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Bull’s Head: Reports of Its Death Have Been Somewhat Exaggerated

Rumors have been swirling around the internet that the famous Bull's Head that marks the historic Bull's Head section of Rochester has been lost in a recent demolition on West Main Street. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
Rumors have been swirling around the internet that the famous Bull’s Head that marks the historic Bull’s Head section of Rochester has been lost in a recent demolition on West Main Street. It is true this landmark has recently lost several important neighbors, but for now, the Bull in Bull’s Head is still with us…

The City was demolishing two adjacent buildings in the row when a third building was also determined to be unstable. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]
The City was carrying out a plan to demolish two adjacent, and structurally unsound buildings at 900 and 904 West Main Street. As those demolitions were completed, the building at 906-910 (Critic’s Restaurant) was determined to be unstable. It too had to be removed. [Map it on Google external link]

In the old days these types of buildings were often constructed side by side, literally sharing walls.
In the old days these types of buildings were often constructed side by side, literally sharing walls. You can see the interior wall coverings from the demolished building still hanging on the exterior wall of the remaining Bull’s Head Hardware Store. This practice saved time, money, and energy… unfortunately, when one building goes down, it puts its neighbor in jeopardy.

Thankfully, the demolition did not seem to impact the Bull directly. That's him, hiding behind the fire escape.
Thankfully, the demolition did not seem to impact the Bull directly. That’s him, hiding behind the fire escape. The Bull’s Head Hardware store and building to the right is no longer there.

These demolitions are part of a Bull's Head revitalization plan.
I personally know very little about future plans for this row. But I’m told community meetings for the revitalization of the Bull’s Head / B.E.S.T. neighborhood have been ongoing since at least 2007. Those plans may lay the groundwork for up to 40,000 square feet of new mixed-use, residential/commercial space all along Brown St., West Main, and West Ave. These demolitions are part of that plan.

Joan Roby-Davison, Empire State Housing Alliance coordinator, says she expects to hear this week whether the project will be awarded a NYS Brownfield Opportunity Area grant which would help move things along.

Here are some historic views of Bull’s Head… and an indication of how far we’ve let things slide.

This was Bull's Head in 1895. [PHOTO: Local History Division, Rochester Public Library]
This was Bull’s Head in 1895.

Another view of the neighborhood from 1950. [PHOTO: Rochester Municipal Archives]
Another view of the neighborhood from 1950.

The Bull's Head Tavern, 1827-1908, seems to be the source for the name. [PHOTO via John Curran]
The Bull’s Head Tavern, 1827-1908, seems to be the source for the name (photo via John Curran).

See also:

Neighborhood Focus: Bull’s Head external link (Daily Record, 9/8/2009)
Rochester Neighborhoods Map

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 2nd, 2013 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester Images, Rochester News, Urban Development. 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.

16 Responses to “Bull’s Head: Reports of Its Death Have Been Somewhat Exaggerated”

  1. Patrick Eagan says:

    When I think of Bull’s Head it is the 1950 picture that I have in my mind.

  2. Mittens says:

    Sad. Such beautiful architecture has once again been permanently destroyed in Rochester. Let me guess, we’re getting either a parking lot, a suburban-style strip mall or nothing to replace it?

  3. Scott K says:

    I mainly remember it like the 50’s picture as well. My brother once worked at the Amiel’s in base of the now gone building at the corner of Brown and W. Main. I also vaguely recall a fire sale in a Five-and-Dime store in the Bull’s Head block, must have been around 1969.

  4. Dan says:

    Well the loss of the buildings is bad, its also the loss of the restaurant, Critics. Well many people would consider it a bit of a dive, it had survived for years and was a valued part of a community that had coffee and ate there on a daily basis. It had outlived a number of competitors. There will be a D&C article on this tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what they found. This particular article while having good pictures misses the point that a good engineering report would have found that the buildings were connected and put in a plan to protect the remaining building/s. The oops, sorry, just does not cut it. Critics was open that morning serving food, and then was closed and partly demolished by that evening. WTF was that? To me total incompetence on the part of the City or on the part of the Contractor. If that was my business I would be in heavy contact with my lawyer.

  5. Margaret Hayes Kelley says:

    Born & raised on Clifton st. Worked at Bullshead, so did family. More History Gone. To bad we don’t take care of things anymore. So sad to see everything go.

