Genesee Valley Park Awakens

In Design & Democracy: A Photographic Gallery of Regional Works by Frederick Law Olmsted, George provided a comprehensive journey through the park work of Frederick Law Olmsted.

Today, as spring seems to have arrived and the temperature is predicted to near eighty degrees, George offers:

Genesee Valley Park Awakens: Photography by George Cassidy Payne.


Genesee Valley Park is located along the eastern bank of the Genesee River within the City of Rochester. Enter the park from Elmwood Avenue at Moore Road, or East River Road, or Crittenden Road.


After he was hired by the City’s first Parks Commission in 1888 to turn generous donations of land into an exceptional urban park system, Olmsted immediately focused on Rochester’s gorgeous waterways. He continually urged City leaders to concentrate on acquiring land along the Genesee River, with the goal of preserving its varied scenery from industrial development. Olmsted’s designs took advantage of the diverse landscape effects created by the river’s course through the city, from the rolling topography south of downtown, which he called a “nearly ideal” site in which to realize his vision of a “pastoral” landscape, to the steep rugged gorge banks to the north, where he envisioned a park in his “picturesque” style. He designed what he called an “emerald necklace” of parks and gardens along the Genesee River, from the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario.



These handsome concrete bridges were built in 1916 and 1919 and designed by the influential Olmsted Brothers firm. They link regional and statewide trails including the Erie Canalway and are functional and historic assets.



It’s hard for us now to imagine Rochester without these beautiful public spaces. Many local people have favorite memories or a special place in the parks that speak to them on a very personal level. A question posed to Rochesterians online recently drew many different responses: the magnolia grove or the meandering path through the Pinetum at Highland Park, the broad sweep of the polo grounds at Genesee Valley, and the swan pond (Trout Lake) in Seneca Park, to name a few. “My favorite place was the bucolic spot where Red Creek drifted into the Erie Canal near the Genesee,” Rochester resident Gary Bogue recalls. “There was a footbridge nearby and a glade with grassy banks alongside the tributary.” When Bogue returned to Rochester after years away, he went to see his favorite spot again. “I found that same place, now beneath the I-390 expressway.


If we analyze the operations of scenes of beauty upon the mind, and consider the intimate relation of the mind upon the nervous system and the whole physical economy, the action and reaction which constantly occur between bodily and mental conditions, the reinvigoration which results from such scenes is readily comprehended…. The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.

Frederick Law Olmsted



The enjoyment of the choicest natural scenes in the country and the means of recreation connected with them is a monopoly…of very few rich people…. For the same reason that the water of rivers should be guarded against private appropriation and the use of it for the purpose of navigation and otherwise protected against obstruction, portions of the natural scenery may therefore properly be guarded and cared for by government…. The establishment by government of great public grounds is thus justified and enforced as a public duty.

Frederick Law Olmsted


Design & Democracy: A Photographic Gallery of Regional Works by Frederick Law Olmsted

For the love of trees: arboretums, activism and the reverence of creation


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