« Rochester Blog

Cascade District

Rochester Greek Festival! Opa!

June 2, 2011 by in East Avenue, Events, Featured
Comments (0)

Rochester Greek Festival (Image by Kristin Munson) The Greek Festival kicked off at 11 AM today (June 2, 2011) and will last late into the evening (11 PM) every night through Sunday. Cancel your lunch and dinner plans for the next four days, because you won’t want to miss a single item that the talented Greek chefs are whipping together on East Avenue. Moussaka, souvlaki, patitsio, gyros, spanakopita – how will you even choose where to begin with this menu? Save room for melt in your mouth Baklava, or make room with a little Greek Dancing later in the evening. Stroll around the festival, while sipping your drink, and gnoshing a gyro. Take in the warm floral aromas of East Avenue’s colorful landscaping, while the sounds of Greece, played by a variety of Greek musicians, fills the air. You can even shop for Greek art in the boutique & art tent. Admission is free, making those who work in the southeast city especially prone to slipping out to the Greek Festival for a little lunch break and culture infusion this Friday. You could come every day this weekend to hear the music and dance with friendly festival-goers (or learn to dance traditional Greek dances at one of the dance lessons throughout the day.)

Today through Saturday (NOT Sunday), parking is available at Asbury Methodist Church. Gleason Works has kindly extended parking to the Greek Festival on all four days. Very limited handicap parking is available in the driveway area of the Greek Orthodox church.

Dimitrios Theodorou of Webster NY Greek Festival 2011As always, the festival is taking place at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, in the East Avenue Neighborhood, at 962 East Avenue. In 1967 this church published a book which I came across at the Rundel Library in downtown Rochester. Within the book is an excellent account of Rochester’s Greek history, and the history of the local Greek Orthodox Church. It is written that the first Greek settlers were George Lamprakes a street vendor from New York City, and James Zutes, a street vendor from Baltimore, who moved to Rochester in 1893 with the hope of improving their lot. At that time, there were no more than 3,000 Greeks registered in the entire United States. James Zutes started a fruit store at the corner of East Main & Front Street. Lamprakes opened the Olympia Candy Store at 10 East Main Street with a business partner, George Katsampes. Slowly, the Greek population climbed, when Zutes’ cousins arrived and opened a second fruit store on East Main Street in 1896, and yet another Greek man, Epaminondas (Peter) Rousos opened a shoe-shine parlor in the Powers Building, and later a food importing firm called “Maggioros and Rousos” at 42 Front Street with Harry Maggioros. More and more Greek immigrants trickled into Rochester, several per year, and finally in 1904 the first local Greek family was started when Nicholas Katsampes was born in Rochester, the first of Rochester’s first-generation Greek children. By around 1910, the community was large enough that they had started an organization called “Ethnike-Aroge,” and had begun talking about forming a local chapter of a Greek Orthodox Church to fulfill the spiritual needs of the community.

The church was not always located where it is presently on East Avenue. The first Greek Orthodox services (between 1910 and 1912) were held once a month in a room that usually served as a coffee house on East Main Street, over what was once Daw’s Drug Store, near the old Reynolds Arcade. The priest would travel from Buffalo to conduct the services. After that, it moved around from location to location in downtown Rochester, and then briefly to the old Cook’s Opera House on South Avenue, until finally settling in on Howell Street, which today runs directly alongside the Inner Loop. The 1912-era congregation was so passionate about setting roots into a permanent location, that one of the congregants, Sotirios (Sam) Lagarias put forth a check for $400 towards the church’s establishment, a remarkable sum at a time when most salaries for immigrant Greeks ranged around $5 per week. This first donation towards the local Greek Orthodox church began a drive that raised about $5000 to complete the remodeling and adornment required for the Howell Street location, and even desks for the church’s Greek school. The Howell St. location opened for use in 1920. It was during this time, from 1912 until 1920 that the Greek immigrants of Rochester really pulled together, and became a community.

