A few years ago, very soon after beginning to research my city and my neighborhood’s past (like many others with these interests), I came across an impressive online article. It was a reprint of Dr. Blake McKelvey’s “The Flower City: Center of Nurseries and Fruit Orchards” which first appeared in 1940 as part of The Rochester Historical Society‘s Publication XVIII. Recently, the university site that had offered the article was remodeled and it was removed. Because of the importance of this work, I approached the Society and requested permission to host it here. As a result, The Virtual Scrapbook is honored to become the new internet home of the definitive and colorful story of Rochester’s incredible time spent as America’s (and the World’s) most important center of Nursery and Flower industries throughout the latter 19th and early 20 centuries.
Starting in 1938, Dr. McKelvey became one of the most remarkable and industrious official historians that any American City has ever had and continued in that role until his prolific 97 years of life came to end on the cusp of the new millenium. He began the scholarly journal about this town’s past “Rochester History” , a quarterly that continues to be an valuable resource. Many of Blake’s articles written for the journal have been and will continue to be referenced within pages of this scrapbook. He also edited nine other bound volumes of Rochester Historical publications as well 25 books, many of which have become key references on Rochester’s History.
Blake’s “The Flower City” is special for several reasons. It was the first in depth overview by a true scholar of the Era of Ellwanger & Barry and the other nurseries that became so important to the City’s history and Identity. And nearly 75 years after it was written, it remains the best. The scope of Blake’s work on the Flower City article can best be understood by reading through the exhaustive footnotes that were not reproduced in the original online version but fill the bottom of most pages in the published edition of 1940. In fact, with many of his references now digitized and archived across internet sites, those footnotes act like a treasure map of original source documents. I’ve added illustrations and links to a few of these as I reformat each of the eight sections of Blake’s work for this site.
Because of those footnotes and other references, the conversion work has became both a time consuming project and an education unto itself…and a labor of love and respect. So the completed article will appear in three stages. First to come are the introduction and the first four chapters: these are online now after a few weeks of work. The second stage will complete the story with the additional four chapters (which I expect to announce here well before spring of 2013 has ended.) The last “chapter” will be an addendum that includes Blake’s wonderful footnotes. That last part will be a time consuming project because I’m planning to link to the various Internet versions of resources as much as possible. So the release of the footnote addendum will be some months away. And of course, like all internet documents, all of these pages are subject to updates especially when new cross links are added or discovered.
I hope you enjoy Dr. McKelvey’s essay and that you come to appreciate his telling of the story of The Flower City. It was one of the inspirations for this site and so we are honored and glad to welcome both it and you to ”The Flower City”‘s new home on the web.
In the late 1850s, a Rochester book-seller by the name of Dellon Marcus Dewey realized that there was a growing market for colored Botanical illustrations “for the practical use of nurserymen, in selling their stock.” Dewey called these “Colored Plates” and, employing mainly immigrant artists, over the next twenty-five years, he built up a inventory of several thousand drawings of different varieties of plants and fruits. Dewey’s business was devoted to supporting Nurserymen with custom catalog books when the following article was written in 1881.
The use of botanical drawing to sell nursery items was neither new nor unique. For example: the exquisite watercolors and colored lithographs created by Joseph Prestele and his sons were already used as marketing materials by the Ellwanger & Barry Company. (Eventually, the Ellwanger & Barry collection, now in the possession of the University of Rochester, became the basis of an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution in the 1980s.) But Dewey expanded the business by using production and cataloging techniques that allow mass marketing. At first, a “Fruit Plate” was a lithograph that was a hand colored or a stenciled ”Theorem Painting” with hand drawn details. After 1870, chromolithography became the standard, By the zenith of Rochester’s nursery and seed businesses as many as ten companies were creating “Nurserymen’s Plates and Supplies”. The two foremost of these was the Rochester Lithographing and Printing Company (which merged with Dewey’s company in 1888) and the Stecher Lithographing Company. (Look for illustrated articles about each of these companies in the near future.) It was Dewey, however, who created this signature Industry that broadcast Rochester’s reputation as the Flower City. Eventually, the many local printers of Botanical Art moved on to catalogs, seed packets and, eventually, in the 20th Century, to Greeting Cards and Canning Labels. But as a growing industry, it began with Dewey’s mass produced “Colored Fruit and Flower” Plates.
