rochester image city skyline cover

Rochester: The Image City

Rochester evolved from the Flour City and Flower City to the Image City when George Eastman invented a way for the masses to capture everyday moments on film. He founded the Eastman Kodak Company, a significant player in the photography industry for much of the 20th century. Eastman also established the Eastman School of Music, one of the top music schools in the United States.

Today, Rochester is home to multiple photonics- and photography-related businesses and organizations, including the George Eastman Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of photography and film.

In addition to its photography legacy, Rochester is known for its beautiful Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park system, a 96-foot waterfall on the Genesee River that flows through the heart of downtown, a vibrant street art scene, and an unforgettable skyline. These qualities make it a popular destination for photographers and artists and help to reinforce its status as the Image City.

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

Best of Rochester Award-Winning Book for Best Published Literary Work of 2023.

Welcome to Rochester!

Great selfie ops around the Image City

Quintessential Rochester: Greetings from Rochester NY

The Hideaway restaurant on Park Ave.

Quintessential Rochester: street art scio street rochester

Behind the Rochester Public Market on Scio Street.

Quintessential Rochester: public wall art home in Rochester

Just a taste of the art surrounding the Frederick Douglass Library on South Ave.

Quintessential Rochester: Welcome to Rochester

Head northbound on South Clinton Ave for this quintessential Rochester welcome next to Geva Theater.

Rochester’s Skyline

Picture-perfect views day or night!

Quintessential Rochester: Genesee Gateway Park skyline view

Rochester skyline view from Genesee Gateway Park.

Quintessential Rochester: Day Trips around Rochester

Skyline view from Corn Hill Landing.

Quintessential Rochester: Rochester nighttime skyline

Rochester skyline from Court Street.

Quintessential Rochester: Monroe County Rochester NY Skyline

Rochester skyline from a boat on the Genesee River.

30 Day Trips within 30 Minutes of Rochester: Cobbs Hill Park

Rochester skyline view from Cobbs Hill.

High Falls Skyline

Rochester skyline view from High Falls Terrace.

Rochester Skyline from Changing Scenes

Rochester skyline view from the First Federal Plaza Building.

Scenic View Genesee River Roof Library Rochester

View from the Rundel Building rooftop.

The 100 Acre Tract


High Falls Rochester NY Genesee River rockbed
High Falls

In 1792, Ebenezer “Indian” Allen sold the property he was gifted in 1788 by the Phelps and Gorham Co. The mills he built utilized Rochester’s 4th waterfall, located where the Broad Street bridge is today.

By 1803, the land found its way into the hands of Col. Nathaniel Rochester, Maj. Charles Carroll, and Col. William Fitzhugh, all of Maryland.

In 1811, Rochester began the process of establishing a town, laying out streets, and establishing plots of land for municipal, church, and business use. Later that year, he began to offer the plots for sale.

In 1812, Nathaniel Rochester moved his family here from Dansville, envisioning a prosperous future. The War of 1812 brought soldiers marching through the area who would eventually return to purchase land.



St. Lukes Episcopal Church

The Church that Rochester built: St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church, 1824

Bevier Memorial Building

Bevier Memorial Building, where Nathaniel Rochester’s home once stood, 1910

High Falls Rochester NY Genesee River mill exposed

In 1815, the Brown Brothers created “Brown’s Race”, a riverside canal used to harness the power of the waterfall for mills. Evidence of this time in our history can be explored in the High Falls Historic District.

In 1817, when Rochesterville was officially chartered, it included the original 100-acre tract and the Brown Brothers land, plus several other parcels owned by others.

Mount Hope Cemetery Nathaniel Rochester

Nathaniel Rochester’s plot at Mount Hope Cemetery (1752-1831).

Young Lion Of The West & the Flour City


Rochester was founded in 1817 and officially became a city in 1823 after the completion of the Erie Canal aqueduct. The city’s thriving manufacturing and trade industry earned it the nickname “Young Lion of the West” for its explosive growth, followed by “The Flour City” for its abundance of flour mills along the Genesee River. The historic aqueduct, rebuilt in 1842, now serves as a bridge for Broad Street over the Genesee River. In 1918, the state redirected the canal to run along the city’s southern border through Genesee Valley Park.

Monroe County Office Building

The 3rd & Current Monroe County Office Building

In 1821, Monroe County was formed, with Rochesterville as the county seat, and the first courthouse was built. In 1894, the cornerstone for our third and current Monroe County Office Building was laid and displays the construction date of all three buildings. 

