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The Death and Life of James Vick

May 16, 2013
Portrait of  James Vick

Portrait of James Vick

While contemporary, and later, biographical sketches exist  that detail more on the life and industry of James Vick (some of these profiles are coming to this scrapbook),  this entry is taken from the June 1882 issue of Vick’s Monthly Illustrated Magazine.  Vick’s magazine was perhaps the most beautiful and copious of the many 19th Horticulural and Gardening journals that were centered in Rochester, and the importance of Vick and his successors to the growth of the reputation of “The Flower City”‘ should be underst00d.  Although, the Vick Seed Company had several impressive rivals even in Rochester, such as the Crosman Seed and Joseph Harris, in its standing, as to planting seed, the company’s influence was similar to Ellwanger & Barry’s  was to Trees, Shrubs and Roses…during parts of the 1880s, Vick may have been the most famous Seed Company in the Eastern US.   The hundreds of thousands of subscribers to the magazine certainly helped with that notoriety. The article we are reproducing is more like a eulogy than a death notice and,  like a contemporary memorial service, includes a poem and a lament as well as details on the passing of one of Rochester’s most charismatic citizens within the city’s expansive Botanical Industries of the nineteenth century.

A Card.

In view of the sad event elsewhere announced, we, the undersigned, sons of James Vick, would acquaint the many former friends and patrons of our revered father, and the public generally, that the business he has established will be continued by us in all its branches under the firm name of James Vick. With the intention and determination that the business shall have all the careful management and be controlled by the same honorable principles that have heretofore distinguished it, we cordially solicit a continuance of the patronage it has so long enjoyed. James Vick, Frank H. Vick, Charles H. Vick, E. Coleston Vick.


Tuesday morning, May i6th, the sun shines brightly; it is a pleasant spring morning, and nature wears a lovely aspect. But our grounds appear deserted by workmen. Entering the seed-house all is quiet; the noise of the engine, with its regular beat as it is accustomed to throb its vivifying power through the long lines of machinery is, no longer heard; the printing presses are still, there is no click of type at the compositors’ cases, no one is in attendance in the stock rooms; only a bookkeeper is seen in the office, a clerk in the mailing department, and one or two young ladies who will be engaged in the order room an hour or two attending to the more urgent demands.  Why this unusual appearance?  In the dwelling yonder lies, in the stillness of death, all that is mortal of Mr. Vick!  His work is done.  Quietly attentive to his ordinary duties he remained at his post until five days of his decease.  On Thursday, the nth instant, he vacated his place and remained in the house, supposing he was suffering from a cold that was more than ordinarily severe, and that he would be out again in a day or two at most.  The disease progressing, and its effects weakening him, the next day he took to his bed, from which he never rose. On Saturday his physician, without informing him of the real nature of his attack, announced to the family that it was pneumonia, and that his case was critical.

Tree Peony "Painted for Vick"

Tree Peony “Painted for Vick”

The progress of the disease henceforward was without intermission until he passed away, at twenty minutes past seven this morning.  He was conscious during the whole of his illness, but hopeful of his recovery until the last hours; then, realizing all, when informed that no help could be given him, he remarked: “The Lord’s will be done.”  Except the difficulty in breathing, he had comparatively little pain until the last twelve hours, and this was greatly mitigated by the ministrations of his physicians.  Last night, near midnight, he recognized all the members of his family and those of his immediate friends who were present, calling most of them by name.  He was in the sixty-fourth year of his age, having been born in November,1818. His birthplace was Chichester, near Portsmouth, England, but this has been his country from boyhood.  Mr. Vick’s life and habits have been so well known to most of our readers that we do not hesitate to place before them thus explicitly the particulars of his last hours. He was a bright, cheerful Christian, not in name only, but by that sterling test, love for his fellow men.  A desire to help others was always one of the governing motives of his actions.  He was regarded by those in his employ more as a brother, or a father, than as in the ordinary relation of an employer; and whenever, in any department of the extended business, any difficulty or misunderstanding would arise, it was sure to be amicably and satisfactorily adjusted when referred directly to him; and to-day there are no more sincere mourners of his loss than those who have been longest in his service.

Vick Seed Store Front

Vick Seed Store Front – Early 1870s

His cheerfulness, mirthfulness, and sociability, together with his genuine goodness, endeared him to a host of personal friends.  The geniality and humanity of his soul was manifest as much in his business relations as elsewhere, and, if we may judge by the letters of his correspondents, those who knew him only through his publications felt the magic of his poetic temperament and goodness of heart, and came to regard him as a friend and faithful counselor rather than as a tradesman.

Front and Back of Trade Card

Front and Back of Trade Card

His life habits of untiring industry would not allow him to entertain any thoughts of rest, although for a long time it had been apparent to those about him that such was the absolute demand of nature, if his life was to continue long.  Almost by force he was persuaded, last summer, to take a trip to Europe, but it was made in as short a time as possible, in order that he might return and take up his work afresh.  The trip in a measure invigorated him, and he thought and acted as if he were ready for any task.  All through the fall, winter and spring he has been at his desk with clock-work regularity, and when he last laid down his pen he was executing business improvements and projecting plans of future enterprises. The survivors of his immediate family are a widow, three daughters, and four sons. As all our readers are well aware,  Mr. Vick was a genuine lover of flowers, and his business pursuit was the result of his horticultural tastes, and no doubt his success was in a great measure due to the fact that his heart was in it.  His love of children was very strong, and influenced him constantly for their welfare.  He was engaged in Sunday School work all his life, as teacher and superintendent, and it may be safely said that to-day thousands remember him in these relations.  His home was his life, where he enjoyed the society of his family and friends, and here were found evidences of his love of plants and flowers, of music, painting, and pets.  Our personal intimacy and familiar intercourse with him will be regarded as a life blessing. A Letter from Aunt Marjorie. As it has been customary for years for Mr. Vick to receive letters from persons whom he never saw, expressing a sense of personal acquaintance, we know that the beautiful letter below will represent the sentiments of very many, and that is sufficient excuse for the publication of what might otherwise be considered a private communication. Our gifted correspondent, ” Aunt Marjorie,” here voices the thoughts and feelings of thousands in all parts of the country who only knew him in business relations.

