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35 Responses to “Filling in: Parks and Reparation”

  1. Well done! Matthew

    This year 2013 marks the 125th anniversary of the Rochester Park System designed by Frederick Law Olmsted 1888. Come with the Highland Park Conservancy, The Olmsted Subcommittee at the Landmark Society, Monroe County Parks and the City of Rochester to celebrate the parks with events all year long.

  2. Erik Stoneham says:

    I have spent time at Schiller Park. On one of my runs through the neighborhood a few years back I had to stop, pay homage and see who this man was. Not a pleasant place to be, very sad. I REALLY hope the fill the inner loop project goes through. It would help the city out tremendously.

  3. Unfortunately there are no plans to fill in this (northern) section of the Inner Loop. The current plans being discussed will only address the eastern portion between Main Street and Monroe/Chestnut.

  4. Matt V says:

    I’ve always been interested in how our major parks have been cut up as well. I believe that Highland was parceled up for St. Ann’s, the Al Siegl Center and the housing complex on South. I’m not saying these aren’t worthy institutions, I just wonder who was making these decisions.

  5. Jason Haremza says:

    @ Matt V: I’m curious about that myself. I have a feeling that the slicing and dicing of Highland Park may date to its days as the Monroe County Poor Farm/Asylum/Home for Indigents etc, before that section even was a park. The original Ellwanger and Barry donation, Olmsted designed portion was the part up on the hill I think.

  6. Erik Stoneham says:

    I am aware of the plans to fill in the Main – Monroe sections fo the inner loop. I would hope that the change and growth would bolster the same for the rest of the inner loop.
    Living in the St Paul Quater I a faced with Front Street. Looking and digging up some fun history about Front street showed that it used to run to main street and was a HUGE part of Rochester, sadly it has been chopped and cut up to nothing more than a dead end street – similar to a park surrounded by roads.
    I am optimistic about where Rochester can go.

  7. You’re not kidding about Front Street. I’d love to bring that section of the city back. Together with Mill Street which used to run parallel to Front Street, that could have been a wonderful little red-light district :-)

  8. Jason Haremza says:

    Front Street in probably in our top five losses. It was an intimately scaled, fine grained urban district that is mostly lacking in modern Rochester. North Water Street is probably the closest thing left to what Front Street (and the rest of Water Street on the east side of the river) were like.

    If only we could build new districts (ahem Collegetown) with the same degree of intimacy.

  9. Matthew Denker says:

    @Tim – Thank you! I printed your essay on FLO, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

    @Erik – I try to visit many of these memorials whenever I have the chance. There’s another interesting one over in Corn Hill that’s not cut off like these. I’m sure there are more. I’d love to catalog them one of these days.

    @Jason – Would the city be open to the construction of such a place? I guess that’s probably the easy part, right? I mean, what bank is going to hand someone (me) a few hundred million dollars to build a varied series of midrise buildings on a tight street with no parking? Even so, if Bill Gates showed up in Rochester tomorrow and offered to do so in cash, would the city be on board, or would a dozen traffic engineers complain about the geometry of the road and another group of planners complain about traffic, and another group go on about how zoning doesn’t support a such and such a thing? I don’t mean any of this in a negative way. I want to make a difference. Monroe County only has about 1,000 housing permits filed a year, but instead of 975 of them being outside the city, I’d like to make at least half of them inside the city.

    And maybe build a footbridge across the Genesee and possibly put some of these parks back together. Cool?

  10. Joe says:

    Rochester suffered some serious wounds from urban renewal. The streets that make up Strong Museum and Manhattan Square towers are another urban neighborhood that got wiped off the map by morons in the middle of the 20th century.

    Upper Falls BLVD could probably be rerouted taking some land from the Coca Cola bottling plant with no ill effects on the bottling plant. I have no idea what to do about Schiller Park. Be interesting to see what goes on the greyhound site.

  11. Matthew Denker says:

    @Joe – I think the minimum solution for Schiller Park would be putting a deck over the inner loop and extending the park back to the post office building. Then rebuilding around it on all the empty lots. That would probably do the trick, but if you wanted to go a little further, you could easily put buildings on the deck over the highway as well. Going much further would involve the complete deletion of the inner loop here and restoring the grid and buildings around the park.

