Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rochester - Celebrating 175 Years

View of Rochester from the Mary Jemison
Strong Museum
Strong Museum

Rochester Museum and Science Center
Rochester Museum and Sceince Center - Planetarium
Susan B. Anthony Museum

Sam Patch Erie Canal boat
Seneca Park Zoo

This year is Rochester’s 175th birthday but people were living in Rochester when it was called Rochesterville after its founder Nathaniel Rochester who established the settlement in 1811. In 1834 it obtained a city charter and became known as Rochester. Often dubbed the Flower City it was first known as the Flour City. At one point in time Rochester made more flour than any other place in the world. Even Queen Victoria is reportedly stocked her kitchen with 6,000 barrels of Rochester flour because, "…it made the best cakes."

In the mid-1800s Rochester became the Flower City due in a large part to nurserymen George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry then later Frederick Law Olmsted, called the Father of American Landscaping, who created the city’s park system. Other notables have left their mark on Rochester including George Eastman, Margaret Woodbury Strong, Susan B. Anthony, and George Long, Jr.

The Eastman House
George Eastman, a photographic pioneer and founder of the Eastman Kodak, made photography available to the average person by creating small, easy-to-use cameras. The motto for the camera he introduced in 1888 was, "You push the button, we do the rest." A visit to Eastman’s house is to learn more about the man who claimed, "I want to make Rochester the best city in which to live and work." To that end he donated more than $100 million during his life to educational and arts institutions, public parks, hospitals, and charitable organizations. At the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film see the historical development of photography in the Machines of Memory gallery, visit changing photographic exhibits, wander the gardens, and tour Eastman’s house, a National Historic Landmark. Beside docent tours the Eastman offers a variety of programs from film presentations in their Dryden Theater to classes centered on their historic gardens.

The Strong Museum
Margaret Woodbury Strong agreed with Plato who over 2000 years ago said, "Life must be lived as play." A prolific collector of dolls and toys, Strong founded her namesake museum in 1968. Today it is larger and more dynamic than ever due to a major expansion project that was completed in 2006. The carousel and diner are still by the entrance but the museum offers new adventures for young and old. The National Toy Hall of Fame is home to toys that have withstood the test of time. Visitors can visit Sesame Street, the Berenstain Bears, and Reading Adventureland before heading to the Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden. In a lush, humid rainforest setting there are 800 free-flying tropical butterflies. The guide explained, "Butterflies taste with their feet. They may want to taste you. They are beautiful to see but easy to injure. So watch where you step and check your body in the mirror on the way out to make sure you don’t have any hitchhikers."

The Susan B. Anthony House
On a quiet tree-lined street the home of Susan B. Anthony tells the story of a lady who dedicated her entire life to making America a better place for everyone. She first became active in the temperance movement but, because she was a woman, she was not allowed to speak at temperance rallies. This led her to join the women's rights movement in 1852. She dedicated her life to getting "…women their rights and nothing less." Ignoring opposition and abuse, Anthony traveled and lectured across the nation for women’s suffrage feeling as she said, "Suffrage is the pivotal right." She also campaigned for the abolition of slavery, women's rights to control their own finances, and women's labor organizations. Anthony died 14 years before women got the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. It is often referred to as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.

Sam and Mary
Rochester is another city that owes it existence to the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825 creating an affordable western route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Even though Sam Patch and Mary Jemison did not live in Rochester their legacy lives on in the names of two Erie Canal tour boats. The Sam Patch, a replica of an 1800s Erie Canal packet boat, leaves from Pittsford for a trip on the canal traversing Lock 32. The boat’s namesake was known as the Yankee Leaper having gained fame for jumping off waterfalls. Twice Patch successfully jumped off Niagara Falls. On his second 97-feet jump off Genesse Falls on Friday the 13th, 1829 he failed to surface. The Mary Jemison, a 1931 historic wooden boat, honors the legacy of "the white woman of the Genesee," who chose to remain with her adoptive Seneca family after being taken captive as a child. The Mary Jemison departs from the trendy Corn Hill area traveling the Genesse River and the Erie Canal. As the Mary Jemison passes under several bridges the scenery changes offering unique and different views of the Rochester area.

Family Fun
Seabreeze Park is celebrating 130 years of family fun making it one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. The park opened in 1879 where the main attraction was the shore-side picnic area but mechanical rides soon arrived. In 1904 George Long, Jr. and his family brought a merry-go-round to Seabreeze beginning a family legacy that continues to this day with his great-grandchildren working at the park. It is said that the energetic Long took a break at the park and looking out over Irondequoit Bay said, "This is the life…" The park has grown to include a water park with a wave pool and a variety of state-of-the-art thrill rides for all ages. Currently Seabreeze is North America’s 4th oldest operating amusement park with the Jack Rabbit the 3rd oldest operating roller coaster.

For information about more things to see and do in and around Rochester including the Seneca Park Zoo, the Memorial Art Gallery, self-guided walking tours, and a variety of festivals check

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