Grace Street is a tiny side street that started off life as Schermerhorn Street. I do not know why the names were changed, except that the news article that tipped me off on how to find out more about Grace Street had incorrect information, so that’s a reminder to always take newspaper information with a grain of salt! The article said Grace Street was named after Grace Walrad “whose father, C.P. Walrad, opened the street.” Right off the bat, I recognized Grace Walrad’s name and knew that C.P. was her husband, not her father because earlier this year I did some research on this family. Back to the stacks I went.
Grace Boies Chamberlain married her sister Sarah’s widower, Calvin P. Walrad, in 1873. Sarah had died in 1871 at the age of 31. Calvin and Sarah had one child, a boy named Alfred C., while Grace and Calvin would have two daughters named Grace and Anna. (Side note: marrying a sibling of your dead spouse was a common occurrence in the past.) This family was of particular interest to me because Grace and Calvin’s daughter Grace would become Grace McKee, a name I recognized from our files at CCHS. Grace McKee gave us some wonderful family treasures, including two schoolgirl maps drawn by her great aunt, Caroline S. Chamberlain. We had one of these maps restored by West Lake Conservators and it is as beautiful as the day it was completed!
Calvin P. Walrad was a transplant to Cortland from Montgomery County in 1835, and he was the president of Cortland Savings Bank. His obituary said that he was prominent in financial and business circles as well as religious life in the city and in philanthropic work not only in Cortland but also in the county and state. Grace and Calvin lived at 13 Lincoln Avenue and they both died at home (an also common occurrence in the past). I was unable to find property owned by the Walrads in the Schermerhorn/Grace Street vicinity, but given Calvin’s influence in the city, he must have facilitated the name change. Schermerhorn Street is on the 1888 Cortland map but not the 1855 map.
Grace Boies Chamberlain Walrad was born in Homer in 1847 to Alfred Lyon and Samantha (Boies) Chamberlain. Her mother Samantha was the daughter of Rufus Boies, one of the first trustees of the Homer Academy. Education was important to the Chamberlain and the Boies families, and Grace and her sisters were educated, as were her daughters. Grace attended the Homer Academy and Wells College. Grace Walrad’s obituary noted that she “was a woman of charming personality and traits, an individual of many warm friends and regarded in the highest esteem by all who knew her.”
There is more research to be done on the Grace and Schermerhorn streets question. The city directories indicate that both existed at the same time and eventually Schermerhorn was changed to Grace by 1916. (Calvin died in 1916, too.) Our Facebook posts often give you the beginning of the story, but there is always so much more to discover! Time is our biggest limitation when we create our posts.
Enjoy your day and take a walk out in the city and take the time to look at the beautiful details of so many of our historic houses. You will be amazed at what you miss when you are driving by! ~Tabitha