Rochester’s Monroe Square: An Art Deco Treasure

Rochester’s Monroe Square: An Art Deco Treasure

In Touring Hawkeye: An Inside Look at Kodak’s Most Enigmatic Landmark, George Cassidy Payne took us inside Kodak’s Hawkeye Manufacturing Plant, considered to be one of the finest examples of “Factory Art Deco” in the world.

Today, George looks at another example of classic Art Deco architecture, Monroe Square.

Rochester’s Monroe Square: An Art Deco Treasure

First appearing in France after WWI, Art Deco flourished in the 1920-30s. Art historians have described it as “an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials.”

Rochester has several notable Art Deco buildings. One is Monroe Square. This 103 foot medical office building is located on Monroe Avenue just 200 yards from I-490. Made of concrete, it is an angular, streamlined, low-rise, rigid framed building that has many features of a classic Art Deco structure.

Photography and text by George Cassidy Payne

“The Art Deco style manifested across the spectrum of the visual arts: from architecture, painting, and sculpture to the graphic and decorative arts. While Art Deco practitioners were often paying homage to modernist influences such as Cubism, De Stijl, and Futurism, the references were indirect; it was as though they were taking the end results of a few decades of distilling compositions to the most basic forms and inventing a new style that could be visually pleasing but not intellectually threatening.” –

“With the advent of large-scale manufacturing, artists and designers wished to enhance the appearance of mass-produced functional objects – everything from clocks and ashtrays to cars and buildings. Art Deco’s pursuit of beauty in all aspects of life was directly reflective of the relative newness and mass usage of machine-age technology rather than traditional crafting methods to produce many objects. The Bauhaus school was also interested in industrial production, but in a sense The Bauhaus is the polar opposite as it refrained from artistic embellishments – preferring clean and simple geometric forms.” –

Inside the building there is an impressive collection of fine art.

The building has 3 elevators.

Long time residents of Rochester will know this building as the former site of Sears Roebuck and Co. (Photo taken from Pinterest @

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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