Mendon — The Early Years
The Chase Brothers Nurseries
A recent acquisition by the Honeoye Falls/Mendon Historical Society, in the form of a sixty-year-old diary, has rekindled this author's interest in the nationally famous Chase Brothers Nurseries, whose land holdings for almost half a century extended over 600 acres in the Village of Honeoye Falls and the Town of Mendon.
I also have an indirect personal connection to this company in that William Spatchker (Will) for a time leased the farm, where I have lived for almost forty years, to the Chase Brothers. Will and his wife Lillian purchased the farm on March 26, 1919, but, having come on "hard times" as it was called in those days, on March 15, 1923, held a public auction and sold their four horses, five cows, and a large amount of farm equipment. The Chase company then used the farm for nursery stock, with Will as an employee, for the next two years after which he returned to farming on his own until his death on February 21, 1958.
The diary was kept by Warren J. Diver, a long-time Chase Brothers employee, whose residence at 255 North Main Street in Honeoye Falls bordered the nursery. Warren died on August 13, 1970, leaving the property to his daughter Alice who died June 20, 2000. The house was recently demolished by the new owner leaving only the garage built by her father in 1939 from used box car lumber.
Covering the period from January 1, 1939, through November 29, 1941 entries in the diary not only describe Mr. Diver's work at the nursery as a bus and truck driver, but also provide an excellent insight into the life of a typical village family in the pre-World War II years as well as information about the final years of the Chase Brothers' operations in the Town of Mendon.
A followup on one of the names mentioned in the diary enabled me to connect with Nicholas (Nick) Marasco who had worked at the nursery prior to his induction into the U. S. Army in 1941. Beginning in 1930 at the age of eleven, earning 12½ cents an hour as a "seasonal" employee, Nick became a "regular" nurseryman by 1939.
The "regular" nurserymen who were permanent employees, fully qualified to bud, graft, trim and perform the expert work of the nursery, included Bill Haw, Patsy and Tony DeVincentis, Ignatius Tollis, John Bennett, Eddie Nowak, Joe "Jumbo" Menchello, Joe Marasco, John Friday, Chet Cook, Frank Delconte, Louis Cook and "Pounder" Myers.
Nick recalls that virtually every boy in Honeoye Falls, at one time or another, worked at the nursery as a seasonal employee; many of them earning money to pay for attendance at Boy Scout summer camp. Names that he remembers are Pete and Frank Tollis, Gus DeVincentis, Alex and Jim Snoddy, Bill McCann, Frank and Bill Mantegna, Willie Reilly, Jim Denardo, Dick Bennett, Tony Delconte, Mel Rumsey, Bob Cook, Wally Nowak, Billie and Eddie Haw, Tommy and Eddie Carey, Charlie Friday, "Dixie" Donegan and Harry Swift. Their duties included tying buds, picking up brush, hoeing and weeding, digging nursery stock, and burlapping trees.
The Honoeye Falls "gang" on lunch break at the Chase Brothers Packing House in Rochester, February 1941. L-R: Nick Marasco, Patsy DeVincentis, John Bennett, Warren Diver, Russell Coyle, Tony DeVincentis, Joseph Marasco, Jackie Carey. Back to Camera, Bill Haw? Photo courtesy of Nick Marasco.
Nick has provided me with information about Chase Brothers without which this article would not have been possible in any detail. He is now a resident of Andover, New York, but, prior to his retirement, he was the third generation of his family to live on Paper Mill Street in the Village of Honeoye Falls where he operated a small nursery.
Nick's father, Joseph Marasco, began work at the Chase Nursery in 1905 and left in 1913 when he became dissatisfied with the Superintendent. He returned in 1919 when a new Superintendent was appointed and worked at the nursery until his retirement in 1941.
