Romancing the River

This weekend, I took advantage of some of the many programs and tours offered in honor of the city’s annual River Romance celebration. Living here, we tend to forget sometimes just how special our city on the Genesee really is. (Also, the fact that it’s one of the few rivers in the world to flow from south to north — along with the Nile — is pretty cool.)

I started things off with the “River to Roof” tour of the Rundel Memorial Building because really, how often do you get to stand on top of your place of work, fist raised triumphantly in the air? Okay, I didn’t do that last part. But I did get a complete bottom-up, behind-the-scenes look at this historic building, which was dedicated 77 years ago on October 5, 1936.

A view of the the access hole on the bottom floor of the library.

A view of the the access opening on the bottom floor of the library. The Johnson Seymour millrace runs beneath the building.

Access to the Johnson-Seymour Raceway beneath the Rundel building.

Access to the Johnson Seymour millrace beneath the Rundel building.

From the bottom floor we made our way up through the cavernous and creepy stacks area, where I learned that back in the day, the leatherbound books were routinely rubbed with oil to prevent cracking.

Upper Stacks, Rundel Memorial Building.

Upper Stacks, Rundel Memorial Building. No ghost sightings occurred.

Finally, my Rocky moment — the roof.

View of the aqueduct from the roof of Rundel.

View of the aqueduct from the roof of Rundel.

Looking down on the Rundel Memorial Building's famous skylight.

Looking down on the Rundel Memorial Building’s famous skylight.

The Court Street Bridge.

The Court Street Bridge.

Now that I’d seen the view from above, it was time for me to head to street level — and below. So on Saturday, I joined a tour that highlighted the early history of Rochester. One of our stops was along the Genesee Riverway Trail in an area known at different times as Canaltown and East Rochester, where I got an up-close and personal look at the Johnson Seymour millrace.

Created in 1817 by Elisha Johnson and Orson Seymour, the flow of the Johnson Seymour Millrace was controlled by gate dams.

Created in 1817 by Elisha Johnson and Orson Seymour, the flow of the Johnson Seymour millrace was controlled by gate dams.

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Gate dams control the flow of water to the race.

The Johnson Seymour Millrace flowing under Dinosaur BBQ and the Court Street Bridge.

The Johnson Seymour millrace flows under Dinosaur BBQ and the Court Street Bridge.

Water from the millrace is used to help cool the Rundel building in the summertime.

Water from the millrace is used to help cool the Rundel building in the summertime.

View of the spillway beneath the Rundel building.

View of the spillway beneath the Rundel building.

Water from the millrace spills out from beneath the Rundel building and back into the Genesee.

Water from the race spills out from beneath the Rundel building and back into the Genesee.

Following the path of the old Erie Canal, I continued my journey underground into the old canal aqueduct, the foundation of which dates back to 1842. After the Erie Canal ceased operations in 1918, the canal bed was repurposed for Rochester’s subway system.

Entrance to the subway tunnel.

Entrance to the subway tunnel.

Old canal bed/subway tunnel looking north.

Old canal bed/subway tunnel looking north.

View of the old canal bed/subway tunnel. Canal historians posit that the dividing wall was built to keep packet boats from colliding as they made the sharp turn onto what is now Broad Street.

View of the old canal bed/subway tunnel. Canal historians posit that the dividing wall was built to keep packet boats from colliding as they made the sharp turn onto what is now Broad Street.

The bottom seven arches of the aqueduct date from 1842; the towpath ran along the south side. The upper decking was added later.

The bottom seven arches of the aqueduct date from 1842; the towpath ran along the south side. The upper decking was added later.

To finish off the day, I headed to the Olmstead-designed Maplewood Park for a tour of the Lower Falls gorge.

The foundation is all that remains of the Glen House, a dining and dancing establishment built in 1870 on the west bank of the Genesee. Fire destroyed it in 1894.

The foundation is all that remains of the Glen House, a dining and dancing establishment built in 1870 on the west bank of the Genesee. Fire destroyed it in 1894.

Red sandstone from the gorge was used in the construction of the New York Central Railroad Station, Universalist Church, and St. Bernard's Seminary.

Red sandstone from the gorge was used in the construction of the New York Central Railroad Station, Universalist Church, and St. Bernard’s Seminary. The early settlement of Carthage was located on the east side of the river.

Debris removed to make way for Midtown's underground parking garage was dumped in the river south of Lower Falls, changing the river's flow and ecosystem.

Debris removed to make way for Midtown’s underground parking garage was dumped in the river south of Lower Falls in the early settlement of McCrackenville, changing the river’s flow and ecosystem.

And last but not least, I headed back down Lake Avenue to check out the newly reopened High Falls Visitor Center, which receives anywhere from 20 to 50 people per day from all over North America and around the world. (It’s true! I looked at the guest book!)

High Falls Visitor Center.

High Falls Visitor Center.

Gratuitous shot of Rochester's lovely High Falls.

Gratuitous shot of Rochester’s lovely High Falls.

Falls Field was located just to the left of High Falls in this picture, where the infamous Littles murder took place in 1857 (see August blog, "Murder and Mayhem at Falls Field!").

Falls Field was located just to the left of High Falls in this picture, where the infamous Littles murder took place in 1857 (see August blog, “Murder and Mayhem at Falls Field!“).

And thus concludes my River Romance adventure. Thanks for coming along!

~Cheri Crist
Librarian

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Published in: on October 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very nice story!

  2. Cheri, What a great adventure. Thanks so much for sharing the history with us.

  3. Wow – fascinating Cheri! Thanks so much for sharing the story and pictures.

  4. Glad you all enjoyed it!

  5. Nicely illustrated. I learned a lot!

  6. Thank you, this is wonderful!

  7. Thanks, Amy and Diane!

  8. Had no idea that the red building stone was taken from that gorge for the buildigs mentioned (church, seminary, rr station). Good Rochester trivia question!


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