Ebenezer “Indian” Allen was the first settler in this area. He had obtained a grant of 100 acres at a gaping cataract on the Genesee River with the provision that he build a mill. Allen built his mill in 1789 but nobody was in a hurry to make use of it, let alone settle nearby. No one wanted to deal with the “Genesee Fever” that was almost certain to come due to the mosquitoes infesting the dismal swamp around the falls. The rattlesnakes didn’t help either. Allen had moved on by 1792.
Title for the land subsequently passed through several owners, none who did anything to develop it. Finally the property came into the hands of three Maryland men and in 1811 one of them, Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, began offering lots for sale. This time a few settlers trickled in; there was a tavern by 1815, a newspaper in 1816 and the next year the village was incorporated as Rochesterville. It was only one of eight similar settlements scattered along the final eight miles of the Genesee River’s run to Lake Ontario, and far from the most promising. Carthage had built a great bridge across the river in 1819 that drew travelers and trade but after 15 months it buckled and collapsed. And about the same time the Erie Canal was routed through Rochester, along today’s Broad Street, and that dealt a death blow to its rivals. Rochester was named the county seat of the new Monroe County in 1821, soon absorbed the surrounding communities and was off and running.
The awesome power of the Upper Falls of the Genesee had begun to be harnessed as well, most efficiently by the Brown Brothers, and Rochester was a genuine boomtown. The local mills were churning out flour in quantities that had never been seen before. Local millers were grinding upwards of 25,000 bushels of wheat daily. The first ten days the Erie Canal was open east to the Hudson, 40,000 barrels of flour floated down to Albany and New York City from the new Flour City. By 1838 Rochester was the largest flour-producing city in the world. About that time a new, less obvious, industry was sprouting in town - the seed and nursery business. It would become so prominent that Rochester was being called the Flower City even before the bulk of the flour-milling business was departing for the wheat fields of the midwest. An added benefit of the nursery business was the early development of the city parks.
With the foundation laid by flour and flowers, Rochester became one of America’s great industrial cities. George Eastman’s Kodak film and cameras and John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb’s optical products were foremost among Rochester goods but there were shoes and machine tools and horseless carriages and mail chutes as well. The population would peak in 1950 with more than 330,000 but our walking tour will begin near the site of Ebenezer Allen’s first mill when nobody wanted to live here, on the site where Hamlet Scrantom built the first house in the village, on the spot that was for more than 100 years the center of Rochester life...
1 East Main Street at Exchange Boulevard
Henry Hobson Richardson was the most celebrated American architect of the second half of the 19th century and his influences showed up on this office building, built for Samuel Wilder, Vice President of the Mechanics Bank. The rough-faced stonework, the blending of multiple materials such as pressed brickwork and terra-cotta, the broad arches and decorative turrets are all elements of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Completed in 1888, the 11-story Wilder building was a pre-cursor of the skyscrapers that were looming on the horizon and for a short time was the tallest building in Rochester, topping the Powers Building across the street. The powers that be at the Powers Building hastily added a tower to take the title back. Local architects Andrew Jackson Warner and William Brockett helmed the project and added one of America’s first mail chutes invented by contributing architect J.G. Cutler who went on to market the idea successfully with his Cutler Mail Chute Co.
FROM THE INTERSECTION OF STATE STREET/EXCHANGE BOULEVARD AND MAIN STREET, KNOWN AS THE FOUR CORNERS, WALK A HALF-BLOCK TO THE EAST ON MAIN STREET, TOWARDS THE GENESEE RIVER.
25 East Main Street
The original building on this site was a stone structure from the 1820s that bordered the Childs Basin, a large turning basin on the Erie Canal. The back wall of the current building is cut stone two feet thick and likely the back wall from that original building. Many tenants have come and gone in nearly 200 years of operation here but the most famous was escaped slave and abolition leader Frederick Douglass who published his newspaper, the North Star, from the Talman Building from 1847 through 1863. Douglass lived in Rochester until 1872 when he moved to Washington, D.C. after his house on South Avenue burned down. Arson was suspected.