D. M. Dewey, Publisher Of Illustrated Works For Nurserymen, And Manufacturer Of Plain And Colored Plates For Horticultural Works, Etc. Etc.; No. 8 Arcade
In reviewing the industrial details of numerous important cities, we have nowhere discovered an enterprise so unique, and yet so undeniably useful and necessary as that in which we find D. M. Dewey actively engaged at No. 8 Arcade. As the originator of a separate industry which engages the labor of many workers, and requires the investment of both skill and capital, Mr. Dewey is, with reference to his occupation, perhaps entitled to more consideration in this volume than would otherwise fall to his share. A resident of Rochester since 1833, and originally identified with the book trade for more than thirty years as proprietor of the business now conducted by Jackson & Burleigh, he entered upon his present vocation some eighteen years ago, and may therefore be considered not only as the pioneer dealer in Nurserymen’s plates, publications and requisites, but as the most proficient and experienced operator in this line of trade. Dealing exclusively with commercial Florists, Horticulturists, and Nurserymen, it is part of the business of Mr. Dewey to supply them engravings, and colored plates illustrative of American fruits, vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubbery, as fast as new varieties are propagated. This work in colors is made by processes entirely original (so far as its introduction in this country is concerned), with himself, and is the most perfect and beautiful for the purpose ever devised.
From one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand of these plates are kept constantly on hand (to fill orders without delay), representing over twenty-four hundred varieties of the most popular, large, and small fruits, flowers, shrubs, ornamental trees, etc., grown by nurserymen in the United States and Canada, besides a series of plates illustrative of designs and suggestions for landscape gardening.
Plate books, such as are used by agents for nurserymen, are also supplied of various sizes, with the necessary printed descriptive matter, and are not only indispensable but are furnished at prices, all things considered, astonishingly moderate. The premises occupied by Mr. Dewey in the Arcade are spacious and convenient, and here not less than thirty artists and others are employed in making drawings, paintings, etchings, photographs, etc., and in reproducing the same, either for the trade regularly, or to fill special orders from Nurserymen or Horticultural Societies . What gives additional value to the work which emanates from this house is the fact that all plates are as nearly as art will permit facsimile copies of the object represented, taken from actual specimens, a truth equally important to the dealer using these illustrations to sell from, or the purchaser who is less likely to suffer future disappointment.
In connection with this the main feature of his business, Mr. Dewey is the publisher of Elliott’s Hand-book for Fruit Growers and Elliott’s Practical Landscape Gardening,” two standard works which are justly considered unrivalled in the special departments taken up for consideration. Blanks, blank-books, order-books, catalogues and printing generally is also furnished expressly to meet the wants of Nurserymen, such as plain and printed wood labels, Judson’s polished wood labels, printed shipping tags, Dewey’s label pencil for writing on wood, Nurserymen’s grafting, budding and pruning knives, steel garden spades, Dewey’s improved pruning saw (very useful), strawberry protectors, the Western Tree Digger, pruning shears, etc., besides which all kinds of supplies are purchased to order for distant buyers at lowest attainable prices and without charges for commissions. A handsome octavo catalogue of between sixty and seventy-five pages is required to place the business, in a comprehensive form, before the reader, and to this we refer him, simply stating in conclusion that any applications made for information to D. M. Dewey will meet with prompt and satisfactory responses, while all orders or business commissions will receive equal attention.
For more information on the Fruit and Flower Plate Industry in Rochester, See:
University of Rochester Library Bulletin, Volume XXXV; 1982; “Nineteenth-Century Rochester Fruit and Flower Plates” by Karl Sanford Kabelac
After last year, we may have been more than waiting for it, we may have been hoping for it. Last year’s record temperatures and early spring played mind games with the True Spirit of Rochester Winter Grit. After all, this IS the Snow Belt and just being relegated to watching other areas getting buried, it just doesn’t seem fair. Because we can take it. If we couldn’t we would have moved away years ago and banished those stormy, frozen, slushy, cold, cold February, March and even April days to the occasional nightmare. Yep, we can take it. But then came the “Winter” of 2011-2012, when we got much too much of nothing to “take”. As if to mock our pathetic lack of snow (the season’s total was the least in a decade), Rochester even won the Golden Snowball Award for the first time during the millenium, but this victory included the lowest winning total of my lifetime. Even weirder, we still made the final four, just like in 2009-2010 & 2010-2011 seasons. While the winter of 2012-2013 started out rawer, colder and whiter, still we were just watching again as the Mid-Atlantic stole our blizzards and continually demonstrated that they just weren’t up to the task. Yeah, they will shut the Nation’s Capital after the receiving amounts of snow that Rochesterians just dust off while still managing get to work on time. Finally we got ours in late December…a mere flesh wound one might say. The key Rochachalike phrase in this report is not “Record Snowfall“, obviously a headline added by a new-to-this-town editor , but the sturdy reaction from a City director: “Business as Usual.” So, unlike last year, February 2013 weather brought us more “Business as Usual”. New England and downstate once again grabbed the most of it (up to 40″) . In honor of so many blizzards now seeming to target the East Coast Megapolis more so than the Great Lakes snow belts, the weather media has now started naming Winter Storms. Blizzard “Nemo” brought us 12+ inches.** Compared to what the wider area will remember -which included gale strength winds, ours was a softer and gentler snowfall. And so beautiful that it coaxed me out during its first two days to bring back this photo report on Snow in the Highlands: (i.e. the Neighborhood and the Park)
** But should you believe it? That same site also totals results of a storm that visited the Northeast on December 29, 2012 named “Freyr” . Somehow Rochester NY, which received totals of 10-14″ isn’t even on the last.
