The Genesis: 1960's & 1970's
The roots for the South East Area Coalition run deep in the soil
and fiber of our neighborhoods. Participating in a study by the
Rochester-Monroe County Youth Board in the 1960's, southeast
area groups conducted discussions and began plans for the
Southeast Mobilization Project. The Reverend George Steiger,
pastor of Calvary St. Andrews Parish, formalized the efforts in
1968 and became Convener of the Southside Coalition. Shortly
thereafter, in 1969, Tom Swartz took over the reigns. At that
time, thirteen groups attended the meetings and issues addressed
by the group's committees were similar to those addressed by
SEAC today: quality integrated education, sites for senior citizen
housing, recreation facilities near Highland Park and neighborhood
health and mental health services.
In 1970, the Southside
Coalition officially became the South East Area Coalition (SEAC)
with Ellwanger Barry resident Clem Bayer as the Board President,
and the first Southeast Neighborhood Council was formed. When work
began on the Genesee Expressway and Outer Loop in 1971, SEAC
joined the Community Organization Coalition on Zoning Reform.
It was then that planning studies began on the Southeast Wedge
Area. SEAC's offices moved to 810 S. Clinton Avenue at the
corner of Meigs Street.
When Tom Canton and John Briggs
came on board as SEAC's Director and Associate Director in 1972,
the group was busy organizing the Genesee Gateway Task Force. At
the same time, the Genesee Health Service opened and Title I funds
for schools #13 and #15 were attained. The next year, three VISTA
Programs began, including the Community Center Development, South
Wedge Information Center and Mental Health Committee Organizing.
Also in 1972, the Genesee Expressway was voted down by a 9-0 vote
of City Council. Building on that success, SEAC obtained its
501[c]3 status and contracted with the Community Chest to
provide Community Organization and Neighborhood Development
In 1974, the first SEAC
Convention was held. Those organizing efforts would result
in the formation of the We Care, Harburnam, Pinnacle Hill, Winton-Cobbs
Hill, Swillburg and Pearl-Meigs Neighborhood Associations.
The following year, SEAC expanded its efforts to support business
association organizing and published "Businews", to share
information with the businesses relocating and expanding in the
area. The Genesee Corridor Task Force made its recommendations and
in 1976, Neighborhood Level Planning activities expanded with work
vacant land projects, the Pinnacle Trail, Traffic Safety, and
long-range neighborhood planning.
In 1977, while Kirk Kirkpatrick
was Board President and Michael McKenzie was SEAC's Director,
the agency focused on issues such as South Wedge improvement,
neighborhood commercial revitalization and community education.
Through a grant received from New York State Division of Housing
and Community Renewal in 1978, part-time staff to work with the
South Wedge Planning Committee for improvement in the South Wedge
Area was secured.
Leading into the new decade, SEAC
adopted a new constitution and by-laws in 1979 and changed the
organization's governance from a model of group representatives
to a Board of Directors elected at-large from the membership.
to Maturity: the 1980's & 1990's
For the first time in 1980, Human Services planning staff were
hired through a grant from the United Way, and by 1981, SEAC was
offering energy conservation programs and weatherization kits to
In the area of housing, 1982 was
a big year, under the guidance of Director Larry LeFever and
Associate Director Sandy Weisenreder,. A controversy between SEAC
and the South Wedge Planning Committee over a New York State DHCR
Grant resulted in grants from the state for both agencies. Grants
were made available to eligible homeowners in the targeted area.
The following year, the SEAC Tool Library was established through
a grant from a private foundation. That same year, SEAC was
successful in gaining a commitment from NYSDOT to install noise
barriers between I-490 and residences.
Our Crime Prevention activities
became a formal part of our offerings in 1984 when we received a
grant from NYS for those programs, and the next year, we
established a Task Force to provide input on traffic management
during "Can of Worms" reconstruction. Part of that process
included a 1986 Study of southeast transportation needs that was
funded by U.S. Urban Transportation Administration.
In 1987, with Allen Harris as
Board President, Janet Laird and Keith Belton as Director and
Associate Director, the SEAC Housing Task Force undertook a
comprehensive Needs Assessment. Following that, a Memorandum of
Understanding was developed in 1988 between the City of Rochester,
SEAC and its member organizations to monitor code enforcement in
Karla Stevens, who had come on
board as the Associate Director in 1987, became the Executive
Director in 1988. Her tenure would continue until Mary Wells took
the helm in 1991. It was under Karlaís leadership that the Court
Watch Program was organized and activated leading up to SEAC's
20th Anniversary Celebration in 1989.
During the 1990ís organizing
assistance was given to merchants' groups with great success.
The Monroe Avenue Merchants Association was awarded status as a
Commercial Enhancement District (CED), as was the newly formed Mt.
Hope Business Association. The Village Gate Merchants
Cooperative became active, the Upper East End Association formed,
as well as the Culver, University and East Association. From
1991 to 1993 SEAC organized around the expansion of the Genesee
Hospital and construction of the new parking ramp garage, and the
revised plan was much improved over the original.
AmeriCorps became part of the
staff at SEAC, adding needed personnel resources to the ever
growing and reforming associations. Most significantly,
Atlantic University chose to join SEAC during the beginning of
City Planning (later called NBN), and later Browncroft and North
Winton Village aligned with SEAC.
During the spring of 1999 SEAC
completed a five-year plan with input from residents, businesses,
landlords, institutions and law enforcement, The Comprehensive
Plan for the Southeast 1999-2005. Responding to a great
demand for a "how to" book for neighborhood leaders, SEAC
staff members wrote, compiled and published the SEAC Neighborhood
Leaders Guide 2000. This guide is provided free to
neighborhood and business leaders, and is filled with interesting
and helpful information to assist in the formation and
continuation of associations. It is available on loan to
smaller groups and interested residents at the SEAC office.
