Sunday, November 25, 2012


Continued from October 20, 2012

Construction on Rochester's Reynolds Arcade, that indoor mall, post office and business incubator designed by William Jones that we visited in 1828 was completed this next year. Most of Rochester's business community could be found gathered here in the main central corridor, four stories beneath the building's skylight, once the daily mail arrived. According to Rochesterian John Rothwell Slater, "You could buy a suit, pawn a watch, see a doctor, meet a friend, escape a bore, borrow money, sell a bond, send a telegram, read a paper, get a shine, eat a meal, play a game of chess and buy flowers for the lady; or you could hire a desk and wait for customers to come pouring in." Many did the latter. Tenants were clamoring for space in its 86 rooms and postmaster/landlord Abelard Reynolds stood to recoup his $30,000 construction cost quite quickly. The Reynolds Arcade you will see there in the 21st century, by the way, will be a replacement built in the early 1930s.

Even if you weren't pawning a watch or buying flowers for your lady, or doing both, in the arcade you might be wising up in other ways. The city's founder, Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, and other local promoters of education, founded the Athenaeum there as the building opened, to acquaint the citizens of this Erie Canal town with literature, science and the arts. From such a humble acorn would one day grow an oak tree known as the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Neither was the soul being neglected. On the first day of 1829 Unitarian minister James D. Green arrived by invitation in Rochester and launched a three-month series of sermons, eventually drawing as many as 500 worshippers to each meeting; launching the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Rochester. Green then moved on and a series of laymen, including canal commissioner Myron Holley, struggled forward to establish a Unitarian foothold.

Holley's work on bringing the canal to Rochester brought far more immediate results. Back in 1824, the year before the canal's completion, eight or nine boats a week would tie up along the canal running through the village. Now, in 1829, five times that number would pass through in a single day. There would often be a waiting line at each end of the aqueduct over the Genesee River. Seth C. Jones, one of the local boatbuilders launched a packet boat he called The Superior. The vessel lived up to its name, providing luxury service along the waterway that might have made our old friend James Stuart change his mind about canal travel. Described as weighing between 15 and 20 tons, the vessel featured washrooms, a bar, and a cabin that was seven feet in height. But it was the boat's decor that held the passenger's eye the moment he entered the palatial cabin, with original scenic oil paintings on each of the walls.

Two noted people left the Rochester scene this year. Nathaniel B. Rochester, son of the village's founder Nathaniel Rochester (no B.) moved westward to Buffalo to become manager of the newly-established Bank of the United States there. We'll head that direction next time. We'll pass on the journey of the young man named Patch who climbed to the top of a tower overlooking the Genesee Falls and entered into the beyond - and folklore. Got a boat named for him, too.

©  2005  David Minor / Eagles Byte

Friday, November 23, 2012


The Rochester Historical Society has moved to 115 South Ave. Rochester, New York 14604.  We are on the second floor of the Rochester Public Library’s Rundel Building.  Our phone number is 585-428-8470.  We have a web site at   The Museum is open on Tues. and Weds. From 10 to 3 and Thursdays from 11 to 3.

  William Keeler
  Librarian & Archivist

One label smaller still

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Meet the writer and get a signed copy of their book!  

This Saturday at the Buffalo History Museum: 50
local authors!

Including yours truly.

Cynthia Van Ness, MLS
bettybarcode AT yahoo DOT com
Author of "Quotable Buffalo" 
Founder of

"Are all librarians this much trouble?"
-Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell in
The Mummy Returns

Monday, November 5, 2012


Last minute change !
The location for tonight’s program, originally schedule for the Greece Town Hall,
has been changed to the Greece Justice Court building, across the parking lot from the Town Hall.

“Halfway to Heaven and You”: How Popular Songs Sang Us to the Suburbs

Tuesday, November 13th  7:00 p.m. Greece Town Hall
Suburbs began in America long before Levittown right after World War II.  In fact they first became popular in the early years of the 20th century.  “Halfway to Heaven” focuses on the suburbs where most Americans ultimately longed to live so we could all have our own little piece of the Garden of Eden.  America’s vision of Eden was not wilderness.  It was natural yet cultivated, innocent yet settled.  Its streets were winding and tree-shaded, its houses set on spacious lots, its atmosphere was that of the small town.  Yet it was only a brief train ride from the city.  America’ first suburbs combined city and country, the built and the natural, t o become the middle class ideal – and it’s all in our popular songs.
Michael Lasser is a lecturer, writer, broadcaster, critic, and teacher. For 20 years, he was the theater critic for The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.  He has spoken at universities and art and history museums in 34 states and the District of Columbia, and also appears with two singers in cabaret-style performances enhanced by his knowledge of the songwriters, the music’s history, and how the songs amuse us and stir our emotions.  A former teacher, he has also taught at Rutgers University, St. John Fisher College, and Fairleigh-Dickinson University.   He and Philip Furia are co-authors of the new book, America’s Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley, which will be for sale after is lecture.
Public welcome.  Reservations are not required.  Greece Historical Society members FREE. A suggested donation of $2.00 or more will be appreciated from others.
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Native American Day

Saturday, Nov 10, 2012 – 10:00 a.m. – Noon Greece Town Hall
At 10:00 a.m. Dr. George Hamell will talk about the very early Aboriginals who preceded the Seneca Nation in our area and how the Mid-Woodland Period Iroquois and Algonquin came to Greece to hunt and fish during the spring through fall seasons. He will tell us of the archaeological sites on Cranberry Pond, Long Pond, the Genesee River, and the Vance farm just east of Mother of Sorrows. He will bring with him, for display artifacts found in these sites that are now housed in the Native American Collection at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.  Visitors may bring artifacts they have to him for identification.
At 11:00 a.m. Mohawk storyteller, Barbara Bethmann-Mahooty will share tribal stories of the Iroquois Nations, including Seneca Nation.
On display will be a map of the hunting and fishing camps in Greece that we know existed, as well as artifacts from our Greece Museum.  Another display tells about the Iroquois Confederacy and more about each of the tribes and their people along with the type of headpiece each tribe wore. Chief Freeman Johnson, who lived in Greece, will be featured for his efforts to educate the community about his people and their traditions. He was largely responsible for the establishment of the historic site in Victor, Ganondagan.  Mr. Robert Dobson will display artifacts found on his family’s farm which is now Northgate Plaza. We will have for sale “A Brief History of Northgate Plaza,” showing many of the pictures Mr. Dobson loaned us of the farm and the history of his family.  Books from the Historical Society’s Reference Library will be available for perusing and some for purchase – both children’s books and adult’s.  Each child can take home a reproduction arrowhead.