Memorial Art Gallery Midtown Plaza 1962 - 1987 by Edith Lunt Small

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

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.

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 the oldest, active, surviving light on the Great Lakes.

And when it comes to people like Thomas Wilson Boyde Jr., he is the City of Rochester’s first African-American architect, but certainly not the oldest.

Ebenezer Watts House
Ebenezer Watts House on Fitzhugh

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.


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.


St. Lukes Episcopal Church
1824 – The Church that Rochester built: St. Lukes Episcopal Church

St. Luke’s Church, 17 South Fitzhugh Street, is the oldest public building in Rochester. It was built in 1823 and was Nathaniel Rochester’s home church for many years.


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.


The oldest fossil tree known in the world was discovered in 1882 in Grimes Glen by D. Dana Luther.


First European discovery of petroleum in the United States was in Seneca Oil Spring in 1627. Today, The spring is located near the spillway end of Cuba Lake on the Oil Spring Indian Reservation. The Seneca and earlier indigenous peoples had learned to use the petroleum-tainted water of the spring at this site for medicinal purposes.


Monroe Community Hospital Rochester NY

Thomas Wilson Boyde Jr. became the city’s first Africa-American architect and is recognized for his work on the Strathallan Hotel, Rundel Public Library, and Monroe Community Hospital. 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.


1825 Adams-Ryan House
1825 Adams-Ryan House

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.


Genesee Brew House Holiday Lights Keg Tree

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.


VIP Pass: Stone Tolan House
Stone-Tolan House

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 Ave.


The Roe Cobblestone Schoolhouse in Butler (Wayne County) is believed to be the oldest in America.


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.


In 1903, Grace Phillips of Wolcott delivered mail on a 25-mile route, making her the first female mail carrier in New York State.


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.


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.


Landmark Society Home and Garden 2016 Rochester
Landmark Society Home and Garden Tours

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.


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

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)!


Best New York Attractions - Niagara Falls American Falls
Niagara Falls

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.


Pittsford Village historic building

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.


Old Fort Niagara State Park Youngstown NY
Old Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown, 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.


First Convention for Womens Rights in Seneca Falls NY
First Convention for Women’s Rights Held in Seneca Falls, NY 1848

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.


Fox Sisters

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.


Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse
Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse

Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse is the oldest, active, surviving light on the Great Lakes.


Laf-A-Lot restaurant on Loon Lake in Wayland 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 oldest gay newspaper. It has been published by the Gay Alliance since 1972.


Rochester's Fun Facts - Whispering Pines Mini Golf
Whispering Pines Mini Golf

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.


George Eastman House Museum garden
George Eastman Museum

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.


Griffis Sculpture Park bathers
Griffis Sculpture Park

Griffis Sculpture Park is the first sculpture park in the USA, open in 1966.


Midtown Plaza 1962 – 1987 by Edith Lunt Small

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.


Events Around Rochester - Red Wings Baseball
Rochester Red Wings Baseball

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.


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.


Caledonia Fish Hatchery
Caledonia Fish Hatchery

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.”

Only
Rochester’s Fun Facts

Strong Museum of Play Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden Rochester skyline
Strong National Museum of Play Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden

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.”


Art Park is the only state park devoted to visual and performing arts.


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.


Historic Inns Around Rochester: Tillmans Village Inn
Historic Inns Tillman’s Village Inn

Tillman’s Village Inn is the only stagecoach house still in operation on the historic Ridge Road.


Letchworth Council Grounds
Letchworth Council Grounds

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 decedents 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 Lift Bridge
Fairport Lift Bridge

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.


Colored Musicians Club is the only AfricanAmerican musicians club in the country.


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.


New York Museum of Transportation trolley maintenance
New York Museum of Transportation

The New York Museum of Transportation in Rush offers the only trolley ride in New York State.


First built in 1955, Amtrak’s Great Dome Car has been used on routes across the country ever since, and is the only dome car still in service.


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
Willard Memorial

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.


Wayne County Butterfly Trail Lock 30
Wayne County Butterfly Trail at Lock 30

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 Under the Erie Canal
Culvert Road in Medina Under the Erie Canal

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.


Every single cup of Tim Hortons coffee sold in the United States, as well as parts of Canada, is roasted in Rochester.

One Of Few
Rochester’s Fun Facts

Historic Small Movie Theaters Around Rochester Strand Theater Brockport
The Strand

Strand Theater is the 2nd oldest active movie theater in the country.


Seabreeze Amusement Park Jack Rabbit exit tunnel

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.


Highland Park November yellow leaves
Highland Park

Rochester is one of only four cities with an Olmsted designed park system. Olmsted’s Buffalo parks we’re the first municipal parks in the nation.


The Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair held each October is one of the longest-running regional book fairs in the United States.


Lockport BIg Bridge
Lockport BIg Bridge

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.)


Powers Building Rochester
Powers Building

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 Pink House in Wellsville, built in 1868, is one of the oldest, most historic houses in the country that is still in the family of the original builders.


Medina Railroad Museum train
Medina Railroad

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 Institute
Silver Lake Institute

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.


New York Routes 5 and 20 sign
New York Routes 5 and 20 sign

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.


Salmon River Selkirk Light
photo by Cady McMaster

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.


Wyoming NY Gas Lamp

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.”


Maplewood Park Kelseys Landing
Kelseys Landing in Maplewood Park

Rochester would have been one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad where fugitive slaves, including Frederick Douglass, could board a boat to Canada, and to freedom.


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

Highland Park November Katsura Tree
Katsura Tree in Highland Park

In Highland Park you will find the largest Katsura Tree in New York, overlooking the pansy bed. Highland Park also features the world’s largest collection of lilacs.


Rock City Park in Olean has the world’s largest exposure of Quartz Conglomerate.


Lily Dale Assembly
Lily Dale Assembly

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.


Genesee Country Village Museum
Genesee Country Village Museum

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.


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 Central Terminal
Buffalo’s Central Terminal

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.


State Parks Taughannock Falls

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


The Colonial Belle is the largest tour boat operating on the historic Erie Canal.


Green Lakes State Park Round Lake
Round Lake

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.


Record Archive vinyl collection

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
Chautauqua Lake

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.


Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs State Park

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.


Letchworth Mount Morris Dam

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

If you enjoy this topic, check out the patents from Rochester, NY between 1800-1900, or create your own search queries using Google Patents.

George Eastman Patent Camera
Patent US388850

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.


Nick Tahou Hots Depot
Nick Tahou Hots

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.


Inside Reynolds Arcade

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“. How appropriate that founding father and signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Morris, was the town’s founder and benefactor of the purchase that made settling Western New York possible.


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.


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.


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 there!


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.


J. Hungerford Smith invented the root beer formula for A&W. You can still buy J. Hungerford Smith “Rochester Root Beer” through Conagra, an Illinois based company.

Interesting Finds

Genesee Country Village Nathaniel Rochester home
Nathaniel Rochester’s Dansville Home
Genesee Country Village and Museum Mumford NY George Eastman Childhood Home
George Eastman’s Childhood Home

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.


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.

public wall art Ramon Santiago graffiti
Ramon Santiago at WXXI

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
Dinosaur Bar B Que
Nick Tahou Hots Depot
Nick Tahou Hots

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Nick Tahou Hots are located in former railroad depots.


Genesee Valley Park gazebo

There used to be a Dentzel Carousel in Genesee Valley Park similar to the one at Ontario Beach. The ride closed in 1965. The pavilion is still there and is now used for picnics.


Port Gibson is in Ontario County, not Wayne, so that Ontario could have an access point along the Erie Canal.


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.


In January 2016, the Governor announced a historic commitment to complete the Empire State Trail, 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. Currently, more than 80% of the trail is complete, with the trail’s completion date set for the end of 2020.


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

Do you know of more of Rochester’s fun facts?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!

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4 thoughts on “Rochester’s Fun Facts: Oldest, Original, Only, & More!”

  1. From the D&C website:
    https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/lifestyle/music/2017/09/01/joshua-tree-u-2-anniversary-tour-buffalo/603851001/

    13. We could’ve been first. According to the U2 setlist archive, the band’s first gig in the United States was supposed to have been at Rochester’s Penny Arcade on Dec. 5, 1980 but was canceled for an unknown reason and the band went to New York City and played before 25 people at the Ritz. There is also the well-known story about U2’s scheduled show at the Red Creek Inn in 1981 that was canceled over a disagreement with club management over clearing the bar for a soundcheck. The band did come back to Rochester and play RIT’s Ritter Arena, a stone’s throw from the Red Creek, as part of the War tour on April 28, 1983.

  2. The band U2 had their first scheduled North American gig at what is now Hot Shots in Henrietta, in (June?) 1982. The story goes that at sound check, the band manager asked for everyone to clear out, but a woman who was a regular at the bar door not want to leave and bar management refused to kick her out. So the band packed back up and cancelled their show, to okay their first North American gig in Syracuse the next night.

    1. Now I could be wrong since I am referencing a wiki, and there ares always fine lines where “first” is concerned, but Wikipedia says: “6 December: U2 play their first American concert at The Ritz in New York City as part of a 14-date tour.” Thoughts?

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