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Rochester 1982

October 19th, 2016

Downtown Rochester from the Cascade District [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
By Matthew Denker

While poking around the Rochester Image Database that the Monroe Public Library so lovingly maintains, I bumped into a series of 24 aerial photographs taken in 1982. That in and of itself wouldn’t be the most interesting thing ever, except the images portray Rochester in the middle of an incredible transition to be much closer to the city we know now than the one anyone might have recognized from before.

I don’t plan to write a detailed caption for every photo in the set, but there are a few interesting things I’d like to point out as we go through the photos. If you notice anything I missed, do please bring it up in the comments. I have no doubt it will be exciting.

• • •

Can of Worms Looking South [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

Can of Worms Looking West [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

Being only 5 at the time it was reconfigured, I never had the (dis)pleasure of driving through the original Can of Worms. From these photos, I honestly cannot fathom how awful it must have been. Thankfully three years of roadwork from 1988 to 1991 fixed this for good.

• • •

Looking Downtown from the County Offices [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

The most striking part of this photo, to me, is what a hole there was before the convention center and Hyatt were built. You can also see the parking lot where the BCBS building would go much later on the right side of the photo.

• • •

Downtown Rochester with Corn Hill on the left and Mt. Hope on the right [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

Corn Hill from the south [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

Corn Hill on the left and the South Wedge on the right [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

Here are three amazing shots that include Corn Hill in them. This is right after all of the worst urban renewal, but just as the first few units of Corn Hill Commons are being constructed. The vast, grassy state of what was (and in some ways is again) one of the densest neighborhoods in the city really blows my mind. It’s also amazing to see the desire lines across so many of the different vacant lots in the neighborhood.

• • •

Downtown and some of the South Wedge  [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

All highways all the time [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

I honestly didn’t know that One Mt. Hope was this derelict before it was transformed into the spectacular building it is now (it was abandoned in 1968, for reference). It wouldn’t be renovated until four years after these photos, and it was renovated again last year by Bivona. As the oldest industrial building in the city, it’s so good this was saved.

• • •

Looking down Main Street from the west [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

A view of the west side of downtown [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

There is so so much going on in these two photos, but to me, the most appalling thing is the knowledge that the Hotel Rochester would be implodedexternal link 17 years later. What a loss. And for what? A surface parking lot for the next 17? And maybe another 17 more? I’ve honestly cried watching that video (and this oneexternal link).

• • •

The East End from the north side of the Inner Loop [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

In this photo we find our intrepid city in the process of jamming Chestnut Street through the East End from East Ave to University, connecting it to North. This is one of the last, greatest mistakes the city would make in the urban renewal to roads movement. By 1982, we should have known better, but here we are. Chestnut Street North remains a superb collection of surface parking lots and weed strewn lawns 34 years later.

• • •

High Falls and the now demolished Beebe Station [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

I am struck by two things in this photo. First, how much High Falls has changed in the past three decades. And second, look at the pile of coal just sitting outside at the old power plant. Just think, not 35 years ago, we had a giant pile of coal lying around downtown.

• • •

Monroe Ave and the now-defunct Inner Loop [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]

Look at how different this area is now. Why, it’s barely half as many parking lots! But I kid. This picture today is so different and in a few more years, will be even more different still. It’s amazing how much change has happened to this one small piece of the city over the years.

And now everything else…

• • •

Downtown from Monroe Ave [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
Downtown viewed from Wadsworth Square.

Downtown from Broad St [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
Downtown viewed from the east end of Broad Street.

Downtown from High Falls [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
Downtown viewed from High Falls.

Downtown from East Main Street [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
Downtown viewed from East Main Street.

Downtown from East Main [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
Downtown viewed from the Hungerford.

Downtown Bridges [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
A view of the downtown bridges looking north.

Goodman Street Rail Yard [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
The Goodman Street Rail Yard.

• • •

Charlotte [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
A view of Charlotte and the old Stutson Street Bridge.

Kodak on Ridge Road [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
A view of the Kodak plant at Ridge and Lake.

Lower Falls [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall]
A view of the Lower Falls.

• • •

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 at 9:12 am and is filed under 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.

