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Genesee Brewery to Demolish This Building

November 8th, 2011

Sign the Petition to Save 13 Cataract Street

Genesee Brewery getting set to demolish this building. That would be a great loss. [Flickr Photo: Zeus-the-Ferret]
RocSubway has word from good sources this afternoon that Genesee Brewery will submit an application today to demolish this building at the eastern end of the High Falls pedestrian bridge at 13 Cataract Street. This will likely be going to the Zoning Board hearing on Dec 15. Obviously, if true, this would be a great architectural and historical loss for Rochester. If you know anyone with deep pockets, now is a great time to buy!

The building as it was in 1899. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]
A view of the Standard Brewing Company (above) located at 13 Cataract Street at Platt Street. Standard Brewing Company was incorporated in 1899, but suspended production during the prohibition era in 1924. In 1933, production resumed until Standard Brewing Company merged with Rochester Brewing Company in 1956 to form Standard Rochester Brewing Company.

According to the property detailexternal link on the City’s web site, the property is assessed at $187,900.

The Brewery has had the building up for sale with several developers showing interest at one time or another; but no buyers. Genesee Brewery has not yet responded to my request for comment. Stay tuned! And if you have ideas for this building please leave a comment below.

How You Can Help:

Plan to attend and speak at the Zoning Board’s meeting on Thursday, December 15, 2011. The start time for the Public Hearing is 9:30 AM in City Council Chambers, Room 302A, City Hall, 30 Church Street. Cases 1-5 will be heard beginning at 9:30 AM. The Genesee Brewery Application is Case #5 and will begin at 11:30 AM.

Share this event on Facebook.

Please sign the petitionexternal link, which was started by fellow blogger Christopher Schiffnerexternal link, so we can let them know we’d like our history preserved…

Sign the Petition to Save 13 Cataract Street

See also:
Genesee Brewery to Demolish This Building
Dear Genesee Brewery: Inspiration From Baltimore
Brewery Unveils Official Plan
Help Save Brewing Landmark
Imagine, Rochester’s Historic Brewery Square
Landmark Society Urges Brewery to Rethink Demolition
Prohibition in Rochester

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 at 3:49 pm and is filed under Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

52 Responses to “Genesee Brewery to Demolish This Building”

  1. Adrian says:

    Would they replace it with something?

  2. Benjamin Woelk says:

    This CANNOT happen, this is my favorite building in the city of Rochester, I will do everything I can to spread the word and attend civic hearing on this matter. How can people be so short sided?!

  3. Mark says:

    I agree an amazing building how is this not land marked or otherwise protected! This would be a terrible loss for the city

  4. I am horrified that this is even being considered. This is one of the most iconic and architecturally aesthetic buildings in the entirety of Rochester. Why would we destroy something that has the potential to be amazing. Turn it into a library, or an art venue… It has enough space to be the next village gate.

  5. Zack says:

    I chatted with some workers at the brewery on my way home from work tonight. I was milling around, taking pictures on my phone. They offered that the building is coming down. They say the company wanted to renovate it, but learned that it would cost millions to do so. “It’d be a great party house,” one said half-jokingly. They were sad to see it go. “All built by hand.” One worker said some potential buyers had come by last week to check it out — but still, the latest word around the brewery was that it was done for. Something one of the workers said stuck with me, seeming somehow emblematic of the problem we and other cities face. He said, “You could spend maybe $10 million to fix it up, and you’d have a fine building — but in this neighborhood. What could you do with it?” Given that the company (or a buyer) would have to spend multiple millions to find out the answer to that rhetorical question is, well, daunting. It’s hard to imagine what would pay the bills. Maybe something along the lines of the Culver Road Armory could happen. The building itself is amazing. It looks like a castle. (You’ll also notice is one of the only buildings at the brewery that didn’t get in on the spiffy new paint job.)

    Anyway, here’s the city’s assessment of the property: http://geo.cityofrochester.gov/detail.asp?RECID=1066213400#

    It’s valued at less than $188,000. But again, it’s the cost of renovation that’s the problem. For shame.

  6. I’ve reached out to Genesee Brewery but have not heard back yet. On the bright side, I have been contacted by one local organization that is strongly interested in the property. More to come.

  7. Someone told me a few months ago that this property could be bought for ~$200K. The problem is that there are empty class A office spaces in High Falls. Zach’s summary is correct. Why would anyone invest millions developing/restoring this hazardous shell of a building if there is no demand? “If you build it they will come” is too risky for this time and place. Beautiful falls-view potential though.

