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After Thoughts by Jim DeVinney

Recalling Corn Hill's Illustrious Past

Jim DeVinneyBefore he retired, Corn Hill Historian Jim DeVinney produced many award-winning shows for PBS.  He earned his first Emmy for an adaption of the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities.  He won two more Emmys as writer of shows for the highly acclaimed documentary series Eyes on the Prize, which chronicled the history of the Civil Rights Movement; one of his shows in this series was also nominated for an Academy Award.  After that, Jim went on to produce more historical documentaries for the PBS series American Experience earning another Emmy as part of the writing team for “The Kennedys.”  His American Experience program, “The Wizard of Photography,” describes how George Eastman built the Kodak Empire.  It can still be viewed in one of the galleries at the George Eastman Museum.  Jim has been Corn Hill's historian since 2014.

Roswell Hart and Romanta Hart (part 1)

There are two men with the same last name—Roswell Hart (1773-1824) and Romanta Hart (1800-1877)—who moved from Connecticut to Brighton, New York in the early Nineteenth Century. I am uncertain how they are related if, in fact, they are. Father-son? Uncle-nephew? They could be cousins or even siblings, despite being born a generation apart. Both […]

Frederick Douglass’ Fourth of July Message

At the height of demonstrations following George Floyd’s death by asphyxiation when Minneapolis policemen knelt on him during an arrest, the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League chose that moment to criticize as unpatriotic anyone who would refuse to stand during the Star Spangled Banner (he apologized the next day). […]

Charles Mulford Robinson, part 3

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 […]

Charles Mulford Robinson, part 2

As mentioned in February’s column, Charles Mulford Robinson arrived in the Third Ward as a two-year-old child when his parents moved to Rochester from Rockland County in 1871. He grew up in the house at 67 South Washington Street. As a student at the University of Rochester, he demonstrated a talent for writing, serving one […]

Charles Mulford Robinson

I became the Corn Hill historian in October 2014. I knew little about our neighborhood’s past and immediately set about reading everything I could find. The first significant fact I learned was that, for most of our history, this was Rochester’s Third Ward. Over the years, I’d become aware of the Corn Hill Arts Festival […]

Elizabeth Lee, part 2

The 1850 Federal Census reveals that Charles M. Lee owned real estate valued at $130,000. Some of it was for speculation in property, common at the time though not without risk. In 1842, an uninsured rental property of his burned down, a curious oversight by the attorney. Nonetheless, Lee and his wife, the former Elizabeth […]

Elizabeth Lee, part 1

I’m going to whine about the difficulties of historical research. The original owner of my house at 80 Glasgow Street was a widow named Elizabeth Lee. She is a perfect example of how historical records are often obscure or contradictory. According to her obituary, the former Elizabeth Case of Philadelphia was 89 years old when […]

Monument to the Fox Sisters

The Spiritualist Obelisk on Troup Street is one of the great attractions in Corn Hill. It once stood next to a Spiritualist church but there is some confusion about where that church was because the obelisk isn’t where it used to be. The story begins with a homicide. On March 31, 1848, two sisters Maggie […]

Daughters of the American Revolution

During the next year or so, don’t be surprised if you hear extended sounds of celebration from the Irondequoit Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. It’s been 125 years since its founding. 2020 will mark another anniversary—100 years since the group moved into the Hervey Ely House at Troup Street and […]

The Reynolds Family, part 4: The Library

On December 19, 1878, Abelard Reynolds “fell into the placid sleep that knows no waking” (they just don’t write obituaries like that anymore!). He was 93. His wife, the former Lydia Strong, died in 1886 one month before her 102nd birthday. Their youngest child Mortimer would not have the longevity of his parents but he […]