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Rochester, Monroe County, New York

Rochester is a city in Monroe County, New York, United States. As of the 2000 census, Rochester had a population of 219,773.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Education, Culture and Recreation
3 Commerce and Industry
4 Geography
5 Demographics
6 Sports


Early Settlement

Following the
American Revolution, western New York was opened up for development after New York and Massachusetts compromised and settled their competing claims for the area in December 1786. The compromise was that, while New York would have sovereignty over the land, Massachusetts would have "right of soil" (title) or right to obtain title from the Indians. After a great deal of machinations, on April 1, 1788, the entire Massachusetts claim was sold to Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, both of Massachusetts, for $1,000,000. This comprised all land west of a line running from the mouth of Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario, due south to the 82nd milestone on the Pennsylvania border (the "Pre-emption Line"), all the way to the Niagara River and Lake Erie. The sale comprised some 6,000,000 acres, but was subject to any Indian title (the "Phelps and Gorham Purchase").

Phelps and Gorham wasted no time in securing their purchase. On July 8, 1788, by the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, they extinguished Indian title to all land from the Pre-emption Line west to the Genesee River, as well as lands west of the Genesee running south from Lake Ontario approximately 24 miles and extending west from the river approximately 12 miles, with this western boundary running north of northeast and paralleling the course of the Genesee. For this extinction of title, Phelps and Gorham paid the Indians $5,250. The area to which title was extinguished comprised some 2,600,000 acres.

Shortly after concluding this treaty, Phelps and Gorham gave a 100 acre lot on the Genesee to Ebenezer "Indian" Allen, on condition he build a grist mill and sawmill there by summer 1789 (the "100-Acre Tract"). (The remaining lands of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, comprising some 3,400,000 acres, eventually reverted back to Massachusetts due to non-payment. Massachusetts then re-sold these lands to Robert Morris, who eventually re-sold them in 1792 and 1793 to the Holland Land Company and The Pulteney Association.)

In 1789, in exchange for the 100-Acre Tract, Allen built a grist mill and sawmill at the west end of the Upper Falls of the Genesee. The location was so deep in the wilderness, however, that there were only 14 men in the area to assist in the mill's construction. The area was a dense forest and swamp, and infested with rattlesnakes and mosquitoes that spread 'Swamp Fever' or what we now call malaria.

With no settlers, and no demand for mills, Indian Allen sold the 100-Acre Tract and mill in March, 1792 to Benjamin Barton, Sr. of New Jersey for $1,250. Barton almost immediately sold the property to Samuel Ogden, as Agent for Robert Morris (Morris was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, financier of the Revolution and the richest man in America). Ogden, in turn, sold the property in 1794 to Charles Williamson as Agent for The Pulteney Association, which was a group of British investors. On November 8, 1803, The Pulteney Association sold the 100-Acre Tract for $1,750, on a five-year land contract, to Col. Nathaniel Rochester(1752-1831), Maj. Charles Carroll, and Col. William Fitzhugh, all of Hagerstown, Maryland.

Rochesterville and The Flour City

Although Col. Rochester and his two partners purchased the 100-Acre Tract, they allowed the millsite to lie neglected and development did not begin in earnest until 1811, when they finally completed paying for their purchase and received the deed. The population was 15. They had the tract surveyed and laid out with streets and lots. (The first lot is sold to a Henry Skinner, at what is now the northwest corner of State and Main.) In 1817, other land owners, mainly the Brown Brothers (of Brown's Race and Brown's Square), joined their lands north to the 100-Acre Tract, to form the Village of Rochesterville, with a population of 700.

In 1821, Monroe County was erected out of Ontario and Genesee counties, and Rochesterville was named the county seat. A two story brick courthouse in the Greek Revival style was built at a cost of $7,600. In 1823, property of Elisha Johnson on the east side of the Genesee across from the 100-Acre Tract was annexed, bringing Rochesterville to 1012 acres and the population to about 2,500. That year, "-ville" was dropped from the city's name. This was also the year that the first 800 foot Erie Canal Aqueduct was finished over the Genesee, just south of the Main Street Bridge. It was built over 16 months by 30 convicts from Auburn State Prison. In 1822, the Rochester Female Charitable Society was founded. Members paid twenty-five cents per year to belong to the Society and also contributed provisions, clothing, and bedding which they collected from the community. Visitors distributed the goods and money to the poor of each district. By 1872, seventy-three districts had been established, each with a woman visitor. That organzation was be instrumental in founding the Rochester Orphan Asylum (now Hillside Children's Center), the Rochester City Hospital (now Rochester General Hospital), the first school, the workhouse, the Home for the Friendless (now The Friendly Home), the Industrial School, and The Visiting Nurse Service.

