“You can experience most of the sequential great themes of American history simply by walking/biking along the south Genesee River corridor from Elmwood Avenue to Main Street:
Native American contributions: Elmwood Avenue & Genesee Valley Park (Algonquin village).
Colonial history: Prior to 1776, the east side of the Genesee River was British Colonial America; west side was “New France” (until Louisiana Purchase).
Canal development: Genesee Valley Canal (1830s to 1878) west riverfront; Feeder Canal (19th Century) east riverfront; Erie Canal (Genesee Valley Park) and Erie Canal Harbor Extension (riverfront from Elmwood Avenue to Broad Street’s Second Erie Canal Aqueduct).
Temperance: Early 1800s period at Brooks Landing; distilleries along riverfront.
Flour City & Flower City: Wheat fields and horticultural nurseries [Brooks Avenue to Ford (Clarissa) Street formerly on both sides of river corridor].
Early industrialism: Milling (waterpower from east riverfront Johnson-Seymour raceway and west Fitzhugh-Carroll mill race).
Rail transportation: Three separate rail lines (some shared) along south river corridor; subway system under Aqueduct until 1950s).
Abolition and Underground Railroad: South river corridor “stations” and sites associated with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.
Public safety: Early jail and later public safety complex near Court Street (west riverside).
Civil War: Camp Fitz-John Porter recruit training (west riverfront near Flint Street); Camp Hillhouse (east riverfront at University of Rochester Medical Center).
Spiritualism: The Fox Sisters (Corn Hill neighborhood); religious revivalism of 1800s.
Closing of the American Frontier: Buffalo Bill Cody resided in Rochester 1874-76 near southwest riverfront; wrote and performed stage plays; prototyped his Wild West Show locally.
Women’s and voting rights: Susan B. Anthony at Brooks Avenue and later Madison Street.
Energy development: Waterpower along river; 1866-1930 Vacuum Oil Refinery (west riverside near Flint Street) developed motor oil enabling local patent of the internal combustion engine automobile by George Selden); coal yards on east and west river corridors.
Media: Newspaper (east and west riversides near Broad Street); Al Neuharth (USA Today).
Municipal Parks: Frederick Law Olmsted designs for Genesee Valley Park, Highland Park, and Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Chemical processes: Eastman Kodak’s earliest dry film production (east riverside near Court Street).
Optics/optical developments: Early Kodak; Xerox and Bausch & Lomb offices.
Transportation vehicle development: Horse-drawn carriages and sleighs; early custom-built automobiles and aircraft (all at Cunningham factory at Canal Street).
Mass-marketing infrastructure: 1930s Sears transportation and distribution hub near Flint and Violetta Streets.
Arts & mass entertainment: Former Cook’s Opera House, Genesee Amusement Center, Armory (Geva) (east riverside area South Avenue near Main Street); Blue Cross Arena and Convention Center today.
Higher education: 1930s University of Rochester River Campus.
Natural and man-made disasters: Annual flooding along river corridor until Mt. Morris Dam; Naptha (illumination gas) Explosion 1887; 1964 civil unrest.
Unions: Garment workers (rallies held at Washington Square Park near Court Street).
Urban development: Founder Nathaniel Rochester’s “100 Acres” (west riverside) and its evolution to the present day.
Migration patterns: European, African American, contemporary.
Environment: Reclaiming the riverfront from obscured brownfields to waterfront resources today.”
—Submitted by the Plymouth-Exchange Neighborhood Association
For further information contact John E. Curran.