60 Fun Things with Connie Herrera
Explore Your New York Roots
Every county, city, town and village has a story—and there are over 1,600 local government historians who want to tell you about it. Realizing that historical records were being lost or haphazardly preserved, in 1917 New York State decreed that every local government must have a historical resource person to collect and preserve the jurisdiction’s historic materials.
Not every town or village has the financial resources to support a museum or history room, but the ones that do contain quirky and curious histories that give you a sense of the unique families, businesses and events that shaped that area. Local historical societies may have hundreds of members or just a few, but all have the dedication of local citizens who love their towns and are passionate about telling its story.
Webster Museum & Historical Society is one place that shows off its history with love and care. Located at 18 Lapham Park in Webster, it is open the same hours as the Library. According to exhibits coordinator Jan Naujokas, their exhibits change about every two months. The month of March features women’s handiwork which includes samples of embroidery, knitting and tatting, and antique sewing tools loaned by Kelly Corretore.
Their permanent exhibits begin with Native Americans and their artifacts found in the fields of Webster. Feel free to take a stroll down “Main Street, USA” with the Witmer Grocery Store, the Drug Store, Candy Kitchen and the Mayor’s Office. Continue your tour in the Grange room, parlor, or wonderful period classroom containing old lunch boxes, slates and an old stove. You will also find a bedroom, kitchen and a barn room with old carpenter tools, shoe irons, and blacksmith tools. In addition to this you may come across historic items from Webster businesses.
One unique and interesting exhibit is the soapbox derby cars, loaned by resident Gary Morgan. Says Naujokas, “Gary saved all of the cars he built from from the age of about 12 in his garage in Webster. Examples include an orange crate car, a nailhead car, a kitchen car, and a tractor made from a mailbox.” I imagine that many of you reading this blog will remember making your own soapbox derby cars!
The Webster Museum and Historical Society is just one of the many places you can visit. You can also stop by your local historical society or check it out online. Besides historic artifacts, you can research your family, your home or your town (the old street maps are a real treat). Some historians will even do the research for you, either for free or at an hourly price. Below is a list of local historical societies that can get you started:
Research your Rochester roots at the Rochester Historical Society: 121 Lincoln Avenue, Rochester, Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Phone number: 585-623-8285.
Historic Pittsford: Located in the Little House at 18 Monroe Avenue, Pittsford. Enjoy a glimpse of what life was about in historic Pittsford and take walking tours of the village. Hours: Wednesdays 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Phone number: 585-381-2941
Victor Historical Society – Valentown: It may look old-fashioned, but this building is really a 19th-century shopping mall that just happens to be across the road from Eastview Mall, Route 96, Victor. Phone number: 585-924-4170.
Brighton Historical Society has a wealth of information and restored buildings to explore. The Town of Brighton historian is available Wednesday, 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and other times by appointment at 2300 Elmwood Avenue Brighton. Phone number: 585-784-5238.
Henrietta Historical Society gives talks and informational meetings at the Henrietta Senior Center.
For history buffs in the Brockport area, the Western Monroe Historical Society – Morgan-Manning House is the place to go. Address: 151 Main Street, Brockport. Office hours: 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Monday – Friday. For tour information call 585-637-3645 or check the website.
Curious about the blue and gold historic markers created by the state in the 1920s and 30s? Cultural New York has a complete database for those as well as cultural institutions by categories and location (e.g., archives, museums, historic sites, libraries and arts organizations).
You’ll be surprised by the breadth and depth of New York history to explore — either virtually or in person!
Connie Herrera is the author of 60 Fun Things to Do Within 60 Miles of Rochester and 60 Great Places to Go With Kids Within 60 Miles of Rochester, as well as travel guides for Buffalo, East Aurora, and Palm Springs, CA. “My goal is to help people rediscover where they live and see it with new eyes. So, if you’re new to the area, I want you to be astounded at your luck in moving here. If you’re here for a visit, I hope you’ll want to come back again to do more. And, if you’ve lived here all your life, I hope you’ll be surprised at how many places you haven’t yet explored and how many you want to visit again!” You can find out more at my website: 60funthingstodo