"Giants . . . in Those Days"
AND there were giants . . . in those days."
Call the roll of the men of Rochester and there are names that "echo through the corridors of time"; names of titans of industry and finance, of trail-blazing scientists and political potentates.
Each in his time and in his field was known far beyond the borders of his city. Of the many illustrious names on the roster, I have singled out seven.
Two were Georges and bath were powerful rulers beside the Genesee. One was King of Kodaks, the other Poobah of Politics. Two were christened Lewis and both were students, one of the heavens and the other of the races of mankind.
There was a Hiram in his realm as mighty as the king of ancient Tyre. And a Henry whose helmet flaunted no plumes yet who ranged the far places like a knight of the Crusades, seeking wondrous things.
The seventh bore the old-fashioned name of Seth and he is revered wherever fishes leap and anglers cast their lines.
They are not just names. The names belong to men, human beings, who dreamed and struggled and knew adversity as well as triumph, whose contributions were as varied as their personalities.
* * * * *
The American flag floats today over rich Alaska, strategic outpost on the military frontier, largely because of a Rochesterian, Hiram Sibley.
In 1857 after he had promoted the amalgamation of some 20 small competing telegraph lines into the Western Union Company and had strung wires across the nation to the Pacific Coast, Sibley planned to link the United States with Europe telegraphically via Alaska, the Bering Strait and Siberia. After the Atlantic Cable was a success, the scheme was abandoned but in the meantime Sibley had held several conferences regarding it with the Russian Prime Minister in St. Petersburg.
He learned that Alaska, a barren waste which the Czars had never bothered to develop, was for sale at a reasonable price. Immediately he got the word to William H. Seward of Auburn, the American Secretary of State, and Uncle Sam's purchase of Alaska followed.
From his youth Hiram Sibley was a bold entrepreneur. He never did things in a small way. Five years after he had arrived at Mendon in the then raw Genesee Country from his native North Adams, Mass., in 1825, a youth of 16, he, with Don Alonzo Watson, was operating a saw mill, a carding machine and a plow works at Sibleyville. Their mills employed 80 hands and Sibleyville was an industrial center. Now it's a sleepy hamlet, mostly on land still owned by Hiram Sibley's descendants.
In 1843 Sibley was elected sheriff and moved to the county seat. The next year Samuel F. B. Morse sent a historic message and the telegraph was born. Rochester became a center of the new industry. Henry O'Reilly and Samuel L. Seldon of Rochester and Ezra Cornell of Ithaca pioneered in promoting several lines. In 1854 Sibley became interested in the enterprise and two years later led in the merger of the small lines into one mighty system. He and Cornell interested capitalists, mostly Rochesterians, in the project and the Western Union Telegraph Company was formally organized on Apr. 4, 1856 in the old Reynolds Arcade.
It was tough sledding at first. The sale of stock was slow, some faint-hearted ones pulled out, to their later keen regret, but Hiram Sibley never faltered. Satchel in hand, he went up and down the land, buying up the stock of smaller lines for his combine.
After Western Union was on firmer ground, Sibley proposed an audacious plan, the building of a line to the Pacific Coast. His own directors derided it. "Where will you get poles on the treeless plains?" and "The hostile Indians will cut them down if you do erect them," they said.
When the board rejected the project, Hiram Sibley arose from the council table, squared his shoulders and said:
"Gentlemen, if you will not join me I will go it alone."
And he did, obtaining a government subsidy on stipulation the line be completed in two years. He staked his reputation and his resources on the venture. He mollified the Indians by telling them "The Great Spirit is on the singing wires." Hundreds of men, horses and oxen hauled the poles and other equipment across the plains. In less than four months instead of the stipulated two years, the line was completed-and the picturesque Pony Express was doomed.
After that Western Union flourished, It made handsome fortunes for Sibley and those stockholders who had been in "on the ground floor." For 16 years Sibley was president of the company which for 20 years maintained its headquarters in the Reynolds Arcade.
Sibley was not one to rest on his financial oars, He built railroads, he bought thousands of acres of Illinois lands, he founded a nationally known seed business.
The magnate was a lavish giver, too. There's a tale, never authenticated but persistent, that when he offered a school of engineering to the University of Rochester, President Martin B. Anderson politely suggested that a library might be more in keeping with the college's policy. Engineering schools were radical educational departures in those days.
So Cornell got the magnificent Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering and the University of Rochester got Sibley Hall.
* * * * *
A fabulous character was Rochester's world renowned meteorologist-naturalist, Henry Augustus Ward.
The short, bearded man of science crossed the Atlantic 50 times in search of his treasures. He braved remote jungles and deserts. He met potentates and savage chieftains. He crossed the Andes before there was a railroad across the range. He hunted buffalo on the western plains with Buffalo Bill Cody and the Russian Grand Duke Alexis.
He rode camels across Oriental sands. He chartered vessels for his expeditions. If he were alive today, he would charter airplanes. For whenever Henry Ward heard of a rare specimen, he dashed to its locale the fastest possible way.
And what a collection he brought back through the years to Rochester for Ward's Natural Science Establishment which he founded in 1862 and which still exists. Mounted skeletons of mastodons and elk, rare rocks, fossils, fish, scorpions, tarantulas, the giant walking stick, the world's largest insect, obtained from New Guinea, and in his later years, one of the finest collections of meteorites ever known-all these made Ward's of Rochester famous in the scientific world.
The son of Monroe County pioneers, Ward early in life showed aptitude for his chosen work and studied with the great Agassiz at Cambridge in his youth. He had a rare opportunity for travel and study abroad as the companion of young Charles Wadsworth of the Genesee Valley squires whom he accompanied to Paris and later to Egypt and Syria on one of his first treasure hunts.
In 1861 he was called to the University of Rochester's chair of natural sciences. The next year he opened his establishment in a remodeled house on the Prince Street Campus. It was said he was likely to walk out of his classroom in the middle of a lecture and make for the Arabian desert.
Later on, his collection was housed in the building in College Avenue near the campus where the jaw bones of a great whale adorned the driveway. That building was swept by fire in 1931 and the museum moved to 302 N. Goodman St. In recent years Ward's moved to a new site in Irondequoit.
The 1880's were the golden years for Ward's. From all over the globe, largely from colleges and museums, came orders for such articles as a bale of bats hair, a smear of porpoise blood, human skeletons. When in 1885 P. T. Barnum's celebrated elephant Jumbo, met death charging a locomotive headon at St. Thomas, Ont., the showman commissioned Ward to mount the huge beast.
Among his pupils were young men who later became famous, among them Carl Akeley, big game hunter-naturalist, who came to Ward's, a country lad from Orleans County, and Dr. William T. Hornaday, for years director of the New York Zoo.
In 1887 Ward began his collection of meteorites, a field on which he concentrated until his death. His quest took him to the ends of the earth. Despite his unpredictable, unconventional ways, his sound scholarship was widely recognized and the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Field Museum in Chicago sought his advice and services.
Still the legends clustered about him. One tale is that when the vessel bringing his specimens to America caught fire off the Carolina coast and the captain was about to abandon ship, Ward sat on his treasures, pointed a gun at the skipper and ordered him to make for port. Another is that once South African soldiers chased him from the jungles to the coast when he was taking an iron meteorite out of the country.
Death came to Henry Augustus Ward at the age of 72 in 1906-in a Buffalo street. The man who had braved the perils of jungle, desert and savage tribes was fatally injured by an automobile.
* * * * *
No legends and little glamor surround the slight figure of Lewis Henry Morgan. He was a painstaking, profound scholar without any Hair for the spectacular. Yet history must record the ethnologist as one of the greatest of Rochesterians.
A versatile man was the slender, blue-eyed, red-bearded scholar with the mystical temperament of his Welsh ancestry, who lived most of his adult life in Rochester and who published here in 1881, "The League of the Iroquois," considered the standard work on the Six Nations.
