In 1894 Brown Brothers Company bought land from Steven Corwin, a well known nurseryman. Charles J. Brown had learned the nursery business as a young man employed at the Glen Brothers nursery. (3)
C.J. Brown operated the Brown Brothers Continental Nursery, which specialized in fruit and ornamental trees. It was a family business which included his brother Robert and sister Mary Jane, and later his sons Leland and Donald. (4) The nursery employed many people, had branches in Chicago and in Toronto, and had a reputation for providing quality stock. It also specialized in residential landscaping, a new concept to the nursery industry of the time.
The attractive white office building with its many columns, housed 13 different nursery offices in the vicinity of Dorchester Road and Ramsey Park. (5) Nearby was an 80 foot by 214 foot stone warehouse for cold storage for nursery stock. Adjacent packing houses provided an additional 12,000 square feet. (6)
C.J. Brown lived in a large house at the southeast corner of Winton Road and Corwin Road (the former Steven Corwin house). His parents, John Skelton Brown and Ester Cowles Brown, and his sister, Mary Jane (Minnie J.), lived in another large house at the northeast corner of Winton Road and Corwin Road. Eventually his children built homes in the area: Margaret Brown Kaelber at 480 Winton Road; Leland Brown at 65 Windemere Road; Donald Brown at 401 Beresford Road. (7)
By 1914 C.J. Brown had decided to subdivide his nursery property by forming the Browncroft Realty Corporation with himself as president and his son-in-law, George J. Kaelber, as secretary-treasurer. Mr. Brown allocated 300 acres of his property to the development of residential lots in an area encompassing the present Browncroft Boulevard (south side only), Corwin Road, Windemere Road, Dorchester Road, Gramercy Park, Ramsey Park, Newcastle Road, Yarmouth Road and Beresford Road. These English street names reflect Mr. Brown’s background as his family came from the Isle of Man.
C.J. Brown constructed streets and cement sidewalks (replacing the plank sidewalks on Winton Road), installed sewer and utility lines, and magnificently landscaped the parkways. The "centerpiece" of the development was Browncroft Park, which was south of C.J. Brown’s home in the block bounded by Winton Road, Dorchester Road, Ramsey Park, and Corwin Road.
The park had a duck pond with a fountain, a beautiful rose garden, picturesque foot bridges, a tennis court, a summer house and a 25 foot dovecote (pigeon house) (8) housing Chinese pheasants, Pouter pigeons, peacocks and other decorative birds. (9) Neighbors strolled along the winding gravel path admiring the ducks and black and white swans. The pond was fed by Thomas Creek which originated in Willow Pond on East Avenue west of Winton Road. The creek crossed Winton Road at Browncroft Park, and continued north into Palmer’s Glen on Irondequoit Bay. C.J. Brown had created the pond on a bow in the creek.
C.J. Brown’s dream was to establish a completely planned and developed tract that would be a showplace. Landscaping was especially stressed. On the parkways there were elaborate plantings of lilac, magnolia, wisteria, and roses, as well as spruce, elm and maple trees. New homeowners were encouraged to further landscape their residences to enhance the park-like atmosphere of the area.
In an effort to guarantee That the subdivision would be the best of its kind, C.J. Brown placed restrictive covenants on the land. Houses had to be a minimum 50 or 60 feet from the front lot line and five feet from the adjoining properties. No double houses, Boston flats, apartment houses or any buildings of a commercial nature could be built. Minimum standards were set for the quality and style of the houses, with modified Colonial or Georgian styles preferred. Recommended colors were gray and white with brick houses providing a pleasing contrast. The Browncroft Reality Corporation recommended an architect to review and assist in the preparation of the building plans of prospective homeowners. (10)
Sites were indicated in the plans for churches to serve the residents. C.J. Brown also set aside land at the corner of Newcastle Road and Dorchester Road for the erection of a school which he knew would be needed by families moving into the area. The City’s hesitation and delay in the construction of a new school led C.J. Brown to make a donation of the site in an effort to speed up the project. In recognition of the donation, the City proposed that the new school, when built should be named after Mr. Brown. He declined, expressing his belief that it would e preferable to maintain the then existing policy of naming schools after well-known Rochester pioneers. (11)
In 1932 School #46, the Charles Carroll School, was opened for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Within two years the seventh and eighth grade rooms were completed and there was now no longer a need for children of the area to attend School #28 on Humboldt Street. It was and still is not only the community school but a vital part of the Browncroft Neighborhood.
Life In The New Subdivision
The area was served by trolleys using Main Street, Winton Road, and Blossom Road. There was also a private bus company, run by the Browns, that was very successful because it provided faster service between Browncroft and the center of the city than did the trolleys. (12)
Another service provided for the residents by the Reality Company was a night watchman - who walked the neighborhood until 11 P.M. each evening, checking to make sure the houses, as well as the businesses on Winton Road, were secure.
The Browns had the sidewalks plowed in winter and the parkways mowed in summer. They also maintained the Rose Garden at the intersection of Browncroft Boulevard and Merchants Road, and were involved with planting the first roses there. After John Charlton’s death in 1918, the site of the Rose Garden was given to the City by his family for use as a park.
Browncroft was widely known during its early years for its Christmas light displays. The Browns hired the Laube Electric Company to string colored lights in their large evergreens near the corner of Winton Road and Corwin Road, while individual householders put colored lights in their trees and shrubbery. (13) Within a short time the display of outdoor Christmas lighting had become so extensive that, according to Mrs. Norma Kleiner, the area was "just like a fairyland." In 1923, this Christmas display attracted so many people from all over the area that an estimated 10,000 cars and many pedestrians passed through the neighborhood. (14) As is true with all popular attractions, this interest had its less pleasant aspects -particularly traffic jams. Police officers had to be brought in to direct traffic but little could be done to ease the problems experienced by Browncroft residents in trying to get into or out of their own driveways.