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52 State Street

52 State Street

52 State Street
Brockport, NY

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

Enoch and Sally W. Sweat 
Owners/builders (?): 1850s

Before the earliest map showing ownership of village properties, Enoch Sweat and his family lived at this location. Was it the same large, elaborately embellished brick building seen there today? Early village homes nearby are impressive brick structures but so, too, are more modest frame houses.

Enoch Sweat was born in Vermont at the beginning of the 19th century; his parentage unknown. He was a farmer and, according to the 1850 Federal Census, a carriage maker living on State Street in Brockport. A May, 1850 issue of The Genesee Farmer, however, advised readers to contact Sweat, a builder of agricultural machinery, so he likely expanded his business interests to include the manufacture of new, in demand machinery. He certainly seemed successful enough to construct more than a basic residence for himself and his large family.

By 1859 the Sweat family had moved to a farm in Clarkson, where Sweat was also, according to the local directory, a justice of the peace. The family burial plot in the Brockport Cemetery contains memorials to his children Lyman, Edwin, Stephen and Riley who died between 1831 and 1853. Enoch, his wife, Sally and son, Sanford, a Civil War veteran and afterward, a silver miner who died in Nevada, are also memorialized there.

Guy and Clarissa Chappell
Owners: late 1850s to 1860s

Guy Chappell, member of a large New England family, was an area farmer, who, like many others before him, lived part of his life in Brockport. His relatives were merchants in various trades and so, too, was his son, Benjamin F., before he died of wounds sustained in the Civil War battle at Five Forks. Chappell Street takes its name from Guy, who owned large areas of land in and near the village boundaries of today.

Little else is known about Chappell’s other interests as his name was never mentioned in contemporary publications and by 1872, his State Street home had changed hands.

The Chappell family monument at Beach Ridge Cemetery is an imposing granite obelisk but not for all its family members. Daughter Sarah Chappell Orcutt and her husband Orson moved west to the Minnesota Territory and her son died in California. Within three generations, the westward moving Chappell family had spanned the entire continental United States.

George R. and Marion Root Ward
Owners: early 1870s to early 1900s

George R. Ward was a village merchant, a grocer, whose store was a long-standing fixture on Main Street. Advertisements and directories detailed the crockery, paints, oils, glass and “plated goods” available for sale from the 1860s through the early 1880s. Ward’s success afforded him a grand home and servant for himself, wife, Marion and son, Albert, but it wasn’t his only business venture.

Ward was perhaps better known for the remodeling and expansion of his business venue which resulted in the establishment of Ward’s Opera House, which he also managed. Before it burned, Ward’s Opera House was a center for village entertainment. It occupied the third floor of Ward’s building on the west side of Main Street near the corner of Erie Street and boasted seating for 650 people at prices ranging from ten to thirty cents each. As “proprietor” of this venue, Ward was responsible for attracting and booking entertainment such as musicals, plays, dramatic readings and speakers, although one newspaper ad reminded residents of a poultry exhibit to be held there. The New York Daily Mirror, in 1884, reported that the “Amateur Opera Company” of Brockport presented The Mikado to packed houses and in February of 1903, The Medina Daily Journal advertised a touring company booked at the opera house which presented a new play each night, beginning with “The King of the Moonshiners.” Ward’s Opera House survived the death of its founder in 1889, only to be consumed by fire after the turn of the century.

Ward’s community involvement was detailed in his obituary, where it noted the musical talents put to use as “chorister” of the Presbyterian and then Episcopalian choirs. He was “President” or mayor of the village for five years and an exempt member of the “steamer company,” in other words, a non-active member of the fire department at the time of his death.

Ward’s second wife, Marion Root, was the daughter of an early farming family which we remember with the naming of Root Road. She had her own interests which were mentioned in period newspapers, such as her membership in the St. Luke’s Guild, along with the notable Mary Jane Holmes. Several years after the death of her husband, Marion Ward became Mrs. T. Henry Dewey. She had continued to live in the State Street home. Her step son, Albert P. Ward was a businessman and, like his father, ran for public office in the 1920s.

T. Henry Dewey and Marion Root Ward Dewey
Owners: early 1900s to early 1920s

T. Henry Dewey was a retired farmer from Ogden. By the early 1900s, he had married Marion Ward and moved into the State Street house. He became a justice of the peace and was an active member and president of the Monroe County Agricultural Society, which at this time was headquartered in Brockport. Although identified as a Republican, he apparently served in no elected positions. Dewey died in 1917 and was buried in Ogden.

Once again widowed, Marion Dewey continued to live in her home with her niece Marion Hart, who listed her occupation on the 1920 Federal Census as a servant in a private home; presumably meaning the home in which she was living. Marion Dewey passed away the following year and was buried next to her husband, George R. Ward, in Beach Ridge Cemetery.

This history of 52 State Street as an owner occupied home apparently ends with the death of Mrs. Dewey, as the next documented residents, William and Adeline Guelph, rented the property according to the 1930 Federal Census. By 1940, there was no documentation of the property at all in the census and for good reason. It was no longer a residence.

The Fowler Funeral Home
Owners: 1930s to 1990s

With its purchase by the Fowler family, 52 State Street became a business and is, in fact, part of the business district today; its long history as a family home apparently over. The Fowler family, beginning with Arthur W. Fowler, has been associated with the funeral business for several generations. Arthur owned a Main Street furniture and “undertaking” business. Customs changed, however, and the combined business evolved into the modern funeral home, where friends and families remembered the departed in large, elegant settings, not their family homes. Thus the home at 52 State Street was repurposed to serve many community members, those who could have afforded to live there and those who could only have dreamed to take up residence in one of Brockport’s most historic homes.

Epilogue 2012
After being used as a funeral home for many decades, the Fowler family built a new place of business just outside the village. The house was sold and for a short time used as business offices but it now sits empty. The elaborate cupola, a signature architectural element of the house, appears today in imminent danger of toppling and the extensive exterior trim has seen better days, as well. The back yard was paved to provide parking for the funeral home customers many decades ago and gives no hint of what it used to look like.

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