  8. Jay says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to tour the inside of the building in the capacity of a potential buyer. Somewhere on my laptop are a couple hundred pictures I took of the property. At the time (March of this year) the building was bundled with the adjacent structure for somewhere in the $300k area. What an amazing building! Unfortunately there is a considerable amount of damage, along with the health risk of thousands of pigeons calling it their home. At the time there was also about 4 inches of ice covering the first floor, which was a result of months of rain and large sections of missing roof.

    Here we go: https://picasaweb.google.com/jayrowe/HighFallsBrewery?authuser=0&feat=directlink This is the tip of the iceberg. I cannot overstate the abundance of pigeon crap on just about every surface of the building. I had vowed to myself after that tour that if I were to win the lotto I’d completely renovate the building. The sad thing is it would probably take a lotto budget to fix the place. I’m not sure if the facade is save-able? But yeah, sadly that building is a disaster waiting to happen, and I fear the opportunity to safely save and restore it has long passed.

  9. Xanthe says:

    I wish we were in a position to install urban farms. I heard yesterday that they have a similar effect as the hipster effect (is that what it’s called?). When artists, or farmers, move into a neighborhood, prop values go up.

  10. Adrian says:

    Jay – when I see those pictures, I think… Indoor paintball arena!

  11. Allan Cuseo says:

    What a loss that would be. I still miss the train station… When will Rochester celebrate its history and not destroy it?

  12. Red says:

    This building is in such disrepair it is very difficult to justify any development. If the Brewery wants to save it they should give it away. It’s the only way someone would take interest. Why spend money demolishing it when giveing it away is cheaper.

  13. @Red, that’s an EXCELLENT point. And they could easily do so. Keep an eye on the Democrat & Chronicle tomorrow.

  14. Jim Fraser says:

    In Buffalo there is a landmark train station called the Central Terminal. The building is immense. When CT faced a similar situation, a group formed an organization and bought the complex. The first spend was to stabilize the structure. They promoted the project and raised money with tours and special events. You can actually get married there. Lately I’ve read they are creating a nature preserve on the empty land on the property. Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Central_Terminal

    This is not too complicated. First, the $10M price tag is daunting, but that’s the cost of doing it all up front. You can’t do that because you don’t have it. Hence, developers aren’t interested because they can’t use their business model. I lock horns with the city over this point all the time. It must be done in stages.

    Second, it doesn’t take a citizen army. It takes a small group of dedicated people with a leader, a strong advocate who is willing to work tirelessly – at least at first. Organize a non-profit, build a base of support and a network of all kinds of experts, create a vision plan. Begin the relentless search for funding. Get the word out. Get attention.

    Third, act now. Talk to the company, the city, the preservation community. Be serious, sincere, and above all, be QUICK.

    Rochester really needs to learn how to do this stuff. You can be the teacher. Act now.

  15. @Jim, thank you. You right. And you, yourself are a local hero when it comes to historic preservation; saving numerous old houses on the City’s north side!

    Word is out… Brian Sharp has taken this story to the pages of the D&C. Read more…

  16. Mittens says:

    NO!!! WTF is wrong with people these days? It’s going to be replaced with either a parking lot, a park or a 1 story suburban style building that we DON’T NEED OR WANT!!!

  17. Jay Dobbs says:

    We toured the building when it was first put up for sale. The condition is bad but savable. The problem is developing it into something useful. It is full of small floor and 1/2 floor all purposely built for various beer making processes. It is amazing. There is no reason you couldn’t remove the old 2 story cafeteria building and the metal train shed with the spent hops tanks and have enough room. This is a link to all the picture I took that day. It


  18. Jay Dobbs says:

    also… If you think this building is cool has anyone ever seen the small brewery office on the other side of the river just a bit north of the smith street? It is next to the Upton cold storage building that was recently demo’d

  19. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Rochester has had an important brewing history going back over 150 years. Ale brewers in the middle 19th century prized the particularly pure spring water in downtown Rochester.

    This very building is much the most distinguished brewery structure in a compact neighborhood that has been home to not only the Genesee Brewery and High Falls Brewery, but earlier to the Standard Brewery, the Cataract Brewery and the Bartholomay Brewery.

    All these breweries were served by the “Genesee Falls Railway,” whose trackage still survives there.

    This building stands adjoining the historic Falls Field, currently a city park, which held a 19th-century “biergarten,” popular among the adjoining German immigrant population then for regular convivial gatherings.

    This fine Romanesque Revival brick structure evokes the brewery museums so very popular with visitors in St. Louis, Milwaukee and other cities, where outdoor beer gardens are combined with displays of the city’s brewing history, drawing visitor dollars to the economies of those cities.

