Audio Tour

Schoen Place and the Coal Tower

00:00 / 03:55

Presented by

Bob Corby

Mayor, Village of Pittsford

The west end of Schoen Place began as a lumberyard in the mid 19th century, owned by a gentleman with the initials H. H. Cronk.

 

The lumberyard was located there because it was adjacent to the railroad and the canal and materials could be shipped either way. During the late 19th century that business expanded into selling farm implements and  eventually produce. Around the turn of the century, it was sold to a farmer, a German immigrant, by the name of John Schoen, and that's where the name comes from. Many people today say "shown," in German at would actually be pronounced as "shun," but in Pittsford, it's always been known as "shane." 

Schoen Place was never a dedicated street until the late 1950s. Before that it was commonly called The Alley. It was a private drive that was not even paved until the 1950s and when the village paved it 20 years ago, there was no base there because it had never been a dedicated road. It was just a commercial drive to serve the businesses that are located there. John Schoen's business also changed. Central heating was introduced commonly in this area in the 1880s and 1890s. Most early furnaces in people's homes and businesses were heated with coal so the selling of coal became big business here in Pittsford.   It was transported from Pennsylvania on the New York Central Railroad. And then it was delivered at first by wagon, shoveled by hand, into wagons and delivered to people's homes.    Most homes had a coal chute and a bin in the basement, where the coal was delivered and had to be, originally put by hand into the furnace.

Eventually, as the business grew, the equipment changed.   The coal tower across the way, which has been rehabilitated as a restaurant today, had a conveyor on the back. Hopper cars on the railroad could dump their coal into the conveyor.

It was transported to the top of the silo, dumped in, and then, where we eat today at the coal tower restaurant, trucks drove in underneath there, - you can still see the chutes through the concrete slab - dumped the coal into the chutes, and the trucks delivered it to people's homes.

Many people were employed in the Schoen Place area in the late 19th and early 20th century. Aladdin's, the Red Barn Realtor, and the little office next to that were originally small homes for tenants that worked in the businesses in the Schoen family business. The two houses that bracket the entrance to Schoen Place on North Main Street were homes for Schoen family members.

The Schoen brothers business was sold to Ted Collins in the 1970s. And Ted was the first person to recognize the potential of this area for kind of the entertainment, retail, and niche retail that we have today. He began converting the old warehouses and barns,  to restaurants and shops.

The red home, which today houses Robert's Kitchen, was where John Schoen himself lived.The little wing on that house that has a gable - looks like a dollhouse - that was actually the office for the complex and trucks that brought produce to the business were weighed there with their produce, the produce was dumped or unpacked, and then the truck returned to that scales, which was  a hump in the road where you can actually see where the scales was. . And that's how the farmer was paid  for the load that he transported.