  12. Jason Haremza says:

    @Matthew The biggest obstacles to re-building Front Street are:
    1. Where to put the parking that would be displaced by the demolition of the Crossroads Garage now occupying most of the site
    2. How to pay for said parking replacement (at this point in time, it would be a non-starter to suggest just getting rid of the parking and not replacing it)
    3. Federal security paranoia about building anything anywhere near the Federal building
    4. How to deal with the Rochester Plaza Hotel that partially occupies the former Front Street district
    5. As you pointed out, the funding to build fine, grained, low-rise, compact development without parking

    Otherwise, I can’t imagine the city wouldn’t be on board ;) Planners would love it and as Brown’s Race demonstrates, sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can get traffic engineers to acquiesce to non-standard street geometry. And hey, there’s already a footbridge in place!

  13. Jason Haremza says:

    Re: Schiller Park

    As much as I love the history of this sweet little urban space, I almost think it would be better to cut our losses and include the park as a development site and building a new park, somewhere close by, that would actually be a much higher quality park space.

    I honestly don’t see this portion of the Inner Loop being eliminated and the north side of Andrews Street makes sense for development that turns its back to the expressway, like the brown rowhouses on Broadway in the Wadsworth Square neighborhood.

    That being said, alienating parkland is a major hurdle and there will be people in the community that will rally to defend this little scrap of park that, no matter how lovely it once was, is now pretty pathetic.

  14. Jason Haremza says:

    Now, onto the Lomb Monument. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have monuments, especially columns, in the center of boulevards. See the South African War Memorial on University Avenue in Toronto (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_War_Memorial_(Toronto))

    I would like to see Upper Falls Boulevard be more of a formal boulevard, in the manner of Toronto’s University Avenue, or Manhattan’s Park Avenue, or Parisian boulevards, and less of a pseudo expressway.

  15. Matthew Denker says:

    @Jason – Thank your for all the excellent comments. In order – I wasn’t thinking of restoring Front St. directly, but just the ability to propose and get through a densely built urban fabric. For example, the parking lot to the northeast of Frontier field is approximately 650′x700′ square. That’s about 6 blocks of the west village here in NYC, and redeveloping a spot like that as such could be really amazing.

    If removing the inner loop, especially on the north side of town, is not going to happen, then it is time to tear out this whole area and rebuild it more dense and backing the highway. I agree. The bust should be set aside, the rest of the park removed, and a new one built to the south so that buildings can abut the highway on the north.

    Finally, monuments in boulevards are not bad, persay. Lord knows that Columbus is still in the middle of the circle and there are plenty of roads around it. The bigger issue for me is if the road is in any way conducive to crossing it so the monument can be appreciated up close. And then if the grounds of the monument are worth being on (in a sense, this is in no small part just maintenance). Having actually walked up to the Lomb Memorial, I think it fails both these sniff tests at present.

  16. martin pettibone says:

    Schiller Park is still nice, if you are oriented onto Andrews St, I work adjacent to it and its quite nice in summer.

  17. Rich Rolwing says:

    Mr. Editor!!!–Before a native German (at least one not possessed of a taste for the absurd) somehow gets wind of Friedrich Schiller being referred to as “a (poor?) German-American poet”, not to mention as “less-than-famous,” and threatens legal action (or worse), I would substitute the above phrases with something in the following vein: “German born and bred master dramatist, (yes) poet (penned “An die Freude”–Ode to Joy, used by Beethoven in his 9th Symphony), philosopher, critic, lifelong German resident-and he was ok with that!(more than how his park has fared, I’m sure)”; “Together with J. W. Goethe celebrated as one-half of the Twin Towers of the Golden Age of German literature.” I just hope we’ve acted in time! (Just curious where you got your info, Matthew. Or did you kind of wing it?–Hope you took this in good fun, btw).