13 Responses to “Rochester 1982”

  1. Frank says:

    Thanks for posting these photos. I was amazed at how much has changed in such a relatively short amount of time. Although my parents were born and raised in Rochester, I was born in Rochester and raised in Gates so I didn’t become all that familiar with the city until I was out of college and living in a studio apartment off East Avenue. These pictures brought a number of things to mind for me so I hope you don’t mind if I vent:

    – It’s always sad for me to look at old photos of Kodak Park because of what has happened there, but there’s also much to be thankful for. So many cities have lost their main employer and not recovered like we have.

    – This city is very fortunate to have the Strong National Museum of Play and it’s clear that place is a gem inside the Inner Loop (can we still call it a loop or is it now a semi-circle?). They’ve greatly expanded and it sounds like they’re going to grow again.

    – I had no idea that stretch along Mount Hope Avenue was a grassy lot while I was in high school. What was there originally?

    – I’m glad we’ve invested in our arena, but can we please get a scrolling marquee outside? What is taking so long for that to happen?

    – It’s a shame for the old Hawkeye building and it’s parking lots to sit vacant along the river. What a stark reminder of Kodak’s former days.

    – Charlotte has obviously undergone some positive changes. Can we keep it going with Morgan’s proposed building and leave the high-rise mess behind now? How’s that coming along?

    – The Goodman Street rail yard photo is a good reminder of how much good has happened and is still happening at the Village Gate complex. If you haven’t seen all that work lately take a drive over there and around the surrounding streets. There’s a lot going on in the University Avenue neighborhood.

    – I’m grateful for the new townhouse buildings across from the Hochstein School but couldn’t we have insisted on something other than the cheap vinyl siding covering the entire backsides of those structures?

    – I’m glad we’re cleaning up the BeeBee Station site but I’m worried about what it will become once it’s cleared.

    – I still long for a real light rail system in this city. Once fuel goes back up to four or five dollars a gallon, our bus system is going to be even less appealing than it is now.

    – Thank God the brewery is doing so well. I hope their renovations bring them even more success.

    – Corn Hill has improved dramatically. I hope it only gets better. Corn Hill Landing beats the former gravel parking lot any day.

    I’m from here and I work in the city. I hear the naysayers and I sometimes see their side but it could be much worse. From Parcel 5 to Charlotte, I hope we make some good development decisions in the years to come. Thanks again for the blast from the past.

  2. Powers says:

    What’s the context behind the Hotel Rochester demolition? (Google searches are useless in this case due to the name.) Why tear it down for a parking lot?

  3. Powers says:

    Frank: The BCA is getting a marquee; not sure if it’s exactly what you had in mind, but I saw activity to that end on Saturday.

  4. Ben says:

    For all the complaints we hear today about too many surface lots downtown, it really is shocking to see how much worse the problem used to be. Maybe you’ve seen these old aerial maps before, but they have 1971 and 1994 for Rochester which frame the before and after for these photos pretty well.

    http://www.historicaerials.com/

    (can’t link right to the area, just search Rochester NY and choose the year on the left)

  5. Christopher Playford says:

    That vast stretch of grassy area on Mt. Hope to the Clarssia bridge used to be the Lehigh Valley Railroad yard. Freight houses and a ship transfer area.

  6. As per the 12/18/99 issue of the D&C, the building was imploded for a parking lot. Nothing better. The people who own the site (still) said they might build an office building later. This was a capital loss that will never be answered for, and it’s clear the current owners care nothing for Rochester. I dare them to prove otherwise.

  7. Dennis B. says:

    Also note the undeveloped area by Corn Hill, that was a yard for the Erie Railroad, later Erie Lackawanna. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to imagine what that part of the city looked like before the War Memorial was built. Much more industrial and rail transportation-based.

  8. Carl says:

    In the caption to the third photo you make mention of “what a hole there was before the convention center and Hyatt were built. Actually, the site had been occupied by the Commerce Building (a beautiful Beaux Arts style skyscraper); the old Security Trust Bank, which had an interior of mosaic marble floors and stained glass skylights and the Cook’s Opera House, a 19th century theatre which another group was attempting to buy and restore. The restoration of those three buildings would have been much more of an asset to Rochester than the unremarkable convention center and the Ho-Hum Hyatt.

  9. Richard Long says:

    The Hotel Rochester died a slow death for many reasons, like cars and air transportation for starters. By the late 50s the Rochester was a housing facility for RIT students before the campus moved to Henrietta. It may or may not have made enough profit then to pay taxes and costs. It was one of the last buildings in the city to convert manual elevators to automatics. It was sufficiently full that RIT reached out to the Powers Hotel a block away for more rooms.