In 1829, the Rochester Athenaeum was founded as a reading society. The Athenaeum charged members a five-dollar annual fee to hear lectures by some of America's best-known orators - including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Horace Greeley and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Athenaeum was one of the forerunners of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Once the Erie Canal east to the Hudson River opened in 1823, the economy and population growth took off. By 1830, the population reached 9,200, and the city became the original boomtown first known as "The Young Lion of the West." It quickly, however, became known as the Flour City, based on the numerous flour mills which were located along waterfalls on the Genesee in what is now the Brown's Race area of downtown Rochester. The first ten days the canal was open east to the Hudson, 40,000 barrels of Rochester flour were shipped to Albany and New York City. Local millers soon were grinding 25,000 bushels of wheat to flour daily.

By 1834, some 20 flour mills were producing 500,000 barrels annually, the population reached 13,500 and the city area expanded to 4000 acres. Rochester was then re-chartered as a city, and Jonathan Child, son-in-law of Col. Rochester, was elected Mayor. In 1837, the Rochester Orpham Asylum was founded by the Rochester Female Charitable Society and was located first on South Sophia Street (now South Plymouth Avenue) and then on Hubbell Park. The Charitable Association also founded Rochester City Hospital on Buffalo Street (now West Main Street), where the old Buffalo Street Cemetary was located. The work began in 1845 but the hospital was not occupied until 1863. By 1838 Rochester was the largest flour-producing city in the world.

The Flower City

In 1830, William A. Reynolds started his first seed business at the corner of Sophia and Buffalo Streets (now Plymouth Avenue South and Main Street West). This was the start of what would become the Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co., which eventually located on Mt. Hope Avenue, across from Mount Hope Cemetery. James Vick and Joseph Harris also start their own nursery businesses. The population in 1830 was only 9,207, but it still ranked as the 25th largest city in the United States. In 1840, the population and rank were 20,191 and 19th, respectively. In 1842, the original aqueduct over the Genesee River was replaced with a better one slightly south of the first one. This latter aqueduct now supports Broad Street.

By 1850, the population reached 36,003, making Rochester the 21st largest city in the United States. Westward expansion had moved the focus of farming to the Great Plains and Rochester's importance as the center for flour milling had declined. Several seed companies in Rochester had grown to become the largest in the world, with Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co. the largest. Rochester's nickname was changed from the Flour City to the Flower City. In 1850, the University of Rochester was founded in the U. S. Hotel on Buffalo St, and affiliated with the Baptist Church. Two four year courses were offered. In 1851, due to Rochester and Monroe County's tremendous growth, a new three-story county courthouse in the Greek Revival style was constructed. It was built from brick molded at Cobb's Hill by Gideon Cobb, and cost $76,000. In 1857, Susan B. Anthony and William Lloyd Garrison spoke at an abolition meeting and Rochester became a stop on the Underground Railroad.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, numerous locations in the Rochester area were used as safe-houses to shelter fugitive slaves before they were placed on board boats (often on the Genesee River) for transport to Canada. The route was known as the Underground Railroad. The most common route used the 'lines' that led from Henrietta through Monroe County and into Rochester. Some of the better known 'stations' included: the Henry Quinby farm by Mendon Ponds Park, which today is by the Fieldstone Smokehouse; the David H. Richardson's farm on East Henrietta Road near Castle Road; the Warrant farm in Brighton, 1956 West Henrietta Road; the old Frederick Douglass home near Highland Park; a cluster of houses along Exchange Street where numerous Quakers lived, and now where the War Memorial Arena sits, and the home of Harvey Humphrey on Genesee Street. Other 'stations' were located in all of the areas surrounding Rochester, including Brighton, Pittsford, Mendon and Webster.

