5 Rochester Surprises

5 Rochester Surprises

We’re on our way back home from our first scouting trip. Here are five things that we didn’t know to expect from our Rochester trip.

1. The light

Rochester has some serious treescapes. The residential neighborhoods are positively arched. Here’s a typical street.

You can measure the transition from residential to more commercial areas with a light meter.

2. The roads

I have some biases. Before we moved to our Nashville house, I thought ranch houses weren’t for me. Too staid, too old fashioned. But we got here and owned one and I came to like the simplicity, the straightforward floor plan.

Similarly, I associate many parts of the Northeast with a kind-of beaten down, utilitarian architecture. Less saltbox than a salted box, that has been greyed by snows and brine. The same for the roads. I expected potholes and wavy gravy.

But the roads were good here. What’s more, they’ve been busy (as have been so many American cities) adding bike lanes and other traffic calming details. Many streets are narrow, which keeps speeds down and makes it easy for the trees to arch the road.

3. The diversity

The city of Rochester is wonderfully diverse, 40% black, 40% white, 20% everyone else. Neighborhoods are less so, the city has noticeable racial divisions in where people live. Even so, we saw so much more diversity than we see in our homogenous Bellevue. The food’s diverse too, we passed Haitian Creole, Ethiopian, West African, Vietnamese, and several Jamaican places.

4. The architecture

Befitting a town that rose in its glory during the most craftsman-y days of American industry, the average Rochester home has details. We’re talking stained glass windows aplenty. Pocket doors, you bet. Fancy brass door handles, sure. Thick wood trim, yep. And always the ubiquitous “original gumwood trim”. How many gumwoods had to fall to trim this town?

Typical house bits

The outsides are nice too. Here’s some period detail near the Susan B. Anthony house.

Some period detail near the Susan B. Anthony house


This one has family history

5. The density

Rochester has a population density of 5,700 souls per square mile. This is about three and a half times the density of Nashville and eight times our home in Bellevue. Are you from Vermont? Well, imagine if more than 50 million people lived there.

From neighborhood to neighborhood, the density feels uniform. Outside of the glory of Park Ave and East Ave, there are similar 0.11 acre lots, similar trees, similar century old, bulletproof housing stock.

Our realtor gave us the impression that “anything goes” in the city. Want an AirBnB? Fine. Want to subdivide your home? Just make sure it’s safe. Neighborhoods had mixes of apartment complexes, 2, 3, and 4 unit homes and single family dwellings. This is good for the health of a city.