    When RIT opened Henrietta campus the Rochester emptied fast. The owners decided to reface the building with glazed brick and brought in armature bricklayers who might have been good enough to lay brick on 1 story ranch houses if they’d only be seen at night. To put it nicely, the job was done so poorly the Bricklayers Union of Rochester picketed the job for months pointing out lack of job safety and that the brick would begin falling off in 2 years. The Union masons were correct. The City Inspectors were told to go blind looking at the brick job because there was a good chance of a fast sale of the new blue building.

    Oddly, the sale never happened and the Rochester sat next to a clapped out movie house that couldn’t even keep its doors open showing porn. Ownership made a deal with Welfare and became the Cadillac Hotel West annex. There were problems with plumbing that developed quickly, and police calls and all the usual. Ownership then turned to a residence for elderly & special needs model and the place stayed open for a while.

    As bricks began their Niagra Falls of brick impression, the City first required safety barriers over the sidewalk, and then insisted the blue bricks be removed leaving walls exposed to weather that had been blasted of their coating for brick adhesion. Next came ugly paint, and brick walls that collected rain water and blew out from frost. It became a good neighborhood for a steel umbrella.

    Over all this time the City Assessor played his game, as did City Fire making increasing demands. High taxes + a new City Administration putting heat on + RG&E shutting down the municipal steam system downtown eventually added sufficient weight to drop the wrecking ball, or in the case of the Rochester, demolition by explosives. The time frame dictated the result in a City where nobody dared be on that corner after the cops went home.

  10. Richard Long says:

    Circa 82 Lincoln First Tower was wearing a skin of painted 3/4″ plywood with white PVC tape on all the joints. Its original skin was white Italian marble 1 inch thick slabs.
    There was a brawl going between Architects, Engineers and the stone supplier on Mt Hope Ave over who was paying for the screwup that caused the marble to spall slivers that fell all over downtown depending on which direction the wind blew.
    The tower had a secondary problem, all the piping for water and sprinklers runs inside of the external ribs, and oddly Rochester Winters caused pipes to freeze. The new exterior panels were going on the tower in 84, and by early 85 there were huge stacks of plywood for sale at the stone yard for 25¢ a square foot.

    What is now the Hyatt was in 82 an abandoned project begun by the owner of Darrien Lake with several concrete decks poured and 1 steel deck waiting to be poured. The developer ran out of money and the contractors walked off. The Fall after the walkoff the City was trying to secure the site in hope of preventing damage to what was already up pending finding another Developer to invest in the project.

    Lawyers were getting rich from both fiascos.

  11. Austin says:

    These are awesome pictures! Although I believe the second photo of the Can of Worms is looking East, not West.

  12. Ned Wright says:

    I moved to Rochester from Toledo OH in Aug. 1982 to start work at Gleason on Aug 16, 1982. I visited Rochester in July for the interview and fell in love with the city and ultimately rented an apartment in Perinton at the Whitney Ridge apt’s just north of 31F & just east of Fairport. I later bought a house at 369 Wyndale Rd in Irondequoit where I lived for many years before moving to #8 Pheasant Hollow in Pittsford NY. I returned to Toledo in 2001 after my wonderful wife died of leukemia. I love history and purchased many books about Rochester’s interesting history and learned about the flour to flower economy transformation and the impact of Kodak on the area. When I arrive over 72000 (peak number) worked in the area for the BIG K and about 15000 for X and 3000 for Gleason. I loved the culture, eastern similarities, and the beautiful scenery. My two daughters still live in Rochester so I visit frequently. Home is home and I am in love with my hometown Toledo (similar in certain ways to Rochacha) but a large part of my heart is still in Rochester. The first bar I ever visited in Rochester was Shorty’s in Fairport and I met my wife on Christmas Eve 1982 at the old Dickens restaurant on University just east of Blossom rd. It is an office building now. I used to shop at Sibleys, Chase Pitkin and Scrantoms at the Irondequoit Plaza. All of which are closed now. I still have friends from Gleason that I see when I visit so there is always a couch to flop-on if the need arises. Rochester is a wonderful city with abundant culture and high standard of living. Rochester is a true nugget and a well kept secret and the Rochester Chamber of Commerce slogan from the 1982 time period “Rochester – it’s got it!” still holds true. God speed

    Sincerely,
    Ned Wright


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