I would also like to acknowledge the following individuals for their response to my request for information about the Chase Brothers Company: James (Jim) Carey whose father, John Carey, was Superintendent of the Mendon area nursery operations for eighteen years; William (Bill) Mantegna who as a teen-age boy worked summers at the nursery; Alfred Euler whose Sheldon Road farm adjoined the Chase operations on the road; Robert (Bob) Palmer, who as a young boy, was living on his grandfather's West Main Street farm in Honeoye Falls when it was purchased by the Chase Nursery Company, and Margo DeVincentis, daughter-in-law of Patsy DeVincentis, a long-time nursery employee. The DeVincentis house on Hyde Park is one of two houses built by the company in the early 1900s for their employees. The garage, now used by the DeVincentis family, was built as a bunkhouse for the same purpose.
Chase Brothers Nursery Beginning
The history of the company begins in Chase's Mills, Maine, in 1857 when three brothers, Lewis, Ethan A., and Martin V. B. Chase started a nursery business. The brothers were descendants of Aquilla Chase of Newburyport, Massachusetts, who came from Chesham, England, in 1639.
Lewis and Ethan moved to Rochester, New York, in 1868 where they organized under the name of the Chase Brothers Nursery Company with Lewis serving as the president of the firm.
On April 2, 1878, William Pitkin Sr. married Helen Chase, daughter of Lewis Chase, and in 1879 joined Chase Brothers Nurseries, thus establishing the Chase-Pitkin name connection of later years. He became Secretary/Treasurer of the company and, upon the death of Lewis Chase was appointed president of the firm. He was the first of a succession of Pitkin family members by the name of William to manage the company until it was sold in 1956.
William Pitkin, Sr., born in Rochester, New York, March 3, 1858, was the grandson of the Honorable William Pitkin who arrived in Rochester in 1820 and served as mayor of that city in 1845 and 1846. He also started one of the earliest drug stores in New York State which later became the Paine Drug Store chain. His home at 474 East Avenue, built in 1840, still stands and is currently the headquarters of the Otetiana Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Many nurseries flourished in Rochester in the decades following the Civil War. In 1871 there were twenty three located within the city and twenty and six others in the remainder of the county. What had been known as the "Flour City" had become the "Flower City." One report stated that: "Thousands of acres are devoted to the culture of fruit trees and ornamental shrubs, and millions of trees annually are sent to other states and abroad to foreign lands."
By this time the wholesale end of the business had grown so large that most of the local nursery products were handled by middlemen: agents, salesmen or brokers. The Chase Brothers in 1887 reported the total value of their shipments at half a million dollars. They owned the largest brokerage house in the nursery business and one of the largest nurseries in the Rochester area with over 200 employees during the peak season. The company was also the first nursery to use canvassing to sell their products with a sales force in 1887 or over 1200 agents from Nova Scotia to California.
By the end of the 19th century, Monroe County listed over 3100 acres of nursery land with the Mount Hope Nurseries operated by Ellwanger & Barry in Rochester being the largest and perhaps the best known.
The Chase Brothers executive offices were located on the 10th floor of the Mercantile Building in downtown Rochester. Behind their property at 1991 East Avenue, the company owned on Gould Street a building 300 feet by 300 feet in size, known as the Packing House, that served as a warehouse and distribution center.
In a 1922 catalog the Chase Brothers stated that their packing and shipping building covered more than two acres of ground and was the largest in the United States. Located on the New York Central Railroad, there was a siding inside the building for loading many freight cars at a time. All sorting, grading and other handling of Chase trees and plants as well as the packing was done under the cover of this building with no danger of injury from sun and wind as is so often the case with stock packed outside. Bad weather never delayed their shipments. A final claim was that it made a great difference whether trees and plants are delivered at the best time for planting or too late in the spring after everything has started to grow.
Illustration of the Rochester Packing House in a 1922 Chase Brothers Catalog
Warren Diver was the driver of a former school bus maintained by the company to transport the Honeoye Falls "gang" to the Packing House when their services were required in that building. The photo above shows the "gang" in February, 1941, taking a lunch break at the Packing House. Nick Marasco recalls that the room shown in the photo was the only one with a stove. The balance of this huge building was unheated and the workers wore heavy clothes and boots during the cold weather months.
