Urban Strolls

by Sue Freeman


One of the nice things about taking a walk is that you can do it almost anywhere. You don’t have to drive for hours to the Adirondack Mountains or even 30 minutes to a trailhead. You can do it right out the door from your home or workplace. Of course, not all homes and workplaces are created equal in terms of walkability. Still, if you live in the Rochester area, you never have to travel far to find a good place to walk.

Some neighborhoods inside the Rochester city limits are great for a stroll. Following sidewalks still gives you the benefits of walking but allows you to keep your feet clean and dry. If you haven’t discovered urban walks yet, spring is here, so it’s the perfect time to go for a stroll. Three of my favorites are the Corn Hill District, the Grove Place District and the Rochester City Skyway. Each of these walks is mapped and described in the guidebook “Take A Hike – Family Walks in the Rochester Area.” (available at www.footprintpress.com or call 1-800-431-1579)

Corn Hill is the historic neighborhood tucked west of the Genesee River and south of I-490, accessible by South Plymouth Avenue. Before Nathaniel Rochester founded his namesake village here in 1812, the Seneca Indians used this land for corn fields. Corn Hill was Rochester’s first neighborhood, built in the 1800s as flour-milling boomed. Today, Corn Hill is a vibrant neighborhood of mansions and workers’ cottages, restored to their original splendor. Among the buildings you’ll find examples of Greek and Gothic Revival, Italian Villa, Second Empire, and Queen Anne houses. Stroll back in time along the sidewalks.

Next, take a walk to see the best of downtown Rochester with a loop through the historic Grove Place District. From The Metro Center Ramp Garage on Scio Street, loop around Windsor Street and Gibbs Street past quaint townhouses and restored homes. Continue down Main Street and Clinton Avenue, for a loop, passing Midtown Plaza and Xerox Square. Midtown Plaza, built in 1959, was the first U.S. indoor mall in a downtown area. When built, it was anchored by the long-gone Sibleys and McCurdys department stores.

Now that you’re squarely in a downtown state of mind, head to Washington Square Garage, level 3, for a stroll on the Rochester City Skyway. This indoor walkway is a well-marked network of walkways, tunnels, covered bridges, and passageways that connect a number of major downtown buildings for a 1.3-mile round trip. Open 7 AM to 7 PM, Monday through Saturday, the Skyway gives a bird’s-eye view of downtown.

There’s a wide diversity of strolls you can take through urban neighborhoods in Rochester. Consider wandering down East Avenue past former mansions, and dreaming of the shakers and movers from Rochester’s history who once lived there. People like George Eastman and Hiram Sibley. The Landmark Society web site offers a self-guided walking tour of East Avenue and 11 other urban strolls. Go to web site www.landmarksociety.org and click on Tours. Then go for a walk, discover our urban treasures, and get healthy at the same time.

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