Rochester from the air, 1930. Dense, textured, crackling with life.
Cities are living things, changing with each passing day. Each old city passes away, constantly replaced by the next city, in layer after layer. Each of these cities tells us who we were and what we cared about. Each layer foreshadows what will come next.
This is not idle rhetoric. This is fact. And all of us pay a price for changes in each erstwhile city. Sometimes that price is slight, and the city is better for its changing. If we are paying attention, we might call this progress.
And sometimes that price is nearly incalculably high, and neither is the next city better for its changing, nor does it induce other better next cities to follow. Let me explain.
Colleague, now Chicagoan, and reader David Steele has helped me by discovering a treasure. This morning he sent me 5 aerial photographs of downtown Rochester, taken, in turn, in 1930, 1951, 1961, 1970 and 2002. During this period, the city changed, and changed enormously. During this period the Inner Loop was constructed. During this period Rochesterians decided that nothing, and here I mean truly nothing, was more important than the car, and car convenience. And in these pictures we can begin to comprehend the urban price we have paid for that desire. You don’t have to take my word for it. You only need to see these pictures.
Downtown Rochester, 1930.
Downtown Rochester, 1951.
Downtown Rochester, 1961.
Downtown Rochester, 1970
Downtown Rochester, 2002.
I will refrain from saying anything else. I find these images shocking, and enormously sad. The price has been very, very high.