Rochester NY Erie Canal Aqueduct and Subway

Rochester’s Erie Canal Aqueduct and Subway, mural “Child’s Basin 1830: Through the Looking Glass

In 1823, Rochester dropped the “ville.” The first aqueduct to carry the Erie Canal over the Genesee River at Rochester was also completed in 1823. The aqueduct pictured above is the second iteration, constructed between 1836–1842.

Jonathan Child House

Jonathan Child House, 1837-38.

In 1834, the City of Rochester was incorporated three years after Nathaniel Rochester’s death in 1831. Jonathan Child, Nathaniel Rochester’s son-in-law, was the first Mayor.

The Flower City


public art utility box park ave
Seed Packet design on Park Ave utility box

Several seed companies in Rochester had grown to become the largest in the world, with Ellwanger & Barry Nursery Co. (1840) the largest. Other notable flower city innovators include Vick’s Seed House (1860, sold to Burpee Seeds in 1920), Crossman’s Seeds (1838), and Harris Seeds (1879).

Ellwanger Garden
Ellwanger Garden

Visit Ellwanger Garden on Tuesday nights throughout the summer and special weekends during the Rochester Lilac Fest.

Rochester Lilacs

Ellwanger & Barry would go on to donate land and trees to establish Highland Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The Image City


Also known as Kodak City, Photo City, and Picture City

Kodak Tower
Kodak Tower
Eastman Theatre
Eastman Theatre includes the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra

George Eastman

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film

George Eastman’s inventions relating to film and cameras were essential to Rochester’s growth in the late 19th and early 20th century. Modern photography made capturing moments easy for the mass public, and mass production made it affordable. For decades, Kodak was Rochester’s largest employer.

In addition, Eastman was a passionate and engaged supporter of art and education. His contributions to Eastman Theatre, Eastman School of Music, Eastman Dental, Eastman Savings & Loan, United Way of Greater Rochester, Center for Governmental Research, and Durand-Eastman Park are still appreciated today! Learn more by visiting the George Eastman Museum located in his East Ave estate.

Quintessential Rochester Sights

Enjoy Rochester’s natural side

High Falls Rochester NY Genesee River falling for you

High Falls Terrace

Genesee Valley Park crossing

River and Canal crossing at Genesee Valley Park

Maplewood Lower Falls

Lower Falls in Maplewood Park. Follow the Genesee River View Trail south to Middle Falls, managed by RG&E.

Turning Point Park board walk winter

Turning Point Park boardwalk is a segment along the Gensee Riverview Trail.

Ontario Beach Park Jetty at the Port

Port of Rochester at the mouth of the Genesee River in Charlotte.

Martin Luther King Jr Park mural

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square

30 day trips within 30 minutes of Rochester: Mount Hope Cemetery Rochester NY

Mount Hope was the first American rural cemetery planned, developed, and maintained by a municipality, est. in 1938. Fun fact: There are more people dead in Mount Hope Cemetery than living in the City of Rochester!

Innovative & Noteworthy Architecture

The most recognizable buildings in Rochester

Times Square Building

Times Square Building and The Wings of Progress, 1929

Changing Scenes Restaurant First Federal Plaza Building

First Federal Plaza Building, 1974

Statue of Mercury

Statue of Mercury, 1881

Frank Lloyd Wright Edward E. Boynton House Rochester NY

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Boynton House on East Blvd., 1908 (private)

Central Library Rundel Building

Central Library Rundel Building, 1936

Powers Building Rochester

Powers Building at the Four Corners, 1869

Rochester City Hall

Rochester City Hall, 1885–1889

French Quarter

The old French Quarter in the Brewster-Burke House, 1849

Ebenezer Watts House

Ebenezer Watts House, built in 1825, is the oldest residential building in Center City.

Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse Rochester NY

Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse, built in 1822, is the oldest active surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario. 

Culver House Rochester Oldest Residence

Oliver Culver House, the oldest residential structure in Rochester, construxted in 1816.

Rochester Central Church of Christ

Rochester Central Church of Christ, 1904

Sunken Garden at Warner Castle Rochester NY

Warner Castle and its sunken garden, 1854

Monroe Community Hospital Rochester NY

Monroe Community Hospital, 1931, designed by Siegmund Firestone along with Rochester’s first black architect, Thomas Boyde, Jr.

Susan B Anthony House exterior

Susan B Anthony House, 1866

Phillis Wheatley Community Library

Phillis Wheatley Community Library, 1971, designed by James H. Johnson, who also designed the Liberty Pole and Mushroom House.