Morgan got his material first hand. As a lad in his native Cayuga County, he played with Indian boys, for in the 1820's some of the tribesmen still dwelt in the Finger Lakes country. Later on, after his graduation from Union College, he lived for months among the Redskins, studying their customs and history. He was adopted into the tribe. Morgan was a lawyer and a legislator, as well as an ethnologist and pleaded the Indians' cause in the courts and in the State Legislature.
He was a naturalist and a sociologist, too, as his books, "The American Beaver" and his "Ancient Society," which traces man's progess from savagery to civilization, attest. Twenty years' research went into the latter volume.
When Morgan died in 1881 at the age of 63 in the house at Troup and Fitzhugh Streets where stands an historical marker today, he bequeathed $80,000 for the education of women at the University of Rochester. Two decades passed before the co-eds were admitted.
* * * * *
On clear nights, even in the dead of winter, back in the 1870's, a bearded man in his forties might be seen sprawled in an alley off Ambrose Street, peering at the heavens through a clumsy, homemade telescope.
His name was Lewis Swift, born in Clarkson in 1829, and he was a neighborhood hardware merchant by day and an astronomer by night One of the owners of the Duffy cider mill at Lake Avenue and White Street heard of the alley star-gazer and offered Swift the use of the mill roof. There through five years the scientist spent most of his nights scanning the firmament and there he discovered six comets.
His achievements stirred the world of science and Rochester became quite proud of her noted astronomer and took all her scientific problems to him. In the early days of baseball the sage decreed a curve ball was impossible but reversed his decision after seeing a demonstration along a stone wall.
Then in 1879 Swift acquired a wealthy patron, H. H. Warner, the patent medicine man, then a rising star in the business world. Warner in 1882 built for the use of the scientist a stone observatory and residence at the corner of East Avenue and Arnold Park. It cost $100,000 and was called the finest private observatory in the world.
Warner's gift was contingent on the public raising funds to equip the building. Over $13,000 was subscribed and a telescope, 22 feet long and weighing three tons, was installed. There Swift discovered hundreds of nebulae and several comets.
In 1893 the financial skyrocket of H. H. Warner crashed as spectacularly as it had risen and Swift moved his equipment to Lowe Observatory on Echo Mountain in Southern California. There's a story that the big telescope was sneaked out of town over night by flat car to avert its seizure by Warner's creditors.
The windows of the vacant stone structure on the Avenue were boarded up, spiders spun their webs where Lewis Swift had lived and worked and shortly the residence was razed. But the bullet. headed observatory, like a tower of the medieval ages, lingered on the scene until 1931, a well remembered landmark.
Failing eyesight forced Swift's retirement in 1901. He died in 1913. During his long lifetime many honors came to him, among them a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Roch- ester and a prize from the French Academy of Science.
And once he had lain in an alley, his hands so numb with cold they could hardly grasp the crude telescope they had built.
* * * * *
Over a century ago a young man would slouch for hours in a flat-bottomed boat in the Genesee River near the Lower Falls, his head over the water, seemingly asleep. Neighbors at Carthage, where his father kept a hotel, used to call him "The Lazy Boy of the Genesee." But Seth Green was not asleep. Nor was he aimlessly gazing into the water. He was studying fish life and later on the world knew him as "The Father of Fish Culture."
It's probably a legend but the story goes that Green conceived the idea of artificial propagation of fish while working in a Front Street fish market. Be that as it may, he studied means of protecting the spawn of salmon from the male fish that consumed it and that led to his successful pioneering artificial impregnation of dry spawn in 1864.
He began the propagation of fish in his trout ponds at Caledonia and attracted wide attention. In 1867 the fish commissioners of New England invited him to experiment in their streams. At Holyoke, Mass., commercial fishermen, fearing his intrusion, broke his nets and hindered his work in every way. Still he succeeded in hatching 15 million shad in a fortnight, quadrupling the normal population of the Connecticut River.
Green stocked the Hudson and Potomac Rivers and other streams and lakes. He introduced shad into Pacific waters. In 1868 he was named one of New York state's fish commissioners and the state purchased his hatchery at Caledonia, still in its possession.
Green was a mighty angler himself, a member of the Birds and Worms Club, and developed at Lake Keuka the Seth Green rig, 300 feet long, with six leaders to which were attached three treble gang hooks. Conservation laws were not what they are today.
Before he died in 1888 at the age of 71, he had written several books on piscatorial subjects, he had hatched the spawn of 20 kinds of fish and hybridized many others; he had received medals from foreign lands and scientific societies. Fishermen the world over blessed his name.
A few aged Rochesterians may remember Seth Green, a Santa Claus-like figure, with his white beard and ruddy face under a coonskin cap, driving a fleet-footed mare, in the "Jingle Bells" era of the 1880's when cutter races were held out East Avenue on frosty Sundays.
* * * * *
"Let George do it," Remember that catch phrase of yesteryear?
Here beside the Genesee it was not just a phrase. It was a fact.
Rochester for so long "let a George do it" that some folks-outsiders-got to calling the city "George Eastman's town,"
And when it came to politics, Rochester let another "George do it" for nearly four decades.
That other George was George Washington Aldridge and virtually from his first taste of public office in 1883 up to his death in 1922, he carried the political destinies of city and county in the pocket of his well-cut vest.
Other political bosses have come and gone but the stalwart figure of "The Big Fellow" still casts a mighty shadow in the city he ruled so long.
He was no ordinary local boss. He was a gifted political leader, His influence extended into state and national spheres. He made Monroe the banner Republican county of the state. His organization seldom knew defeat.
After death lifted his hands from the controls, the well nigh invincible machine he had built and manipulated so smoothly began to creak and backfire within months and in a decade it fell apart in the wilderness of defeat.
No ruler ever had more loyal or more obedient subjects. Today, 24 years after the boss fell dead on the golf links at Rye, the remnants of his Old Guard, the grizzled veterans who as young men were the lieutenants and the armor bearers of his host, still speak of their leader in reverential tones and always as "Mr. Aldridge." And every Election Day and every anniversary of his birth, three or four of them make a solemn pilgrimage to the grave of their old commander in Mount Hope.
Because the carnation was his favorite flower and that of the President he most admired, William McKinley, every New Year's Day in Rochester sees the blooms on the coat lapels of thousands of the faithful who line up to shake their leader's hand, a custom that began with Aldridge 42 years ago.
Few political bosses have inspired such traditions.
George Aldridge was born in Michigan City, Ind., in 1856. He came here to live as a child. He was reared in an atmosphere of pol itics for his father, also named George W., was an alderman and a contractor.
Young Aldridge tasted defeat in his first bid for office. He was shooting high for a youth of 24 when in 1880 he sought a place on the City Executive Board, a triumvirate that virtually ran the town, controlling the patronage and expenditures of the city departments. In 1883 Aldridge tried again for the Board and won.
Armed with patronage, he began building a personal machine. He was a fine figure of a man, tall, powerfully built, ruddy faced, affable yet with a dignity that repelled undue familiarity. He drew his support from many elements; from the Masonic fraternity in which he was active; from the ward heelers with whom he mingled in corner saloons, Particularly he gathered young men about his banner, Democrats as well as Republicans. Some switched their party affiliation. Others did not. Aldridge found it handy at election time to have office-holding Democrats who were loyal to him, Those satellites became known as "Aldridge Democrats" and there were many such during the boss' long reign.
"The Big Fellow" conferred favors and jobs and he expected loyalty and votes in return. He kept his finger on every district in every ward, That was the key to his success. He may not have been overscrupulous in his methods. Politics was no parlor game and he played it according to the existing rules-and generally he won. He had a reputation for keeping his word and for taking care of "his boys." Soon after his election to the City Board, he was the su- preme power in local politics and he never relinquished that control as long as he lived.
Mayors, judges, legislators took their orders from him. Had he not put them there? He had no use for reformers and usually lined up with the Old Guard but he could trim his sails, could compromise or withdraw gracefully when he saw the tides were against him. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," was one of his maxims.