Half of the company's yearly volume was during the spring growing season and a third during the fall. During the peak season in the mid 1920s, the shipping facilities were capable of handling $40,000 in retail orders a day. To track orders, Chase Brothers employed forty clerks; this group supported sales agents that now numbered 1600 worldwide.
The system they used for packing and shipping was one of the most accurate and successful of the time; each selector received a twenty five cent bonus for each error free day.
The system they used for packing and shipping was so efficient that not a single error was made over a three-year period.
The Mendon Connection
In October, 1908, the Chase Brothers purchased the 140-acre farm of Eugene M. Sanford located on North Main Street in the Village of Honeoye Falls. As I have discovered, an investigation of one facet of local history often opens other avenues of interesting history. While the primary focus of this article is the Chase Brothers Company, it seems appropriate to include a mention of the origins of the properties that were acquired to support their operations. The purchase of this farm was the first step in the Chase Brothers plan to acquire land to replace the 400 acres that they leased in the Town of Pittsford.
I learned that this historic farm was deeded on November 22, 1798, to Jacob Young, the great grandfather of Eugene M. Sanford, by Zebulon Norton, the founder of Honeoye Falls, upon the marriage of his daughter Hannah to Jacob Young. The farm was subdivided from the 1820 acres that Zebulon purchased from Jonathan Ball, November 8, 1793.
Eugene M. Sanford, born in 1845, was the son of William G. Sanford and Ardelia Young Sanford, granddaughter of Jacob Young. On December 12, 1867, Eugene married Delora Burton, daughter of Asa Burton who had arrived in Mendon in 1802 with his parents at the age of two years. Asa Burton was a farmer and brick maker and his brick Greek Revival style house still stands on the Quaker Meetinghouse Road in Mendon.
Following the sale of his farm, Eugene Sanford moved to a house across the street from the Young-Sanford house to the farm's remaining acres lying west of North Main Street. At this location he ran the Rosedale Dairy with a herd of seventy five cows. The early 19th-century house built by Jacob Young, was then occupied by G. M. Buttery who was appointed resident superintendent of the nursery operations in Honeoye Falls. On July 1, 1921, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported the house had been demolished by the Chase Brothers Company and a large two-story, colonial-style house was to be constructed on the same site for the superintendent. The timbers from the old house were found to be in such excellent condition that much of it was to be used in the construction of the new house.
Chase Brothers assumed actual ownership of the Sanford farm in October, 1908. However, there is reason to believe that nursery operations had begun at this location several years earlier. As stated above, Nick Marasco remembers that his father, Joseph, began working for the company in Honeoye Falls in 1905. The earlier date is further supported by Nick's recollection of older nurserymen talking about the high waters of Honeoye Creek flooding Hyde Park. The superintendent of the nursery, George Rivers, sent a rowboat to rescue workers who were living in houses and the bunk house built by the Chase brothers for their employees. This flood in mid-March, 1905, also caused high water at the Rochester Junction station of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Also, a 1902 map of the village shows that the shop and storage building, used by the nursery, was already in place by this date. This building, definitely not a barn or other farm related structure, is today the home of the Sentinel newspaper.
On May 29, 1909, the Honeoye Falls Times reported that on the Sanford farm the company had already set 100,000 rose stocks for budding, 240,000 apples, 25,000 pears, 35,000 quinces, 75,000 cherries, 45,000 plums, 70,000 ornamental trees, 80,000 shrubs, 95,000 grape cuttings, 20,000 grape vines, 100,000 herbaceous perennials, hollyhocks and others of that nature and five acres of gooseberry and currant stock.
