In a hundred years in any city, change is pervasive. We constantly reshape our urban places to suit our sense of what is most important, most desirable, most necessary. And so here, on Scio Street just north of East Avenue, in Rochester, we can see what that refocusing has created, thanks to Mr. Stone.

Scio Street 1912

Scio Street, looking north from East Avenue, in 1912.

Scio street 2015

Scio Street, looking north from East Avenue, 2015.

Yes, as far as the eye can see on the west side of Scio, that is a parking garage, for about 750 cars.

The little street visible in the 1912 image, on the right, is called Bell Alley. Today if you strolled over to take its measure, you would find this:

scio street 2015 (3)

If you walked down Bell Alley to Matthews Street, and then looked back towards Scio, you would see this:

Bell Alley Mathews to Scio 1924

So it has gone, in almost every city in America. Ahh – progress.

I should probably stop snooping around at these photographs….

6 thoughts on “Convenience

  1. I suspect by complete serendipity. Perhaps a reader has some clues as to how this little thing escaped the maelstrom.

    The energy of my despair – and your characterization is quite precisely correct – arises in large measure from the fact that we have this breathtaking Albert Stone archive, this panoramic vista, allowing us to see vividly what we have lost, what we once created here, and how thoroughly, how comprehensively, we have destroyed the incredible texture and richness that once was Rochester. Most places have suffered a similar fate – it’s pathetic, but fundamentally true – but most places have only glimpses at the lost world that once was. We have a picture window. And like some compulsive voyeur, I keep staring out that window….

  2. You and I are traveling in the same groove bro.

    You are so lucky to have Mr. Stone. I’m searching for the glimpses–which are like small gems, remote pinpoints of light from which to relight and reconstruct an entire world. The challenge is what to do with an understanding of the past: mourn what once was, share and celebrate it, learn from it going forward…a bit of all of the above. Keep looking at Mr. Stone’s work, and sharing it with your readers. I’d love to know more about him…what made him tick and did he have a sense that the moment in time he was capturing would one day change so dramatically?

  3. What to do with our past? Good question. I would suggest that what we do is this: we rebuild our cities, our neighborhoods, our towns, so that they have the same texture, the same richness and diversity, the same density and walkability, the same varied mobility options, the same intense local-ness, the same life of the street, as the cities and towns we have wrecked. We look, and learn, and decide that cars are one reason our home places have been destroyed, so we put cars in their rightful place. We create communities that are resilient and durable, as they once were, in economic, social, and environmental terms. We can learn how to do this by examining what we did.

    In all this I have learned to be wary of nostalgia – the rosy glow of a perfect and hermetically sealed past. The reason I am interested in our past is not for nostalgia’s sake – a kind of fake recollection of what once was – but instead to find ways to fashion a living connection with a kind of defining collective (and real) memory that tells us who we are, who we were, who we should be.

    I do note that there seems to be a new/renewed interest in all things local. This seems to me a hopeful sign that some kind of renaissance is possible, and perhaps just beginning. I am not, as you know too well, a natural optimist. But it’s possible things may be changing.

    Back to the archive….

  4. in most metropolitan cities, alleyways are where it all happens. These small, intimate spaces can be utilized for a variety of uses. The most underused/overlooked aspects of urban infrastructure

  5. Michael, thanks for joining the conversation. As someone from one of the great alley cities – Chicago – I completely agree with you. Alleys make for terrific urbanism.

    But Rochester is weird in having many insanely long blocks – 1,800 feet is not uncommon – that are only 250 feet deep or so, and with NO alleys.

    We will likely never be able to add alleys, but in many neighborhoods with teardowns, we can use the empty lots to break down the length of the block. This would help.

    Opportunity knocks….

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