Clement G. Lanni in his penetrating book, "George W. Aldridge, Big Boss, Small City," summed up The Big Fellow's rule over Rochester in these words:
"He gave the best kind of government he was forced to give."
* * * * *
In 1894 he got himself elected mayor and raised the salary of that office. He was commanding the attention of state politicos for he had a fat sheaf of votes in hand when trade winds were blowing in state convention halls.
After serving a year as mayor he resigned to grab the juicy po- litical plum of the state superintendency of public works. At the end of his five years in that post, there was an investigation of his expenditures. Governor Teddy Roosevelt gave the verdict. "No cause for complaint," The Aldridge followers who manned canal locks across the state had no cause for complaint either. Aldridge took care of "his boys."
In 1896 he was a formidable candidate for the gubernatorial nomination.
In 1910 he suffered a humiliating personal defeat. He made the mistake of seeking a seat in Congress himself although he knew a boss is always vulnerable at the polling place. The reform element joined with disgruntled Republicans and the Democrats against him. Then, in the midst of a campaign that was exceptionally savage, there appeared in the enemy press a facsimile of a check for $1,000. It was drawn by a fire insurance broker whose company, among others, had been under state investigation; The check was made out to and had been endorsed and cashed by none other than George W. Aldridge. The leader maintained it was a gift to the party, not to him personally. At any rate, the voters gave Aidridge a sound whipping and sent James S. Havens, a Democrat, to Congress.
Aldridge never ran for office again but his defeat did not affect his grip on the party machinery one iota. His power waxed with the years and he became invested, so far as the public was concerned, with an aura of mystery and aloofness like some Oriental high priest.
With a fine sense of the dramatic, Boss Aldridge would keep the nominating slate a secret, not shared even with those whose names were upon it, until the day of the annual Supervisors' picnic at Newport on Irondequoit Bay. After he had arrived, amid a cloud of dust and a wave of cheers, in the limousine of his crony and neighbor, P. V. Crittenden, and while hundreds hung upon his fateful words, he would take his stance under a great willow, always the same one, and after saying (with a straight face) "The sentiment seems to favor," would read off the ticket he had chosen.
He delighted in the torchlight parades of the old marching club days and reviewed his Republicans from his residence in Plymouth Avenue South.
Aldridge derived a considerable income from the presidency of a clay and cement corporation. He lived well. He maintained an extensive wardrobe, dressed impeccably, always with the carnation in his buttonhole. He was a lavish spender and ran up enormous taxicab and telephone bills. There was nothing petty about "The Big Fellow."
* * * * *
Months before the 1920 national Republican convention, he attached himself to the candidacy of Senator Harding of Ohio, seemingly the darkest of "dark horses." He and his Man Friday, James L. Hotchkiss, voted for Harding on every ballot at Chicago. After the Ohio editor had been nominated by virtue of the famous "smoke-filled room" session and later elected President, Harding rewarded the Rochester boss for his loyalty. He gave Aldridge a rich political prize, the collectorship of the port of New York.
On June 13, 1922, while the Collector of the Port was playing golf at the Westchester Biltmore Club in a foursome that included Charles D. Wiles, national GOP committeeman from New York, he fell dead in the ninth fairway, stricken with a heart attack.
The news rocked Rochester. "The King was dead!" Aldridge's henchmen wept openly and unashamed. Two of them, Hotchkiss and Charles R. Barnes, hastened eastward to bring back the body of their fallen captain.
While George Aldridge lay in state in the Courthouse he had ruled so long, a tottering old man was literally carried before the bier, Hiram H. Edgerton, whom Aldridge had elected mayor of Rochester seven times, had risen from his death bed to gaze for the last time upon his friend and chieftain. "Goodbye, old pal, my heart is broken," he sobbed.
Four days later Edgerton joined his leader in death.
Today's Republican legions-and there are few left among them of the "Big Fellow's" old command-visiting their headquarters, see upon the wall a large picture of Aldridge and Edgerton, like a general and his aide reviewing their troops. Above the picture is a card on which is written:
"Pals to the end."
* * * * *
"See that mansion with all the grounds? That's where George EASTMAN lives. He's a bachelor and he has 30 servants, a great pipe organ that his private organist plays for him at breakfast; a conservatory with all kinds of rare plants and flowers; paintings worth a fortune. And his own cattle and poultry right on the grounds.
"That temple-like edifice? That's the Eastman Theater and School of Music. George EASTMAN gave it . . .
"That building is the Chamber of Commerce. George EASTMAN gave it . . .
"That's the Dental Dispensary where school children get free dental care. George EASTMAN gave it . . .
"That beautiful park by the lake? That's Durand-Bastman Park. George EASTMAN was co-donor . . .
"That skyscraper with the tower? That's the main offices of the EASTMAN Kodak Company. Our biggest industry. Employs thousands . . .
"Those acres of factory buildings? That's Kodak Park, the EASTMAN film plant. Has its own fire department, hospital, railroad, streets-A city in itself . . ."
* * * * *
I remember in early March of 1932 showing the sights of Rochester to an elderly man from out of town. After the constant repetition of the name Eastman during the tour, he remarked:
"What would Rochester be without this man Eastman ?"
The obvious answer was that it would still be a fine, big town, but that because of "this man Eastman," it was a finer, bigger town.
The visitor, a hale old man, not overly blessed with the world's goods despite a lifetime of toil, spoke with a trace of envy in his voice of the fortunate lot of that other old man, with his palatial home, his fortune, his power and prestige.
He did not know that the Kodak King he envied was then a tired, ill, lonely old man without wife or child, who must have wondered in his heart how many of those who made obeisance really cared for him as a man, how many were mere palace sycophants.
The hale old man from out of town could not possibly know that the man of millions, fearing he was doomed to a life of helpless invalidism, was even then planning, in his precise, efficient way, the stopping of the clock of his own existence.
George Eastman, trim, straight shouldered, medium built, whose features bespoke his Yankee ancestry, whose seeming austerity hid a great shyness, felt that his house was in order. The mighty industry he had founded was in capable hands. His far-flung philanthropies were on firm foundations. The theater experiment had not turned out according to plan but the music school was an established success.
Eight years before in a national magazine he had stated his philosophy:
"If a man has wealth, he has to make a choice because there is the money heaping up. He can keep it together in a bunch and then leave it for others to administer after he is dead. Or he can get it into action and have fun while he is alive. . . It is more fun to give money than to will it."
He had given 100 millions, wisely and carefully. Of his for. tune some 21 millions remained and the bulk of that was to go to the University of his home city. It had been fun giving away those millions.
But now he was so tired. And there was the pain and always the dread of useless years ahead. He knew he never again would stalk big game, never again cook his own meals in the open or share the good talk around the camp fire.
Perhaps, on that blustery, chill 14th day of March, 1932, a day that Rochester will never forget, before George Eastman retired to his room "to write a note," the years passed in review before his eyes-like the unwinding of a long film from the spool of his life.
There were fragmentary memories of his early boyhood in Waterville among the Oneida hills . . . of his coming in 1860, a boy of six to live in the mill town of Rochester where his father operated one of the first business colleges in America . . . of the grief when his father died two years later, leaving no estate . . . the hard days when the mother had to take in boarders and every penny counted, when there was instilled in the boy's heart the fear of poverty that obsessed his formative years.
Memories of his first job when a frail lad of 14 he was a $3 a week errand boy for a real estate agent in the old Arcade . . . his first interest in photography when he bought a few pictures and frames out of his savings . . . his first interest in music when he purchased a flute on the installment plan but never could master a tune . . . his 17th birthday when he bought his first tools and work bench . . . the proud new job as a junior bookkeeper in the Rochester Savings Bank.
There was the day in 1874 when he bought $94 worth of photographic equipment and began taking pictures, lugging along a camera of soap box size, a tripod, a dark tent, a nitrate bath and a water holder . . . the beginning of his study, with his mother's kitchen sink his laboratory, of ways of making sensitive gelatine emulsion in which glass plates could be coated and used when dry so picture-takers would not have to be pack horses . . . the long nights he spent experimenting and the long days he fought off sleep on his bookkeeper's stool.