Concurrent with the purchase of the Sanford farm, Chase Brothers leased for five years, with an option to buy, the nearby 100 acre farm of Levi Hill who had acquired the property in March of 1902 from Eugene Sanford's step-brother, Andrew Earl. After the purchase of this farm and the land lying between the Sanford and Hill farms belonging to Mrs. L. Brown, the company owned over 300 acres in Honeoye Falls. These acres extended along the east side of North Main Street from the north line of the village south to the bottom of the steep hill on Hyde Park and easterly to the Quaker Meeting House Road.
Nick Marasco recalls that: "Behind the North Main Street 'Home Place' and behind the greenhouses and cold frames, a road wound through many acres of nursery stock that included junipers, arbor vitae, spruce, pines, retinspors, chaemcyparis, lilacs, dwarf and standard pears, and shade trees. North of the superintendent's house was a fifteen-acre sandy field dedicated to growing annuals and perennials, mostly under irrigation pipes and attended by the greenhouse crew."
By 1917 the company had acquired another 100 acres on the north side of the Boughton Hill Road just east of the Quaker Meeting House and the 120-acre Albert Spooner farm located on the Stoney Lonesome and Rush/Mendon Roads which the nursery workers called the "Rochester Junction" farm. In the part of the farm located north of the Rush/Mendon Road, and now the site of the Scenic Heights subdivision, can still be seen trees planted many years ago when the land was owned by the Chase Brothers.
From 1865 until 1903 the Spooner farm was owned by Jonathan D. Noxon, a prominent member of the Mendon Quaker community. Following the closing of the Quaker Meeting House, it was at his home, 13 Locust Street in Honeoye Falls, on September 24, 1915, that the final meeting of that group was held. Also, in his will he specified that $10,000 of his estate be used to build a new library in Honeoye Falls. This building, still standing on Monroe Street, was completed May 2, 1936, at a cost of $12,000.
Nick Marasco also recalls that at the Rochester Junction or Spooner farm: "The Chase Brothers owned a large house where Conrad Meyers lived with his family and took care of the large barn and horses. On one side of the house they grew a field of roses. On the other side they grew an acreage of sweet and sour cherries, and plums. Across the road the company owned a small house where John Friday and his sons, all employees, lived. The triangle, formed by Route 251 and the Junction Road, was filled with flowering shrubs and very thorny and green barberry. From the curve on route 251 towards Rochester Junction was a field of poplars. On the north side of route 251 from the Livermore property line, around the curve to what was the Clayman property (now Ripley) were acres of all kinds of evergreens including junipers, arbor vitae, spruces and pines. There were thousands of peach trees and thousands of roses and many shade trees. One winter, ninety American Elms and Norway Maples 3" - 4" caliper (diameter) averaging a ton each, were dug, balled and burlapped and trucked to Buffalo, New York, for the first nationally funded housing development there. A three-man crew could only dig one tree a day." (Note: Nick Marasco has donated to the Museum of the Honeoye Falls / Mendon Historical Society the type of heavy duty spade, weighing almost twenty pounds, used by nurserymen to dig large trees.)
Tax records reveal that in 1921, 135 acres of the Isaac Sheldon farm, located on the road of that name, were purchased by Chase Brothers for their nursery operations. This farm was first worked by Aldrich Colvin who arrived in Mendon from Vermont in 1837. Upon his death the property passed to his son, Isaac, and then to Isaac's widow, Clarrissa Colvin. A grandson, Isaac C. Sheldon lived with the Colvin family and, after his marriage in 1874, moved from the main house to a tenant house down the road and was responsible for working the farm. The farm was willed to him following the death of his grandmother. By 1902, Isaac had acquired the adjoining farm of Jeremiah Gates Palmer bringing his total holdings to 219 acres. The tenant house, occupied by Isaac and his young bride many years earlier, was torn down by the Chase Brothers Company and the main farmhouse, rebuilt by Isaac's son George after a disastrous fire on September 30, 1915, was used by the nursery company for their employees.
For reasons not clear, the Chase Brothers in 1929 sold the 100 acre Boughton Hill Road property and 82 acres of nursery land fronting on Hyde Park to Charles Batzel. Mr. Batzel, who already owned a farm in the area, lived in the brick farmhouse on the Quaker Meeting House Road that, as previously mentioned, had been built by Asa Burton, father- in- law of Eugene M. Sanford.
