Checking out the history of the Webster Public Library 

Webster Public Library: The Webster Public Library, located in Webster Plaza, as it looks today. photo: Missy Rosenberry

The Webster Public Library has long been an invaluable community asset. So it’s hard to imagine there was a time when Webster had no library at all. 

According to Webster Through the Years by Esther Dunn (1971), the first Webster library was established in 1881 by a group called the Literary Society. Mary Jane Phillips kept the books in her home on Main St. in the village, just west of what is now the Cobblestone on Main restaurant. Society members, who paid $1.20 annual dues, were the only ones who could check out books.

Between 1881 and 1889, the library moved twice, first to a storefront on West Main Street, and then to 11 South Ave., in the building now occupied by B3 Beauty. 

Soon afterwards, community support for a town library waned. In 1894, the library was disbanded, and for almost the next 30 years, Webster had no library at all

Then, in 1923, the Monroe County Traveling Library was established. It traveled to 222 stops about every six weeks. In Webster, the principal stations were at Dewitt and Bay roads, Vosburg and Lake roads, Forest Lawn, Nine Mile Point, Union Hill, Hard and Ridge roads, West Webster, and all the schools.

Finally, in 1929 the first Webster public library was officially established at the new Webster High School (now Spry Middle School). It had 657 books, 265 borrowers and a circulation of 6,246. 

The library has moved several times since those early days, first to the Reitz Building on West Main, then to Webster Town Hall, and finally to its current location in Webster Plaza. It’s also grown – a lot. Today, the Webster Public Library has more than 260,000 items in its collection, 34,000 borrowers, and circulates about 334,000 items a year. 

Spry Middle School: The first Webster public library was established in the new high school (now Spry Middle School) in 1929.  photo: Missy Rosenberry

The Webster Museum, located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at for more about Webster’s history. 

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

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Each drawer in the old card catalog at the Webster Museum holds a small historical surprise. (M. Rosenberry)

Do you remember library card catalogs?

Before the days of computers and electronic catalog records, these bulky wooden cabinets held individual cards for every book in the library’s collection. To find the book you wanted, you had to find the right drawer and flip through the cards. 

One of those classic card catalogs has been creatively repurposed at the Webster Museum, to the delight of visiting children and adults alike. It was donated to the museum several years ago by Spry Middle School, and has found a new life as a kind of surprise cabinet.  

Each of the cabinet’s 25 drawers now holds a different historical curiosity. They’re all very small items, of course, and run the gamut from jewelry and household objects to toys and personal grooming items. 

The cabinet has become a regular stop on school tours of the museum, and the children enjoy taking turns pulling open a drawer and examining the tiny objects inside. (Most adults are rather fascinated as well.) 

Next time you’re at the museum, discover for yourself how much history has been packed into those very small drawers.

The museum, located at 18 Lapham Park, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at for more historical tidbits about our town’s schools and teachers.

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

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The Rowdy Hallowe’en Celebration of 1939

NOW that Hallowe’en is over and the Hallowe’en celebration in Webster is in the background, one can take a retrospective view of the event and pass judgment upon it.

Several have called at the Herald office and declared that as a result of the rowdyism that took place on that evening, they would not lend further support to the Hallowe’en entertainment.

We feel that such supporters are taking a wrong view of the Hallowe’en entertainment. The entertainment was either a success or a failure regardless of what rowdyism took place. The question is whether the expense and work in connection with an entertainment which provided amusement for a large number of children as well as a good number of adults was justified. Did the fact so many did enjoy it prove it was worth while or did it prove otherwise? That is what the program must be judged by and not from any acts committed by some of Webster’s young men.

There are six churches in the Village of Webster and several in nearby sections. If the influence of these several churches was insufficiant to curb the rowdyism that our young men participated in on that night, is it not rather unreasonable to expect the evening’s entertainment to do just that. No, that aspect of the affair should not enter into the decision to commend or condemn the Hallowe’en celebration. It should be judged on merits other than that.

From page three of the November 17, 1939 edition of the Webster Herald.