  18. Matthew Denker says:

    Hey Rich, I think there might be some confusion about what I meant. I didn’t mean poor in the literal, lacking money sense. I meant that it’s unfortunate for him that he is not widely well known. Similarly, Lomb is the guy who is less-than-famous. Unfortunately for Mr. Schiller, he is absolutely not a household name. Some people actually know Bausch and Lomb as a company.

    I certainly believe Mr. Schiller was a spectacular talent. So much so, that his bust does not deserve to be abandoned in a pathetic, cut-in-half and surrounded-by-parking piece of grass. If he has as rabid a following as you suggest (God willing), can we please mobilize hime to restore his likeness to grace?

  19. Joel Helfrich says:

    Jason H: yes (although Tim O’Connell would know best), the Highland Park land south of Highland Ave. was not originally part of the Olmsted-designed park and perhaps is not part of the Mount Hope-Highland Historic District.

    The Lomb “memorial shaft,” apparently “erected” in 1932, would certainly need to be restored, as several of the bronze plaques have been removed and much of the granite is in disrepair, but I think that making the monument less island-like might help. See:

    http://www.rochesterpublicart.com/public_art/?art=lomb_memorial.

    Does anyone know why each of these monuments are where they are? Didn’t Lomb live on St. Paul? Or, was that Bausch (1075 St. Paul; see: http://rochestercityliving.com/media/uploads/hw_10-06-10.pdf)? Wasn’t one of the original Bausch & Lomb factories on St. Paul?

  20. Rich Rolwing says:

    I should have dispensed with the attempted humor and just stated the main clarification I wanted to make regarding your presentation (excellent and welcome regarding this almost–when viewed from above–ghostly appearing remnant of a once stately urban space), Matthew, namely, that Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) was NOT German-AMERICAN, and to a less urgent degree in need of correction, that he was not merely a poet.

    I got an ironic chuckle from the fact that you emphasize over and over that he is so NOT a household name and then indeed prove the apparent elusiveness of his identity by partially misstating his origins even after doing a degree of research (I assume you must have done some due to your quoting of the poem and accurately stating at least WHEN he lived).

    In any case, I guess for there to be any hope nowadays of using his “celebrity” to any degree to mobilize public sentiment to improve the “lot” of his “lot” (“poor” guy indeed–he just couldn’t escape the Inner Loop!) it would help to conjure up the spirits of those German immigrants, that in 1905 erected the monument in the first place and, in the same way they probably still carried traces of authentic German dirt on their boots, transferred just as naturally their “rabid following” (truly Lebron-like!) of this titan of German arts and letters to their new land. (Interestingly, in view of Rochester’s nose-to-the-grindstone boomtown history, Schiller is regarded as the more down-to-earth personality who was often forced to overcome adversity in comparison to his more patrician and seemingly divinely favored compatriot Goethe. And Rochestarians would have been able to sympathize with him for the abuse he had to endure due to his heavy and flat Swabian accent).

    Incidentally, Matthew, I know I don’t have to enlighten you as regards your own nationality origins, but you can’t get a much more German surname than “Denker.” Did you know it means “thinker” in English?

  21. Rich Rolwing says:

    I had no knowledge of the Goethe monument, Joel–Danke sehr!

    I wonder if the erection of the bust was at all controversial at the time. 1950 would still have been, it seems, a prickly time to erect anything honoring someone of German origin. Or maybe it was done just at the cusp of the movement to rehabilitate Germany by emphasizing the positive achievements of German culture.

  22. Rich Rolwing says:

    If you google “Schiller monument” there’s actually a photo(?) on flickr.com of the original monument at its Anderson Park location. Unfortunately, the view shown doesn’t provide much of a distinctive visual context of the area surrounding the site.