16 East Main Street
Abelard Reynolds arrived in Rochester from Red Hook around 1812. In 1828 he built the city’s first significant commercial building that became a popular gathering place for business and community leaders. Reynolds was appointed the town’s first postmaster and operated out of his Reynolds Arcade. The first library was here as well and in 1856 the Western Union Company organized in the Arcade. Reynolds Arcade was replaced and updated in 1932 with this sleek 11-story Art Deco tower designed by the local firm of Gordon and Kaelber. It was faced with Indiana limestone and the stylish decorations emphasize the verticality of the project.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO THE FOUR CORNERS AND CONTINUE WALKING WEST ON MAIN STREET, AWAY FROM THE RIVER.
16 West Main Street at northwest
corner of State Street
When Daniel Powers passed at the age of 79 in 1897 his name was affixed to the tallest building in Rochester. It was not serendipity. Powers began constructing his dream building in 1865. When it was completed $392,000 later the builders had used six million pounds of iron and nine million bricks. The building utilized steel framing with a cast iron and ornamental stone façade, a revolutionary method of construction that created a fireproof building. The five-story Powers Building was the first in upstate New York to have a passenger elevator (then called a vertical railroad), gas illumination and marble floors. A French Second Empire mansard roof covered the entire block-sized building. Powers opened the largest private art gallery in the country on the fifth floor with a collection of 1,000 pieces assembled from repeated trips to Europe. Outside, Powers would not broach any challengers to his “title” of Rochester’s tallest building. Twice he responded to higher neighboring buildings by adding entire floors, not particularly concerned about matching the fenestration as he went. Finally, in 1888, he was forced to cap his building with a four-story observation tower that carried him to his final days with the tallest building in town.
50 West Main Street
Thomas Henry McInnerney did not spend much time in Rochester but this building stands as his legacy. Born in Iowa, he studied pharmacy at the University of Illinois and ran a drugstore in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893. He migrated to New York City and became general manager of the late Siegel, Cooper & Co., a large department store. In 1907 he emerged as part owner of the Duffy-McInnerney Department Store headquarterd in this corner Neoclassical building with its distinctive terra-cotta exterior - “the largest retail store in New York State out-side of New York City.” McInnerney dissolved the partnership after five years, returned to Chicago and got in the ice cream game. He parlayed his profits there into the National Dairy Products Corporation that dominated America’s cheese and dairy industry for decades.
TURN LEFT ON FITZHUGH STREET.
The Academy Building
13 South Fitzhugh Street
The prolific architect Andrew Jackson Warner turned to the Victorian Gothic style in 1872 to create the city high school; it was the fourth school building on this site which was deeded to the School District in 1831. It was the only high school in Rochester for 30 years and spent the bulk of its life as offices for the Board of Education. In the 1980s the old school was converted to office space.
St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church
17 South Fitzhugh Street
This is the oldest surviving public building in Rochester, built hard by the Erie Canal in 1824. New York architect Josiah R. Brady gave the church some of the earliest Gothic Revival elements seen anywhere in the United States, let alone the western frontier lands of upstate New York. These include two reversed-curve pointed windows and pinnacles on the central tower.
TURN LEFT ON BROAD STREET AND WALK TOWARDS THE GENESEE RIVER.
30 West Broad Street at Fitzhugh Street
In most American towns when the old, ornate 19th century City Hall got old in the tooth and too expensive to maintain it was either restored as a public building, often a museum, or given a date with the wrecking ball. Here, this five-story building of Lockport Greystone from 1873 was redeveloped as private office space after a run of public service until 1977. The three-ton bell in its tower dates to 1851 and once hung in the second County Court House dome.
Democrat and Chronicle Building
55 Exchange Boulevard at Broad Street
Frank Gannett bought his first newspaper in 1906 when he acquired a half-interest in the Elmira Gazette. In 1918 he came to Rochester and eventually purchased the Democrat and Chronicle in 1928, a paper that traces its roots to 1833 when it was called The Balance. At that time he built this sleek Art Deco plant for the paper that became the flagship of an empire that culminated in USA Today in the 1980s.
