Town Historian

Patricia Wayne
Historian
Town of Irondequoit
1280 Titus Avenue
Rochester, New York 14617
(585) 336-7269

Irondequoit was founded in 1839. The Historian catalogs the history of the Town and presents historical facts to the community through presentations and publications. The Historian also operates the Pioneer House, which is located on the grounds of the Town Hall, in conjunction with the Irondequoit Historical Society.

Short History of Irondequoit

The history of Irondequoit can be divided into four phases.

Phase one is the pre-Columbian period when the Senecas controlled this land, the fiercest tribe in the Iroquois Confederacy that dominated the whole of New York. The Senecas were "the guardians of the western gate", that is, the trade route to the fur rich country of the Ohio Valley. There is no evidence that the Senecas ever had a permanent village of any size in Irondequoit for the geography of the area has been both an asset and a liability in its development. The Genesee River borders on the East, Lake Ontario, on the North and Irondequoit Bay on the West. Many marshes, ponds and swamps crisscrossed the land And attracted numerous waterfowl. The bodies of water that surrounded the land teemed with game fish. This provided a great storehouse of food. but the Senecas also knew that the environment did not seem to be a healthy one. For the very marshes and swamps that attracted the waterfowl, also attracted fever-carrying mosquitoes. The Senecas may not have made the connection but they knew the area was unhealthy.

The first Europeans to bring western "civilization" to the Senecas were the French who were rivals of the Senecas for the western fur trade. In1687, the Marquis Denonvillle, Governor-general of Canada, led a punitive expedition to the mouth of Irondequoit Bay. His army of 1500 soldiers and 500 Hurons, enemies of the Senecas, marched down the eastern shore of the Bay to the Seneca Villages to approximately Victor, New York and on a hot July afternoon wiped out the Seneca villages. The whole Iroquois Confederacy became mortal enemies of the French and in the struggle between the French and the British, known as "The French and Indian War" they sided with the British who emerged from the conflict in sole possession of the North American continent up to the Mississippi Valley.

The second phase in our history really begins after the American Revolution when this area was part of the Phelps-Gorham purchase. These two men, veterans of the Revolution, had purchased approximately all of western New York. Irondequoit, then part of Brighton, Was section 34. Settlement was slow because of the fever and the marshy condition of the land. But intrepid pioneers, like Alexander Hooker, Sylvester Woodman, the Rogers Family, and the Costichs ignored the reputation of the area as being a fever-ridden swamp over run with wolves, bears, and rattlesnakes. They drained the swamps, cleared the land and planted their crops. Still in 1839, when the town was founded three quarters of the land was still untouched. However, by the end of the century, this step-child of Brighton was known as the garden spot of western New York, famed for its peaches, superb melons, and vineyards on the slopes of Irondequoit Bay, truck farms that produced celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, asparagus and numerous other vegetables. The Rudman family were known as the peach kings of western New York Produce stands, such as Wambach's and Aman’s, still satisfy customers today.

The third phase began with the development of trolley and rail lines through Irondequoit in the 1870's. Thousands of summer visitors flocked to the resorts on Lake Ontario and Irondequoit bay. In order to insure regular passenger traffic, the railroad rented wooden platforms on the bluffs overlooking the lake at the end of St. Paul Boulevard village within a village developed. The tent city was known as "White City". It had its own governing association, electricity and water supply. The electric lights and water supply were supplied by the railroad. At the mouth of the bay was the famous resort of Sea Breeze with hotels and amusement rides. The park was also owned by the railroad. On the sores of the Bay, at least a dozen hotels at one time or the other offered meals, rooms, boats, fishing tackle and, like the Glen Haven, elaborate accommodations of the resort variety. The Newport House, first built by Joseph Vinton as a sawmill, has been serving customers on the Bay since 1840. The area was known as the "Coney Island of western New York".

The fourth phase of our development started with the automobile. Society became more mobile. People could travel to all parts of the country and didn't need to be restricted to their own locale for vacations. After World War II, returning veterans looked to areas outside of the city for homesites. Farmers in Irondequoit were offered prices for their land that they could not resist. The old Victorian homes were ton down to make room for ranch houses and center entrance colonials. Irondequoit was transformed from a sleepy village to a bustling suburb with expanded school districts, shopping malls, and businesses.

Despite these changes the residents have endeavored to keep the hometown flavor of this community "where the land and waters meet".

Pioneer House

The Irondequoit Pioneer House museum is located on the west lawn of the Town Hall on Titus Ave.

The exhibits are open every Saturday and Sunday from 2-4 p.m.

The museum is a popular place for groups to visit. Organizations are welcome to schedule visits at times other than regular open hours.

The next major renovation project will be a gift shop area in the addition at the back of the house. We are still interested in vintage articles that can be used in future exhibits, such as spinning wheel, cradle, butter churn, or other household furnishings. We are also interested in momentoes of past wars or military service.

Links

Irondequoit Historical Society