For several years, canal excursions were available on the Whipple, the Kelsey family’s large steamboat. Most likely, Harlow, who had a way with all things mechanical, kept her running smoothly. However, boating on the canal was not the primary interest of Kelsey, but rather the excitement surrounding one of the biggest innovations of the time, the horseless carriage. Some have said Kelsey was the owner of the first automobile in Perinton. Like the Whipple, his first auto was a steam-powered vehicle manufactured in Rochester. He sold it to Glenn Curtiss of Hammondsport, well known for his innovations in aviation. It was in 1902, the year before Harley-Davidson sold their first motorcycle, that Curtiss began manufacturing his own motorcycle, two of which he traded to Kelsey for his steam-powered automobile. Along with owning the first two motorcycles in Perinton, Kelsey reportedly also owned the town’s first gas-powered automobile, built by the Northern Company of Detroit.
A converted canal-side building next to the Parker Street Bridge became Harlow Kelsey’s first automotive repair garage in 1910, and soon after, he acquired a franchise of the Ford Motor Company. Within two years, the expansion of the Barge Canal forced him to relocate the business, and the Kelsey Ford dealership moved to a building adjacent to the passenger station of the New York Central Railroad. Sales documents from his first seven years totaled 129 new Fords sold by Kelsey.
Fairport’s first Ford dealer moved to yet another location in the spring of 1918. On a vacant lot at 150 N. Main St., Harlow Kelsey constructed a 40 x 60 foot masonry structure of two stories, with access by automobiles to the basement and ground floor. He christened a new slogan, “The Garage for Satisfactory Service.” Just two years later, Kelsey lost his Ford franchise to rival Albert Hupp, and promptly switched to the Overland brand. Kelsey eventually retired, and passed away in 1950. The building at 150 N. Main St. remains a useful part of the community, now 101 years old.