I am lucky enough to have a window in my office that offers a view of the magnificent Wings of Progress atop the Times Square Building in downtown Rochester. On a sunny day like today, they are quite a sight to behold (and would be better still if not partially blocked by the Public Safety Building – oh well!).
The cornerstone for the Times Square Building was laid on October 29, 1929, the day of the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression. Despite its inauspicious beginning, the Times Square Building, then the tallest skyscraper in downtown Rochester (and second-tallest building in the city after Kodak Tower), became the most distinctive element in our skyline. Its architect, Ralph T. Walker, got his inspiration for the wings from seashells he set together on edge at the beach. He noted that they suggested “a sense of flight … a sense of upward lift,” a perfect metaphor for the new possibilities created by the early-twentieth century skyscraper.
Stone carvings on the building, also in the Art Deco style, depict motifs like Security and Trust (apt for what was originally the home of the Genesee Valley Trust bank). A mural in the main banking hall by Carl Peters depicted the historical development of Rochester and its 1930 skyline. The interior was designed to be modern, yet conservative, conveying the bank’s stability.
The building began attracting attention in architectural circles before its completion, and remains widely admired today. Its fans include a blogger from Australia who is a fan of Art Deco architecture and featured it in a post today. (Along with a nice link to our walking tour – thanks!)
In addition to our admiration for the building, we at The Landmark Society can claim a special connection to the building: our trustee and incoming board president, Henry Williams, is descended from one of the bank’s vice presidents who presided over the opening of the building in September 1930.
Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services