    Why would Rochester permit destruction of yet another undeveloped economic engine that could provide a good component for Rochester’s economic future?

  20. Jim Fraser says:

    @Jay Dobbs

    Those are phenomenal images from inside the brewery. You and Mike have to be the spokesmen for that project. And holy Toledo – I didn’t think anybody knew about that west side place. Think it’s maybe an industrial sort of Romanesque.

    Wondering what would happen if the city took a few of the millions it spends annually turning houses in NE Rochester into weeded lots, and put them instead into developing a few of these abandoned river corridor warehouses. Maybe then they wouldn’t have to tear down so many houses, you think?

    The regrets over buildings lost to demolition are too many to count, but you know the one thing you never – ever – hear? “Gosh, I wish they hadn’t saved that old building!”

    Think about it.

  21. Wayne Goodman says:

    The Landmark Society is determined to work with all interested parties in coming up with potential strategies to save this building. I have also been inside the building on two occasions. Yes, it is in poor condition, but it is not beyond repair at all. Creative partnerships with a phased approach should be fully investigated. We will need the support of those interested in making sure Rochester starts seeing these great historic buildings as true resources instead of impediments. Thanks to all those posting with such optimistic comments.

  22. I’ve been doing some research on this building and the breweries history but the picture above almost threw me for a loop. It looked as though the building had been renovated — doh — old optics used to flip photos. The second photo above is actually flipped horizontally and taken from St Paul towards the falls.

  23. I wish I knew. Believe me, the thought has crossed my mind of trying to purchase it however I know I don’t have the means to purchase the building AND make the necessary repairs/cleaning. I do have a vision for the building but it would all be subject to cooperation from the city as well — something that always seems to be difficult.

  24. Jim Fraser says:

    Mike –

    Seriously, what’s the latest on the building, and what do you think is next for those who seriously want to help save it?

  25. Sandy Paxton says:

    This place looks like a Hose 22 restoration on steroids!!! I agree it would be nice to preserve but in my experience flipping properties what most people think “Oh no problem it won’t cost that much” usually ends up costing 10x what they think. The sheer number of people who are saying it isn’t that bad have NO idea of renovations, how they work and how much they cost – this isn’t grannies cabin by the lake this is a old old building that has been exposed to the elements for a good long time. Best of luck to those who endeavor to tackle this project – you will need it!! That being said – I agree – a shame if it gets torn down

  26. I beg to differ. Having been a part of numerous historical restorations I completely understand the costs. The fact that the roof is damaged and exploiting it as a reason for demolition is rediculous.

    FYI, Genesee formally announced their intention to tear this building down today. They cited it as being crime ridden and an eyesore. So sad.

    I for one plan to boycott Genesee & Dundee products as a result.

  27. Sandy Paxton says:

    Chris – we agree to disagree. However I totally agree with you 100% that it is indeed sad they are demolishing this building. A bummer it is located where it is as it would have made the Hose 22 building look puny if it was fully restored. I wet dreamed this building also. I am not singling you out but there were others that naively said oh it wouldn’t cost that much to fix – that thinking is wrong and leads to an uncompleted project at worst or massive overruns at best.

    Sigh – would have made one of the best micro brewery spots in Rochester – too bad it is located in the war zone…..

  28. Sandy Paxton says:

    PS – I was never a fan of Genny nor Dundee products but if you WERE going to boycott you would have to add quite a few more brews to that list as they do a tremendous amount of contract brewing there! 😉

  29. The 2.6mil being used to build the new structure could go a long ways to repairing the current one. I never said the project would be cheap, but its not a 100 million dollar renovation. Along with historic tax credits and city incentives this project would come in under 15mil and would be an amzing center. It could house a western Ny brewery museum. A bar (as planned), a microbrewery (as planned), a upscale restaurant, a “bar food” restaurant, and an amazing viewing deck. Instead we’ll get another poorly planned & rushed Rochester development. The city rushed high falls and it’s been a total disaster. How about taking a step back and seeing the value in the cities history? Rochester was a great city once and it continues to die a slow death. Half of downtown was demolished for a project which was canceled (and now re-scheduled on a much much smaller scale).

  30. Sandy Paxton says:

    Chris – all true – I was leaning towards a lil more like 20 mil but hey whats 5 mil ;-). Yup – our city forefathers have not a clue but what the dollar signs are that are in front of them at the time.

    Man – you and I coulda had a blast with this place – sure wish we could have met up sooner and got our ducks in a row – I do not have much capital but I do know folks with $$$ that would probably been interested in investing IF the place wasn’t located where it is.

