Friday, May 29, 2009

Rochester Center.

As I approach the end of a very enjoyable home visit, I wanted to post some photos of the Town of Rochester, where I grew up and where my parents still live. Settled in 1638 and incorporated in 1686, Rochester retains much of the rural character that it possessed in the 17th century. The above photos were taken in what passes as Rochester's 'downtown,' the focal point of which is a triangular green space described by one old guidebook as "a small but authentic New England town common."

As in many other New England communities, Rochester's town common is dominated by the parish church established by the town's founders. As the historical marker in the second photo indicates, the First Congregational Church of Rochester was first organized in 1703; the present building (photos three through six) dates from 1837. The church vestry (photo seven) began its existence in 1839 as 'Rochester Academy,' a church-sponsored school which offered classes in English, French, Greek and Latin for area youths who aspired to continue their education at Brown or Harvard. Though the Academy folded in the 1860s, the vestry still belongs to the Congregational Church and provides office space as well as classrooms for religious education.

Though I've gleaned some information about the history of Rochester's first church through sporadic reading in local history, my knowledge of the parish's present is quite limited: I have a dim recollection of attending a Sunday service there over twenty years ago with a childhood friend and his family, but I haven't set foot inside the building since. From what I've read in occasional news articles on the church, I can see that the spiritual descendants of Rochester's Puritan founders are proud of their heritage and committed to preserving the historic church building where they worship.

Rochester's current Town Hall (eighth photo) was built in 1893. The building is showing its age in some respects; for example, office space is at such a premium that some town departments are now located in rented premises down the road. However, the town clerk's office and other departments offer a level of personalized service that you're unlikely to encounter in larger municipalities. In front of Town Hall, Rochester's Civil War Memorial (ninth and tenth photos) bears old Yankee names like Theophilas Burgess, Pardon Gifford, Nehemiah Sherman and Handell J. Tripp, all "Men of Rochester [Who] Fought to Save the Union."

As I prepare to return to New York, I do so grateful for time spent with loved ones and time spent in my hometown. Though I enjoy living in the city, I also appreciate going back to the small town where I grew up. Looking forward to the next time that I return here, I'm consoled by the hope that Rochester will be much the same in the future as it has been in the past. AMDG.


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