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32 Responses to “Lincoln Tower… Through 1970, and beyond.”

  1. mike says:

    interesting article about urban renewal and downtown become car-centric.

  2. Dan Howell says:

    This was great – I had never read about the history of Lincoln/Chase Tower, but have always found the building fascinating from a design perspective. I’m hoping as Midtown is redeveloped (and hopefully Xerox Tower), the concourse under Chase Tower will see growth, as well. We could be entering a new era for this area.
    (also, I’m guessing the last photo in this article is supposed to be of the Alliance Building)

  3. @Dan, we fixed last image. Thanks! It’s a before-and-after of the Alliance Building looking west down Main Street; with and without the spire.

  4. Dan Howell says:

    Thanks! Its always crazy to see the before and afters. I miss the spire!

    But hopefully the next “after” shot will bring us closer to a more vibrant streetscape.

  5. Matthew Denker says:

    This is a great tower. Better without the other towers in the original plan. I must say that downtown would be better off without the parking garage. There’s an opportunity for some real intimacy on Stone St behind this were it not for the garage. Something like Stone St. in Manhattan would be amazing.

    Only tangentially related to this project – the new park next to the shabby run down park that resulted when the development of townhouses was quashed remains foolish.

    Back on topic, I’d love to see the layouts of the available space in the concourse (all of it basically). Imagine if it were rebuilt into a grocery store down town. Nationwide (and on average, of course), there are 8,800 people per grocery store. At an occupancy of 1.5, that’s only 5,900 units. Downtown already has about 2,000. Now where could we put the other 3,900?

  6. Bob Williams says:

    Tough call? This building and its non-functional commercial bunker are a complete disgrace.

  7. Mary says:

    I took a temp job in an office on an upper floor of this building back in the 90′s. It was beautiful looking out the windows. I never felt comfortable mooching around the rest of the tower, though.

  8. Mittens says:

    Why does it always seem like our urban projects are downsized before completion? Xerox Tower was originally supposed to have a twin tower. Chase tower with the four other corner towers. Paetec Tower being downsized to a 3 story suburban-style office building. Genesee Crossroads with the planned idea for urban hotels and mixed use shops downsized to one building and a park. I’m sure there are dozens, if not hundreds of more examples. Why do we always fail in Rochester?

  9. Matthew Denker says:

    I don’t think the value engineering of major projects is unique to Rochester. Even rebuilding the world trade center has involved serious cutbacks from the initial plan. It’s just something that happens. It’s also something that we’re just more aware of locally since we see both the original plans and the final built environment, whereas when we visit other places, we only see what was built, and we conjure the plan on our own.

    I guess on a more personal level, I don’t ever expect any of the filling in posts I write to happen how I write them. It’s just part of the “game.”

  10. Jason Haremza says:

    I’m with Bob Williams. To me, it’s not a tough call at all. The demolition of the fine-grained urban development, with active street level facades along Main, Clinton, Stone and South, is a major loss for the city. Especially considering that the replacement is a subterranean bunker on Main Street and actual moats along South Clinton and Stone Streets. This is hardly good, human scaled, urbanism.

    I will concede that the building itself is quite striking, especially from a distance. It does contribute to the city’s skyline and I’ve always admired the bold geometric forms of white (Chase Tower), black (Xerox Tower), and red (B&L Tower).

    However, I’m surprised the article didn’t mention one of the building’s major design flaws: the marble panels. Originally, the fins were covered with white marble panels. Apparently, by the 1980s, these were cracking and falling the sidewalks below. So they were removed and replaced with painted aluminum panels. These, sadly, have not aged well and now look quite dingy, especially viewed up close.

  11. @Jason, the bit about marble is in there. It’s at the very end under “Related”. Very interesting.

  12. Chris Brandt says:

    The whole marble debacle was supposedly a result of value engineering of the contractor’s fault and not John Graham. The thickness of the pieces of veneer along with the material used for the attachment of the marble to the fins were both altered from the original specs.

    Also as an aside, the “spire” you see on the alliance building was a water tower, and the base of the structure for it still exists.

  13. Drew says:

    My late father worked at the Lincoln Tower (in their Trust Department) for 25 years, from when my parents moved to Rochester in ’72 (20 mos. before I was born) until retirement in ’97. I still remember Christmas parties there when I was five or six.

  14. Douglas Fisher says:

    During construction of the Lincoln First Tower, I met the project’s construction cost estimator, who worked for the building’s contractor. This cost estimator was consulting simultaneously for the University of Rochester.

    He bragged to me how much money he was saving the contractor on construction of the Lincoln First Tower, based upon his persuading the contractor to use thinner slabs of marble than the architect’s design had specified.

    His commission fee was based on the savings that he established. He was paid while his recommendations looked like savings.

    Some savings!!

  15. Rich Rolwing says:

    I always wondered what that mysterious building with the spire was that I would see in old photos. I could never place it among the succession of buildings to grace that side of Main St.

    MYSTERY SOLVED!!: Thank you Subway.com:)

    Was the tower removed because it had deteriorated structurally or just to give the building a more so-called “modern” look, I wonder
    ?

  16. Douglas Fisher says:

    The fire tower was removed because the president of Lincoln Bank did not like its looks. Lincoln was then building its new marble-finned tower, and the pictured buildings planned for its four corners were intended to be bland and visually subsidiary to the new centerpiece.

    My information comes directly from Wilmot Craig, then president of Lincoln Bank, whom I met with at that time to urge that he preserve the fire tower. All of Rochester was then becoming nondescript under its urban “renewal” program then in full swing, and I urged that this interesting bit of distinction should be preserved. The banker disagreed.

