Maplewood and Driving Park
Rochester, New York
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Freedom was assured for escaping slaves who boarded Canadian vessels here at the end of the Underground Railroad.
By the City of Rochester — 1984
What was there
Alexander Kelsey and associates constructed a landing on the west side of the river (in the gorge below this marker) across from the settlement of Carthage (east side of the River) around 1844. At the time, Carthage was a thriving port community. This location is the furthest south ships could travel towards Rochester from the Great Lakes before reaching the impassable Lower Falls. Buell Avenue was cut along the gorge and allowed wagons to reach the docks and warehouse. A grain elevator was constructed to haul large amounts of cargo up the 160 ft high cliffs. A hotel, called the “Glen House,” was built above the gorge, near where the marker now stands at Maplewood Park. The rise of Kelsey’s Landing as an official shipping port of Rochester led to the bankruptcy of the landing at Carthage (across the river) and eventually the demise of its surrounding settlement.
Ships would carry cargo and passengers to and from Detroit and ports in Canada. After the Fugitive Slave Act passed, the port helped harbor escaped slaves, who would then board cargo steam ships bound for Canada.
Kelsey’s Landing reign as the dominant port of Rochester ended with the construction of the rail system less than a decade after it was firmly established. The new railway connected downtown Rochester with Charlotte, which established its own larger port at the mouth of the Genesee at Lake Ontario.
What is there now
Upper Maplewood Park is now above the gorge. The marker is near an entrance to the Genesee Riverway Trail, which leads to Lower Falls Park (south). Some remnants of old park structures can be found off the Riverway Trail, and near the gorge. An unofficial (but frequented) trail leads north, following what little is left of Buell Avenue down to Kelsey’s Landing. This area is one of the most popular spots for salmon fishing in the county.
- A horse racing event was hosted “on the ice” at Kelsey’s Landing in January 1846.
- At the time this section of what is now Maplewood Park was known as the Maple Grove, a popular recreation area and point of access for the river and to view the falls. This attracted the City of Rochester to purchase the land in 1904 and commission the Olmsted Brothers firm to design a park. The rose garden was added in 1909.
- See also the neighboring marker for Casconchiagon.
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