To His Friends: After days of cloudy, dripping skies came a morning so bright that the world seemed all aglow, and pulsing nature jubilant with mankind, when the eye fell upon a paragraph holding a shadow that no sun-rays can ever penetrate, and which suddenly darkened a thousand homes. And if a thousand, what of the one? and the immediate circle of homes about that one?  O, what a blank is left when such a man as he suddenly lays down all, and steps over the boundary! But there are consolations. His life was well rounded up with years, and those years a benison to all within reach of his life-work; which was in itself a beneficence, already acknowledged as such. As to such a man’s future, what can it be, except just what he would most desire? Therefore she, who must miss him more than all, cannot fail to be comforted with those words which never grow old with time, nor meaningless with repetition. “Be not troubled, neither be afraid; in my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you.” Many of us feel the personal interest of a near friend, tho’ conscious of no rights to question or inquire beyond what all the world may know in due season. And this is but another proof of the place he held in the hearts of unknown friends, among whom the’ writer must claim to have been one. With sincerest sympathy, added to a sense of personal grief and loss, I remain most truly, M. M. B.,                      Richmond, Ind., May 18

The following stanza, by Mr. William Lyle.and published in an evening journal in this city, is one of tile many pleasant remembrances received by the family:

The Flower Lover Suggested by the death of Mr. James Vick.

Dead with the odor of flowers about him, Leaving a name even sweeter than those! Take comfort, ye hearts so lonely without him. Life must be well that hath peace at its close.

Early Spring Flowers - from Vick's  Magazine 1882

Early Spring Flowers – from Vick’s Magazine 1882

As soon as Mr. Vick’s death was made known, a meeting of the seedsmen of this city was held, and resolutions passed appropriate to the sad event; among others it was decided that they close their respective places of business on the day of his burial and attend the funeral in a body.  Our space will not admit the publication of the resolutions in full, nor of others by other societies and associations. The funeral service was held on Friday afternoon, the 19th ult., at the First Methodist Church. The chancel and the organ were heavily draped in black, and the floral offerings were numerous and beautiful. The eulogy pronounced by Rev. Dr. Stratton met hearty response and approval by all present.  At its close, an opportunity being offered to see the familiar face the last time, the people in the aisles of the church, which were closely filled, passed through in procession, and these were followed by an immense throng of those who could not previously gain admission; after an hour’s passage of the procession it was obliged to be stopped.  This was the unspoken eulogy of the people. At the beautiful cemetery of Mount Hope, when the sun was low in the west, the burial service read, the casket was lowered into a flower-lined grave.

Vick's Magazine Header

Vick’s Magazine Header

Three-peat of Neighborhood Spirit

May 5, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013 marked the third successive year that the Highland Park Neighborhood participated in the  Neighborhood Spirit Contest held during the Unity Health System Rochester Flower City Challenge Half Marathon   As in previous years,  neighbors came out onto South Goodman Street starting at around 8 am and cheered, made noise and encouraged each and every runner as the marathoners made their way up the hill to Highland Park.

One comment left on our event blog, tells the tale of this years event.

As one of the runners in today’s half marathon, may I say a GIGANTIC THANK YOU!!! From the bottom of my aching feet. What tremendous support you gave. It didn’t matter that I was towards the end of the pack… it was an incredible feeling to be running through your neighborhood today. Many, many thanks. I hope to see you again next year!

After this annual race, participants are asked to complete a survey, indicating which neighborhood that they had run through displayed the most spirit and energy during the race.  The first year Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood  was ranked first based on responses, but in 2011 the Highland Park Neighborhood joined in the contest and gained First Place and then, in April of 2012, we came out again and repeated the victory.

Make it three years in a row!  Every year other great Rochester Neighborhoods join in to make this event even more competitive, but  when it comes to spirit, it seems that the Highland Park Neighborhood is a formidable participant.  And not only does this event bring our our residents out  to enjoy showing their spirit,  the winning streak has meant that the HPNA is once again the recipient of another $750 for a neighborhood beautification project.  Three monetary prizes are generously given out by the event sponsors.   The board of the association will be voting soon as to what project these funds will be used…stay tuned to our websites for that continuing start of the story.  Previous years projects funded in part by HPNA Spirit Contest wins include the Kiosk in Ellwanger & Barry Park and BoulevART 2013.

Many thanks for this year’s slide show which is courtesy Jill Carlier.

The Flower City comes to the Scrapbook.

April 5, 2013
The Flower City

Click to Go to the Introduction of Blake McKelvey’s
Eight Chapter Essay on Rochester’s Nurseries
and Ellwanger & Barry

 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.

New Genesee Farmer

Part of the Cover Page of The New Genesee Farmer from 1940. Click for More

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.

Turn of the Century Pin from Ellwanger & Barry

Turn of the Century
Pin from Ellwanger & Barry

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.

Placemaking in the 19th Century: From Vick’s Monthly 1882

March 21, 2013
A cover from Vick's Magazine from the 1880s

A cover from Vick’s Magazine
from the 1880s

This article is the first in a dedicated series in the Virtual Scrapbook about the concept of Placemaking.  Later entries will include modern definitions and reports on the Highland Park Neighborhood Association’s own presentations and projects  that have been influenced by what has become an exciting trend in the design and re-engineering of public living spaces.  Today, many of the best efforts have been started by and for the people who live in or frequent an urban area – with results that their common space becomes refreshed and more livable because of Placemaking in action.  Our own BoulevART 2012 project will be included in several entries telling the tale of how members of the Highland Park Neighborhood Association came to adopt this important planning philosophy and found willing partnership with City Officials.  As  the leaders of Placemaking will confirm, many Placemaking concepts have a fairly old heritage in Old and New World Plazas and Piazzas, Town Greens and Central Markets.  In that spirit, we are re-publishing a story that was printed in 1882 in one of Rochester’s most beautiful Horticultural  Journals,  Vick’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine.    As part of the world of 19th century  Botanical Art, this magazine is known for a fourteen year run where every month’s frontispiece was a Chromolith Print, The subject of these were mostly  flowers, but also other flora such as grasses, fruits and vegetables.   And as this article illustrates, the magazine often had timely advice on gardening, both in public and private spaces.  This article also speaks to issues of quality of life among the rapidly developing urban areas of its time.  I think it is the perfect introduction to the highlights within our local history that we might honor as we examine Placemaking opportunities in our neighborhood.

