I’ve been gathering Rochester’s fun facts for several years. I’ve discovered these gems buried in books, websites, popular wikis, historic-place markers, and “hey, did you know…” conversations.
And these are just the ones I’ve uncovered, so I invite you to share any that you know of in the comments below or contact me directly, and challenge the ones I’ve listed. I enjoy sharing this information with you as much as I do learning from you.
Table of Contents
- First and/or Oldest
- One of Few
- Largest or Most
- Invented / Started Here
- Interesting Finds
- Filmed Around Rochester
- Famous People Born or Raised in Rochester
First and/or Oldest
rochester’s fun facts
There is a difference between “first” and “oldest”, and for some of these facts, only one may apply. For example, our Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse was not the first lighthouse, but it is America’s oldest surviving light on Lake Ontario.
And when it comes to people like Thomas Wilson Boyde Jr., he is the City of Rochester’s first black architect, but certainly not the oldest.
The Erie Canal made Rochester America’s first boomtown, earning her two nicknames: Young Lion of the West and The Flour City. On November 8, 1803, Col. Nathaniel Rochester, Maj. Charles Carroll, and Col. William Fitzhugh, Jr. purchased a 100-acre tract along the Genesee River. In 1817, the Brown brothers and other landowners joined their lands with the Hundred Acre Tract to form the village of Rochesterville. It was renamed Rochester in 1823—the same year the Erie Canal aqueduct was completed.
The Ebenezer Watts House on Fitzhugh is the oldest surviving residence in downtown Rochester. [source]
Nearly 80% of upstate New York’s population lives within 25 miles of the Erie Canal. [source]
Before moving to the land that would become our fair city, Nathaniel Rochester built the first paper mill in Western New York on Mill Creek in Dansville in 1810.
When construed, the Erie Canal aqueduct was the longest stone arch bridge structure in America. It was 804 feet long with nine Roman arches. The aqueduct that runs under Broad Street today is the second iteration. Josiah Bissell’s house at 660 East Ave. was built using the red sandstone blocks from the ruins of the first aqueduct.
Richardson’s Tavern in Bushnell’s Basin is the oldest original Erie Canal Inn.
St. Luke’s Church, 17 South Fitzhugh Street, is the oldest public building in Rochester. Built in 1823, it was Nathaniel Rochester’s home church for many years. In 1988 St. Luke’s, the oldest Episcopal congregation in the city and St. Simon Cyrene, the city’s traditionally African American Episcopalian congregation, merged forming St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church, or Two Saints Church.
Founded at Memorial AME Zion Church on Clarissa Street, Troop 169 is the first African American Boy Scout Troop in Rochester. AEM Zion is also the oldest African-American church in the city of Rochester and Monroe County. Established in 1827, it played a pivotal role in Rochester’s history. From providing a shelter for escaped slaves being led to freedom by Harriet Tubman, to giving Susan B. Anthony a platform for her last public address, to having the distinction of being the home church of Frederick Douglass. Its basement was the original home of The North Star.
In 1899, Rochesterians created the first statue in the US to memorialize an American citizen of African descent. It was first erected in front of the New York Central Train Station at the corner of St. Paul Street and Central Avenue in 1899. It was relocated to the Highland Park Bowl in 1941, a few hundred yards from where Douglass’s home once stood on South Avenue.
In 2019, it was given a place of honor and greater visibility, still in Highland Park, at Frederick Douglass Memorial Plaza. In addition to the relocated statue, a sculpture symbolizing the North Star and other constellations was included in the memorial.
The North Star symbolizes the light that guided freedom-seeking African people. Frederick Douglass, having followed the star himself, gave his anti-slavery news publication the same name.
The Haudenosaunee Constitution is the oldest surviving government structure in the Western Hemisphere.
The oldest fossil tree known in the world was discovered in 1882 in Grimes Glen by D. Dana Luther.
The Seneca and earlier indigenous peoples had learned to use the petroleum-tainted water of the spring at this site for medicinal purposes.
He is also one of the first African-Americans in the nation to open his own architectural firm. A collection of Boyde’s designs and tools are on display at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
Built in 1904, the landmark French Renaissance-style Hotel at the Lafayette was designed by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first American female architect.
Hamlet Scrantom was the first Rochesterville settler who built his log cabin where the Powers Building stands today at State & Main—the Four Corners.
His grandson, Elbert Henry Scrantom, would become co-founder of Scrantom & Wetmore Booksellers & Stationers (more commonly referred to in my childhood as Scrantom’s). Their first location was in the Powers Building.
Antoinette Louisa Brown, later Antoinette Brown Blackwell, was the first woman to be ordained as a mainstream Protestant minister in the United States. Her childhood home is on Pinnacle Road in Henrietta. [source]
The Adams-Ryan house in Ogden, constructed in 1825 to support canal business, has the oldest intact barroom on the Erie Canal. By 1853, it was also serving as the local ticket office for the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Railroad.
In 1972, new owners refinished every piece in the bed and breakfast’s four bedrooms and added a “new” main entrance, salvaged from Nathaniel Rochester’s former house.
