Southwest Quadrant - Brown Square
The Brown Square neighborhood sits on the site of the original Brown Brothers Tract, named for the entrepreneurial brothers Matthew and Francis, who harnessed the Genesee River’s High Falls for business and industry in the early 1800s. Within the Tract, Brown Square Park was fashioned. It was the first public land in Rochester designated for a city park and designed by the firm of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. In time, it was used as a training ground for the city’s militia and later for neighborhood children encouraged to pursue “healthy exercise” and recreation. It is now used for City music festivals.
Alongside the park, houses were built for Irish immigrants who were later joined by Italians who emigrated for a better life in the New World. Many of these Italian immigrants went on to sponsor relatives or friends who followed them to Rochester, and the area became known for its close-knit large families who watched out for one another from their front porches.
During urban renewal in the 1960s, many of the 19th century homes were razed while others were removed when neighborhood businesses expanded. Yet, some of the residents who remained, grandchildren of the early residents, still dreamed that the old neighborhood could be resurrected.
For 30 years, the Brown Square Neighborhood Association has kept the dream alive through community action and support. It lobbied the city for new home construction, and while it waited, filled several empty lots with flower gardens. It encouraged renters to become homeowners and monitored absentee landlords. The Brown Square Neighborhood’s boundaries today extend north to Lyell Avenue, east to State Street, west to Broad Street and south at the city’s Inner Loop.
The Neighborhood Association has been especially attentive to the area’s children, many who attend John Williams School #5, a “LEAP” school for students whose language is other than English. The Association encourages neighborhood youth to participate in their community -- in street clean ups and the annual Halloween Party and Easter Egg Hunt. Most recently, it partnered with the Lyell Branch Library for a cold weather mitten and hat giveaway.
The neighborhood is also home to Rochester businesses known for their longevity and appetizing products. This includes Zweigle’s Inc., founded in 1880 by C. Whilehem and wife Josephine. The company's most famous item, the “white hot,” was created in 1925 and remains today a tasty curiosity to non-natives. DiPaolo’s Bakery has kneaded its crusty breads for the neighborhood and beyond for 80 years.
Other culinary landmarks include Rocky’s Italian Restaurant, which attracts a wide cross section of customers from working class house painters to local politicians. The greatest draw to the neighborhood is the Rochester Rhinos soccer stadium on Oak Street. The stadium was constructed in 2004 on a filled-in section of the Erie Canal’s original route and Rochester’s old subway bed. Formerly called Paetec Park, the stadium is now called Marina Auto Stadium.
If you would like additional information about this neighborhood, please contact the Southwest Quadrant Neighborhood Service Center:
923 Genesee Street
Rochester, NY 14611