Emily Sibley was born in 1855 and educated in Rochester and abroad. A member of one of Rochester’s first families, she came by her love of art and her sense of community responsibility naturally. Although her father, Hiram Sibley, was best known as the founder of Western Union, he was also a philanthropist and an art collector.
During her long life, she was instrumental in founding not only the Gallery the Hochstein School of Music, named for her David Hochstein, a talented violinist who tragically died in WWI. Mrs. Watson gave the Gallery to the University of Rochester in memory of her son by her first marriage, James G. Averell, who died of typhus in 1904 at the age of twenty-six.
Mrs. Watson’s legacy has lived on through the involvement of her surviving heirs. In 1891, Emily married James Sibley Watson, son of her father’s former business partner. Their only child, James Sibley Watson, Jr., was also to become a driving force in the community and at the Gallery until his death in 1982. And his children, Michael Watson and Jeanne Quackenbush, continued to support the Gallery founded by their grandmother.