The following photo history was sent to us by Walter Bankes and Nan Schaller. Except for the Aerial photo on 11-07-2013, all photos were taken by Walter. The east-side intersection of Linden and Goodman had been split around the “island” of Honor Park between 1915 and 1918. The east of Linden was originally known as “Yale Street” during the 1800s but was joined to Linden Street at about the same time that the northern connection was added. Over time, the southern access to Linden became an issue with residents on the street. Around 2007, neighbors first asked the City for a remedy and in late 2009, the newly formed “Traffic Calming Team” of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association joined in the cause. The closure of the southern access to Linden was one of the team’s first priorities, along with several requests related to Ellwanger & Barry Park. In 2011, the neighborhood was informed that the closure was approved by the City Traffic Engineers. And in early autumn, the project was funded and approved by City Council. This is what happened next…
After a few years of discussion, the Rochester City Council approved the closing of Linden St. south of Honor Park as a traffic calming project. People had been treating that area of Linden St. as a high speed off ramp from Goodman. The photos below were taken by Walter Bankes in and around 601 Linden St. over the course of the project.
Four years ago, members of the board of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association discussed the idea of finding residents who might act as docents to the arboreal collections within Highland Park. That idea eventually became four years of tours of our park led by Amy Priestley, a resident with forestry and horticultural credentials. In 2011, the Highland Park Conservancy joined the Neighborhood in supporting Amy’s all seasons guided visits to all corners of Highland Park. That co-sponsorship continued into 2012. And so we add another page to commemorate another year of these tours…the most popular to date. Including in the albums are a few shots from one of the History tour conducted by the Conservancy’s own Tim O’Connell. Additional Tours in April and May took place without a photographic record.
So when do I miss the Imperial Chinese Restaurant?
When my roommate from many years ago comes to visit Rochester and we can’t go back there for another dinner together.
When it’s my husband’s birthday. His birthday is in December, the same time the Imperial celebrated their anniversary. And Bobby Shek remembered. The festive atmosphere always made his birthday extra special.
When no one feels like cooking and we’re trying to decide where to get takeout.
How many nights have we wished we could go there for dinner? I wonder how many times I did go. Maybe it was just the two of us or a group getting together. There are too many to remember them all.
When it’s Chinese New Year’s. Now that was a party!
And when I’m really sick and the only thing in the world that will make me feel better is the Imperial’s chicken rice soup.
Oh, I just remembered a funny story. One night we were there having a quiet dinner. There was another couple sitting at a table right next to the fish tank. Remember the fish tank? It divided the room and contained those two huge fish that just stared at each other and barely ever moved, almost lifeless. Well, this night was different. Suddenly, the fish went crazy. They were fighting each other and jumping all over. Water was going everywhere. The couple was getting drenched. Employees came running, talking excitedly.
It turns out no one had remembered to feed the fish!
contributed by Marcia J. Zach
Contributed by Christine Morris, Crawford Street resident
The Highland Park Neighborhood is filled with an abundance of solid, graceful old homes. Our house is 102 years old and counting, and our family loves it more with each passing year. While some home-buyers choose to live in a “new construction home”, hand-picking their floor plan and stepping into a pristine house with gleaming hardwood floors and a cathedral ceiling’s worth of wide open spaces that are theirs alone to fill, we chose our home for the distinguished life it had already led before we even set foot inside.
When my husband gave our daughter’s bedroom a makeover years ago, he discovered an old baseball card, circa 1910, tucked in the wall behind a window sash. While it may be common practice for contractors to stow a cache of future memorabilia within their walls, it was delightfully unordinary for us to unearth our builder’s time capsule and hold that delicate piece of history in our hands. Read more…