Times Square Building
45 Exchange Boulevard at Broad Street
With great anticipation the Genesee Valley Trust Company laid the cornerstone for its new headquarters on October 29, 1929. Later that day came the news of the stock market crash that sent the country spiraling into the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the 260-foot Art Deco tower designed by Voorhees, Gmelin, and Walker was completed within the year. Look up to see the most distinctive feature of Rochester’s skyline - four aluminum wings 42 feet high, each weighing 12,000 pounds. The “Wings of Progress” were suggested to creator Ralph T. Walker after finding four seashells on the beach that spoke to him as the “sense of flight” he incorporated into his building.
Blue Cross Arena
1 War Memorial Square; Broad Street and Exchange Boulevard
Travelers on the Erie Canal after 1880 recognized this site as the Kimbal Tobacco Factory, immediately identified by a 21-foot statue of the Roman God of Commerce, Mercury, that was placed above the brick building by William Kimbal’s wife who disliked the plant’s dirty smokestack. In the 1920s George Eastman purchased the property and willed it to the University of Rochester for “municipal purposes.” After World War II that took the form of a Civic Center when the tobacco plant was demolished in 1951. The Rochester Community War Memorial opened in 1955 and a $41 million renovation came along in the 1990s. And that statue of Mercury? It found a home across the street.
Genesee River between Main Street Bridge and Broad Street Bridge
On the west bank is land that was developed privately for public use and a cluster of old brick industrial buildings that have been adapted for use as modern office space, one of which is surmounted by the Kimbal’s statue of Mercury.
WALK OUT ONTO THE BROAD STREET BRIDGE AT THE GENESEE RIVER WHERE YOU CAN GET A BETTER LOOK AT THE BUILDINGS YOU HAVE JUST WALKED PAST.
Broad Street Bridge
To get the Erie Canal across the Genesee River required an aqueduct and the conduit that was built in 1840, replacing an earlier structure, was one of the engineering wonders of its time. Constructed of hand-cut Onondaga Limestone the water conduit featured squat, broad arches that allowed the aqueduct to stand up against ice flows and high spring waters and became a model for similar bridges. The aqueduct was abandoned in 1918 when the modern Erie Barge Canal was constructed and the Rochester subway used the canal bed from 1929 until 1956. The Broad Street roadway was constructed on top of the smaller arches built over the aqueduct in the 1920s but the original seven historic arches still support the entire structure.
LOOK DOWNSTREAM TO...
Main Street Bridge
You are looking at the fourth bridge to serve as Rochester’s main crossing of the Genesee River. The first wooden structure to span the waters was completed in 1812 and this limestone bridge came into use in 1857. For more than a century, until the 1960s, the bridge was lined with commercial buildings, just like any downtown street, and blocked any views of the river.
ON THE OTHER SIDE, UPSTREAM TO THE SOUTH ON THE EAST BANK (YOUR LEFT) IS...
Rundel Memorial Library
115 South Avenue
Morton Rundel was an art dealer who was an early investor in his cousin George Eastman’s company. That Kodak stock produced enough income that when he died in 1911 his left the city $400,000 to build a combination library and art gallery. The city was slow to act and the Rundel family initiated a court battle that delayed construction until 1934. The final building, a monumental Beaux Arts shell with limestone Art Deco detailing was constructed directly on top of the Johnson and Seymour Millrace. Cobbled together in 1817, the race produced energy from the Genesee River for local flour mills; water can still be seen flowing out of the spillway beneath the library.
CROSS THE RIVER AND TURN LEFT ON SOUTH STREET THAT BECOMES ST. PAUL STREET. AFTER ONE BLOCK TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET, WALKING AWAY FROM THE RIVER.