The period 1860 to 1900 saw Rochester grow from a city of 48,000 to a city of 162,800, with a 1900 rank of 24th, down from 18th in 1860. During this period the city expanded dramatically in area on both sides of the Genesee River, as well as annexing parts of the towns of Brighton, Gates, Greece and Irondequoit. Also founded during this period were Bausch and Lomb by John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb, Eastman Kodak by George Eastman, Western Union Telegraph by Hiram Sibley, Gleason Works by William Gleason, and R. T. French and Co. by Robert French. Other important industries that developed during this period were clothing manufacturing, shoe manufacturing, brewing and machine tools. In 1875, Rochester's first city hall opened at Fitzhugh and the Erie Canal (now Broad Street). It was built at a cost of over $335,000 on the site of the First Presbyterian Church, which had burned to the ground in 1869. The church sold the lot to the city for $25,000. This city hall housed city government until 1978.

In 1882, the tolls on the Erie Canal ended, with New York State enjoying a profit of $51,000,000 over the 57 years. In September 1885, a group of Rochester businessmen founded the Mechanics Institute to establish "free evening schools in the city for instruction in drawing and such other branches of studies as are most important for industrial pursuits of great advantage to our people." Henry Lomb of Bausch & Lomb was the Mechanics Institute's first president.

During this period many of Rochester's great public parks were laid out, with Ellwanger & Barry and others donating land in 1871 for Maplewood Park and in 1889 for Highland Park. In 1895, George Eastman and James P. B. Duffy donated 120 additional acres for Highland Park. On Independence Day, 1894, community leaders, responding to the continued tremendous growth in Rochester and Monroe County, laid the cornerstone for the third County Courthouse (now the County Office Building). Two years and $881,000 later, the four-story granite and marble courthouse in the Italian Renaissance style was complete. In 1897, the first master's degrees were awarded by the University of Rochester and in 1900, due largely to the efforts of Susan B. Anthony, women were admitted.

In 1891, the Mechanics Institute merged with the Rochester Athenaeum to form the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). Comprehensive instruction in mechanical subjects was RAMI's hallmark. The Institute's builders responded to both industrial and societal trends in Rochester, and each year the Institute graduated increasing numbers of expertly trained professionals who found work in industry both in Rochester and elsewhere.

Rochester In The 20th Century

The turn of the century found Rochester a thriving and comfortable city. Although the nursery business was waning, some of that land had been converted into desirable residential districts along East Avenue, Park Avenue, and off Mount Hope Avenue near Highland Park. In 1901, a devatating fire killed 31 at the Rochester Orphan Asylum, and it moved across town from Hubbell Park to Pinnacle Hill.

In 1904, R. T. French sent prepared mustard to the St. Louis World's Fair, where it was paired with another innovation -- the hot dog -- and became a hit. In the early 1900s, both George Eastman and Andrew Carnagie gave substantial sums to the University of Rochester. In 1908, Francis Baker donated 120 acres for Genesee Valley Park, and Durand-Eastman Park opens, a gift of Henry Durand and George Eastman.

In 1913, the Memorial Art Gallery on the University of Rochester's Prince Street Campus was founded. It was the gift of Emily Sibley Watson as a memorial to her son, architect James Averell. In 1918, the Erie Canal through Rochester was closed and abandoned after the Barge Canal opened, transiting Rochester through Genesee Valley Park. The Court Street Dam was also built in 1918 to raise the level of the river to that of the Barge Canal so no aqueduct or locks are necesssary, but the Upper Falls and the Castelton Rapids were obliterated.

