s rooster was interrupting her work, she asked the neighbor to do something about the disturbance. When they declined, she bought all the available nearby roosters. While the fate of the roosters is unknown, at least there was less crowing for a few days.
2. Mary Jane Holmes was a very generous and involved member of the community. Late in her life she would be seen at community events wearing a white ermine coat, a tasteful amount of jewelry and a chestnut brown wig.
3. When she was only 13, she taught school near her home in Massachusetts.
Here’s the picture. Silsby Hose banquet, 1906.
Coffee, cigars and fancy dress at the Silsby Hose Company’s 32nd Annual Banquet, February 4, 1906.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s all meet up at the Sweet Shoppe after we get our hair done by Iris. I’m planning to wear my flowers from Rose’s later when we go to the dance at the American Hotel.
A little more about Water St.
A winter view of Water St. from an undated picture. Sunseri Bargain Center where the Red Feather is now and Sunseri Grocery on the right (now vacant). Does anyone remember the name of the bar on Water St?
Holiday greetings from some long ago businesses in Brockport.
One hundred years ago today marked the end of what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. America’s entry into the war in 1917 hastened the end of war but also cost our nation and others millions of young lives. Families from all combatants sent their fathers, brothers, sons and daughters off to fight the enemy. Many young Americans perished and for those who returned, their wartime experiences changed their lives profoundly.
The impact on global society, economics and government has been extensively documented and analyzed since that long ago Armistice Day in 1918. What follows is a snapshot of Brockport on that memorable day.
The day was cold, about 40 degrees, but there was no rain or snow to dampen the joy that swept the community when news of the Armistice was confirmed. The Brockport Republic reported the community’s reaction in their 11/14/18 edition.
“Unorganized parades in Brockport sprang up like mushrooms and no part of the village was without evidence that there was something doing. In the afternoon the GAR led a parade about town while a committee of enthusiast businessmen skirmished about and collected $245 for fireworks and a celebration in the evening. At 7:30 a large band and a crowd that filled Main Street kept up a celebration and red fire and skyrockets and Roman candles til late at night when the last screech of the fire sirens and the toll of bells gave nervous people a chance to seek their beds in peace.”
“The mothers had a prominent place in the line of march-they were entitled to the head of the parade if they wanted it.”
In addition to a mention of an effigy of Poor Bill (Kaiser Wilhelm) being “strung up and burned in front of the Masonic Block” , the coverage also mentions “Ladies were heard to remark that the celebration was the most orderly they ever saw-no foul language or drunks or anything to mar the real spirit of the hour of the day. “
One hundred years ago in October and November 1918, the flu epidemic hit Brockport. The first cases were noted in early October and within a few days there were dozens of reported cases every day. Whole families and many students at the Normal School suddenly became ill. Most vulnerable to influenza were children and young adults but no age group was spared.
The local towns acts quickly and on October 13, 1918, closed the schools, churches and even the Strand to try and decrease exposure but the number of seriously ill people continued to rise. Interestingly, while children were especially cautioned to remain at home, the Boy Scouts were allowed out to distribute gauze masks and collect money for the Liberty Loan campaign.
One of Brockport’s physicians, Dr. Chapman, was actively caring for influenza patients when he became ill and died within a few days. A nurse, Mrs. Lula Schlosser, who had also been caring for patients, caught the flu and died within a few days of the doctor. Another physician, Dr. Hazen, also was stricken but did recover.
In 1918 there was no hospital in Brockport so families cared for the sick in their homes or went to the overcrowded hospitals in Rochester. There was a quickly organized group of women led by Mrs. P. Corbett who checked on flu victims and coordinated care with the other physicians in the area. Since there was no vaccine or anti-virals at that time, hydration and supportive care were the only available treatment. As the flu ran its terrible course, the patient would sometimes rally only to then succumb to a quickly developing and deadly pneumonia.
The Brockport Republic was the main source of news about the epidemic’s impact in Brockport. The October 24, 1918 edition has over 50 mentions of people who were ill with the flu. The paper also contained obituaries of those who died from the flu, ranging from a young baby to a new bride, a young mother and many others as well as the doctor and nurse. A pair of brothers also died within days of each other after one raced to the Fort Jackson SC bedside of his dying soldier brother. He stayed on to try and help others after his brother but soon fell ill too and died shortly after returning home.
By mid November the number of new cases had dropped sufficiently that the quarantine order was lifted. Life began to return to a new normal for Brockport.
Does anyone know who this lovely young woman is? We have her picture at the museum and would love to know her name.
The photo was most likely taken in the 1940s. The Lincoln Photo Studio was located at Main and St. Paul St. in Rochester.
Seventy-five years ago in September 1943, WWII was raging in Europe and the Pacific. Many families had sons and daughters serving and the country was committed to helping those who were serving in the armed forces. Bond drives, metal collection and rationing books were being promoted as ways to show our soldiers the home folks were behind them.
