Last Sunday, I cycled to the site of the Charles Carroll Plaza revitalization project on the Genesee Riverway where slow but sure progress is being made on renovating the Sister Cities Bridge and refurbishing the Greenway Trail.
FACTS ON REVITALIZATION The scope of work for phase two includes, but is not limited to, asbestos remediation; demolition and removal of the remaining hardscape elements, pavement, site furnishings, landscape plantings and overburden to expose the roof slab of the Genesee Crossroads Garage; installation of a new waterproofing system; reconstruction of the plaza following the “Genesee Flow” design including new paved walks and paths, an ADA accessible ramp connection to East Main Street adjacent to the First Federal Building, and new site furnishings and landscape plantings.
Construction of a new pedestrian access bridge to connect the upper level of the Charles Carroll Park Plaza to the existing Sister Cities bridge, along with structural rehabilitation of the existing Sister Cities Pedestrian Bridge and structural lifting of the NW span to a new elevation. Improvements to the lower walkway along the Genesee River, including removal and replacement of the railings and walking surface and removal of existing stairs and replacement with accessible ramps to the Plaza. A new accessible path is also being constructed on the east side of the River to Bragdon Place. The project also includes new railings and lighting installed on the existing Sister Cities Pedestrian Bridge. The scope of the work consists of, but is not limited to, selective demolition of portions of the existing plaza, lower walkway and the Sister Cities Pedestrian Bridge, asbestos abatement and limited asbestos containing materials, placement of temporary asphalt on the plaza, placement of a new wearing surface on the lower walkway, removal and placement of a new concrete overlay on the Sister Cities bridge, placement of a new railing along the west side of the Genesee River, fabricating and erecting new steel girders with a concrete deck, structural lifting operations, work zone traffic control and removal and replacement of lighting.
Most Rochestarians do not know of Major Charles Carroll who, along with William Fitzhugh and Nathaniel Rochester, established the village of Rochester in 1811. Nathaniel had the city named for him, while Fitzhugh is remembered by only a street and a place.
In 1984, Rochester parks director Hilland Knapp described Major Carroll as the city’s forgotten founder, whose name isn’t in most local history books and was “shunned” after a legal dispute with Rochester and Fitzhugh. The street named after the Major was short lived; in 1831, four months after Rochester’s death, the Common Council voted to rename Carroll Street “State Street.”
In 1932, Carroll did reappear in the public sphere with the opening of the Charles Carroll School #46 built at Dorchester and Newcastle Roads.¹
Then in 1973, the City Council renamed Crossroads Park West — a section of the brick walkway along the Genesee River, behind the Genesee Crossroads parking garage — “Major Charles Carroll Park.”According to Knapp, a “group of his [Carroll’s] staunchest modern-day supporters,” led by Father Robert F. McNamara of the Diocese of Rochester, convinced the council to pass the rededication resolution. A well know historian/archivist and prolific author, McNamara was intent on honoring Carroll — also a Catholic — for his role in the history of Rochester.
Seven years later, McNamara wrote was considered the definitive monograph on Carroll, Charles Carroll of Bell Vue Co-founder of Rochester (Rochester History, Vol. XLII, October 1980, No. 4). The essay discusses at length the wealthy landholding Carroll family of Maryland, but makes little mention that its wealth was based on slaveholding. As McNamara notes, the Hagerstown, Maryland 1803-1804 tax roll lists 28 slaves among Carroll’s taxable possessions.
When living in the Genesee Country, Carroll brought his slaves with him from Maryland. In 1799, New York State had passed a law providing for the gradual abolition of slavery. Carroll never manumitted his slaves. Actually, he acquired more. When Carroll left the Genesee County for good in 1815, he put his slaves on the market, advertising “about FORTY VALUABLE NEGROES, among whom are some excellent house servants, good wagoners, prime farm hands, & a good carpenter, suffice it to say there are few such Slaves at Market.”
Carroll’s relationship to chattel slavery is of scant interest to McNamara. “Slave” and “slavery” are mentioned only seven times.
Carroll and Fitzhugh lagged behind Nathaniel Rochester by more than a decade in relocating to the Genesee Valley and never lived in the city of Rochester. Instead, both settled in Livingston County at spacious estates that were maintained at least in part by enslaved Black people.
Charles Carroll was born in 1767 in Frederick County, Maryland, part of one of the wealthiest and most prominent families in the colony. His father’s cousin was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independ- ence and, according to John Adams, possibly the richest man in America. Included in the family wealth were 1,100 enslaved Black people, according to re- search sponsored by the historic Charles Carroll House in Annapolis, Maryland.
Another family grandee, Archbishop of Baltimore John Carroll, founded Georgetown University and was complicit in the sale of enslaved Black people to sustain it through its early years, according to Georgetown records.
The Charles Carroll who would help found Rochester spent the ﬁrst part of his adult life in Hagerstown, Maryland, where an 1804 tax roll lists 28 enslaved Black people at the largest of his several plantations, according to a 1980 biography of him in “Rochester History.”
One of Knapp’s favorite stories is about the city’s forgotten founder, Charles Carroll. “Charles Carroll, with William Fitzhugh and Nathaniel Rochester, established the village of Rochester,” Knapp explained. “But some time later, Carroll had a falling out with Fitzhugh and especially with Rochester. He sued the city and won, and Fitzhugh and Rochester got into a real brouhaha about the thing and Carroll was shunned.” Carroll’s name isn’t in most local history books, Knapp said. But a group of his staunchest modern-day supporters convinced city officials in 1973 to honor him with the dedication of Major Charles Carroll Plaza, a section of the brick walkway along the Genesee River, behind the Genesee Crossroads parking garage. “Charles Carroll . . . Farmer Patriot Pioneer. With Nathaniel Rochester and William Fitzhugh, co-founder of Rochester A.D. 1811,” reads the black and silver plaque in his honor.
After the war, Carroll set his sights on New York State, founding the city of Rochester in conjunction with William Fitzhugh and Nathaniel Rochester before buying further lands in the Genesee valley region. Though his role in Rochester’s history is somewhat obscure, Carroll took an active role in helping develop the commercial center
Eliminating a Founder: the Origin of State Street(LOCAL HISTORY ROCS! ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY/LOCAL HISTORY & GENEALOGY DIVISION)
Our Charles was born in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1789, he moved westward to Washington County, Maryland, where he built a large estate named Belle Vue near Hagerstown, Maryland. The 1803-1804 tax roll testifies to his wealth. The document affirms that he had 27 horses, 100 head of cattle, and 28 slaves. By the time he moved permanently to the Genesee Country in 1815, he reportedly had at least 40 slaves.