“OUR LEGACY” Bike Tour Along the Erie Canal
Research by John Jongen
Welcome to your self-guided bicycle tour of some of Fairport and Perinton’s Legacy sites. The theme of this bike ride is ‘our legacy’ and we will focus on a few of the historical and architectural jewels that we treasure in the Village of Fairport and our Town of Perinton.
Start your ride at Fairport Junction, Lift Bridge Lane. The tour is about 1 ½ miles long and will take about one hour; there are bathrooms in the main business area and at Perinton Park which is about half way on your tour. Please wear your helmet while you are riding your bike
Look across the canal and you will see the first stop on this tour-the Harbor Master’s Office. To get to STOP #1 you will travel east from here to Parker Street, take a right and go over the one-way Parker Street Bridge. Take a right after crossing and walk your bike on the pedestrian path west
STOP 1: “Trolley Stop 22” Harbor Master’s Office
You are looking at what was one of 97 stops, or waiting stations, along the 86 mile long Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Electric Railway (R.S. & E), also called ‘the trolley’ that linked Fairport and Perinton to the older communities to the north-west and the east. Of the eleven stops in Perinton two were also stations; one of which you will pass on the last leg of your tour.
The distinctive octagonal style waiting station with its large protective overhanging roof was specially designed for this rail line. This particular waiting station, Stop 22, was found deteriorating in a backyard between Egypt and Macedon, then moved and restored by volunteers of the community and the Perinton Historical Society. See Preservation Projects.The R. S. & E. line operated from 1906 to 1931 when the popularity of the automobiles caused its obsolescence.To get to the next stop you will need to go parking area above you, head west to Main Street, take a right and cross the street. The Kennelley Park is just south of the Lift Street Bridge.
STOP 2: Kennelley Park
Vincent Kennelley Memorial Park honors Vincent Kennelley, a former Mayor of Fairport from 1980 to 1989. The park was renovated in 2006 and its popular Gazebo was restored and strengthened. During the summer months the park hosts the annual ‘Gazebo Concert’ series performances each Thursday evening. From the Gazebo you can see the Lift Bridge Bell and the Fairport Public Library.
The Lift Bridge Bell atop the east span of the Main Street lift bridge was cast in 1886. In 1914 it was placed on the new lift bridge to alert residents when the bridge was about to be lifted before a ship passed under it. From 1965 till 1995, when it was returned to its original position, it was in the possession of Alton Grove, then the area maintenance superintendent for the NY Barge Canal System and then Charles Kopp. Today an electronically operated bell sounds the warning while our legendary bell is used only for special occasions.
This Public Library relocted here in 1978 from what is today the Fairport Historical Museum that you will visit on our next stop. Make a short visit inside (entrance on Main Street and second level of complex) the library’s reading room to look at two paintings by famous native artist, Carl W. Peters. Inside the reading room, observe the painting entitled ‘Perinton Park’. If you have visited Perinton Park before you will note how closely it still resembles the park painted some seventy years ago. Note how young the black locust trees look in this painting. You will visit Perinton Park later on this tour. The other painting, also by Carl W. Peters, depicts a rustic scene, a few miles from here, near where the Irondequoit Creek flows under the Great Embankment Aqueduct of the Erie Canal near Bushnell’s Basin.
Continue your tour to the Fairport Historical Museum. Go past the gazebo and ride west out of the park to West Avenue then turn left (south) on Perrin Street. The Museum is located on your right at 18 Perrin Street.
STOP 3: Fairport Historical Museum
The Fairport Historical Museum is located in the former Fairport Public Library. Built in 1937 as a Works Project Administration (W.P.A.) project, the building today houses the local history collections of the Perinton Historical Society.Henry Martin designed the building. In the lobby Carl W. Peters, American Regionalist painter, in 1938 painted a large mural under a grant from the WPA. The scene depicts agriculture and commerce along the Erie Canal. The grounds around the Museum contain a perennial garden of traditional plants, and an herb garden.The Museum contains a comprehensive pictorial survey of residences and other architecture in the Village of Fairport and in the Town of Perinton. Now continue your tour to Potter Memorial by going south on Perrin Street to West Church Street then turn right (west). Potter Memorial is located on the south side before you get to the Potter Place intersection. Ride your bike to the rear of the building. Did you note the ‘porte cochere’ where horse carriages would have dropped off their passengers?
STOP 4: Potter Privy
This is a three-hole outdoor privy originally located at 70 East Church Street was moved here behind Potter Memorial by the Perinton Historical Society in 2002.
Outdoor privies were very common in Perinton and were in use well into the 20th century. This one is relatively luxurious and was well built. That is why it survives today. The owner even lathed and plastered the interior walls, probably for some protection from heat and cold, and the elements.