By the spring of 1931, the company had expanded their nursery operations in Honeoye Falls to include the 150-acre farm of Elton Palmer. The Palmer farm, known as "Hickory Grove," was located on both sides of West Main Street with the fifty seven acres south of the street extending to the Lima town line. This property had been purchased by Elton's father, James Leonard Palmer, on March 22, 1870, upon his arrival from Madison County, New York State. Bob Palmer told me that his great grandfather arrived in Honeoye Falls carrying cash with which to buy the farm and, fearful that he would be robbed, stayed up all night with a gun to protect his money.
The sale to the Chase Brothers included a large barn, still standing, that housed the animals used in the nursery work. Elton Palmer had kept eighteen dairy cows in this building when he operated a milk route in Honeoye Falls. The large eighteen room farmhouse and two acres of land were retained by the Palmer family. Bob Palmer's father, Kern, moved his family from the tenant house to an apartment in the farm house and accepted a position with Chase Brothers.
When Elton was a boy, he and his brother William peddled milk about the streets of Honeoye Falls, starting with a handcart which they pushed on the sidewalk. The business, thus started by the enterprising youths, was carried on for 56 years by the family. The boys walked around the village carrying cans of milk that ranged from ten to fourteen quarts and long-handled ladles that held an even pint with which they ladled out the milk.
The boys made two deliveries daily, the handcart being left at the four corners in the village as a base of supply. In May of 1947, Elton Palmer recalled that: "Mornings we started out at 6:30 a.m. and afternoons at 4:00 p.m. If customers took more than a quart they got a bargain; we sold milk to them at four cents a quart. Otherwise we charged a nickel. We delivered by foot for fifteen years, until we got a horse and wagon for our delivery outfit."
In a smaller building on the former Palmer property were located the blacksmith and harness makers employed by Chase Brothers to provide care for these animals. Al Badgley operated the blacksmith shop assisted by Dike Haw who had been in the cavalry during the Mexican War.
Nick Marasco recalls: "The Chase Brothers purchased the extensive Palmer farm which included the barns on West Main Street and the flats behind which, later, a manufacturing plant was built. Here they grew mostly junipers and low-growing evergreens. The small building was used for a blacksmith shop for the animals the company kept in the Palmer barns. There was a peach stock block where the automobile dealers are now. Along the Lehigh Valley Railroad tracks on the north side of West Main Street all the way to across from the Catholic Cemetery to what was then the line of the Dann property and extending northward to the end of this property was all owned by Chase Brothers Nursery.
"In this area they grew some Chinese elms and shade trees along the road and a huge field of roses behind that, in the rear were dwarf and standard pears, small shrubs, and grapevines.
"On the south side of West Main Street on the Palmer farm starting at Ev. Lewis Ford, Chase Brothers grew may varieties of Japanese yews, and various arbor vitae. The field ran along the railroad tracks of the Lehigh Valley, now the airfield. In this area in rows one mile long to the Lima town line, the nursery grew 50,000 dwarf and standard apple trees, dwarf and standard pears, cherries and plums. Next to the cemetery were acres of peonies. Behind the cemetery grew elms, maples, American and European plane, and other shade trees."
The Chase Brothers owned some horses but most of the cultivation of the fields was done by mules. I have been told that mules were better suited for this purpose because they were more sure-footed and smaller than horses, thus allowing the rows of nursery stock to be placed closer together. Bob Palmer remembers that, after the sale of the family farm in 1931, his father was hired as a teamster by the nursery and given charge of two mules with the names "Molly" and "Pat." Other teamsters were Levi Swartz, Russel Coyle, and Bert Fisher who lived with his family in the former Palmer farm tenant house.