Small Parks and Squares

from Vick’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine – January 1882

A park, or small square, in the midst of a busy city is like an oasis in a desert.  How much freer one breathes there than in the counting-room or the warehouse!  How the clerk and shop-girl, as they pass through, straighten up and glance skyward.  There may be no rainbow in sight, but the hope-inspired heart rejoices under the influence of the open sky, the free breeze, and the verdure.  We do not now refer to such places as Central Park, in New York, or Fairmount Park, in Philadelphia, but to those small places, or squares, to be seen in some of our cities and larger villages.  Large parks, when well-managed, are worth all they cost, and where they can be maintained, are most worthy subjects for the citizens’ pride.  However, these large tracts of land, of several hundred acres, can be properly kept up only at a great expense, and, consequently, must be rare.  Not so with parks of one to five acres in extent; the annual expense of maintaining them is inconsiderable.  By wise prevision of the early inhabitants, many of the towns that have sprung up within the last hundred years in all parts of the country have small plots of ground, secured in central positions, where they are of greatest value.  But, with the exception of small villages, these grounds are inadequate.  As a rule, when a village begins to increase in size, so that its population numbers upwards of fifteen or twenty thousand, and the ambitious spirit of a city takes possession of it, the value of land increases to that extent that it is considered too costly to devote to ornamental purposes.  A liberal expenditure, however, would prove the best economy.

Original Illustration from 1882

Original Illustration from 1882

When villages are being established, land-holders donate land for park purposes.  In regard to this matter, however, cases are comparatively few where landholders, in such circumstances as are now being considered, have areas sufficiently broad to allow them to devote portions of their grounds to parks with any pecuniary advantage to themselves; but they often testify their recognition of the value of such places by opening wide streets under the name of parks, and compromising the difference between a street and a park by a strip of grass through the center, or by wide margins of grass between the walks and the roadway, and by planting these spaces with shade trees, making broad avenues, delightful for residences, and for the pedestrian.

02 View in Monumental Park

View in Monumental Park
(From Original Article in 1882)

These park-avenues, are, in a sense, private, but open to the public, like any street, and every owner of a lot upon such an avenue feels responsible for the good care of the space in front of his own premises, and, as a general rule, these park-like streets are kept in the most perfect order, equally as well as the lawns of which they seem to be a part, while many of the little parks trusted to the care of village or city corporations are sadly neglected, often nothing more than waste land or cow-pastures.  We have endeavored to show one of these park-like avenues, one with grass on each side near the walk.  The grass, if on the side, should not be less than fifteen feet in width.  Another advantage of these park-like streets is the fact that usually being main thoroughfares we can enjoy them when walking on business, the ladies when on the way to do their shopping or calling, and the children when going to school, while to visit the park proper requires an hour of leisure.  It is often easy to make a street of this kind when it would be impossible to obtain an appropriation for a public square.  In a city not far from us the owners of property held a meeting and agreed to widen the street four feet on each side, and plant shade trees in vacant places, and now this avenue, a mile in length, is one of the prettiest in the world.  While riding through it with a gentleman on a visit from Germany, he remarked, “With such avenues you need no park; your street is a park.” It would have taken years of discussion and petitioning to obtain a park, while this matter was arranged at one meeting of those interested, and the work done in a few weeks.

There is, however, a sense of freedom and proprietorship in a public park, and one may walk at his leisure, or may sit, if he prefer, or lie on the grass in the shade, and the children know that they can freely indulge in their sports and romps without danger from passing vehicles, or annoyance to others by their gleesome shouts.  In large cities the healthfulness of open spaces where the wind can sweep free is unquestioned.  Even in sparsely built villages, and where the open country is easily reached, the desire for parks and pleasure grounds is felt, as the fact that they are frequently possessed by such places is sufficient proof, and for all purposes of diversion and recreation they are as serviceable in small places as in larger ones.

In regard to the location of a park the first consideration is, probably, availability or accessibility.  Nearness and ease of approach by the greatest number will ensure its popularity and usefulness; but these conditions are not absolute, and should not always govern in deciding upon a location.  Where water may be secured, either as a stream or a pond, its advantage should  not be overlooked; so, also, an elevation above the surrounding country may give a peculiar fascination to a piece of ground that no other spot in the vicinity can have; villages can often have choice of location to a far greater extent than cities, but we are obliged to say that, with a few exceptions, the most desirable spots have not been selected.

(Another) View in Monumental Park

(Another) View in Monumental Park

In compact cities it is not infrequent that a built-up block, or square, that is somewhat dilapidated may be better cleared and turned into an ornamental ground than to remain for scores of years in an unsightly and unprosperous condition.  By converting a square, or block, into a park a large amount of adjacent property on each side may become available for business purposes which otherwise would have been so far one side of the main travel of the place as to be comparatively of little use.  The new value of the surrounding property may be quite equal to the whole expense of clearing and converting the square.  As an illustration of the benefit of an open square to contiguous property in a business place, we refer to a small park in the city of Cleveland, formerly known as the public square but for some years past as Monumental Park.  The square has streets on all sides of it, and it is also intersected at right angles by two streets dividing it into four equal parts.  The street running through from west to east, represented in the diagram by A D, is Superior Street.  Euclid Avenue, famous for its handsome residences, starts near the southeast corner of the park, at D.  In the early times of the city, Superior street was a principal business street, and it is now occupied by business houses from the center of the town to some distance below the park.  If the park had not been opened the space, A B, on this street in the park would undoubtedly have been used for business purposes on both sides; now, however, by means of the square, twice as much frontage is secured and all the space represented by F C, C D, D E, and E F is devoted to business, and this comparatively cheap property is greatly enhanced in value.  Small, triangular blocks of land, caused by the intersection of two streets at an acute angle, as seen in most cities, mere deformities, might profitably be used for little parks.

