A Brief History of Brockport, New York 1979
by David G. Hale
"Brockport is a college town - a University College town - on the flat lands under the wind off Lake Ontario where the spring snow drifts. It is also a town where poets are ... "
In 1979, as Brockport celebrated its sesquicentennial, the main threads of its history continued. Agriculture, transportation, industry, commerce and education were all parts of the village's life. The most substantial change is in the village's population, an estimated 10,000 - including 3,800 college students living on campus. The population is not only larger but more heterogeneous. This is shown in the great variety of religious, service, and social organizations that the village claimed.
Brockport remains the center of a productive agricultural area. Farms outside the village raise a wide variety of crops such as applies, cherries, corn, cabbage and onions. The leading industrial employers of the time included the Brockport Plant of General Electric's Housewares Division - celebrating it's thirtieth year - with about 900 workers employed there. Another 600 jobs were provided by the factory of Owens-Illinois' Glass Container 4 Division, which started operations in 1961.
Business continued to thrive on Main Street. Brockport was served by two weekly newspapers, two advertising weeklies and a commercial radio station - WWBK.
Each day thousands of people come to Brockport to work, shop, or study; thousands more travel east to their jobs in Rochester. The development of our highway system always seems to lag behind the needs of the community. Though improved recently, downtown parking remains barely adequate at best. The trolley is long gone; limited bus service is provided by Greyhound and RTS; Conrail brings only a few freight trains a day through the village. The canal, the original reason for Brockport's existence, is now used almost exclusively for recreational boating; the canal is slowly evolving into a state park.
Built in 1951, Lakeside Memorial Hospital provided area-wide health care. Brockport, Clarkson, and Sweden formed a joint Recreation Commission which sponsored a wide variety of activities. In 1978 the Seymour Library was re-chartered so that representatives of Clarkson and Sweden are on the board, recognizing both the readers and financial support which comes from these towns. The Brockport Fire Department, by contract, protects Sweden and Clarkson. In half a century the Central School had grown to a complex of 4 buildings with about 4,000 students and a faculty of 215. The school's many athletic, musical, and dramatic programs provide enjoyment for both the students and the community at large.
Perhaps the greatest changes at the time were at the college. After several changes of name and mission, the Normal School became the State University of New York College at Brockport. The college enjoyed an increasing national reputation for the quality of its faculty and curriculum. Recreational and cultural activities range from the Brockport Symphony to Spring-In, the noisy successor to Color Day. Physically, the college saw the replacement of the old Normal School building with the present Hartwell Hall in 1938. In the 1960's the campus began expanding westward crossing Kenyon Street, obliterating Millard Street, and finally crossing Redman Road. In August, 1979, the College at Brockport hosted the 5th International Summer Special Olympics with participants from 36 countries.
In 1979 the village government had about 90 full and part-time employees. A budget of $2,412,000 was partially supported by a tax rate of $37.00 per thousand. The sewage treatment plant closed in 1973 when the village was connected to the Pure Waters interceptor line. By contrast, the voters rejected a 1965 plan to subject downtown to urban renewal, thus preserving much of the charm of the nineteenth-century commercial buildings. A 1974 proposal to consolidate the village and town was never put to a vote. In an echo of past controversies, the trustees amended the zoning ordinance to limit increased sales of alcoholic beverages.
Village Board of Trustees - 1979
The Brockport Fire Department's centennial celebration was in 1977, and the 150th birthday of the three oldest churches in 1977-78. In a break with tradition, the trustees established a Brockport Sesquicentennial Commission, under the leadership of Village Historian Emily Knapp and Trustee Harold Wren, to coordinate the many events of 1979.
For more information contact:
Village Historian of Brockport
Jacqueline M. Morris