Today, this is a privately-owned residence.
The Genesee Brewing Company is one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the United States, and the oldest in New York State.
The first parcel of land sold by the Holland Land Company was to Asa Ransom in 1801. In the hollow of the ledge, near a pine grove, Asa built a log home and tavern. In 1803, he went on to construct the first grist mill in Erie County. You can visit his home in Clarence today; the 1853 portion of the home rests on brick walls covered in thick green vines that climb two stories up.
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT is the nation’s first and largest technical college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
The Rochester area has the largest per-capita deaf population in the country and is considered highly deaf-accessible.
Stone-Tolan House is the oldest standing structure in Monroe County and is maintained by The Landmark Society as a historic house museum. The beautiful building on East Ave was a household and a frontier tavern in Brighton between 1790 and 1820.
The oldest cobblestone home in the City of Rochester is at 1090 Culver Rd.
The Roe Cobblestone Schoolhouse in Butler (Wayne County) is believed to be the oldest cobblestone schoolhouse in North America circa 1824.
Martha Matilda Harper, a friend of Susan B. Anthony, opened her first beauty parlor in 1888 promoting her “Harper Method” of hair and skin care. This female entrepreneur established factories to manufacture her organic hair products and cosmetics; she was also the first person in America to establish franchises and the first woman to join Rochester’s Chamber of Commerce.
She mentored countless women and gave poor, working women an opportunity to own a business. Harper eventually had more than 500 shops in operation around the world!
The Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge stood from 1855 to 1897 across the Niagara River and was the world’s first working railway suspension bridge.
Belva A. Lockwood was the first woman to be permitted to practice law before the U. S. supreme court in 1879 and was the first woman to officially run for President of the United States in 1884. You can find the ruins of her homestead in Royalton Ravine Park.
Genesee County Park & Forest was established in 1915 and is recognized as the first County Forest in New York State. Black Creek, which runs through Churchville and Chili on its way to the Genesee River, begins its journey in this park.
James Goold Cutler patented the mail chute in 1883. The first mail chute was installed in 1884 in Rochester’s Elwood Building, demolished in 1967.
The mail chute was used in early multi-story office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings and other high rise structures over the following decades.
Cutler was a prominent architect and businessman, and served as the Mayor of Rochester from 1904 to 1907. He designed the William S. Kimball Tobacco Factory on Court Street and the Cutler Building on the corner of East Avenue and Stillson Street.
Cutler Union—a historic building that is part of the Memorial Art Gallery—started life as the student union for the University of Rochester College for Women. James Gould Cutler and Anna Katharine Cutler were great supporters of higher education of women. [source]
In 1903, Grace Phillips of Wolcott delivered mail on a 25-mile route, making her the first female mail carrier in New York State.
Clara Barton, Angel of the Battlefield, organized the first Red Cross in 1881 in Dansville. In May 1881, after working toward it for almost five years, Barton established the American Association of the Red Cross. On August 22nd of the same year, she started the first local Red Cross in the St. Paul’s United Lutheran Church.
The church still stands at 21 Clara Barton Street, and the Clara Barton Chapter No. 1 of the Red Cross remains active today.
The Oliver Culver House is the oldest residential structure in Rochester.
Constructed in 1805, the house was originally located on the southwest corner of East Avenue and Culver Road. It was moved to its current location on East Blvd. and retains its springboard ballroom floor.
Ingham University was the first women’s college in NYS and the first chartered women’s university in the US. The stone from the Arts Conservatory, the last campus building to be dismantled, was used to build the Woodward Memorial Library at the same location in Le Roy.
Don Alhart has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the longest career as a television news broadcaster.
Lovely Anne Warren is Rochester’s first female and second African-American mayor. Warren first made history in 2010 when she was elected as the youngest President of the Rochester City Council.
Lockport was the first American city to have a fire hydrant system. Birdsill Holly, one of Lockport’s most prominent residents and the co- inventor of the steam fire engine, held more US patents that anyone except Thomas Edison.
Mount Hope was the first American rural cemetery planned, developed, and maintained by a municipality. There are more people buried in Mount Hope Cemetery (350,000+) than are living in the City of Rochester (~210,000).
Niagara Falls is the oldest state park in America.
The Antique Boat Museum in Clayton hosts America’s oldest antique boat show and auction. The museum houses the largest collection of freshwater antique boats and engines in the nation.
The Village of Pittsford is the oldest village in Monroe County, incorporated in 1827.
Michigan Avenue Baptist Church in Buffalo is the oldest property continuously owned, operated, and occupied by African Americans in Western NY.
The Castle at Old Fort Niagara is the oldest building of any kind on the Great Lakes.
From the Old Fort Niagara website, “The architectural collection includes six 18th-century buildings, the oldest extant structures of any type in the entire Great Lakes region. The earliest, known as the French Castle, was built in 1726 and is the oldest building in North America situated between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.”
Steuben County Fair in Bath is the oldest continually running fair in the United States, originating in 1819.
Opened in 1947, Finger Lakes Drive-In is New York’s oldest continually running drive-in.
