Preserve America Community:
Brockport, New York
The Village of Brockport (population 10,000) is a quaint Victorian community that developed as a port on the Erie Canal. Hiel Brockway, a Connecticut-born builder, had moved to the town of Sweden in 1817 and began purchasing land, much of which later became Brockport, said to be a shortened form of "Brockway's Port."
Brockport became a village around 1820 when the Erie Canal was laid out, was incorporated in 1829, and grew rapidly as industries developed to use the new waterway. After the Civil War, Brockport shared the Nation's growth and prosperity, serving as the center of a productive agricultural area with facilities for shipping produce by railroad and canal.
Brockport was also home to two large manufacturers of agricultural implements. The commercial blocks on Main Street and many homes reflected the architecture and prosperity of the times. When the New York Central Railroad replaced the canal for human travel, some of the village's activity shifted south to the area of the tracks, where hotels were built near the depot.
The social center of the village was Ward's Opera House, an elegant structure on Main Street next to the National Bank, where Buffalo Bill Cody once appeared. In 1965 citizens rejected a plan to subject downtown to urban renewal, thus preserving much of the charm of the 19th-century commercial buildings.
In 1979, when Brockport celebrated its sesquicentennial, agriculture, transportation, industry, commerce and education all remained parts of the village's life. The most substantial change has been in the village's population, which now includes 3,800 college students living on the State University of New York campus.
Today, Brockport, 16 miles west of Rochester, preserves a small-town atmosphere with easy access to a large city. The village has partnered with private property owners in a façade improvement program in the historic commercial district, a large Victorian area listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Brockport has received a Community Development Block Grant and applied for a New York Main Street Renovation funding to continue providing matching funding for restoration. This is part of a long-term effort to turn around a declining local economy by revitalizing, preserving, and promoting the village center and canal front. These efforts tie in to New York State's revitalization of the Erie Canal and the recent establishment of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.
To foster the growth of tourism, Brockport's Historic Preservation Board has published walking and driving tour guides, and a local group called "Walk! Bike! Brockport" encourages residents and visitors to enjoy the historical resources of the area. An annual "Olde Northampton Heritage Day" coordinates open houses by seven local museums and historical societies.
For more information
Village of Brockport History: www.brockportny.org/html/history
Western Monroe Historical Society/Morgan-Manning House: wmhs.home.att.net
Erie Canalway National Heritage Area: www.nps.gov/erie
Updated April 30, 2009