    That viewing deck would have been just sublime!

  31. Angelo Piccone says:

    You have mistaken the Bartholomay Brewing Co. for the Standard Brewing Co. Standard and Rochester Brewing never merged until 1956, at which time they became known as the Standard-Rochester Brewing Co. The building in the picture was the Genesee Brewing Co. that merged with the Bartholomay Brewing Co. in 1889.Bartholomay also absorbed Rochester Brewing Co at the same time and The Bartholomay Brewery Co. became the 5th largest brewery in the world. An English syndicate owned them in that period of their history. Eventually Henry and Will Bartholomay ended up buying back the brewery and operating until Prohibition. After prohibition, Genesee took over the operations of Bartholomay and continues to brew beer until this day. To demolish this building would be a historic disaster!

  32. North American Breweries (NYC) made it official today… http://bit.ly/t9OfIu

  33. I just posted a series of pictures I took of 13 Cataract Street last weekend. You can find the photo set here: http://www.schiffner.com/index.php/image-gallery/?a=vg&g=cschiffner_0.14821500_1321670776&r=1

  34. Want to help save this building? Sign this petition which will be delivered to North American Breweries: http://www.change.org/petitions/north-american-breweries-halt-plans-to-demolish-13-cataract-street-rochester-ny

  35. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    The Landmark Society will host its annual public meeting this Sunday November 20th at 3:00 p.m. at the Rochester Academy of Medicine Building at 1441 East Avenue. All are welcome to attend and informally register their support for this project at the social hour following the formal meeting.

    Landmark Society Director Wayne Goodman’s posting above bears repeating: “The Landmark Society is determined to work with all interested parties in coming up with potential strategies to save this building. I have also been inside the building on two occasions. Yes, it is in poor condition, but it is not beyond repair at all. Creative partnerships with a phased approach should be fully investigated. We will need the support of those interested in making sure Rochester starts seeing these great historic buildings as true resources instead of impediments. Thanks to all those posting with such optimistic comments.”

  36. jimmy says:

    come on people lets get creative here, surely this old building could be used for something awesome

  37. Zack says:

    RESIDENTIAL! It borders a rough neighborhood but St. Paul is not nearly as bad as Clinton or Hudson. Right outside the center city, it could really make the area more mixed income. So close to High falls and the st. Paul quarter, Lots of people would kill to live in that building. Along with the micro-brewery, resturant and visitor center, this residential castle could really turn the area around. Don’t say it can’t be done, look at the south wedge or corn hill.

  38. jeanne says:

    This building brings back wonderful memories. Many of the rochester falcon watchers used to be at High Falls to enjoy watching the birds and other wildlife. This building, with its magnificent architecture, used to be a favorite spot for young falcons. I would love to see it spruced up but not taken down

  39. Jim Hall says:

    If and when the Genesse Brewery building comes down we may take with it Russer Hots, and ARPEKO meat packing ? Or maybe Standard Brewery of Emerson St area, with stories of men with can openers on the main line drinking thier fill?

    With the end of that building and the end to Red Wing Stadium on a hot summers day, drinking a cold one and watching Boog Powell pound one out of the park.


  40. john m says:

    People want to save this building. Ok. Then what? Just let it sit there rotting away? It has to do something. It has to produce. It has to have a purpose. So fix it up. How much and then what will be the return on investment? Everything in this world has an end and dies. Nothing lives forever. Sad but true

  41. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Today’s print edition of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle contains the following essay by John C. DeVolder, a long-time historian of Rochester breweriana:


    “A historic building on Cataract Street will be demolished to make way for parking at a planned Genesee Brewing Co. visitors’ center and alehouse.

    Will the city of Rochester allow another historic building to be razed, only to make way for nothing? How many remember the magnificent RKO Palace that was torn down, only to make way for a parking lot?

    The Cataract building, as it is known, is far too historic for this to happen. This exquisite building was designed by the nationally renowned brewery architect A.C. Wagner of Philadelphia. It is perhaps the last of his brewery buildings left in America. (The American Brewery on Hudson Avenue was also designed by Mr. Wagner, but was torn down many years ago.)

    The Standard Brewing Company was unique to Rochester in 1889. The brewery was formed by a group of investors, rather than having its beginnings from a brewer. This group of 11 was headed by Valentine Fleckenstein, the city treasurer at the time and former postmaster of Rochester, appointed to that post by ex-President Grover Cleveland. The building was new and state-of-the-art (at the time).

    In its glory, the main building would stand 121 feet tall. A 50-foot flag pole stood atop the tower with Old Glory flying for all to see. Besides the cellars, there are five stories.