  23. Joel Helfrich says:

    The bust of Goethe is depicted here:
    http://www.rochestersubway.com/topics/tag/bust-of-goethe/

    The artist was William E. Ehrich: http://ehrich.us/biography.html

    He was a supervisor for the Federal Art Project, a Works Progress Administration program. He later taught at the UofR/MAG. About this particular memorial:

    “The 200th anniversary of the poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in 1949 led to another major project. A monument was created for Highland Park in Rochester after a committee, chaired by Ewald P. Appelt, raised the required funds. William was chosen to construct this monument. The original $10,000 design included a central shaft bearing a bronze bust of Goethe and two side panels bearing selections of his poetry. When describing this project, William wrote,

    ‘For the portrayal of Goethe’s personality, I considered no particular phase of his life. His spiritual aristocracy appears to me to be the point requiring stress, culminating in his immortal appearance around the age of sixty-five.’

    The required funds did not materialize, and there was disagreement with the city about the location, requiring a major redesign and elimination of the side panels. However, the revised project was completed, and the Goethe monument stands today on a rise above the concert shell in Highland Park.”

  24. Rich Rolwing says:

    Just found better photos of the Schiller monument @Anderson Park–and surrounding area–in the Public Library photo archives. These pictures specifically moved me to a question that of course this whole topic could lead one to pose at any time:

    I WONDER IF ANY COMPARABLY-SIZED AMERICAN CITY RODE ROUGHSHOD OVER ITS (MOST)INNER CITY ENVIRONS WITH SUCH BLIND INDIFFERENCE TO THE URBAN DAMAGE INFLICTED AS ROCHESTER DID SPECIFICALLY (i.e., in the course of implementing a single, whole-city encompassing project) WITH THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE *INNER LOOP*.

  25. Matthew Denker says:

    Hey Rich! A few things. Sorry for misunderstanding the joke before. Also, while the last name is German and means thinker, it’s the family name purely by chance. My background happens to be an odd eastern European muddle. When my Father’s great grandfather fled the Russians (Jewish), the only cousin in New York City was named Denker. And here I am more than 100 years later.

    As for other cities that inflicted as much damage, nearly all of them did. Off the top of my head:

    Boston – I93.
    Washington DC – Southeast Freeway
    New York City – Cross Bronx Expressway, BQE.
    San Francisco – Central Freeway
    Syracuse – I81/I690

    Other cities that you should scout on google maps which I know have been destroyed but don’t know the streets:
    Kansas City, MO
    Columbus, OH
    Detroit, MI
    New Haven, CT

    and absolutely countless others.

    What would be more shocking would be to find a few American cities that were not sliced apart for cars. I can only think of a few small ones. Allentown, PA and Reading, PA come to mind. Jamestown, NY isn’t too bad. Other small cities did even worse than large ones, though. Take a look at Columbia, SC, Hartford, CT, or Providence, RI.

  26. What is left of Franklin Square, c1820, where Schiller now resides is a redesign of the original square by Frederick Law Olmsted,1893…
    It will be difficult for the city to reuse the park as development space (the current city administration views park land, open space, as little more than land banks for development) due to the park status and the fact that there is no deed to the city for the square.

  27. Rich Rolwing says:

    Matthew, I qualified my question by asking for cities OF COMPARABLE SIZE to Rochester. Also, I meant to exclude freeways, interstates, etc. I looked at Buffalo and Syracuse and there is nothing comparable to the Inner Loop, i.e., a moat-like roadway ringing the city center, the IMMEDIATE city center to be more exact (thereby exacerbating the significant urban damage inflicted), implemented to exclusively to “serve” the auto traffic of that confined area. It was like city planners asked themselves: “On top of urban renewal, what type of project can we design to facilitate auto traffic AND further scar the existing urban fabric?” Just another instance of what seems to be a peculiar brand of Rochester arrogance of that era.

