Chronology of Important Dates in Rochester's History

This accompanies the Rochester History Resources.

1534 French explorer Jacques Cartier made the first of several voyages and claimed Canada for the French crown. 

1608 July 3.  Samuel de Champlain founds New France and Quebec City.

1609 Henry Hudson in Albany.

1610 Étienne Brûlé became the first European to explore Western New York.

1615 October 10.  Champlain attacks an Onondaga settlement near Canastota, New York.  The attack had little effect.

1626 Joseph de La Roche Daillon was a French Catholic missionary to the Hurons and explored Western New York in 1626-1627, including the Genesee River as far south as Cuba Lake.  He was one of the few Europeans to reach what is now Western New York before the Seneca-led invasion of the territory that began approximately ten years after his departure, known as the Beaver Wars.

1629-1701 Beaver Wars between the Iroquois trying to take control of the fur trade from the Hurons, the northern Algonquians, and their French allies.

1669, August 10. Frenchman René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle and his party land at the mouth of Irondequoit Bay.

1674 March 5, The second Treaty of Westminster gives England control of New York City, Albany, and the Hudson River.

1677 Wentworth Greenhalgh, an English colonial government official, traveled to the Iroquois nations and secured them as allies for the British.  He traveled by horse, which may have been the first one seen by the Iroquois.

1687 June 13, Marquis de Denonville attacks Ganondagan

1716 Fort de Sables built by the French at Sea Breeze on Irondequoit Bay. French attacks on the Seneca do not destroy them, but binds them closer to the English. Fort de Sables eventually becomes trading post.

1741 - King George II buys land surrounding Irondequoit Bay for 100 pounds from three Seneca sachems.

1751 - Francois Piquet canoes up stream and discovers all three falls. He compares the beauty of the upper falls to Niagara. He reports that the five Indians with him kill 42 rattlesnakes without being bitten.

1752 - Nathaniel Rochester born on February 21

1754, July 3.  Virginia Militia Major George Washington is defeated by the French in the Battle of Fort Necessity, starting the French and Indian War. 

1755 The Indian Department was established to oversee relations between the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and those First Nations in British North America. At that time of its establishment it was a wing of the British Army.

1758 - April 5. Fourteen-year-old Mary Jemison and her family captured by French and Indians

1759 July 2.  British General John Prideaux, on his way to capture Fort Niagara during the French and Indian War, camps at Irondequoit Bay, and at Braddock Bay the next day, which he names Prideaux Bay.

1759 6–26 July. British siege of Fort Niagara,

1761 - Views of Upper and Lower Genesee Falls' is published in London. Upper Falls, Lower Cataract

1763, February 10.  Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War, the French are expelled from North America.

1763, October 10.  Royal Proclamation by King George III forbade all settlement west of a line drawn along the Appalachian Mountains, which was delineated as an Indian Reserve.

1776 April 9.  Revolutionary War begins at Lexington and Concord.

1779 June 17 – Oct 3.  Sullivan Expedition in western New York to punish the Iroquois supporting the French and also to establish a claim to western lands for the anticipated peace negotiations.

1783 September 3.  Treaty of Paris ends Revolutionary War.  The United States are granted substantial territories between the Allegheny mountains and Mississippi River.  The British Army did not fully withdraw from this territory until 1794.

1786 December 16.  New York and Massachusetts sign the Treaty of Hartford, which gives sovereignty of Western New York to New York and ownership to Massachusetts.

1788 April 1, Massachusetts sells Phelps and Gorham the pre-emptive right to negotiate with the Iroquois to extinguish their claims to the land,

1788 30 Sep.  Phelps and Gorham granted Ebenezer Allan 100 acres adjacent to the Genesee River and the privilege of building a grist mill and saw mill.

1789: Ebenezer Allan erects a gristmill on the Genesee River, near the current location of the Court Street Dam.

1790 James and William Wadsworth purchased 2,000 acres of land from Phelps and Gorham for eighty cents an acre.  They later purchased an additional 4,000 acres for fifty cents an acre.  Wadsworth owned so much land that he could walk from Geneseo to Rochester without leaving his own land. 

1800 James Wadsworth establishes a settlement at Castletown on the rapids and ford of the Genesee River, near today's Brooks Avenue. 

1803 November 8. Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, William Fitzhugh, and Charles Carroll buy the 100-acre tract.

1804 March 9.  The United States takes possession of the Louisiana Purchase at St. Louis.  The territory included 828,000 square miles (doubling the size of the young country) and cost about $15 million, or about three cents per acre.

