As the fate of 13 Cataract Street is brewing, perhaps a step back to look at all of the possibilities is worth a moment. Join us for an afternoon stroll in our High Falls neighborhood.
The High Falls here, on the Genesee River. At the Falls on the left, the wonderful Gorsline Building in a much edited version, thankfully saved and reopened in 2000. It was once a much larger building, but between neglect, collapse, and fire, only the portion abutting the Falls remains. In the old days, during some spectacular weather, the building looked like this:
In the middle of the panorama, and in the distance, is Kodak Tower. Immediately right of the tower, and on the riverfront, is the RG&E Beebee Station, where the last turbine will take its last whirl in February. The station will then be shuttered pending some future redevelopment. Something will happen here.
That’s the Pont de Rennes bridge (nee Platt Street bridge) crossing the river in the middle of the view. This is the bridge that a group here wants to convert to a Rochester version of Manhattan’s High Line. They call it the GardenAerial, and you can learn more at www.gardenaerial.org.
It once looked like this in 1917 (note the Gorsline building behind the bridge next to the Falls):
And at the right in the panorama below is the Genesee Brewery, and the historic structures at the foot of the Pont de Rennes bridge. 13 Cataract Street – threatened with demolition – is the ochre colored, taller building.
Here’s a view of the brewery from the bridge.
The masonry building on the left is proposed to be the new brewery visitors center. On the right is the threatened 13 Cataract Street. Please note that the brewery folks say that they selected the building on the left for their center because it has views of the Falls. Hmm. Stay with me on this one.
It’s hard to see 13 Cataract because of the much more recent metal buildings which surround it to the west and south, and which should be removed. But the original building is pretty spectacular, and dates from the late 1880s.
Remember what 13 Cataract looked like once upon a time. Yes, there are windows at the gable end at the right side of the building that look right out on the High Falls.
The Library image was printed backwards. Thanks to a reader, now corrected.
On the left of the image above is another building on the brewery campus, also designated as historic, built probably in the 1930s, and also slated for demolition. “Cataract” is carved in the limestone portion of its parapet.
So let’s recap. First there is the spectacular High Falls themselves - a place we Rochesterians take visitors for a stroll, and stroll ourselves. Then there is the High Falls district, with its offices and restaurants and residences in all the old restored mill buildings and new construction:
Just further west of the district (a couple of blocks) is Kodak HQ, and Frontier Field, home to our AAA Red Wings.
Then there is the RG&E campus, now no longer used for power generation and to be redeveloped for….?
Then there is the bridge, which may yet become Rochester’s Hanging
Gardens, with its attendant proposed trail around the gorge at the High Falls.
Then there are the precedents set by the Potosi Brewing Company in Potosi Wisconsin, the American Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland, the Pearl Brewing Company in San Antonio Texas, the Pabst Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Tivoli-Union Brewing Company in Denver, Colorado, the Brooklyn Brewing Company in Brooklyn, New York, and others. Some of these historic breweries still make beer. Some don’t. But all have been restored, and are playing important roles in each of their locales. Look them up.
So let’s not tear anything down here. Let’s figure out how to make the whole big picture work. So much energy and vision and money has been spent in this part of our town, and so much more will be spent. Tearing buildings down – especially really significant ones – is worse than a damaging, destructive waste. Demolition now robs us of our history, it’s true, but robs us of real future value as well. We are awash in the heady foam of possibility.
Perhaps we can recall the now banned watchwords of British brewer Courage and Company (the Brits banned the motto because they were worried about the implied connection between drinking beer and having courage – you decide):
I’ll have another, now, I think.