Rochester Images -> Pathfinders -> Architecture -> East Side, West Side -> Early Settlement

Early Settlement

One of East Avenue's earliest homes was that of Oliver Culver . This house was originally built on the northwest corner of Culver Road and East Avenue, but was moved to nearby East Boulevard in 1906. This house is the oldest house in Rochester. The rear of the house dates back to around 1805, but the main portion was built around 1816-1818. This Federal style house served originally as a tavern.

Oliver Culver House.
Oliver Culver Home


Around 1840 a trio of Greek Revival style houses was constructed along the avenue. They were occupied by William Pitkin (a merchant and banker who also became mayor), Aaron Erickson (a wool merchant) and Silas O. Smith (who owned a store at the Four Corners). Pitkin's house was on the northeast corner of East Avenue and Prince Street. It was later owned by Daniel Powers and was often called the Pitkin-Powers house. Erickson's house was on the south side of East Avenue neat Alexander Street. Smith's house, known as Woodside, was built on the southeast corner of East Avenue and Sibley Place.

Rochester Historical Society.
The Silas O. Smith House, known as Woodside, later the headquarters of the Rochester Historical Society.


Josiah Bissell, who gave the name to the street, built his home in the 1840's on East Avenue near present-day Upton Park. Bissell was the state contractor in charge of constructing the second Erie Canal Aqueduct over the Genesee River. When he demolished the crumbling 1823 aqueduct he salvaged stone from it for his English Gothic house done in the Downing Cottage style. Bissell also was responsible for the origins of the use of stately trees along the avenue when he planted rows of horse chestnuts from his home to the Liberty Pole on Main Street.

Josiah Bissell's residence.
Josiah Bissell's residence, later part of Wesley-On-East, a nursing care facility


In the 1850's Joseph Hall laid out a horse- racing track near the tavern.  By 1852, horse owners, used to tying their horses to the trunks of the avenue's chestnut trees, had allowed the horses to severely damage the trees. Residents formed the East Avenue Shade Tree Association. Elm trees were planted; they were boxed and a tree keeper was hired to care for them. Hitching posts were also installed.

New residences were constructed along the avenue, but the area was considered to be fairly rural. The Third Ward still had a strong pull on wealthy homeowners.

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