BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
It all started with a phone call from our “boss,” Sentinel publisher Chris Carosa asking, “Do you know Tim Kalb?” Our “yes” answer stemmed from a few unique angles. Tim had actually done some work on our house a few years ago, but the more unusual connection actually goes back decades. When Tim Kalb’s family moved from Honeoye Falls to Victor, he became one of only a few people who Tim counseled at the Mendon-HF Summer Rec Program and also taught at Victor High School.
So what was the purpose of Chris’s call? Tim Kalb had been called in by the Town of Mendon to apply his stone mason skills to repair the cobblestone structure, topped by an anvil, which sits at the Route 251 entrance to the Mendon Farms subdivision which is located just east of the 4-corners of the hamlet. Regarding the repair work, Mendon Town Supervisor John Moffitt told us that, “After doing research we determined it belonged to the town because it was in a town road and there was no easement.” In terms of keeping things local, if you’re looking for some quality stone work reach out to Tim Kalb.
Chris thought the structure, and the anvil that sits atop it, might be worthy of a jaunt through local history so we said, “Boss, we’re on it.” We did some digging and here’s what we found. Things started with a September 12, 1974 article from the Honeoye Falls Times which Supervisor Moffitt had sent to Chris. The significant core of the article read like this…
Mendon Farms, a new community consisting of 81 custom-designed homes, was officially opened on September 12 in a unique unveiling ceremony. Mendon Town Supervisor Squire Kingston unveiled a large steel anvil (the symbol of the new development) mounted atop a cobblestone base and a hand-carved sign. The entrance was designed by William J. Young of Lima: the anvil was carved and welded by Rochester artist Al Wilson. Both men participated in the ceremony.
Pictured in the article are the former owners of the property, identified as the Barbens, who were presented with a miniature version of the anvil as part of the ceremony. So that name sent us in our next direction as it is also the name of our neighbors, and primary summer vegetable suppliers, Cindy and Dan Barben, who live down the road from us on West Bloomfield Road.
They own and operate the historic farm on that road which features the vegetable stand located on the west side of the road, about a quarter mile from Route 251. We immediately felt there was probably some kind of family connection, but it was a Saturday night so we couldn’t just bop around the corner to ask them.
We did, however, shoot out an email to Mendon Town Historian Diane Ham to see if she could confirm the connection. Diane clearly works long hours and seven days a week because within a matter of minutes she had responded with confirmation and some historical notes on the Barben property. So the next day, that Sunday afternoon, we were bound for the Barben farm to see what they could add to this local tale.
For the record, the Barben farm is on both the State and National Registry of Historic Places and boasts a long and proud local history. Dan’s grandfather Gottleib Barben purchased the 80-acre parcel in 1906. It was passed on to Dan’s father Fred in 1945 and then to Dan in 1992.
We found Dan and Cindy working on their Halloween display which is as “Fall Festive” as you can get. It’s worth a trip there just to take that in and their selection of pumpkins and gourds cannot be topped. At any rate, the Barbens told us they would provide some family research on the property history and, oh by the way, they still have the anvil presented to Dan’s parents at the 1974 ceremony! (see picture)
Turns out that, “Dan’s father bought and sold all sorts of property in the Mendon area over the years.” He thought his father bought that property in 1957 or ’58 and “They used to grow cabbage plants in that field. They used to have wild asparagus up by the water tower.” The topic sparked some childhood memories for Dan who remembered “learning to plow on an International Harvester 400 with an Oliver plow for the first time there. That was the big set up back then.”
Thus concludes our historic neighborhood connecting the dots between how Mendon farms became Mendon Farms.