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Revisiting Rochester-Some Old Landmarks Worth Seeing

Aug 17, 2007
One fine day in March, I decided to take a break from article writing and pay a visit to my old home town of Rochester, NY. It has been about 30 years since I last visited the place in 1980. With air fare and hotel bills and a lot more expenses pulling at me to stay home, the next best thing was to visit the web and see what I could dig up. It was a fantastic trip and I plan to "visit" there many more times in the future.

Let's take a look at some of the good places to spend a few hours or more.

Ontario Beach Park

In my toddler days I remembered the place as being "Charlotte" or sometimes "down the lake." One photo I cannot find (dated 1936 or thereabouts) was me in a toddler bathing suit running through the water puddles next to the beach. The place hasn't changed much in the ensuing seventy years, except it has gotten better.

Whether taking a romantic stroll along its picturesque pier, riding the 1905 Dentzel menagerie carousel, or going boating, Ontario Beach Park provides all that's necessary for a perfect summer day at the beach. Ontario Beach Park attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually. The park offers seven shelters that are available for rent in the summer months.
The seven open air shelters come with picnic tables, grills, electricity, water and bathrooms nearby. The Roger Robach Community Center (Bathhouse) has been renovated and available to rent for picnics, parties and weddings. These facilities have been in existence for as long as I can remember.

In the early days, there used to be a trolley line which linked downtown Rochester to the beach. After the 40s, buses that ran along Lake Avenue provided the transportation. The bus line (Lake Avenue #1) still operates to this day. You can access my blog for more information.

There used to be a roller skating rink located in the middle of the park area, but the most recent map of the place shows it being missing. You had to be a certain age and height for the park monitors to let you in. Besides being too small, I also didn't have roller skates. It was fun just watching them skate around there. Most of the skating crowd were in their teens or older. I sometimes think to myself how many of these people are now running out their last miles in old age homes and other nursing care facilities.

Besides the beach and the picnic grounds, the biggest attraction there was the "merry-go-round." If I was ever a pest in my toddler and later days, it was always to ride the merry-go-round. This was the 1905 Dentzel menagerie carousel named "The Duchess." It is situated at the east end of Ontario Beach Park. The Duchess has the distinction of being one of only fourteen operating antique menagerie carousels in the United States. It is also one of only a few that still remain in its original location. This Gustav Dentzel creation is a three-row carousel consisting of fifty-two animals and two chariots. The animals were horses, rabbits, cats, ostriches, pigs, and mules, among others.

In 1980 the Preservation Board granted the carousel landmark status. In 1984 the Parks Department began extensive restoration of the carousel, which lasted for many years and included improvements on the building and surrounding walkways. Until recent years, Wurlitzer Military Band Organ Style 165 paper rolls were used, but a Stinson MIDI system replaced the organ and continues to play the same music once heard on the original rolls. The Duchess is a unique joy for Rochesterians and visitors. It celebrated its 100th year at Ontario Beach in 2005.

From the Duchess carousel, you could look out over the Genesee River and on occasion, you might see one of the lake steamers coming into the Port of Rochester. Overlooking the Genesee River is a stone lighthouse. This forty-foot high lighthouse was built in 1822 to guide the growing number of commerce ships into the Port of Rochester. Following a long and storied history, the lighthouse was rumored to be demolished in 1965. Concerned students intervened on its behalf. Later renovations led to the tower being relit in 1984. There is a Fascinating museum and well-stocked gift shop on-hand.

Strong Museum

If you think of museums as stuffy, musty places, think again! The Strong Museum in Rochester, New York is rated one of the nation's top 10 children's museums by Child magazine. It overcomes any such notions you may have about museum-going. At Strong Museum, kids of all ages are invited to touch, explore, discover, and participate in whimsical, interactive learning environments. Here kids can step onto Sesame Street, pilot a helicopter, and travel through time. Children can enjoy a live theatre experience twice daily every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The museum also houses a breathtaking array of collections. There are more than 500,000 objects of Americana, including toys, dollhouses, home furnishings, and the world's most comprehensive collection of dolls.

Everything at Strong Museum is geared towards making your family visit a memorable one. There are kid friendly exhibits, along with the warm and welcoming staff in their purple polo shirts. Craft tables throughout the museum are always well stocked with colorful materials that keep little fingers and minds busy. You can snuggle up and read with your child in one of the many book nooks, which are located in every exhibit. There is even a "guest rest" where parents can tend to their infants. The museum provides a spare change of children's clothing in case of "accidents."

After experiencing the exhibits, you can take a break with the kids and have a quick meal in the museum's authentic 1956 diner. You can try an ice-cream sundae at Louie's Sweet Shoppe, an old-fashioned ice-cream fountain. And no visit is complete without a spin on the 1918 Allan Herschell carousel!

