Third Ward

~ Reprinted from “Third Ward Traits” by Charles Mulford Robinson 1899

Corn Hill’s Third ward traits would be incomplete without mention of Third ward characters. There is a list of them long enough to fill a story book, if one dared to publish it. Individuality is really a thing to be proud of; but strangely enough we none of us like to be called ‘peculiar,’ and loyalty to friends and family is one of the strongest of Third ward traits. So we may not name Mrs. E____, the rich recluse of twenty years, who bought her house before she had seen it from a man she did not know; nor Mrs. S____, still remembered for her gowns and jewels and cards; nor shall we speak of any of the living, though here a beautiful lesson might be drawn from life-long friendship through weal and woe, and there-and there again-a rare picture of family affection and consecration.

Here is a lingering type of the grand lady or the old-time gentleman, there the scholar, there the beloved and skilled physician, and here the Lady Bountiful. And prettiest of all, with hardly a trace of sadness, and dearest to the old Third ward, are the vestiges here and there of faded splendor, of a neat if frayed gentility, of smiles through unshed tears like sun through clouds, and honest pride and self-respect where present props to the world’s consideration must have failed. Blessed past that throws its glory still on faded coats and with sunset magic touches to royal purple!

historic Third Ward neighborhood rochester ny, corn hill
Circa 1875 map of the historic Third Ward neighborhood. From: City of Rochester Plat map, 1875.

But writ large across the old ward’s history are yet many famous names, which are the heritage of a whole community. It is always a surprise to students of Rochester to find what a number of its great names belong to the Third ward. Old houses of the Rochester and Montgomery families still stand there; and on an eminence, its white pillars holding high the overhanging, balustraded roof, is the house of the first mayor. For Jonathan Child was a Third warder; and in the next house to his, later occupied by Oscar Craig-himself one of the ward’s and state’s good men-dwelt Vincent Mathews, the fist village trustee distinctively to represent the ward, the first city attorney of Rochester, the first lawyer admitted to practice in the courts of what was then Ontario county, and hence called ‘The Father of the Bar.” In this ward dwelt, too, Everard Peck, who brought books as his gift to the struggling Rochester; here lived Dr. Chester Dewey, the loved teacher and scientist of early days. Here the pioneer Abelard Reynolds, passed part of his life and died; here, later, lived that girl who, as Lady Randolph Churchill, was to carry Third ward training into the noblest English houses; and here, to come home again, lived Lewis H. Morgan, who made himself a national authority in his field. Across the way from his home was the pillared mansion of Chancellor Whittlesey.

There are many more names than these. These are but a beginning; but they write Rochester’s name high in culture and achievement; and to their gifts to the community the little district added, one by one, the charities which its noble women-’The First Ladies’ of Rochester-there founded, in their love and gentleness, for a growing city’s needs. What wonder that an area with a past so locally distinguished is called the ancient home in Rochester of ruffled shirts, and glories in the title?

Something, as we have seen, of the Southern hospitality was in those houses of Southern type; something of the South’s old-time courtliness of manner came thither to mix with New England’s rigid conscience and sternly high ideal. And out of those friendships and that union came the best history of Rochester, and have come the conditions dear to the Third ward-those which have enabled the district still to resist surrounding changes, to remain to its inheritance and traditions, of which it is proud, conspicuously true. In them is the secret of the permanence of its traits

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