Hike to Rattlesnake Point: traversing the stomping grounds of Rochester’s most eccentric folk hero

rattlesnake-petes-museumRattlesnake Pete lived his role as a oddity owner and snake charmer. He often wore a vest made of rattlesnake skins, and carried around a cane with a gold rattlesnake head. When people would call on him to hunt down poisonous snakes on their property, he would jump into his red Rambler automobile, which was ornamented in front with two large brass snakes.

The nickname Rattlesnake Pete can be found throughout the various lore of American frontier history. In Rochester we can claim to have not just our very own “Rattlesnake Pete”, but quite possibly the most colorful, exotic, absurd, and legendary one of them all.  He was born Peter Gruber in 1857 to Joseph and Mary Gruber who had emigrated from Bavaria. As related in Arch Merrill’s Shadows on the Wall (1952), the town was Oil City, Pennsylvania, and Pete was the eldest of a pioneer oil refiner’s nine children. “He would later claim, that, while a boy hiking in the local hills, he had come upon an old Indian woman from the Seneca reservation. Dragging behind her on a rope a big dead rattlesnake, she explained to Pete how she would extract the fatty oil, which was used to treat rheumatism, stiff joints, even earache—among other afflictions. Impressed by the boy’s interest, she even gave him the snake’s skin. Pete later learned from Native Americans how to capture the rattlers, and from the medicine men how to use them for various folk remedies.




When his father left the oil business, “Rattlesnake Pete,” as he was now known, joined him in his new venture, operating a restaurant and saloon. Soon, Pete began to create a museum in the emporium. He displayed caged rattlers, then added a miniature oil well display—hand-whittled, painted, and assembled by Pete and his dentist friend “Doc” Reynolds. When a flood and fire struck Oil City in June 1892, Pete removed to Rochester where he established his own combined saloon and museum of curiosities (see picture above, a 1907 postcard).

People from around the corner and throughout the nation came to see such curios and oddities including—but certainly not limited to—Pete’s Indian exhibit with 500 arrowheads, a two-headed calf, a 3,000-pound stuffed Percheron horse, tanks filled with writhing snakes, jars of pickled brains, Pete’s 100+-year-old harpsichord (believed to have been the first one in Rochester), a pipe said to have been smoked by John Wilkes Booth, the weight used in the last hanging in the city, the battle flag of Custer’s last stand, an Egyptian mummy, a shingle from the Johnstown flood, stuffed animals and snakes of allkinds, and even an ax used by a wife murderer.”




As one local newspaper put it, “His musty curiosity shop became filled to the eaves with fantastic exhibits.” Columnist Henry W. Clune, writing in Rochester History in 1993, somewhat disagreed: “All in all, it was a shabby collection of museum specimens, but it attracted a large patronage to the saloon, and men who came in from the rural areas thought it the city’s number one attraction.”


In any case, what was clear is that Pete was renowned for his handling of snakes of all kinds, particularly poisonous rattlesnakes and copperheads, and for his knowledge of the medicinal properties of snake venom, natural herbs and tonics, as well as for his claims that he could cure a goiter by wrapping a live snake around an afflicted person’s throat. Pete was also famous for devising his own method of extracting venom. Apparently he also once saved a circus clown from a rattlesnake bite, and treated his own numerous snake bites, 29 from rattlers and another 4 from copperheads. He was once bitten in an artery that left him unconscious for days and took nine months for him to fully recover. As well, writes Merrill, “Whenever any strange animals showed up in Rochester, Pete was sent for—to pick sinister looking lizards from banana shipments in the railroad yards, to capture monkeys escaped from a carnival, to kill snakes, invariably harmless ones, that householders found in their cellars.” He hunted snakes in the Bristol Hills and—for rattlers—returned to the mountains of his native Pennsylvania. Dressed head-to-toe in rattlesnake-skin clothes, Pete set off on his excursions in an open red Rambler which sported great brass-snake hood ornaments, accompanied by his big dogs.”


