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LOOKING BACK: A historical look at Geneva’s Brook Street

We view modern neighborhoods through several factors: current real estate prices, conditions of surrounding properties and personal knowledge or perceptions. It can be enlightening to look at neighborhoods in their original context and learn more about how they were developed. Today we look at Brook and North Brook streets on the northwest side of Geneva.

Geneva was settled around and near the Seneca Lake waterfront. By 1870, houses were still within five blocks from the lake. Land to the west and north of the settled neighborhoods was owned by nursery companies. In addition to land for growing their trees and shrubs these companies also needed property for hot houses, packing sheds and offices.

By 1870 T.C. Maxwell & Brothers was one of the larger Geneva nurseries. They owned much of the land west of North Main Street and on both sides of Castle Street, bordering the W. & T. Smith nurseries. The Maxwells had their homes and work buildings on the north side of Castle Street. Oak Street was just a dotted line of a proposed street.

In the late 1880s the Maxwells shifted from selling nursery stock to raising fruit crops. As they needed less land they began selling off lots for development. Brook Street was created between High and Castle streets in the early 1890s. Its first appearance in the 1894 village directory listed five houses. The owners seemed to be skilled working class: two masons, a street commissioner, a clerk and an optical worker. In 1893 the Geneva Optical Company (later Standard Optical) had built a new factory on Lyceum Street. Employees purchased homes on Brook Street to be a few blocks away from their workplace.

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