124 East Main Street
This was the city’s first skeletal steel skyscraper and one of its earliest and best examples of the Beaux Arts style of architecture. The granite and cream-colored brick exterior is enlivened by Corinthian columns, arcaded windows and terra-cotta decorations. It was designed by J. Foster Warner in 1893 for Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Company and served as their flagship department store. In 1904 a fire, often called the worst to strike Rochester, engulfed the entire block and when the store moved to the Sibley Building. The Granite Building was rebuilt for office and commercial use and painstakingly restored in the 1980s.
219 East Main Street
This 392-foot tower was constructed as a “tube in tube” design in 1973 for the Lincoln Rochester Trust Company. Twenty Four “non-functioning” external columns are hollow and carry the utilites throughout the building resulting in a column-free interior. The lower floors of the Chase Tower curve outward and the building is distinguished by white vertical fins on all four sides. The fins were originally made with marble panel coverings but by the 1980s these began to warp and loosen, some falling to the sidewalks below. These were replaced with painted aluminum panels.
228 East Main Street
Three ambitious young men, veterans of the Boston retail wars, struck out on their own in 1868. Rufus Sibley, Alexander Lindsay, and John Curr investigated several potential locales and settled on Rochester to launch their dream dry goods emporium. After their home in the Granite Building was consumed by fire in 1905 the store moved here, into a handsome rendition of the sleek new Chicago School of architecture, on plans drawn by J. Foster Warner. Only the clock tower betrays any ornamental detail. In 1911 the building was stretched to Franklin Street and six more stories came on board in 1926 to renderSibley’s as the largest office building in the city. It was also the largest department store between New York City and Chicago. Sibley’s would close in 1989 and the building would become the downtown campus of Monroe Community College.
intersection of East Avenue, East Main Street, and Franklin Street
Liberty poles have a long tradition in America since the first one was raised in Manhattan in 1766 to celebrate the repeal of the hated Stamp Act; the first one appeared in Rochester here in 1846. It stood 118 feet tall with a large brass ball on top, a patriotic symbol. A fierce March storm in 1859 crippled the pole badly enough that it was hauled down. Two years later a replacement was erected and it lasted until 1889 when a big Christmas blow toppled Liberty Pole #2. The current Liberty Pole is built of steel and designed by local architect James H. Johnson in 1965.
Sibley Triangle Building
20-30 East Avenue at Franklin and Main streets
J. Foster Warner, the son of prolific Rochester architect Andrew Jackson Warner, designed this five story, flat-iron shaped commercial building in 1897 for Hiram Watson Sibley, the son of Hiram Sibley, the founder of the Western Union Telegraph Company. The Italian Renaissance structure is trimmed with Indiana limestone and marble on the first two stories.
TURN LEFT ON FRANKLIN STREET.
Rochester Savings Bank40 Franklin Street
This was one of the last projects to come out of the legendary New York City architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White that worked in tandem with J. Foster Warner of Rochester. They delivered a Byzantine-flavored vault for the Rochester Savings Bank in 1929 that became renowned for its its sumptuous interior of glass wall mosaics, marble pavement and richly appointed woods. The building’s banking room interior features work by famous American muralist Ezra Winter. While painting one of his murals, Winter took a step back, forgetting the extreme height at which he was at, and fell. He suffered from a broken and compacted tailbone. After this he was unable to paint because of an unsteady hand and pain because of the accident. Winter killed himself in 1949 with a shotgun near his Connecticut studio at the age of 63.
St. Joseph’s Church
108 Franklin Street
In the 1970s when century-old St. Joseph’s Church was gutted by fire and the congregation left, the Western New York Landmark Society stepped in to save the remaining bell tower structure. But rather than rebuild the church it was decided to turn the roofless sanctuary with its soaring clock tower into a park.
TURN LEFT ON ANDREWS STREET.
148 N Clinton Street at Andrews Street
This corner brick building appears to have stepped out of the 1870s virtually unchanged. The slate mansard roof indicative of the French Second Empire style is intact, as is the cast-iron storefront. Although it has been stripped of most of its neighbors the Salmon-Nusbaum Building stands as a reminder to when this block was championed as one of Rochester’s finest business districts.