In Nick Marasco's own words: "It was indeed a sight to see the convoy of horses and mules hauling about four wagons from the Palmer place on West Main Street across the four corners to the 'home place' on North Main Street, or to the nursery at Rochester Junction, each morning and returning each afternoon. To my knowledge, no one was smart enough to take a picture of this routine scene. It was also something to see teams of mules on either side of a row of trees pulling a digger in tandem with the 'skinners' walking along side of them. The way those mules leaned into pulling their load was poetry in action."
Nick also recalls an incident at the Sanford farm nursery, when a mule team fell into a section of the wooden water line that, at one time, carried water from Hemlock Lake to a reservoir in the Town of Rush. The mules were removed from the cave-in with great difficulty.
The Alabama Connection
My research of the history of the Chase Brothers Nursery led to the discovery that the company also owned a large nursery in the State of Alabama. For information about this connection to the Rochester nursery, I am indebted to Hugh J. Dudley of the North Alabama Railroad Museum.
In the early fall of 1889, the brothers, Lewis and Ethan Chase, accompanied by their cousin Herbert Chase, were on a scouting trip to find a location somewhere in the South or West where the nursery stock could be grown quicker and at less expense than in the vicinity of Rochester. Their first stop was in Huntsville, Alabama, for a call on William Heikes, manager of the Huntsville Wholesale Nurseries, whom the older Chases had known for many years. When told of the purpose of their journey, Mr. Heikes said, "Gentlemen, you have come to the right place. No better soil and climate can be found than this. There is ample room for us all; let's make Huntsville and Madison County a nursery center." He spent a number of days with the three Chases assisting them in the purchase of 600 acres in northwest Huntsville.
The Alabama Nursery Company was incorporated October 31, 1889, with Ethan A. Chase as president; Herbert S. Chase, treasurer and general manager; Charles F. Chase, secretary; and William Pitkin and Lewis Chase, directors. The first planting (peach seeds) was made the same fall.
Around 1900 one of the Chase brothers was traveling by train from Huntsville to New Market, Alabama, a distance of some eighteen miles. As the train passed the area which is now known as Chase, he noted the very close proximity of the tracks of the Nashville, Chattanooga, & St. Louis Railway and those of the Southern Railway. Upon returning from his trip, he pointed out the location of the tracks and advantages of having a warehouse, for shipping the nursery stock, located between the tracks, permitting shipping on either railroad.
According to courthouse records in Alabama, land purchases by the Chase's began in 1900 and continued for a number of years. The early 1900s were a time of growth and development. In 1906, the name of the company was changed to Chase Nursery Company and the area that had been known as "Ferns" was changed to "Chase." Also, by 1906 a brick warehouse for packing and shipping nursery stock had been constructed and was served by the two railroads mentioned in the above paragraph. In 1908, the Chase Company constructed a large passenger depot that was leased to the railroads. This depot was replaced in 1937 with a smaller depot that today serves as the North Alabama Railroad Museum. Fire insurance maps for the Chase Nursery Company, dated 7/18/1939, show a total of 49 buildings.
By 1960 railroad service at Chase had basically ended when the agreement for use of the passenger depot by both railroads and the industrial siding by the Southern Railroad was terminated.
Nursery properties which had exceeded 1000 acres were sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s, ceasing operations at what had been one of the largest nurseries in the southeastern United States.
The Final Years
When Lewis and Ethan Chase established their nursery in Rochester in 1868, they advertised their business as the "New England Nurseries," by 1920 the name had been changed to the "Rochester Nurseries." In 1939 the Chase Brothers name was sold and the Nursery became the "Chase Pitkin Nursery" with William Pitkin, Jr. The new owner, Mr. Pitkin, believing that he could buy nursery stock cheaper than he could grow it, created the "Honeoye Falls Nursery," a liquidating company organized to sell the land that it owned in Mendon.
