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.

Wendy Mills visits the museum


One of those peculiar tools from long ago whose purpose is long forgotten.

The Silver Swan

While we do have swans in the Irondequoit Bay, it would be a dramatic stretch to connect an 18th century automatonic swan to Webster in any way….but as its really cool, so we thought we’d share it here.

Created in 1773 by John Joseph Merlin (1735–1803) and James Cox (1723–1800), the silver swan has been located at the Bowes Museum in Teesdale, England since 1892. When an internal clockwork mechanism is wound, a music box plays, glass rods rotate giving the illusion of flowing water, and the silver swan turns its head from side to side.

The Silver Swan | John Merlin

More: The Hermitage Peacock

Lu Ann Simms

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On a warm Sunday afternoon in October of 1961, a bridal shower was held at the Stage Coach Inn in Webster, NY. Likely not the first or last such event held at the inn, but this one was special. This was a bridal shower for the future wife of Casper Stolt, whose older brother Tony owned the Stage Coach Inn. And as it happens, the bride to be, Lu Ann Simms was a popular singer and household name through her many appearances on Arthur Godfrey’s radio and television programs.

Though Casper and Lu Ann had known each other since childhood, their path to marriage was a long and bittersweet one.

Both were from families who immigrated from Italy. Lu Ann’s birth name was Lucille Ann Ciminelli but she changed it for “stage and screen”. Casper’s entire family changed their last name from Di Giamberardino to Stolt.

Lu Ann grew up in the city of Rochester, went to Our Lady of Mercy High School and worked at Morrie Silver’s record shop before landing a spot on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. Godfrey was at the height of his success in the early 1950’s, and produced multiple radio and television programs. Lu Ann was hired to appear regularly on all of them. From 1952 to 1955, she appeared on 8 separate radio and television broadcasts a week.

Casper grew up in Fairport, played sports in high school, served in the military, and worked in the beverage industry. If Casper had had any dreams of marrying Lu Ann, they likely were forgotten when she married a record executive named Loring Buzzell in 1954.

Unfortunately after the birth of her first child in 1955, Simms was fired by Godfrey. She was one of many fired by Godfrey for no explainable reason. His pension for dismissing popular stars soon led to a huge decline in viewership and the end of many of his programs.

Simm’s career problems soon seemed trivial when her 32 year old husband Loring died of a heart attack in 1959.

With the help of family and friends Lu Ann regrouped and on October 15, 1961 became Mrs. Lu Ann Stolt. The couple and Lu Ann’s two children with Loring, soon moved to Los Angeles but things never really went as planned. Casper and Lu Ann divorced in 1968.

Both remained in California and largely out of the public eye. Lu Ann died in 2003 at the age of 71. Her grave marker reads “Loved Ice Cream & Dodgers”. Casper married Gloria Mescia, a fellow New Yorker of Italian descent in 1973. He died in 1998 at the age of 68.


Puppy Love 1952

LA LA LU – LU ANN SIMMS; Mitch Miller and his Orchestra – 1955

La La Lu 1955

More of Lu Ann’s Recordings

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 ktaddeo5@icloud.com.

Le Parfum de Rochester

Le Perfum de Rochester

Lilac could easily be considered the fragrance of Rochester…but for many years a variety of scents filled the Flower City air via a perfume factory on Capron Street.

In 1856, Chauncey B Woodworth, an Irondequoit farmer and saw mill owner, purchased of all things, a fledgling perfume business. With the help of his sons, Woodworth soon turned the unique enterprise into a thriving family business. By the turn of the century their “imperishable perfumes, triple extracts and toilet preparations” were known well beyond the Rochester city limits.

The company’s product line continued to grow through the 1920’s. One of their most significant products were their face powders that were sold in attractive custom made metal tins.

After establishing a presence in Europe, the company caught the attention Pierre and Paul Wertheimer who owned the french perfume house Bourjois as well as the perfume lines of Chanel. In 1929 the Wertheimer’s purchased Woodworth’s and merged their operations into Bourjois. For the next 45 years Bourjois would manufacture products for the American market in their Rochester facility.

