Southeast Quadrant - Park Central
The Park Central Neighborhood’s popularity never wanes. For decades, it has remained the place to live, shop and play for people of all ages and appetites in all seasons. It’s been compared to Manhattan’s West Village without the traffic and with a whole lot of green lawns. Within several blocks, lucky residents and longing visitors enter a vibrant universe of restaurants (Spanish, Thai, Irish and more), sidewalk cafes, pubs, breakfast diners, and specialty boutiques. It also contains an array of professional and personal services for everyday life (bakery, pharmacy, bank, florist and veterinarian). And it’s all available by foot.
Pick a street, any street off Park Avenue, and a bevy of historic homes in a pleasing variety of architectural styles are found, several designed by famed architect Claude Bragdon. Tudor mansions are companions to Prince Anne cottages; older brick apartment buildings abut single-family homes. Landscaped lawns, full shade trees, garden sculptures and pocket parks are all part of this prestigious preservation district.
Neighborhood boundaries extend north to the East Avenue, south to Monroe Avenue (on the north side from Rutgers Street to Route 490), east to Culver Road (the west side from East Avenue to Route 490) and west to Rutgers Street/Vick Park A.
Park Avenue’s history is long. It was first laid out as an avenue in 1852, but it took shape, albeit erratically, in 1860 as three separate streets. Park Avenue ran from Alexander Street to Goodman Street. “Crescent Street,” ran between Vick Park A and B. “Bates Street, named for an early East Avenue resident, ran from Barrington toward Culver Road.” The three were joined in 1875 and renamed Park Avenue.
James Vick, a successful horticulturalist, “seedsman,” publisher and businessman owned a business on East Avenue. Vick built Union Park Racetrack on his nursery’s land, and the track’s two straight-aways eventually became Vick Park A and B. (The curve in Park Avenue between the two streets was the racetrack’s southern end.)
Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the area’s stock of beautiful houses was built. Over the years, many were broken up into apartments and in 1969, The East Avenue Preservation District, which includes Park Avenue, was established. Concerned citizens worked with the city’s Housing Court, created in 1974, to speed up enforcement of code violations by landlords. The area’s popularity increased and demand for homes and apartments remain strong today.
Barrington Street’s School #23 teaches children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Its motto is: “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work, Francis Parker School No. 23-Achieving the Dream.” The school is an Instrumental Music Magnet with Primary Choir and Intermediate Choir as well as ORF, D.R.U.M and an exemplary Band and String Programs.
The area has a strong group of neighborhood associations and organizations, including the Park Avenue Revitalization Committee, the Park Avenue Neighborhood Coalition and the South East Area Coalition (SEAC). The Park Avenue Merchants Association touts Park Avenue as the most “stroll-able strip in Rochester.” The South East Area Coalition is western New York's oldest Neighborhood Preservation Company. Its programs concentrate on community renewal and economic development. In 2014, SEAC joined with the South Wedge Planning Committee (SWPC) and today shares facilities and staff.
The Park Avenue Neighborhood Coalition holds an annual “Cops and Dogs” hot dog roast in appreciation of the Rochester Police Department. The neighborhood also collaborates with the surrounding Neighborhood Associations and Block Clubs on Barrington, Berkeley, Canterbury and Park/Goodwin. The Barrington Street Association pays special attention to the Park Avenue Green at Park and Barrington, holding annual spring cleanups and planting parties in June. They also plan a free Jazz concert.
To include details of each establishment would require a small pamphlet. The Merchants Association’s map of businesses from Alexander Street to Culver Road lists some 88 businesses - but two have been destination points for many years. Stever’s, at 623 Park Avenue, has been making fresh candy daily since 1946. Lines start outside the door before every holiday that calls for chocolate. Founded in 1902 at 733 Park Avenue, Abbott’s Frozen Custard has been described by a food critic as a place "where God gets his ice cream."
Every year, the Park Avenue Revitalization Coalition holds what is now one of Rochester's oldest neighborhoods festivals. The Park Avenue Summer Art Festival of arts, crafts, music and a whole lot of people watching, was started in 1976. It attracts over 250,000 people.
In 1993, the Park Avenue Merchants Association brought a Holiday Open House to Park Avenue. While the crowds may not be as dense in December, visitors from around the city come to enjoy horse drawn wagon rides, ice sculpture demonstrations, “Candy Cane Way” costumed characters and a special appearance of Old St. Nick.
If you would like additional information about this neighborhood, please contact the Southeast Quadrant Neighborhood Service Center.
320 N Goodman St - Suite 209
Rochester, New York 14607