Then his first success when he built a machine for coating plates, drew $400 from his hoard, went to England and got a patent there . . . then the American patent and the setting up of business with six hands in a State Street loft after a boarder in his mother's home, a whip manufacturer named Henry A. Strong, became a partner of his young friend, "Skinny," and put $1,000 in the Eastman Dry Plate Company.
Years of competition, struggle, setbacks . . . that time when he had to replace thousands of defective plates . . . those nights he slept in a hammock in the factory and often cooked his meals there . . . the constant experimenting that finally evolved transparent, flexible film and the roll holder . . . then in 1888 the easy-to-handle box camera he called the Kodak and the advertising campaign whose slogan "You press the button and we do the rest" became a household word-and almost everybody began taking pictures.
There were years when his business was his life . . . "the money heaped up" and those who had failed to buy Kodak stock in the beginning cursed their timidity . . . the building of the Kodak Park film plant "way out in the Town of Greece" . . . the making of the world's first strip of positive motion picture film for commercial use, the association with the wizard, Edison, the birth of the movies and a lush new day for Eastman Kodak with the factories humming day and night here and in Harrow, England.
"The money heaping up," more money than any bachelor would ever need . . . the gift under the name of "Mr. Smith," whose identity was not revealed for eight years, of two and one-half millions to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which had sent so many bright young men to Kodak . . . the long patent litigation, then the trust busters of the Wilson administration who split up his company and he fought them tooth and nail because he rejected their ideology that big business, because it was big, was necessarily evil.
Then the World War and he plowed up his lawns to raise vegetables; he let the rare plants freeze in his conservatory rather than waste precious fuel upon them; he led Liberty Loan drives, denounced "slacker dollars" and founded the War Chest which became the peacetime Community Chest . . . a growing sense of civic responsibility, systematic plans for giving away his fortune, for making his company progressive as well as sound and prosperous emergence as Rochester's "First Citizen," hob nobbing with notables at home and abroad . . . more time for travel, for recreation, for musicales in his East Avenue mansion, for planning the dispersal of his wealth.
"Doing it for Rochester" . . . establishing the Bureau of Municipal Research, leading the successful fight for city manager government, launching the plan for a Civic Center "over the river" . . . vast gifts to U. of R., MIT, and the Negro schools, Hampton and Tuskegee, founding of dental clinics in London, Brussels, Rome, Paris and Stockholm . . . the great experiment in" the enrichment of community life" centered about the Theater, the School of Music and the Philharmonic Orchestra . . . the experiment whereby the public was to absorb an appreciation of good music through the media of high grade motion pictures and a superb orchestra in an $8,000,000 "temple of music" . . . the public was not ready for so sudden an infusion of culture, Hollywood had its hatchets out and the public preferred the other type of movies . . . so the silver screen in time faded out but the fine school and orchestra and the splendid auditorium where the people of his city could hear the best music-they would endure long after he was gone . . . pleasant interludes of hunting in Africa and Alaska, winters at the North Carolina lodge, musicales and receptions in the mansion, famous guests, Edison, Pershing, Mary Garden . . . retirement from active direction of the company . . . adulation and honors for which the shy man cared little . . .
Now the loneliness and the pain and the dark foreboding.
* * * * *
Head erect, with firm tread, George Eastman marched into his bedroom that March day, saying "I have a note to write." A shot was heard. Servants rushed in, too late. Their master was dead. He had carried out his last act on earth with the same exact efficiency that had marked every act of his 77 years.
They found the note, signed with those potent initials, "G.E."
It was a masterpiece of simplicity:
"My work is done. Why wait?"
THE Ward, THE Avenue, THE Street
ONCE upon a time, the Third Ward was a peninsula. On the east was the Genesee River; on the north the Erie Canal and on the west the Genesee Valley Canal.
In a social sense, also it was a peninsula and the waterways were its baronial moats.
The canals are gone but the river is still there-and so is THE Ward although, like the old gray mare, it's not what it used to be. But what is?
Maybe you think a ward is only a line on the city map; a political division, of import only on one November night each year when anxious-eyed men squint through a smoke haze at rows of figures taken from the backs of voting machines.
A ward is much more than that. Often it is a closely knit community, with its own personality and traditions; a little city within the city.
Of Rochester's two dozen wards the old Third, to my mind, is the most distinctive.
"The Ruffled Shirt Ward" they called it because "The Quality Folk" lived there. It was the principality of "The Old Families." It was Rochester's Back Bay.
More than that it was a way of life that was gracious, urbane, unhurried and altogether charming and that is gone forever.
THE Ward is a symbol, too, of the transition of a city, of its march, commercially and socially, across a river in the immemorial conflict between East and West.
* * * * *
Today the ruffled shirt, once so starched and spotless, is mussed and its bosom is a little limp and its cuffs frayed at the edges.
Few of the Old Families live today in the stately homes their fathers built under spreading trees behind iron fences and white pickets. They were staunch and comfortable, built for large families, with big, high-ceilinged rooms and broad stairways. Some of the old homes have been torn down. Many mansions have been converted into apartments, churches, offices of civic organizations and the like.
People live and work in them who are not of THE Ward and know naught of its traditions. Yet these newcomers cannot help but feel the spell of an old regime, the warm charm, the rich dignity that invest that neighborhood.
Every stately pillar, every roomy dining room, every exquisite white mantel tell of the good taste, the good living, the good manners, the lack of ostentation, the open-handed hospitality and the neighborliness that was the Third Ward. Clannishness dwelt there, too, and an aloofness and ancestor worship that was not altogether admirable. But all that is depafted and the fading charm of lavender and old lace, the "tender grace of a day that is dead," remain.
* * * * *
When the mill town was very young the Third Ward became the abode of its elect.
Nathaniel Rochester set the style when he built in 1824 a comfortable brick residence at Spring and Washington streets on the site now occupied by the Bevier Building of the Rochester Institute of Technology.
His sons built in THE Ward and his son-in-law, Jonathan Child, erected the noble, many columned mansion at Broad and Washington streets that now is the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist.
The newly prosperous millers and owners of canal boats, the merchants, the professional men of the booming town followed suit and there arose, between 1820 and 1840, lovely Greek Revival homes on the streets whose very names bespeak their consequence. Troup, Washington, Plymouth, Fitzhugh, Spring, and especially Livingston Park.
An aristocratic tradition took root. Men of THE Ward went to the Legislature, to the financial capital in Wall Street, on diplomatic missions abroad and they waved farewell from the decks of gaily painted packet boats to their ladies in their shawls and trailing gowns who waved back from the high bridge over the canal at Washington Street.
So THE Ward became the "peninsula of the Ruffled Shirts," dominating Rochester's social world for more than half a century.
Wealth alone never unlocked the sacred portals. Family was what counted. A Third Warder, Charles Mulford Robinson, the city planner, once wrote that "one became a Third Warder only by birth, marriage or immemorial usage." He also painted this pen picture of life there:
"It is worthwhile to be sick in the Third Ward for the test of its friendliness . . . the dainties which the mistress cooks shower on one, the books that come out of its private libraries, the flowers from its spacious gardens and the stream of inquiries at the door.
"Ostentation is frowned upon in the Third Ward. It would be foolish there for if it were not justified, it would not mislead and if it is justified, it is not needed. The living is simple and wholesome in the lack of display. The great balls are not there . . ."
* * * * *
On a crisp January morn in 1813, Seneca Indians from their five small encampments on the fringes of the village gathered for their last Sacrifice of the White Dog, a pagan rite marking the end of the hunt. The site they chose for this farewell ceremony in Roches- ter was significant. It was Livingston Park.
Today that short stretch is the last outpost of the old patrician order of the palefaces. There is no street like it in all Rochester. Until recently it was not a public thoroughfare at all. It was a private parkway maintained by abutting property owners.
