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 sprawling 14621 neighborhood to the lakefront community Irondequoit. For additional community profiles, check the Annual Manual page on rochestercitynewspaper.com.
The 14621 neighborhood
The 14621 neighborhood is one of Rochester's largest and most ethnically diverse. The area is home to a multicultural patchwork of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Ukrainians, Russians, Bosnians, Poles, and Turks.
Located in the northeast section of the city, the 14621 neighborhood has its challenges. Some areas have struggled with crime and deteriorated or vacant homes.
But 14621 has many assets. And the Group 14621 Community Association has worked aggressively to improve the area. Plans to clean up Brownfield sites, rehabilitate vacant homes, and build new homes along Remington Street are some of the major projects the neighborhood group is working on.
"La Avenida La Marketa" has been a development concept for the area along North Clinton Avenue between Upper Falls Boulevard and Avenue D for years. The corridor is often referred to as the heart of Rochester's Hispanic and Latino community, and redevelopment plans have aimed for a mix of street beautification and new retail. Finding funding for the project has been difficult, however.
The neighborhood has some of the city's most interesting physical attractions. SenecaPark, for example, flanks its northern border with the Town of Irondequoit. The park, a 297-acre spread that includes the zoo grounds and picnic areas, was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
The neighborhood's western border is the GeneseeRiver, and there are spectacular views of the gorge and recreation trails.
The 14621 neighborhood has a rich and vibrant history, and some of the city's most important landmarks. The area's earliest settlement and port, Old Carthage, was once located near the LowerFalls section of the GeneseeRiver.
In the 1880's, the area was home to many Polish immigrants, and in 1907, they helped build St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church. The church's Polish Arts festival is one of the community's most well-attended annual events. And the Romanesque Revival church was recognized by the Landmark Society with a special award in 2004 for restoration of the church's interior and its 120 foot bell tower.
The RochesterSchool for the Deaf, founded in 1876, can also be found in the 14621 neighborhood. (TM)
The Browncroft, with its stately Tudors and grand colonials, is one of Rochester's most picturesque neighborhoods. Located in the eastern-most section of the city, and bordering the Town of Brighton and east of Winton Road North, the Browncroft is a neighborhood largely comprised of single-family homes. More than 400 properties in the Browncroft's Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Browncroft was once predominantly forest, traveled by Seneca Indians up until the mid-18th century, according to the neighborhood association's web site. The area's history includes serving as a trading route for early settlers. It was also once claimed by Massachusetts when Massachusetts was still a colony. More recently, the Browncroft was part of the Town of Brighton before being annexed by the City of Rochester.
With its tree-lined streets, many of which are magnolias, the Browncroft is perfectly situated for residents who want the feel of a large suburban-like neighborhood within the city. The Browncroft is minutes away from downtown, close to I-590 and I-490, and next door to the corridor of Park, East, and University Avenues.
Nearby schools include city Schools 46 and 28, Urban Choice charter school, and Our Lady of Mercy, a Catholic school for girls.
Winton Road North has attracted many shops and eateries over the last few years. And the Browncroft Neighborhood Association's biennial neighborhood-wide garage sale is one of the largest of its kind in the Rochester area. On street after street, hundreds of households fill their driveways and front yards with sale times. The streets are jammed with bargain hunters, including many who drive from nearby counties to the festival-like affair. The next Browncroft neighborhood garage sale will be held on May 4 and May 5, 2013. (TM)
Susan B. Anthony neighborhood
Though not as large as the nearby Corn Hill neighborhood, the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood is just as charming.
The "Susan B." neighborhood, located north of West Main Street and just west of the freeway overpass, was the result of a land purchase between Bradford and Moses King and Obediah Bush. The land became known as the Bush-King Tract.
During the early 1800's, the Bush-King Tract was largely undeveloped. The Erie Canal helped to change that. The canal and the Tonawanda Railroad created a combination of water and rail transportation that encouraged residential and industrial development in the area.
The modest home at 17 Madison Street was where Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting and waged her historic fight for women's rights. It is now a house museum open to visitors and was Rochester's first building to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the web site of the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association.
The neighborhood was built with Anthony Squarepark as a focal point: a common practice at the time. Originally referred to as Mechanics Square, the park got a facelift in the early 1900's by the Olmsted Brothers landscaping firm.
More recently, redevelopment of nearby areas like Corn Hill, HighFalls, and the Cascade District has helped draw more attention to the West Main Street corridor and the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. (TM)
Brighton's known for a few things: its highly regarded public schools, its progressive streak, and the odd layout of Twelve Corners.
But it's Brighton's sense of community that could be its biggest strength. Brighton residents gather at the town's farmers market on summer and fall Sunday mornings, and officials block off the center of town each year for homecoming. Residents take pride in the town's pleasant, cohesive neighborhoods.
Brighton is also the center of the Rochester-area Jewish community, and the town is home to a diverse group of religious institutions.