The first Women’s Rights Convention held at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19 and 20, 1848.
Clark’s Gully, at the base of South Hill on the south end of Canandaigua Lake, is said to be the birthplace of the Seneca people.
Newark is the birth place of spiritualism, thanks to the Fox Sisters
Elizabeth Blackwell is the first woman to receive the degree of Doctor of Medicine from a recognized medical school, in 1849, from Geneva Medical College, now Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Built in 1822, Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse is America’s oldest surviving lighthouse on Lake Ontario. Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio on Lake Erie is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes, has guided sailors safely along the Marblehead Peninsula’s rocky shores since 1822. The oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes is the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse (1808) located on the Toronto Islands, Toronto, Canada.
Laf-A-Lot restaurant on Loon Lake in Wayland, NY is Steuben County is said to have the oldest liquor license in the state.
Kings Landing on Lake Ave across from Kodak is Rochester’s first cemetery.
The Empty Closet is New York State’s oldest gay newspaper. It has been published by the Gay Alliance since 1972.
Whispering Pines Miniature Golf Course is the oldest golf course that is still in use (since 1930).
Gerry, NY is home to the oldest consecutive rodeo east of the Mississippi.
New York’s is the oldest state fair in the United States, established in 1841, settling in its current Syracuse location in 1890. Ours is also one of the largest, with roughly one million visitors annually, some days seeing over 100,000 people.
Chautauqua Literary Scientific Circle is the oldest continuous book club in America.
Rochester International Film Festival is the world’s oldest continuously held short-film festival.
Established in 1819, the Erie County Agricultural Society is the oldest civic organization in Western New York.
The George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum with one of the largest film archives. The Museum holds the largest corpus of original Technicolor negatives, including those of Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz; the personal collections of film directors such as Kathryn Bigelow, Ken Burns, Cecil B. DeMille, Norman Jewison, Spike Lee, and Martin Scorsese; and more than four million film stills, posters, and film-related documents.
Dryden Theater is one of the very few theaters in the world equipped for the projection of original nitrate film that also makes nitrate film screenings part of its regular program.
Founded in 1966, Griffis Sculpture Park is the largest-sized sculpture park in the USA, spanning 450 acres.
Midtown Plaza (opened 1962, closed 2008, demolished 2010) holds the title of America’s first indoor, urban mall, we think. After much research by Emily, a Historical Researcher/Library Assistant for the Rochester Public Library, it was confirmed that Rochester’s 1828 Reynolds Arcade (Rochester’s first commercial building), Providence, RI’s 1828 Westminster Arcade (who also claims the title of America’s oldest indoor mall), and Boston’s 1743 Faneuil Hall are not considered because they were of an era of arcades and marketplaces, precursors to the mall as we know it today. Oh, marketing.
Waterloo is recognized as the home of the America’s first Memorial Day celebrated May 5, 1866.
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.
The longest game in Organized Baseball history occurred in 1981 between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings of the International League at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium and lasted 33 innings. The game began on April 18 and lasted 32 innings before being stopped, with play to resume later in the season. On June 23, the game resumed with it only taking one additional inning to settle the game as Pawtucket won it by a score of 3 – 2 in the bottom of the 33rd inning. The game included future Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr. as the two third basemen. Bob Ojeda and Marty Barrett also went on to notable careers in the major leagues.
America’s first railroad was a tramway built along the Niagara River to portage cargo from Lake Ontario around the falls at Lewiston. “In 1763, the British improved the road and built several stockades along the route where troops were stationed for the protection of the wagon trains. Capt. Montresor of the Royal Engineers, began to construct a 400 foot tramway which, by some accounts, is considered the first railway in North America. The cars were counterbalanced for easier operation up the steep incline from the river.”
The first Hamburger served in America was in Hamburg at the Erie County Fair.
Established in 1864 and purchased by New York State in 1870, Caledonia’s is the oldest Fish Hatchery in the Western Hemisphere. Created by Seth Green, known as the father of fish culture, pioneered the use of hatcheries to rear fish.
In 1821, the first well specifically intended to obtain natural gas was dug in Fredonia by William Hart. Hart is regarded by many as the ‘father of natural gas’ in America. Expanding on Hart’s work, the Fredonia Gas Light Company was eventually formed, becoming the first American natural gas company.
On July 4th, 1908, Curtiss gained notoriety when he flew his flying machine, named the “June Bug”, a distance of over 5000 feet to win the Scientific American Trophy. This was the first pre-announced, public flight in America – a feat that earned him pilot’s license # 1. A full-sized reproduction of the “June Bug” is one of several historic aircraft on display at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. The Wright/Curtiss fight was never completely resolved, though W. Benton Crisp was instrumental in setting up cross-licensing. And, in 1929, the two companies merged to form Curtiss-Wright Corp. Their website states, “Curtiss-Wright Corporation (NYSE: CW) has a long history with its roots dating back to Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight in 1903, and Mr. Glenn Curtiss, the father of naval aviation.”
rochester’s fun facts
Strong Museum has the only year-round indoor butterfly garden in Upstate NY.
