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History of Corn Hill

Around 1812 this area was called Rochesterville; population three hundred. Today we’re known as Corn Hill, a vibrant urban village of twenty-two hundred in the heart of Rochester, New York. A lot has happened in the intervening two hundred years. Let us share some of that history.

The Corn Hill Name

Excerpts from the pen of Rob GoodlingA reader of this website posed the questions, “Why is our neighborhood called Corn Hill?” and “What is the origin of this name?” According to Cynthia Howk, Architectural Research Coordinator for the Landmark Society, there is no “one” definitive answer to this interesting “name” question but three possible suggestions have been offered over the years:

  1. Early Native American inhabitants may have grown corn crops on this area elevated above the Genesee River, which possibly created the name “Corn Hill.” To those traveling northward on the river, a “hill of corn” would have been visible on the left banks of the Genesee. Ms. Howk dismisses this explanation as rather implausible, since Native Americans did not actually live in much of what is now Monroe County.
  2. The name Corn Hill might have come into use after our early Rochesterville forefathers settled this largely undeveloped area. They built their residences here and maintained agricultural plots, which would have included crops of corn on these elevated banks. Following the completion of the Erie Canal, travelers on the Canal and on the Genesee River could have seen “hills of corn” as they navigated these waterways.
  3. The earliest actual appearance of the term was probably the one word, “CORNHILL,” on an early “Third Ward” city land tract. Cornhill had been a fashionable section of London, England at this time and since Rochester was a new, small, just-developing town, the name may have been used in an attempt to give some prestige or glamour to this neighborhood. Clearly there was historic prestige in the name given to this land tract, which would later become known as Rochester’s “Ruffled Shirt Ward” or “Silk Stocking District.” This English influence could have been the source of our name.

Ever since the 1970s the thirty-five streets of our neighborhood, bordered by highway 490 to the north, Ford Street to the west and the Genesee River to the east and south, have become popularly and widely known as historic “Corn Hill.” As to the true origin of the name, well, you are free to choose your own favorite explanation!