According to his biography, “Pete saw Rochester by chance, when he visited his sister. She had married a Rochesterian who worked for one of the city’s breweries. He found a location that suited him on West Avenue near the old Erie Canal and established his museum there. Eight months later, he had the opportunity to move the business closer to the city center and rented the building at 8–10 Mill Street, behind the Reynolds Arcade and almost opposite Corinthian Hall, in Rochester’s First Ward.

People told him that he wouldn’t last three months on Mill Street because of the gangs into whose territory he was moving. It was a rough area.

Their assertion was made on the basis of previous exploits of the “Arcade Push,” the “Hard Cider Gang,” and a number of other clubby associations of callous-fisted, turbulent individuals, who had long infested the precincts of the First Ward, waging guerilla warfare with the police, and delighted to put “out of business” any restauranteur (sic) who had the temerity to open his swinging doors in their territory.

—Charles B. Stilson, 1923

But, Stilson went on to record, Pete prevailed, having done so by his diplomacy in dealing with people and, when necessary, by the physical strength that he had gained in his early years as an athlete and a blacksmith’s apprentice, and by his fearless reputation for handling poisonous snakes.

. . . he liked everybody and everybody liked him. He was always courteous, always a gentleman despite his forbidding nickname. There was never any rumpus in his place. Pete had been a boxer and a swimmer of repute in his youth and roisterers respected his physical strength and the steel-nerved courage of the man who hunted rattlers in the Bristol Hills and who had survived the bites of 29 rattlers and four copperheads**. And there was always at least one, sometimes four, of the giant St. Bernards around their master. In the days of the excursion trains, country folk always made a beeline for Rattlesnake Pete’s. They talked about its wonders for months.

—Arch Merrill, 1946


By 1910, Pete, then 51, and his wife, Margaret, 44 (according to that year’s national census), were living in the 12th Ward with their daughters Edith, 24, and Inez, 20. They had also taken in five boarders.

In addition to the snakes and oddities in his museum, Pete continued his lifelong interest in mechanical contraptions and machines. In a letter he wrote to the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company on March 14, 1912, he explained how about 18 years earlier he had made a nickel-in-the-slot device and installed in it a musical instrument he had at the time, creating America’s first coin-operated nickelodeon piano.

“It was a crude afair (sic) but worked well and it was—(I won’t hesitate to say)—the first nickel-in-the-slot played Piano in the country,” he wrote.


His letter went on to compliment Wurlitzer for its fine musical equipment. The E. W. Kelley company at 22 Elm Street in Rochester, a distributor of Wurlitzer automatic musical instruments, featured the “PianOrchestra” in Pete’s museum on its advertising circulars of the day.

Pete often went on snake hunts throughout western New York and invited friends to go along. These included at various times reporters Henry Clune and Charles Stilson, and noted newspaper photographer Albert W. Stone, who worked for the Rochester Herald and the Democrat and Chronicle during his career.






…Some farmer in the nearby countryside would see a snake in his field and report to Peter that it was a rattler. It never was.

But Pete would put on a vest made of rattlesnake skins, and we would set out in his red Rambler automobile, which was ornamented in front with two large brass snakes. Occasionally, he captured a large harmless snake, but more often found no reptile of any kind. The occasion, however, made good news copy, and Pete delighted in the expansion of his reputation, and gained more goiter “patients” as the result of it. He was a friendly and likeable old fellow, and as his red Rambler with its brass symbols toured the country roads, he received welcoming shouts from all the country folk who saw him.

—Henry W. Clune, 1993


Peter Gruber


Pete’s career as a snake handler and museum operator spanned more than 40 years. He had survived the bites of rattlesnakes and copperheads. In his obituary printed in the Democrat and Chronicle on the day after he died, the newspaper reported that “his friends wondered that he had not long ago succumbed to such repeated assaults of the deadly venom. But he was a clean liver, and was endowed with a powerful body and a constitution that defied all assaults, until advancing age and a combination of ailments that many months ago would have been fatal to a weaker man, finally brought the end.”