By 1920, Rochester's population had reached 290,720, and it ranked 23rd. That year, the city purchased the abandanded Erie Canal lands inside city limits for use as a heavy rail mass transit and freight system. In 1921, the first Lilac Week occurred, celebrating Rochester's floral legacy in Highland Park. In 1922, Rochester's first radio station began broadcasting, and the Eastman Theatre opened, an adjunct to the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. In 1925, George Eastman arranged a land swap with Oak Hill County Club. The Oak Hill property, just west of Mt. Hope Cemetery on the east side of the Genesee River was given to the University of Rochester for its River Campus, and the country club moved to its present site in Pittsford. In 1925, the University opened its Medical School and Strong Memorial Hospital on Crittenden Road, and by 1927, general construction had begun on the River Campus. It was also in 1925 that the University awarded its first Ph.D., and by 1930, several departments were training candidates for the doctorate. In 1928, Red Wing Stadium opened. That year, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the morning newspaper, was purchased by Frank Gannett.

By 1930, the population had swelled to 328,132, making Rochester the 22nd largest city in the United States. The University of Rochester opened its River Campus for men, and the Prince Street Campus became the Womens' Campus. The Rochester Municipal Airport opened on Scottsville Road. It was in the 1930s that Eastman Kodak introduced Kodrachrome film. By now the subway was constructed in the old canal bed, and the street railways were diverted to the subway or morphed into busses. Rochester celebrated its centennial as a city in 1934. In 1936, the Rundel Memorial Building opened as the headquarters of the Rochester Public Library above the bed of the old Erie Canal, adjacent to South Avenue, between Broad Street and Court Street.

By 1940, the population had decreased to 324,975, the first drop since it was founded. Rochester was still the 23rd largest city in the United States. With the advent of World War II, some 29,000 Rochester-area men were drafted into military service. Cobbs Hill Park was used as Prisoner of War camp. The first POWs arrived in September 1943. Sixty Italian prisoners worked on area farms and food processing plants 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, at $.80 per day. The city was hit in February 1945 with seven successive snowstorms that paralyzed the city, forcing the city to ask that POW's be brought from the Hamlin Camp to the city. Cobbs Hill Park housed 100 Germans, while 175 more were at Edgerton Park. Snow removal by prisoners was done at unannounced locations, with city police keeping locals away.

Because of the highly skilled labor force Rochester enjoyed, the city became a significant industrial contributor to the World War II effort, while the farms and fields surrounding Rochester provided food for the troops as well as the home front. To recognize specialized professional nature of its programs, in 1944, the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute changed its name to The Rochester Institute of Technology.

By 1950, the population of the city had increased to 332,488, but Rochester was still only the 32nd largest city in the United States. During the 1950s, Xerox Corporation (originally Haloid Corporation) expanded as it exploited Chester Carlson's xerography patents. Xerox went on to become the world leader in xerographic imaging, designing and manufacturing many of its famous products in the Rochester area. Eastman Kodak continued to dominate the film and camera industry and was Rochester's leading industrial employer, but other Rochester companies also employed many, including Gleason Works, Stromberg-Carlson, Taylor Instrument, Ritter Dental Equipment, Delco Rochester division of General Motors and Pfaudler-Permutit. In 1955, the Colleges for Men and Women of the University of Rochester were merged into what is now the College. In 1958, three new schools were created in engineering, business administration, and education.

By the 1960s, as with the rest of the United States, the population was shifting from city to suburb, with substantial growth in the the towns immediately adjacent to the city, including Greece, Gates, Chili, Henrietta, Brighton amd Irondequoit. The 1960 census showed a population drop to 318,611 and a drop in rank to 38th. In 1964, forshadowing the turbulant later years of the 60s, Rochester suffered a race riot. It was also in the 1960s that the city undertook substantial urban renewal, with the construction of Midtown Plaza Mall on Main Street, the first indoor shopping mall in a traditional downtown area in the United States. In 1966, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf was added to the Rochester Institute of Technology, and, when the New York State Department of Public Works decided it would build the Inner Loop expressway through the downtown RIT campus, the decision was made to build a new campus in the suburbs. In 1968, RIT moved to a 1,300 acre campus in suburban Henrietta.

In 1978, city hall moved to the old Federal Building at State and Church.

Education, Culture and Recreation

Rochester is home to a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, Saint John Fisher College, Roberts Wesleyan, Nazareth College, and the Eastman School of Music. Rochester is also home to a number of cultural institutions including the Rochester Phiharmonic Orchestra, the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, the Memorial Art Gallery, the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Strong Museum, and the Strasenburg Planetarium.

