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What is this Birdhouse-looking thing in Genesee Valley Park?

February 6th, 2015

What is this building in Genesee Valley Park?
By Mike Governale

A recent email from a RocSubway reader asks: “There is a building on Moore Road external link in Genesee Valley Park that looks like some kind of bird house, maybe a pigeon coop. It’s so close to the edge of the [University of Rochester] property that I wondered if it was theirs, rather than part of the park. Someone is taking care of it as the paint doesn’t appear to be that old. Thought its origin might be interesting. Any ideas?”

I’ve noticed this building before too, and because of those tiny holes in the upper level, I’ve always assumed it was a birdhouse. But I admit, I really am not sure. So I asked JoAnn Beck, Senior Landscape Architect with the City of Rochester…

It IS a birdhouse! More poetically referred to as a dovecote.
As it turns out, some things really are what they seem – it IS a giant birdhouse!

Actually it’s referred to as a dovecote as seen above in this 1920’s vintage postcard. There is a similar building in Maplewood Park near the rose garden. Both parks were of course designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

A City of Rochester historic parks survey external linkexplains that the dovecotes were designed to resemble a military blockhouse external link.

JoAnn Beck points out that the Genesee Valley Park dovecote is shown on the 1935 plan, but not on an earlier topographic map done prior to the Canal. So she suspects these buildings may have been added as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) external link improvement, or a late addition by the Olmsted brothers – but not an original feature of the park.

One of the pedestrian bridges in Genesee Valley Park. This was not originally part of Olmsted's plan. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library, Local History Division]
In the early 1900s the Erie Canal was rerouted from downtown Rochester through Genesee Valley Park. With the canal now cutting the park in half, the Olmsted Brothers returned to Rochester to redesign the park’s pathways. In 1916 and 1919 they constructed three identical pedestrian bridges external link over the canal. So it’s possible they added these birdhouses at the same time.

Fascinating! Thanks for asking, and keep your emails coming.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 6th, 2015 at 1:37 am and is filed under Architecture, Rochester Destinations, Rochester History, Rochester Images. 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.

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