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85 State Street

85 State Street

85 State Street
Brockport, NY

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

Calvin and Mary Ann Woodbridge Walker
Owners: circa 1840 to early 1870s

Calvin and Mary Walker were both New England natives who married and lived in Brockport early in its history. She descended from an illustrious family of successful attorneys and soldiers and his family had equally early colonial roots. There was a significant age difference between them of more than twenty-five years, which might be suggestive of an early marriage on Calvin’s part.

Nothing is known about their social contributions to Brockport but Calvin was obviously a successful “lumber merchant.” In addition to their elegant home, they employed a “free colored person between 10 and 24” years of age according to their 1840 Federal Census record. By the 1860 census, Calvin’s occupation was “Gentleman,” meaning he was retired from business.

Calvin died in 1861 at the age of 85 and Mary Ann died in 1870 at age 74. Both are buried in the Brockport Cemetery. A village map of 1872 shows “Mrs. Walker” as the owner of this home, meaning perhaps, it was owned by her estate.

John and Emily Shay Owens
Owners: early 1870s to 1920

John Owens was an Irish immigrant who, in many ways, lived every immigrant’s dream. By the end of his life in 1920, he owned a successful retail grocery business bearing his name and lived in an elegant house staffed by servants. He was a trustee of the Brockport Electric Company, a member and officer of the Harrison Hose Company, a charter member of the Brockport Business Men’s Association and a member of the Nativity Church. His daughter, Mary, was a book keeper and his son was a partner in his business, which lasted over six decades.

After Emily Owens died in 1897, John continued to live in the family home along with his daughter, Mary, his son, John and John’s family. The 1920 Federal Census gives a hint of tragedy in the Owens family, for John’s son had no occupation. He had suffered a stroke in 1913, resulting in paralysis from which he never recovered. John S. died barely a year after his father. He and other family members are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Brockport.

Mary F. Owens
Owner: 1920 to mid-1920s

Mary inherited the family home after her father’s death but didn’t live there or own it for long. The home, however, remained part of the Owens’ extended family. By 1927, Mary’s cousin, Nathaniel Owens Lester, owned the family home and Mary was living with her widowed sister, Emma Lester, at 45 State Street.

Nathaniel Owens and Helen Conway Lester
Owners: mid 1920s to 1960

“Nat O.” and Helen Lester lived in the Owens home until it was sold to their son, Nat O., Jr. and wife in 1960. Nat O. was the first of three generations bearing his name and following his occupation as an attorney in Brockport, so distinguishing the accomplishments of each generation is difficult. Each “Nat O.” has contributed to the village through a lifetime of professional and community involvement in civic, athletic and religious organizations.

The first Nat O. was a private practice attorney, WWI veteran and Village of Brockport attorney. He helped form the “Big Hearted Brockport Fund” in 1927, which provided assistance to village residents in need.

Helen Lester died in 1941; her husband in 1983. Both are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Brockport.

Nathaniel Owens and Joan Peers Lester
Owners: 1960 to 2003

Nat O. “Buddy” Lester, Jr. followed in his father’s profession and continued the family connection with 85 State Street until it was sold as part of his estate. As a young man, he was involved in athletics and continued his interest in sports organizations and community sport venues for the remainder of his life. After graduating from law school, he joined his father to form the law firm Lester & Lester. He served in the army during WWII. A Brockport Central School and Town of Sweden attorney, he entered politics as a Republican candidate and served as both Town of Sweden Supervisor and Monroe County Legislator. Add to these many other religious, civic, athletic and political accomplishments to understand the scope of his lifelong efforts which benefitted this community.

Nat O. “Buddy” Lester, Jr. and his family ended the incredible saga of continuous family ownership at 85 State Street, which lasted over 130 years!

Epilogue 2012
As with so many village homes built long ago, the original house lot was subdivided and homes were built on those parcels. With the demise of the Gordon lumber yard and the removal of railroad tracks running behind State Street homes, the back yard of this and the neighboring houses gained access to the Erie Canal, giving the properties desirable water access. While the large barn that once stood at the back of the property is long gone, the house itself remains a historical family home of distinction.

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