    As it turned out, none of the buildings projected at the four corners of the new marble-finned building were ever built. The building with this tower pictured, then housing the offices of Lincoln Bank, was intended for ultimate demolition, but instead survives today (without banking offices) under the name Alliance Building, reflecting an ancestor of Lincoln Bank, which once merged with the Alliance Bank to form Lincoln-Alliance Bank, a hyphenated name that can still be seen high on a street wall of the Chase Bank branch at Monroe Avenue & Goodman Street.

    As downtown’s office market continues to diminish, plans were announced to convert the Alliance Building to residential use. Plans were then put on hold, allegedly because the proposed developer was surprised that the building contained a great amount of asbestos, more than he claims to have budgeted for its removal.

  17. @Douglas, the developer was Patrick Dutton. I’ve spoken with him and he confirmed the asbestos abatement was the deal breaker. It was just more than he could take on.

  18. Douglas Fisher says:

    A reasonable rationale, although probably a predictable problem. This thoughtful private development adaptive re-use proposal lacked the millions of dollars of New York State largesse that went into asbestos removal at Midtown Plaza, which was the sine qua non for anything happening at Midtown. And, likely, for the long-empty facing buildings across Main Street.

  19. Rich Rolwing says:

    I thought at first you guys were talking about that project to convert the old National Clothing Building into a hotel as having fallen through–That is still on, right?

    Thanks for the exhaustive response to my question about the water tower, Douglas. So he decided to get rid of the tower AFTER it was decided that the other buildings would not be built? So as not to distract from the blandness (IMO) of the Lincoln Tower with even a hint of architectural novelty, as it were?

    So there is still something in the Alliance Building, right? Offices, et.al.?

  20. Yes, the Hilton Garden Inn project in the old National Clothing building is still on as far as I know.

  21. Rich Rolwing says:

    Hey Mike–Why so impersonal? You remember me, right?

  22. Rich, Ich erinnere mich an Sie.

    :-)

  23. Rich Rolwing says:

    Na,gut! Have you started taking German lessons? (Or are we resorting to automatic translation?) Aber bitte gebrauche die familiare “du” Form mit mir, also: Ich errinere mich an “dich.”

  24. Ha. Das ist google schuld. ;-)

    We’re off topic here, so for everyone else’s sake, Rich helped translate a vintage postcard with a message that was written in German. You can see that article here. Thanks again, Rich.

  25. Douglas Fisher says:

    @Rich: The fire tower was removed after the conceptual drawings were in place for the four corner office buildings, but while all leasing efforts were focussing on filling the new marble-finned tower.

    Only subsequently did it appear that there was not an adequate market to justify construction of all four corner buildings. The site of the two contemplated buildings on the south was then sold for construction of the Clinton Square Building, facing Broad Street between Clinton Avenue and Stone Street, but with an all-weather connection to the Lincoln Tower.

    The city’s largest law firm, Nixon Hargrave Devans & Doyle (now Nixon Peabody), had been an original anchor tenant of the Lincoln Tower, revenue from whose lease justified the financing of the Lincoln Tower.

    Nixon Hargrave, after about a decade of tenancy in the Lincoln Tower, signed up as an original anchor tenant of the new Clinton Square Tower, revenue from whose lease justified the financing of the Clinton Square Tower.

    Nixon Peabody remains as a major tenant of the Clinton Square Tower.

    The old Alliance Building offers an all-weather connection to the Lincoln Tower (now the Chase Tower), hosts office tenants at a lower base rent than the two newer towers, and, in addition, offers a deli facing Main Street.

  26. Rich Rolwing says:

    *Interesting–I just checked out the Alliance Building on Google Maps and you can clearly see the octagonal base where the tower stood. The google map view also is a good way to really get an idea of the size of the building. It’s pretty massive.

    *The Temple Theater was quite an attractive building. Those b*st**ds couldn’t have left just one of those theaters. Unbelievable.

  27. It’s okay, you can say bastards. It was a pretty bastardy thing to do. At least we still have Eastman Theatre.

  28. Douglas Fisher says:

    Within the space of only one decade — 1965 – 1975 — we lost to demolition the RKO Palace Theatre, the Loew’s Theater, the Paramount Theater, the Regent Theater, the Capitol Theater, and the shuttered Family Theater (previously the Cook’s Opera House).

    An expert analysis showed that the Cook’s Opera House at 25 South Avenue, with its excellent acoustics, could have been restored as a 1,000-seat theater for about $2 million.

    A far cry from the ~$90 million asserted as the cost of a Broadway-style theater in a downtown performing arts center today.

  29. Rich Rolwing says:

    *Ok–Baaahhstards!

    *Anybody remember the Riviera Theater in the Tenth Ward @Lake Avenue and Ridgeway (A CVS is there now)? I used to walk there from my house on Knickerbocker Ave. to watch a horror movie double bill in the late 60s early 70s.

  30. Rich Rolwing says:

    Sorry–Lake Avenue and Flower City Park.

  31. Douglas Fisher says:

    The Riviera Theater was demolished to the glee of sledge-hammer-wielding City Council members, who did not like the type of movies being shown.

    Obviously, that was the fault of the building, not of the theater operator. Therefore, the building must be demolished.

  32. Rich Rolwing says:

    Ok, so mummies and vampires aren’t everybody’s cup of tea–Just kidding! I know at the end they had sunk to what might be called Monroe Theater West. I had forgotten about the political grandstanding accompanying the demolition.


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