Caught one more time up on Dewey Avenue

Have you ever wondered why Dewey Avenue looks the way it does?

Why, for instance, does the street jut out at a diagonal slant from Lyell Avenue before heading due North when it hits Emerson Street?

dewey-current lyell edgerton

Googlemaps, 2017.

And what on earth accounts for the jog or, “dog leg,” at the street’s intersection with Driving Park Avenue?

dewey-current dog leg

Googlemaps, 2017.

What exactly were the people in charge of planning the road thinking?

As it happens, the city section of what we now know as Dewey Avenue was originally three separate streets, with three distinct names. The road has only existed in its current incarnation since the early 1900s.

The tale of how this came to be involves two different, but connected stories.

Anyone familiar with the Edgerton neighborhood (or at least the maps thereof), will know that most of the area’s “North-South” streets actually run “Northwest-Southeast”, rather than due north/south, as they do in the adjacent Lyell-Otis neighborhood. The unique direction these streets take reflects the old route of the Erie Canal, which the roads ran alongside for the better part of the 19th century.

West Street, as the southernmost section of Dewey Ave was originally known, ran directly beside the waterway, beginning at Lyell Avenue and ending at the campus of the State Industrial School (formerly the Western House of Refuge and now the site of Edgerton Park).

dewey-1888 west state

West Street originally traveled alongside the Erie Canal from Lyell Avenue to the southern  border of the State Industrial School property. Emerson Street can be seen north of the school’s campus. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1888.

Over the years, various common council members made attempts to acquire a small portion of the State Industrial School’s campus in order to extend West Street northward, but the institution’s board of managers refused the request time and time again.

Eventually, the City appealed directly to the State (which owned the property) and permission was granted in 1895 to extend West Street to Emerson Street. From Emerson Street, commuters could continue up Thrush Street as far north as Driving Park Avenue.

Dewey-1900 West St

By the time this map was drawn in 1900, West Street had been extended through the State Industrial School campus and connected to the southern tip of Thrush Street via Emerson Street. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1900.

Dewey-1888 new thrush

Thrush Street connected West Street from Emerson Street up to Driving Park Ave which lies at the top of this map. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1888.

The City had convinced the authorities in question that such an extension was in the best interests of all involved.

It was certainly in the interests of the management of the Rochester Driving Park, whose location at the corner of Driving Park Avenue and The Boulevard had heretofore only been accessible from the center of the city by a number of indirect routes.

dewey 1888-new new rdp

The Rochester Driving Park, at the corner of Driving Park Ave and The Boulevard. The northern tip of Thrush Street can be seen at the bottom of the map, just west of the Boulevard below Driving Park Ave. Rochester Plat Map, 1888.


The Rochester Driving Park, which featured  horse races and bicycle races and hosted traveling circuses and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, experienced a heydey in the 1870s and 1880s, but had begun to dip in popularity and profits by the 1890s, so the opening of the new thoroughfare in 1895 was undoubtedly welcome.

Three years later, in 1898, Alderman Selye of the 10th Ward, proposed to rename the street that formed the park’s eastern boundary–known simply as The Boulevard–to Dewey Avenue. The motion, intended to honor the recent victory of Admiral George Dewey in the Spanish-American War, met with unanimous approval.

The following February, Alderman Selye proposed the consolidation of the former Boulevard with Thrush Street and West Street, all under the name of Dewey Avenue.

This motion did not move as swiftly. While Thrush Street was renamed and “connected” to Dewey Avenue in 1899, it wouldn’t be until 1906 that West Street was similarly rechristened, thanks in part to a feud between two Aldermans of neighboring wards (since part of the street lay outside the 10th ward).

By this time, the Rochester Driving Park (the subject of a future blog post) had been sold and converted into building lots. The jarring jog at the “intersection” of Dewey and Driving Park serves as a reminder of the once popular park’s southeastern boundary.


Dewey-1910 driving park tract map

By 1910, the Rochester Driving Park tract already featured several homes on its newly laid out streets. And the former Boulevard, which formed the former park’s eastern boundary, had been renamed Dewey Avenue. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1910.


-Emily Morry


Published in: on June 20, 2017 at 3:09 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] saw in a recent blog post that Dewey Avenue owes its jog at the corner of Driving Park Avenue to a race course that once […]

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