On April 11, 1939, the Sheldon Road property was sold and in December of that year the permanent nursery employees received a ten cent reduction in their pay to thirty cents an hour and were subject to a layoff every three weeks. In January 1940, five acres of land on North Main Street in Honeoye Falls were sold to the Honeoye Falls Cemetery Association. In June 1940, eighty acres of the former Palmer farm on West Main Street were sold to Leslie Desmann to expand his nearby farming operations. The remaining seventy acres were purchased by Fred Wolfsberger, a Honeoye Falls business man. The acres sold to Mr. Wolfsberger are today occupied by three auto-mobile dealers, the Canandaigua National Bank, the Rite Aid Pharmacy, Star Headlight Company, the Market Place shopping mall, Pinehurst and Totiakton senior living facilities, the Dipper Dan ice cream store, a bowling alley, and the General Motors facility on the north part of the property.
On July 18, 1940, Mr. Wolfsberger also purchased the former Sanford Farm on North Main Street in Honeoye Falls. This purchase included the superintendent's house, the greenhouses, and other buildings. The house was sold to Charles P. McCabe on September 10, 1940, and is today the home of Shirley Arena, publisher of the Mendon Sentinel, and her husband Carl. The shop building houses the offices of the newspaper, and the Stever Locke manufacturing plant is located on the site of the former greenhouses.
For many years this area was known as Wolfsberger's Park and Nick Marasco relates that Mr. Wolfsberger was proud of his lilacs and drove his Cadillac down the dirt lane to view them every day they were in blossom. Also, I can recall in my early years in Mendon attending in Wolfsberger's Park an annual carnival sponsored by the Honeoye Falls Fire Department.
On August 1, 1941, the large packing house on Gould Street was sold to Wegmans and became a distribution center and warehouse for their grocery operations. The building was eventually destroyed by fire and is now the site of the Midtown Athletic Club.
Warren Diver quit the nursery October 18, 1941, and two days later accepted a job at the Honeoye Falls Creamery for $22.50 a week. In a November 27, 1941, entry in his diary, Mr. Diver wrote that he had started "firing the boiler" at the creamery. The final entry in the diary is November 29th. Inasmuch as this entry is on the next to last page in the book, I suspect that he started a new diary in December 1941. If one does exist, it would serve as an excellent documentation of life in Honeoye Falls during the World War II years in the same manner that the earlier diary recorded his daily routine in the pre-War years.
In January 1952 Mr. Wolfsberger constructed a half-mile track for racing trotters and pacers on the site of the former Palmer farm on the north side of West Main street. The large barn, that in an earlier era had housed Elton Palmer's dairy cows and later the work animals of the Chase Brothers Nursery, was rebuilt to accommodate eleven race horses. The primary function of the track was to train horses for running at the Hamburg and Batavia race tracks.
In 1958 Nick Marasco, as Commander of the Honeoye Falls American Legion Post, approached Fred Wolfsberger with a request that he donate some land on which to construct a new home for the organization. After several meetings and discussions of their plans, he decided he could help and donated the land for the building. The new building replaced an early 19th-century stone house on North Main Street that had been the location of the Legion Post for many years.
The last vestige of the Chase Brothers operations disappeared in 1956 when the garden store on East Avenue was purchased by Bilt-Rite Wood Products, a manufacturer of millwork and wood products. Renamed Bilt-Rite Chase-Pitkin, Inc., their store on East Highland Drive was expanded in 1959 to include other lines of merchandise in order to accommodate growing customer needs. It became one of the first full-line home centers in western New York.
In March, 1973, Wegmans Food Markets opened its first Home Repair Center next to its supermarket on Lyell Avenue. In 1974, Robert Wegman, President of Wegmans, recognizing there was a market for products that would help consumers do their own home repairs, purchased Bilt-Rite Chase-Pitkin, Inc. and renamed the existing home repair centers Chase-Pitkin Home & Garden. In the years that followed, stores were added to the chain in Rochester, Syracuse and the Southern Tier.
This author wonders what Lewis and Ethan Allen Chase would think if they ventured into one of these stores that still carries the Chase name over a hundred and thirty years later.
© 2002, John G. Sheret. Previously published December 2002