Anyone who’s ever walked or driven down Corning Park in the Village of Webster probably hasn’t noticed anything unusual about the houses on that peaceful little street. However, two of those houses, which stand across the street from one another, do have a curious history: in the early 1900s, they used to be one house. 

Around 1859, a spacious boarding house was built at 71 Corning Park, to serve students from the adjacent Webster Academy. The Academy and boarding house were discontinued in 1876 when the Union Free School was established, and for the next 50 years, 71 Corning Park remained a two-family dwelling. In 1928 it was purchased by George Witmer and Amos Taylor, who divided it into two units. The larger portion remained at 71 Corning Park, and the smaller north wing was moved across the street to 76 Corning Park. 

Unfortunately, no photos of the original boarding house have ever been found, but the two, now separate residences, still exist on Corning Park. Additions and renovations have changed their appearance significantly from when they were one house in the early 1900s. But if you look carefully and use your imagination, maybe you can picture what they looked like together. 

Discover more interesting historical tidbits at the Webster Museum, 18 Lapham Park, open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at to learn more. 

71 Corning Park, photo by Missy Rosenberry
76 Corning Park, photo by Missy Rosenberry

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

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One of Webster’s earliest schools, the District No. 7 school on Schlegel Rd., circa 1846.

In honor of the first week of school and our hard-working teachers, this month’s history bit takes us back to a time when school was held for all grades in one room heated by a wood stove, writing was done on slates, and the “drinking fountain” was a metal pail and cup. 

The first school recorded within the township of Webster was a log cabin at the corner of Salt and State roads in 1813. In those days the school year was typically divided into summer and winter terms. Usually a woman would teach girls and young children in the summer, and a man would teach the older boys in the winter after they were released from farm work. 

It was a tough job with some pretty strict rules – and not just with regards to classroom management.

Consider this list of Rules for Teachers from 1872:  

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils. 
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. 
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books. 
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed. 
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from his pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society. 
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves. 

See the list for yourself at the Webster Museum, where it’s posted just outside the museum’s classroom, which emulates how an actual one-room schoolhouse might have looked in the early 1900s.

The museum, located at 18 Lapham Park, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at for more historical tidbits about our town’s schools and teachers.

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at:
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Hooked on Ribbon Candy

Webster was hooked on Steve Papapanu’s ribbon candy. His chocolate Easter eggs, homemade ice cream, and taffy were popular items too.

From 1908 until 1973, the Papapanu family ran the popular Candy Kitchen in the village of Webster, serving sandwiches, plates, sundaes, and a diverse selection of handmade chocolates and candies.

Steve Papapanu came to the United States from Greece when he was 12 years old, and began running the Candy Kitchen following his military service during World War I. His daughter, Mary grew up in the apartment above the Candy Kitchen and eventually took ownership of the business with her husband Chris Pantas.

Following a devastating fire that closed the Candy Kitchen, the family continued to make specialty candy products from their home and sold them through Utz’s Bakery until about 1979.

Another Greek family with a long history in the candy business continues to make ribbon candy by hand. The Andrianos family runs Hercules Candies in Syracuse, NY and has a number of popular videos online demonstrating how small batch candy is made.

Mary Pantas from a 2019 “History and a Cup”, sharing stories of her family and the family candy business. Mary talks about her dad’s ribbon candy around the 27 minute mark.

The crew at Hercules Candy of Syracuse, NY, making a batch of Chocolate Filled Ribbon Candy.

The copper kettle used by the Papapanu family to make a variety of candies. (On display at the Webster Museum.)
A taffy hook used in the preparation of ribbon candy. (On display at the Webster Museum.)

Hercules Candies of Syracuse, NY:

The Original Candy Kitchen of Williamson, NY:

Romance, 14580

Passion and romance. Words you wouldn’t be surprised to see together in a sentence. The passion I speak of though is the passion to write!

Despite the naysayers, the rejection letters, and the slim compensation, there are some amongst us that simply can’t imagine their lives without the creative outlet of pen to paper, or fingertip to key.