Pete last worked in his museum in December 1931. The “combination of ailments,” to which the Democrat and Chronicle referred, forced him to retire from the museum’s day-to-day operations. His manager at the time, Frederick M. Smith, of 594 Genesee Park Boulevard, ran the business in his absence.




Pete died at the age of 75 on Tuesday, October 11, 1932, at his home at 687 Averill Avenue in Rochester’s present-day South Wedge.

687 Averill Ave at night

On Pete’s death certificate, Dr. James B. Woodruff listed the primary cause of death as cardio-renal syndrome. Contributory causes were chronic nephritis, chronic endocarditis with lesions of the mitral and aortic valves, and arteriosclerosis.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported that hundreds of friends from all walks of life joined the funeral procession on Friday morning, October 14, 1932, from Pete’s Averill Avenue home to St. Mary’s Church, where the Reverend Thomas Curley celebrated the Mass.

Pete was buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.




The museum closed soon after Pete’s death. By January 1933, some of the smaller items such as the collection of firearms and historical Indian weapons were sold at auction.


. . . In his passing, Rochester loses one of its most colorful characters, a man whose unusual tastes and pursuits had given him a reputation that was actually world-wide and whose qualities of mind and sympathy of heart had endeared him to the friends whom he counted in thousands. Although he bore the name of “Rattlesnake Pete” for more than half a century, it was a foreign to the genial and humorous disposition and his unfailing kindness and courtesy as any nickname well could be.

—Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 12, 1932

Material above was taken primarily from The Biography of Rattlesnake Pete (Peter Gruber), written by Rochester author and newspaper reporter Charles B. Stilson and originally published in 1923. Further online references are cited below the photographic montage.

 The trail leading to Rattlesnake Point on the east side of the Genesee River. (Photography by George Payne)

I do feel compelled to add that as an animal lover this piece was not easy to compile. I have been thinking about this one for some time. For me there is no satisfaction in the killing or exploitation of animals. I do not care if they are domesticated or wild. But I also realize that “Rattlesnake Pete” was a man of his time. It is not fair to judge him by my own moral standards. As a historian it is important to see him as a product of his own cultural milieu and to examine his life apart from my own feelings about animals. With that said, below are the directions to one of Rattlesnake Pete’s old stomping grounds. It is an area known as Rattlesnake Point along the Genesee River in Irondequoit, NY.

To access the trail leading to Rattlesnake Point, one must go down Seneca Parkway Ave in Irondequoit (off St. Paul). The road leads to a parking lot near the Seneca Park fence line. Take one of the paths to the right through the wooded area leading to an open gate in a chain link fence. Once on the other side of the fence you are technically outside of Seneca Park. Follow the ancient Seneca trail along the banks of the river’s edge. Rattlesnake Point is about a mile or so down the trail. You will know that you are there when you see a large clearing with red dirt. The overlook is one of the most incredible views of the Turning Point Basin. The trail concludes with a unique view of the 1975 built, 138 foot, steel vessel called the  “Spirit of Rochester.” The trail is accessed on a daily basis by hikers, runners, fisherman, cyclists, and cross country skiers.


Woodland area near Rattlesnake Point


Fall brings out the trees magnificence


Cattails by the river’s edge



Log in Seneca Park


Brook near Rattlesnake Point


Residential house high above Rattlesnake Point


Buddha statue in the forest leading up to Rattlesnake Point


Marsh on the east side of the river


Makeshift bench in Seneca Park


Road to Rattlesnake Point


The Lower Falls


The “Spirit of Rochester”


Online References about “Rattlesnake Pete”






Left Behind: a photographic rumination on time, trash and transcendence

“Just because people throw it out and don’t have any use for it, doesn’t mean it’s garbage.”
Andy Warhol

Photography by George Payne

This garbage is the gift of the whole universe, each atom is a sacrifice of life, may I be worthy to acknowledge it. May the energy in this trash give me the strength, to transform my unwholesome qualities into wholesome ones.

I am grateful for this waste, may I realize the Path of Awakening, for the sake of all beings.

Namo Amida Buddha.


Junkyard in Adams, NY


Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.