The Howe House in Phelps boasts a rare, two-story brick outhouse.
The Rhinos won the U.S. Open Cup against Major League Soccer competition in 1999, being the only non-MLS team to win the US Open Cup after MLS was formed. “Only once since then has a team from below the summit of the United States’ soccer pyramid won the competition, when the Rochester Rhinos beat four MLS teams to claim the crown in 1999.”
Every single cup of Tim Hortons coffee sold in the United States, as well as parts of Canada, is roasted in Rochester.
And, since 1957, every Milk-Bone® is made in Buffalo.
Art Park is the only state park devoted to visual and performing arts.
Colored Musicians Club is the only African–American musicians club in the country.
This Marion Steam Shovel is located on Gulf Road in LeRoy, just west of the Genesee Country Village. It is the last Marion Steam Shovel known to exist in the world. It may also have been the inspiration for “Mary Ann” in the book, “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.” Learn More
Alcoa Care-free Home, a historic home located at Brighton, is one of 24 Alcoa houses listed in their sales brochure of 1957 that were built for a demonstration project and the only one located New York State.
Rush Oak Openings Unique Area is the easternmost remaining oak opening in the country and the last known intact oak opening in New York State.
Tillman’s Village Inn is the only stagecoach house still in operation on the historic Ridge Road.
The last council house of the Seneca Nation was moved from Caneadea – an Indian village across from today’s Houghton College – to Letchworth. In 1872 it was the scene of a notable gathering, “The Last Council” of the Nations. Former President Fillmore, WP Letchworth, and descendants of Red Jacket, Joseph Brant, and Mary Jemison were invited to bury the hatchet of their ancestor’s grievances. The Council Fire was held on October 1, 1872. After the speeches and the rededication of the Council House, the Senecas held another ceremony, adopting Letchworth as Hai-wa-ye-is-tah, the “Man who always Does Right.”
Fairport’s lift bridge, which celebrated its centennial in 2014 is the only bridge in the world build on a bias. The south end is higher than the north end. It is built in a way that no two angles in the bridge are the same and no corners on the bridge floor are square.
The New York Museum of Transportation in Rush offers the only trolley ride in New York State.
George Eastman is the only person represented by two stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame recognizing the same achievement, for his invention of roll film.
Willard Memorial Chapel in Auburn is an extremely rare example of the work of Louis C. Tiffany and Tiffany Glass and Decoration Co. It is the only complete and unaltered Tiffany chapel known to exist.
The only place where all three canals converge together—the original 1825 canal, the expanded canal, and the Modern Barge canal—is at the end of the Butterfly Trail in Macedon’s Lock 30 Canal Park.
Dr. Mary Walker is the only female Medal of Honor recipient. Out of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients, only one was a woman — just one — and her medal was actually rescinded just before she died. Walker was born in Oswego to abolitionist parents who encouraged her to pursue an education. In 1855 she graduated as a medical doctor from Syracuse Medical College.
Culvert Road in Medina is the only place you can drive under the Erie Canal.
The Original American Kazoo Company was established in 1916 and is now the only metal kazoo factory in North America. The factory is one of the few remaining working museums.
The Chittenango snail is listed as Endangered because of its extremely limited range and apparently declining numbers since discovery. Its existence at only one site makes it extremely vulnerable to a catastrophic event which could destroy the entire population.
One Of Few
rochester’s fun facts
Strand Theater is the 2nd oldest active movie theater in the country.
Seabreeze Amusement Park is 4th oldest in USA, 12th oldest in world. It is also one of only thirteen trolley parks still operating in the United States. The Jack Rabbit is the 4th oldest operating roller coaster in the world.
Hickey Freeman, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious clothiers, continues to be made in the same storied Rochester facility, as it has been since 1899.
Rochester is one of only a handful of cities with a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park system. Rochester’s system—including Genesee Valley Park (originally South Park), Seneca Park (originally North Park: Seneca East), Maplewood Park (originally North Park: Seneca West), Highland Park, and Seneca Parkway—was designed at the end of his career in 1888.
Olmsted’s Buffalo parks we’re the first municipal parks in the nation. He designed Niagara Falls State Park in 1886. His final project was the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC between 1889-1895.
The Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair held each October is one of the longest-running regional book fairs in the United States.
Lockport’s “Big Bridge” over the canal is one of the widest bridges in the world, measuring 399 feet wide. Because of the bridge’s central location in the city of Lockport, also within a very short walk to emergency services such as ambulance and the local fire department, and above all its clear open airspace, the bridge often is used as a helipad for medevac services.
Lockport Cave is America’s longest underground boat ride.
The city was one of the first four in the United States to provide public golf facilities. Its first course of nine holes was at Genesee Valley Park In l899. The third was created in 1917 for Durand Eastman Park.
(note: I cannot find information on the second course. If you know, share with us in the comments below.)
The Powers Building had one of the earliest elevators in the USA. “The building was the first in upstate New York to have a passenger elevator (then called a vertical railroad), gas illumination and marble floors. In 1861 it became the first commercial structure in Rochester to have electricity, utilizing its own power generating boilers.”