1807 December 22, President Thomas Jefferson signs the Embargo Act against Great Britain and France during the Napoleonic Wars. The act significant reduced trade and hurt the American economy.

1810 July 28.  Canal commissioners visit the falls of the Genesee.

1812 June 18, Congress declares war on Great Britain

1813 September 10, American Naval Captain Oliver Hazard Perry defeats the British at the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813 at "Put-in-Bay," ensuring control of Lake Erie.

1814 December 24, Treaty of Ghent signed, ending the War of 1812.  The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty on February 17, 1815.

1817 February 17.  Canal Commissioners propose to cross the Genesee River by building a dam "a few chains south of the village of Rochesterville."

1817 March 21.  Village of Rochesterville incorporated.

1817 July 4, Erie Canal construction starts at Rome, New York

1822 May 1.  Name changed to Rochester.

1822 October 29.  The first canal-boat loaded with flour left Hill's basin, on the east side of the Genesee, at Rochester, for Little Falls, on the Mohawk.

1823 September.  First aqueduct over Genesee River completed. Navigation open to Brockport.

1825 June 7, 1825: Marquis de Lafayette stops in Rochester on his tour of the United States.

1825, October 26.  Erie Canal celebration begins in Buffalo, ends in New York City ten days later.

1828: Reynolds Arcade, a Rochester institution and a prototype of a 20th century shopping mall, is built. Rochesterians receive their U.S. mail, shop, and obtain other services. Both Bausch & Lomb, and Western Union Telegraph Company are founded here.

1832 Cholera Epidemic

1834 April 24.  Rochester incorporated as a city. Jonathan Child (Nathaniel Rochester’s son-in-law) is 1st mayor.

1834 November 21. Tonawanda Railroad opens to South Byron

1837 April 2, Rochester Orphan Asylum opens.

1837 May 11, Tonawanda Railroad begins service to Batavia with a steam locomotive delivered on the Erie Canal

1840 September 10 Auburn and Rochester Railroad begins operation

1842 April.  New aqueduct over Genesee River completed, this was later used as a bed for the Rochester Subway, with Broad Street built above it.

1847: Frederick Douglass moves to Rochester. With money raised by English and Irish friends, he buys a printing press and begins publishing the abolitionist weekly North Star. He continues publishing it until 1851.

1848 Rochester Gas Light Company organized.

1850 September 18, Fugitive Slave Act passed by Congress.

1850, January 31,: University of Rochester chartered as a Baptist-sponsored institution. The University opens as an all-male institution with 60 students in its first year. The United States Hotel, on Buffalo Street, now West Main Street, is the first home of the University.

1853 May 17.  Formation of the New York Central Railroad Company.

1858 January, John Brown stays at Frederick Douglass’s home in Rochester for a month

1858 October 25, Irrepressible Conflict speech in Rochester by William Henry Seward

1859 August, John Brown meets with Frederick Douglass in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

1859 October 16, John Brown conducts a raid at the Federal Arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  He is captured and hanged

1860 November 6, Abraham Lincoln elected president on a platform of "Free Soil, Free Labor and Free Men." 

1860 December 20, South Carolina secedes, the first of eleven states to do so.

1861 February 18, Abraham Lincoln’s train stops for five minutes at New York Central Railroad station as Lincoln travels to Washington, D.C., for inauguration.  Lincoln spoke from the rear platform of his car to a crowd of over 15,000 people.

1861 April 12.  Confederates bombard Fort Sumter, South Carolina, starting the Civil War.

1860s: Seth Green invents the fishing reel and opens the first fish hatchery. Sibley, Lindsay, & Curr Co. department store is founded.

1863 July 1-3.  Battle of Gettysburg

1865 April 9,  Confederate General Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House

1865 April 14, Lincoln Assassinated.

1865 April 27, 1865.  Lincoln's Funeral Train stops in Rochester at 3:30 am on the way to Springfield, Illinois.

1868 December, Hope Hospital opens at current site of University's Public Safety Building on Wilson Boulevard.  Served as a quarantine hospital for smallpox and other contagious patients until 1903.

1874 February 18, Holly Water System demonstrated, provided fire protection and motive power for elevators, etc. in downtown Rochester.

1876 January 23, Hemlock Lake water delivered to Rochester.

1880s: The Rochester Electric Light Co. installs the city’s first electric lights in the Reynold’s Arcade. George Eastman invents the Kodak camera. Rochester’s first park, Highland, starts with 20 acres donated by George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry.

