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Wayne Post
  • Historically Speaking — A peek at Palmyra’s past

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  • The year is 1856, 20 to 30 years before most of the houses on the south west side of Cuyler Street were built and before there was a Charlotte Avenue. As we head to the north toward E. Jackson there were no houses in the empty grove. The first building was an old ice house built in 1856 made of old wood and an eye sore to the location. Major George Cuyler made great issue with this unsightly building as it was nearly across the street from his fine house. Finally it was torn down much to the relief of the residents on the east side of south Cuyler Street. We are beginning on South Cuyler Street at the corner of what we know as Charlotte today. Back in this day there was no Charlotte Avenue. First the property was called “Hathaway Grove”, a beautiful Maple grove owned in the early days by Solomon Hathaway. His granddaughter, Charlotte Jenner Birdsall owned this old farm and thus the name of Charlotte Avenue was taken and a new street was built. The house built on the corner of Charlotte and Cuyler was built on a vacant lot and owned by Honorable F. W. Griffith in 1891. There were a few houses built from the 1880’s to the 1890’s having such owners as Ziegler, Leach and Winston the last house in this row of beautiful homes was in 1897 built for Mr. Hopkins with a large carriage house in back. This was a summer home for Mr. Hopkins who spent his winters in Florida and summers in Palmyra. In 1920 Mr. Mitchell purchased this place using it as a rental property where Chief Henry Hilborn lived for a few years. Many of us know it as the Allen house.
    We are finally heading to the house of Mr. Charles Bowman who purchased this land in 1870 at the far north end of Hathaway Grove where he had a beautiful house built in 1871. Although the ice house was the first building on the west side of south Cuyler, this home built by Charles Bowman was the first home built here. The parents of Charles were William H and Lucy Lakey Bowman. The Bowman’s owned a grocery and drug store on East Main St.
    Now the great stories and memories of this unique street often noted as the prettiest street in the Village because of the beautiful Maple trees that dot the yards are remembered only in history. Gone is the old ice house and gone is one of its famous workers Mr. Congo Grayson who was a freed slave who made his life in Palmyra and lived to 108 years. Congo cut wood in this very area and would help with the erection of the ice house. Gone is the Hathaway Golf Course and “Hathaway Grove”. And, gone is the circus lot entrance at the far north end of “Hathaway Grove” that served as a the stage for the famous circuses that visited Palmyra and kept her residents entertained. P. T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth arrived by train with elephants, clowns, lions, and tigers heading up East Main Street turning on Cuyler Street to the entrance on south Cuyler Street. The crowds cheered as the circus came to town. I have never seen a circus train or a circus parade except in the photograph collection of Sibyl Phelps. One of the questions that I ask as you also may wonder is why this event was not held at the Fair Grounds but nevertheless “ Hathaway Grove” was its stage.
    Page 2 of 2 - Gone is E. B. Grandin at the end of Cuyler Street and gone is Major William Howe and George Cuyler as well as F. W. Griffith. Gone are Mr. Clapp, Walker, Durfee, Goldsmith, Zieglar and Charlotte Jenner Birdsall. But, today we can still remember with Walker Street, Hathaway Place, William and Cuyler Streets, and Charlotte Avenue, Goldsmith Road and E. B. Grandin Press. There are still Ziegler’s and Hall’s that live on the south end of Cuyler Street which is still looking like a park setting. Enjoy the memories and come see the home from 1871 owned by Bowman, McLouth, and Hall on the Historic Palmyra Homestead Candlelight House Tour Dec. 7. Don’t forget this weekend Nov. 21 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is the holiday bazaar at the Alling Coverlet Museum. Come enjoy lunch, friends and good times. Call 597-6981 for information or questions.

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