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45 State Street

45 State Street

45 State Street

Brockport, NY

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

Ralph W. (1799 – 1851) and Matilda Goold
Builder/owner: early 1820s to 1860s

The Goold* family came to western New York from Massachusetts and became very early settlers in the Village of Brockport. The father, John Henry, was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. He was a merchant, as was his son Ralph, who partnered first with fellow resident Thomas Roby and then Joseph Ganson to establish a foundry in the village. The second partnership resulted in the formation of the firm Ganson and Goold. McCormick reapers were first manufactured in these Brockport foundries (1).

“Merchant” Goold prospered, as evidenced by the size and quality of his impressive brick home. It was constructed adjacent to the residence of William Seymour (presently the Brockport Village Hall at 49 State Street), another early village resident connected to foundries and reapers. By 1850, Goold reported the value of his real estate at $7,000. (2) Unfortunately, his relatively early death cut short a promising business career.

Ralph Goold was a religious man. By 1831, when the Congregational Church reorganized as a Presbyterian denomination, he was elected one of the first six ruling Elders. (3) He was a life member of the American Home Missionary Society. (4) His daughter, Frances Caroline, married Reverend Doctor Cowles, pastor of the church he helped found. (5)

Goold family members, including Ralph and his parents are buried at the Brockport Cemetery. His widow lived in the house until her daughters were grown and married.

Eastman (1821-1892) and Lucy Ann Root Colby
Owner: 1864 to early 1890s

The third Eastman Colby, grandson of Colonel Eastman Colby, a veteran of the War of 1812 and early settler of Ogden, purchased his home from the widow of Ralph Goold. He was a farmer in Sweden Township who married Lucy Ann Root, the daughter of another successful and well-known farming family (father, Dudley Root). (6)

After moving to Brockport, Eastman formed Colby & Co., a lumber business. This business was ultimately unsuccessful due to his purchase of large amounts of timberland in Michigan and a downturn in lumber prices. He was also, likely during this time period, a director of Trader’s Bank in Rochester. (7)

Colby was a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Brockport as well as a vestryman there. His only child, daughter Jane (Jennie) Colby Roberts predeceased both her parents. Lucy Ann and Eastman Colby are buried at Beach Ridge Cemetery in Sweden Township.

Julius (1861 – 1921) and Emma Owens (1863 – 1947) Lester
Owner: 1890s to 1947

First generation American Julius Lester was the son of German immigrants John S., a shoemaker, and Katherine Lester. He grew up on 6 Fayette Street and married Emma Owens, who grew up on 85 State Street. (8) Together, they and their family moved into the decidedly upscale home formerly occupied by Eastman Colby’s widow.

Lester started as a store clerk but eventually became a successful dry goods merchant. (9) By 1893, he had purchased the business at the corner of Main and King Street, a location still known today as the “Lester Block.” The business grew into a chain of five dry goods stores. (10) It survived Lester, but gradually each of the Orleans County locations were closed until only the original location remained in business. That store was closed by his sons in 1933, after serving the community for fifty years. (11)

Lester was civic minded and involved in additional business interests. He served as a financial secretary to the Catholic Mutual Association branch in Brockport. (12) He was a trustee of the Brockport Electric Company. (13) In 1901, he was nominated for village “president” by the Citizens’ ticket, and received over 260 votes in an unsuccessful bid for office. (14)

Ill health followed a stroke suffered by Lester in 1921 and he was forced to end his involvement in the dry goods business. A second stroke later that year proved fatal. (15) His widow lived on in the family home until her death there in 1947 at the age of 88. (16) The Lesters are buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Brockport.

Epilogue 2012
Part of the original lot (to the west) was sold to Wilson H. Moore, who constructed his home on the property. The extensive landscaping evident today is attractive but probably not authentic to the original home. After the Lesters sold the house, it changed hands multiple times and eventually became a rather shabby multi-family rental; an unkind fate recently reversed. The property was purchased as a family residence and has undergone a complete renovation, becoming, once again, what it once was – a stunning example of Brockport’s history and architecture. 

*”Goold” is the correct spelling of the family name although it’s sometimes seen written as “Gould.” 


(1) Martin, Charlotte; The History of Brockport for One Hundred Years.

(2) From US Federal Census 1850.

(3) Parsons, Rev. Levi; History of Rochester presbytery from the earliest settlement of the country. Published by the Presbytery Democrat and Chronicle Press, Rochester, NY 1828-1901.

(4) The 20th Report of the American Home Missionary Society. Baker, Godwin and Company Printers, NY, NY 1855.

(5) Towner, Ausburn; Our Country and Its People: A History of the Valley and the County of Chemung from the Closing Years of the Eighteenth Century. Published by D. Mason, Syracuse 1892. Page 694.

(6) Obituary; Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 9/10/1892, p. 4, col. 3.

(7) Dailey Courier 3/11/1876, p. 2, col. 1: “ …the failure of a well-known resident of this county, Eastman Colby, of Brockport. He was senior member of the firm Colby and Company engaged in the lumbering business in Michigan … purchased heavily of timber lands and a decline in the price of lumber carried them down. Colby was formerly director of Trader’s Bank of this city. Assets fall $150,000 short of liabilities.”

(8) 1864 Brockport Directory

(9) Obituary; Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 3/21/1921, p. ?, col. 2.

(10) The Holley Standard 2/5/1953, “Looking Backward – 60 Years Ago – 1893”.

(11) The Medina Tribune 8/24/1933, p. 5, col. 4, “Lester Store to Close Career of Half Century”.

(12) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 6/25/1886, p. 3, col. 2.

(13) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 3/11/1895, p. 11, col. 5.

(14) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 3/20/1901, p. 4, col. 1.

(15) Ibid. Obituary.

(16) Obituary; Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 3/23/1947, p.26, col.2.

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