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NSG Meeting February 22, 2003


Urban Development Projects


Donovan A. Shilling

The second meeting of 2003 for the New Society of the Genesee took place on Saturday, February 22nd, at the Old Country Buffet in Culver Ridge Plaza. Twenty-eight members and guests arrived to dine and view a slide presentation by Donovan Shilling showing Rochester's Urban Development Projects. The slide program, originally photographed by Floyd Evershed in the early 1960s, revealed the original buildings that once lined Front Street, State Street, Main Street, South Avenue and North and South Water Streets.

Through the illustrations one could harken back to the days when these street were alive with the hustle and bustle of people and commerce. Other slides documented the demolition of the venerable buildings with unusual views of the Genesee River along whose banks many of the large brick structures were built. Scenes of the Benvenuto Brothers and Atlas Wrecking Company's razing of the historic structures, "in the name of progress," were a sad commentary on the demolition frenzy that would turn the street faces of yesterday into the new facades seen today.

Among those aiding in the narration of the slides were John Topham, who was employed by James Wilmont who did much of the rebuilding of the area, especially the esplanade along the Genesee River's west bank, the "Y" shaped bridge over the Genesee and the installation of the "five-minute-fountain" placed between the "Y" of the bridge.

Doug Fisher was especially helpful in identifying the many buildings along South Avenue and South Water Street. Doug also added comments regarding his "Canal-Town" project that would have incorporated the Cook Opera House into his proposed redevelopment plans.

Our thanks to Gerry Muhl, Jack Kemp, George Shaw and others who also aided in the identification of the streets and structures seen in the program. Of especial interest to the group were the photos of the construction of the Convention Center shown by Phil Maples and the early depictions of downtown by John Topham.

© 2003, Donovan A. Shilling
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