Many people think of downtown as a central business district belted by the Inner Loop, but Rochester’s Center City is actually a collection of mixed-use neighborhoods, each with their own distinct character. It may also be surprising to some that downtown is sprinkled with green spaces ranging in scale from large parks to intimate gardens.
This year’s Inside Downtown Tour will offer a “View from the Top”, as many of the featured sites offer panoramic views from lofty heights. This unique opportunity allows not only a chance to take in the striking downtown skyline from a unique perspective, but also highlights how green our city is, with its tree lined avenues radiating out from the central core, and lush parklands dotting the landscape beyond. There are several unique green spaces not to be missed during this year’s tour, which spans multiple downtown neighborhoods.
Starting at Tour Headquarters, which this year will be located at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, take in the beautiful corner park located next door and in front of Christ Church. This beautiful neighborhood garden is owned and maintained by the church, and is a popular gathering spot in the East End neighborhood. Surrounded by borders of flowering shrubs, perennials and seasonal annuals, the garden is an oasis in the middle of a busy downtown neighborhood. Be sure to take in the majestic honey locust tree which is over 100 years old.
Heading down East Avenue to where it intersects with Main Street the iconic Liberty Pole anchors the vista, and serves as the centerpiece of Liberty Pole Plaza. Designed by local architect James H. Johnson in 1965, the steel sculpture rises 198 feet high and sits on the site of a wooden liberty pole that was originally erected in 1846. The plaza provides a place of gathering and is surrounded by three iconic buildings, all of which are on this year’s tour: The Sibley Building, the Temple Building and the Bank of America Building.
Moving west down Main Street toward the entrance to the Sibley Building, take a moment to check out the construction progress at the Midtown site. The superblock that contained Midtown Plaza has been subdivided into smaller parcels, allowing much of the historic street grid to be reconstructed. At the center of the project, a new public open space is emerging which will be called Midtown Commons. The space includes areas of hardscape, open lawn, trees, ornamental plantings and decorative lighting. Midtown Commons is anchored on its north side by the Windstream Building, and to the south construction is underway on transforming Midtown Tower into a vibrant mixed-use building (look for it on a future inside Downtown Tour).
Walking up Franklin Street from the Liberty Pole Plaza and Sibley Building, the spire of the former St. Joseph’s Church comes into view, now the centerpiece of St. Joseph’s Park which is owned and maintained by the Landmark Society. St. Joseph’s Church, the oldest Catholic church in Rochester, was ravaged by fire in 1978 which gutted the building, but spared the front façade and iconic combination bell/clock tower. The ruined structure was preserved and transformed into a unique urban park which highlights the impressive masonry construction of the original building. The Landmark Society has recently completed repairs to the structure, and improvements to its landscape in an effort to make this unique urban park more accessible to the public.
Posted by Anthony Bellomo, IDT chair and downtown resident.
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!