Out of the Loop: a Before and After Look at the Neighborhoods of the Inner Loop, Part 1.

The Inner Loop has been such of fixture of Rochester’s landscape over the past half-century, that it is probably difficult for many residents to remember what downtown looked like before it came along. Many other Rochesterians have never known a life without the loop. This series will take a look at the city before and after the circular roadway at its center took shape.

The original version of the Inner Loop was built in five sections between 1952 and 1965. This series will discuss each arc in turn and document some of the changes–and losses–that each arc’s surrounding neighborhood experienced.

The first arc of the loop ran from Central Avenue near the western bank of the Genesee River to Allen Street, then down Plymouth Ave North to Main Street West. Plymouth Avenue would remain the western boundary of the Inner Loop until the roadway was expanded to its current route in 1971.

IL-first arc map

The first arc of the loop ran from Central to Allen then down Plymouth Ave North to Main Street West. (Circa 1960 map by New York State Department of Public Works from the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division)

Demolition for the first .47 mile stretch of the Loop began in the spring of 1952, and from the outset it was a slow-going and costly process. Because of the age of the structures in the neighborhood, almost every building had to be dismantled brick by brick. It took two weeks just to tear down the very first house for the project at 141 Plymouth Ave North.

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Crews begin their work on the first house to be demolished for the Inner Loop at 141 Plymouth Ave North.  Democrat & Chronicle. June 17, 1952.

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Current site of 141 Plymouth. Googlemaps. 2018.

The current site of the house lies at the southwest corner of Plymouth Ave North and Allen Street.  This was not the case when the home was torn down. As a result of Loop construction, part of Allen Street was actually rerouted half a block-length southward from its original location.

This 1935 map shows Allen Street running north of the Pullman Building (now Buckingham Commons):

 

Il_allen St map 1935

On the 1935 map, the house at 141 Plymouth is visible beside the U.P. (United Presbyterian) Church. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

This current map shows Allen Street running south of the former Pullman building/Buckingham Commons, while the Inner Loop closely follows the original course of Allen Street:

IL_Allen st map 2018

The properties along this stretch of Plymouth Avenue North were renumbered. The 141 of 2018 is not the same location as the 141 of 1935. City of Rochester Map, 2018.

Over the course of 1952 and 1953, the rubble pile from the house at 141 Plymouth Ave was joined by the remains of several other residences along Plymouth, Allen Street, Central Ave, and State Street.

The first leg of the project also destroyed a few notable non-residential buildings.

The First United Presbyterian Church, which had stood at 131 Plymouth Avenue North since 1849, met the wrecking ball in the summer of 1952. The displaced congregation dedicated the site of their new church in Gates the following summer.

 

IL-plymouth n united church

The First United Church, which stood at 131 Plymouth Avenue North between Church Street and Allen Street, is visible on the left side of this circa 1913  photograph.

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Looking along the same stretch of Plymouth Avenue North from a  slightly different angle in the midst of Inner Loop construction, 1952-1953. From the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

IL-plymouth north now

The same stretch of Plymouth Ave, (which hasn’t been part of the Inner Loop since the early 1970s) as it appears today. Googlemaps, 2018.

Another mainstay of the neighborhood that became a casualty of the Inner Loop, was the former Fire Department Headquarters building.

The edifice, built in 1906, occupied the entire southern block of Central Avenue from Mill Street to Front Street. The Fire Department moved out of the expansive structure in 1938, afterwhich it served a variety of functions before being repurposed as emergency apartments during the housing shortage of the post-WWII era.

IL-fire station

The Central Ave headquarters circa 1924.

IL-fire HQ now

The loop section and parking lot that mark the approximate spot today. Googlemaps, 2018.

Just down the block from the Fire Department Headquarters building, lay perhaps the most historic edifice that was razed for the first arc of the Loop–The Savoy Hotel.

The 125-room inn on the corner of State Street and Central Avenue was originally called the Waverly House when it was constructed in 1848, just 200 feet from the city’s first New York Central Railroad Station.

Il-waverly 1865

A circa 1860s advertisement for the Waverly House. From: The Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

The posh hotel once hosted noted figures such as Buffalo Bill Cody, but infamously declined to provide a room for one of Rochester’s most celebrated citizens in 1872.

When Frederick Douglass learned that his South Avenue home had been destroyed by a fire that June, he boarded the first train back to Rochester from Washington DC, and, arriving late at night, sought shelter at the Waverly House before reuniting with his displaced family in the morning. The night clerk refused Douglass service, falsely claiming that the hotel was fully booked, and the famed abolitionist set off into the rainy night in search of his loved ones.

The hotel, which was renamed the Savoy in 1894, experienced a considerable decline in the 20th century, and not all city residents were saddened by the news that the Savoy would be demolished in 1952. Initially, just the northern section of the building was razed to make way for the Loop before the rest of the structure followed suit.

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The Savoy, at the corner of State and Central, as depicted in an early 20th century  postcard.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 8.54.55 PM

The approximate site of the Savoy today. Googlemaps, 2018.

In addition to losing some historic buildings to the first arc of the loop, the city also lost the entire section of Central Avenue west of St. Paul Street.

This 1935 map shows the section of Central between State Street and Front Street:

IL-1935 central

Both the Savoy Hotel and the Rochester Fire Department Headquarters are visible in this 1935 map. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

This current map shows the same section of the city, with the Inner Loop having replaced the route of Central Avenue:

IlL-2018 Central

NB: The section of Mill Street seen in the middle of the previous map is also absent from the current view. City of Rochester map, 2018.

The two photographs below, the first taken in the early 1950s and the latter, from 2018, also give a sense of the radical remapping of the first arc’s neighborhood.

 

ILOV_035

The Downtown United Presbyterian Church (not be confused the United Presbyterian Church on Plymouth Avenue), seen in both photos, stands at the corner of Fitzhugh Street North and Allen Street. What is left of Central Avenue runs beside the railroad tracks. From: The Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 9.05.22 PM

The church remains the constant in the much changed post-Inner Loop picture. Googlemaps, 2018

 

 

The changes would continue to come with the Loop’s second arc through Corn Hill…

-Emily Morry

 

 

Published in: on August 2, 2018 at 11:16 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. What a treasure you have opened to us!!! Thank you


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