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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.

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 […]

The Reynolds Family, part 3: Athenaeum

On June 12, 1829, a year after Abelard Reynolds opened his Arcade, sixty business leaders gathered in a room on its second floor to launch the Rochester Athenaeum.  Nathaniel Rochester became its first president, a title he retained until his death two years later. Each member paid a five-dollar fee to fund a library that […]

The Reynolds Family, part 2: Arcade

The winter of 1812-13 was a severe one. Settlers in the area surrounding the One Hundred Acre Tract hunkered down in their homes against icy winds and huge snowdrifts. Families rarely saw anyone beyond household members. An occasional visit from the local postmaster, Abelard Reynolds, was always most welcome. There wasn’t much mail arriving in […]

The Reynolds Family, part 1: Abelard

Modern day Rochester begins with the purchase of a one hundred-acre piece of land. In 1803, three wealthy veterans of the American Revolution set out from their homes in Hagerstown, Maryland. They came up through the Susquehanna Valley, found their way to the headwaters of the Genesee River and traveled along its western shore. They […]

Bogie’s Mother, part 2

If you missed it, read Bogie’s Mother, part 1. In the 1890s, Belmont DeForest Bogart courted the highly successful artist Maud Humphrey. The attraction was mutually intense and marriage seemed imminent. However, Maud was a feminist and an outspoken advocate of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony—too independent for Bogart’s taste. They broke up and seemed to […]

Bogie’s Mother, part 1

The cover of this year’s guide for the Holiday Tour of Homes features artwork by Maud Humphrey who, in the late Nineteenth Century, lived briefly at #5 Greenwood Street. An excellent artist, her work is often overshadowed by the fact that her son was movie actor Humphrey Bogart. Someone has traced a genealogy of mother […]

The Button House, part 3: Editha, Last of the Line

Editha Lois Button was the only child born to Nelson Lord Button Jr. and Alice Maude Goodger. She once described her father as “a playboy, a very precious boy, a handsome father, brought up to be a gentleman. Grandpa [Nelson Sr.] would never let him soil his hands….” Editha was similarly pampered. For many years, […]

The Button House, part 2: Witchcraft and Fire

In September 1628, Matthias Button arrived from England at Salem, Massachusetts. Within five years, he moved to Boston and is listed among that city’s earliest settlers. It was a difficult life as sickness claimed several children and Button’s first three wives. The third wife reportedly died of “fright and exposure” after John Godfrey, a Mathias […]