Albion, Oh, Albion

Neil Johnson

Albion Village Historian

No. 1298—The Behrend Subdivision

We are continuing our exploration of the fate of the William Hart farm. The north end of the farm covered the whole three quarters of a mile (3960 feet) on the south side of East Avenue from Main Street to Clarendon Road and it extended south 1100 feet along Main and Clarendon, totaling 130 acres.  The William Hart family had sold the entire frontage along South Main and this section had become the high prestige residential area of Albion as the merchants fled downtown after the Civil War.

The Harts had also sold off some of their frontage extending east on East Avenue from South Main.  The corner lot was the most expensive residential lot in Albion and was occupied by William Gere Swan, who endowed the Swan Library.  The value of the lots rapidly declined the further you moved along East Avenue.  Therefore, the Harts stopped selling frontage before they reached what is now 328 East Avenue.

When William Hart died in 1879, he left his entire farm to his only child, John Wells Hart (1836-1920).  John W. had been the mastermind behind the frontage sales, which had brought in a good income, but now he stopped selling land and concentrated on farming.  For some reason, probably to protect the farm from creditors, on 19 December 1899 John W. sold what was left of the 130 acres to his wife, Sarah Lucretia Smith Hart (1839-1917), for $10,000 (OCD 118: 564).

Sarah Hart died on January 17, 1917.  Her will left her two farms to her two daughters.  Pamelia Hart Behrend (1870-1943) received the 112 acres that was left of the William Hart farm, the farm on which she had grown up.  Grace Hart Larwood (1874-1957) received the 103-acre Russell Smith farm in Gaines, her Grandfather Russell Smith’s farm, her mother’s family home, which Sarah Hart had bought from her siblings.  John W. Hart and, I assume, the Behrends continued to live in the William Hart home (228 South Main) and farm the land until John W. died on November 10, 1920.

August Behrend (1862-1939), Pamelia Hart’s husband, was an entrepreneur who owned what had been the Hiram Curtis foundry, where the Lake Country Pennysaver (170 North Main) is now located.  I think that he and Pamelia, now owning all this potential residential land, and not too interested in farming, decided to sell off the remaining East Avenue frontage.

Therefore, they had Lynn Burrows, heir of the wealthy Burrows family, and a licensed civil engineer, lay out the “Behrend Subdivision” on the remaining East Avenue Frontage.  This plan, drawn up on October 22, 1924, envisioned a subdivision containing 92 lots, most of them 66 feet wide and 165 feet deep (the standard lot size in Albion), half of them fronting on East Avenue and half of them behind the East Avenue lots, fronting on a new east-west road to be called Behrend Avenue.

The west end of the subdivision began at about 328 East Avenue and stretched all the way to Clarendon Street.  The houses that are now along East Avenue from 328 East Avenue to Clarendon Road are all that remains of the Behrend Subdivision.

Now that the Behrends had set up their subdivision, on 19 October 1928 Pamelia Behrend sold the rest of the William Hart farm to Edwin J. Weeks of Webster (OCD 179: 240).  This was the state of affairs in 1931 when the Albion School District was forced by the state to build a new high school.

The School Board had stonewalled on a new high school for at least ten years, but now the state threatened to cut off all school aid if they did not build one immediately.  Therefore, the board hurriedly found three possible sites—the Ryan site, 20 acres on the crest of the hill on South Main (on the north part of the original 1811 Jospeh Hart farm), the 20 acre Behrend-Weeks site (on the south part of the original Jospeh Hart farm) and the 10½ acre Stockton-Smith site, where Keding’s automotive is now on East Avenue.  The first two sites were more desirable because they had enough land so that the high school could have farm fields if they added agriculture to their curriculum.

The Ryan lot would cost $$23,000 and the Behrend-Weeks, $16,200.  Stated that way, there was no question which site the voters would select on Friday, June 12, 1931.  The school bought 10 acres of the Behrend Subdivision, where the new high school (now the middle school) was built for $10,200 and ten acres of the Weeks farm, where the bus garage is now located, for $6,000.

Edwin Weeks and his family continued to live on the rest of the Hart farm until it was sold to Burt Hughson of Barre for back taxes on 20 July 1945 (OCD 210: 174).

Next week:  The remaining part of the William Hart farm is subdivided.

References Cited

OCD

1825-present  Orleans County Deeds.  Held in Orleans County Clerk’s Office, Albion, New York.

OR

1828-1960   Orleans Republican.  Albion, New York.