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s a group of successfully published authors met regularly at the Greece Public Library for mutual support and to share their latest chapters. Two of the group’s authors, Audrey Pike Johnson and Virginia Kester Smiley, were both Webster residents. Virginia lived on Webster Road not far from Mill Creek Run. She was an avid collector with many hobbies, who had close to 30 of her works published. Audrey was a widow who lived on Fuller Avenue in the village and had at least 6 published books. Both were passionate writers most of their lives, but it was as grandmothers they found their greatest professional success.

While their passion for writing drove them, the subjects they wrote about were driven more by pragmatism. Authors may dream of writing the “Great American Novel”, but practicality often leads them to more accessible markets like “genre” romance novels. Gothic romance and nurse romance were both popular genres at the time.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we currently have a selection of books written by Webster women on display at the museum. When not on display, they can be found on the shelves of the museum library.

Virginia Kester Smiley: Good Reads
Audrey Pike Johnson: Good Reads

Why Van Ingen Drive?

While out playing Pokemon Go, heading to Ridge Park or maybe the library, you may have noticed a small metallic green street sign along Hard Road directing drivers to “Van Ingen Drive”.

Those too young to remember, might ask “Who is this Van Ingen?”

The street is named for Judge Jack Van Ingen who was Webster’s Town Justice for many years. In fact, the court building the road leads to is also named in his honor. You could say the street name also honors Van Ingen’s wife Virginia, as she was at his side during the many weddings he officiated.

Below are two short Associated Press (AP) stories involving Judge Van Ingen that were published in numerous newspapers across the country. The first from 1959, the second from 1961.

No Room for Love on Rt. 104

ROCHESTER (AP) – “There’s no room for love on Route 104.”

That’s what Peace Justice Jack Van Ingen of suburban Webster told motorist John Francis Payment, 18 after Payment’s arrest for driving while his girl friend was sitting on his lap. State Trooper Ralph Wulff charged that Payment and the girl each had a hand on the wheel.

Payment was specifically charged with allowing a passenger to interfere with his control of the vehicle. He was fined $10.

Safety Lesson

WEBSTER, NY (AP) – After Webster Peace Justice Jack Van Ingen sentenced 21 speeders he invited them to watch a demonstration of the distances needed to stop while traveling at various speeds. Oscar, a sawdust-filled dummy was thrown onto a road in front of a car driven by an officer. At 60 mph, it took 253 feet to stop the car.

Patty Orsini’s 1982 article from the Webster Herald tells the Van Ingen story well.

A 1936 Webster High School Yearbook photo of Jack Van Ingen

Webster’s marryin’ judge”

By Patty Orsini
Webster Herald, Wednesday April 7, 1982

Perhaps best known for his prolific work in performing civil marriage ceremonies, Webster Town Justice Jack Van Ingen has done more in his 25 years of service to Webster than uniting thousands of couples.

The ceremonies, however, are just as important as the court aspects I of his elected position. His civil ceremonies are a great source of pride to the 63 year-old judge; and the subject of his best stories.

“Grooms faint more than brides,” says Van Ingen, who, as town justice, performs the majority of the ceremonies in his own home, although He has been known to go from boats to vans to make the weddings the most remembered day of the couples’ lives.

“I had one groom faint three times. I keep smelling salts right here,” he says, pointing to his breast pocket, I finally had to take him out to the porch for air and married him there.”

Van Ingen is being honored this week by his fellow Websterites as the longest serving Democratic official in the county.

He is not a lawyer, but he has had an interest in the law since his work with black ministers for ‘the improvement of conditions of the migrant camps around Rochester in the 1950’s.

Success in his work with the camps led to work with the motor vehicle traffic and safety laws. He was one of the first town justices to speak out for uniform traffic laws between the states.

“It was very different in the early 60’s,” he recalls. “The laws were completely different from state to state, and very confusing for drivers.” His campaign was highlighted by an invitation by then President Dwight Eisenhower to speak at a convention in Florida concerning traffic laws.

He began town service in 1955 as a member of the Planning Board, then in 1957 was elected to the town board and, as it was called then, Justice of the Peace (the title was changed in 1967 to Town Justice).

Throughout his years as town‘ justice he was employed at Kodak, as a development scientist. His work there included developing products for which he holds numerous patents, most recently in the
field of ultrasonic energy. In fact, his 25 years as town justice coincides with his retirement after 45 years with Kodak.