TURN LEFT ON CLINTON STREET. TURN RIGHT ON DIVISION STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO ST. PAUL STREET, HEADING TOWARDS THE RIVER. TURN RIGHT AT ST. PAUL STREET.
26-34 St. Paul Street
E.W. Edwards & Sons got their start in retailing in Syracuse and eventually expanded with large store in Rochester and Buffalo. This seven-story shopping palace was built in 1912 and is gloriously clad in white terra-cotta and features neatly ordered Chicago style windows.
36-48 St. Paul Street
Patrick Cox made his money manufacturing shoes and built this splendid seven story brick and brownstone structure in 1888. It demonstrates superb Romanesque style detailing with parades of arched windows marching across the upper floors.
The College at Brockport Metro Centre
55 St. Paul Street
This was the Chamber of Commerce Building in 1916 when it was donated to the City by George Eastman. Rochester’s go-to architect of the early 20th century, Claude Bragdon, created a compact Neoclassical building with a limestone facade highlighted by a wrought iron balcony.
H.H. Warner Building
72-82 St. Paul Street
Hulbert Harrington Warner came to Rochester from Syracuse at the age of 28 in 1870 and made his first million dollars peddling fire- and burglar-proof safes. Warner contracted a serious case of Bright’s disease, a failing of the kidneys. Lingering near death, he used a vegetable-based concoction from townsman Charles Craig. Warner indeed recovered, bought Craig’s formula and entered the patent medicine business with Warner’s Safe Kidney & Liver Cure in 1879. He advertised an entire line of “Safe Cures” aggressively and sold the potions in bottles that featured an embossed safe on the front. In 1884 Warner opened his new headquarters in this spectacular building, emblazoned with his signature “W” logo in the corners. The elaborately decorated St. Paul elevation overwhelmed passersby with Gothic and Romanesque details in cast iron and Berea stone. The first floor contained all of the Warner offices and the Warner’s Safe Cure shipping department. On the second floor, the advertising and publishing departments were located. Warner’s mailing department, which distributed millions of pieces of promotional material each year, was located on the third floor. The fourth and fifth floors were where the bottling and laboratory were located. Warner was said to be churning out 7,000 gallons of Safe Cure per day to be distributed through his offices around the world. Although patent medicines would fall from favor, Warner’s Rochester offices would remain in operation until 1944. H.H. Warner would be long gone, however. He sold his company in 1889 and after an unbroken string of disastrous investments was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1893. He lived out the final 30 years of his life dabbling in business but never again captured the lightning he found in his bottles of Safe Cure.
TURN RIGHT ON PLEASANT STREET AND WALK A FEW STEPS UP ON YOUR LEFT TO VIEW...
Our Lady of Victory
210 Pleasant Street
The first practicing Catholics in Rochester were French-speaking, with services held as early as 1840. In 1868 a new French church, Our Lady of Victory, was erected on Pleasant Street in a variation of the French Renaissance style.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON PLEASANT STREET TO ST. PAUL STREET AND TURN RIGHT. AT ANDREWS STREET, TURN LEFT. TURN RIGHT ON NORTH WATER STREET BEFORE YOU REACH THE RIVER.
175 North Water Street
Rochester-born Harvey Ellis has come to be recognized as one of the most innovative architects working in America around the turn of the 20th century yet he not only did not seek the spotlight, he actively dodged it using false names, false addresses and a steadfast refusal to take credit for his much-admired buildings. He worked in the shop of the influential Henry Hobson Richardson before striking out on his own and spent scant time in his hometown before winding up in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. His legacy is this golden-bricked building from the 1880s, propped up by beefy pillars and elongated arched windows beneath a denticulated metal cornice.
CONTINUE A FEW STEPS TO THE END OF WATER STREET AND TURN RIGHT. WALK UP TO ST. PAUL STREET AND TURN LEFT, PASSING UNDER THE INNER LOOP FREEWAY. WALK UP TO PLATT STREET ON YOUR LEFT AND WALK TOWARDS THE BREWERY.
Genesee Brewing Company
445 St. Paul Street
The Aqueduct Spring Brewery was the first brewery in Rochester, blending hops in 1819. By the end of the 19th century there would be some 50 breweries operating in the city, testament to the vibrant German heritage here. One that started in 1857 was Charles Rau’s Reisky & Spies, renowned as a lager brewery with a “first class saloon” and bowling alley. Mathius Kondolf enjoyed the brew enough to buy Reisky & Spies in 1878, changing its name to The Genesee Brewery. After Prohibition in the 1930s Genesee was one of the relatively few breweries to get back in business and introduced 12 Horse Ale along with America’s only 12-horse hitch. In 1960 came its best-known product, Genesee Cream Ale; “Genny Cream” would win two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and become America’s best selling ale. The brewery has changed ownership and names in recent years but is currently back operating as Genesee Brewing Company.
WALK OVER TO THE GENESEE RIVER AND LOCATE THEPEDESTRIAN WALKWAY TO GET ACROSS.
Pont De Rennes Pedestrian Bridge
Genesee River at High Falls
Taking its name from Rochester’s “Sister City” in France, the Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge and park were created in 1982 from what was the Platt Street bridge, an 858-foot-long, steel truss bridge built 114 feet above the river in 1891.
This gorge started about 10,000 years when the retreat of the last glaciers from the Ice Age diverted the Genesee River on its journey from Pennsylvania to Lake Ontario, one of the world’s few north-flowing rivers. From Rochester to the lake the river drops 300 feet and two large chunks come in these 96-foot falls and a mile downtstream in a 67-foot falls. The gorge is created as the crashing water ever so slowly erodes the underlying sedimentary rock as they migrate upstream. High Falls stirred the imagination of settlers pushing into the wilderness in the early days of the Republic. Most saw the potential to power industry but Sam Patch, America’s first famous daredevil, saw dollar signs a different way. He had begun his career in 1827 jumping off the 70-foot Passaic Falls in New Jersey and made his reputation two years later by becoming the first man to jump 125-feet into the Niagara River from Niagara Falls and survive. He did it twice. Patch immediately became a national sensation for his feat and quickly traveled to Rochester to challenge High Falls and cash in on his new fame. His first leap into the Genesee River on November 6, 1829 did not raise the kind of money he was looking for so he planned a second jump a week later this time 25 feet higher from a wooden platform. He may have slipped or been blown by strong winds but his launch was awkward and he was not able to enter the water arrow straight and feet first, instead striking the water with an audible thud. Sam Patch never resurfaced. His frozen body was discovered in the ice near the mouth of the river the following St. Patrick’s Day.
CONTINUE ACROSS THE RIVER. THE FIRST BUILDING ON YOUR RIGHT IS...
Phoenix Mill Building
104 Platt Street
Charles Harford built a small gristmill here in 1808 but his industry was unrewarded and he sold the mill to Matthew and Francis Brown after a few years. The mill building was improved in 1812, but it burned in 1818. A replacement was constructed immediately and the north wall of stone may be the oldest extant wall in the High Falls Area. The mill was once much larger but most of the building was claimed to make room for the Platt Street Bridge in 1890.
RG&E Beebee Power Station
100 Platt Street
An 1892 power plant produced steam heat for Rochester, only the third city in the country to find a way to purge the smoke-filled streets of coal-produced heat. Named for then Rochester Gas & Electric chairman Alexander Beebee, this power station went on line in 1959 and still uses a water turbine housed in a block structure at the southwest base of High Falls.
TURN LEFT ON BROWN’S RACE, INTO THE OLDEST INDUSTRIAL SECTION OF THE CITY.
