Food and Drinks Businesses in Downtown Geneva

September 23rd, 2022

By John Marks, Curator of Collections

Our current exhibit on the lower level of the museum is Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: A History of Food & Drinks in Geneva. As I did research, I wondered about the history of buildings that are currently bars and restaurants. Some seemed like they were always used for that purpose, while I knew that others were not. In August I gave a downtown walking tour of the topic, and these are a few of the buildings’ stories.

Clipper Bar Seneca Street With Two 1930s Cars

Clipper Bar

In 1899 the Schnirel Building at 92 Seneca Street was Geneva’s first steel-frame tall building. In 1917, Appleton’s opened in one of the storefronts, advertising homemade candy, light lunches, and frozen desserts. Over time, it became a full-service restaurant. During World War II it offered “Continuous [musical] Entertainment ‘Til Closing,” and was a popular place for banquets and parties. The Clipper Bar co-existed in the same building in the 1940s, and lasted until 1969. Next came Bob Slattery’s Gaslight Café, then Slattery’s Old Seneca Ale Haus until 1985. Several bars and 37 years later, Eddie O’Brien’s Grille and Bar is at this address.

Many people remember 38 Seneca Street as the Home Dairy, but the building’s early history was as a dry goods store. J.N. Slocum had a store there in 1875, and Roenke & Rogers, from Penn Yan, took over in 1889. The Roenke family stayed there 40 years until they bought the neighboring J.W. Smith Dry Goods store.

Women In Bakery Window

Home Dairy

In 1929 Home Dairy moved to this address from 88 Seneca Street. The façade was updated with a large window and faux stonework, which has changed little. Home Dairy was known for its food and baked goods. Adults remember their parents or grandparents taking them there as a treat. It stayed as a cafeteria and bakery until the early 1980s. It was Mary Ann’s Queen Size Fashions in the 1980s and 1990s, before becoming  Wylie J’s bar in 1999. It has been a bar ever since.

The 486 Exchange Street storefront has a long food and drink history. In 1895 Dan Deegan opened The Alahambra, which was possibly Geneva’s first sports bar. (You can read a three-part blog about Dan Deegan) The décor reflected Deegan’s love of all sports, especially boxing. Known later as Dan Deegan’s, the café featured imported and domestic cigars, draft beer, and liquor.

Color Postcard Exchange Street At Night Dan Deegan's Sign

Exchange Street at Night

In 1921, the café became the White House Bakery. Following businesses were the A&P, Peters Ice Cream, and Jones Restaurant. Kay Perry’s restaurant had the longest stay from 1969 to 1982, and it was Leo’s Diner in the 1990s. Climbing Bines Wood Fired is the latest 21st-century restaurant at 486 Exchange.

Linden Street was once active with businesses on both sides of the street. There were lawyers, insurance agents, barbers, and shoe repair and shoeshine stores. There was a tailor, furrier, and jeweler at different time periods. The Geneva Optical Works were in the center of the block. After the Wheat Building burned in 1966 – it extended from Seneca Street halfway down Linden Street – most of the stores and offices were on the west side of the street.

People Inside Microclimate Wine Bar February 2020

Microclimate Wine Bar, February 2020

The first restaurant on the block was the New Delhi Restaurant in the 1980s, now FLX Provisions wine and food store . Next was the Flour Petal Café in the 1990s, now Rusty Pig. Around 2010, James Elkin bought 38 Linden Street and spent time thinking about what to use the building for. Microclimate Wine Bar opened in 2012; after a pandemic pause, it’s open again under new owners. With the Hog Wallow Tavern, Linden Social Club, FLX Table, The Speakeasy at Vinifera, and FLX Fry Bird, Linden Street has become a downtown center for dining and drinks.


6 responses to “Food and Drinks Businesses in Downtown Geneva”

  1. Donald Woodrow says:

    Is there any physical evidence of the Rochester and Eastern Rapid Railway Company found in Geneva?

    1. Anne Dealy says:

      There are no physical remnants of the railway in the city of Geneva. There is a railway station in Victor and there may be some structures in other areas of the county. I believe Ontario County Historian Preston Pierce mentioned this in the program he did for us in 2021, which we recorded and can be found here with our Digital Collection material.

    2. McNerney says:

      Wasn’t the electric trolley called the Interurban ? There was a electric trolley that ran from Rochester to Border City. They establish a hotel there named for the company.

    3. Anne Dealy says:

      There were two trolley lines in Geneva. The Rochester and Eastern Railway was an electric rail line that terminated at Geneva. However, passengers could connect to the Geneva, Waterloo, Seneca Falls, & Cayuga Lake Traction Company line that went to Cayuga Lake Park. I am not aware of a hotel, but my guess is that it would be on that line. Seneca County Historian Walt Gable has written an article about many of the railways and trolley lines connecting the communities. You can download it here.

  2. Pam Theisen says:

    Can you tell me if there was ever a restaurant maybe called Cattle Company. It was in the 1980’s and I think it was on the corner of 2nd and 38.
    Thank you

    1. Anne Dealy says:

      I think you are looking for Geneva, Illinois. This post is about Geneva, NY.

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