Historic Walk Around Rochester

7774_10152870793735023_978141144_nToday I decided to take a spur-of-the-moment walk through Rochester’s historic High Falls district, and thought I might as well blog about it!

One thing that I always enjoy taking pictures of is the remainder of mural-advertisements on the walls of old buildings. Can’t exactly tell what this one is advertising, if any one can make it out, let me know!

You can’t walk through High Falls without stopping for a quick look at the remains of Triphammer Forge. Last summer when I walked through this area you were allowed to go down to the level of the forge, but it seems that yesterday it was all blocked off, unfortunately.

992953_10152869920760023_145836129_n“A unique archaeological park, the Triphammer Forge site provides a good view of the layers of history found in Browns Race. The Triphammer Building burned in 1977. As the rubble was being cleared, a long-forgotten basement room was uncovered that housed the building’s massive (25-foot) water wheel, constructed of wood and iron.

The Triphammer Building was built as a forge in 1816 and occupied by the William Cobb Scythe and Tool factory. A large, heavy hammer-the triphammer-was raised by waterpower and dropped to forge wrought-iron tools. In 1830 the building was advertised for sale as having a furnace with the greatest blast in the state and two triphammers.

In the 1830s, Lewis Selye bought the Triphammer Building. Previously, in 1826, he had constructed the building at 208 Mill Street that extends between Browns Race and Mill Street. In these buildings the Selye Fire Engine Company built Rochester’s first fire engines and supplied fire engines for federal fortifications and other sites across New York state. A cast-iron shaft transferred power from the Triphammer Building to the Mill Street plant.” (source)


Next we walked over to Brown’s Race itself, a canal constructed in 1815 to supply mills in the High Falls area.

“Diverting water from a point about 500 feet south of High Falls, the raceway was 1221 feet long (later extended), 30-feet wide and five-and-a-half feet deep. Even before the race was completed, a cotton mill was constructed at a location which was once called Browns Island (north side of Commercial Street and east of the remaining raceway). Spillways funneled water from the race through the mills. Mill lots between the race and the gorge each had the right to a certain amount of water from the race. All buildings on the east side of the race were reached via foot bridges; overhead shafts transmitted power to the west side of the race and to the buildings which fronted on Mill Street. Eventually the race was covered by a wooden plank roadway. In 1991-92 portions of the original Browns Race were uncovered; concrete planks delineate the original width of the raceway.” (source)

600563_10152872134400023_2102164262_nI then walked across the Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge to view the falls themselves – and I am always surprised by the precariousness of the buildings in High Falls, situated upon eroding stone.

“The Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge and park were created in 1982 from what was the Platt Street bridge (1891), an 858-foot-long, truss bridge. The bridge is named for a Rochester Sister City in France. This is the best viewing site of the High Falls.

Looking out over the Gorge, you can see rock formations of shale, limestone and sandstone, with bands of iron ore. These sedimentary rocks, formed by the accumulation of deposits that came from what is now the Hudson Valley, are over 400 million years old. Soils from the then Alpine-like mountains were washed into a shallow sea. The sediment compressed and cemented to form layers of rock. The red sandstone, locally called “Medina sandstone,” provided an excellent building material and is often found on Rochester sidewalks, curbs and older buildings.” (source)

984309_10152869922990023_770093970_n The falls themselves always make for a nice photo opportunity as well (despite the dirty Genesee water!)

“Starting about 10,000 years ago, deposits from the retreat of the last glacier diverted the Genesee to its present course. From Rochester to Lake Ontario, the river drops about 300 feet. Waterfalls occurred as the river met rock resistant to erosion. This main cataract-the 96-foot High Falls – once called the Upper Falls – was considered one of the wonders of the American wilderness. The 67-foot Lower Falls is about one mile downstream, near Driving Park Avenue. The gorge was created by the upstream migration of these falls.

Rochester schoolchildren know the story of Sam Patch, a 19th century daredevil, who had conquered Niagara Falls, but jumped from High Falls to his death on Friday the thirteenth of November, 1829.

By the early 1800s, the Genesee River was supplying the power, initially via Browns Race, that made Rochester the flour capital of the world. Its commercial accessibility attracted millers, toolmakers and other settlers. At least nine of Rochester’s two dozen mills were situated on Browns Race. Rochester remained a flour milling center until the 1880s, when wheat production followed the migration of farmers to the midwest. The last flour was milled at Browns Race in 1927.” (source)

Further Reading: 

“The Triphammer Forge: From 19th C. Industrial Workplace to Modern Artifact”
 Walking Tour of Triphammer Forge
 Rochester Heritage
 Walking Tour of Browns Race 
Walking Tour of Pont de Rennes Bridge
Walking Tour of High Falls 


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