Remembering an airfield along Marsh Rd
I have become a recent recipient of a tremendously informative booklet regarding the Harmon-Brizee Airfield which was located on Marsh Road where we now find the housing development of Landmark Estates. It must be difficult for those residents on Landmark Lane and Kitty Hawk drive to imagine runways and hangars and planes prior to their homes and trees and lawns!
The precise date of the establishment of the Brizee-Harmon Airport has not been precisely determined but it is found on the 1929 Rand-McNally Map of New York State. According to one report, the airfield was in operation during the 1920's and was opened by Warren Brizee. Mr. Brizee had learned to fly during World War I. Roy Harmon, the son-in-law of Mr. Brizee owned and managed the airport the majority of the time it was in operation. Roy Harmon had learned to fly about the same time as his father-in-law.
The field was described as a commercial field and was said to measure 3,300' x 1,500' or about 86 acres of an L-shaped sand field. It was said to have three runways and a hangar clearly marked "Brizee Field" on the roof. The office was originally a lean-to built on to the west side of the hangar. In later years this was used for parts storage and a parachute rigging loft. A former hot dog stand became the airport office in 1937.
According to this booklet and a separate reference, Roy Harmon was a high school teacher in Rochester. He would teach school during school hours and operate the airport in the late afternoon, evenings and weekends. During the times when he could not be on site, some of Mr. Harmon's friends would manage the airport for him. A Mr. John Bailey filled this position until the late 1930's. At that time there was a flying club based at the field and Roy Harmon provided the instructors for the club.
There were trees located along Marsh Road which bordered the west side of the airport and after a "close call" with an airplane flipping over, Roy became very safety conscious and would insist that only careful and seasoned pilots use the filed. As a result of that stipulation, there were very few accidents at the airport. One of these was in 1960 when as a result of a late "go around" after a bounced landing, this Taylorcraft ended up in a tree! There were no injuries.
Roy Harmon had attended Cornell and had studied agriculture. He put his knowledge to good use by growing fruit and vegetables between the runways and sold them to anyone who wanted some fresh corn, asparagus or peaches. Maple trees along the road were tapped in the early spring and maple syrup was produced and sold as well.
The airport was quite busy during the 1950's and early 1960's. By this time Mr. Harmon had retired from teaching and was at the airport full time. He did flight instruction and for a time was a designated pilot examiner. Also he was one of the few parachute riggers and packed quite a few parachutes.
By 1960, Pittsford was experiencing a great deal of growth and vacant land was being sought for new houses. Across Marsh Road was Monroe Golf Club and immediately north was White Haven Cemetery that was expanding. Roy was approached by a developer to whom he sold the land and the airport closed in 1965.
Mr. Bailey remarked that Brizee was an airport that was a fun, enjoyable place to fly and there was a lot of activity in its history. This is a pleasant memory for many longtime residents and perhaps a surprise to more recent ones.