From the Historian: The General of West Avenue

Bill Poray

Alfred and Juliet Reynolds lived in New York City when their son John was born in 1830. The family moved to Webster in 1839 and, 10 years later, to Rochester. John Reynolds worked with his father in a successful grocery and provisions business while also serving as captain of a militia group known as the Rochester Union Grays. At the start of the Civil War, Reynolds and the Greys offered their services as an artillery company. During his esteemed military career, Reynolds served in many important campaigns and was elevated to the rank of colonel.

After the war, Reynolds worked for many years in partnership with the Brooks family of Rochester in the manufacture of shoes and boots. He served as postmaster for the city of Rochester and involved himself in numerous community affairs. After many active years of public service and business endeavors, Reynolds and his wife retired to Canandaigua.

In 1908, five years after the passing of his wife, the 78-year-old Gen. Reynolds moved from Canandaigua to a grand home in Fairport. The Monroe County Mail announced his purchase: “Col. John A. Reynolds, of Canandaigua, has bought the Seeley property, corner of West Avenue and West Street, and will take possession April 1st. This is one of the most desirable pieces of property in Fairport. The sale was made by John Dixon, who, while looking after the sales of first-class properties, has in mind the securing of desirable residents for Fairport.”

John A. Reynolds held the rank of colonel when mustered out of the service. The rank of general came later, and was in reference to his role as commander of the George H. Thomas Post of the Grand Army of the Republic in Rochester, a position he held for more than 45 years. The GAR was a fraternal organization of Union Army veterans, founded in 1866 and dissolved 90 years later after the death of Albert Woolson (1850-1956), its last member.

Gen. Reynolds lived in Fairport for over 12 years. His dignified mansion was a familiar gathering place for GAR veterans. Gen. Reynolds involved himself in the Fairport community as well, and was a fixture at public events and activities. In May of 1921, as reported in the Fairport Herald, friends found Reynolds seriously ill and immediately sent for the doctor, “but the general lived a brief time only after the physician’s arrival.” The doctor was his West Avenue neighbor and good friend, Charles M. Briggs.

Bill Poray is historian for the town of Perinton.

Known as the Seeley House, this large Italianate home at 84 West Ave. is a designated Fairport landmark. It was the home of Gen. Reynolds from 1908 to 1921.