As published in the Rochester Beacon
High Street in the UK. Main Street in the U.S. A simple, one-syllable word conveys the importance a thoroughfare has for an entire community. Rochester’s Main Street intersects Clinton Avenue, named for the New York governor who masterminded the development of the Erie Canal, key to Rochester’s emergence as a pre-eminent city in the first half of the 19thcentury.
It is this stretch of Main Street that became Rochester’s main business district, until suburbanization hollowed out the city’s inner core. It was here that the city and business leaders decided to develop Midtown Plaza in 1958. Opening in 1962, it immediately attracted international attention.
This was an era when our community was more integrated. The city’s neighborhoods were showing signs of segregation after the influx of African Americans during the Great Migration and arrival of waves of transplants from Puerto Rico. But residents of all ethnic backgrounds shopped together and walked the same sidewalks. Midtown Plaza was public and open to the entire community in ways that, unfortunately, feel unfamiliar today. Nostalgic traditions, like visiting the Clock of Nations or taking the kids for a monorail ride during Christmas, were enjoyed by all members of our community.