It was named after James K. Livingston, a pioneer miller. It was and is the heart of THE Ward. Once the gates of the narrow roadway flanked by cement entrances, were closed and locked every evening and every Sabbath. In the center was a circle, guarded by an iron deer, where the coachmen turned their carriages around. On the green, residents sometimes served a community supper behind the barred gates.
There some of the finest homes of THE Ward were built. Two in particular survive although they are no longer residences. One is the former Livingston Park Seminary, long a select school for young ladies, now a Gospel Tabernacle. The other is the chapter house of the Daughters of the American Revolution, built by Hervey Ely in the 1820's.
The iron deer and the crouching lion are gone from the lawns, only one or two families of THE Ward's "Old Guard" live on the park, which is like a green isle in a sullen muddy sea; a serene oasis in a desert of noise and smoke. As if by magic it is set apart, a little corner of the long ago, exquisite, dainty.
There are many landmarks in the "Ruffled Shirt" Ward-the Campbell-Whittelsey house at Troup and Fitzhugh, preserved as a museum, the antiquarian's delight . . . the Chapin mansion nearby, now the Greek church . . . the Potter homestead at the old Indian Spring, now a club house for the policemen's social organization . . . the brick Bricknell house in Spring Street, oldest in THE Ward, now a grill . . . the pillared one-time private seminary that is now the Fitzhugh Hotel.
And there's the 122-year-old General Gould place at Spring and Fitzhugh's northwest corner with its ornamental iron fence. A piece was torn from that fence nearly a century ago when the horses drawing Martin Van Buren's carriage ran away and it never has been replaced.
* * * * *
And "Kimball Castle" on the hill at Troup and Clarissa, now a splendid, rambling ruin, a white elephant on the city's hands. William S. Kimball, the tobacco magnate built it 70 years go. It housed a private art gallery, an orchid house, the world's finest collection of pepper boxes, a pipe organ in a specially constructed music gallery. Its walls were swathed in red velvet, its floors in the thickest of Oriental rugs. There were thoroughbred horses in the stables; deft-handed Japanese in the servants' quarters.
It did not seem to belong to THE Ward at all. It was too pretentious, too magnificent. It was not in keeping with THE Ward's traditions of tasteful simplicity.
THE Ward gave cultural tone to Rochester because some of the earliest literary societies were founded there. Learned men lived in the Third, among them Lewis H. Morgan, one of America's foremost ethnologists. Several charitable organizations had their inception in THE Ward. The Genesee Valley Club began life there. It had political significance as the home bailliwick of Boss George W. Aldridge.
Leonard Jerome once lived in Fitzhugh Street and the house still stands. Some like to believe that his daughter, Jenny, the mother of Winston Churchill, was born there, although Lady Churchill in her autobiography, made the flat statement that "I was born in Brooklyn, N. Y."
General Billy Mitchell married a daughter of THE Ward, Caroline Stoddard, in a ceremony of military glitter.
And a Britisher named Rudyard Kipling, who wrote some widely quoted lines about "East and West," married an erstwhile Warder although he never saw Caroline Baleister's home town which for years seethed with its own clash of "East and West" with the Genesee as the line of demarcation.
* * * * *
That conflict really began in the 1860's when the University of Rochester moved to the East Side. People became interested in the new development "way out in the country" and the East Side social colony, with East Avenue as its hub, was born.
The Wards and the Seldens already had been long established in "The Grove" in the present Grove-Gibbs Street section, then on the "far" East Side.
THE Ward, at first scornful of its upstart rival, had to sit up and take notice in the 1870's when two of the city's richest men, Hiram Sibley and Daniel Powers, took up residence on THE Avenue.
Rochester was feeling her economic oats and other men who were making fortunes in a time of great national expansion built on the East Side. There were defections in Third Ward ranks although it must be said that those expatriates retained a sentimental attachment for their old "peninsula."
Tied in with the Third Ward's battle to keep its social supremacy was the Four Corner's desperate stand against the ever growing threat of the East Side as a commercial center.
In 1884, while the orchestrion throbbed in the million dollar Art Gallery of his "Commercial Fire-proof Buildings," Dan Powers predicted:
"The business center of Rochester 50 years from now will be just where it is today-at the Four Corners. The city may push to the eastward as a place for residences but the business center is as fixed . . . as the river."
He was no prophet or was he merely whistling in the dark? For the march to the East never faltered. Probably the removal of the Central Station was the most cruel blow to West Side hopes.
After Daniel Powers was dead, the Duffy interests took up the West Side banner, building a fine hotel, The Rochester, to match the East Side's fine new Seneca, and a department store to challenge those in the newer shopping district. It was no use. As is so evident today, the East Side won, decisively.
* * * * *
The social rivalry reached its apogee in the late 90's. It is recalled, that when tickets for Music Hall concerts were placed on sale, they were split into two sets. One batch was offered at a store near the Four Corners, the other at a store near the Seven Corners, by which name the junction of Main, North, Franklin and Elm Streets and East Avenue was known-but not for long.
So when the concert curtain rose, the East Side was on one side of the center aisle and the West Side on the other, even as Democrats and Republicans are segregated in the halls of Congress.
Slowly the Third Ward gave ground. Death took some of its staunchest defenders and their heirs sold the old homes. More and more of the old families packed up and crossed the river. Isaac Teall, caterer to the elite, moved with them, which was significant. By the time the automobile had changed the whole pattern of American life, THE Avenue, favored by changing times and bolstered by new made fortunes, was the undisputed victor.
* * * * *
East Avenue goes back in history to 1880, when a crude road was built through the forest and along the swamps from the Orringh Stone Tavern near Council Rock to the falls of the Genesee. That tavern still stands, now a private residence, the oldest in the vicinity. It was built in 1790.
It was an important road the pioneers built for it linked the new falls settlement to Canandaigua, capital of the frontier. First it was known as the River Road. Then it bore the successive names of Blossom Road, Pittsford Street, and for no good reason, Main Street.
Tired of the anomaly of two intersecting Main streets, the Josiah Bissells, father and son, land owners along the street, aided by one Ward Smith, took matters in their own hands and in the early 1880's; put up "East Avenue" signs at every corner. The name stuck.
The East Side social colony began to flower and East Avenue, once a bumpy trail, became the broad street under arching trees that is the city's pride.
It became the royal road to Rochester's Mayfair, which was more complex, showier, more opulent, more populous than ever the "Ruffled Shirt " colony had been. Where THE Ward was lavender and old lace, THE Avenue was purple and fine linen.
* * * * *
East Avenue became a proud and a fashionable street, a street of ornate, sometimes rococo, brownstone mansions with turrets, grill work, all the Victorian trimmings, where stone animals mount- ed guard at the gates; a street of elaborate formal gardens, con- servatories and wide sweeps of lawn; where bright lights shone from great ball-rooms; THE Avenue of the proud names that went with the princely fortunes that Kodak and Western Union and real estate and mortgages and bonds and mines had built; THE Avenue of the Sibleys, the Powereses, the Perkinses, the Hollisters-and of George Eastman who had been a bank clerk.
To Rochester there is but one "Avenue." Really the august street is divided into three parts. From Main to Alexander it is a lane of swank shops, hotels, clubs, automobile salesrooms and in these later days not a few saloons. From Alexander to Culver is the "old" Avenue, the one that is meeting much the same fate that befell the Third Ward. From Culver Road eastward it has retained its elegance and around that section is Rothester's Mayfair today.
A deadline was set at Alexander Street beyond which commerce must not pass. When less than 15 years ago, an attempt was made to teat down the zoning barriers, THE Avenue moved on City Hall in indignant protest and Harper Sibley told a public hearing that: "East Avenue is the finest residential street in America and we intend to keep it so."
Last summer civic-minded members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce were mowing the tall weeds on THE Avenue's 15 vacant lots so that visitors would not get an unfavorable impression of "the finest residential street in America."
Death and taxes, a formidable team, have combined to dim the luster of the Alexander-Culver segment. Many of the old owners died and their heirs did not care either to live in or heat the huge castle-like structures nor to shoulder their heavy burden of taxation. Besides, in many cases they had their own more modern residences out in the newer suburban areas.