Grid Plan of Monumental Park - See Above Article

Grid Plan of Monumental Park – See Above Article

Monumental Park of Cleveland is not presented as in all respects a model, as it certainly is not; but it is so highly in contrast with the ordinary village or city square, and so much taste is shown in its arrangement, and so much care exhibited in keeping it, that it is worthy of particular notice, and it may assist us greatly in forming a proper conception of what a small park should be.  The four sections of the park are traversed by walks in different ways, and each presents some peculiar feature; the views from different points are greatly varied, and all are beautiful scenes.  One section is crossed diagonally by walks from each corner and the central part is surrounded by a circular walk, into which the diagonal walks enter.  In the middle of the central plat stands a handsome granite monument in commemoration of Commodore Oliver Perry and his famous naval battle on Lake Erie, September 10th, 1813.

A few Elm trees in the interior of this section, and a few others, with some young Maples near the outer lines, constitute the planting of this part.  There is a great deal of passing through this section, as it is a near way to reach Euclid Avenue and streets leading to the southeastern part of the city.

Another of these sections, or small squares, contains some good-sized trees of Elms and Maples, under which are comfortable seats where, in summer, many stop for a few moments to rest and enjoy the shade and the beautiful prospect.  Here is a rock fountain and a pool with some little streams.  The pool, which is of partly irregular form, is bordered with rocks, and in some places the margin shows thrifty aquatic and water-loving plants, and higher up low-growing shrubs.  The pool is stocked with goldfish and is enclosed by a low railing and surrounded by a walk.  Plats of grass lie between the walks, having beds here and there near their margins.  The stream running from the pool has a pretty fall at a place where its sides are rock-walled, and just below this point is crossed by a handsome bridge.  The border of the stream when we saw it last was planted with Cannas and Caladiums.

A third section has some Elms and Maples with seats underneath, with a large fountain in the center and beds of foliage plants in the grass, while the fourth one, besides the shade of the trees, offers to those who would seek retreat from solar rays and human gaze the shelter of a vine-clad summer-house.  The grass is well kept, and the walks neat and smooth.  The variety in this place is such as to make every part of it interesting, and in warm days of summer its merits are gratefully acknowledged by those who linger within its borders.

Our readers have, probably, now mentally made the contrast between this place and the usual type of village or city square, which is, at most, only a plot of ground of square, or oblong, form, either fenced or not, with some trees large or small, as the case may be, with limbs starting ten to fifteen feet from the ground, and oftener than otherwise planted in straight lines, and frequently so close together as to remind one of a primeval forest.  There may be much grass or little, it is never mowed, there is no need to do so, since so few resort there, unless, perchance, the boys tramp a place hard and clear for their play-ground.  This picture we believe to be fairly drawn.  Are we willing that such public grounds, in their present condition, shall continue to be the exponents of the horticultural taste of the community?

The public square should combine, to as great extent as possible, the best ideas of horticulture; the lawn, the trees, the shrubbery, the arbors, the walks, and the drives, every arrangement and the whole effect should express the best conceptions of one of the most beautiful and ennobling of arts.  In this condition it would be a public educator.  With such a silent teacher day by day exerting a constant influence the private places all about will begin to remodel and improve, and citizens will be able to point with pride, not only to their public grounds, but to the homes everywhere around.

Why should one or two kinds of Maples’ and of Elms everywhere suffice for park planting? Is the flora of the country or of the world so poor that this is all we can have? The only thought of those who have formed our public squares appears to have been that of producing thick groves.

An Enterprise so Unique and yet so Undeniably Useful

March 17, 2013
Ad for Dewey's "Art Gallery"

Ad for Dewey’s “Art Gallery” from 1875 that mentions “Manufacturer of Colored Fruit Plates”

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.

Prestele Drawing of White Grape

Prestele Drawing of White Grape

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

IFrontispiece to D. M. Dewey's "Specimen Book of Fruits, Flowers and Ornamental Trees"n 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.

One of Dewey's Nurserymen's Plate: Sheldon Pear

One of Dewey’s Nurserymen’s Plate: Sheldon Pear. Click for Larger View.

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.

Another Nurseryman Plate Published by Dewey: Northern Spy Apple. Click for Larger View

Another Nurseryman Plate Published by Dewey: Northern Spy Apple. Click for Larger View

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.

Commerce, Manufatures & Resources of Rochester, N. Y,  A Descriptive Review (1881)

From: Commerce, Manufatures & Resources of Rochester, N. Y,  A Descriptive Review (1881)

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

A Visual Report on a February Snow

March 1, 2013

The Snow and The StatueAfter 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.

Photo Diary of Linden St Closing – The Rebirth of Honor Park

February 10, 2013
Area of Honor Park and Linden Street and Goodman Avenue. From 1936. Click for Bigger Image.

Area of Honor Park and Linden Street & Goodman Avenue. From 1936. Click for Bigger Image.

(Recently Added: Spring and Summer 2013 Update to this Photo Diary…Click Here!)

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.

Spring and Summer Update! 

Nan Schaller and Walter Bankes and  neighbors Debra Lewis, Vikkii Kolb and Amy Priestley continued to work on the expanded garden space of Honor Park.  These are Walt and Nan’s  pictures sent in over the  spring and summer of 2013 that document the planting, blooming and growth of the Neighborhood’s most recent garden expansion.