In Brockport, over at the Quaker Maid canning factory at the end of Fair Street, a crisis was looming. This time of year locally grown tomatoes were processed into ketchup. A mountain of ripe tomatoes was expected at the plant and there were not enough workers to process this time-sensitive crop into ketchup. Two thirds of the crop was designated for the military so it was crucial that this tomato pack be successful.
Brockport quickly sprang into action. Mayor Harmon organized a house to house canvas in the village seeking those who might be able to help and several hundred people were identified. The Brockport Republic ran large ads encouraging anyone who could help to do so as a patriotic act. Special work hours were created for homemakers and those who might have only a few hours to give.
Very soon housewives, high school and college students, teachers and professors found their way to Fair Street and all those tomatoes.
The pack was successful, turning all those fresh tomatoes into enough ketchup to fill 4.5 million bottles. The efforts of Brockport’s citizens even earned an award from Washington. The community could be rightfully proud of its quick action and unified efforts in making sure our boys did not go condiment hungry.
Another Main St. before and after.
Main Street, 1980s.
Before Sagawa Park. So
Much nicer looking now!
Before and after on Main St. This is the same house from 1980 and now.
There’s a legend that the streets of Brockport don’t match up on the east and west sides of Main Street because of an ongoing feud between Brockway (who owned land to the west of Main) and Seymour (who owned land to the east).
While reading this excerpt of “The Historical Origins of Brockport,” a HST 491 term paper by SUNY Brockport student Laura Peake in 1986, we were reminded of a typewritten letter found in Helen Hastings’ papers (of the Seymour family), in which a woman named Maria has some choice words about Brockway.
Evidence in support of the legend?
Hey! Who knew?
This is a beautiful image in Brockport’s distant past, told by Corrine Mault in her 1955 paper on Brockport’s Early Industries, cited from Harold Dobson’s “Stories of Early Town of Sweden Days.”
This big house stood at the corner of Main St. and Erie St, where the diner is now.
It was known as Judge Fuller’s house. Fuller served in both the NYS Assembly and Senate in the 1840s and was nominated to the Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court in 1851 by President Millard Fillmore. Fuller travelled to Minnesota and began work on the court only to have his nomination not confirmed in the politically motivated US
Senate. He finished the 1852 term anyway and returned to Brockport. Fuller became a Monroe County Judge and served in that role for many years.
The house passed out of the Fuller family and was used as a hotel for a time. It fell into disrepair and was torn down in the late 1930s. The house on the right is still standing.
Happy 193rd Birthday to one of Brockport’s most famous residents, Mary Jane Holmes!
Mrs. Homes was a popular and prolific writer of over 30 novels, many of which were written in longhand at her home on College St. Her novels and short stories were anxiously awaited by her many loyal fans across the country and remained popular for many years.
She and her husband were generous contributors to the village of Brockport and St. Luke’s.
Mary Jane Holmes is buried in the High St. cemetery. Interestingly, her gravestone lists an incorrect birth year.
Please visit the museum and check out the Mary Jane Holmes room.
The Emily Knapp Museum of Local History has many interesting photos of Brockport dating back more than 100 years.
Here is one that shows a bustling downtown looking south. Most likely this was taken from the building at 1 Main St. but the date and the photographer are unknown.
We are always happy to receive any photos of our beautiful village to either copy or add to the collection.
This building on Market St. housed the Harmon Marble and Granite business. For over 50 years the Harmon family created and sold the headstones that mark graves of many Brockport residents.
Austin Harmon began the business about 1870 and was joined by his son George Harmon in 1885. At that time they also purchased an insurance agency and provided insurance services as well. George Harmon was appointed Brockport postmaster in 1889 and continued as postmaster until his death in 1910.
His son, George Harmon Jr continued the business. The marble business existed until at least 1925 and the insurance business continued for many years after that.
These photos are of the marble business and the Harmon home. These were demolished in 1971 to make room for the small parking lot on Market St and fire station. The old municipal building and fire house can be seen in the far left.
Here’s a closer look at the houses that are no longer there.
Looking north on Main Street during a long ago winter.
The three churches are still in use today but the rest of the street has certainly changed.
The large house between the Baptist and Methodist churches was torn down and is now Sagawa Park.
On the right side of the street, Dunn’s Furniture is where the two houses once stood. The other building was a shop and is now a laundromat.
With all the cold weather recently, ice skating on the canal has been in the news. While there aren’t very many people skating on the canal in Brockport now, it was very popular around the turn of the twentieth century. The Brockport Republic often mentioned ice skating on the canal as well as sleigh riding and ice boating.
Skates were very different back then. If you were skating after dark, you might have carried a special skaters lantern. These skates and lantern are part of the collection at the museum.
The Perry St bridge (?) was mentioned as a popular spot for skaters.
Of course there was no shortage of advice for skaters. This is from the Brockport Republic December 28, 1905.
Happy holidays from the Emily L. Knapp Museum
A century ago, in December 1917, Brockport was getting ready for Christmas. The decorations were up and many community events and religious services were planned.
Local merchants were also getting ready and were well stocked with something for everyone on those Christmas lists.
From the Brockport Republic December 20, 1917
49 State St
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