In honor of Freedom Day, 2017, it’s worth noting some of the aspects of freedom that have been demonstrated for centuries on both sides of the Genesee River at the Lower Falls:
- Settlers from the East Coast of the U.S. in the late 1700’s who were eager to move here to seek freedom and a better life, when this land was still a wilderness.
- The freedom provided by our military, including Ft. Bender during the War of 1812, training camps at Maplewood Park that prepared soldiers for the Civil War, and the preservation of our freedom even up through the Cold War, with Project Bridgehead, which operated out of the Hawkeye Building and used top-secret surveillance technology to provide information that kept our country safe.
- Recreation opportunities presented by Frederick Law Olmsted in his design of Seneca Park East and West, providing freedom for the enjoyment on an afternoon by citizens throughout Rochester. And don’t forget the Glen House, which, for a time, was a starting point for leisurely cruises to Lake Ontario.
- Religious freedom of the multitude of churches of every belief in which neighbors were allowed to worship.
- Freedom of change that helped the world advance through the innovative new ideas from notables such as Seth Green, George Eastman, and other prominent people associated with the Gorge.
- The acceptance of immigrants and refugees, from Europe predominantly in the 19th and early 20th centuries and now from the entire world.
The hundreds of freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad that used Kelsey’s Landing to find passage to Canada and their own independence. Rochester’s heritage is steeped in progressive ideas about freedom which helped change America’s way of thinking. The history of the Lower Falls is a marvelous reminder of the changes that later spread across the entire country’s understanding. It’s an honor to reflect on just how important and influential this part of Rochester has been in the continuing march toward freedom for all of us.