1890s: Jacob Myers’ automatic voting machine is the first mechanical device used in a public election. Frederick Douglass monument is unveiled at St. Paul and Central Ave. Barbers close on Sunday, leaving patrons upset that they have to shave themselves.

1900: Eastman Kodak introduces the Brownie Camera. It costs $1, and film is 15 cents. Susan B. Anthony persuades Rush Rhees, president of the University of Rochester, to admit female students.

1901 January 8, A fire at the Rochester Orphan Asylum kills 28 children and 3 adults.

1902 Children's Playground League organized.

1904 February 26, Sibley Department Store fire.

1910 Flexner Report

1912: Mrs. James Sibley Watson gives Memorial Art Gallery to University of Rochester in memory of her son. Eastman Kodak begins 16-story building on State Street.

1912 April 15, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sinks in the North Atlantic, killing over 800 passengers including two from Rochester:  Gleason Works salesman Stanley H. Fox and Peter MacKain.  Lillian W. Bentham survived the sinking and lived to the age of 85.

1915 May 7. RMS Lusitania sunk by a German submarine, killing 1,198 people including 128 Americans and three Rochesterians: Jasper Norman, Albert Nathaniel J. Goodman, and George Arthur Smith

1917 April 6.  Congress declares war on Germany.

1918 November 11.  Armistice ends fighting in World War I.

1919: First Community Chest drive. George Eastman announces gift of Eastman School of Music to University of Rochester.

1921: Fist Memorial Day parade of World War veterans. City Council approves subway construction in old Erie Canal bed. Massachusetts claims right to Ontario Beach; U.S. Supreme Court later sustains city’s right to it.

1924: Nazareth College opens. Oak Hill Country Club deeds land to University of Rochester for River Campus. Strong Memorial Hospital opens.

1927: First true ‘talking’movie shown. Merchant B. Forman makes first trans-Atlantic telephone call from city – it costs $75 for three minutes. Subway opens. First passenger flight from Rochester to New York.

1932: George Eastman dies. Rochester records its first bank robbery; $3,000 taken at Clifford-Portland branch of Lincoln-Alliance Bank & Trust Co. Only recorded tornado in city’s history kills two, injures scores, does property damage of hundreds of thousands of dollars. New Colgate-Rochester Divinity School dedicated.

1938: Kodak factory workers get first paid vacations. First female grand jurors serve. Six Rochester men fight for losing Republican side in Spanish Civil War and one is killed- University of Rochester track star John Field.

1941: Last trolley car ends service and is replaced by bus; trolley tracks removed from Four Corners. Statue of Frederick Douglass is moved to Highland Park. After bombing of Pearl Harbor, blackouts are ordered and Cobbs Hill Reservoir is put under guard.

1948: First dial telephones are used by downtown Baker and Hamilton exchanges. Haloid Company unveils xerographic printer. Lilac replaces aster as official city flower.

1949: WHAM television (now WROC) begins broadcasting with special programs from Chamber of Commerce Building; 61,000 homes are within range of signal by end of 1950. Eastman House, formerly George Eastman’s residence, opens as a museum.

1954: Rochester is test city for new Salk polio vaccine. 22,632 children are inoculated in first week. WHAM television begins color broadcasts and switches from Channel 6 to Channel 5. First luxury apartment building opens on East Ave; rents average $150 a month.

1956: Passenger service ends on subway, part of which is to be replaced by the Eastern Expressway (I-490).

1959: First urban renewal project, Baden-Ormond, displaces 850 families and builds new housing for only 256. Work begins on Midtown Plaza, first enclosed downtown shopping mall in the nation. New East High School, costing $13 million opens.

1964 July 24-25, Four die as race riots sweep two sections of Rochester.

1965: City Council officially nicknames Rochester the Flower City. Power fails for four hours as faulty relay in Canadian power station triggers massive blackout through Northeast. Activist group FIGHT (Freedom, Integration, God and Honor, Today) is founded by Saul Alinsky. Katz Brothers Market is last merchant to leave Front Street as demolition crews knock down buildings to make way for Genesee Croosroads urban renewal project. New Liberty Pole, a 200-foot-high stainless steel tower, is built downtown.

1972: New nonpartisan school board kills busing plan and and replaces it with open enrollment plan to promote integration. Bandits get $836,000 in cash from armored car in front of Kodak’s Hawk-Eye Works. 26-story Lincoln first Tower is completed.