In addition, “in 1875 Daniel Powers opened the largest private art gallery in the country occupying the entire 5th floor of his building. His collection consisted of over 1,000 pieces of both original work and reproductions of masterpieces acquired during his numerous trips to Europe.”
For years, it remained Rochester tallest building as Daniel Powers continued to add floors to literally one-up the competition.
The elevator was powered by water from Rochester Water Works at Browns Race. The water works fed 105 hydrants with high-pressure water, greatly enhancing the city’s ability to fight fires.
The Wadsworth Homestead in Geneseo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest continually owned private estate west of the Hudson River.
The Pink House in Wellsville, built in 1868, is also one of the oldest, most historic houses in the country that is still in the family of the original builders.
Medina Railroad Museum depot is one of the largest, last surviving wooden freight depots in the United States and one of the largest freight museums in New York State.
Silver Lake is one of few in the United States that has its inlet and outlet at the same end.
The 1896 Braddock Point Lighthouse is one of few privately owned, fully functioning lighthouses in the United States. It is also a bed and breakfast.
Routes 5 and 20 is the second-longest concurrency in the state, stretching from Avon east to the city of Auburn in Cayuga County. The “Great Genesee Road” is one of the earliest state roads in New York.
The 1838 Salmon River (Selkirk) Lighthouse is one of only four in the United States that retains its original birdcage design. It is also a vacation rental, along with several cottages on the property.
Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site is one of only four places where a president was inaugurated outside Washington DC.
The Village of Wyoming was one of the earliest locations where natural gas was developed. While the field was never a large producer, it still provides gas for the village streetlights and some homes to this day. The downtown historic district is known as the “Gaslight Village.”
Kelsey’s Landing in today’s Maplewood Park would have been one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad where freedom-seeking African people—including Frederick Douglass—could board a boat to Canada.
Because Xerox manufactured its copiers in Rochester, the city was one of the original 25 cities that FedEx served on its first night of operations on April 17, 1973.
Largest or Most
rochester’s fun facts
Overlooking the Pansy Bed in Highland Park, you will find the largest Katsura Tree in New York State. It is second only to one found in Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum for largest in the nation. Our Katsura is a direct descendant of Boston’s.
Highland Park also preserves the nation’s largest collection of lilacs, with more than 500 varieties across 1200 bushes.
Rock City Park in Olean has the world’s largest exposure of Quartz Conglomerate.
Margaret Woodbury Strong passed away at home on July 17, 1969. At the time of her death, she was the largest individual shareholder of Kodak stock in the world, thanks to her parents’ early investments. In her will, she provided for the transfer of her collections and estate to the museum corporation and entrusted her executors to determine how best to use her collections for a “Museum of Fascination.”
What began right here in Wayne County with the Fox Sisters lives on today in Lily Dale Assembly, the world’s largest center for the Religion of Spiritualism.
NY-104 has the most cobblestones in the world outside England. The oldest cobblestone church in North America, built in 1834, is part of the Cobblestone Museum which is the only one of its kind in the world. Ninety percent off all of the cobblestones in America are within 90 miles of Rochester.
Genesee Country Village & Museum is the largest and most comprehensive living history museum in New York State – and the third-largest in the United States.
Marshall Farms is the largest breeder of ferrets in the United States.
The Hemlock Water System is the largest gravity pressurized municipal water system in the country.
When Kittleberger first opened in 1928, supporting our apple industry along the Hojack Line, it was one of the largest basket factories in the world.
During America’s bicentennial celebrations in 1976, President Jimmy Carter deemed Lewiston as the most historic square mile in America.
Canandaigua Lake property value is second only to that of Lake Tahoe.
Buffalo’s Central Terminal is the tallest train station in the world.
The Tuscarora Heroes Monument in Lewiston is recognized as the largest War of 1812 bicentennial monument project in the United States, It stands as a testament of thanksgiving from the people of Lewiston to the Tuscarora Nation for saving the lives of dozens of local residents during the War of 1812 British attack on December 19, 1813. It consists of three 110% life-size bronze sculptures that depict a tableau of two Tuscarora men rescuing a local woman and her baby from the British attack.
Taughannock Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, taller than Niagara Falls.
The Lower Falls in Rochester are the highest waterfall within a city boundary, in the entire US. You’d think by looking at them that High Falls is taller, but High Falls is 96ft, while Lower Falls is 110ft. But, wait. Is that even true? There is a wide discrepancy of claims on how tall Lower Falls is, and whether it is actually taller than High Falls. So I’ll just leave this here until the experts agree. I’ve got some feelers out for the truth.
The Colonial Belle is the largest tour boat operating on the historic Erie Canal.
Green Lakes State Park preserves the largest stand of old growth forest in Central New York and Round Lake has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. One particularly impressive grove of trees, lying immediately to the southwest of Round Lake, has been called the Tuliptree Cathedral. Green Lake itself is perhaps the most studied meromictic lake in the world.
The Record Archive has largest vinyl Record collection in the Northeast. They are also the only record store in NY that serves wine and beer.
