Southeast Quadrant - Azalea Neighborhood
It’s not often that a City neighborhood can be described as enchanted, but the Azalea Neighborhood can. Maybe it’s the fact that Highland Park surrounds it on three sides or that the Gothic spires of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School rise above the tree line. Or perhaps it’s because neighborhood walkers exercising their pets have included cats along with dogs.
Because of this atmosphere, residents are loath to leave; many have lived in the neighborhood for decades, or even generations. Neighborhood boundaries extend south to Elmwood Avenue, north to Highland Avenue, east to South Goodman Street and west to South Avenue (the east side from Highland Avenue to Elmwood Avenue).
Highland Avenue’s history reaches back to the 1700's when native people and French explorers traveled the “Portage Trail” that began at Irondequoit Bay, skirted Mt. Hope, and ended at Red Creek in Genesee Valley Park.
In 1888, Highland Botanical Park was created through the generosity of nurserymen George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry. The famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted was hired to design the “municipal arboretum.” In 1892, horticulturist John Dunbar began planting lilac bushes on the sunny slopes facing Highland Avenue.
The modern day residential neighborhood development, consisting of one-family homes, dates from pre-WWII to 1980. The Azalea Neighborhood has many landmarks. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester is located here. It occupies the site of the former Monroe Country Workhouse, later the Monroe County Penitentiary, on the corner of South and Highland. The Memorial, dedicated in 1996, remembers through a series of steel plaques, the 280 Rochester men who died in the Vietnam War. Other stone memorials nearby honor Vietnam Congressional Medal of Honor winners and POW/MIA soldiers, and those killed in the Korean War. Next door, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County is an important neighborhood resource in all issues concerning horticulture.
Colgate Divinity's long sloping lawn ends at a black iron fence on Highland Avenue. The 22-acre ecumenical theological college was formed in 1850 in Hamilton, New York and was later moved to South Goodman Avenue in 1928. Famous students include the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Walter Rauschenbusch.
Other South Avenue neighborhood institutions include the non-profit Al Sigl Center at St John's Home.
The Al Sigl Center, founded in the late 1960s, assists several human service agencies including the Mary Cariola Children’s Center.
The historic St. John’s Home at South and Highland Avenues was first conceived by Rev. Johann Freidrich Wilhelm Helmkamp, pastor of Salem Evangelical Church. In the late 1890s, the only option for Rochester’s elderly infirm was the Monroe County Alms House. Area Germans wanted their own altenheim or senior citizen home. The first site was located at 547 Lake Avenue, but when need outgrew space, horticulturist George Ellwanger donated his mansion near Highland Park to St. John’s in 1900. Over the years, the mansion was replaced, and St. John's Home has grown to include needed facilities serving a diverse cultural and religious community. Today St. John’s is a provider of multi-level continuum of care for elders. Services include skilled nursing care, rehabilitation services, comfort, hospice and Alzheimer’s/Dementia care and adult day services.
The Azalea Neighborhood Association is an important community resource. Its quarterly newsletter, The Azalea View, apprises residents of issues impacting the area and publicizes community events.
The Association collaborates with The Lilac Neighbors Association and the May Street Block Club in an annual ice cream social and the May Street National Night Out Against Crime. It participates in Police “ridealongs” and works with the South East Area Coalition in a variety of ways. The Neighborhood is currently awaiting information on plans for a 42-acre site of state owned land, the site of the multi-story Terrance Building on Elmwood Avenue, the former site of the Rochester Psychiatric Center.
In 2010, the Azalea Neighborhood celebrated the renovation and rededication of the South Avenue Fire House No. 8, Truck 3. The firehouse, built in 1909, was originally named Truck No. 7 firehouse and is one of the oldest firehouses in the City in active use.
While the Azalea Neighborhood location explains some of its charm, residents point to something else. As one resident said: the biggest “treasure in the neighborhood are the neighbors.”
If you would like additional information on this neighborhood, please contact the Southeast Quadrant Neighborhood Service Center:
320 N Goodman St - Suite 209
Rochester, New York 14607