Jacques Yves Cousteau


Junkyard in Adams, NY



Junkyard in Adams, NY


In the barbershop, there’s democracy. You’re a professor; you’re an engineer; you’re a garbage man, have at it. You got something to say, get down with it.

Michael Eric Dyson


Junkyard in Adams, NY


Clock in Sibley Building (Rochester, NY)


There is a garbage culture out there, where we pour garbage on people. Then the pollsters run around and take a poll and say, do you smell anything?

Bob Woodward


Junkyard in Adams, NY


Bouncing ball





Cigar Wrapper




“American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash — all of them — surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if no other way, we can see the wild an reckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index. Driving along I thought how in France or Italy every item of these thrown-out things would have been saved and used for something. This is not said in criticism of one system or the other but I do wonder whether there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness — chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic wastes buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea. When an Indian village became too deep in its own filth, the inhabitants moved. And we have no place to which to move.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America


Beer Bottle


A real New Yorker likes the sound of a garbage truck in the morning.

R. L. Stine


Candy Wrapper


Carmel Apples about to be tossed



Abandoned farmhouse in Adams, NY


Street mural in downtown Rochester



Adams, NY


In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.

Bruce Springsteen




The dead things around us remind us of who we are. We are living things acting dead.




Crawling out of the Cave: philosophy as the art of survival

Plato’s Traits of a Philosopher

  1. Gracious mind
  2. Spectator of all time
  3. Takes pleasure in learning
  4. Sociable
  5. Not rude
  6. Gentle
  7. Longs after real knowledge
  8. Moves spontaneously towards true being of everything
  9. Friend of Truth, Justice, Courage, and Temperance
  10. Apprehension is her natural skill
  11. Retains what she learns
  12. Loves herself
  13. Pursues fruitful occupations

Photography by George Payne

Poster on the hallway bulletin board in the wing of   the University of Buffalo Philosophy Department


The Athenian philosopher Plato (c.428-347 B.C.) is one of the most important figures of the Ancient Greek world and the entire history of Western thought. In his written dialogues he conveyed and expanded on the ideas and techniques of his teacher Socrates. The Academy he founded was by some accounts the world’s first university and in it he trained his greatest student, the equally influential philosopher Aristotle. Plato’s recurring fascination was the distinction between ideal forms and everyday experience, and how it played out both for individuals and for societies. In the “Republic,” his most famous work, he envisioned a civilization governed not by lowly appetites but by the pure wisdom of a philosopher-king. www.history.com




“How can he or she who has a magnificence of mind and is the spectator of all time and all existence, think much of human life?”

Plato’s Republic

The fire projects shadows on the cave’s wall


But only the sunlight is real


Few have dared to walk out of the cave… (Stock image)


by finding their own path…


they returned home to where they first began. (Stock image)


Courage is a kind of salvation.


 The Love of Wisdom…


Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.


 The art of conversation.


Letchworth Still Stuns: Relishing the Transcendent Beauty of the Grand Canyon of the East

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Albert Camus

Photography by George Payne



Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. 


Signs of Halloween in the Park










Letchworth State Park is about 17 miles long and averages a mile in width.







The Park is about 35 miles SW of Rochester and 45 miles SE of Buffalo.




Amy and Mendon


25 species of warblers have been recorded in the southern end of the park.





There is only one river that completely crosses New York State, and that is the Genessee. It rises in the hills of northern Pennsylvania and flows north about 180 miles until it empties into Lake Ontario. Along the way it travels through some of the most productive farm country in the state. It tumbles over six waterfalls – three in the city of Rochester, and three in the incredible Letchworth State Park.

Walter Power



Trees in Love














1 Letchworth State Park
Castile, NY 14427
Latitude 42.570148
Longitude -78.051170







The territory of the park was long part of the homeland of the Seneca people, who were largely forced out after the American Revolutionary War, as they had been allies of the defeated British. The Seneca called the land around this canyon Sehgahunda, the “Vale of the three falls”; the Middle Falls (Ska-ga-dee) was believed to be so wondrous it made the sun stop at midday.