Yates is the largest wine grape growing county in the United States outside of California and is home to more wineries than any other county in New York State.
Chautauqua Lake is the largest inland lake in western New York. At an elevation of 1,308 feet (399 m) above sea level, is higher than any of the Finger Lakes. It is also one of the highest navigable lakes in North America.
Oneida Lake is the largest lake entirely within New York State, with a surface area of 79.8 square miles.
The long success of H.G. Hotchkiss Company in peppermint and other essential oils made Lyons, New York, the Peppermint Capital of the world for many years. In the 1860s the Hotchkiss Company supplied the United States with more than one-third of its peppermint oil. Seventy-five percent of all Lyons farmland was producing peppermint.
Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park combined.
Looking at the Chimney Bluffs from the water is like looking through a window into our geologic history. According to ScienceDirect, this area of New York State “contains one of the largest drumlin fields on the North America continent consisting of some 10,000 drumlins located between Lake Ontario in the north and the Finger Lakes.”
In 1945 Newark was America’s Rose Capitol, boasting the largest field of growing roses in the world.
Palmyra’s Alling Coverlet Museum houses the largest collection of hand woven coverlets in America. It is named for Mrs. Merle Alling, Rochester, New York resident and coverlet collector, and is housed in a 1901 newspaper printing office. All styles of hand woven coverlets from 1820 to 1880 are represented in an extraordinary collection, which takes over six years to rotate through public display.
Mount Morris Dam is the largest concrete dam east of the Mississippi River.
Birkett Mills in Penn Yan is the largest producer of buckwheat products in the world. They are also home to the World’s Largest Pancake Griddle at 28 feet across, weighing 10 tons. It was used on September 27, 1987, to cook the world’s largest pancake. The batter was churned in a cement mixer and flipped using a crane.
A special mention for Squaw Island in Canadaigua Lake, one of only two islands in a Finger Lake and the smallest state-managed protected area in New York.
Invented / Started Here
rochester’s fun facts
George Eastman invented the first flexible film camera, which made photography available to the masses. On January 1, 1881, George Eastman and Henry Strong formed a partnership called the Eastman Dry Plate Company. In 1892, the name changed to Eastman Kodak Company. In 1884, he patented the first film in roll form to prove practicable; he had been tinkering at home to develop it. In 1888, he perfected the Kodak Black camera, which was the first camera designed to use roll film. In 1889 he first offered film stock. View patents
Frederick Fick patented the first Pipe Cleaner in 1896.
Three members of the Feinbloom family came together with a vision to create a new, exciting sportwear business in Rochester, NY. Their company—Champion—was started in 1919 as Knickerbocker Knitting Mills.
Inscription reads: Kum Ba Yah (Come By Here) – Gravesite of Rev. Marvin V. Frey (1918-1992), composer of Kumbaya; He Is Lord; Peace Like A River; Isn’t He Wonderful; Alleluia
“Kum Ba Yah” was written while he was attending a Christian Crusade camp while he was only 17. He titled it “Come By Here,” but a youth at the camp took it to his parents, who used it in their missionary work in Angola, where it acquired its more popular title. [source]
The electric chair was invented by Buffalo, New York dentist Alfred Southwick during the 1880s. It was used to executed anarchist Leon Czolgosz, the assassin who killed President William McKinley. He was shot at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901. [more info]
In 1918, Alexander Tahou opened a restaurant in Rochester called Hots and Potatoes. On the menu was a dish that included just about everything the kitchen could cook — meat and potatoes with a few other things thrown in to make a one-plate meal that would really stick to your ribs. Alexander’s son, Nick, took over the restaurant operations and updated the name to Nick Tahou Hots Garbage Plate.
Cobb Preserving Company in Fairport developed the open-top sanitary can.
Rochester Marshmallow Company, 1895.Joseph B. Demerath, the first confectioner in America to commercially distribute marshmallows.
By 1904, French’s Mustard had developed its signature item—French’s Cream Salad Brand Mustard The recipe has remained essentially the same since, while the name has slightly changed. Hillside Family of Agencies now occupies the iconic One Mustard St. address, near East Main and Goodman.
American Specialty Manufacturing Company opened its first location on Canal Street in 1983, manufacturing Boss Sauce. The popularity of the sauce grew. After several years of tremendous growth, they moved their current, larger facility at 272 Hudson Avenue.
Country Sweet was first developed in a home kitchen in Rochester.
Salt potatoes originated in Syracuse during the 1800s when Irish miners would soak potatoes from home in a brine from the salt mine.
Wegmans – John Wegman peddled fresh produce from a pushcart, and in 1916, he opened the Rochester Fruit & Vegetable Company, which marks the beginning of Wegmans Food Markets.
Bauch + Lomb – In 1853, John Jacob Bausch, a German immigrant, set up a tiny optical goods shop in Rochester. When he needed more money to keep the business going, Bausch borrowed $60 from his good friend, Henry Lomb. Bauch + Lomb produced the first optical quality glass made in America, developed ground-breaking sunglasses for the military in World War I, and created the lenses used on the cameras that took the first satellite pictures of the moon. In 1971, Bausch + Lomb introduced the first soft contact lenses and is still the largest global provider of eye care products.
