Rochester Through Time (or How I learned to stop worrying and love shameless self-promotion)

Back in April of 2014, I received a phone call from a retired history and social studies teacher named Mary Grenier. In 2009, Mary co-wrote a book on the history of Webster for Arcadia Publishing and was now being approached by an offshoot of that company, FontHill Media, to write a then-and-now style history book about Rochester.

Mary was familiar with the work I had done for the Democrat and Chronicle’s “Retrofitting Rochester” series, which also employed a  then-and-now format, contrasting historical and current photographs of various places in Rochester while detailing their historical evolution. Given my experience, Mary wondered if I might be interested in co-authoring her new book, tentatively titled, Rochester Through Time.

Upon receiving permission to work on the book as a special project in collaboration with the Office of the City Historian, Mary and I began holding a series of weekly meetings to discuss how best to approach the book. First and foremost, we agreed that in addition to highlighting the resources and residents that helped shape Rochester’s history, we wanted to make sure that all of the city’s neighborhoods were represented. We also decided that we should strive to find some images that hadn’t yet been featured in previous publications.


We spent hours poring through the photograph collections of the Rochester Public Library’s Local History & Genealogy Division, the Rochester Municipal Archives and the Albert R. Stone Negative Collection of the Rochester Museum and Science Center in search of images that were both iconic and interesting.We were also mindful of the fact we would need to be able to take current site photographs of whichever images we happened to select.

RTT-cover shot

Unfortunately, we ended up taking a number of these “now” photos during the unforgiving winter of 2015. I cannot not recommend taking photographs on the Pont de Rennes in the middle of January highly enough. Besides that feat of strength (or perhaps, idiocy), the most challenging shot we took was probably the book’s cover photo, which required me to stand in the middle of Broad Street facing oncoming traffic (in the dead of winter) in order to visually recreate the former route of the Erie Canal. Again, not highly recommended.

We ended up with way more photographs than was necessary, which left us with the unenviable task of narrowing a veritable sea of photos down to the 94 sets of images that appear in the book.  The collection includes photos generously donated by the aforementioned archives in addition to images provided by various local institutions such as the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, the Genesee Brewing Company and Savoia’s.

RTT_Genesee Brew House


It is our hope that these photos and the stories accompanying them help elucidate the topics, themes, people and places that make up Rochester’s rich history.


The final product, Rochester Through Time, was released in September 2015 and is now available for perusal in the Local History & Genealogy Division of the Central Library of Rochester.  It is also available for purchase from Simply New York, the MAG, the George Eastman House, Collegetown Barnes & Noble, East Avenue Wegmans, and


-Emily Morry, Library Assistant

Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 10:00 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I will definitely be buying a copy. Raised in Rochester, with plenty of family there since 1831-this will be interesting to me and who knows? Maybe I’ll see a family business or relative caught by the photographer in sepia colors. And I can show my children and new friends as we live on the west coast now.

  2. Wow! This sounds like a fascinating book. Thank you for working on it, and for telling us about it.

  3. Fabulous! Have always longed for more of the “Retrofitting Rochester” series … can’t wait to check this book out! Thank you!

  4. I just received this book as a gift this week. I hope to read it very soon. Thanks for pulling all this info together.

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