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Lost Time Capsule Beneath Rochester’s Lost Front Street

February 13th, 2015

Nick Brayer preparing to lay a time capsule under Front Street, Rochester. 1893. [PHOTO: Rochester Municipal Archives]
By Mike Governale

This week’s Fun Foto Friday is a snapshot from 1893. That’s Nick Brayer, an engineering contractor working on a new sewer beneath Front Street in downtown Rochester. In his hands is a tin box. It’s not a sewer pipe. It’s actually a time capsule and he’s preparing to lay it at the project site to be buried. Looks like quite the event; a crowd of neighborhood kids have formed behind him to get in on the photo op.

Fast forward to 2015 and the burning question for readers of this blog will undoubtedly be: Where is this capsule now? And what’s inside…

Front Street
Uh… well… we have no idea. Not a clue. As far as we can find, this capsule was never retrieved. And as you know, most of Front Street external link is now itself history – entombed beneath Genesee Crossroads Parking Garage (and park). I guess that’s what we get for hiding our valuables in the sewer.

Rochester's 1873 City Hall time capsule contained old books, documents, photos, maps, and a condom. [PHOTO: Rochester Museum & Science Center]
While we may never know what was in that particular box, a similar capsule from 1873 external link was removed from old City Hall and opened in 1999.

That 1’x1’x1′ copper box was filled with a treasure trove of books, pamphlets, newspapers, maps, handwritten documents, photos, coins and other forms of currency.

Rochester's 1873 City Hall time capsule contained old books, documents, photos, maps, and a condom. [PHOTO: Rochester Museum & Science Center]
Oh yes, and a hundred year-old condom external link. That’s right. A sheep intestine condom, left in an envelope and tucked into one of the books as a prank. The envelope was addressed to “The person who opens the box.” Score!

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 13th, 2015 at 12:51 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Transit + Infrastructure, 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.

8 Responses to “Lost Time Capsule Beneath Rochester’s Lost Front Street”

  1. Christopher Brandt says:

    Mike I dug up some information on your quest.

    A 1892 Democrat and Chronicle article details the proceedings of the City of Rochester acquiring easements for the new sewer line on Front Street. They describe “extending and improvement of Front Street outlet sewer from Center Street to the fall race at the Edison Illuminating Company’s building.”

    The Edison Illuminating Company was one of Rochester’s early electricity providers that did not combine with Rochester Gas and Electric in the 1880s-1890s. They provided power for street lights throughout the city. Their office was on Edison Street at the southwest corner of the Erie Canal and Fitzhugh-Carroll mill race (approximately the northwest corner of Blue Cross Arena now. They had two power stations one powered by steam and one powered by water. Their hydroelectric Station #2 was located on Brown’s Race in the vicinity of Triphammer Forge at Brown’s Race and Furnace Street. This station would subsequently become RG&E Station #2 which was lost in a fire years later.

    So in conclusion this sewer line expansion project spanned from what is now Front Street and the Innerloop north to Brown’s Race and Furnace Street. Looking at the photograph with the wall of stacked stone to the Nick Brayer’s left in the photograph I would guess that this box was located at the foot of the train embankment in line with Front Street. As further evidence of this you can reference the 1900 plat map of this vicinity which shows a sewer line extending north from Front and Center to the river gorge.

  2. I’m struggling to find a sewer line that runs from Front to Furnace St. And also, where is Center Street? Are they referring to Central Ave?

  3. Christopher Brandt says:

    Centre Street in the 1888 map (plat #1 and #14) gets renamed Commercial Street in the 1900 map. In plat #14 in 1888 the 6″ sewer line does not continue through to the gorge, but in the 1900 map it does. I apologize for the lack of clarity, but the line does not follow Brown’s Race upon crossing under the train tracks, but instead veers to the east between the Gorsline Building and Rochester Cotton Mills on the 1900 map.

    So my assumption from this information is that the sewer extension started around the train embankment and went north to the gorge. It could be possible that the “stacked” stone in the photo might be part of the gorge walls, however all of the street kids in the photo would suggest that they are closer to street level need the train embankment.

  4. I’m with you now. Alright, grab your shovel and pickaxe, we’re going digging…

  5. Dawn Noto says:

    Living in the Susan B Anthony neighborhood we learn about the past residents who lived in our 19th century homes. Rarely do we ever get to see pictures of them (except our Susan’s).

    The City Director of 1849-50 shows a Michael and a Nicholas Brayer residing at 11 Mechanics Square (now S Madison Pk).

    Nicholas Brayer later lived at 41 Madison St. A prominent contractor, he built the Court St bridge and was especially active in the improvement of city streets.

    In 1872, he was elected Republican supervisor for the 8th ward, and in 1877, he served as school commissioner for the 15th ward.

  6. Matt Rogers says:

    And to think on all those times I thought I needed a metal detector and shunned the idea…

    I’m trying to wrap my head around burying a time capsule in the foundation of a sewer. Infrastructure engineering is noble and important, but I’ve never heard of such an artifact destined for such a humble abode. What other public projects did he oversee? Perhaps he was pulled as a photo-op for some unrelated more headlining ground-breaking?

    But the train embankment theory is interesting. That flagstone is roughhewn and boldly mortared, I’d venture it is at the base of the train tracks just going on the construction technique.

    So fancy a skip through the brush then?

  7. Dawn, that is interesting. I wonder if the Court Street Bridge has a capsule in it too? 😉

    So I took a closer look at the location Christopher is pointing us too. Here would be the approximate location of Front Street if it still extended to the rail tracks today…
    Approximate location of Front Street if it still extended to the rail tracks.

    And if we look at street view, we see several sewer/utility holes in this spot. And so if Christopher is correct, the capsule could possibly be somewhere around here…
    The Front Street time capsule could possibly be somewhere around here.

  8. Dave towns says:

    Anyone heard anything more in regard to 100yr.old bones (possibly human) found in the ceiling of a building on W Main st.? About a year ago. It was adjacent to the Busy Bee restaurant.


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