Intro Lesson Waterfront History
We were very fortunate to tour the southwest corner of Rochester with John Curran, who leads the Southwest Rochester Riverfront Planning group. John is a walking encyclopedia of historical knowledge about this neighborhood. While he advocates for preserving the identity of the community, he also envisions transforming the area into Rochester’s official Historic District. Waterways, railroads, pedestrian/bicycle routes and roads have threaded through the area over the centuries, supporting settlement, industry and recreation starting from the pre-colonial Algonquin presence. John brought many historical artifacts to light, which helped us understand the role of this neighborhood as a vital link to Rochester’s future.
Word of the Day aqueduct (L aqua water + ductus leading). Rochester had at four canals at one point, some of which had to cross over the Genesee River using aqueducts.
We started at the Genesee Valley Park on a relatively warm day in mid-November. John sat us on the bleachers where he introduced us to the layout of the southwest quadrant on maps overlaid with the paths of canals and rails and historic sites. We followed the footprint of the old Genesee Valley canal paralleling the river. We saw the former Algonquin settlement area where now stands the University of Rochester; the remnant of the feeder canal that connected the river to the Erie Canal; Brooks Landing; we learned the ecological importance of cattails along the river; we saw the old Fitz John-Porter Civil War encampment site; we performed an demonstration of vacuum distillation as took place in the former oil distillery; we learned of the sewer system explosion and we saw the route the Harriet Tubman reputedly traveled to lead escaped slaves to Frederick Douglass’s print shop. All this within a section of but two miles of riverfront. Simply stunning.
Our first trip was on November 14, 2010
Trip distance: 4.8 miles
Participants: Cary Bedell, Quinton Bedell, Davontay Bradley
Leaders: Shawn Brown, Cappy Collins, John Curran