The brothers Matthew and Francis Brown invested $3,872 to build a power canal in 1816. The plan was to divert water from above the High Falls and channel it along the raceway from which spillways would funnel water from the race into waiting mills. The raceway was a quarter-mile long, 30 feet wide and three feet deep - all hand-dug. Workers were paid 62 cents per day, plus lunch. As many as 17 mills wold use water from the Brown’s race, grinding enough wheat that Rochester became the flour capital of America. Eventually a wooden plank roadway covered the race and parts of it were rediscovered in a 1990s renewal of the area.
Rochester Water Works
74 Brown’s Race
This building constructed in 1873 once housed the Rochester Water Works that pumped water under pressure to 105 hydrants in the city that enabled firefighters to battle blazes on the upper floors of the taller buildings that were then sprouting on Rochester streets. J. Foster Warner created a plant in the High Victorian Gothic style and its distinctive cast-iron cornice still graces the facade.
AT THE END OF BROWN’S RACE, BEAR LEFT AND WALK OVER TO HIGH FALLS.
4 Commercial Street
In 1882 the Steam Gauge and Lantern Company built a seven-story factory on the brink of High Falls. It was destroyed on November 9, 1888 when a fire swept through the building, trapping 41 workers in the conflagration. William Gorsline rebuilt atop the stone foundations and his Romanesque Revival brick building would come to house the Rochester Folding box Company and the shoe manufacturer Williams, Hoyt & Company, among others. Despite its prominent location as the guardian of High Falls ,the building was abandoned for many years in the mid-20th century. Finally in 2000 the dilapidated structure was rescued and its unique views of High Falls even exploited.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS BACK TO BROWN’S RACE AND CONTINUE STRAIGHT ON COMMERCIAL STREET.
Old Trolley Barn
61 Commercial Street
This low-slung, hangar-like structure dates to 1891 when it was built as the powerhouse for the Rochester Railway Company whose streetcars plied city streets. It was later the garage of the Rochester Transit Company.
TURN RIGHT ON MILL STREET.
Hunt Paper Box Company
192 Mill Street
This six-story factory building from the early 1880s boasts a unique arched brick and steel construction that was designed to be not only fire-proof but earthquake-proof as well. The occupant then was the J.K. Hunt Paper Box Company, makers of “paper boxes of every description.”
Selye Fire Engine Company
208 Mill Street
This is one of the oldest extant buildings in the district, constructed in 1826 and typical of what Brown’s Race would have looked like in its early days. The lower two floors are coursed stone rubble and the upper two stories are random ashlar stone with loading doors and hoist and pulleys. The Selye Fire Engine Company built Rochester’s first fire engines here. In the 1860s Junius Judson operated from a complex that included this building. Judson invented the steam-engine governor used in industrial machinery, ships and railroad locomotives.
224 Mill Street
This is one of Flour City’s original flour mills, built in 1851 with brick and heavy timber. Later occupied by the Rochester Barrel Machine Works, in 1888 it was the largest factory in America making machinery to manufacture barrels. In 1883, Robert T. French, then in his sixties, brought his family and his small wholesale trade in coffee, tea and spices to Rochester. It was sons George and Francis French who decided to counter the volcanic mustards of the day with a milder mix of seasonings. They blended a creamier mustard, colored bright yellow, and called it “French’s Cream Salad Mustard.” A nine-ounce jar sold for ten cents. For the first time consumers could buy a prepared mustard in a jar. The novel yellow mustard was introduced with the hot dog at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. By 1912, a new plant was needed in Rochester to satisfy demand. Another plant opened ten years later and in 1926 the French family sold their business to a British food company for nearly four million dollars. This was one of the French’s processing plants.
TURN LEFT ON PLATT STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK TO STATE STREET.
Rochester Button Company
294-300 State Street at Platt Street
In the early 1900s it was said that this was the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of buttons. The buttons that poured out of this circa 1900 factory were made from “vegetable ivory,” processed nuts imported from Mexico, South America and Africa.
TO YOUR RIGHT IS...
