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Off the Beaten Path: Rochester’s Beach Avenue

July 16th, 2012

This used to be the northern spur of Beach Avenue. The street has been replaced with lawns and gardens, but the sidewalk is still here - taking pedestrians on a nice little divergence.
With all of this amazing summer weather lately, I’ve taken the opportunity to enjoy some long bike rides up and down the lower Genesee River Gorge. A few nights ago I made my way all the way up to the beach at Charlotte via Lake Ave and took the bendy turn onto Beach Avenue. Not too far beyond the Ontario Beach Pavilion I noticed the sidewalk diverges from the street, making a rather abrupt turn between some very handsome looking beachside homes. So, I followed it. And I left the city of Rochester far, far behind…

Adirondack chairs on their own little grassy pier. This is someone's backyard. Nice view.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing really. I had found a little slice of coastal New England right here in rickety ole Rochester.

A panorama of Rochester's Beach Avenue Historic District along the shores of Lake Ontario.
This is the Beach Avenue Historic District – established in 1987. A row of homes and elegant gardens sitting atop a bluff overlooking the big lake. (Click the panoramic image above for a larger view)

The side walk is a city-owned right-of-way but it felt like I had broken into some exclusive beachfront community because it runs behind the homes – between them and their private beaches. According the City’s website, this sidewalk once bordered a street. You can see this lost street in the 1936 plat map below…

A plat map of Beach Avenue Historic District, 1936 (top) and what it looks like today, 2012 (bottom). The street has been replaced with lawns and gardens but the sidewalk remains. Looks like there's a bit less beach today, and a missing pier as well.
It’s long been replaced with beautiful lawns and gardens, but the sidewalk remains (fortunately for me). Looks like there was a bit more beach in 1936… and a pier!

Here's that missing pier from the plat map.
Ah ha… I found the remnants of that missing pier (above). The gulls don’t mind a bit. In fact, the birds seem to have it just as nice as the people in this neighborhood. There are bird houses everywhere I look. More like bird McMansions…

Bird McMansion

Bird highrise

Bird summer cottage

So, if you’re in the neighborhood stop and visit this place. The homeowners are very friendly, just mind your manners and walk your bike. Here it is on Google Mapsexternal link.

Believe me when I say, my photos do not fully convey the beauty of this place. Why in the world does Rochester only have eight of these Historic Preservation Districts?
Believe me when I say, my photos do not fully convey the beauty of this place. The breeze, the sailboats, the birds chirping and the waves lapping the shore are just icing on the cake. Because the “cake” would have to be the two dozen or so early 1900’s homes sitting so proudly against this backdrop. Posing for their portraits like well mannered show dogs.

As I peddled back home I asked myself repeatedly… why in the world does Rochester only have eight of these Historic Preservation Districts external link??

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 16th, 2012 at 8:06 am and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Off the Beaten Path: Rochester’s Beach Avenue”

  1. Erik Stoneham says:

    As a former resident of Charlotte for most of my life ( 1981-2007 )living just off of Alpha street it was a real treat to have this in my “backyard”. I miss the smells, sounds and the over all atmosphere of the water front. Funny to think that all that used to be the Town of Greece before the City bought it. I do not remember when. If you look at the Town of Greece Seal it has the Charlotte Light house in the centre. Little nugget of knowledge. Thank you for making me home sick. City living is nice but the Charlotte area has a vibe all it’s own

  2. Paige says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. I have always known about this particular sidewalk, but never actually went there to experience it myself. Now, its something I’m going to do this summer.

  3. Is this the infamous “secret sidewalk” I heard about a few months back? The residents supposedly work hard to ensure it’s hard to find and often will pester “outsiders” who dare to try and use it. Or, is that another location?

  4. @Tony, yes! I actually had not heard of this “secret sidewalk” story until just now. But a quick search turned up this story from WHAM.

    I will say that from my experience walking this path last week the neighbors seemed very nice. One woman did set up her sprinkler so that it was spraying across the sidewalk to the flower bed on the lake shore side, but she told me I could walk on the grass to the get around it – there was no outward hostility at all.

    But check this out, according to Zillow.com, this public right of way is MUCH wider than the sidewalk itself. The public domain appears to take up the entire width of the old street…

    Zillow is not always accurate, but this matches up almost exactly with the map I found on the City’s web site…

    These property owners may maintain the grounds around the sidewalk, but it appears that the City maintains some kind of ownership agreement over the land. I wonder what the outcome of the court case was? Or if it’s still ongoing?

    Perhaps we should pitch a few tents and “occupy” THIS space instead of Washington Square Park :-)

  5. That’s the story I saw!

    Yeah, it would certainly be a lot nicer…no murderous crows! :)

  6. More about the “Secret Sidewalk”
    (a.k.a New Beach vs Old Beach Ave issue)

    “Back in 1916 when the City straightened Beach Avenue (New Beach) it simultaneously closed the existing Beach Avenue (Old Beach) to vehicular traffic, and did likewise to the cross-streets that connected the two Beach Avenues. These streets included Barry, Welland, Brocton, Larch, Tamarack and Cloverdale Streets. The important point to remember here is that these public rights of way (ROW) were not abandoned but simply restricted from vehicular traffic. The pavement was removed and at some point public sidewalks were set in place to accommodate pedestrian traffic. The ‘secret sidewalk’ sits at the north end of the Old Beach Avenue ROW and the sidewalks in the cross-streets are appx. in the center of the ROW. Most if not all of the adjoining owners have landscaped their properties right up to the sidewalks, even though it’s still legally public ROW, so aesthetically their yards abut the sidewalk. The legal issues pertaining to abandonment vs. restricting vehicular traffic are quite lengthy and primarily involve maintaining access to the property owners within the Guilford Bluff Subdivision to get to their boat lots and private promenade along the lake.”

    From the City’s Director of Maps and Records
    Thanks to Christine at the Rochester Public Library for this info!

  7. Jason Haremza says:

    I would love to get a group together and picnic on the former Beach Avenue ROW and take back the land that is still public property and belongs to the people of the City of Rochester.


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