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Former Gillette Factory

Location: 32 Miller Street, Cortland NY 13045
(42.610744, -76.185307)

In 1905, the handsome young Chester Gillette found himself working in the stock room of his uncle’s factory. Even though his uncle Horace Gillette had expressly stated that Chester was not allowed to wander from the stock room for any reason, Chester found every excuse to do just that. The Gillette Skirt Factory floor was filled with lovely seamstresses, a temptation Chester found too titillating to resist.

It was during one of these unapproved social liaisons that 25-year-old Chester discovered Grace “Billy” Brown in the receiving and stock rooms, cutting fine silk. Instantly, Chester found himself smitten with the demure, 5-foot, brown-haired beauty. Grace, who had only just recently found herself living all alone at the age of 20, was far away from the family she knew and loved. Vulnerable and naive, she found his charms irresistible.

By the summer of 1906, Grace and Chester could be seen most evenings, walking arm and arm, promenading their love through downtown Cortland. In the beginning, Chester was entirely enamored with Grace, often referring to her by her family pet name, Billy. They regularly exchanged love letters, especially during Grace’s return visits home to her family in South Otselic. During one such extended visit home, Chester sent her this doting letter…

I am glad to hear you are having such a fine time because you won’t be lonesome as I am… You don’t know how lonesome it is now, with less work for me to do, and nothing to do evenings. Last night I rode to Little York, and then went to bed. Sunday was the dullest day I have known in a long time…Sunday I went to church three times (!), something I haven’t done in a long time. I went to bed about nine, but laid awake for nearly two hours thinking of everything, principally you… Hurry back as you don’t know how lonesome it is here.

With Love, Chester