1978: National Weather Service issues a severe blizzard warning and city shuts down; blizzard gets lost near Batavia. Picasso’s Flowers in a Vase stolen from Memorial Art Gallery, but recovered. City Hall moves to former federal building at Church and Fitzhugh streets. Bombing death of Salvatore “Sammy G.” Gingello begins war for control of Mafia. Joseph Hogan retires as Catholic bishop.

1980: City School District teachers strike for 10 days. Commerce Building is demolished to clear way for convention center. Laval Wilson becomes first black superintendent of Rochester schools. Demolition begins on 28-year-old Hanover Houses, city’s first low-income housing project. Chamber of Commerce begins “I’d Rather Be in Rochester – It’s Got It” promotion. American Cablevision begins cable service to city.

1982: Ground is broken for new convention center at East Main Street and South Avenue. Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum opens. Kodak introduces disc camera.

1986: More than 4500 jobs cut at Eastman Kodak Co. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, is elected to Congress, defeating incumbent Fred J. Eckert. He announces, ” I will sift through offers. The worst thing that could happen to me is I might become wealthy.” Seven women are arrested for going topless at Cobbs Hill. Later, two of the “Topfree 7” appear on a national talk show.

1988: Eastman Kodak Co. chemicals are found in the ground water near Rand Street. A controversy ensues , though no evidence of a health hazard is found. Work begins on the untangling of the Can of Worms – the intersections of Interstate 490, Interstate 590, and route 590.

1990: Arthur J. Shawcross, 45, is charged in the serial killings of 11 women. And is later sentenced to 250 years in state prison. Sibley’s downtown department store closes. Rochester Police Chief Gordon Urlacher faces embezzlement charges. The Hyatt hotel is no longer stalled as millions of dollars are pumped into the project.

1991: March ice storm leaves 250,000 homes and businesses without power. Can of Worms renovation project is completed. Journalist Terry Anderson, formerly of Batavia, freed after more than six years of captivity in Lebanon.

1993: William A. Johnson Jr. is first African-American to be elected as Rochester’s mayor, replacing Thomas P. Ryan.

1994: Fire destroys 79-year-old carousel at Seabreeze Park. Rochester Tel creates Frontier Corp. McCurdy & Co. closes its department stores. Ground is broken for Frontier Field.

1996: Frontier Field opens to the sounds of the Beach Boys. A day later it becomes the home field for soccer’s Rochester Rhinos. Rochester Red Wings play their last game at Silver Stadium. Renovations of Rochester Community War Memorial begins.

1998: Xerox announces layoffs of 9,000 worldwide. Rochester’s Betty Tyson is freed after 25 years in prison. Judge rules she was wrongly convicted in killing. The 150th anniversary of first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls is celebrated. Bishop Matthew Clark removes Father James Callan from leadership of Corpus Christi Church because of his departures from Roman Catholic teachings.

1999: Kodak to abandon its Elmgrove manufacturing complex in Gates. Layoffs will drop the company’s Rochester work force here to under 24,000, lowest since the 1940s.

2001: Genesee Hospital closes after 114 years. Opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti performs at the Blue Cross Arena. Ticket sales reach nearly $1.1 million. Rochester gets a new area code: Goodbye 716, hello 585. Seventeen people with Rochester-area connections have been reported missing or confirmed dead in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

2005: On Dec. 31, 2005 Kodak employed 14,100 people in Rochester, down from 16,300 the year before. The area’s top employer then became the University of Rochester which had 17,199 staffers, with 14,498 employed full-time. Full-time equivalents totaled 17,339. The Rochester to Toronto Fast Ferry begins services.

2006: Mayor Robert Duffy of the City of Rochester announced that the City of Rochester and Rochester Ferry Company LLC will be discontinuing its operation of the Rochester/Toronto high-speed ferry project.

2012: Kodak files for bankruptcy protection in January.

2013; Kodak exits bankruptcy. The new, smaller Kodak has shed the cameras, film sales and consumer photo developing that made it a household name, focusing on printing technology for corporate customers, touch-screen sensor components for smartphones and computer tablets, and film for the movie industry.

2014: Anthony J. Costello & Son Development LLC has signed an agreement with Costco Wholesale Corp. to locate its first Western New York warehouse this fall at Costello’s CityGate development.

Additional information, suggestions, questions, and corrections are always welcome and can be submitted to:

Morris A. Pierce
Department of History
364 Rush Rhees Library
University of Rochester
Rochester NY 14627-0070

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce