By Rob Goodling
It was a crisp fall day on October the 2nd, 1979 when a flatbed truck carrying a large strange-looking object made its way through the streets of Rochester. Startled onlookers asked, “What is that thing? Is it some kind of space capsule?” It was in fact the top to a gazebo that had stood next to St. Joseph’s Church on Franklin Street for the previous one- hundred years. This historic dome was being moved to its new home at Plymouth Circle Park in Corn Hill.
Plymouth Circle Park (previously Caledonia Square and now Lunsford Park) was acquired by the Rochester Parks department in the late 1880s. Prior to this time the residents of nearby Glasgow and Edinburgh Streets had maintained colorful flowerbeds, which distinguished the park. For years there had been discussions and possible plans to erect a gazebo or bandstand on this site—an idea, of which not all city officials approved.
When it became known that this historic gazebo would be moved from its Franklin Street location, the Landmark Society of Western New York entered into negotiations to locate a suitable new site. Corn Hill resident and developer, Al Rayburn had considered purchasing the structure for his Adams Street property until he realized just how large the gazebo was. The Genesee Country Museum in Mumford expressed some interest in the gazebo but in the end the Redemptorist Fathers at St. Joseph’s wanted their gazebo kept in the city of Rochester and this unique landmark was given to the Corn Hill Neighbors Association on the site provided by the city.
CHNA President Shirley Lowe had previously appointed a committee of neighbors to plan and prepare for just such a possibility. Engineers Jim Sternberg and Chris Soderstrom planned and oversaw the construction of a base, which was completed prior to this particular gazebo becoming available, but which now fit exactly the base of St. Joseph’s gazebo. Al Rayburn’s CITIVISION, INC. moved the structure at a cost of $690.97. Architect John Pagan and Artist Ray Nau chose paint colors and restored the wooden structure. During the next few years Ray Nau would continue to turn new replacement wooden spindles until the Beautification committee finally replaced them with duplicate indestructible ones. Carpenter Bill Anderson undertook the task of re-roofing the dome with much-debated wooden shingles.
For over a quarter of a century the Corn Hill gazebo has been a center for many neighborhood events. Countless musicians have performed under its canopy and neighbors have enjoyed leisurely afternoons and evenings sprawled on its surrounding lawns. During the summer of 2004, Kathy Green and her CHNA Beautification committee undertook further restoration of its roof, replacing the shingles with new wooden ones, in the hopes of preserving this historic structure through the next twenty-five years. May our gazebo continue to inspire the life of this neighborhood and serve as a reminder of our rich Corn Hill heritage.