History of Rochester, New York
On April 1, 1788, after extensive machinations by various speculators, Massachusetts' pre-emptive right over all western New York Lands — comprising some 6,000,000 acres (24,000 km²) — was sold to
Shortly after concluding the purchase, Phelps and Gorham gave a 100 acre (0.4 km²) lot within the Mill Yard Tract at the Upper Falls of the Genesee to Ebenezer "Indian" Allen, on condition he build a grist mill and
In March 1792, with no settlers and no demand for mills, Indian Allen sold the 100-acre (0.40 km) Tract to Benjamin Barton, Sr. of New Jersey for $1,250. Barton almost immediately resold the property to Samuel Ogden, an agent for Robert Morris. Ogden, in turn, sold the property in 1794 to Charles Williamson, agent for
Rochesterville and The Flour City
Col. Rochester and his two partners allowed the millsite to lie undeveloped until 1811, when they finally completed paying for their purchase and received the deed. The population of the area was 15. They then had the tract surveyed and laid out with streets and lots. The first lot was sold to a Henry Skinner, at what is now the northwest corner of State and Main. In 1817, other land owners, mainly the Brown Brothers (of Brown's Race and Brown's Square), joined their lands north to the 100-acre (0.40 km) Tract, to form the Village of Rochesterville, with a population of 700.
Soon after the Erie Canal east to the
By 1834, some 20 flour mills were producing 500,000 barrels (44,000 t) annually, the population reached 13,500 and the city area expanded to 4,000 acres (16 km²). Rochester was then re-chartered as a city, and Jonathan Child, son-in-law of Col. Rochester, was elected its first mayor.
In 1837, the Rochester Orphan Asylum was founded by the Rochester Female Charitable Society. The Asylum was located on South Sophia Street (now South Plymouth Avenue) and later moved to Hubbell Park. After a tragic fire on January 8, 1901, the Asylum was moved to Pinnacle Hill, reconstructed as a series of cottages called the Hillside Home (now Hillside Children's Center, part of
The Flower City
In 1830, William A. Reynolds started his first
By 1850, the population reached 36,003, making Rochester the 21st largest city in the United States. Westward expansion had moved the focus of farming to the Great Plains and Rochester's importance as the center for flour milling had declined. Several seed companies in Rochester had grown to become the largest in the world, with Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co. the largest. Rochester's nickname was changed from the Flour City to the Flower City. In 1850, the
Abolitionists and the Civil War
In the years leading up to the
Other 'stations' were located in the areas surrounding Rochester, including Brighton, Pittsford, Mendon and Webster. A station in North Chili, just west of Rochester, run by abolitionist
Post-war industrial boom
The period 1860 to 1900 saw Rochester grow from a city of 48,000 to a city of 162,800, with a 1900 rank of 24th largest in population, down from 18th in 1860. During this period the city expanded dramatically in area on both sides of the Genesee River, as well as annexing parts of the towns of Brighton, Gates, Greece and Irondequoit. Also founded during this period were
In 1882, the tolls on the Erie Canal ended, with New York State enjoying a profit of $51,000,000 over the 57 years. In September 1885, a group of Rochester businessmen founded the Mechanics Institute to establish "free evening schools in the city for instruction in drawing and such other branches of studies as are most important for industrial pursuits of great advantage to our people." Henry Lomb of Bausch & Lomb was the Mechanics Institute's first president.
During this period many of Rochester's great public parks were laid out, with Ellwanger & Barry and others donating land in 1871 for Maplewood Park and in 1889 for
In 1891, the Mechanics Institute merged with the Rochester Athenaeum to form the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). Comprehensive instruction in mechanical subjects was RAMI's hallmark. The Institute's builders responded to both industrial and societal trends in Rochester, and each year the Institute graduated increasing numbers of expertly trained professionals who found work in industry both in Rochester and elsewhere.
In addition, Rochester was home of the
Rochester in the 20th century
The turn of the century found Rochester a thriving and comfortable city. Although the nursery business was waning, some of that land had been converted into desirable residential districts along East Avenue, Park Avenue, and off Mount Hope Avenue near Highland Park. In 1901, a devastating fire killed 31 at the Rochester Orphan Asylum, and it moved across town from Hubbell Park to Pinnacle.
