Preserve America Community:
Rochester, New York
Rochester (population 219,773) is the third-largest urban area in New York State. The area played a major role in the history of America, from the movement for women's rights, the struggle of African-American slaves to gain their freedom, the influential modeling of democracy by Native Americans, and the creation of businesses that still have impact on the world economy.
In Rochester numerous landmarks have been preserved and their historic significance chronicled, with museums, markers and trails celebrating its rich history.
At this location on the Genesee River, long the site of Native American villages, settlers established the first gristmill in 1789. With the advent of the Erie Canal to transport milled grain and lumber, Rochester became the country's first boomtown in the mid-1800s.
The village of Rochesterville became the city of Rochester in 1834. By the late 19th century, the "Flour City" started to expand beyond the industries that relied on the river for power, producing high-end clothes and shoes, exotic plants and trees, buttons, beer, cigarettes, coffins, polling machines, boxes, and photographic equipment. Well-known businesses including Bausch and Lomb, Eastman Kodak, Xerox, and Paychex all had their start in Rochester.
Within this bustling community, two visionaries (and hundreds of supporters) led the fight for social justice. For decades, Rochester's Susan B. Anthony fought to change laws that prevented women from voting, spawning the women's rights movement. Frederick Douglass, the foremost black leader of his time, lived in Rochester for 25 years, smuggling slaves to freedom and publishing "The North Star." Their graves in Mt. Hope Cemetery draw hundreds every year.
Rochester's architecture, spanning two centuries, is of unusually high quality and rich in variety. Rochester has designated eight preservation districts encompassing more than 1,000 properties, including East Avenue, one of the country's premier preservation districts.
The National and State Registers of Historic Places list 12 districts and more than 65 individual properties in Rochester, including two National Historic Landmarks, the Susan B. Anthony House and the George Eastman House. The Landmark Society of Western New York's offers eight walking tours, with photos and maps, on its useful Web site, and also offers an audio driving tour.
For more information
City of Rochester: www.rochesternbn.com
Landmark Society walking tours: www.landmarksociety.org
Greater Rochester Visitors Association: www.visitrochester.com
Updated April 30, 2009