  28. Matthew Denker says:

    Wow, you’re getting pretty specific about this. I mean. let’s stop for a second. The inner loop was built in the 50s. The population of Rochester at the time was over 300,000 people. At the time, Rochester was 32nd largest city in the US. Here are the 5 cities immediately larger and immediately smaller than Rochester at the time:

    27 – Oakland – http://goo.gl/maps/mo1vj
    28 – Columbus – http://goo.gl/maps/Zskfr
    29 – Portland (OR) – http://goo.gl/maps/ewM21
    30 – Louisville – http://goo.gl/maps/c2wGf
    31 – San Diego – http://goo.gl/maps/twfN7

    33 – Atlanta – http://goo.gl/maps/tb11F
    34 – Birmingham – http://goo.gl/maps/dvv56
    35 – St Paul – http://goo.gl/maps/bCy4k
    36 – Toledo – http://goo.gl/maps/EMncW
    37 – Jersey City – http://goo.gl/maps/I8ZAB

    Every last one of those cities is a downtown highway disaster. Jersey City is probably the least worst off, while Columbus and Portland have the same downtown loop as Rochester. San Diego and Oakland would have them, but their downtowns front major bodies of water, so it’s not really possible.

    Honestly. Rochester is BAD, but it’s not even uniquely bad. Not even for its size. I mean, do we want to look at cities that have shed 1/3rd of their population and are now the same size as Rochester? Amusingly, Birmingham is still in this group! Here’s Richmond, VA, a city now on par with Rochester: http://goo.gl/maps/6aLR2. Delicious.

    If Rochester wanted to compete on the level of truly bad, it would have built the highway from the south going due downtown. And it would have built a highway along the river going due north to the lake.

    Either way, it’s time to make the best of a bad situation and start rebuilding the remains of downtown.

  29. Jason Haremza says:

    @Rich: Have you been to Syracuse or Buffalo? I-690/I-81 is a tangle of overhead expressways that is at least as bad, if not worse, than our moat of an Inner Loop. Buffalo’s overhead I-190 is a huge barrier between downtown and the waterfront and Buffalo’s unbuilt version of the Inner Loop, the Elm-Oak Expressway, still exists as a pair of high speed one-way streets that separates downtown from the near East Side. In my opinion, overhead expressways are in many ways worse than a sunken expressway in terms of the barrier effect.

    But ultimately quantifying what city suffered the worst damage from highway construction and urban renewal is pretty subjective. Rochester is not the best, but it’s not the worst. I completely agree with Matthew. Let’s focus on healing the damage inflicted by these discredited policies.

  30. Sid says:

    What about a monument at the roundabout next to manhattan sq park

  31. Rich Rolwing says:

    A monument to roundabouts?:)

    Matthew–I always wondered what exactly you meant to convey with the word “delicious,” that you used (comment #29–following upon your link to Richmond’s google map) in the course of your evaluation of Richmond VA’s downtown/highway situation vis-à-vis Rochester’s. Did you mean it sarcastically, or were you being genuinely complimentary of maybe Richmond’s retention of some dense and vital urban islands and streetscapes in the face of the inevitable traffic-related encroachments. If it was indeed the latter case I would have to concur with you. After perusing the map of Richmond it did seem the city has somehow managed to preserve a good amount of the old urban fabric of the city (the highway intrusions seems to be of a less invasive nature). I especially liked the area adjoining (If you can overlook the rather expansive parking lots to the south) and especially north of the Jefferson Hotel (I think?)–one of the many stately and attractive structures in the area that seem to have escaped the wrecking ball. The “downtown” area does in any case seem a lot more expansive than Rochester’s. Have you been to Richmond?

  32. Matthew Denker says:

    Going through back comments for the evening! I’m sorry to say that I meant it sarcastically. This is not the look of a neighborhood unharmed by the freeway: https://goo.gl/maps/4g0Dz. There was likely city there at some point. I must admit, sheepishly, that I am part of the problem. I’ve driven through Richmond numerous times, but never stopped there. It was a nice place to drive through.

  33. Rich Rolwing says:

    At least there’s no Inner Loop strangling the city center:) I was impressed with what seem to be streets and streets of attractive row-type houses and several impressive squares with striking monumental structures (If you don’t mind to a certain extent statues that celebrate the Confederacy…)

  34. Matthew Denker says:

    I mean, they didn’t quite finish it, but their highway around downtown is really the same as Rochester’s:

    Richmond: https://goo.gl/maps/Lswn0

    Rochester: https://goo.gl/maps/WhHp2

    Richmond does still seem to have more going on downtown, but I think UR has a bigger presence there than UofR in Rochester.


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