What’s in A Name? : Street Names as Clues to Local History

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. Well, for one thing, a name may be a convenient entry point to local history. Look up at the street signs. Many are named for people. Who were they? What did they do? Let’s explore by tracking the three individuals for whom Brooks Avenue, Culver Road and Fitzhugh Street are named.

Brooks Avenue is named for Lewis Brooks (ca. 1793-9 August 1877). Originally a manufacturer of wool, he later pursued various mercantile interests, retiring at age 44. He spent the rest of his life managing his real estate holdings and making various charitable bequests. Along with several other Quakers, he erected a rural retreat at what is today the intersection of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Park Boulevard. Brooks was a friend of Susan B. Anthony, who spent several summer vacations and holidays there. Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, fugitive slaves  would find refuge with Brooks on their way to Canada.  He also was an officer in the Rochester City Temperance Society, and served on the first Rochester Common Council (as an alderman from the First Ward). Today his body is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

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Oliver Culver (1778-1867)

Culver Road and Oliver Street are both named for Oliver Culver (September 24, 1778-February 2, 1867), among the earliest settlers of Rochester, although at the time his home was located in what was then part of Brighton. Born in Connecticut, he arrived to the area from Hartford in 1805, where he built a home and tavern at what is now the corner of Culver Road and East Avenue. The home was expanded in stages until 1818 and still exists as a private residence (later moved to 70 East Boulevard). With assistance from Rochesterville and surrounding communities, Culver helped clear land and construct what is today East Avenue, as well as Culver Road (which was the route he used to access the closest harbor at Irondequoit Bay). He built canal packet boats and lake schooners (including a 47-ton schooner that was drawn to the Bay by a team of 26 oxen) and participated in maritime commerce as far east as Montreal. He was the first Brighton Town Supervisor (1814, later serving additional one-year terms). He also served as a New York State Assemblyman (1820-21), in which capacity he helped establish Monroe County. He was also one of the co-founders of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.  His remains are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

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Oliver Culver House, 70 East Boulevard

Fitzhugh Street was originally much longer, running from Allen Street south to Edinburgh Street (in Corn Hill). Today, part of it has been displaced by the Civic Center Garage. The street was named for Colonel William Fitzhugh (8 October 1761-December 29, 1839), a partner of Nathaniel Rochester and co-owner of the 100 Acre Tract that was the basis of first the village of Rochesterville, and later the city, of Rochester.


North Fitzhugb St and West Main St (ca. 1909) Building on the left is the former Duffy-Powers Department store (later downtown campus of R.I.T.)

Fitzhugh was born in Calvert County, Maryland. During the American Revolution, he served in the 3rd Continental Dragoons (1779-1783), following which he moved to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he served as a director of the Hagerstown Bank (serving alongside Colonel Rochester and Charles Carroll). Among their common interests was investment in real estate. In 1803, he, Charles Carroll and Col. Rochester reviewed the territory from the High Falls to Hansford’s Landing (near Ridge Road and Lake Avenue) and saw the area’s potential for milling. He did not settle here permanently (as Rochester did eventually), but moved to Groveland in Livingston County. Fitzhugh’s remains are buried in Williamsburg Cemetery, Groveland, New York.

-Christopher Brennan



Published in: on July 11, 2017 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)