    The offices were located on the first floor, with shipping, fermenting and wash rooms. The second story would have the brewer’s office, storage and the machinery to run the brewery. The kettles, tubs and malt mill could be found on the third floor, and on the fourth would be the malt department, hot water tank and a cooler. The malt bins would run from the second floor to the top of the building.

    Standard would brew ale there until Prohibition, with the company dissolving in 1922.

    In 1932, Cataract Beverages would occupy the building, and in 1933 this company would become the Cataract Brewing Company. It would have financial problems throughout its seven-year existence, with Louis Wehle buying the buildings at a foreclosure auction in 1940. For many years the famous 12 Horse Ale would be brewed there.

    I was very fortunate to be able to view the interior of this building a few years ago by invitation of the former ownership. It is magnificent!

    The equipment is long gone. However, the structural integrity of the building seemed to be in excellent condition. The view of the falls was breathtaking.

    Rich Lozyniak, CEO of North American Breweries, has invested a lot of effort to restore Genesee to its past glory. The visitor’s center is long overdue. However, do not tear down a building that could be the cornerstone of a visitor’s center. Think out of the box, and create something that no other city has.

    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.”

    John C. DeVolder has been a historian of Rochester breweries for nearly 40 years.

  42. Zack says:

    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.
    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.

  43. I’m with you Zack. I just spent the morning and half the afternoon walking the streets with the petition (please sign and share it if you haven’t already).

    And that is the overwhelming sentiment I am getting from people. Everyone loves the idea of a brewery visitor center… but very few people believe it should be done this way.

    Rochester does not need more parking spaces. Say it with us.

    Rochester does not need more parking spaces. Again.

    Rochester does not need more parking spaces.

  44. The time to finally take action and speak against the destruction of Rochester’s heritage is upon us. Plan to attend and sign up to speak at the Zoning Board’s meeting on Thursday. We need to fill that council chambers on Thursday; and that means we need all of YOU. If you and I don’t stand up to fight for the city our grandparents and great grandparents broke themselves to build, no one else will.

    Thursday, December 15
    City Council Chambers, Room 302A
    City Hall, 30 Church Street

    The start time for the Public Hearing is 9:30 AM but the Genesee Brewery Application will begin at 11:30 AM so you don’t have to be there at 9:30. Just be sure to arrive well before 11:30 to sign up to speak. I don’t know how long the meeting will go. Depends on how many people speak out.

    Everyone will have 3 MINUTES at most to speak their mind. So get your thoughts together in advance.

    Please RSVP and share this event with your networks on Facebook.

  45. TaxiManSteve says:

    Genesee’s proposed demolition is like a Fox feeding on its own internal organs…. Very… unnatural … to consume one’s own heritage like this.

    Steven W Lindsey
    state rep
    Keene, NH

  46. Douglas A. Fisher says:


    Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
    1:06 AM, Jan. 13, 2012 |

    Panel reports on brewery project

    Rochester’s Environmental Commission on Thursday recommended more work be done on Genesee Brewing Co.’s proposed visitor center to mitigate demolition of a century-old brew house. The $2.6 million museum, alehouse and microbrewery would open in a restored 110-year-old building on Cataract Street near Upper Falls. But nearby 13 Cataract St. would be razed, and commissioners — while supportive — said not enough had been done to overcome that loss.

    The advisory opinion is non-binding but could trigger a full review that would take several months and lead the brewery to drop its plan. Or, the brewery could adjust its proposal.

    “It’s not ready,” commissioner Richard Pospula said.

    Brewery officials want to open this spring, both for the business operation and to not risk its investors choosing to put the money into operations elsewhere.

    Marcia Barry, the city’s planning and zoning director, will decide next week whether the full review is needed before the Zoning Board of Appeals considers whether to allow the demolition.

  47. Here’s an article in the City Newspaper with a little more detail.

    As of right now the Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing is still scheduled for Thursday, 1/19. Please do all you can to come out. See meeting details here.

  48. The Preservation Board will weigh in on the worthiness of 13 Cataract this Wednesday. If you want to see the building spared, now is a good time to send a letter or email and be heard. See Dear Preservation Board…

  49. ALERT: 13 Cataract is coming down right now (10am, 6/20)! If you were looking to get pictures or say a prayer, you need to be there right away.

  50. Pingback:  “A very humble person, Mike was dragged kicking and screaming into the limelight with this post on his blog.   Mike had found out that the Genesee Brewing Company was planning to demolish a historic…” Read more…

  51. john gormley says:

    Many old buildings are razed because of property taxes. Tax goes on even for empty bldgs.

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