The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2006

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Mendon — The Early Years

Stagecoach Hotels


John G. Sheret

Several years before her death on July 4, 2002, Dorothy Barben, a long-time friend and country neighbor, gave me a number of photographs of scenes associated with the farm owned by her husband Fred. The 141-acre farm, located on the West Bloomfield Road between the hamlets of Mendon Centre and Mendon, had been purchased in 1906 by Fred's father, Gottlieb Barben. Known as the "Maple Grove" farm, the property was settled by Samuel Miller who had moved to Mendon from Hartford, Connecticut, in 1807. His early Greek Revival style house has been faithfully maintained over the years and still exhibits the architectural features of the period in which it was built.

Gottlieb Barben standing by a buggy in front of the house and farm that
he purchased from the estate of Samuel Miller in 1906.
(Photo courtesy of Dorothy Barben)

(Author's Note: For readers who are not familiar with the geography of this area, "Mendon" is the name of a township as well as the name of a hamlet within that township. This duplication of the name sometimes caused confusion, even for residents of the community.)

Dorothy was born in 1915 on her family's farm near Mendon Centre, attended District School Number 7 in the Centre, and lived there until her marriage. She possessed an extensive knowledge of local history and I spent many pleasant afternoons sitting at her kitchen table while she shared with me her recollections of Mendon Centre people and events.

December 1993 photograph of Dorothy Barben at her kitchen table
sharing her knowledge of Mendon Centre history with the author.
(Photo by John G. Sheret)

On October 15, 1951, Fred Barben expanded his farming operation by buying a 97-acre farm a short distance down the road bordering the hamlet of Mendon. Included in the purchase were a large cobblestone house and a tenant house. He had no need for the two houses and, while cleaning out the cobblestone prior to its sale, Mrs. Barben found an 1896 account book, kept by a former owner of the farm, Thomas Finucane, listing the various expenses associated with the construction of a barn in the hamlet.

Cobblestone house in which Dorothy Barben found the 1896 account
book and the 1900 photograph of the stagecoach horse barn.
(Photo by John G. Sheret)

For many years Mr. Finucane was also the owner and proprietor of the Cottage Hotel at the northeast corner of the Pittsford-Mendon Road and the Mendon-Victor Road in the hamlet of Mendon. His hotel and the Mendon Hotel on the opposite corner were stagecoach stops on the route between Canandaigua and Rochester. As many as fourteen stagecoaches could be counted in close proximity to the four corners as the passengers took their refreshments at the hotels. Here the drivers changed horses for the next leg of the trip called a stage which was a section of road between relays of animals, usually ten to twelve miles.

Map of hamlet of Mendon showing (1) Mendon Hotel,
(2) Cottage Hotel, (3) Cobblestone house in which an account book
and photograph of stagecoach horse barn were found.
(1902 Monroe County plat map)

Mendon Hotel as depicted in a mid-to-late-1920's postcard.
Lehigh Valley Railroad crossing can be seen in background. (Author's collection)

On April 22, 1896, Mr. Finucane began the construction of a 30' x 44' barn north of his hotel for the stabling of stagecoach horses. The barn was completed on May 15th of that year at a total cost for materials and labor of $407.91. His account book lists in detail every expenditure and to whom he paid money for labor and materials. The totals for each category were $99.45 for labor; $257.50 for lumber; $34.96 for digging and building the foundation wall; and $16.00 for nails.

Cottage Hotel and stagecoach horse barn as they
appeared in a circa 1925 postcard. (Author's collection)

Another item of interest that Mrs. Barben found in the cobblestone house was a photograph of the completed barn which appears to have been taken from the second floor balcony of the Mendon Hotel across the street. Unfortunately, the photo does not show the Cottage Hotel and only a shed attached to the north side of the building appears in the picture. The building to the left side of the barn is the blacksmith shop of R. L. Johanson. The main-line tracks of the Lehigh Valley Railroad can be seen in the far left background of the photo.

Photograph, dated 1900, showing newly constructed
stagecoach horse barn. (Photo courtesy of Dorothy Barben)

As I have previously discovered, exploring one incident in the history of the Town of Mendon often leads to another related interesting event. In 1777 the Marquis de Lafayette, a wealthy French aristocrat, purchased a ship, and with a crew of adventurers, set sail for America to fight in the revolution against the British. He joined the continental army as a major general and was assigned to the staff of George Washington. Serving with distinction, he led American forces to several victories, including the Battle of Yorktown.

Undated portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. (Source:

In 1824, Lafayette returned to this country and began a tour of the twenty-four states that then formed the Union. On June 7, 1825, traveling from the west, he arrived in the Village of Rochesterville via the recently completed Erie Canal. Following a grand reception in Rochester, he traveled in a carriage owned by James K. Guernsey of Pittsford to the Phoenix Hotel in that village.

From Pittsford he was driven to the Mendon Hotel where another carriage waited to carry him to Canandaigua on his journey eastward. At the hotel he dined in handsome style at a reception with many local people coming to meet the distinguished visitor.

In 1983, the residents of the Town of Mendon celebrated the 150th anniversary of the founding of the town. The following account of the Mendon Hotel appeared in a history book published by the Town to celebrate the sesquicentennial event.

Photograph of sign that may be either a reproduction or paint over.

The former Mendon Hotel, built around 1812, was in its halcyon days a "handsome structure" from a description by an old resident, and the center for numerous events interwoven with community life. The Tomlinsons ran the hotel and then the Jacob Schafers purchased it in 1890. It was during this period that the hotel was at the height of its popularity. Traveling men stopped here, stagecoaches arrived with passengers, and local folk assembled for the dances held in the third-floor ballroom. There was lively music from an orchestra consisting of a parlor organ and two violins. There were dressing rooms where the ladies arriving in carriages changed from traveling attire to party dresses. Men changed outfits, too. The midnight suppers were bountiful, and the dancers trouped down the long stairs when supper was ready. Prominent folk from miles around arrived with horses and carriages for these functions.

This December 17th "Select" Party at the Mendon Hotel was
most likely held in the 1890's. (Collection of John G. Sheret)
In 1891 you could buy your supper and stable your horse for
$1.25 at the Mendon Hotel. (Collection of John G. Sheret)

Shortly after World War II with the great increase in the ownership of automobiles and the discontinuance of passenger service on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Mendon Hotel closed its doors forever. The building stood empty and neglected until 1957 when it was demolished and a Gulf service station was constructed on the site. Fortunately its neighbor, the Cottage Hotel, although greatly altered from its original appearance, still stands and today operates as a popular bar and restuarant. The barn, built by Thomas Finucane in 1896 as a stable for stagecoach horses, also remains as a symbol of an earlier time in the history of the Town of Mendon.

March 1994 photograph of the stagecoach horse barn built by
Thomas Finucane in 1896. (Photo by John G. Sheret)
March 1994 photograph of the Cottage Hotel. (Photo by John G. Sheret)

Sources of Information

Dorothy Barben
Rochester Historical Society
1983 Mendon Sesquicentennial History Book
© 2005, John G. Sheret
Index to Articles by John G. Sheret
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