Kodak Office Tower
343 State Street
George Eastman was always a fan of the letter “K” - a strong and incisive letter he thought. So when he decided to abandon his career as a bank clerk and devote himself to his hobby of photography by manufacturing a practical dry plate to sell to photographers he played around with letter combinations beginning and ending in the letter “K.” He eventually landed on the non-sensical work “Kodak” and one of the world’s iconic brands was born. He started his business closer to downtown on State Street but moved to this location in 1882. The 16-story tower was erected in 1914 with an additional three floors and a cupola coming along in 1930.
CONTINUE ON PLATT STREET ONE MORE BLOCK TO PLYMOUTH AVENUE AND TURN LEFT.
One Morrie Silver Way
Baseball in Rochester dates back to 1877 with the “Rochesters” of the International Association, and Rochester has had a franchise in the league now known as the International League as early as 1885. The current franchise has been playing in Rochester since 1899, when the team was known as the Rochester Broncos and won the league championship in its inaugural season. On May 2, 1929 the team moved into Red Wing Stadium in the northern section of town and would stay for almost 70 years. Red Wing Stadium was renamed Silver Stadium in 1968 in honor of Morrie Silver who purchased the franchise from the St. Louis Cardinals that owned the team and stadium and who, in 1957, were threatening to move oldest and longest running minor league franchise in the history of professional sports. The Red Wings moved closer to downtown in 1996 into this 10,868-seat park. Telecommunications company Frontier has held the naming rights to the ballpark since its opening.
TURN LEFT ON ALLEN STREET. TURN RIGHT ON FITZHUGH STREET.
Downtown United Presbyterian Church
121 North Fitzhugh Street
The first Presbyterian services were held in the homes of Hannah Scrantom and Julia Wheelock in 1815 and by 1817 the First Presbyterian Church was in a small wood-frame building on State Street. This church, originally called “Brick Church,” was designed in 1860 by Andrew Jackson Warner for the Second Presbyterian Church that had left First Church in 1825. In 1903 a fire sparked in a lantern factory across the street and the conflagration spread to the church’s tall wooden steeple which collapsed through the roof. Only the side walls and two large interior columns survived. Warner’s son, J. Foster, rebuilt the church with a pair of square Italianate towers to match his father’s original Romanesque structure.
TURN LEFT ON CHURCH STREET.
30 Church Street
The brawny style of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture with its massive rough-cut stone walls and powerful arches was a popular choice for American municipal buildings of the 1880s and 1890s and this Federal Building is a superb example. The building did duty as the city’s main post office, courthouse, customs office and more until 1973. The City of Rochester picked up the old brown sandstone gem for a single dollar and after an award-winning renovation moved into its new City Hall.
TURN RIGHT ON STATE STREET.
Ellwanger & Barry Building
39-45 State Street
German-born George Ellwanger and Irish-born Patrick Barry hooked up in Rochester in 1840. Ellwanger had apprenticed in the nursery trade in Stuttgart for four years before he came to Ohio as a young man; after reaching these shores Barry was able to find work with the oldest and most elaborately developed nursery in America, the famous Linnean Nursery in Flushing, New York. Once in business for themselves they would import and propagate more new and rare species than any other horticulturalists of the time. Among his innovations were the dwarf apple and pear tree, several varieties of beech tree and the Northern Spy apple. The Ellwanger and Barry Nursery grew to be the largest operation of its kind in the world and the main reason that Rochester changed its nickname from the “Flour City” to the “Flower City” when horticulture overtook milling as the city’s leading industry. Andrew Jackson Warner built this Romanesque-style building for the horticulturists in 1888.
First National Bank
35 State Street
This site was occupied by a grand Second Empire building of the Monroe County Savings Bank that was torn down to make way for this Neoclassical vault for the First National Bank of Rochester. The bank looks out on State Street through a quartet of fluted Corinthian columns of dressed marble that supports an entabulature with pediment and an elevated attic story.
WALK A FEW MORE STEPS TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT FOUR CORNERS.