Quintessential Rochester Establishments

Long-standing local favorites!

Original Abbotts Custard Lake Ave Rochester

Original Abbott’s Custard on Lake Ave

public art utility box East Ave Robert Wegman

Wegmans Food Markets was established in Rochester in 1916.

Nick Tahou Hots Depot

Nick Tahou Hots, located in a historic train depot.

Dinosaur Bar B Que

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is also located in a historic train depot.

Record Archive

The Record Archive has the largest vinyl Record collection in the Northeast. They are also the only record store in NY that serves wine and beer.

Red Wings Stadium

The Rochester Red Wings are minor league baseball’s oldest continually operating franchise, dating back to 1899. The club is also part of the longest professional baseball game ever played. They lost.

Rochester Public Market sign

Rochester Public Market

The Little Theater

The Little Theatre, founded in 1928, is one of the oldest active movie theaters focused on showing independent films.

Strong National Museum of Play legos

Strong National Museum of Play has the only year-round indoor butterfly garden in Upstate NY.

RMSC Carl planetarium
RMSC planetarium

Rochester Museum & Science Center and Strasenburgh Planetarium

Memorial Art Gallery

Memorial Art Gallery

Rochester’s Signature Events

Drawing visitors from across the country & around the world!

Free Rochester Day Trip Ideas: Rochester International Jazz Festival
Rochester International Jazz Festival
Summer Outdoor Concerts Lilac Fest cover
Lilac Fest

“Festival season” in Rochester runs from mid-May to early-September. There are, of course, hundreds of annual events throughout the greater Rochester area, even in the middle of winter. For now, we’ll just focus on the six most popular summertime Rochester festivals!

A few more sights to see around Rochester

Unique, photo-worthy spots, from historic to quirky

Writers and Books

Writers and Books

R=Quintessential Rochester: Street Art

Exceptional and thought-provoking street art throughout the city!

Ontario Beach carousel

Ontario Beach carousel

Events Around Rochester Holiday Lights: Liberty Pole

The Liberty Pole

Susan B Anthony Grave Site Mount Hope Cemetery Rochester NY

Susan B Anthony Grave Site

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass Grave Site

Rochester Pubic Market
Rochester Public Market

The Rochester logo

According to a Post article:

“The waterwheel was our first device for harnessing the life force of the Genesee, and the Flour City was born of prospectors Charles Carroll, William Fitzhugh, and Nathaniel Rochester’s eye for milling opportunities. This is articulated in the five-spoked dissection of the logo as a waterwheel.

“According to the Highland Park Conservancy, the sections make up a five-petaled white lilac (a sign of good luck) rather than four. The lilac was designated as Rochester’s official flower on May 11, 1948.”

Explore More

Explore Rochester

A perfect day in Rochester would include a visit to one of its world-class museums, spending time in its exceptional parks, and seeing both High Falls and Lake Ontario.

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Things to Do in Rochester This Weekend

Discover the best concerts, festivals, community events, special events, and other things to do in Rochester this weekend or anytime!

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Theaters Around Rochester

Sit back, relax, and enjoy a show on stage or screen. Experience diverse artistic expression, from Broadway productions to classic movies.

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Museums Around Rochester

Rochester is home to world-renowned museums and thought-provoking galleries. You can spend weeks exploring our rich cultural heritage.

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132 Things to Do Around Rochester

We’ve pulled together a list of fun and unique things to do around Rochester, NY, within two hours of home—perfect for quick getaways.

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Free Things to Do Around Rochester

Our top 12 day-trip ideas for unique, fun, and free things to do around Rochester will give you over 500 actual destinations.

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Rochester’s Fun Facts: Oldest, Original, Only, & More!

Rochester’s fun facts will inspire you to explore more. And these are just some of the historical tidbits that make Rochester special.

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What do you think? Did I capture all the photo-worthy spots around the Image City?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

4 thoughts on “Rochester: The Image City”

  1. Outstanding resource of visiting options. I will be spending time going to these places to photograph many of them – thank you.

      1. Love your photos! Please consider adding Susan b Anthony having tea with Frederick Douglass statuary and public access cliff walk along Lake Ontario in Charlotte and gevaGEVA theater

        1. Great suggestions, Deni! I should bring them into this article. If you get a chance to check out a few more guides, we feature “Tea in the Square” as a favorite roadside attraction – And the Hidden Sidewalk as a hidden gem – Geva Theatre Center is a community treasure and one of our favorite performing arts venues –

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