The city's Victorian era Mt. Hope Cemetery includes the final resting place of several famous Americans, including Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass (see List of Rochesterians). Rochester is also known for its extensive park system, including Highland Park, Cobb's Hill Park, Durand-Eastman Park, Genesee Valley Park, Maplewood Park, Edgerton Park, Seneca Park and Ontario Beach Park. The city also has 13 full-time recreation centers, 19 swimming programs, 3 artificial ice rinks, 66 softball/baseball fields, 47 tennis courts, 5 football fields, 7 soccer fields, and 43 outdoor basketball courts. Echoing its famous history as the Flower City, Rochester still has a yearly lilac festival for ten days in May, when nearly 400 named varieties of lilacs bloom, and 100,000 visitors arrive from as far away as Europe and Japan.

South of Rochester is the scenic Letchworth State Park with its spectacular canyon and waterfalls. Also to the south and southeast is the glacially-formed Finger Lakes Region, with its numerous lakes and summer cottages.

Commerce and Industry

The city is also host to a number of international businesses, including Eastman Kodak, which makes Rochester its world headquarters, as well as Xerox and Bausch and Lomb. Rochester is also home to regional businesses such as Wegmans Food Markets, Inc, Paychex, Inc, and National Dairy Holdings LP's Helluva Good Cheese division.


Rochester is located at 43°9'56" North, 77°36'41" West (43.165496, -77.611504)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 96.1 km² (37.1 mi²). 92.8 km² (35.8 mi²) of it is land and 3.3 km² (1.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.42% water.

Rochester's scenic geography comes from the glaciers during the Cenozoic era. The retreating glaciers created the Genesee Valley and left rolling hills around it, including (from west to east) Mt. Hope, the rolling hills of Highland Park, Pinnacle Hill and Cobb's Hill. These glaciers also left behind Lake Ontario (one of the five fresh-water Great Lakes), the Genesee River with its waterfalls and gorges, Irondequoit, Sodus and Braddock's Bays, numerous local streams and ponds, the Ridge, and the nearby Finger Lakes.


As of the census of 2000, there are 219,773 people, 88,999 households, and 47,169 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,368.3/km² (6,132.9/mi²). There are 99,789 housing units at an average density of 1,075.3/km² (2,784.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 48.30% White, 38.55% African American, 0.47% Native American, 2.25% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 6.58% from other races, and 3.81% from two or more races. 12.75% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 88,999 households out of which 30.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 25.1% are married couples living together, 23.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.0% are non-families. 37.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.36 and the average family size is 3.19.

In the city the population is spread out with 28.1% under the age of 18, 11.6% from 18 to 24, 32.2% from 25 to 44, 18.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $27,123, and the median income for a family is $31,257. Males have a median income of $30,521 versus $25,139 for females. The per capita income for the city is $15,588. 25.9% of the population and 23.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 37.5% are under the age of 18 and 15.4% are 65 or older.

According to the City of Rochester, the city presently has 537 miles of public streets, 585 miles of water mains, 44 vehicular and 8 pedestrian bridges, 11 public libraries, 7 police stations, and 16 fire stations. The principal source of the city's water is Hemlock Lake, which, with its watershed, is wholly owned by the city. Other water sources are Canadice Lake and Lake Ontario. The 30 year annual average snowfall is 95.0 inches (241.3 cm, 7 feet, 11 inches) The mean July temperature 71.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and the mean February temprature is 23.6 degrees Fahrenheit

According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, Rochester's population was:


Rochester has three professional sports teams: the Rochester Red Wings (
International League) baseball club, Rochester Americans (AHL) hockey club, and Rochester Raging Rhinos soccer club. All these franchises are minor league level teams.

Rochester is the name of 13 communities in the United States. There is even another Rochester in New York State -- a township in Ulster Co. Rochester, Ulster County, New York (2000 population 7018). There are also cities, towns or villages named Rochester in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Washington State. The largest of these other Rochesters is Rochester, Minnesota (2000 population 85,806), followed by Rochester, New Hampshire (2000 population 28,461), and Rochester, Michigan (2000 population 10,467). The smallest is Rochester, Kentucky (2000 population 186).