Skip to main content

5 Facts About Rochester, the Third-Largest City in New York State

Rochester, once a prosperous industrial and cultural center, the third-largest city in New York state, and the seat of Monroe county. It is situated at the falls of the Genesee River near Lake Ontario, between Buffalo and Syracuse, 260 miles (420 km) northwest of New York City.

1. Population

The population of Rochester is 206.357 (2020). African Americans, who constitute 39.6% of the population, are the city's largest minority. Other large ethnic or national groups are Italian, Irish, German, English, and Polish.

The city's Hispanic population in 2010 was 16.4% of the total; they are primarily of Puerto Rican birth or descent. The population has seen a decline since the mid 1990s, owing to diminishing heavy-industry businesses and loss of jobs from this sector.

2. Education and Cultural Life

The city's best-known institution of higher education is the University of Rochester, which includes the Eastman School of Music and the School of Medicine and Dentistry. The Rochester Institute of Technology offers programs in engineering, science, and fine arts, and houses the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Rochester's museums include the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra presents a full season at the Eastman Theatre and performs at the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center in the summer.

The city's newspapers are the Democrat and Chronicle and Daily Record. Rochester has many radio and television stations.

3. Places of Interest and Recreation

Rochester offers much architectural contrast. Simultaneously with major modernization plans, the city has deliberately preserved some of its 19th-century architecture.

Landmark houses in Rochester maintained as museums include the George Eastman House, the Susan B. Anthony Memorial, the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center, the Rochester Historical Society's Woodside, and the Campbell-Whittlesey House. Rochester's City Hall, built in 1891, is a restored neo-Romanesque structure.

Scroll to Continue

The city's larger parks are consolidated with the Monroe county park system, which contains approximately 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) in all. Highland Park is the location of an annual springtime Lilac Festival.

Rochester has several professional sports teams: the Rochester Red Wings minor-league baseball team, which plays at Frontier Field; the Rochester Americans, an American Hockey League team; the Rhinos soccer team; and two lacrosse teams (one indoor, the other outdoor).

4. The Economy

Rochester's manufacturing enterprises are diversified. The city is a world leader in the manufacture of film and photographic equipment, optical equipment, scientific instruments, check-protecting and other business machines, and dental equipment.

Rochester and Monroe county are also in the center of one of the largest apple-processing areas in the United States. The city is served by the CSX freight and Amtrak passenger rail systems. Airlines provide flights to and from the Greater Rochester International Airport, and interstate bus companies maintain terminals downtown.

5. History

In the colonial period, western New York was occupied by the Seneca nation. After the American Revolution, the leaders of the much-reduced Senecas sold to speculators a vast tract of land known as the Phelps and Gorham Purchase (1788).

Part of this tract near the Genesee River falls was the site of a milling venture that was acquired, in 1803, by Col. Nathaniel Rochester and two partners. In 1812 the first permanent settler of "Rochesterville" made his home there.

Because of the conjunction of the Erie Canal (constructed 1817–1825) and Genesee River waterpower, Rochester grew rapidly. Dozens of flour mills appeared at the falls to process the wheat grown in abundance in the Genesee country.

As wheat production and flour milling moved west, Rochester acquired new specialties. Before the Civil War, John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb opened an eyeglass shop, leading to the establishment of the optical equipment industry.

In the 1880s George Eastman experimented with flexible film and developed the first Kodak camera, and the city's photographic industry was born. Much of Rochester's industrial development was similarly the product of inventive local entrepreneurship.

In the 19th century, Rochester was the center of several religious and political movements. Mormonism was born nearby. The city was a center of abolitionism where the black leader Frederick Douglass founded the newspaper The North Star. Susan B. Anthony, the preeminent feminist, made her home in Rochester.

Related Articles