Letchworth State Park







Dreaming of Europa: imagining our place in the multiverse

Photography by George Payne


The full moon is so fierce that I can count the
coconuts’ cross-hatched shade on bungalows,
their white walls raging with insomnia.
The stars leak drop by drop on the tin plates
of the sea almonds, and the jeering clouds
are luminously rumpled as the sheets.
The surf, insatiably promiscuous,
groans through the walls; I feel my mind
whiten to moonlight, altering that form
which daylight unambiguously designed,
from a tree to a girl’s body bent in foam;
then, treading close, the black hump of a hill,
its nostrils softly snorting, nearing the
naked girl splashing her naked breasts with silver.
Both would have kept their proper distance still,
if the chaste moon hadn’t swiftly drawn the drapes
of a dark cloud, coupling their shapes.

She teases with those flashes, yes, but once
you yield to human horniness, you see
through all that moonshine what they really were,
those gods as seed-bulls, gods as rutting swans
an overheated farmhand’s literature.
Who ever saw her pale arms hook his horns,
her thighs clamped tight in their deep-plunging ride,
watched, in the hiss of the exhausted foam,
her white flesh constellate to phosphorous
as in salt darkness beast and woman come?
Nothing is there, just as it always was,
but the foam’s wedge to the horizon-light,
then, wire-thin, the studded armature,
like drops still quivering on his matted hide,
the hooves and horn-points anagrammed in stars.

–Derek Walcott, 1981

Original Kodak print of the moon landing

Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god, but a great rock, and the sun a hot rock.





Empty space is a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in a time scale so short that you can’t even measure them.

Lawrence M. Krauss

Buzz Aldrin
Their Eyes are Watching God

I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.

Jack London

Cast at Syracuse University
Cast at Syracuse University

So many unjustified claims to superiority.


Man is an artifact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole.

William S. Burroughs

Magna Ball in Watkins Glen

The Universe can be defined as everything that exists, everything that has existed, and everything that will exist.


If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.

William Blake


The word universe derives from the Old French word univers, which in turn derives from the Latin word universum

Planetarium stargazing in Rochester

Modern science says: ‘The sun is the past, the earth is the present, the moon is the future.’ From an incandescent mass we have originated, and into a frozen mass we shall turn. Merciless is the law of nature, and rapidly and irresistibly we are drawn to our doom.

Nikola Tesla

Life is the Life of Life
Mohawk Shaman


There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.

Marshall McLuhan

Strasenburgh Museum

What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space.

Erwin Schrodinger

Building Blocks

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

Carl Sagan



Carl Sagan was probably the most well-known scientist of the 1970s and 1980s. He studied extraterrestrial intelligence, advocated for nuclear disarmament, and co-wrote and hosted ‘Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

Finger Lakes Community College Honors Class

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.

Fred Hoyle

Record Archive Chess Set

The modern era of physical cosmology began in 1917, when Albert Einstein first applied his general theory of relativity to model the structure and dynamics of the Universe.

2016 World on Your Plate Conference

When many astronauts go to space, they see the insignificant size of the earth and vastness of space, and they become very religious, because they have seen the Signs of Allah.

Cat Stevens

Mandala Stones (available at Calla Lillies in Sackets Harbor, NY)

Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.

Arthur C. Clarke


Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!

Lord Byron

Orgs that Love the Same Planet That I do


Photography by George Payne

Robert Wehle State Park in Henderson Harbor, NY


Where the river meets the canal



The Virtues Project
Irondequoit Bay


Rochester from the roof of Highland Hospital


World on Your Plate Conference


Iona College


Breckenridge, CO

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. Henry David Thoreau


With Frances Moore Lappe


Of all celestial bodies within reach or view, as far as we can see, out to the edge, the most wonderful and marvellous and mysterious is turning out to be our own planet earth. There is nothing to match it anywhere, not yet anyway. Lewis Thomas


