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39 State Street

39 State Street

39 State Street
Brockport, NY

History researched and written by Carol L. Hannan
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – April 2012 All rights reserved

Wilson Henry and May Scranton Moore
Builders/owners: late 1880s to 1949

This is the one hundred year history of a family and their home. Wilson Henry Moore, born in Clarkson, married May Scranton of Brockport around 1888 and built a home on what was formerly part of the lot belonging to Eastman Colby, their neighbor. It conveniently backed to the Market Street property of the Moore Subscription Agency, Mr. Moore’s primary business at the time. The home’s location on State Street positioned the family in the heart of one of the most prestigious village neighborhoods, with grand and historic houses, important busi

nessmen and their families and the Seymours, themselves, living right down the block. It was Wilson Henry Moore himself, owner of the first automobile in Brockport, who drove his neighbor William Seymour down State Street on the occasion of Seymour’s 100th birthday, in one of the most iconic photos in village history.

Moore had no interest in farming and by the age of 21, according to census data, was a printer. His concept for a magazine subscription service, the first of its kind and supposedly one of, if not the largest, subscription service in the world, was a huge success but only the beginning of his business career.

When a failing village shoe manufacturing business became available in 1888, Moore and his cousin, Manley A. Shafer, who was living in Utica at that time, formed the Moore-Shafer Shoe Manufacturing Company. The firm prospered and expanded its operations, building a factory on Park Avenue in the village and setting up offices in New York and Chicago. The business was a success until 1927, when its stockholders disbanded the company, twenty years after the death of co-founder Wilson Moore.

Not content with just two thriving businesses, Moore also partnered with village businessman F. F. Capen to form the Brockport Piano Manufacturing Company, whose “high-end” line of Capen pianos were produced from the late 1800s until the Great Depression. The manufacturing plant was located in the Oxford/Spring Street area of the village, parts of which, survived the demise of the piano company and still exist today.

Not one to focus entirely on business matters, Wilson H. Moore was a co-founder and director of the Brockport Rural Cemetery Association, a member and vestryman of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and like so many prominent village businessmen, a board member of the State Normal School.

With multiple, thriving business and community interests, a wife and two children, Wilson Moore seemed to lead a charmed life. All was not well, however, and in the summer of 1907, Brockport residents were shocked to learn that Moore’s precarious mental health, which had sent him to Canada in the company of a local doctor and two nurses, proved to be fatal. At the age of 48, Wilson H. Moore was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Many family members survived him and were left to “carry on.”

May Scranton Moore, daughter of Charles N. and Nancy Huntington Scranton of Brockport, spent the rest of her life in the family home. She raised her two children, Helen and Henry Wilson Moore, spent summers at her Troutburg, Lake Ontario cottage and participated in social activities with friends and family members. She was a member of the DAR, courtesy of her mother’s ancestor, Major Hezekiah Huntington. In 1940, she set up trusts for her two children. When Helen married Stanley E. Geerer, a Moore-Shafer employee, the couple joined May and her widowed mother in the family home. Following May S. Moore’s death in 1949, ownership of the house passed to Helen and her husband.

Helen Moore and Stanley E. Geerer
Owners: 1949 to 1981

Helen Moore Geerer lived her entire life in the home built by her father. She married an employee of her late father’s company, a WWI veteran by the name of Stanley Earl Geerer, who was born in Utica, New York. Geerer’s father worked as a foreman for the Moore-Shafer company while his son was a “cutter” there, according to census records. Stanley became a manager at Moore-Shafer until the company went out of business. He became a stock and bond salesman, and then sold insurance for the Mutual Life Insurance Company. Stanley died in 1952 and was buried in the family plot at Lakeside Cemetery.

As her mother before her, Helen spent many years as a widow in the family home. She never claimed to be employed. No newspaper articles could be found to describe any social or civic activities until the estate auction notice following her death in 1981. What can be gleaned from that notice is that Helen’s 12 room house was filled with oriental rugs, mahogany furniture, china and antiques. Even the interior window shutters, fireplace fixtures and sandwich glass curtain ties were sold from the house. Whether Helen rests in peace after the dismantling of her home is something we will never know for certain. So ends the history of the Moore family at 39 State Street.

Epilogue 2012
This house remains a single family home; large, white and imposing. The successful businessmen in most of the surrounding houses are nearly all gone; replaced by college students in multi-family rentals. Do these young tenants understand they live where business greats like Wilson H. Moore once lived? Almost certainly, they do not.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – April 2012 All rights reserved