A smaller opening seat was designed for youngsters to prevent them from accidentally falling in. All the seats had covers to prevent accidents and to keep the flies away. Landscape around the privy uses traditional plants, like these lilacs, to mask bad odors and to keep the building a little cooler. Note the artistic brick work above the door and window. The window was probably once screened. The other traditional plants here are Jerusalem Artichoke, Hollyhock, Evergreen Periwinkle, and Daylilies along the path.
So how much do you appreciate your indoor plumbing now? If you are interested in the story of how this privy was moved here visit our Preservation Projects.
To get to the next stop, Perinton Park head west on West Church Street. The area before the bridge over the Erie Canal was once the community of Fullamtown. Cross the bridge over the Erie Canal a you will be in Perinton Park.
STOP 5: Perinton Park & Erie Canal Towpath
You are now in Perinton Park that is also the title of the Carl Peters painting that you viewed earlier at the Fairport Public Library. Sam Jacobson, owner of Jacobson Taylor Shop and president of the Rotary Club along with and a group of local tennis enthusiasts were responsible for having this land allocated for Fairport’s first public park. In 1932 they prevailed on the Fairport Village Board to assume the lease that the Town of Perinton had with New York State for this 12-acre site on the bank of the Erie Canal.
If you look closely you will see that the park cascades down from this level to two lower levels. The lowest level used to be the bottom of the original Erie Canal and in 1932 it was designated as the park’s baseball diamond and football and soccer field. Starting in 1951 this was the site for Fairport’s Little League baseball team. Today it is one of the parking areas in the park. The second level was designated for the tennis courts and a small parking area; the tennis courts are still there. The parking area was converted to a children’s playground. The area, adjacent to the canal once had a parking area and a road that have since been removed. The original 1932 planting of Black Locust was severely damaged by an ice storm in March 1991. But many of the mature specimens can still be seen today
Now continue east down the legendary Erie Canal towpath. This is a multi-use path so please stay on the right side of the path and ride in a single file. Use an audible signal when overtaking other path users.Note the historical marker that designates where the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Electric Railway once ran. Continue east a few more yards and stop at the Switch Tower building on your right.
STOP 6: Switch Tower
This little building was a railroad junction switch tower. It was the work station for the switch tender who would manually ‘throw’ the switches that would cause trains to switch from one track to another. The second story of the ‘tower’ was designed to give the operator maximum visibility of any approaching trains.
When electric automation rendered the switching job obsolete the building was moved, first to Batavia and then to Fairport, to serve as a grade crossing guard shelter. The guard would stop traffic to ensure the public’s safety when trains rumbled through. In Fairport it was in service from 1956 until about 1960, when the northernmost track was relocated.
See our Preservation Projects.
STOP 7: Trolley Station
Head from here east. On you left you will see the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Electric Railway waiting station. This was one of the 97 stops along this line
In addition to a waiting area this station also sold tickets and was a freight depot with a loading platform. A second trolley car was used to transport mail and fresh farm products to market.From here cross Main Street. The next stop is the Box Factory on your right.
STOP 8: Box Factory
Daniel DeLand bought the entire block between Parker Street and Main Street on the north side of the Erie Canal in 1852. On it he built a factory and named it DeLand Chemical Works. His first product was saleratus soda, a baking ingredient that makes dough rise. It sold nationwide and became the first real industry in Fairport. The factory employed several hundred workers. In 1872 after Daniel died in a tragic elevator accident the company’s ownership passed to his brother Henry. Henry was an entrepreneur and used his fortune to invest in Florida; in the late-1880s he founded the city of DeLand, FL.
Daniel’s son Levi assumed the day-to-day operations of the family business but a devastating fire on February 4, 1893 leveled the entire saleratus factory. In 1877 he had established the first fire department right on the factory premises but its proximity to the fire was to no avail. Levi rebuilt the factory (of wood) but stiff competition from Arm & Hammer’s saleratus soon put him out of business
In 1906 the York State Fruit Company moved into the vacated factory to produce cider and cider vinegar. Robert Douglas bought the business around 1911; then his Douglass Packing Company struck pay dirt. They invented fruit pectin and Certo became a household brand. But in 1922 the factory burned down again. This time Douglass rebuilt the factory in brick and stone. In 1947 Certo’s operations moved to Albion, NY
H.P. Neun moved its box factory into the facility and ever since the building has become known as the ‘box factory’. In 1985 the box factory burned once again, but it was rebuilt into the business and retail complex that we enjoy today
Thank you for participating in YOUR LEGACY bike ride.