Robert Wehle State Park in Henderson


Earth Vigil at downtown climate justice march


Gandhi Earth Keepers International


Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama, NY


There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. Thomas Aquinas


Mothers Out Front


Lower Falls in Rochester


Rochester People’s Climate Coalition


Ware, MA


What the fossil record does do is to force us to contemplate our place on the planet. We are but one species of several hominids that inhabited Planet Earth, and like our distant cousins who went extinct fairly recently, our time on Planet Earth is also finite. Louise Leakey


Lower Falls Gorge in Rochester


Talker of the Town


Bumblebee in Perinton, NY



Lower Falls Foundation


Trail in Perinton, NY


The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. Chief Joseph


Cattails in Adams Center, NY




Ice covered trees in Lower Falls Park


Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge | New York


Downtown Rochester


The Rockies


Lower Falls in background


Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.’ Neil deGrasse Tyson


Lake Ontario at El Dorado Beach in Mexico, NY




A Facebook exchange about President Obama and his respect for women turns into an intense debate on drone warfare

The following exchange occurred on Facebook. I posted a meme with the title, How a Real Man Treats Women. The pictures show President Obama courting, dancing with, kissing, hugging, bowing to, and holding hands with the First Lady. It is a powerful collage given the current political atmosphere. But It only took a minute for someone to respond with a post like this:
Kenneth Dyer Drone bombing children is beside the point apparently. I have no doubt his bombs have killed many women as well.
Like · Reply · Message · 1 · 1 hr · Edited
Gandhi Earth Keepers International
To which I replied:
Gandhi Earth Keepers International I appreciate and honor your anger. I feel the same way. I also feel that he is a man caught in a system that he can not control. I do not believe that he purposely targets women or children. Nor do I believe that he accepts collateral damage as an excuse. My guess is that he authorizes every drone strike with extreme dread and loathing. That being said, what President Obama can control is how he appreciates and honors the First Lady. Their love affair is one for the ages. He has shown men all over the world how to be not only kind to women but also devoting, awestruck, and totally enamored with them in a way that is healthy and spiritual.
Kenneth Dyer You’re just as evil as he for trying to make excuses for him and his actions. Go fuck yourself.


Kenneth Dyer
Kenneth Dyer Call yourself spiritual, praise a mass murderer. Go figure.


Gandhi Earth Keepers International
Gandhi Earth Keepers International Thank you, Kenneth. I can see that this meme triggered something important for you. I am guessing that you are needing more focus on the victims of warfare and less adulation of particular leaders. Is this accurate? I’m also hearing that you are feeling frustrated by something I said or did not say. For clarity, I have made no claims to spirituality. I also have not praised the mass murder of our government, White House administration, President Obama, or the American people who pay taxes. You may be one of the few Americans who do not pay taxes, but the vast majority do. I am not praising murder. I find drone strikes reprehensible. I am appalled by the slaughter of all life forms. I am thankful that I am not in President Obama’s shoes. Every night he is given a set of options which will inevitably kill and save lives at the same time. For him to not choose is just another choice with terrible consequences. Unlike you and me Kenneth, he is one of the few people in the world with the power and responsibility to intervene and stop killings from happening. Tragically, the way the system is set up, it requires him to engage in killing to achieve this noble goal. It is a tragic system. It is a tragic world. We are tragic figures. The American Presidency is a tragic post. The way we discuss our disagreements is tragic.

Rochester’s South Wedge: an old working class neighborhood turns progressive

Photography by George Payne


Map of the Wedg

“The neighborhood we know as the South Wedge began in the 1820s as a series of small houses owned by families tied to the Erie Canal trade. The Old Stone Warehouse, the oldest commercial building in Rochester, was built here in 1822. The area was actually part of Brighton until Rochester annexed it in 1834 as a buffer region for future growth. In the 1840s George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry of Ellwanger and Barry fame founded their nursery on what was then Grand Avenue (South Avenue today). By the time Frederick Douglass moved to South Ave in the 1860s, the area was flourishing, with the city’s first street railway, a plank road, and a hospital. Douglass’s house still stands at the corner of Hamilton and Bond Streets.

