Southwest Quadrant - Changing of The Scene
Once a wide expanse of wheat fields, the neighborhood now called Changing of the Scenes Neighborhood (COTS) began with the trolleys’ arrival. Here the area’s second hospital, originally named “City” and later named Rochester General Hospital, opened a nursing school, most notable for promoting “registered” nurses. This move ultimately professionalized the career nationwide.
Over time, COTS’ other names included “Mayor’s Heights” (the exact Mayor’s name is lost in city lore), and “Chocolate City” to reflect a multiplicity of brown-colored buildings. The modern-day neighborhood is bounded by Genesee Street on the west, Tremont Street to the east, Dr. Samuel McCree Way/ Ford Street on the south, and West Main Street to the north.
Within the small area, churches abound. Residents can worship at the historic 700-member Mt. Olivet Baptist Church on Adams Street. This church opened in 1910 as the first Baptist Church in Rochester specifically established for its African-American congregation. Others include the Pentecostal Church of God by Faith, Inc., also on Adams Street, and Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church on a street named for its founding pastor, Dr. Samuel McCree.
Some of its housing is equally historic. In the 1960s, the FIGHT Square apartment complex was built in response to efforts of a grassroots civil rights organization of the same name that worked for “Freedom-Integration-God-Honor-Today”. More recently, FIGHT Square was replaced by Anthony Square, a showcase of attractive affordable housing that consists of some 45 apartments and 30 single-family houses.
The James and Bessie Hamm House on Adams, the home of African-American community activists, remained for several decades a COTS landmark. The Hamms were local heroes who, among their many efforts to improve the community, included the Ralph Bunche Scholarship Fund for youth. The house was eventually razed, but a green space continues to honor the couple. Slated for the new pocket park are a gazebo and a commemorative plaque with a replica of Bessie’s prized possession, a tortoise shell she hung on the wall of her home.
This new park joins the COTS’ Rock Garden honoring Willie Lightfoot, who served as County Legislator (District 25) for four decades. This garden also contains an original sculpture by Pepsy Kettavong.
One COT’s landmark has achieved national celebrity. Nick Tahou’s Hots, on West Main Street, created Rochester’s signature Garbage Plate ™, a daunting combination of home fries, macaroni salad and baked beans topped with a burger or white hot dog (another iconic Rochester food) and smothered in Nick’s secret hot meat sauce. Residents and celebrities alike - singer Diana Ross stopped by during a visit - flocked to the café, housed in a former 19th century railroad depot, to nosh on the dish.
If you would like additional information about this neighborhood, please contact the Southwest Quadrant Neighborhood Service Center:
923 Genesee Street
Rochester, NY 14611