One of their best known perfumes produced in Rochester was Evening in Paris which was a fragrance created by Ernest Beaux, the creator of Chanel No. 5.

Sadly, in 1974 during a period of reorganization in the perfume and cosmetics industry, the Rochester facility was closed. In 1975 the Bourjois factory on Capron St. was torn down and is today a parking lot.

Some have said the air on summer nights near the old factory location still possesses the aroma of an evening in Paris.

Further reading:

The Story of C B Woodworth Perfumer
Woodworth & Sons
History of Bourjois
Cosmetic History Timeline

Tumblety: Fact and Fiction

The truth of history takes great research.

Francis Tumblety circa 1870

How amazing would it be if the perpetrator of one of histories most notorious and unsolved crimes, was someone with a significant local connection?

Though 130 years have past since “Jack the Ripper” lurked in the shadows of London’s East End, his crimes are still widely known and have inspired numerous books, movies and theories.

One man on many lists of “Jack the Ripper” suspects is Francis Tumblety, a flamboyant herb doctor who grew up in Rochester, NY and is today buried at Rochester’s Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Francis Tumblety was someone who courted attention. He often dressed in an unusual manner and spent considerable sums of money running large advertisements for his medical practice in the major newspapers of the cities he traveled to. The advertisements brought him great riches, but also the attention of those who were immune to his charms.

Much of Tumblety’s adult life was spent outside of Rochester. He seldom stayed in one place for too long, possibly in part to avoid the complications that often arose from his medical practices and his relationships with men.

In 1888, when the crimes of Jack the Ripper were occurring, Tumblety was in London and in trouble with the law. With his mounting legal problems, Tumblety fled the country under an alias, returning to the states through France.

About that time American newspapers ran lengthy stories on Tumblety, featuring “evidence” of his questionable character, his hatred of women, and the possibility that he was indeed, “Jack the Ripper”.

View Democrat and Chronicle article from 1888.

Prince of Quacks

Thankfully in 2009, author and researcher, Timothy B. Riordan’s book Prince of Quacks: The Notorious Life of Dr. Francis Tumblety, Charlatan and Jack the Ripper Suspect was published.

Over the years numerous books and television programs have selectively chosen facts (and helped popularize some fiction) to create an almost certain profile of the Whitechapel serial killer.

Riordan’s extensive research shows that many of the most damning claims made against Dr. Tumblety come from a single source (one Colonel Dunham), who was not known for his honesty.

While it’s highly unlikely that Tumblety was in anyway involved in the Ripper murders, he certainly led a most interesting life.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879.

On one of Dr. Tumblety’s visits to England, he was fortunate enough to bump in to another gentleman very familiar with Rochester, NY…Frederick Douglass. Whilst Tumblety was something of a braggart, it was not he, but Douglass that wrote of their meeting in a letter to close friend Amy Kirby Post. Tumblety had told Douglass he knew Post and members of her family.

He told me much about himself in a very brief space, for he seemed to have more tongues than ears. I could not get a word in anywhere and you know I am too much in love with my own voice to like being suppressed and overtalked in that way, but enough of Dr. Tomblety. he seemed a good fellow after all.

from a letter of Frederick Douglass to Amy Kirby Post, June 10, 1887

Before Calling

Before calling the museum, kindly acquaint yourself with this nifty video.

More than the price is right

William Shatner for Loblaws

Canadian actor and Star Trek Captain, William Shatner did comercials for popular Canadian grocery store chain, Loblaws. Loblaws had several stores in New York until the early 70’s, including one in downtown Rochester.

Mark Hamill for Marsh’s

Not only Star Trek actors do grocery store commercials. During the late 80’s, Mark Hamill did ads for grocery store chains in California and Ohio.

Mark Hamill for Kodak

Alec Baldwin talks about his mom.

A very valid reason not to leave Western New York…Wegmans.