Our History Walk today involves canals. For most people in Rochester, there is only one canal, the Erie Canal. It ran through Rochester until 1915 when the Barge Canal was created to bypass Rochester’s downtown area. But there was another canal, more short lived, and obviously not as well known. It also ran through our neighborhood of Corn Hill. The Genesee Valley Canal ran from West Main Street near the Valero gas station, all the way to Porterville, near the Pennsylvania border.
There are markers in the sidewalk on both sides of West Main Street marking where this canal passed through. It passed through Corn Hill along a path that at some point you may have traveled many times a week, Ford Street. The Genesee Valley Canal had visions of connection to the Allegheny River and on to the Ohio and Mississippi. The Canal was plagued with problems financial and otherwise.
It was built in several stages with difficult construction problems. You must remember that this Canal was totally dug by hand. “The total rise in elevation to be overcome was over 900 feet.” The investors had to cross the Genesee by building an aqueduct 40 ft high. The most over -powering force they had to contend with was the railroads. That and the fact that they never made any money doomed the endeavor. In 1878, just 42 years after construction started the project was abandoned. With its useful life measured in only two decades. The right of way was sold in 1880 and would eventually became a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad which went out of business in the 1960s.
The Genesse Valley Canal’s only evidence left behind are the 4 granite sidewalk markers on West Main Street and the portion of Ford St between Tremont and the traffic circle which aligns with the old Canal’s right of way.
Corn Hill has lived through four revolutions in transportation: horse, canals, railroads, and the automobile. Each left their mark on our neighborhood, for better or worse.