MonroeCounty is about as diverse a community as you can find: a mid-size city, rural areas with orchards and farm markets, suburbs with 20th-century tract houses and shopping malls, and quaint, Victorian villages. The GeneseeRiver and the Erie Canal bisect the county, more or less vertically and diagonally, so geology and history are a constant presence, shaping everything from traffic patterns to architecture and public festivals.
The county is literally a community of dozens of communities: 19 towns, nine villages, a combo town-village, and the City of Rochester (which has its own, numerous, defined neighborhoods). Given the number, there might be a good bit of similarity among all these, but each has its own distinct identity. Some draw it from their heritage, others from their location and their surroundings (parks, universities, manufacturing plants, farmland). And to many of the residents, the individuality of their particular hometown or neighborhood is a source of fierce pride.
You can get a taste of the diversity by sampling six of the local communities, from the charming Maplewood neighborhood to up-and-coming suburb Webster. For additional community profiles, check the Annual Manual page on rochestercitynewspaper.com.
The NorthWintonVillage neighborhood has, over the last 10 years, become one of the city's most vibrant communities. Located in the Southeast section of the city, North Winton has affordably priced older homes, and has attracted many first-time homebuyers.
NorthWintonVillage is flanked by Merchants Road to the north, Blossom Road to the south, North Winton Road to the east, and Culver Road to the west. And the neighborhood's location, just west of the Browncroft neighborhood, is probably its biggest asset.
Its proximity to East Avenue and Park Avenue, and easy access to I-490 and I-590, makes NorthWintonVillage convenient to many of the city's favorite destinations. Residents who enjoy outdoor activities have a choice of the secluded 82-acre TryonPark or the natural beauty of EllisonPark.
The neighborhood has also seen an influx of small, diverse businesses. Tryon Bike and Reptile Showcase, for example, are within a few hundred feet of one another.
And there are many food stops to choose from: Jim's Restaurant, the Ravioli Shop, Balsam Bagels, Bay Goodman Pizza, and Captain Jim's Fish Market are some of the neighborhood favorites.
Other businesses like Mayer Paint and Hardware, Captain Tony's Pizza and Pasta Emporium, and the Winfield Grill are long-time fixtures of NorthWintonVillage.
Residents also have easy access to food markets with Tops Friendly Market on North Winton Road and Wegmans on East Avenue.
Much of the area's rejuvenation can be credited to the work of the North Winton Village Neighborhood Association. Area residents and business owners have worked aggressively to prevent crime and neighborhood deterioration. And the association holds a one-day North Winton Village Festival of the Arts. The event, which offers a combination of arts, crafts, and music, is held each year in September. -TM
The Maplewood neighborhood in Northwest Rochester is home to MaplewoodPark, which was planned by Frederick Law Olmsted. The park, sometimes referred to as Seneca Park West, highlights views of the GeneseeRiver gorge and LowerFalls.
And the Maplewood Rose Garden offers a display of thousands of rose bushes. While many of the bushes bloom all summer, the heaviest blooming period in early-to-mid June attracts rose enthusiasts from around the region to the annual rose festival.
Since many of the homes in Maplewood were built around the early 1900's, the neighborhood has eclectic housing stock with a wide range of architectural styles. Rochester's early industrial tycoons lined Lake Avenue with mansions, and factory workers for the city's growing manufacturing base took up residence in the neighborhood.
But Maplewood has endured struggles, as well. Former long-time City Council member Bob Stevenson once cited Maplewood as an example of the damage that poorly conceived building and zoning changes can cause. The changes allowed many of the neighborhood's large homes to be converted into apartments. Many others were demolished. The Maplewood Rose Garden also once fell into decline due to county budget cuts.
But there's been renewed interest in the neighborhood over the last decade. First-time homebuyers are attracted to Maplewood's large, affordably priced homes and its proximity to downtown. A portion of Maplewood was designated a historic area in 1997, and it is included in the National Register for Historic Places.
The rose garden, which is undergoing a major transformation though improved maintenance, is a favorite city location for wedding photos. -TM
Highland Park neighborhood
Highland Park owes much of its charm to lush greenery, stunning homes, and its close proximity to Highland Park, one of the region's most important attractions.
For those who long for a small neighborhood atmosphere close to all of the amenities the city has to offer, the Highland Park neighborhood is a favorite.
Located in the Southeast section of the city, the neighborhood is flanked by the park that shares its name on its southern border, Gregory Street to the north, South Avenue to the west, and South Clinton to the east.
The Ellwanger and Barry Realty Company played a prominent role in the early development of the area. Many Highland Park residents live in homes built from the late 1800's to the early 1900's on land that was once used for nurseries.
Though often cited for its historical significance, the Highland Park neighborhood is probably better recognized today for its close proximity to some of the area's educational centers such as the University of Rochester, RIT, MCC, and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity. For those working in the health-care field, HighlandHospital and URMC are also nearby. Getting to work downtown is a snap. And the area is close to the diversity of dining and shopping experiences available in the South Wedge.
