Government, at all levels, is charged with both managing the present day while looking to provide a more promising future. However, I firmly believe that in order to enjoy the present day and imagine a brighter future, we must never forget and always appreciate our past.
I have always had an affinity for history and the important role it should play in our present-day lives. As an aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, I was tasked with helping develop the Path Through History initiative, which promotes New York’s many heritage tourism assets. Since becoming town supervisor, my affection for Irondequoit’s own history has only grown, and I have enjoyed regular trips next door to our library full of many volumes articulating our own heritage.
Irondequoit’s story is certainly an underdog tale. Our town was once known as a northern wilderness, where swampland and large boulders brought from Canada by the glaciers gave the impression of the area having little value. In fact, Irondequoit was once a part of the town of Brighton, who effectively gave up the land in 1839 without a fight and allowed us to form our own town.
By the end of the 19th century, however, the land that no one wanted had been transformed into some of the most valuable farmland in upstate New York, known specifically for its rich melons, but also its apples, peaches and even its vineyards. Yes, we once had a robust wine industry in Irondequoit.
New modes of transportation allowed Rochester’s urban core to take advantage of Irondequoit’s greatest natural asset — our beautiful waterfront. Rail and trolley lines transported weekend tourists to one of many destinations, including the Newport House, Bay View, Glen Haven and Sea Breeze. This caused Irondequoit to be referred to as the Coney Island of western New York.
I love our town’s history, so much that I sometimes refer to myself as the deputy town historian. In reality, no one can compare with our actual historian, Pat Wayne, who has done a terrific job for years. I encourage residents to visit the historian page on our website or read “Irondequoit Story,” which outlines every inch of Irondequoit’s history up until the mid-20th century and can be found at the library or read online through a simple internet search.
Indeed, the present day is paramount and one eye should always be on the future. However, a small primer in Irondequoit’s history will certainly enhance your love for our town, appreciate who we are today and foster excitement about our future.