Author: Jim Burlingame/Wednesday, October 1, 2008/Categories: Local History
East Rochester was originally called Despatch because of its proximity to the railroad. The word came from the name of the first major company to locate here, the Merchants Despatch Transportation Company, most often referred to as the Carshops.
Walter Parce, a Fairport resident was the visionary and the prime mover in the founding of Despatch. From 1893 to 1896, he purchased options on the farms and held them until he enticed the MDT Company to locate its large plant here. To administer the sale and development of lots carved out of these farmlands, he founded the Vanderbilt Improvement Company.
Despatch was advertised in regional papers as a planned community. The streets running north and south were named after Presidents of the United States. The streets running east and west were named after trees. A tree was planted on the corner of each lot; a poplar for quick growth was alternated with an elm for beauty. In the spring of 1897, a large BBQ was held to dedicate the cornerstone laying of the first building in the carshop industrial site. Special trains, wagons, carriages, and bicycles brought people from Rochester and other towns to the festivities. Lots in the new town were offered for sale at this time. It is recorded that 15,000 to 20,000 people attended the historic event.
The development of the Village surged with the growth of industry. A train station was built at the end of Main Street, telephone and telegraph lines were installed and a branch of the Rochester Syracuse and Eastern trolley system ran through the village.
Although the first village pioneers walked on sidewalks made of box car doors, cement sidewalks, pure artesian well water and a sanitary sewer system made the village an attractive alternative to nearby Rochester. In an effort to attract more industry, the village made 26 acres of land available to the Foster-Armstrong Piano Company in the early 1900s. The piano company argued that the name Despatch was not widely known and petitioned the village to change the name to East Rochester. In 1906 the voters conceded and the village has been known as East Rochester ever since.
The village grew rapidly in its first fifty years and at one time the population approached 9,000. As the population grew, so did the need for education and schools.
A red brick school was built on East Avenue in 1898. It was enlarged twice by the early 1900s. The cornerstone and bell from the “old red building” will become part of our Centennial section in the Edmund Lyon Park at the dedication ceremonies August 10th. A new high school was constructed on the same property in 1911. The red building and high school were razed in the late 1930s and the present T.L.R.Morgan building was erected on the site. The present Lois E. Bird building was added to the East Avenue complex in the 1920s. School enrollment continued to grow in the 1950s, forcing the school board to increase its facilities. The Harris Farm property on Fairport Road was purchased where a new building was opened in 1959. Two years ago, the K-8 classes were united with the high school in the present building.
St. Jerome’s School, which held classes for kindergarten students to eight grade was in operation from the early 1950s to the late 1980s. The school was closed after thirty-three years of operation due to declining enrollment. For many years East Rochester has been known as the “Home of Champions.” Sports accomplishments have been outstanding. Among its famous sons are golf architect Robert Trent Jones, golfers Sam Urzetta and Mike Ferentz, tract star Jack Dianetti, bowler John Quinzi, and the 1966 Worlds Champion Senior League baseball team. From the Despatch Giants, the baseball team that won the Monroe County league in 1898, to the 1990s, the record breakers and the accumulation of trophies have continued.
The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s saw great changes in the East Rochester community. The village withdrew from the towns of Pittsford and Perinton and formed the town/village of East Rochester, one of three co-terminous communities in New York State.
The Carshops and Piano Works, the village’s largest two employers ceased operations. The business district east of Main Street to Madison Street was razed. With the help of urban renewal funds, a large mall was erected. Additional funds were used to clear land for the present Village Office and Library. The buildings on the former Carshops property were demolished and Despatch Drive was built. Presently new industrial businesses are emerging on the old MDT property. The Piano Works buildings have been refurbished and are now an attractive business complex.
The early beginnings of the village of East Rochester were unique. Over the years, a special atmosphere has developed. The beauty of the parks and the closeness within the community seems to bring a serenity to the village. From the loud sounds of passing trains to the delicate chords of a finely tuned piano, people are proud to call the planned community their hometown.
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