James Vick on “the Largest and Best Regulated Seed House in the World”

January 1, 2013
Cover of Vick's 1873 Floral Guide

Cover of Vick’s 1873 Floral Guide in which Vicks’s  article was originally published

James Vick, born in 1818,  arrived in America from Portmouth, England , with his parents in 1833.  By the time he came to Rochester, in  1837, he had acquired skills as a printer and writer.  During the 1840s and early 1850s, Vick edited and then bought the popular journal The Genesee Farmer.   After selling the “Farmer”, he purchased the illustrated  “The Horticulturist” journal and for three years published this  with Patrick Barry serving as Editor.   As a byproduct for his own requirements of high seed, Vick also started importing and the growing his own seed stock.   Vick’s two related passions, horticultural journalism with additional emphasis on botanical art, and his desire to share his love of gardening combined to build his mpire based around the seed store and printing house that he created on State Street.   By the 1870s,  Rochester’s Seed House’s enterprise rivaled the success of the City’s Tree, Fruit and Shrub Nurseries, as, for examples, Vick’s operations had become the largest in the world.  The article below is from pages 21-24 of one of Vick’s beautiful “Floral Guides”  -this one was published by him in 1873.  By the time he wrote about his business, Vick was very well known nationally – one reason being the hundreds of thousands of copies of his Floral Guides sent out annually, at first. and then quarterly.    Within a few years of this report, Vick would begin publication of his own branded horticultural Journal, an illustrated Monthly that included advice, a monthly Chromolith (“Painted for James Vick”) and reports from around the world of gardening and plants.  As you will read, Vick created even more engravings illustrated his Seed House operation than he published here.  If we come across more details…we will bring them to the Scrapbook.

Vick Store and Processing Center on State Street in Rochester, NY

Vick Store and Processing Center on State Street in Rochester, NY


It is acknowledged that I have the largest and best regulated retail Seed House in the world.  It is visited by thousands every year from all parts of this country, and by many from Europe, and 1 take pleasure in exhibiting everything of interest or profit to visitors.  As hundreds of thousands of my customers will probably never have the opportunity of making a personal visit, I thought a few facts and illustrations would be interesting to this large class whom 1 am anxious to please, and be, at least, an acknowledgement of a debt of gratitude for long continued confi­dence, which I can feel, but not repay.

Inside the Store

Two Catalogues are issued each year, one of Bulbs in August, and on the first of December a beautiful Floral Guide:, of 130 pages, finely illustrated with hundreds of engravings of Flowers and plants and colored plates. Last year, the number printed was three hundred thousand at a cost of over sixty thousand dollars. In addition to the ordinary conveniences of a well regulated Seed House, there is connected with this establishment a Printing Office, Bindery, Box Making Establishment, and Artists’ and Engravers’ Rooms. Everything but the paper being made in the establishment.

Store Front of James Vick's Seed House

Store Front of James Vick’s Seed House

To do this work fully occupies a building four stories in height (besides basement) sixty feet in width, and one hundred and fifty feet in length, with an addition in the upper story of a large room over an entire adjoining block.


The large basement is arranged with immense quantities of drawers, &c., for storing Bulbs.  Here, too, are stored the heavier kinds of Seeds, in sacks, &c., piled to the ceiling.  The heavier packing is also done here.


The first floor is used entirely as a sales-shop, or “store,” for the sale of Seeds, Flowers, Plants and all Garden requisites and adornments, such as baskets, vases, lawn mowers, lawn tents, aquariums, seats, &c., &c.  It is arranged with taste, and the songs of the birds, the fragrance and beauty of the flowers, make it a most delightful spot in which to spend an hour.

Vick Order Room

The Order Room – Click for Bigger View


On the second floor is the Business and Private Offices, and also the Mail Room in which all letters are opened. The opening of letters occupies the entire time of two persons, and they perform the work with astonishing rapidity – practice making perfect – often opening three thousand in a day.  After these letters are opened they are passed into what is called the Registering Room, on the same floor, where they are divided into States, and the name of the person ordering, and the date of the receipt of the order registered.  They are then ready to be filled, and are passed into a large room, called the Order Room, where over seventy-five hands are employed, divided into gangs, each set, or gang, to a State, half-a-dozen or more being employed on each of the larger States.  After the orders are filled, packed and directed, they are sent to what is known as the Post Office, also on the same floor, where the packages are weighed, the necessary stamps put upon them, and stamps cancelled, when they are packed in Post Office bags furnished us by Government, properly labeled for the different routes, and sent to the Postal Cars.  Tons of Seeds are thus dispatched every day during the business season..

The Packing Room

The Packing Room


Here is the German Department, where all orders written in the German language are filled by German clerks; a Catalogue in this language being published. On this floor, also, all seeds are packed, that is, weighed and measured and placed in paper bags and stored ready for sale.  About fifty persons are employed in this room, surrounded by thousands of nicely labeled drawers.


On this floor are rooms for Artists and Engravers, several of whom are kept constantly employed in designing and engraving for Catalogues and Chromos. Here, also, the lighter seed are stored.  In a large room adjoining, is the Printing Office, where the Catalogue is prepared, and other printing done, and also the Bindery, often employing forty or fifty hands, and turning out more than ten thousand Catalogues in a day. Here is in use the most improved machinery for covering, trimming, &c., propelled by steam.

Vick's Fourth Floor Bindery

The Bindery


The immense amount of business done may be understood by a few facts: Nearly one hundred acres are employed, near the city, in growing flower seeds mainly, while large importations are made from Germany, France, Holland, Australia and Japan.  Over three thousand reams of printing paper are used each year for Catalogues, weighing two hundred thousand pounds, and the simple postage for sending these Catalogues by mail is thirteen thousand dollars.  Over fifty thousand dollars have been paid the Government for postage stamps last year.  Millions of bags and boxes are also manufactured in the establishment, requiring hundreds of reams of paper, and scores of tons of paste-board.  The business is so arranged that the wrappers are prepared for each State, with the name of the State conspicuously printed, thus saving a great deal of writing. as well as preventing errors.

I had prepared several other engravings of German Room, Printing Office, Artists’ Room, Counting Room, Mail Room, Post Office, &c., but have already occupied quite enough space give readers somewhat of an idea of the character of my establishment.  Another year, I may give further particulars.

Floral Guide Logo

2012 Yearbook of Tree Tours

November 9, 2012

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.

National Night Out Photo Report

August 21, 2012
Poster for National Night Event 2013 in Ellwanger & Barry Park

Poster for National Night Event 2013 in Ellwanger & Barry Park

The Highland Park Neighborhood celebrated its second annual National Night on August 7, 2012.   This year’s event included special guests from  The Highland Branch Library,  the Wedge Newspaper and the RPD’ s Scuba Squad.   Neighbors, Local Politicians and Police Representatives all enjoyed Pizza provided by the HPNA PAC-TAC Team supported by Little Venice Pizzeria.   And a new tradition of an event group photo began with this year’s  BouleART  Reunion photo.