Considering what was happening in their homeland, it was perhaps not only necessary for survival in their new home of Rochester that the Greek community pull together, but possibly necessary for their hearts as well. The First Balkan war had broken out in Greece in 1912, and though settled far away, the Greek immigrants of Rochester were, of course, deeply sentimental in support of their homeland. So much so that when a Greek man came the church’s State Street location to raise money for a cannon, the community was said to be so stirred by his speech and poetry, his high silk hat and chest full of medals, that many in the audience wept. The donations came so quickly for the cannon, that they could hardly write the names of donors fast enough, collecting $3000 in one hour. Some even took off their gold watches and gave them on the spot. Even after contributing so generously towards war efforts, and building their own church on Howell Street, the Greek community grew more and more prosperous in difficult times, thriving as entrepreneurs in the heart of downtown Rochester.

Greek Musician Rochester NY 2011The local Greek community, though now dispersed to Rochester’s suburbs, used to be very tight knit in the heart of Downtown Rochester, and the Corn Hill neighborhood. In 1920, the community lived mostly in the First, Third, and Fourth Wards, which are better known as the Corn Hill neighborhood, and the Cascade District, Four Corners District, and East End District of Downtown Rochester. The local Greek Orthodox Church’s records say that “not only were those first families closely knit by national ties but their everyday experiences. It is interesting to note they resided within a small radius of one another in an area of well-trimmed lawns and tree-lined streets in what was then known as Rochester’s Ruffled Shirt Ward – the Third Ward.” Nearly 8% of the residents in the Fourth Ward were of Greek descent, and it was almost 5% in the Third Ward, and 3% in the First Ward (Corn Hill.)*

In 1937, after surviving the economic hardships of the Great Depression, the Howell Street church succumbed to a “mystery blaze,” which raged for two hours, halting all traffic on Monroe Avenue. The beautiful, painstakingly decorated church was completely destroyed, so they moved to a new building at 110 South Fitzhugh street in the Four Corners District, before the purchase of the current East Avenue lot in 1955, for a mere $9,378. Just down the street from the George Eastman House, and surrounded by a variety of Rochester’s most upscale, Tudor and Greek revival mansions, the church is situated beautifully, for what now seems like such a small (and wise!) investment. And luckily for the rest of us Rochesterians of all cultures and backgrounds who come from all over the metro for this once-a-year celebration of Greek culture, we also get to enjoy the conveniently central, ornately beautiful East Ave neighborhood.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, the church is offering “Religious Tours,” which are offered at the Greek Festival Friday through Sunday at various times, noted on the Schedule of Events. I wish the Rundel Library had more on the local Greek history, post 1967, because now that I have a much clearer view of what life was like for the first Greek immigrants in the beginning of the 20th century, I’m curious about how the population has become the large and vibrant community that thrives in Rochester today. Perhaps I’ll have to try one of the church’s “Religious Tours,” which promises to provide insight into the Greek church’s “architecture, history, practices and beliefs.” That way I’ll have something new to say when next year’s Greek Festival rolls around.

Rochester Greek Fest MenuIf you can’t make the Greek Festival this year, at least you’ll be able to sample some of the amazing Greek cuisine (because that’s the part of the festival you”ll miss the most) that the wonderful Greek community offers at many of Rochester’s excellent dining establishments throughout the year. RocWiki has a running list of restaurants that offer Greek cuisine. (And, since its a wiki that can be edited by anyone who creates a free account, be sure to add any restaurants that haven’t been listed yet!)

* Source: Research by WIlliam Bement, undated, Ethnic Groups documentation (Folder 1/2), Monroe County Library, Rundel Branch

The Luxury Lofts of the Knowlton Building

May 7, 2011 by in Cascade District, Center City, City of Rochester, Cover, Featured, Featured New Digs, Rental Market Info, Rochester Metro Area
Comments (0)

Knowlton Building - Rochester NY Loft Apartments - Newdigs.com

Knowlton Building - Rochester NY Loft Apartments - Newdigs.com

The Knowlton Building is proof that high end loft living is alive and well in Rochester.    The Knowlton Building was privilege to a total overhaul in 1998, when the Loftus brothers, Jim and John, owners of the nearby Cascade Building, renovated it from top to bottom into luxury lofts and high-end commercial space.  Under the principals of what John Loftus calls “adaptive reuse,” the brothers took the unique space, with its high ceilings and panoramic city views, from its final days as underutilized manufacturing and warehouse space, to its present condition as some of the most attractive and popular lofts and offices in the city.