What began as a group of
concerned citizens drawn together by youth needs in the 1960's,
grew to become a voice for all residents and businesses in the
southeast over the next thirty years. The program areas developed
then - human service referral, housing, commercial development,
crime prevention - remain at the core of SEAC's identity and
History of the Southeast Area:
hunters built temporary shelters near today's site of the
University of Rochester and Genesee Valley Park, they probably
never envisioned the fifty neighborhoods and 44,000 people that
would become the southeast quadrant of the City of Rochester. But
whether talking about Native American fur traders in the early
18th century or Oliver Phelps' and Nathaniel Gorham's purchase of
this land from Massachusetts in 1787, one thing remains constant:
this area has always been a place for invention and creativity.
Most of the area now
called southeast Rochester was originally farmland surrounding the
ever-important Genesee River mills that made us the Flour City.
When Nathaniel Rochester, William Fitzhugh and Charles Caroll
purchased the tract in 1803, it was ideal for growth because of
two things: the river which provided power for industry as well as
a means of travel, and fertile soil perfect for farming and
1800's, things began to take shape in the southeast. The first
school on the east side of the river opened in 1813 in Enos
Stone's barn near Main Street. In those days, Sabbath schools met
year 'round; all other schools were open only in summer months.
And, of course, nothing contributed to the development of
Rochester more than the Erie Canal, completed 175 years ago, in
The City's oldest
commercial building - the stone warehouse at 1 Mt. Hope
Avenue was built in 1822 to store goods being transported on
the Canal (the route of today's I-490). With the increased use and
success of the waterway came the construction of boatyards all
along it on today's Monroe and Mt. Hope Avenues.
It was common then
for hundreds of people to travel on the canal each week, so the
development and growth of Rochester was rapid. By the mid-1820's,
almost one hundred shoemakers worked in the city and made a living
by shipping their products to New York City. But with the sudden
influx of people also came an increase in poverty and disease.
In 1826, the Monroe
County Poorhouse opened on South Avenue (currently the Monroe
County Hospital). Twelve people who died there were buried in what
would become Highland Park and their unmarked remains were
forgotten until excavation unearthed them in 1984. The Contagious
Hospital (commonly called the Pest House) treated quarantined
patients. Nearby sheep often served as research animals and in
1904 Dr. George Goler, the City Health Officer, opened the
Municipal Hospital on that site where Strong Memorial Hospital now
exists as part of the UR (which it joined in 1963). Rochester
Homeopathic Hospital - later Genesee Hospital - opened its
doors in 1887 and two years later the Hahneman Hospital started up
on Rockingham Street as the precursor to Highland Hospital.
When it comes to
reaching out and helping others, the Rochester Female Charitable
Society began helping the poor in 1822. They divided the village
into sections, including the southeast, and a member visited poor
families every month providing food, loaning clothing and bedding,
helping people find jobs, referring the needy to other sources and
supplying needy children with schoolbooks and paper. A
hundred years later (1918) the Red Cross headquarters at Alexander
St. and East Avenue was dedicated.
But did you know that Ellwanger and Barry donated
twenty acres of their world-famous nursery to become Highland Park
in 1888, or that St. Mary's Hospital on the City's west side
treated 3,000 wounded Civil War soldiers? Frederick Douglass'
anti-slavery newspaper, The North Star, was first published when
he lived on the southeast's South Avenue in 1847, and Dr. William
Greene opened an airplane factory on Belmont Street near Cobbs
Hill in 1910. Eleven years later, the private Park Avenue Hospital
became public before transforming into Park-Ridge, and while
victory gardens dotted our neighborhoods during both world wars,
German and Italian Prisoners of War were housed at Cobbs Hill.
They were kept busy working in canning factories and on local
People like Eastman, Ellwanger, Barry, James Crosman, Frederick
Douglass and Susan B. Anthony are well-known and long-associated
with our part of the city. Many of them are buried in Mt. Hope
Cemetery which became the nation's first planned municipal
cemetery in 1838. But do you know these other people in our rich
Vick: In 1866, he bought the race track that would
become Vick Park A and Vick Park B, off East Avenue. Together
with Crosman, Ellwanger, Barry and Brown, Vick became one of the
leading seedmen of the Flower City.
centuries, a common thread uniting southeasterners has been our
flexibility and diversification. As one example, consider the
Carriage Factory started by James Cunningham in 1838. By adapting
to changing times and remain flexible, it became one of the
world's largest manufacturers in the field, specializing in
hearses and ambulances. In 1928, morphing into the Cunningham-Hall
Aircraft Corporation, they manufactured military equipment, tanks
and armored vehicles for the war. By the 1950's, it produced
electronic components for the broadcasting industry, and it was
eventually bought by our own southeast mainstay on University
Avenue - Gleason Works.
Warner: In 1882, he built the Warner Observatory for
Lewis Swift on East Avenue. Swift was a local astronomer and
hardware dealer and the observatory housed a 22' telescope
beneath the 31' dome. In the depression of 1893, Swift moved the
telescope to Pasadena.
Moore: Rochester has
always enjoyed many excellent cultural attractions, and in 1913,
Moore brought the first feature-length movie to the Temple
Theater on South Clinton Avenue as a vaudeville act.
continues to be a vibrant and exciting place to live and work. For
more information or to discover the rich history of your own
neighborhood, go online to the Rochester
Public Library. You'll find both information and
pictures to enhance your research.
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