Here’s album from the 2012 National Night Event: (all photos by Michael Tomb)

When do I miss the Imperial?

August 20, 2012

So when do I miss the Imperial Chinese Restaurant?

A portion of the Imperial’s Menu

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.

Imperial Post Card

A Post Card from the Imperial

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

Our Old House

July 30, 2012

Contributed by Christine Morris, Crawford Street resident

Christine’s Hydrangeas

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…

A Contemporary Biography of George Ellwanger

July 30, 2012

George Ellwanger

The following biography of George Ellwanger was originally written in  1901 and published the following year.   See Reference Below.

To say of him whose name heads this sketch that he has risen unaided from comparative obscurity to’ ranks among the most prominent and successful business men of western New York,  is a statement that seems trit to those familiar with his life, yet it is but just to say in a history that will descend to future generations that his business record has been one that any man would lie proud to possess.  Beginning at the very bottom round of the ladder,  he has advanced steadily step’ by step until he is now occupying a position of prominence and trust reached by very few men.  Through his entire business career he has been looked upon as a model of integrity and honor,  never making an engagement that he has not fulfilled and standing to-day an example of what determination and force,  combined with the highest degree of business integrity can accomplish for a man of natural ability and strength of character.  He is respected by the community at large and honored by his business associates.  As a member of the firm of Ellwanger & Barry,  he built up a nursery business greater in extent than any other in the country and thus the years brought to him prosperity and his ability won recognition among his friends, acquaintances and the general public.

Mr. Ellwanger was born at Gross-Heppach, in the Remsthal, called the “garden of the fatherland,”  in the kingdom of Wurtemberg, Germany, December 2, 1816, and spent his youth with his father and brothers in their vineyards.  In this capacity he acquired a love for horticulture and early resolved to devote his life to it.  Having received a liberal education in the schools of the neighborhood,  he studied for four years in a leading horticultural institution in Stuttgart,  where he perfected himself for the work which he had decided to make a life vocation.

Believing that America would furnish him better opportunities than could he secured in the old world where competition was greater,  Mr. Ellwanger crossed the Atlantic in 1835 and took up his abode in Tiffin, Ohio,  but while en route for that place he passed through the Genesee valley of New York and made mental note of the splendid advantages here afforded.  He soon returned and located in Rochester, where he entered the horticultural establishment of the firm of Reynolds & Bateham,  the first of its kind in this city.   For four years he remained there as an employee, and then in 1839 purchased the business and also  bought eight acres of land on Mount Hope avenue,  a tract which formed the- nucleus of the Mount Hope nurseries, which subsequently became so celebrated.

Back of a Trade Card for Ellwanger & Barry

In 1840 Mr. Ellwanger entered into partnership relations with Patrick Barry,  a connection that was maintained for a half-century and was only severed by the death of Mr. Barry in June, 1890.  From the beginning their enterprise prospered and grew,  its business constantly increasing in volume and importance until it exceeded every other enterprise of the kind in the United States, and for fifty years maintained a trade which extended largely into foreign lands,  shipments being made to almost every nation on the globe, a condition which still exists.  They also established the Toronto nurseries in Canada and the Columbus nurseries in Ohio in order to facilitate shipments and bring the western and northern trade nearer to a base of supplies.  Since Mr. Barry’s death the business has been continued under the old name and with the passing years it is constantly increasing, its ever widening trade being the result of the excellent character of the trees, shrubs, plants, etc., grown by the firm, together with the honorable business policy of the house, which has ever been a marked feature.

Ellwanger & Barry Building @ 1890

As a citizen Mr. Ellwanger has constantly exercised a beneficial influence upon the growth and material prosperity of the community, and has always been prominently identified with every public enterprise of a helpful nature.  For many years he has been officially connected with the banking interests of Rochester, being successively a director of the Union and Flour City Banks and a trustee of the Monroe County Savings Bank and the Rochester Trust and Safe Deposit Company.  He has also served as a director of the Rochester Gas Company,  the Eastman Kodak Company and the Rochester & Brighton Street Railroad Company.

In 1846 Mr. Ellwanger married Miss Cornelia Brooks, a daughter of General Micah Brooks, of Livingston county, a pioneer of western New York.  They have had four sons, George H., Henry B., William D. and Edward S.,  all of whom received the best educational advantages the schools of the country afforded,  supplemented by extended travel and study abroad.  Of these sons,  George H. and William D. survive, the former being an active member of the nursery firm.

1900 Ellwanger & Barry Ad

Mr. Ellwanger has accomplished much in the business world, and his varied enterprises have been of such a character that they have benefited the community and advanced the general prosperity while contributing to his success.  A man of strong force of character, determined purpose and sound judgment,  he has had not only the ability to plan but to execute large business interests, and through all the long years of a successful career,  he has maintained a reputation for honesty that is above question.  He is now eighty-five years of age,  and for more than six decades he has resided in Rochester,  where he is esteemed and honored alike by young and old, rich and poor.


 The Biographical Record of the City of Rochester and Monroe County, New York, Illustrated. Macaulay .New York and Chicago: The S, J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1902

Instead of Lilacs

May 21, 2012
Rhododendron Valley Top

On the Top of Rhododendron Valley

While the lilacs at Highland Park took an very early exit this year, more than a few other varieties of plants were blooming during the festival that ran from May 11-19, 2012.   The list of flowering plants that were at peak included buckeyes  & horse chestnuts, tree peonies, Rhododendrons and azelias as shown in the gallery below.

“These Men Were Prophets!”

