Baldwinsville History Mystery: Oct. 4, 2017
Question: Obviously this is a photo of a train crossing a bridge. What do you know about the railroad line and where the bridge was located? It did not last very long — what was the reason for its demise?
Last week’s answer: While researching the house from the last History Mystery, not surprisingly, some new facts were turned up. First is that the house as mentioned in last week’s question is located on Belgium Road and not East Genesee Street. Secondly, when given a map dated 1920 from the town assessor’s office, it was learned that the area encompassing Lincoln Avenue, East Genesee Street, Phillip’s Street and north of Parkway Drive was known as Genesee Park. The north side of Parkway Drive was proposed to be developed with two other streets heading north: McKinley Avenue and Garfield Avenue.
A newspaper article from the Gazette dated 1916 was titled “Today is Opening Day in Genesee Park.” It stated that there would be 136 lots laid out, 40 of which front on Phillips Street. The developer, Mr. Leonard Austin, had 750 feet frontage on Oneida Street and more than 1.000 feet on East Genesee Street. The sales slogan of “Only $1 down buys any lot” attracted the attention of those who were looking for large lots, as many of them were 200 to 220 feet deep.
This desirable property was sold on the exceptionally easy term of 50 cents a week and was advertised as giving the purchaser a chance to plant his garden or set out fruit and thus having the lot actually pay for itself.
The new park had frontage of some 100 feet on East Genesee Street, and because of its elevation the advertisement said that it gave a commanding view of all the surrounding territory. This park, called “Genesee Park,” was to be later laid out and planted to lilacs, hydrangeas and other ornamental flowering shrubs, and being on the improved highway leading from Baldwinsville to Belgium, which was much traveled by automobiles, it was felt that it would attract attention because of its location.
Further advertisement said that “The Parkway” was so called because it had a park 10 feet wide its entire length, extending from Phillips Street easterly to Lincoln Avenue, with a double driveway. It was 70 feet wide. This was also to be planted to ornamental shrubbery. Because of its unique layout it was felt that it would surely prove popular with those who like originality in design.
Reader Carol Curtis recognized the map right away:
“The History Mystery question of the map this week in the messenger was called the Austin Tract,” she wrote in an email. “We own the property that is called the Genesee Park. Our property borders Lincoln Avenue and Belgium Road (Route 31). My husband and I have lived here for 48 years.”
Reader Dominic Carfagna had more to add on the property:
“This was the original grand concept for the Parkway, but it never did materialize,” Carfagna said. “Right now Garfield Avenue and McKinley Avenue do not exist.”
Back to the house from the last History Mystery. As stated in that answer, it is currently the home of Ann Zahn Gates. It was built in 1920 by her father, Albert Zahn. He must have been one of those who felt that Mr. Austin’s “Genesee Park” was a good deal and thus was one of the buyers.
Another tidbit — an article dated April 21, 1921 was titled “Sportsmen’s Club Organized Here.” The article begins: “The Baldwinsville Rod and Gun Club was organized here last week and judging from the enthusiasm displayed by the officers of the organization it bids fair to become one of the live wires of the village. The club already has about 50 member and more are being added daily.”
Additionally it stated that a shooting range has been secured and property equipped on the Austin track, known as Genesee Park. It also talked about trap shooting, stocking the area with pheasants and the Seneca River with bass, pike and pickerel.
About the pheasants — wonder if this is the beginning of our becoming the “Pheasant Dog Capital of the World”?
Contact Editor Sarah Hall at email@example.com or leave a message at 434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by 5 p.m. Friday (please leave the information in the message; we are not generally able to return calls regarding History Mystery responses). If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo, your name and guess will appear in next week’s Messenger, along with another History Mystery feature. History Mystery is a joint project of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse and the Baldwinsville Public Library.