By the late 1880s, the Lehigh had expanded into New York State, but its only access to western markers was via Buffalo and over a competitor’s line (the Erie) out of Waverly, New York. With the acquisition of the Geneva, Ithaca and Sayre Railroad in 1889, the Lehigh was able to construct its own line over 100 miles between Geneva and Buffalo. Opening via Victor, Mendon, and Rush on the 1st of September, 1892, the Lehigh mainline covered a 435-mile route from Buffalo to New York City.
The same day, a quiet spot known as Surrine (sic) Hollow became a busy railroad hub of fascinating proportions. Because the city of Rochester was not on the Lehigh’s New York-Buffalo route, a junction was created that utilized branches northward to Henrietta and Rochester and southward to Honeoye Falls, Lima, Livonia Center and Hemlock Lake. The new site, located on Plains Road, was called Rochester Junction and has survived in name long after the railroad disappeared from the landscape.
A basic country station was build at Rochester Junction, but it was soon replaced with a two-story Victorian depot that stood as a landmark until its destruction by fire on Easter Sunday, 1972. The location of a post office, produce, freight and watering facilities, the storied Terry Hotel and even a baseball team, the setting was one of the most photographed and painted railroad places in our region.
The Mendon Foundation has sponsored several projects at Rochester Junction over the years, including the installation of two rail cars (a boxcar and flatcar), a replica of the original Lehigh Valley freight house that houses public restrooms and a water fountain (open in season); a bicycle repair station (new in 2020); several Eagle Scout projects, installation of knee walls outlining key historic elements of the property; and the planting and maintenance of beautiful flower beds and native plans.
The Gardens at Rochester Junction
The marvelous gardens planted throughout Rochester Junction are comprised of the following flowerbeds, going from west to east:
- The Original Hosta Bed, with seven types of hostas and spring flowering plants on the site of the former Rochester Junction Station.
- The Station Master Bed, a mix of perennials and annuals with a Fall display of bright red canna lilies, purple ping pong, marigolds, and silvery dusty miller.
- The new 2020 Iris Bed on the west side of the former signal tower, graciously donated by the Greater Rochester Iris Society.
- A new bed for plantings in 2021 on the east side of the former signal tower.
The Mile Marker Bed, mostly bright colored annuals (zinnias, snapdragons, portulaca, marigolds) with a sprinkling of perennials.
Throughout the growing season, the Station Master Bed remains colorful, with:
- Shrubs: Rose of Sharon, fringe tree, viburnum
- Perennials: peony, Siberian iris, bee balm (red), Anemone sylvestris, heliotrope, rudbeckia, moon flower, heliotrope, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
- Spring bulbs/rhizomes: Daffodils and several varieties of Iris
- 2020 Annuals: canna lilies, marigolds, ping pong, dusty miller, white large angel trumpet blossoms
The Signal Tower Beds include the following:
- The new 2020 Iris Bed, which has over 20 varieties of exotic iris donated by the Greater Rochester Iris Society with names from ‘Man’s Best Friend’ to ‘Muppet’s Sister’ to ‘Honeymoon Dance.’
- The Tower Bed area itself has day lilies and bright orange marigolds planted around the tower base.
- The West end is being prepared for plantings in 2021.
The Mile Marker Bed includes the following:
- This is a riot of annuals, with a few perennials.
- Perennials: Hens and chicks, lime green sedum, Russian sage (silvery foliage with purple feather blossoms).
- Annuals: Oklahoma zinnias, red gem marigolds, pink and white snapdragons, canna lilies, brightly colored portulaca.
Apart from Cindy Lau, we would like to thank the many people who have assisted with the Rochester Junction Garden:
- Rod Ham
- Greater Rochester Iris Society (GRIS) for donating stock for the Iris bed.
- Vickie Cambalik for donating stock for the mile marker bed.
- Jane Anderson
- Kathie Ballantyne
- Arlene Cluff, who planted the Original Hosta Bed, as well as many of the perennials in the Station Master Bed.