Old News – New Plaza

The shopping plaza in this article is now dwarfed by the Wegmans and the Walmart plazas nearby. It used to have a department store but that and the grocery store are long gone. Now the major stores are Peebles, Big Lots, Harbor Freight and Advance Auto Parts.

Then there is an ad for Tom Wahl’s. I think there used to be one across the street from the Brockport plaza. If you adjust for inflation the ground round that was 55 cents in 1968 should now be $3.95. The current Tom Wahl’s menu says it now sells for $4.59.

Brockport, NY

Thursday, June 6, 1918

$1,350,000 Loan Obtained for Shopping Center

Planet Development Corp. of Tarrytown last week filed a building loan agreement and mortgage in Monroe County clerk’s office, showing that Planet has borrowed $1,350,000 from Chemical Bank New York Trust Co. of New York City.

The loan is to build a shopping center at the southeast corner of Lake Rd. 19 and 31, south of the Village of Brockport. William Zeller of Brockport had previously leased the to Regional Shopping Centers, Inc., which in turn assigned the lease to three men who assigned it to Planet Development Co. on March 6.

The shopping center will be built on 20,833 acres, and completion date is set for Nov. 1, 1969. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. is a prospective tenant.

Ontario Beach Park – #4

In 1885 there are two big hotels competing on Ontario Beach; Cottage Hotel on the west and Hotel Ontario on the east. The Hotel Ontario had an advantage as the NY Central Railroad line ended at a loop between the hotel and the lake. The ad from a 1885 issue of the Troy Daily Times shows that the Hotel was already trying to get people to come from far away.

It was announced in spring 1885 that a roller coaster would be constructed just south of Hotel Ontario. There aren’t any pictures of that early coaster but the March 12th issue of the Democrat & Chronicle described it as 500 feet long and would start at 24 feet above the ground. It would have four cars, each capable of holding 18 people. It was supposed to be finished by June.

A carousel would also open in 1885. Not the one that is still there today. That came in 1905. This was probably much smaller. Linda M. Bartash author of “Horses in Motion” (2001) says that a second carousel would replace the original carousel by 1892.

Adding those two rides added enticements to come to the beach. So much so that the Democrat & Chronicle of June 15th was the first to call the beach the “Coney Island of Western New York.”

Music was always an attraction. There were benches out in front of Hotel Ontario where a band played every afternoon and evening. But what if it rained? They decided to build a pavilion next to the Hotel Ontario. It would have opening festivities on Thursday Aug 13th. They held a concert and ball with Prof. Theodore Hoch, of New York, Prof. Henry Greiner (a local choir director), and the 54th Regt. Full Band of 25 pieces. There was more dancing after the concert. Even though this was a Thursday, newspapers say that trains would return from the beach at 11:15 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

The weekend after the pavilion opened there was a huge crowd at the beach.  About 10,000 people went to the beach on Sunday the 16th. The newspaper said that the 3:00 train had 20 coaches filled with people. It also mentioned that “the carousel and roller coaster were well patronized.”

The new Hotel Ontario pavilion was so popular that to compete the Cottage Hotel would build a pavilion in 1886. There aren’t any pictures of the Hotel Ontario pavilion. It would burn down on Oct. 31, 1894. It would be replaced by a bigger pavilion for which there are many pictures.

The last day of the 1885 season was on Sunday, Sept. 20th. It was a good year at the beach. Lake Ontario was have a surprise in store before the opening of the 1886 season. On April 6th there was a great storm at the beach. Cottage Hotel was surrounded by water. Boardwalks were floating. Grounds in front of Hotel Ontario were covered with logs, stumps and rocks. Even a breakwall failed in front of the railroad loop, undermining the tracks. Lake Ontario is always unpredictable.

Next: More varied amusements

WDYTYA – Hilary Duff

I almost forgot that there is another episode of Who Do You Think You Are? on tonight. It is about the ancestors of Hilary Duff. She first cam to prominence as the star of Lizzie McGuire (2001 – 2004) on the Disney Channel. She is grown up now and has been married, had a son and is already divorced. She has been on the show Younger since 2015. New episodes of that series are currently being shown on the channel TV Land.

Hilary ends up visiting Bath and Washington, NC where an ancestor in the early 1700s bravely led an American colony to battle a gang of pirates including the infamous Blackbeard.

She also gets to go to Dunfermline, Scotland because they able to trace her family all the way back to the early 1300s.

WDYTYA airs at 9 p.m. (eastern and western times) on TLC . There are old episodes on before and after this new episode.

Ontario Beach Park – #3

After the Spencer House burned down in Jan. 1882 there was a large empty spot on the eastern end of the Charlotte beach. A sale would be made to a new owner that you wouldn’t think would want that land; New York Central Railroad. They could see that it would be a destination for people wanting to spend some time at beach. The railroad already had a line that went to the ironworks. They would only have to extend the line another mile. They started building the line and almost instantly got in legal trouble. Gen. Henry Brinker in July 1882 filed suit to stop the railroad line. He owned a rifle range that was between the ironworks and the beach. Supposedly the railroad had only gotten verbal permission but no amount had been paid for the right-of-way.  In the end the railroad line did get built to end at a loop on the beach.

The railroad didn’t want to build anything themselves. Instead a new organization, Ontario Beach Improvement Company, was created and they would lease the beach property from the railroad. They started building the Hotel Ontario in spring of 1884. That large beautiful hotel was finally opened on Aug. 5th. Even at that early date the hotel had electric lights and a telephone line to Rochester. By late August every room in the hotel was filled.

That first season the hotel had the Fifty Fourth Regiment Band playing daily with a concert in the afternoon and one in the evening. One day in September along with the band was the Mænnerchor Singing Society. They were a German choir from Rochester. Other entertainment was to take a stroll on the beach or just have a good meal. They served beer but didn’t sell  any Bartholomay beer. You could only get that beer at the Cottage Hotel as it was owned by Henry Bartholomay.

Present day Lake Avenue was a toll road so it easier to take the railroad than a wagon ride. Besides the railroad, you could get to Charlotte via a boat on the Genesee River from the Glen House that used to be on the river in present day Maplewood Park. There was also a ferry that ran between Charlotte, Summerville and Newport House on Irondequoit Bay. More transport options would be added in later years.

The Democrat & Chronicle of Sept. 7, 1884 said that barns and sheds associated with the Hotel Ontario were almost complete. Last day that the hotel was open that first year was Sept. 28th. The next year it would be open for the full summer season.

Next: Rides and other amusements come to the beach.