Ford Street & Exchange
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Ford Street Bridge
(Formerly Clarissa Street Bridge)
Originally built – 1918
Original width – 39′
Rehabilitation date – 2001
New width – 50′
By the City of Rochester — 2001
What was there
Four incarnations of the Clarissa Street Bridge, the primary artery linking the 3rd Ward neighborhood known as “Clarissa” to Downtown Rochester and Main Street.
The original bridge was built in 1844 and repaired in 1856. A replacement was built in 1862. That too was replaced in 1892 with a steel truss bridge. The fourth and current bridge began construction in 1917 and opened around 1919. It is a concrete and steel “pony truss” bridge (the sides of the bridge rise above and are not connected) anchored by 4 pylons. The bridge spans 385 ft across the Genesee River.
By the 1960s the 3rd Ward and much of Clarissa Street was neglected, and the bridge and much of the waterfront fell under disrepair. Talk of a neighborhood revitalization plan began around then but nothing materialized until the 21st century. The construction of the Inner Loop freeway in the 1950s and 60s rerouted many city roads including Ford and Clarissa Streets. Ford Street became the dominant commuter route and was redirected to the bridge, while Clarissa St was rerouted, serving as a residential street in the 3rd Ward (Corn Hill), redirecting east to connect with Fitzhugh St. The Bridge was renamed “Ford Street Bridge” in 1980.
What is there now
The bridge was rehabilitated in 2001, through an effort by the Western New York Landmark Society, the City of Rochester, and the Pike Company construction firm. While still open to limited traffic, it was disassembled, piers repaired and reinforced, new bridge girders installed, repainting and re-installing the trusses, and laying down all new concrete. The “new” bridge opened with a wider width, accommodating two additional lanes of traffic. The total cost of the rehabilitation was $7.9 million.
The new bridge served as an anchor for riverfront revitalization in the third ward. Public housing has since been removed and new luxury apartments and a waterfront walkway have been constructed. The bridge and waterfront around it offer excellent views of the downtown Rochester skyline.
- An excerpt from “Rochester History.” Vol 27, issue 3 (July, 1965), by Blake McKelvey, reads:
Just over the crest of the hill on which most of the gracious homes of the old Third Ward clustered is a north-south Street now known as Clarissa. Originally named High Street, though, in fact, it was low and marshy and troubled by poor drainage, it attracted modest resident, many of whom found employment in the mansions over the hill. … High Street was renamed Caledonia Street in 1868 during a resurgence of Scottish newcomers along its southern course; it retained that name until 1927, when it was absorbed by Clarissa Street as the section between Plymouth and the bridge had been called since 1844.”
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