After World War II, however, the Wedge began a slow decline as residents moved to the suburbs. Businesses closed until the Wedge hit rock bottom in the 1970s. Nearly 200 homes and over 25% of all housing units were vacant and prostitution was “rampant” on South Avenue. Still, long-time residents took a stand against the decay and founded the [WWW]South Wedge Planning Committee in 1973. The Wedge was first published five years later to document the neighborhood’s fight against crime, blight, and vacancy. By placing an emphasis on safety and neighborhood pride, the SWPC brought about a gradual but highly successful renaissance.

Gandhi Earth Keepers International article in The Wedge

Revitablization work continues to the present. In 2006 neighborhood groups transformed a vacant lot populated by drug dealers into Nathaniel Square Park. A sculpture of city founder Nathaniel Rochester was unveiled in 2008 as the park’s centerpiece. The sculpture, which shows Rochester sitting in reflection, was the work of Pepsy Kettavong.

The Linden-South Historic District, comprised of 81 properties on South Avenue and Linden Street, was named “significant in history, architecture, design, archeology and culture” by the State and National Registers of Historic Places.”

Taken from rocwiki.org/South_Wedge



Sign next to Nathaniel Rochester Square
Tune in to the Broken Spear Vision on 106.3 FM
Concert at the German House

The The Historic German House & Auditorium is an historical building in the South Wedge. It was originally a parish hall for St. Boniface Church but has served as a restaurant since 1924. Today it serves as a banquet hall for wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, lectures, parties, concerts, and neighborhood gatherings.

The Coffee Connection provides employment training and job creation for women in recovery from addiction and as a not-for-profit business sells fair trade, organic coffee to retail and wholesale customers. In partnership with Project Empower, we provide comprehensive, continuous support for women on their journey toward sustainable recovery. http://ourcoffeeconnection.org/
City of Frederick Douglass (Douglass was a former South Wedge resident.)
Bernie Sanders fundraiser at the German House

“A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy.”
Theodore Roosevelt, New Nationalism Speech by Teddy Roosevelt

Bernie Sanders fundraiser at the German House

“Fame is fun, money is useful, celebrity can be exciting, but finally life is about optimal well-being and how we achieve that in dominator culture, in a greedy culture, in a culture that uses so much of the world’s resources. How do men and women, boys and girls, live lives of compassion, justice and love? And I think that’s the visionary challenge for feminism and all other progressive movements for social change.”
bell hooks

St. Boniface Church




Needle Drop Records
Swift Water Brewery

Nineteenth-century grass-roots populism made twentieth-century progressivism possible. Jill Lepore

Bernie Sanders fundraiser at the German House
Bernie Sanders fundraiser at the German House
Mary Lupien has appeared on the Broken Spear Vision on three occasions. Listen here The Broken Spear Vision
The Wedge is known for its boutiques and shops
Natural Awakenings Magazine was distributed all over the Wedge
Orgs such as Reconnect Rochester are interested in The Wedge. It is a natural destination for young people looking for commonsense urban dwelling.
Learn more about the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition at RPCC
Street art in the Wedge


House on Linden South


Bernie Sanders fundraiser at the German House. Listen to Metro Justice on The Broken Spear Vision at: The Broken Spear Vision
Rev. Matthew Nicoloff joined the Broken Spear Vision to talk about his work as a pastor in the South Wedge. Listen here The Broken Spear Vision (Stock image)

South Wedge Mission

We are beloved children of God, and no one can tell us otherwise.  We are proud forgiven sinners, neither ashamed of our brokenness, nor obsessed with our failures, boasting only in the foolishness of the Cross of Christ.  We strive to be practitioners of resurrection, seekers of wonder, and daredevils of delight.

Our vocations are many: we are teachers, social workers, scientists, nurses, mercenaries, veterans, addicts, artists, activists, entrepeneurs, programmers, unemployed, underemployed and overemployed too. We are gay, straight, old, young, single, married, parents, children, the un-churched, re-churched, non-churched, anti-church, and everything in between. We are the church in this place. Because the Gospel is for us, and for all.

TRU Yoga
Not quite in the Wedge, but it’s totally their neighborhood theater
A welcoming and affirming neighborhood