  6. Jim says:

    Didn’t realize it was an oops during the demo. Guess its a fine example of why we should be rehabbing and reusing instead of demo’ing. Now not only do we have 3 empty lots that’ll probably never be rebuilt without heavy city subsidies (on top of the price of the demo), we’ve killed a city business. When will this city learn? On top of all this wanton destruction funded by city hall, I’m sure we’ll see them side with GEH and other complainers and kill the University Ave development and kill or ruin the development on Park Ave. Does City Hall intend to be this bad or are they that clueless?

    It should have been no surprise the Critic’s building became unstable, its a ROW building and the building next to it was removed. Doesn’t take an engineer to know there was a good risk of disturbing the adjacent buildings. But I’m sure the engineers in City Hall see it as a pleasant surprise and not a mess up.

  7. @Dan, I certainly didn’t mean to gloss over the loss of Critics. This was just a quick blog post I threw up yesterday. Investigative reporting is clearly not my full time job, and I’d encourage everyone to read the D&C article here…

    http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013306020059

  8. Matthew Denker says:

    It is unfortunate that the most the city has online about this “plan” is this: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/property.aspx?id=8589944953. It would be good to know what, exactly, will happen here after site assembly (or why remediation of the buildings was unfeasible). I am positive something good could be built here, but I worry that it won’t.

    This is an ideal corner to be built up around a triangular public plaza between Brown and Main.

  9. Scott K says:

    I wonder if the amount of the settlement money the city will now have to pay would have been enough to repair the other buildings. They may wish they had done that instead.

  10. Sile says:

    Beyond the restaurant and other historical features, what happened to the tenants that were renting the apartments? I certainly hope the city made provisions for them.

  11. Jason Haremza says:

    I look at that 1950 photo and my heart aches for the needless destruction. There’s so little left here now that it hardly seems worth saving.

  12. chase tyler says:

    Good news: there is still a Critics at the Greece mall on West Ridge!

  13. Margaret Hayes Kelley says:

    Yes and its great food, But it’s not the same. We just keep tearing down our neighborhoods of long ago instead of keeping them in good repair.I miss our old neighborhood memories lots of them good & bad.

  14. Duane C. says:

    I was not raised in the bulls head area of the city but but grew up on the south side (south wedge) and have lived through so much destruction in the city in every neighborhood and every section of town and it makes my heart hurt beyond compare.Rochester was a wonderful and beautiful place to grow up in the 50’s and 60’s. even as a child I could appreciate the beauty in the architecture of the homes and buildings that are alas mostly gone.The city is infested with concrete termites a.k.a city fathers.
    You tore down the R.K.O.,you tore down the train station,you destroyed the subway,and you have ripped down so many old beautiful homes that can never,ever be replaced.When will they ever learn?
    Remember for every home you tore down,your tax base dropped just a little bit more,and more.
    Check out Google earth and see the biggest parking lot in the state…Thanks for letting me vent.

  15. jjv says:

    I was born on Henion St and lived all of the late 30’s, 40’s & most of the 50’s there. It was a great neighborhood where residents were proud of their homes and business flourished. There was Love’s Ice Cream and Popcorn shop at the point of W.Main and Brown Sts. An orphanage was located between Main & Clifton Sts and was demolished in the 50’s to build Bulls Head Plaza. Critics Soda Fountain was the best in making Ice Cream Sodas. Wegmans, Webbers and Hart’s Markets were our main stay markets until the 50’s when A&P developed a modern supermarket in Bulls Head Plaza. Daw’s Drug Store served our prescription needs and Morrel’s Cigar Store was the place to buy our cigarettes without having to show ID. At Christmas time, Wegman’s and several other merchants would sell Christmas trees. Western Auto at the corner of W.Main & York Sts. was the place to go to see what we wished for Santa to bring us on Christmas Eve.
    All in all, the Bulls Head neighborhood of Rochester gave me the background and standards that have flourished in my adult life as a professional in Pennsylvania State Government. Now that I am retired and still a contractor in training Pennsylvania Professionals, I have a great collection of photos of Bulls Head and Rochester that I am proud to use as a screen saver in my work and for my own enjoyment.

    I would love to buy back my parent’s home on Henion St. but know that at 77 yrs of age, it would be a monumental undertaking. However, I have my visuals and memories that take me back to those very sweet days of life in a neighborhood and city that I will always love.

  16. Ah yes, Webber’s Market – Famous for food since 1890 – My father Roy Webber & Harlow Webber owned the store. As a child I played there at times, then later worked there in the basement trimming and preparing fresh vegetables for display in the market. I believe this store was the for runner of today’s supermarkets. Webber’s was founded in 1890, Wegmans, right around the corner was founded in 1919. Looks to me like the entire Bulls Head is no more.


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