Because of the highly skilled labor force Rochester enjoyed, the city became a significant industrial contributor to the World War II effort, while the farms and fields surrounding Rochester provided food for the troops as well as the home front. To recognize specialized professional nature of its programs, in 1944, the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute changed its name to
In 1904, R. T. French sent prepared mustard to the St. Louis World's Fair, where it was paired with another innovation — the
In the early 1900s, both George Eastman and
In 1913, the Memorial Art Gallery on the University of Rochester's Prince Street Campus was founded. It was the gift of Emily Sibley Watson as a memorial to her son, architect James Averell. In 1918, the Erie Canal through Rochester was closed and abandoned after the
By 1920, Rochester's population had reached 290,720, and it ranked 23rd largest in the United States. That year, the city purchased the abandoned Erie Canal lands inside city limits for use as a heavy rail mass transit and freight system. In 1921, the first
By 1930, the population had swelled to 328,132, making Rochester the 22nd largest city in the United States. The University of Rochester opened its River Campus for men, and the Prince Street Campus became the Women's Campus. The Rochester Municipal Airport opened on Scottsville Road. It was in the 1930s that Eastman Kodak introduced Kodrachrome film. By now the subway was constructed in the old canal bed, and the street railways were diverted to the subway or morphed into buses. Rochester celebrated its centennial as a city in 1934. In 1936, the Rundel Memorial Building opened as the headquarters of the Rochester Public Library above the bed of the old Erie Canal, adjacent to South Avenue, between Broad Street and Court Street.
By 1940, the population had decreased to 324,975, the first drop since Rochester was founded. It was still the 23rd largest city in the United States. With the advent of
During the war, Cobbs Hill Park was used as a Prisoner of War camp. The first POWs arrived September 28, 1943. Sixty Italian prisoners worked on area farms and food processing plants 10 hours a day, six days a week, at $0.80 per day. After Italy capitulated to the Allies October 12, 1943, and joined the war against Germany the Italian POW's became unguarded internees. The Italians were replaced at Cobbs Hill with German POWS June 26, 1944. The city was hit in February 1945 with seven successive snowstorms that paralyzed the city, forcing the city to ask that POWs be brought from the Hamlin Camp to the city. Cobbs Hill Park housed 100 Germans, while 175 more were at Edgerton Park. Snow removal by prisoners was done at unannounced locations, with city police guarding the POWs.
1950 to 1990's
By 1950, the population of the city had grown slightly to 332,488, but Rochester was now only the 32nd largest city in the United States. During the 1950s,
By the 1960s, as with the rest of the United States, the population was shifting from city to suburb, with substantial growth in the towns immediately adjacent to the city, including Greece, Gates, Chili, Henrietta, Brighton and Irondequoit.
The 1960 census showed a population drop to 318,611 and a drop in rank to 38th. The
It was also in the 1960s that the city began a process of urban renewal, with the construction of Midtown Plaza, the first indoor
In the 60s and 70s, Rochester became known as the leading jazz town in upstate New York. Famous jazz musicians would come to Clarissa Street and play all night long moving from club to club. The Pythodd Room (Stanley and Delores Thomas) was one example of a top Clarissa Street "joint" that hosted jam session including everyone from
As part of continuing urban renewal, in 1969
In the 1990s, a new baseball stadium,
The new millennium
The population of the City of Rochester at the 2000 census was 219,773, down 33.9% from its peak in 1950. In 2003 Rochester built a ferry terminal to house the
In 2006, a new stadium funded by private and public sources, PAETEC Park, was opened, not far from Frontier Field.
Mayor Duffy has, since early 2010, been criticized for his efforts to take "mayoral control" of the failing city school district.
- Rochester History
- Rochester Images
- Walking Tour of Downtown Rochester
- The Rochester Wiki
- The Riot of July 1964
- Ontario's Historical Plaques
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