So many of the old mansions were razed, at least a dozen in the last decade. Seldom were they replaced. That's why the Jaycees went weed-cutting. At the Goodman Street corner are FOUR vacant lots.
Other old homes have been cut up into apartments and rooming houses. Many have been sold or given to clubs or organizations. The Georgian mansion that was George Eastman's is the residence of the president of the University. The noble former Erickson Perkins home is the Genesee Valley Club. Lovely Woodside, where the Ernest R. Willards lived, is the home of the Historical Society. Edward Bausch gave his residence that a fine museum might adorn THE Avenue.
And so it goes. It was the same story in the Third Ward.
This is not a requiem for East Avenue, still a grand thoroughfare despite the changes time has wrought. There still are many stately homes about which flows much of the city's social life. Nothing can take away the grandeur of the fine old trees whose branches meet like a benediction over the broad street.
THE Avenue like THE Ward, has its traditions, its memories. Above the wreckers' ax one hears the merry jingle of sleigh bells, the crisp crackle of snow under steel runners; as in the olden days of Sunday "bob" races.
Again the shuffle of dancing feet in lofty ballrooms that long ago were torn down; the crack of a coachman's whip; the slither of the tires of Mrs. Warham Whitney's electric on wet pavement; J. Foster Warner driving his open car like the wind in which his white beard floated; the Easter fashion parades through the years; the church bells calling the frock coats, the striped trousers, the high hats to pews in which their father sat.
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new."
* * * * *
It's not a long street, only four blocks between "the main stem" and the Central tracks.
It has never been called handsome or distinguished. It's more on the musty, cluttered side. On the other hand it has never been called dull. In Rochester it's THE Street-because it is different from all the rest.
It's old, old as the town itself. In the beginning it was Mason Street on Nathaniel Rochester's 100-Acre Tract and named for Ezra Mason, who settled here in 1811. For a little while it was Market Street.
But for 109 years now it has been Front Street. Wordsmiths of the Fourth Estate have dubbed it "The Bowery of Western New York" and "The Street of the Hopeless Men," Those men them selves call it "Skid Row."
* * * * *
THE Street has seen many changes but in one respect it has never changed through all the years. The other day on Front Street I heard a familiar sound. It was the high, peremptory crow of a rooster-in a crate on the curb. It was symbolic. From pioneer days Front Street has been a market place, a provision center, where gen- erations of Rochesterians have gone for meat, for poultry, for fish. They have gone there too to have keys made, shears and knives sharpened-and sometimes to pawn their jewelry.
Before the Genesee was tamed, THE Street bore the brunt of the big floods. After the waters had receded and the rowboats were put away, driftwood and debris littered the cobblestones.
For many years human flotsam and jetsam have been washed up on that same "beach," Only most folks just call them "the bums."
But Front Street primarily is a business artery, right in the city's heart. Its marketplace tradition goes back to the early time when it was Mason Street and a sandy beach stretched along the river. On the Main Street corner stood the village's first public market, a collection of crude stalls, that eventually fell into the river.
Prior to 1827, the New Market, surpassed only by Boston's was built opposite Market Street. Its facade was embellished by a carved wooden ox and it contained rooms for the militia. It was put over the river because Genesee water was handy for flushing out the stalls.
Then there was the City Building whose presence gave THE Street tone. Oldtimers refer to it as simply "the fire house." It housed fire department headquarters, some city offices and meeting rooms for GAR posts. The building is still there opposite Market Street. Now it stands Hush with the sidewalk but in the old days when the horses of Hook and Ladder No. 1 charged out of its doors, it was set back from the street. In 1907, after 33 years on Front Street, fire headquarters moved to the Central Avenue building that right now is being remodeled into apartments.
For years the main office of the gas company was at the Andrews corner. There the citizens paid their gas bills, Nearby was the "gas yard," storage place for piles of coke, wire reels, mains and other equipment.
Well remembered is the Haymarket, north of the former playground site, at No. 118, with its big scales, the sheds where the teams "tied on the feed bags" while their owners were dickering with the hay buyers. Before the street railway was electrified, the major buyer was the horse-car system. Sometimes the great drays choked THE Street for blocks. The Haymarket, not the original building, but on the same site, lasted until 1920. By that time the motor age was entrenched and haymarkets were as passe as buggy whips and buffalo robes.
In the heyday of the Haymarket, the 90's, there were 25 saloons on Front Street, 11 in one block, and they catered to the farmer trade. Sometimes rustics lingered overlong in the "bright lights" and woke in the gray dawn to find their pockets devoid of hay money.
But that was only one facet of many-sided Front Street. For decades, as late as 1914, families, respectable, hardworking people, lived above the stores. Some of their sons achieved prominence in business and professions. The city playground, maintained for years on the present Mission wood-yard site and directed by "The Angel of Front Street," Miss Bertha Servis, was a beneficent influence in shaping the lives of THE Street's youth.
Since 1880 there has been a mission on Front Street, a haven for the homeless. In 1889 the People's Rescue Mission was founded by Albert E. Hines and it's still there. The present superintendent, Herbert F. Baker, conducts regular religious services and deplores the many saloons still on the street. He has instituted an 11 p.m. curfew for his "guests."
* * * * *
Always THE Street was of commercial significance, housing not only saloons but some of the city's largest provision stores and other business houses, including always at least one excellent eating place.
The hat and glove firm of John Taylor & Sons is "dean" of them, It has been there since 1860. At Number 36, where the sign reads "Charles Adam & Sons, barber supplies, cutlery, and grinding." William Adam, who was born on Front Street in 1879, carries on the business his father founded there 68 years ago.
Adam has rich memories of bygone days in the neighborhood-of his friend, Rattlesnake Pete, and his famous showplace, of the Little Casino and the Corinthian, all just around the corner; of Buckley's Concert Hall at the Andrews Street corner and the old Empire Theater in the concert hall-vaudeville days; of Buffalo Bill coming on show days with some of his Indians to visit his friend Burkhalter; of the big flood of 1913 and wading out into the middle of the street in hip boots.
Now the cobblestones are gone, along with the gas lights and the Haymarket and THE Street is more sedate, especially by night, but there are those who remember the lurid era when they called it "The Bowery." Maybe that phase has been exaggerated but Saturday nights the clang of the patrol wagon was heard almost continuously as it made trip after trip. In those days the policemen in their gray helmets, among them "Big Bill" Heinline, "Cap" Vaughan, Jim Scott and Tony Gabriel, patrolled THE Street in pairs.
There are memories of the "Cheap John" clothing shops, of the merchants who "pulled in" their customers from the sidewalks; of Frogleg George and his mule and of white bearded Alex Carver who fascinated bystanders as he cut out meat blocks for the butchers of Western New York with his trusty adz; of the "barber colleges" featuring nickel shaves and dime haircuts, where learners worked on the feckless denizens of THE Street.
* * * * *
Front Street's pavement and sidewalks are crowded by day with all kinds of people-prosperous provender shoppers in shiny cars; middleclass householders and housewives on foot, seeking a Sunday roast; anglers after fishing tackle; voluble truckmen delivering their wares.
Watching the busy scene from the sidelines are the shambling idle men, the outcasts of "Skid Row." Once the colorful hoboes who "rode the rods" made Front Street a port of call. Now it's mostly the "regulars" whose faces the cops know well and the migrant workers who follow the shifting harvests.
Many of them are merely stumbling, repulsive drunks. Others are glib panhandlers. A few are quiet elderly workingmen who have no other home than the Mission. Among the faces are a few that command a second glance. There's a latent spark in the somber eyes, something about the bearing, that suggests these men have known better days.
Two men of "Skid Row" were once assistant district attorneys-not in Monroe County. Another owned a 1,000-acre potato farm in Maine. He became a "bum" after his wife was killed in a tractor accident and his three motherless children died in the fire that devoured his farmhouse. Some have nicknames like Wooden Shoe Whitey, a native of Holland, and Utica Sticks, who has a wooden leg.