May 7, 2012

Starting in the 1860s, these men sought to plan for Rochester’s future – keeping to a vision that most of their contemporaries chose to reject.  Without their continuing diligence, most of Rochester’s impressive system of parks would not exist. Click on Individual Pictures for more details about each person’s role in the formation of Rochester’s First Parks

Dr Edwin Mott Moore George W. Elliott Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid Patrick Barry George Ellwanger
William Crawford Barry Alexander B. Lamberton Calvin C. Laney John Dunbar Frederick Law Olmsted

On October 4, 1883 the following, small article appeared in the New York Times:

Messrs. Ellwanger & Barry, of Rochester, have offered to give that city 22 acres or land adjoining the Mount Hope distributing reservoir, with $2,000 worth of shade trees, for  a public park, on condition that It be laid out and kept in order by Mr. Olmsted,  the landscape gardener.  The site is higher than any other ground in the vicinity and is approached by a number of pleasant streets leading directly from the heart of the city, and commands a broad view of the city, the lake and the Valley of the Genesee.  The City now owns 42 acres of ground adjoining it.  1

Knowing that the Rochester of the time was still one of the fastest growing communities on the planet (as it was through-out the 19th century) and also that “The Flower City” lacked any sizeable public parks,  from today’s vantage, we might expect to find that the generous intent of George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry was welcomed by Rochester’s political leaders and its general population.   But Ellwanger & Barry’s gift was rejected.   Four years later, members of Rochester’s Common Council maneavured to give another Ellwanger &  Barry  donation attempt another rejection. And they  also left  competitive  offers to donate other important parcels near the heart of the city to languish until  opportunity was lost. Read more…

Spirit Renewed for 2012

May 1, 2012

On April 29, 2012,for the second year in a row, the Highland Park Neighborhood won the Neighborhood Spirit Contest held during the Unity Health System Rochester Flower City Challenge Half Marathon .  Starting at around  8 am on a Sunday,  residents came out on South Goodman to cheer the runners as they made their way through our neighborhood.  After the race, participants were asked to complete a survey, indicating which neighborhood that they had run through displayed the most spirit and energy during the race.  Based on 758 responses, the Highland Park Neighborhood placed first  with the  Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood coming in a very spirited second.

According to Ellen Brenner,  one of the organizers of the Unity Flower City Challenge,and VP of Fleet Feet Sports/Yellow Jacket Racing:

Runners loved the balloons, the energy, the fact that the whole family from children to grandma and grandpa came out on Goodman in the Highland Park Area. We even heard one person say they had to stop their conversation because the energy and cheering was so incredible.

As a result of the contest, the Highland Park Neighborhood Association also won  another $750 for a neighborhood beautification project.  This year the board of the association voted to apply those funds to the June 2012 BoulevART Street Art project.

Here are some comments  (along with a few minutes of video) from event participants:

The Highland Park Neighborhood was amazing! 2 whole blocks lined with people cheering, making noise, and handing out water. They definitely raised my spirits just before the hardest part of the race. It felt like a finish before the finish line!

There just seemed to be an enlightening vibe running through this area, Everyone was so encouraging which was especially appreciated climbing up that hill!

It was the best part of the race. Nearly all the neighborhood came out, cheered us on, had decorations (including balloons, signs, noise makers) and were just full of encouragement. They truly were the best part of the race. I would look forward to this next year.

There were so many people out, music blasting. It was extremely motivating and inspiring to run through there! Seemed like running through a big party!

Read more…

The Water Work Bees of Highland Park

March 27, 2012

Bees and Larkspur Detail from 19th Century Rochester Nursery Plate Book. Click to see Full Plate.

Over the last few years,  the  Highland Park Neighborhood Association has held an annual exhibit at Highland Park’s Lower Reservoir Gatehouse where we have been guests of the City of Rochester Bureau of Water crew (which was once known as “Rochester Water Works”.)   As such we have come to respect the tens of thousands of other residents of this historic structure….an active and healthy hive of Honey Bees who live in the Northern Wall of the structure.  The timing of our exhibit has often coincided with the time of year that these Bees Swarm  . The photo album and movie below were taken during a few very active days where a portion of these bees made several attempts to swarm to another location.

We were impressed on how protective the Bureau of Water staff is of this colony.   They recognize the benefits these insects bring to the park around them:

The Bees of Highland Park's Water Works

The Bees of Highland Park's Water Works

  • Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination
  • USDA estimates that as much 25% of our diet is derived from plants pollinated by Honey Bees
  • Bee pollination yearly creates $15 billion in added crop value
  • Honeybees are comparatively docile…unlike more aggressive insects such as Yellow Jacket Hornets, these bee sting only when provoked.
  • Protection of Existing Honey Bee Colonies is very important, especially because of the ongoing nation-wide die-back of bees referred to as “Colony Collapse Disorder

Not everyone we meet during festival time understands why this hive of honey bees is special. One of the scariest moments during our time at the gatehouse came when a County Exterminator arrived because of a phoned-in complaint that bees were out of control.  But we were able to convince the Exterminator that these bees were not a threat to the public.  We have since created a sign to inform park visitors that the bees  are “Happy & Healthy”.
If you encounter the Water Work Bees on a stroll through the park, take time to admire them.  And join us in asking friends and family to be respectful of our colony in the park as well.

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Wikipedia Article on Honeybees

Honeybee Facts from Back Yard Beekeepers Association

USDA Questions  and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder

Too Early for Spring?

March 25, 2012

If you frequent Highland Park, you become use to the rhythm of its seasons….

Daffodils on the Hill at Highland Park

Daffodils on the Hill at Highland Park.
Photo taken April 30, 2006 – Click on image to see larger version

….as these play out among the many collections growing across our botanical reserve.  The naturalized Daffodils usually appear in Mid to Late April or very early May.

Path through the Magnolias

Magnolia Path on May 9, 2007. Click on Photo for Larger Version

The Magnolia Collection takes star billing a couple of weeks later and the several varieties of Flowering Cherries near the Lamberton Conservatory often hang on to give a spectacular counterpoint to the peaking of the early lilacs.   But March of 2012 broke with all these patterns as  Highland Park was affected by the very unusual spring that visited most of the United States.

Yoshino Flowering Cherry Tree near Lamberton Conservatory – Photo Taken May 10, 2008

In fact,  during March 2012, the nation set a record for setting high temperature records,  with 6,199 local maximum daily temperatures broken and 1,556  tied for a total of  7,755.    This contrasts with the national statistics for same month in 2011 where only  a total  of 1,379 records were set or matched and  only 749 of the same during 2001.   ( The unusual warming trend would continue in our area through early April)

So this March brought out blossoms of Magnolia, Daffodils, Flowering Cherry and Plums between one month to six weeks earlier than I have been able to record since beginning my own digital photo diary in 1999.  The gallery below was created on March 25, 2012 and you might compare the date of the other three photos on this page for contrast.    I think you will agree that, regardless of the timing of the seasons – or lack thereof, Rochester’s Highland Botanical Park always has the potential for amazing vistas in any month or year.

