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Mansions, Magnates and Museums
East Avenue, 1889
East Avenue was not the first residential neighborhood in the City of Rochester, but by the late 1800's it had become the most fashionable one. East Avenue, unlike West Avenue, developed with two sharply defined sections: the area west of Alexander Street (and closer to downtown) became a business district, while east of Alexander the avenue became a district of grand residences interspersed with churches of various denominations and a few nurseries. Industries on the east side of town became concentrated on the Erie Canal a few blocks to the south and the railroad tracks a few blocks to the north. Thus, although the commercial, industrial and residential areas existed in close proximity to each other, in appearance they were distinctly separate.
The concentration of wealth led to an atmosphere of grace and social activity. It also led to the area's occasional periods of decline when periods of economic depressions affected the fortunes of the residents. The very factor which led to East Avenue's appeal to the early mansion-builders, the lack of available building lots in the exclusive Third Ward (Corn Hill) area, became an issue in the 20th century, when East Avenue itself was so built up that families of means began to look farther east, to the Town of Brighton for land on which to build their homes.
Today, many original mansions still exist, but their uses are more diverse than that of a purely residential one. Some have been turned into museums, others into offices for various organizations, while many still remain private residences. East Avenue today still maintains its atmosphere of grace and social activity.
The Beginnings of the Neighborhood: The Changing Boundaries of the Street
From the Civil War to the Turn of the 20th Century
19th Century Homes on East Avenue
The Early 20th Century: The Business Area
The Residential Area in the Early 20th Century: The Age of George Eastman
East Avenue Churches
East Avenue and Change in the 20th Century
East Avenue Today
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