A Brief History of East Rochester, New York

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 native of Fairport, was instrumental in the founding of the Village. From 1893 to 1896, he purchased options on all the lands that were later to become "DESPATCH" and held them until he enticed the above company to locate its large plant here. He also founded the Vanderbilt Improvement Company to administer the sale and development of lots that were carved out of these farmlands.

It was a planned Village with the streets running north and south named after Presidents and the streets running east and west 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 of the first building in the Carshops Complex. Special excursion trains were chartered to bring people from Rochester and other towns to the festivities. Lots in the new town were offered for sale at this time. It has been said that over 15,000 people attended.

The development of the Village surged with the growth of its industry. A new 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 pioneer villagers walked on box car door sidewalks, cement sidewalks, pure artesian well water, and a sewer system soon made the Village an attractive alternative to nearby Rochester. In the early part of the century, land was given by the Village to the next largest industry, the Foster Armstrong Piano Company, or the Piano Works, as it was called .

Along with industrial development, the business sector evolved as a shopping center boasting the largest commercial structure between Rochester and Syracuse. It was known as the Eyer Block, built by early businessman Harry Eyer.

By 1906, the Village had outgrown its carshops-based name, and the villagers voted to rename Despatch to the more readily identifiable East Rochester.

To supplement the red-brick grade school built in 1898, a new high school was constructed in 1911. In 1936, both buildings were demolished to make room for the TLR Morgan School Complex, now located on East Avenue. The present Lois Bird Elementary School became part of the East Avenue complex in the 1920s. School enrollment grew in the mid '50s, forcing the School Board to increase building facilities. With no room left in the East Avenue complex, the Harris Farm property on Fairport Road was purchased where a new building was opened in 1959.

The Village grew rapidly - in the first half of the century and at its height had a population of over 9,500 people. It has a particular claim to fame in that it is the only village of its size in the USA without a cemetery.

The 1970s and 1980s 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 five co-terminus communities in New York State. The Carshops and Piano Works, the Village's two largest employers ceased operations. The business district east of Main Street to Madison Street and extending from Chestnut to Elm Streets was razed. With the help of urban renewal funds, a large mall was erected. More urban renewal funds were used to clear land for the present Village Hall and Library complex on West Commercial Street. The buildings on the former Carshops property were torn down and Despatch Drive was built on land where new industrial businesses are emerging. The Piano Works buildings have been refurbished and are now an attractive business complex.

East Rochester has always been known as the "HOME OF CHAMPIONS", not only for the many national sports awards, but for the caring, community-involved people who make the Village so special.


Local History Collections

Anita Mance