The Highland Park Neighborhood Association, one of the most active in the city, works in close coordination with the Southeast Area Coalition. The organization serves as an umbrella group for about 30 neighborhood and merchant associations on preservation and development issues.
The HPNA has organized around issues such as traffic congestion and over-development. More recently, HPNA has been working to keep young families in the city. By promoting all of the educational alternatives available for children in the city, Highland Park residents hope to persuade more families to choose city living. -TM
There is, quite literally, no place in MonroeCounty like East Rochester.
ER is the county's only town-village, and one of only three such communities in the state. The arrangement makes for an interesting, if somewhat confusing, governmental structure.
MonroeCounty's villages are all located in towns. It helps to think of each village as an extra layer of government: villages, after all, were formed to provide services beyond what the towns offered. In East Rochester's case, one part of the village was in Pittsford, the other was in Perinton. That changed in 1981 when ER withdrew from the two towns and re-formed as a town and village, each with identical boundaries. The village's elected officials also serve as the town's elected officials.
East Rochester got its start as the railroad Village of Despatch. The train tracks that cut through the village are an obvious reminder. But some of the buildings that went up in the village's early years are still standing and they too serve as monuments to East Rochester's industrial past. Piano Works Mall is, as you might expect, a former piano factory. The factory was, in the village's early days, ER's second-largest industry. It's now home to shops and offices.
Also worth noting is the Concrest neighborhood. Kate Gleason, former president of the First National Bank of East Rochester and the first female bank president in the United States, had the poured-concrete houses built to provide affordable housing for working East Rochesterians. It attracted the attention of Popular Mechanics magazine when it was under construction, and still gets attention from architecture buffs.
Present-day East Rochester is a close-knit community that prides itself on, among other things, its successful school athletic teams. Its downtown is small, but with a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars.
One of the community highlights is the annual East Rochester Fireman's Carnival. There are the usual rides, contests, amusements, and concessions. But the large beer tent is where current and former East Rochesterians gather, mingle, and often reunite.- JM
Greece has been getting attention for some unsavory reasons: namely a scandal involving some of the town's police officers.
Fact is, though, there's a lot more to MonroeCounty's second-largest community. For example, it's got one of the state's largest school districts. The district's middle and high schools names are rooted in Greek history and culture.
It also routinely earns honors as one of the country's safest communities.
Most people associate Greece with the Ridge Road commercial corridor. It's as long as the town is wide, and it's lined with plazas, big-box stores, restaurants, car dealerships, and just about anything else you'd expect on a suburban strip. That includes the Greece Ridge Mall, which was formed when GreeceTown and Long Ridge Malls combined. It's one of the largest malls in the Northeast.
Ridge Road has been a center of commerce for the town since the 1800s, when ships from the Great Lakes brought goods in to the Port of the Genesee in what would become the Village of Charlotte. The village was founded in 1869 and annexed by the City of Rochester in 1916.
Modern Greece could actually be divided into two sections, each with its own distinct characteristics. From the city line heading north, dense residential neighborhoods flank the Ridge Road corridor, giving the area the feel of the inner-ring suburb that it is.
Head further north into the town and development starts to spread out a bit. And north of Latta Road, a drastic change occurs. Subdivisions and plazas give way to farmland and wetlands. Horses trot in fields. Migrating birds stop along the town's eight miles of LakeOntario shoreline, particularly at BraddockBay. The bay is an Audubon Society-designated Important Bird Area and it's home to the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory and Braddock Bay Raptor Research.- JM
In the first few years of this century, Webster was the fastest-growing community in MonroeCounty.
Its residential growth has leveled off a bit in recent years, now surpassed by Henrietta. Webster is a maturing suburb -- and one that's still growing -- that blends wilderness areas and parks with shopping plazas and a village. The town is located along LakeOntario and large homes line the lake shore. And it's one of the three MonroeCounty towns along IrondequoitBay.
Historically, Webster was a fruit-farming community. Like many of the towns along LakeOntario, the fertile soils provided ideal growing areas.
Xerox helped set the town on its path to suburbanization when it opened its Phillips Road campus in the 1960's. Many of the company's employees followed, making their homes in Webster. The campus continues to grow: recently adding a toner plant. Over time, several other major employers have set-up shop in the town.
Webster has large-scale shopping plazas, like the TownCenterPlaza on Holt Road, and Empire Boulevard has diverse businesses ranging from a funeral home to a mini-golf course. The village has a solid commercial core of its own, with independently owned stores selling clothing, musical instruments, and bicycles.
The community also has a well-developed network of trails, some of which are in nature preserves -- the town has several. The tangled network in the county-owned Webster Park gets a lot of use for hiking, running, and cross-country skiing, while the Ridge Runners snowmobile club maintains a network of snowmobile trails that cross the town. The Friends of Webster Trails has also developed paths in addition to their work helping the town maintain its trails. Visit www.webstertrails.org for maps and rules.- JM