As you enter the Knowlton Building, you’ll pass through large lobby where you’ll be reminded of the building’s history as the former box factory of M.D. Knowlton Paper & Box Company.  The ceilings are barrel-vaulted brick, accented by the thick wooden beams that are characteristic of the building craftsmanship that was standard in 1895, when the Knowlton Building was established.  The huge metal sliding doors in the lobby denote the days when the space was used for much more industrial purposes than the current businesses that exist on the first, second, and third floors.  A newer elevator brings you to the residential lofts, located on the third and fourth floors.

Truly, no expense was spared in the renovation.  Each of the Knowlton Building’s fourteen residential units is meticulous in its details.  The sleek, modern fixtures add contrast to the beautifully refinished original hardwood floors.  The spacious kitchens come equipped with gas stoves, a delight to residents who are also foodies, since most loft buildings in Rochester offer electric stoves instead.  Even the kitchen cabinetry is a marvel: built by a local cabinet-maker, the drawers have the smooth, quiet, self-closing action that is indicative of a top-of-the-line kitchen.  The Knowlton Building features tankless hot water heaters, which heat water on demand, making them both more energy efficient, and better for anyone who wants to take a long shower, or fill a bathtub, without running out of hot water.  Windows stretch from hip height to the ceilings, which are 24 feet high in some units!  The closets are generously sized, with plenty of shelves and hanging space.  Laundry couldn’t be any more convenient; there is a washer and dryer in each unit.

In the same manner that you would expect from the gentlemen who took great care to convert the warehouse into such beautiful living spaces, the Loftus brothers demonstrate pride in their ownership of the Knowlton and Cascade Buildings by being present and available to tenants on a daily basis.

The building’s renovation from the defunct box factory to the dramatic apartment spaces that exist there today has helped to shape the Cascade District into the thriving residential and commercial center that it is.  “What they did in Soho in the 60’s and 70’s, we did here in the 90’s,” said John Loftus.  The Loftus brothers’ hard work has paid off for the Cascade District, which has been continuously improving since their 1985 renovation of the Cascade Building.  This April, Nothnagle Realty opened the doors of its own recently renovated warehouse building, relocating their headquarters from Brighton to the Center City. Today, there are only two remaining unrenovated warehouses in the neighborhood, both of which are currently undergoing renovations.  The Cascade Building is also undergoing some changes, with six additional units coming available this fall.  The new units will feature balconies, and have access to covered parking spaces.

Unlike the city’s other main loft district, the St. Paul Quarter, the businesses in the Cascade district are mostly offices functioning on the standard 9am-5pm work-week schedule, making for a quiet neighborhood in the evenings, and allowing much of the parking to be freed up by the time residents of the Knowlton & Cascade Buildings arrive home.  Not that parking is ever a concern for residents of the Knowlton Building and Cascade Building, since there is both covered parking, and ample space in a nearby surface lot owned by the Loftus brothers.  Residents of the Cascade District often find themselves saving a great deal on gas money, because of the convenient proximity to Rochester’s central business district, where one can conduct nearly their entire business and social lives without ever having to walk more than a mile.

Of course you must be wondering what one of these gorgeous and fabulous lofts costs to live in.  One bedroom units start at $1250/month, and two bedroom units start at $1600/month, plus utilities.  Fortunately, the Loftus brothers have thought of everything, and have added almost double the hard-foam insulation to the roof than is commonly used to create more energy efficiency in the lofts.  In addition to the insulation, the tankless hot water heaters make for very energy efficient units.  If you”d like your new digs to be in the Knowlton Building, contact their rental agent, Ben, at 585.415.6330 today, or check out our listing on Newdigs to see more information about pricing, amenities, and lease policies.