A Wonderful Nucleus

When College at Brockport anthropology student Danielle Maerlender was cataloguing the Mary Jane Holmes’ Room, she found an envelope that had been donated to the collection anonymously by a Brockport resident sometime after the 1950s.

The note on the envelope reads:

“Seal of Mary Jane Holmes, author. Her home was in Brockport and I was there when her household things were for sale–The house was opened the previous day for people and some of us went. I (thief) took this from the attic. Seal of Mary J. Holmes”

In a January 1, 1953 Brockport Republic article, Historians Helen and Harold Dobson wrote of this sale, which had happened some time in 1952, while at the same time lamenting the dismantling of the Mary Jane Holmes residence:

“There is no telling what might have happened, if we of the older generation, had had the foresight to preserve for future generations, as a museum, or library or community center, the beautiful old home, with its statuary, paintings, gardens, the beautiful stained glass window of Gretchen–one of Mrs. Holmes heroines, etc. Instead there was an auction of the priceless treasures, which were scattered among art lovers throughout the country.”

While Mary Jane Holmes’ home at 21 College Street has become a rental property, some of her belongings, like the “seal,” which College at Brockport Professor Dr. Alicia Kerfoot hypothesizes is actually similar to a pill/snuff box, but is very likely a stamp box, have found their way back to the Emily Knapp Museum.

The article, left, a bit unfocused, continues on to tour the home of Mary Jane Holmes, before further regretting that the home was not preserved as “a wonderful nucleus” for the town.

The Emily L. Knapp Museum & Library of Local History is now serving as the closest thing to a historical nucleus of Mary Jane Holmes’ history, with a complete set of Mary Jane Holmes’ Victorian novels, furniture items, and ephemera.








Published by Emily L Knapp Museum

The Emily L. Knapp Museum is a municipal museum associated with the Village of Brockport. The museum is located on the second and third floors in the former home of one of Brockport’s most prominent families, the Seymours, while the first floor contains the Village of Brockport offices. Those who visit Brockport’s collection of local history will feel they’ve entered a time when the Erie Canal was the bustling commercial center of this Victorian village: when ladies wore high-laced shoes and skirts that scraped the slate sidewalks, and the gentlemen sported tall silk hats; when phonographs and stereopticon views as well as novels by our famed authoress, Mary Jane Holmes, entertained the masses. Don’t take our word for it, see for yourself.

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