No more gripping human interest story ever came out of THE Street than the one of the talented, well-educated son of an English baronet who some years ago landed on "Skid Row" and through the kindly help of the Mission, emerged from the shadows to become one of Rochester's most distinguished artists,
Front Street's "Mayor," is Herbert Paddock but everybody calls him Paddy. After the death of Dave Solomon, whose business emblem was the three gilded balls, Paddy stepped into the mayor's chair. He fought with the Engineers overseas in World War I and after Pearl Harbor signed up as a civilian construction worker, served in the Aleutians and came home wearing a magnificent white beard-which he soon shaved off. He's head of the Rochester Tank of the Hoboes of America, whose "king," Jeff Davis, is his frequent guest on THE Street.
Paddy's something of a showman. Eating glass is on his repertory. But he's no eccentric and seldom performs. He really is a well informed, articulate and affable chap, with an engaging boyish grin.
And he's "mayor" of Rochester's most picturesque street, whose coat of arms might well be a crowing rooster rampant on a field of sackcloth and ashes.
"The Old Neighborhoods"
"JACK, do you remember the Halloween night the fat cop chased us and the clothesline caught you under the chin . . when we were kids in the old neighborhood ?"
"Mary, do you remember the old lady in the corner house who used to give us cookies . . . when we were kids in the old neighborhood?"
That sort of talk is bound to flow around the table-whether it be in a swank club or in a "diner" down by the tracks-whenever and wherever people meet who used to be "kids together in the old neighborhood." They may not have lived there for decades; they may seldom revisit the haunts of their youth but they keep going back in memory. For the bond of "the old neighborhood" is strong-like an "old school tie,"
In Father Rochester's house there are many neighborhoods. You won't find them on the official map. Their boundaries are elastic. Some of them don't really exist any more. Their identities have been swallowed in the maw of the expanding city.
New neighborhoods, busy, important ones, have sprung up. But this is about the older ones with picturesque names bestowed in the long ago. Names like Dutchtown, Dublin, and Cork tell of the nationalities that settled them although shifting population trends have changed their makeup. Bull's Head, Swillburg, Butter Hole, the Rapids and the rest-each has its significance, its place in the Rochester tradition and in the hearts of those who "used to be kids in the old neighborhood."
* * * * *
When Rochesterville was only a huddle of cabins beside the falls, there was built-according to some historians, as early as 1813-a wooden tavern just west of the village on the road to Buffalo.
It catered to the drovers who brought their livestock to market over that rutty road and on its sign was painted the head of a bull. It became known far and wide as the Bull's Head Tavern advertising "entertainment for man and beast." To this day the area adjacent to the intersection of West Main and Genesee Streets has borne the colorful "Merrie Englandish" title of the Bull's Head. To many of her sons it is simply "The Head"-and they say it with affection.
Of all of the old neighborhoods, the Bull's Head is the hardiest. From the beginning it was an important crossroads. Today a thriving center of trade, it has preserved ith vigorous individuality through all the changing years-against a rich backdrop of tradition.
One tale of the pioneer days concerns a salt-laden spring on an enclosure set aside, on the present St. Mary's Hospital site, for cattle bound for the Rochester market. The drovers let the beasts drink their fill because the dash of salt in the water added materially to the weight of the cattle when they were led on the market scales.
For a while the Bull's Head had its own cattle market, established in 1827 on the site of the recently razed St. Mary's Boys' Orphanage. The venture was not successful but one of the stone buildings of the old mart lingered on the scene for years.
In the 1820's Francis Brown had a highway cut through the woods to link his milling town of Frankfort with the road to Buffalo. That street bears his name today.
A rival arose in 1830 at the Willowbank corner to challenge the Bull's Head Tavern for the custom of the drovers. It was called Lambs Tavern. Later it was remodeled into a residence and renamed Willowbank because of the trees on the terrace.
In 1884 Lyman Granger had this legend carved on a stone leading to the house: "Willowbank-1844-Better Go Up Than Down." That stone is still there at the entrance to Willowbank. Alfred Wright, the perfumer, remodeled the building into the present imposing residence. In recent years it has been a tourist home in the old hospitable tradition of "The Head." A few months ago the Liederkranz Club bought it and eventually the landmark will vanish from the scene.
The 1850's were lively years at the Bull's Head. The tavern, called Field's then, was a mecca for sleighing parties from the city; an omnibus line ran from the Four Corners and Dr. Halstead was operating a water cure and a sanitarium, called Halstead Hall, on the orphanage site.
The Cross as a symbol of mercy was raised at the Bull's Head in 1857 when tile venerated Mother Hieronymo and three other Sisters of Charity established there Rochester's first hospital, St. Mary's. It began in a couple of old stone stables. They were soon overcrowded and in 1863 the indefatigable Mother Hieronymo saw a dream come true when the cornerstone was laid for the huge, fortress-like structure that still stands. During the Civil War, more than 800 wounded and ill soldiers were cared for at St. Mary's. In 1864 the City Hospital (now the General) was built, just out of the Bull's Head domain, and shared the wartime burden, A fire, that caused heavy damage but took no human toll, swept St. Mary's in 1891. Surrounded now by fine, modern hospital buildings, the old stone St. Mary's that is 83 years old still dominates the historic crossroads.
Had not Azariah Boody donated to the cause of higher education his pasture acres on the East Side, the University of Rochester today might be at the Bull's Head. After the college decided to leave its birthplace on West Main Street, a site in the Ardmore Street locale was virtually determined upon. A little street that ran east from Ardmore, then Briggs Place, to the St. Mary's Hospital property was even named College Avenue and a college square was mapped. After the college moved to University Avenue in 1861, and a College Avenue was laid out there, the West Side pretender was renamed Rural Street. Now it is gone, absorbed in the expansion of St. Mary's Hospital.
Miss Ada M. King of 22 Ardmore St. has lived in the neighborhood since 1877 and knows its lore. Once she conducted a private school in her home. In 1945 at the age of 81 she completed an extension course at the University that almost moved to Bull's Head. She was hailed at that time as the "U of R's oldest co-ed."
The sprightly lady of Ardmore Street recalls how a half century ago St. Mary's was surrounded by apple orchards and wheat fields, and peacocks strutted on the grounds; Ardmore Street was the city line and one resident, on seeing a bill collector approach, would slip out his barn door "into the country" and the Town of Gates.
* * * * *
So many memories and traditions cluster about the "old neighborhood" . . . the late William P. Webber's race horses bringing glory to "The Head," particularly his pacer, Hal Boy, who hung up a mark of 2:01 on the Grand Circuit; Maginty, the "Iron Horse," who once raced seven heats at Batavia and won them all; Cochat and Rossaree-the bull's head figure that for 15 years has adorned the facade of the Webber Market, keeping alive the old symbol of the crossroads. . . Incidentally, the Webbers have been "keeping store" at "The Head" for some 55 years . . . Frank Love, whose grocery store at Eddy and Silver, was a sort of community rendezvous and who had a son, Bill, a star ballplayer in his youth and who today is Mr. Justice William F. Love of the Appellate Division . . . Danny Fitzgerald, a boy playing in Victoria Street and now president of the Rochester Bar Association . . . And whenever the historic name or the business interests of "The Head" were threatened there was Bill Caufield, the hardware man, carrying the Bull's Head banner.
The Gimme Club that was organized shortly before World War I in the cigar store of Edmond P. Vandewater, then at Main and York, and the war days when so many boys of the club joined the colors and those at home sent them smokes and eats . . . the angry sorrow that swept "The Head" when Vandewater was slain in 1933 by a holdup man in his little cigar store-sub postoffice in Brown Street . . . the capture of the killer, young Ross Caccamise, after a gun battle in the Fruitland woods . . . he was wounded and brought to St. Mary's Hospital while awaiting the trial that doomed him to the electric chair and the window of his hospital room looked out on the street where he had slain "Vandy," who was so popular at "The Head." . . .
