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Big Wheel Keep On Turning

January 6th, 2015

The triphammer water wheel in High Falls, Rochester NY being removed from its housing so it can be restored. [PHOTO: Tom Dubois]
By Mike Governale

Sorry for the Tina Turner reference… it was all I could think of to describe the enormity of this big wheel. I’m talking 25 foot and 12 tons just under 20 ton*!! Um, ok so who are these hooded dudes, and just where do they think they’re going with our giant wheel? These strange photos were taken late Tuesday afternoon by Tom Dubois and Peter Simpson…

The triphammer water wheel in High Falls, Rochester NY being removed from its housing so it can be restored. [PHOTO: Peter Simpson]
Last summer you may remember the City of Rochester agreed to sell the High Falls Center external link to Ben Kendig who plans to convert the underused building into office and residential space. Kendig owns several other buildings in the High Falls neighborhood restoring and bringing many of them back from near certain demolition.

As part of the sale agreement, Kendig has agreed to take over the maintainence of the adjacent Triphammer Forge “park” area. A crew is now getting ready to refurbish the wheel and clean the water pit. The wheel is being removed so they can work on the spokes, blades, and axle.

The work is estimated to cost $364,000. However, the agreement with the City gives Kendig the option to buy the High Falls Waterworks building (visitor center & museum), to which this investment would be applied.

Dang. I had hopes of giant water wheel races down State Street.

The triphammer water wheel in High Falls, Rochester NY being removed from its housing so it can be restored. [PHOTO: Peter Simpson]

• • •

About the water wheel
and Triphammer Forge

A unique archaeological park, the Triphammer Forge site external link provides a good view of the layers of history found in Brown’s Race. The Triphammer Building burned in 1977. As the rubble was being cleared, a long-forgotten basement room was uncovered that housed the buildings massive (25-foot) water wheel, constructed of wood and iron.

The Triphammer Building was built as a forge in 1816 and occupied by the William Cobb Scythe and Tool factory. A large, heavy hammer, the triphammer, was raised by waterpower and dropped to forge wrought-iron tools. In 1830 the building was advertised for sale as having a furnace with the greatest blast in the state and two triphammers.

In the 1830s, Lewis Selye bought the Triphammer Building. Previously, in 1826, he had constructed the building at 208 Mill Street that extends between Brown’s Race and Mill Street. In these buildings the Selye Fire Engine Company built Rochester’s first fire engines and supplied fire engines for federal fortifications and other sites across New York state. A cast-iron shaft transferred power from the Triphammer Building to the Mill Street plant.

*UPDATE: Lee Klug, of Klug Crane Service informed us the wheel is actually just under 20 tons… not 12 as previously stated. Thanks Lee!

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 at 8:59 pm and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester Images, Rochester News, Urban Exploration. 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 “Big Wheel Keep On Turning”

  1. Kevin Yost says:

    The Center at High Falls, which will likely soon be owned by local developer Ben Kendig, should be a local history and art gallery like before, but this time a joint effort between the Museum and Science Center and the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

  2. BSAUERS says:

    This wheel is a reproduction of the original. It was designed by City Staff and installed when the High Falls area was developed.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I agree with Kevin. With that idea the public can enjoy the historic site.

  4. jim says:

    I hope they put it back soon!

  5. Matt Rogers says:

    Stopped by tonight to see the progress. It’s mounted to steel supports now next to the basement it was housed in. Pretty impressive to see it at ground level now.

    There’s an ambiguous sign attached to it now that reads “Rochester, We’re Taking Pride!” I really want to support the idea behind that sign, but that’s some weird copy: We’re taking pride away from Rochester? Is this a declaration of intent to take someone named Pride in Rochester? Pride is going somewhere nice but he’ll be back?

    I suspect there was a more altruistic motive for the slogan, but all I can think of is some poor soul named Pride and the trouble he’s about to find himself in.

  6. chester says:

    Looks like a steel FITZ wheel with a segmented rack. Pretty cool.
    http://www.fitzwaterwheel.com/

    http://www.angelfire.com/journal/millbuilder/segment.gif

  7. kammy says:

    The contractor who removed the wheel and are reinstalling it is a local company named HEASTER BUILDING RESTORATION. SUPER JOB!!!


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