Approximately 36,600 people live within Brighton's borders. It's one of Rochester's inner-ring suburbs: towns with dense neighborhoods and commercial districts that butt up against the city. Brighton is home to MonroeCommunity College, though many Rochesterians erroneously believe the college is in Henrietta. The Erie Canal passes through part of the town, too.
The community's hub is Twelve Corners, located roughly where Monroe Avenue, Winton Road, and Elmwood Avenue come together: a confluence that forms three intersections arranged in a small triangle. And there are indeed 12 corners there.
The core of Twelve Corners is commercial: there are several plazas in the vicinity with restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and banks. Brighton's high school and middle school are also in the area.
Twelve Corners is surrounded by a large chunk of Brighton's residential neighborhoods, and the commercial-residential combination adds to the area's village-like feel.
Over on the other side of town, there's a stronger focus on large-scale commercial development. West Brighton, as it's called, has a couple of strips that are home to a movie theater, car dealerships, and chain restaurants. There are also some independent businesses mixed in. MonroeCommunity College is located in this part of town, on East Henrietta Road.
A few years ago, Brighton opened BucklandPark, the town's first large park. But the jewel of the town's system is Corbett's Glen. AllensCreek cuts through the 52-acre park, forming two small waterfalls along the way. Two miles of trails wind through meadows, forest, and wetlands.
Brighton's also home to part of the county's EllisonPark. The park has a mix of ball fields, lodges, trails, and natural features which draw a broad cross-section of users. Irondequoit Creek winds through the park and there's a canoe launch near one of Ellison's shelters. The county also plans to build a dog park at Ellison. (JM)
Gates is the smallest town in MonroeCounty, but it's also the county's geographic center.
Gates is a community of contrasts: mixing residential with a significant industrial and manufacturing footprint. There are big-box stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot, but also home-grown businesses such as the Garden Factory on Buffalo Road.
And here's a bit of trivia: The Town of Gates was actually incorporated before Rochester. In 2013, the town will celebrate its bicentennial.
Gates has approximately 28,400 residents and shares a border with Rochester. Like other inner-ring suburbs, Gates serves as a transition zone between the city and some of MonroeCounty's less-developed towns. Immediately outside of the city, the Buffalo Road corridor is a mix of commercial businesses -- from a movie theater to a printing company -- before shifting into housing.
The RochesterTechnologyPark on Elmgrove Road is a short distance from Buffalo Road's commercial cluster. The park was once Kodak's Elmgrove facility, but the company has largely moved out and new businesses have taken its place.
Gates is also home to Wegmans' corporate headquarters.
Nearly all of the county's major expressways, with the exception of I-590, pass through Gates. That's a feature that's proven attractive to some businesses, but also appeals to the town's commuters.
Gates is fond of its traditions. The ItalianAmericanCommunity Center is a town fixture, with its membership list reading like a who's who of Rochesterians of Italian heritage.
The Gates Historical Society offers tours of the historic Hinchey homestead -- which the society has made a sustained effort to restore. The house was owned by William Hinchey, a farmer and early settler of the town. (JM)
Irondequoit hardly resembles the farming town it once was.
In the mid to late 1800's, settlers drained lakeside swamps and marshes and cleared land so they could farm it, says a published history of the town. Peaches, melons, asparagus, celery, and tomatoes were once common crops.
But the fields and ploughs are long gone. The town is now an inner-ring suburb to Rochester and home to approximately 51,600 people, says the 2010 US Census.
Irondequoit has dense, pleasant neighborhoods, but it also has packed commercial strips. The East Ridge Road strip is the town's largest; it's home to Medley Centre, a dead mall that's being redeveloped.
The commercial area around the Titus-Cooper-Hudson has a completely different character. It's more in the style of a walkable town center, and many residents and town officials want to see it continue down that path.
That part of town has one of Irondequoit's most recognizable attractions: the House of Guitars. The HOG is well known for its massive -- though chaotic -- inventory of instruments and recordings. It pulls in local musicians of all stripes, as well as national touring acts who stop in for promotional events or to do some browsing.
Irondequoit is bordered on three sides by water, though its boundary along the GeneseeRiver is interrupted by an extended sliver of land that's part of the City of Rochester.
The town is one of three MonroeCounty communities to lie along IrondequoitBay. Those three communities -- the other two are Penfield and Webster -- have worked together to protect the bay and to develop the waterfront.
Boaters are drawn to the bay, and Sea Breeze has a public launch. But the Bay is also popular with anglers; during the winter freeze the surface is dotted with people ice fishing.
The town's Sea Breeze hamlet butts up against the bay. The area has long been a recreational destination for people across MonroeCounty. It's anchored by the SeabreezeAmusement Park, which dates back to 1879. Among its rides is the iconic Jack Rabbit rollercoaster, which was built in 1920.
Sea Breeze also has Hot Dog Row: literally a row of restaurants whose staples are hot dogs and burgers. And on weekend nights during the summer, the beach at Marge's Lakeside Inn is packed with patrons.
On Culver Road just outside of Sea Breeze, is the Whispering Pines miniature golf course. It's the country's oldest unaltered, continuously operating miniature golf course. (JM)