The Main Street Bridge

Reader David Steele has asked what the street side of the Main Street bridge was like. Reader Jason Haremza told him: just like any other street, really. You’d never know the river was there. Herewith, proof.

Here’s the bridge from the south, looking downriver, in 1919, on a day when the river was very high. (This was after the city deepened the river under the bridge in 1916, because of a flood in 1915).

Here’s a similar view, a bit closer, from around 1920.

And here’s a similar view but closer still, from 1922.

Can you make out the name on the upper right of the right hand building? Ocumpaugh’s. Remember that – here’s the front on Main.

51 to 55 South Main, 1922. These shops and offices comprise the Ocumpaugh property. The pedestrians are all on the bridge.

Okay, so what did the street side of the bridge really look like? One more image tells the tale.

Main Street, looking east across the river, in about 1912. The streetcar in the middle of the image is almost exactly in the middle of the river.

In truth, it would have been a nicer bit of the city if there was a little porchlet or terrace out on each side of the river, providing passers-by with a little vista up and down the river. The Ponte Vecchio does have that lovely colonnade on each side.

But it was pretty nice, anyway.

Streetcar buffs – note the headways on the westbound side of the street. What do you figure? 20 seconds, maybe?

9 thoughts on “The Main Street Bridge

  1. So since the useless inner loop does not seem to be going anywhere this could be a good model for eliminating a substantial amount of its obnoxiousness.

    Related-just back from Madison Wisconsin. While not perfect it is a delightful small to mid sized American city which is extremely pleasant. Rochester could do well to take note. What it has:

    Good density
    Good bike-ability with bikes everywhere
    Very good public transit.
    A substantial amount of its historic buildings stock intact
    No parking lots
    Innocuous parking ramps
    NO highways in the city core.
    NO highways on its waterfront
    Major employment centers in and adjacent to the city core.
    People who like and appreciate their city.

    The streets are lined with stores and restaurants and as a result there are always people walking around.

  2. Yes, David, but the place is chock full of lefties….

    Actually, the RRCDC exhibition on view now, “Build it Right and They Will Come,” in their gallery, features Madison and its planning process in some detail. And the former Mayor of Madison, David Cieslewicz, was just here speaking in the RRCDC series “Reshaping Rochester.” He was quite articulate, and spoke about the city, its policies, its planning process, its successes, and its future. We are listening.

    Well, some of us are listening.

  3. BTW, while he was here, former Mayor Cieslewicz spoke to city officials and others, and was featured on a local public radio talk show. He did get around while he was here – the RRCDC put him to work, thankfully.

  4. Unlike Rochester and Monroe County, both the City of Madison and Dane County have had healthy population growth over the past several decades. This goes a long way to explain the density, good transit and vitality on the streets.

  5. Jason, yes, it’s true, Madison has seen population growth over the last years. The city’s population is just over 230,000. The regional population is about 560,000. This means that half of the regional population lives in the city.

    Here, only about 20% of the regional population lives in the city. This does have implications for all sorts of things, including transit. It does not necessarily mean that we absolutely must have a bus system that doesn’t serve us very well, however. Perhaps an anecdote heard last night will illustrate:

    A colleague who lives in Charlotte is 10 minutes by car from his sister. But if he wants to visit her using public transportation, that trip takes about an hour and a half. He gets on the bus, goes downtown to Main and Clinton, waits, transfers, and then heads back to his sisters. This is just goofy.

    In 1910, when Mr. Stone shot the streetcars on the bridge, Rochester was a city of about 20 square miles in area (today it’s 35 square miles) and the population was 218,000 – nearly the same as today. But the regional population then was, well, agricultural – about 65,000.

    So in those days we were nearly half the size and nearly twice as dense. Which makes all sorts of things work better. In those days, there were 400 streetcars, and 200 miles of track. And less than 30,000 cars – today there are something like 170,000 cars in the city alone – nearly a million in the region.

    And what did Rochesterians complain about in 1910? Not enough streetcars.
    Go figure.

  6. David,

    Great call on instituting a Main Street Bridge like structure over the Inner Loop.

    I put together a presentation on Traditional Neighborhood Development and New Urbanism a few years ago and one example I cited was something almost exactly similar to what you propose, the I-670 ‘Cap’ in Columbus, Ohio.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s