The 28th Edition, for 1888, is now online…

January 31, 2012

No. 1. Descriptive Catalogue of Fruits- Twenty-Eighth Edition.

A published catalog is newly available on-line…but I wouldn’t try ordering anything from it.  Still, this is a special event around these parts as this book is the first digitized version of a complete bound set of Ellwanger & Barry’s catalogs that I’ve found in any online archive. Not surprisingly,  it is made available by the  Monroe County Library System as part of  a recent update to it’s dowloadable eBooks.  The physical bound book is kept at the Rochester Public Library and does not circulate.

The volume is actually a set of separate catalogs that were issued during the year 1888:

  • No. 1. Descriptive Catalogue of Fruits- Twenty-Eighth Edition.
  • No .2 Descriptive Catalogue of Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, Hardy Perennial Plants, Etc. : Twenty-Seventh Edition.
  • No. 3. Autumn, 1887. Spring, 1888 Descriptive Priced Catalogue – Strawberries,
  • No. 5. A Descriptive Catalogue of Select Roses -11th Edition.
    (not included here is E&B’s Number 4 catalog which was intended to for the wholesale market)

Magnolia Soulangeana

In later years, Ellwanger & Barry would publish a soft cover one volume catalog that resembles today seed & nursery catalogs, but in 1888, the catalogs were published as large pamplets directed towards different markets…for example Fruit Growers as opposed to “Landscape Gardeners” (See Preface Below from Catalog #2, “Ornamentals”).    If the Fruits catalog seems lightly illustrated compared to the Ornamentals, one should note that Ellwanger & Barry salesmen during this era would also have been using  specially bound plate books with many colorful Chromoliths to illustrate virtually every variety of fruit available.  Samples of these plates can be found at the University of Rochester online site…(and we will have much more on the subject of  colored plates for Nurseryman on this site at some point in the near future as well. )  Over 90 varieties of Apples and 65 of Pears are listed in the Catalog.  Other catalogs from this decade show that Ellwanger & Barry actually stocked several hundred other and rarer varieties of both fruits.  It  will give you a sense of how things have changed in the Fruit Nursery business when you contrast these numbers with what is currently available from one of the largest local fruit nurseries (for example – only 11 different varieties of Pears are sold.)

I hope you enjoy examining this historical catalog – it comes from a time that much was changing in the section of the city now known as the Highland Park Neighborhood.  Most of what would become the Neighborhood was still Nursery Grounds   An invitation to visit those grounds  is given in the excerpt below.  While one can no longer “inspect” Mount Hope Nurseries’s Collections, Botanical & Pomological Gardens, and Arboretum directly, Ellwanger & Barry in 1888 were busy preserving their legacy in such manner that one can still marvel at the varieties of trees and shrubs that they developed and sold….for this was the year that their gift of Highland Park was accepted was finally accepted by the City of Rochester.

From Lilac' Section of Catalog #2


We take pleasure in presenting to our friends and patrons the 27th edition of this catalogue.

Many of the descriptions have been rewritten, all the lists revised and several new illustrations introduced. W e believe the book will serve, not only as a priced catalogue, but also as a useful hand-book, containing concise descriptions of nearly all the hardy Ornamental Trees and Shrubs most worthy of cultivation in this and similar climates.

We cordially invite all who are interested in ornamental planting to inspect our collection; a new arboretum having been planted recently, which contains young specimens of nearly all the species and varieties we offer.
Duplicate collections will be furnished for college grounds, parks, etc., on the most favorable terms. To students and lovers of nature nothing can be more interesting than to study the nomenclature and note the peculiarities of growth, habit, foliage, flowers and fruit of all the finest trees and shrubs that will thrive in our climate.
Our general stock of ornamental trees, shrubs and plants has never been so extensive and complete in every department as it is at this time. Everything has been well and carefully grown.
Several promising novelties are now offered for the first time.

Young's Weeping Birch

Gentlemen making extensive improvements, or adding to their collections, Landscape Gardeners, Superintendents of Public Parks, Gardens, Cemeteries, etc., etc., will find it to their advantage to examine our stock.
Nurserymen and Dealers will be supplied on liberal terms. A wholesale catalogue (No. 4) is published semi-annually.
A Rose Catalogue is now published separately and is known, in our series, as No. 5, the great extension of our Rose culture having compelled us to adopt this course.
Attention is requested to ” Brief Suggestions to Planters ” on the next page.


Golden Leaf Syringa from 1888 Ellwanger & Barry Catalogue

From  Ellwanger & Barry’s Mount Hope Nurseries  No .2 Descriptive Catalogue Of Ornamental Trees, Shrubs, Hardy Perennial Plants, Etc. : Twenty-Seventh Edition.

Gladi’- olus or Glad’-iolus…We Surrender to Rochester

January 10, 2012

From page 80 of January 1876 Issue of  The Gardener’s Monthly and Horticulturist.

Gladiolus—The Pronunciation.

Gladiolus from Vick's Flower & Gardening Guide 1876

A correspondent writes :—”Vick accents the first syllable ; Webster, the second; and those not favored with the perusal of either, the third. Among those who wish to be governed by authority, the question arises: ‘Under which king?’ We were inclined to follow Webster, but examination reveals the fact that he has not followed his own analogy. For he has glad^- iator and glad^- iole both from the same root as gladiolus. So that apart from the consideration of whether Vick is not the higher authority in such things, he certainly has followed what seems to be correct analogy”.  We surrender  to Rochester, while awaiting the decision of the Editor.

Gladi’- olus.” [The analogy is not with its root but with the class to which it belongs. Diminutives have  their penults short, in this respect differing from adjectives which have their penultimae long. The classical pronunciation therefore is gladi’-olus,  that is, ” a little sword.”—Ed. G. M.]

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