Xerox – Xerox was founded in 1906 in Rochester as The Haloid Photographic Company, which originally manufactured photographic paper and equipment.
RAGÚ – In 1914, Assunta Cantisano left Italy with little more than her family’s pasta sauce recipe to her name, and settled in Rochester with her husband, Giovanni. In 1937, they began selling homemade tomato sauce right from their front porch. By 1946, the Cantisanos outgrew their kitchen and opened the first RAGÚ factory in Rochester.
Fisher Price Toys – Herm Fisher and Irving Price jointly established their company in 1930. Fisher-Price’s international headquarters are located on Girard Avenue in the Village of East Aurora.
Mount Morris is the birthplace of Francis Bellamy, author of “The Pledge of Allegiance“. Bellamy died in 1931 before the US Congress adopted the Pledge in 1942. [source]
On the corner of Main & Chapel Streets you’ll find this incredibly-detailed mural by Rochester’s own Shawn Dunwoody.
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time it read:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The first plate of Buffalo Chicken Wings was served in 1964 at Anchor Bar in Buffalo.
Tiny Tree Air Fresheners were invented in 1952 in Watertown.
In 1935, the Janik brothers (Stephen, Walter and John) founded the Johnnie Ryan Bottling Company in Niagara Falls, producing a line of Johnnie Ryan Soda.
The original “Jello” gelatin dessert began in LeRoy in 1897 after carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer Pearle Bixby Wait and his wife May trademarked the name, using an 1845 patent for the mixture. There’s even a JELL-O Gallery Museum in LeRoy.
Cool Whip was created in 1966 either by George Lorant or William A. Mitchell, both food scientist at General Foods; Lorant’s name is on the 1969 patent. It is still manufactured by Kraft Heinzin Avon today. Avon is known as the Cool Whip Capitol of the World. It’s the perfect complement to your JELL-O!
Henry Wells of Aurora played a major role in the development of two well-known companies, teaming up with William Fargo to form American Express, then Wells Fargo.
His home, called Glen Park, was designed by noted architect A.J. Davis, with grounds by Andrew Jackson Downing, another notable architect. The property later became part of Wells College, which Wells founded as one of the first women’s colleges in the United States.
The voting machine was patented by inventor Alfred J. Gillespie and manufactured by the Standard Voting Machine Company of Rochester, New York, in the late 1890s.
Jolt Cola was a beverage originally made by The Jolt Company, Inc. of Rochester in 1985. The initial slogan was “All the sugar and twice the caffeine;” this slogan survived for 24 years.
Zweigles’ White Hot is especially close to Rochester native’s hearts, since it originated in the 1920s in Rochester’s German community. Zweigle’s is a fifth-generation, family owned business.
William Beldue invented the eyelash curler while working at the Kurlash Company at 77 South Avenue.
In 1846, Seymour, Morgan & Co. produced 100 reapers bringing the Industrial Revolution to agriculture.
As the chief of survey for the Holland Land Company, Joseph Ellicott was the first to use 12 inches as the standard for a foot in the United States.
rochester’s fun facts
Nathaniel Rochester’s last home was torn down in 1901 to build the Bevier Memorial Building at Spring & Washington. His Dansville home was relocated to the Genesee Country Village & Museum, just down the street from George Eastman’s boyhood home.
And speaking of Nathaniel Rochester, he was 66 years old when he moved his family to Rochesterville.
Geva (as in Geva Theatre Center) is short for Genesee Valley. From their website: What is a “Geva”? Originally founded as the Genesee Valley Arts Foundation, Geva’s name (pronounced “JEE-vuh”) was first coined in 1972 by our founder, Cynthia Selden, by taking the first two letters of “Genesee” and of “Valley” – the area in which Rochester is located. In fact, our name was spelled “GeVa” until 1997 when artistic director Mark Cuddy downsized the big “V.” Now, we’re just like other famous Rochester brands, Kodak and Xerox, who have made-up names, too. They seem to have done all right with theirs, like Geva Theatre Center.
On July 12, 1954 the U.S. Post Office issued a 3-cent commemorative stamp marking the 100th anniversary of George Eastman’s birth, which was first issued in Rochester, New York.
There is an original Ramon Santiago on the wall of WXXI loading dock, witnessed on a guided tour during the Landmark Society’s 2018 Inside Downtown tour of High Falls.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Nick Tahou Hots are located in former railroad depots.
Located at the site of the current Roundhouse Shelter near Moore Road, this carousel was actually the last in a line of several that operated in Genesee Valley Park. The original GVP merry-go-round opened for business in 1894. [source]
Port Gibson is in Ontario County, not Wayne, so that Ontario could have an access point along the Erie Canal.
The Pinnacle Range along the Rochester’s southern border is a glacial moraine created by the retreating Wisconsin Glacier 12,000 year ago. Learn More
Amelia Jenks Bloomer was an early suffragist, editor, and social activist in Seneca Falls. Bloomer was also a fashion advocate who worked to change women’s clothing styles from the tight corsets to the loose-fitting pantaloons that now bears her name—Bloomers.