So many memories. But the Bull's Head does not live in the past. It bristles with life. It has a wide awake Business Association that looks out for the interests of the neighborhood.
And when Uncle Sam announced a new branch postoffice would be built in York Street a decade ago, there was a strong movement to name the new station "Genesee." Whereupon the old fighting spirit of the historic "Head" asserted itself and after the smoke of the battle had cleared away, the name they carved on the new postoffice was "Bull's Head Sub-station."
* * * * *
The political upheaval of the late 1840's sent thousands of Germans to America's shores. Many settled in Rochester. Mostly they arrived on the canal packets. They were a thrifty, temperate, substantial people, skilled in many crafts and they brought with them colorful Old World customs. Their singing societies, their bands, their festivals, beer gardens and succulent dishes, strange to York State palates, their general heartiness, helped to leaven the rather stem Yankee flavor of the young mill town.
They set up scattered colonies on the fringes of the city. They lived in comfortable, plain, cottage-type homes, seemingly run off the same mold, each with its neat yard and well-tended garden.
One such neighborhood became known as Dutchtown. It was bounded loosely by Lyell Avenue, Hague Street, Jay and the old canal. On its northern borders was a concentration of the warm- hearted, impecunious Irish emigrants who had dug our canals and built our railroads,
In the 1880's Dutchtown was nicknamed "The Basket Hole" because so many of its Teutons made willow baskets in their woodsheds and peddled them.
Today Dutchtown is no longer Dutchtown, It's mostly a commercial-industrial section. The German and Irish families generally have given way to those of the Italian blood, the colorful, volatile people that swarmed here in the 1890's and around the turn of the century.
But in Old Dutchtown was born a tradition that endures, It is in the world of competitive sports. I doubt if any neighborhood in any city ever contributed more star athletes. They were the products of the sandlots. The list is an imposing one.
Dutchtown sent to the major leagues such figures as Heinie Groh, the wizard of the "bottle bat," George Mogridge, the great moundsman; pitcher Ray Gordonier, Bernie and Pat Boland; George (Stump) Wiedenmann and his brother Andrew, who before he became a political leader, was a catcher of renown. Listing all the minor leaguer and semipros of Dutchtown would take a column of type.
In the field of umpiring there are such famous names as "Silk" O'Loughlin and after him, Bill Klem, "The Old Arbiter," whose boast is "I never missed one in my life." And there was James M. Flynn, who umpired in the Western and other leagues that he might study medicine. Not many years ago that same Dr. Flynn was chosen president of the State Medical Society.
Dutchtown also basked in the glory of its mighty football teams, the old Scalpers and in later days the Russers. The Scalper lineup once included a Joe O'Brien who became a congressman and a Georgie Nier who became a city public safety commissioner and today is a leader of the bar.
And in the fistic arena there was the redoubtable "Chubby" Brown, pride of Dutchtown-and of Rochester-in his heyday.
Dutchtown gave its warriors loyal and noisy support. It flocked en masse to the fields where its teams contended.
The home diamond was at the "Y" formed by the junction of the tracks of the Falls and the Charlotte branches of the New York Central, out Hague Street way. Many a game, started there in defiance of the city's long standing ban on Sunday baseball, ended abruptly when coming along the tracks in the distance was spotted the towering figure of Mike Zimmerman, police captain of the precinct. By the time Mike reached the grounds the players and spectators had departed-to resume the game in a nearby. field in the more liberal Town of Greece, In those days Hague Street was near the city line.
Also of Germanic origin was the neighborhood known as the Butter Hole, in the North Clinton, Avenue D, St. Paul and Norton area. Some 60 years ago German residents kept cows on small farms on the lowlands there and produced much of the city's supply of butter and other dairy products-hence the name. Long ago the pastures were turned into a commercial and residential section, made up of a medley of nationalities. For many an autumn there sallied forth from the Butter Hole the mighty Oxfords to battle their Dutchtown rivals on the gridiron.
Swillburg is hardly an euphonious name and you hear it seldom these days. But once the Clinton to South Avenue area, south of the Erie Canal, was so called, because its German settlers kept pigs and fed them swill. The Clinton Ditch was its moat, just at it was the proud Third Ward's and from its bed in spring Swillburgers would scoop up the rich silt for their gardens.
Today the neighborhood has a cultural accent. For right in the heart of the old Swillburg is Rochester's "Little Theater," the Community Playhouse. The Erie Social Club is there too. And the society folk who seek refreshment during intermissions at the Playhouse and the old line 13th Warders alike miss the slight, gay-spirited politico, the late Tim Kelly, who for years played the role of Mine Host on the corner across from the Playhouse.
Obvious is the origin of the name of Cork, a virtually forgotten colony settled in the 1840's in the Ontario-Davis-Woodward-North Street district. There dwelt the "Ninty-nine Cousins," the inter-related Protestant Irish from County Cork who voted the straight Republican ticket, Among them were the Dukelows, the Swantons, the Gosnells, the Whitleys, the Attridges, names well known to Rochester, Long ago Cork was submerged in the Italian influx.
Another oldtime Irish neighborhood was Dublin, bounded by Ward Street, the river, Clifford and Clinton Avenues. St. Bridget's Church was the center of its community life. It was on the Shamrock Tract with street names like Cork and Emmett. Later on it became Germanized. Now it is another racial melting pot. In the old days Dublin carried on a lusty rivalry with Frankfort across the river, It was the Dublin Ducks against the Frankforters and woe betide the lad of either gang who strayed into enemy territory. The Vincent Street Bridge was "No Man's Land."
Frankfort, the pioneer milling community at the Upper Falls, goes back to 1807 and for a time challenged the commercial rise of Colonel Rochester's town. Which sounds so strange today when old Frankfort, bounded roughly by the river, the Subway, Kent Street and Emerson, is just another part of central Rochester.
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The Rapids met a similar fate. Once a busy river port, it's now merely the Plymouth-Brooks segment of the sprawling 19th Ward, Even the river rapids whence came its name are gone, obliterated by canal improvements.
In 1790 James Wadsworth bought land there at eight cents the acre and visioned a city where in 1800 a settlement sprang up, called Castle Town, after its tavernkeeper, Isaac Castle. In pioneer times, produce, boated down from the Genesee Valley, was unloaded at the Rapids, to be carried across country to the ships waiting at the Lower Falls. The building of the Erie Canal doomed Castle Town although it was rejuvenated when the Genesee Valley Canal was dug through it. Those were robust days and the Rapids, with its grog shops and canalers, was a rough place. But that was long ago and now the only vestige of the settlement is the old cemetery on the hill above Terrace Park where sleep the pioneers.
Corn Hill is kept alive only by the Methodist Church of that name on Plymouth Park, where the tulips bloom in the spring-time. Once it was a hill crowned by fields of corn. The corn was made into meal and also furnished fodder for pigs that became the once famous Corn Hill brand of hams and bacons. Street names in the locality hint of its Scottish pedigree, names like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Greig. It was Scottish born John Greig, the Canandaigua land baron, who gave the park, orginally a square, and he called it Caledonia Square after the land of the heather.
And there was Carthage, the "lost" river port at the head of navigation at the Lower Falls and before the advent of the Erie Canal, a serious rival to Rochesterville, The Carthaginians built a great bridge across the river gorge, a wonder of the time, and when it fell, down with it went the hopes of Carthage. There's a memorial boulder near the eastern approach of the Veterans Bridge to tell of its little hour.
"Fiddlers Green" was the picturesque name for "the canal zone" around West Main and Oak Streets, It was peopled largely by Irish and in early towpath days was plenty tough.
Few will remember Goat Hill, east of Scio Street in the Lewis-Davis Street vicinity. Once it was the grazing ground for herds of goats. In the 1880's the hill was leveled and cut up into building lots.
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Rochester has a sentimental regard for her old neighborhoods.
She treasures the old names, too-for instance, Cobbs Hill. Ask the city fathers who tried to change that park's name.
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