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108 State Street

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108 State Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

History written by Carol L. Hannan, March 2014 
Photo Credit and Produced by Pamela Ketchum
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – March 2014. All rights reserved.

Frank E. and Cora E. Rowley Robinson 
Owners/Builders (?): late 1890s to 1940s 

State Street was once home to early industries which used available natural resources to bring logs for milling, skins for tanning and power for mill stones to grind grain. The Erie Canal moved great quantities of raw and processed materials across New York, as well as settlers to new lands in the west. The Gordon family, which owned the lumber and mill yard on State Street, also owned many village lots. At some time in the late 1860s, they purchased land and erected what were probably two buildings used for lumber storage on the corner of State and Gordon Streets. It was land formerly owned by Roswell Smith, who harnessed the natural springs to run his Steam Mill. 

Not surprisingly, the road connecting State Street and High Street was named for the owner of the large lot previously mentioned, which is how Gordon Street got its name. Gordon Street bisected the large lot, which eventually became three home lots. The home built adjacent to Gordon Street on the east side was constructed between the mid to late 1890s. This house was sold to private owners around the turn of the century.

Number 102 State Street, which is the original number of the corner home, was owned by Frank E. Robinson and his wife, the former Cora Rowley. Frank was a first generation American of English parentage. His family moved here in 1844, when Frank was 13 years old. Frank became a naturalized citizen. His parents, John W. and
Violetta, worked a farm in Clarkson and then moved to Brockport. This was a family of “blue collar” workers; farmers, bakers, day laborers and factory workers. Frank had an 8th grade education, which was not unusual for the day. He worked variously as a carpenter, gardener and day laborer until he was in his 70s. “Engineer” was also one of his reported occupations but obviously, Frank wasn’t a college graduate, so perhaps he worked for a time on the railroad. 

Cora was the daughter of Edward B. and Phoebe Rowley. Edward was born in England and Phoebe was born in Michigan. They lived and worked on a Clarkson farm. Like her older sister, Cora learned the trade of dressmaking; a skill she used to bring income into the household except during the years when she was caring for young children, although there was mention of her working for the Moore Subscription Agency at one time. After Frank had “retired” from working, Cora was still making a living as a dressmaker.

Frank and Cora had three children: Roy E., Helen M., and Earl Windfield Robinson. Sadly, Roy and Helen died as children. Earl grew to adulthood, married and had children, one of whom, Roy, lived with his grandparents for a number of years, for reasons which will probably never be known. The house also made room for Frank’s brother, Shader and his family, as well. The Robinsons took in boarders during the early 1900s, and the financial rewards for this hard work apparently paid off for Frank and Cora. They eventually owned the home in which they lived the remainder of their lives and they relied on their own income after they were no longer employed. 

By 1940, Frank had died, and presumably Cora, who passed away after her husband, lived at what was, by then, known as 108 State Street until her passing. Frank, Cora and their three young children are buried together in Lakeview Cemetery, the Town of Sweden. Earl, their only child to live to adulthood, eventually left Brockport but not the area. He died in 1989 and is buried in Webster, New York. 

Epilogue 2014 

This charming house with its many outward embellishments doesn’t seem to be the cottage of a working class couple, but as explained, both Frank and Cora Robinson must have worked long and hard to call themselves the owners. It’s more likely that the Gordon family was responsible for the design of this and the two adjoining homes on State Street. Hopefully, Frank and Cora, who enjoyed this home for over forty years, felt their sacrifices and hard work were worth the effort to own their piece of the “American dream.” Today, this home remains a single family residence. It has been carefully painted in complimentary colors to enhance the intricately detailed façade.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan - March 2014. All rights reserved.