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



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.
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

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