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Charles Mulford Robinson, part 3

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In 1896, Charles Mulford Robinson married Eliza Ten Eyck Pruyn of Albany, New York. Her pedigree was just as illustrious as her husband’s. She was one of five children born to Augustus Pruyn and Catalina Ten Eyck, only three of whom survived infancy. Eliza came from a prestigious Dutch family. Her father fought in the Civil War and her mother, Eliza Bogart, became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution thanks to her grandfather, Captain Isaac Bogart who served in that war. Eliza could have become a member of the D.A.R. herself but I am not certain she did. She was, however, clearly proud of those family origins because her name often shows up in records as Eliza T. E. P. Robinson.

The couple lived for a time at 118 Troup Street. Then on October 1st, 1897, they moved into 65 South Washington, next to Robinson’s parents. The marriage would not produce any children but they seem to have lived very comfortably as Charles continued to promote the City Beautiful Movement. In the 1910 Federal Census, 40-year-old Charles was listed as a Writer. Eliza was 39, no occupation designated. Two young Irish women, apparent sisters, were living with them as servants: Abina M. Ahern, 27, was cook and Julia C. Ahern, 22, the chambermaid.

About that same time, Robinson’s success was reaching new heights. In October of 1910, he was one of two delegates representing the United States at an international conference on city planning. Sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects, its membership included King George VI, future father of Queen Elizabeth II. Charles and Eliza used the conference as an opportunity to take a month-long tour of Europe during which they visited many of its largest cities.

In 1913, the University of Illinois awarded Robinson with the first chair of civic design created in the United States. In October 1916, the Council of the Town Planning Institute in London granted him honorary membership, a recognition that had only been extended to one other American at the time—Frederick Law Olmstead. Robinson also wrote a number of books about civic design, wrote articles for numerous publications and sometimes even served as the editor of those journals.

Charles Mulford Robinson plaque

Almost a century later, this bronze tablet still honors Charles M. Robinson from its place where Robinson Drive meets Mount Hope Avenue.

In December 1917, between Christmas and the New Year, the Robinsons visited Eliza’s sister and brother who shared a home in Albany. Margaret at fifty years of age had never married. She maintained the home while Foster, 42, worked in real estate. During the visit, Charles became seriously ill with lobar pneumonia. In those pre-antibiotic days, his condition deteriorated rapidly. His mother traveled from Rochester to be with her son when he died on December 30th. He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery on January 2, 1918. His mother was unable to attend the funeral. She was still in Albany, ill from the same strain of pneumonia that killed her son. She died on January 4th and was buried next to him on the 7th. Four years later, February 1922, Robinson’s father, Arthur, died at his South Washington Street home.

In 1926, Bonivard Street, across from the north entrance to Mount Hope Cemetery, was renamed Robinson Drive. A tribute in the Democrat and Chronicle said, “Mr. Robinson was decades ahead of his time in his prophetic vision of city-planning possibilities. He foresaw what Rochester was to become as have few men that have lived in this community.” In June of that year, a ceremony was held at the northeast corner of Mount Hope Avenue and that newly named drive where Eliza Robinson unveiled a bronze tablet honoring her late husband.

Eliza continued to live at 65 South Washington. Julia Ahern, the chambermaid in the 1910 census continued to live with her and in the 1940 census was listed as Eliza’s companion. In 1941, Margaret and Foster Pruyn were in Lakeland, Florida—the family may have had a winter home there. In April they suffered fatal injuries in an automobile accident. She died on April 19; he died the next day. Eliza was executor for both of their estates.

On May 18, 1956, Eliza T. E. P. Robinson died in Lakeland. She is buried next to her husband Charles at Mount Hope Cemetery. Julia Ahern died in Lakeland on May 4, 1969. She is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

This article was first published in the Corn Hill Gazette May 2020