I left February 12 to take six weeks of vacation time, and decided not to go back,” he says, laughing: “It’s the best decision I could have made, both mentally and physically.

“I think I was suffering from burnout,” he admits. “Now, I’m as busy as I ever was, but l’m doing things I want to” do.”

One thing he will be doing is performing more weddings. “It’s never the same thing twice, “that’s Why I enjoy it so much,” he says. He credits his wife, Virginia, for handling the creative aspects of the ceremonies.

She is never far behind when be performs a ceremony — taping the service, greeting the guests, making sure everything is the way the couple wants it.

She is also the reference he refers to most often when he needs to know a name, date, or place. “Ginny wasn’t that…” or Ginny, how many…” is a common response when talking to Van Ingen.

Van Ingen also has some ideas about how he wants to run his court, because, although he has retired from work, he does not plan to retire from public service.

He has received one of the highest ratings from the Justice Court Committee of the Monroe County Bar Association for the efficient way he runs his court.

Van Ingen has witnessed the growth of Webster through the growth in the number of court cases he has handled. In 1957, he says he had about 30 criminal cases and 300 traffic violations. In 1981, he had 2,909 traffic violations and more than 500 criminal cases.

“Things have changed a lot in this town,” he says. “The manner in which criminal acts occur are much more violent than they were 25. years ago. They are more vicious than a straightforward punch in front of a bar.”

The nature of the job has also changed—- from a hands-on, counseling profession to strictly interpreting the law.

“We used to deal a lot with families in the criminal cases,” he says. “Now judges stay strictly in the courtroom. I think it’s the right change. Now there are more agencies that have experience in dealing with problems.”

One of the only things that hasn’t changed about he job is the hours. He still gets calls late at night from the police department requesting immediate arraignments. “I used to sleep well before I took this job,” he says

“But,he’s never grouchy,” adds Virginia, who has been sitting at his side while he speaks. “He may be tired, but I’ve never seen him angry about ‘being woken up,”

“Actually, once I’m up it’s not bad,” he says.

“I just take my time and enjoy the ride to the courtroom. They play the best music at night on the radio anyway.”

The “marryin’ judge” has been at his job for 25 years, longer than any other judge in the county, but that does not mean he has become set in his way of doing‘ things.

“Part of me is always thinking about development. That was my job at Kodak-— trying to find ways to do things better in everything I do, whether it’s weddings or law, I try to find ways to do it

Jack Van Ingen continued as Webster Town Justice until 1987. He and wife Virginia eventually retired to the town of Greece. Jack died in 2002 at the age of 84. Virginia was with us until 2019 and the age of 100.

Bass family history

Webster Museum volunteers have scoured available online resources for information about Asa Bass and his family. We think this family may have been the first black residents of what is now Webster.

Asa (1792-1872) was born in Vermont, was a pioneer who came here in 1812 and bought at different times three different properties between the northern sections of what are now Phillips Road and Route 250.  Among his neighbors were the Foster and Wright families.

Asa and his wife Matilda Fuller Bass (1790-1866) had at least two children, Jane Bass Gould (1820-1891) and Chester Bass (1824-1873).  Jane married Charles Gould and they had three children:  Anna, Nelson and Elijah.
Chester married Sarah Gracen and they had at least one child, Francis Bass Vond. One of Asa’s nephews, Asa Boyd, lived with the family for many years.

We have many facts but few stories about Asa and his farm and family lives. We’re hoping to hear from relatives of people who may have been friends or neighbors as well as descendants of this family.

Any information, even the smallest clue, would be greatly appreciated. Please send to Kathy at

Susan B. Anthony’s Visit

Susan B. Anthony mentioned her speaking tour visits to Webster and West Webster in her 1873 day planner.

Thanks to the Library of Congress and our intrepid researchers, you can see what she wrote. It’s not too late to enter our drawing for a Susan B. Anthony Barbie doll. Simply visit our membership page and become a member. (Renewals are welcome too!)

View Susan B. Anthony’s day planner on the Library of Congress website.