Is it a giant cheese slicer?
The newest version of a cellular tower?
Or simply a convenient place to have a non-religious celebration of December holidays?
A site for protest. A liberty pole is a long-standing American tradition of political protest and celebration. Before and during the American Revolution wooden poles serving as flag poles or for display of political sentiments were often erected in town squares. English authorities would periodically destroy them – leading to violent struggles with the “Sons of Liberty.”
A place for patriotic tribute. After the war, poles were erected in communities to commemorate those struggles and celebrate patriotic pride. Rochester’s first Liberty Pole was built on this same spot in 1846. When it was destroyed in a storm, the new one went up in 1860, standing proudly at 102 feet tall with a large wooden ball and weather vane. The new Liberty Pole remained as a place for social gatherings until Christmas Day 1889, when it, too, crashed in a violent wind storm.
A significant public art installation. Designed by award-winning Rochester architect James H. Johnson (creator of the “mushroom house” in Perinton) it was completed in 1965. The 190-foot-high stainless steel structure paid tribute to the past traditions, while boldly proclaiming the modern age in its style. As with most art, it attracted its share of vocal fans and detractors. Whatever you may think of the current liberty pole, it has certainly stood up to all kinds of weather.
Peace and protest. Since its erection, the Liberty Pole has seen echoes of both sides of its heritage. True to its origins, the location has seen its share of late 20th and early 21st century protests, from the Vietnam War era to current day. We’ve also gathered there as a community to celebrate the lighting of the pole in its holiday role, to enjoy musical performances, and to simply admire – or complain – about this unique edifice, anchoring the Inside Downtown Tour neighborhood.
Posted by Cindy Boyer, Director of Public Programs
Tour details: East Ave & E. Main St. | Friday September 12 5:30 to 8:30 pm |Saturday, September 13 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advance tickets are $22. Landmark members may purchase $18 advance tickets from Landmark Society only, online or by phone at (585)546-7029 x11. If tickets are available the days of the tour they will be $25 for all, sold at Tour HQ, Rochester Contemporary Art Center (RoCo).
After you purchase your tickets, invite your friends and family to attend the tour too-use the hashtag #insidedowntown on social media!