You can take exciting expeditions through awe-inspiring collections and compelling exhibitions. At Strong Museum you can immerse yourself in entertaining trends of American popular culture and gain illuminating insights into contemporary American life. Take your kids into creative environments that make learning about the past and the present lively and fun, whether you're a kid or a kid at heart. In One History Place, a learning center for ages 3 to 7, children can play in a turn-of-the-century attic, kitchen, parlor, and train station.

If you ever want to find a place in Rochester where the time races by and your kids will be pulling on your sleeves to "lets go back there again," the Strong Museum is the place. They will love a return trip there, and so will you.

George Is Everywhere

In Rochester, you cannot go very far without encountering the name of George Eastman. If you ever heard the expression, "Let George Do It," Rochester is the place where George did it, many times over.

The George Eastman House is the world's oldest photography museum. It is also one of the world's oldest film archives, The Eastman House opened to the public in 1949 in Rochester, New York, USA. World-renowned for its photography and motion picture archives, the Eastman House museum is also a leader in film preservation and photograph conservation, educating archivists and conservators from around the world. The museum is home to the Dryden Theatre, a 535-seat repertory theater. The museum is located in and around the house built by George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak Company.

The George Eastman House Museum of Photography was chartered in 1947. From the outset, the museum's mission has been to collect, preserve, and present the history of photography and film. It opened its doors in 1949, displaying its core collections in the former public rooms of Eastman's house. Entire archives, corporate collections, and artists' lifetime portfolios have been donated to the Eastman House, as well as an assemblage of rare motion pictures and ephemera.

By 1984, with the collections growing at a rapid pace, the museum increasingly suffered from its own success. With an increasing number of materials to store, protect, and study, additional space became critical. A new facility opened to the public in January 1989. It now houses more than 400,000 photographs and negatives, 23,000 films and several million film stills,43,000 publications, and more than 25,000 pieces of technology.

In 1996, the museum opened the Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center in nearby Chili, New York. One of only four film conservation centers in the United States (as of March 2006), the facility houses the museum's rare 35 mm prints made on cellulose nitrate. In 1997, the Eastman House launched the first school of film preservation in the United States to teach restoration, preservation, and archiving of motion pictures. The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation is supported by a grant from The Louis B. Mayer Foundation.

In 1999, Eastman House launched the Mellon Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation, made possible with grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program trains top photograph archivists and conservators from around the world.

George Eastman (1854-1932) built his home at 900 East Avenue between 1902 and 1905. He created a unique urban estate complete with 10.5 acres of working farm land, formal gardens, greenhouses, stables, barns, pastures, and a 35,000-square-foot, 50-room Colonial Revival mansion with a fireproof structure made of reinforced concrete.

Eastman's house presented a classical facade of decorative craftsmanship. Beneath this exterior were such modern conveniences as an electrical generator, an internal telephone system with 21 stations, a built-in vacuum cleaning system, a central clock network, an elevator, and a great pipe organ. This made the home itself an instrument, a center of the city's rich musical life from 1905 until Eastman's death in 1932.

George Eastman did not like to see kids go around without superb medical and dental facilities. He donated a major grant of money to the University of Rochester which maintained the Strong Memorial Hospital and the Rochester Dental Dispensary.

George Eastman also loved music. He didn't care if it was jazz or classical. As long as a kid could bang on a piano or make a fiddle sound like a dying cat, he or she was scooped up into the musical education program in the Rochester school system, courtesy of George Eastman.

Out the other end of the musical pipeline emerged world-renowned musicians and artists such as Mitch Miller, Chuck Mangione, Jacques Lipson, and other eminent talent. The Eastman School of Music educated talented musicians from around the world who become leaders and innovators in all fields of music. More than 900 students are enrolled in the collegiate division of the Eastman School. They come from almost every state, and approximately 20% are from other countries.

Each year, about 260 new students enroll, selected from more than 1,400 applications. They are guided by a renowned faculty, which includes more than 90 full-time, resident members. Seven Pulitzer Prize winners have taught or studied at Eastman, as have several Grammy Award and other major prizewinners. Past and present Eastman students have won many high-profile performance competitions, including the BBC Young Musicians Competition, the NSO Young Soloist Competition, and the Russian-American Music Association Young Virtuosos Competition. The vast majority of the School's 9,000 alumni make their careers in music. Among them are opera singers Renee Fleming, Anthony Dean Griffey, and the late William Warfield; jazz musicians Ron Carter, Chuck Mangione, and Steve Gadd; conductor, oboist, and record producer Mitch Miller; and composers Dominick Argento, Charles Strouse, and Michael Torke. Eastman graduates perform in all of America's leading orchestras and are members of respected orchestras around the world.

I was fortunate to have grown up in Rochester. I would love to go back there to re-visit my old stomping grounds. At Age 74, I still might find a few friends there.
About the Author
Bob Carper is a veteran consultant in information systems design and development. For additional information go to
http://www.secure-webconference.citymax.com. You may also contact me at robertcarper06@comcast.net or visit my blog at http://www.html-secrets.net/blog.
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