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Village Green or Commons?

On summer days we can be grateful for the shade of a beautiful tree. Back when East Rush was developing, our forefathers had the foresight to create a place in the hamlet where people could find shade. It was a gathering place. This place still exists. You go past it, but you may not have given it much thought. This beautiful but small green space with trees was once known as the Village Green or Commons. Those enjoying a pizza on the patio of Montesano’s appreciate it for the shade and bit of a buffer from the traffic noise. The trees add beauty to the landscape no matter what the season. It is the location of the Rush Bicentennial clock, placed there in 2018. The addition of flower beds has added to its appeal. These are planted and maintained by a dedicated group of townspeople of the Beautification Committee's Summer Garden Project




Looking at a current map[1], the Commons is clearly defined by the intersections of Rt 15A and Park Lane.


Village Greens or Commons have a long history in New England towns. It is no wonder that the land for the Commons was donated by one of the Wadsworths who came from Hartford Connecticut. William (1761-1833) and James (1768-1844) came to the Genesee Valley in 1790, they acted as land agents for their uncle, Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth. The brothers were influential in the development of the region.[2] Traditionally, homes were built around the Commons as were meeting houses, hotels, taverns and churches. Looking at maps and pictures from the late 1800s and 1900s, you can see that this is true for Rush. I still hear people refer to the Creekside as “the hotel”. In that location there had been a hotel since 1891. Back then it was a long carriage ride from Rush to anywhere. Most hamlets had at least a small inn. What remains today are a church and two restaurants. In the 1850s, the First Methodist Episcopal Church was first located on the Commons, but the congregation rebuilt at another location after a fire in 1892. At one time there were 2 churches, 4 businesses, post office, library, town hall, barber shop, meeting room, theater, gas station and hotel that included a restaurant. The Price House and Kinsey Store were social gathering places making the hamlet a lively place both day and night.


Photos provided by Rush Town Historian. Click v to see details.

1. Kinsey store next to grocery store next to Price House later known as Rush Hotel.

2. Bock's Grocery store and Rush Hotel.

3. St. Joseph's Church with commons in foreground.

4. Home of Ray and Lucy Bock at 6101 East Henrietta Road.

5. Park Lane home of Norman Sherman.

George Lonthair opened his barbershop in 1902. It closed its doors in 1957. It was first located on the second floor of Bock’s Grocery Store and then on the first floor of the Red & White. The Sherman family built a home on Park Lane . It was convenient for them to go to work once they moved their store from north of the creek to the Kinsey building on the other side of the Commons. In my reading, many commons were surrounded by the homes of the most prominent citizens. Although there are several nice homes in the area, there are also more modest ones. The homes that are there now were built by the families of Davis, Thomas, Darrohn, Lyday, Jeffords, and Sherman.[3]

It is not apparent when the land for the Commons was first set aside, but from maps it appears to have been there from early on. The Commons is not marked on a map from 1858. However, the setback of the homes from East Henrietta Road can be seen. Shown below, the Beers' Atlas from 1872 does not show a setback, but shows the section of the road from the bridge over Honeoye Creek to the intersection of Rt 15A and Rush West Rush Road and Rush Lima Road as being more than twice the width of other roads in the area.



It may have been the result of a movement documented in 1869 of Village Improvement Societies[4], that sparked an interest to improve the land. It may have been the new railroad depot in 1892 that gave the townspeople the impetus to beautify the town. Work began in 1897 to transform the Commons into a park. As you can see from the photographs, many trees were planted. Note the name of one of those who dedicated time and effort to this project is the same as the owner of a house on the Commons, James Congdon



The original land donated by Wadsworth ran the distance between the creek and Rush Lima Road. When the railroad came through in 1871 it cut off the section next to the creek. The Rush Mill was located there until in burned in 1941. This wedge-shaped land is part of the Veterans Memorial Park. It was dedicated in 1964. The mill stone was set and holds a bronze plaque in memory of those who served. There is a gazebo which is a favorite spot for wedding photos. The park was rededicated in 2018 when a new memorial was created.


The following in an excerpt from the book Rush in Retrospect by Bessie Hallock, Rush Town Historian from 1944 until 1968.

“ The Common” The land for the common in Rush is said to have originally been given by the Wadsworth family and at the time, went to the Honeoye Creek. This changed with the coming of the railroad. Until 1897 a road ran down the center of the common. In May of that year a meeting was held “in the interest of park improvement.” …. The plan was for a park 345 feet long and 70 feet wide at the south end and 50 feet wide at the north. Some pledged $35, at the meeting in cash and others $84 in labor. John H. Behnk and his brother furnished road and scraper. Trees were set out and in time the park was ready for band concerts and other events. The trees grew and gave much pleasure over the years.”


The Rush Hometown Days began in 1983 and was held at the Commons for years. Park Lane was closed to traffic and booths were set up in the Commons and along the road. The event outgrew the space. After many years of change, Rush now hosts a large Fall Festival at the Firemen’s Field. But the event retains that hometown feel of neighbor greeting neighbor with the opportunity to share in the simple pleasures of a rural small town.


Further reading


You can read about founding members in the Rush Bicentennial Book. Available for purchase at the Rush Public Library. The Local History Section of the library has a number of books written by local authors including current Rush Town Historian Susan Bittner Mee and former Rush Town Historians Bessie A. Hallock and Jeanne M. Yawman.

Images of America-Rush by Susan Bittner Mee

Rush in Retrospect by Bessie A. Hallock

Your Folks and Mine by Bessie A. Hallock

The Road to Yesterday by Jeanne M. Yawman

History Remembered by Jeanne M. Yawman

 

Notes


[1] 2017 Rush Hamlet Charrette Report, Village Green, Community Design Center Rochester, September 2017. (This is available at the Rush Public Library and the Rush town website.)

[2] Courtesy of Livingston County Historian’s Office, New York. Wadsworth Family. https://www.livingstoncounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/11709/Wadsworth-Family-Finding-Aid?bidId=

[3] Town of Rush Bicentennial Commemorative History 1818-2018, (Rush, NY: Town of Rush, 2018)

[4] If you would like to read more about the Village Improvement Societies, see this article written by Susan Fenimore Cooper, the daughter of James Fenimore Cooper. https://jfcoopersociety.org/SUSAN/VILLAGE.HTML

[5] House numbers have been used to identify locations of buildings. However, house numbers were not in common use in Rush until sometime after 1940.

Rush Hotel now where Rush Creekside Inn is located at 6071 East Henrietta Rd.

Bock’s Supermarket building is 6075 East Henrietta Road.

Red & White in the Kinsey’s Store building is 6081 East Henrietta Road.

Montesano’s Italiano Kitchen at 2 Park Lane is in a building of the former Rush Oil Company.

Works Cited


In addition to materials published by past Rush historians and local authors, the following resources were consulted.


Andrews Kent, Louise and Griffin, Arthur. Village Greens of New England, New York: M. Barrows & Company Inc., 1948.

Beers, Frederick W. Atlas of Monroe County, New York. New York: F.W. Beers & Co., 1872.

Lathrop, J.M. and Co., Plat Book of Monroe County, New York. Philadelphia, PA: Lathrop & Co., 1902.


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