The Empire State Trail is a 750-mile trail that connects New York City with the Canadian Border via the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Champlain Canalway Trail and Albany with Buffalo via the Erie Canalway Trail making the longest state shared use trail in the nation.
East Avenue used to be the eastern half of Main Street– E Main wasn’t built until significantly after W Main (then Buffalo St) and East Avenue. You can notice this on Goodman, when it switches from North to South Goodman at East instead of Main. This concept isn’t intuitive because at the Liberty Pole. East Ave and Main St meet at about a 140 degree angle instead of a straight continuation. The reason for this is because when East Avenue was being constructed, it was built from Pittsford toward the city– during its construction, one of the Brown brothers (Matthew, I think) stepped in and redirected the road away from Nathaniel Rochester’s plot and toward his plot of land, which is now Brown’s Race. When Nathaniel Rochester came back into town from the south, the road was near completion. He realized that the redirection had taken place, and directed it once more toward his plot of land, which is where it ended up. That’s the reason for the change of angle at the Liberty Pole– if Rochester hadn’t come back in time, downtown Rochester would look very different. Look at a map and trace East Avenue to the river at the angle it runs up til Main Street, and you’ll see that it’s headed directly to Brown’s Race. Read more
Filmed Around Rochester
This is a new category for our Rochester Fun Facts page. We’d love to learn about more filming locations or even mentions of Rochester in movies and television. Drop us a comment below! Here’s what we have so far:
A scene from Hulu’s Four Weddings and Funeral was filmed in Geneseo. Their Main Street was used for the setting of Duffy’s hometown in Jersey in S1 E10.
A chase scene featured in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was partially filmed along Rochester’s Main Street between S. Plymouth and East avenues.
Released in 2020, Drunk Bus is the most recent film to be shot in Rochester, with scenes including RIT, The Strathallen, and High Falls.
Tomorrow Man, featuring John Lithgow and Blythe Danner, was filmed in 2018 using a home on Crittenden Road in Brighton, with several other scenes filmed in Lyons, East Rochester, Pittsford, Fairport, and Gates. John Lithgow was born in Rochester, NY.
Lady in White had film locations in Rochester, Lyons, Phelps, Newark, Bristol, and Canandaigua, The story is loosely based on our legend of the Lady in White, or the paranormal activities surrounding White Lady’s Castle in Durand-Eastman Park (which is not a castle at all but the remnants of a beach-side dining hall.)
The Alphabet Killer is based on the true story of the double initial murders in Rochester, NY between 1971 and 1973. Film locations include Rochester and East Rochester. I was born in ’73 so my parents have odd memories of discussing what my name should be.
The Quiet Place I and II were both filmed throughout WNY including Buffalo, Akron, and Olcott.
Famous People Born or Raised in Rochester, or called Rochester “Home”
If we’re going to add filming locations we might as well mention a few celebs that go their start in Rochester, NY. Comment below if you know of ones we should add.
Actors & Performing Artists
- Taye Diggs
- Winston Duke
- John Lithgow
- Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Kristen Wiig
- Robert Forster
- Garth Fagan
- Jenna Marbles
- Suzanne Cryer
- Mimi Kennedy
- Pandora Boxx
- Darienne Lake
- Mrs. Kasha Davis
- Chuck Mangione, smooth jazz flugelhornist
- Gap Mangione, bandleader
- Cab Calloway, bandleader
- Lou Gramm, lead singer of Foreigner,
- Teddy Geiger
- Edward James “Son” House Jr.
- Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth
Other Notable Celebs
- Rory Fitzpatrick NHL
- Abby Wambach, two-time Olympic gold medalist, Women’s World Cup Champion, all-time highest scoring international player
- Kate Gleason, first female mechanical engineer
- John Jacob Bausch, Henry Lomb, co-founders of Bausch & Lomb
- George Eastman, Eastman Kodak founder
- Frank Gannett, founder of Gannett newspapers
- Malcolm Glazer, CEO of First Allied; owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United
- Tom Golisano, Paychex founder, philanthropist, gubernatorial candidate; owner of NHL’s Buffalo Sabres (2003–2010)
- Martha Matilda Harper, hair care entrepreneur
- Hiram Sibley and Don Alonzo Watson, co-founders of Western Union
- Henry A. Strong, Eastman Kodak co-founder and president
- Robert Wegman of Wegmans Food Markets
- Henry Wells, founder of American Express and co-founder of Wells Fargo
- Joseph C. Wilson, founder of Xerox Corporation
- C. J. Rapp, Jolt Cola
- George B. Selden, automotive pioneer
- S. Donald Stookey, inventor of CorningWare
- Kim Pegula, co-owner and president, Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bandits, Buffalo Beauts and Rochester Americans
- Morrie Silver, minor-league baseball
Do you know of more of Rochester’s fun facts?
Please share your thoughts and stories with us in the comments. Your insight and experience are invaluable!