Meanwhile back in 1999…
Meanwhile back in 1999…the Highland Park Neighborhood, then known as the Ellwanger-Barry Neighborhood, was very much what is fifteen years later. That is the year when the following essay describing our neighborhood appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle. The essay was written by Roger T. Janezic: a Crawford Street resident who served on the Board of the Neighborhood Association for a number of years. The photos included have been recovered from older neighborhood website files from around 2001. But the words (and photos) still seem relevant as descriptions of day-t0-day experiences, almost as if they were written last week.
Six years ago I made a decision to purchase a home in the Ellwanger-Barry Neighborhood of Rochester. I was drawn to the house immediately. Today I share this home with my wife and find a quiet joy living here. I feel this joy often when coming home at the end of the day. Driving down our street feels like I’m entering our living room. An overhead canopy of sycamore trees greets me, trunks like sentinels lined along the street, arching their sheltering branches over our neat, tidy American four-squares. Neighbors wave, children play. It’s not uncommon to fall into a conversation upon arriving home and find myself still standing there, talking, 20 minutes later. I have an image of this street that I’m always trying to capture with a camera. Perhaps what I seek through the lens isn’t its physical attributes.
The community that exists here is tangible, immediate, and part of the everyday fabric of our lives. Our neighbors are not only acquaintances, many are dear friends. Together we have traveled on vacation, attended each other’s birthdays, shared grief at funerals, pulled together for someone’s sick mother, or bought presents for a newborn baby. We have celebrated the holidays together, caroling on bitter December nights or carving pumpkins under an October moon. We make a point of getting together regularly but often under some pretense of holiday or other event. Often our gatherings are spontaneous and may fill a porch on a late spring afternoon with an instant smorgasbord of food and talk. And even those who have moved away to other cities or states keep in touch, visit, and act like neighbors who have who have really never left. Not everybody participates to the same degree or frequency but each contributes in his or her own way. And we wonder aloud sometimes, daring to break the fortunate spell cast upon our street, “why does this work so well?”
There is likely a multitude of reasons for the harmony that exists here, some more obvious than others. Nearly all the houses on our street are owner-occupied and most residents have been here for five to fifteen years, all of which bring a stabilizing influence. The close proximity of colleges, hospitals, and parks help strengthen property-values, which lure and keep residents. While the environment exists for this neighborhood to survive, I believe that there are two other elements that allow it to flourish. First, many of the people who live here do so because they believe that cities are important, both for the advantages derived from urban living and for it’s strengthening action upon of our urban core. In addition, the physical make up of our homes, from the close proximity of our houses and compact yards to the welcoming nature of our open porches, invites interaction. It’s as if the houses themselves foster our relationships. I believe that this willingness to live side by side coupled with the architecture of our homes help us better to resolve differences, recognize similarities, and build bridges of friendship and trust.
For those skeptical of city living, I invite you to visit our neighborhood and walk the sidewalks. There is something that works here, something vital, something that may offer valuable clues to fostering a livable, vibrant city neighborhood. You may find that it’s for you.