By Elizabeth Pietrzykowski on Sunday, 20 December 2015
Category: Uncategorized

Celebrating Christmases Past in Rochester

Albert R. Stone, the photographer for the Rochester Herald in the early 20th century, captured over 14,000 moments in Rochester history. His unique and beautiful view of the city comes to life in black and white, capturing important events and day-to-day life. Today we look back at Christmas in Rochester.

Albert R. Stone, the photographer for the Rochester Herald in the early 20th century, captured over 14,000 moments in Rochester history. His unique and beautiful view of the city comes to life in black and white, capturing important events and day-to-day life. Today we look back at Christmas in Rochester. As adults many of us think back to the time when we were younger and the holidays filled us with wonder and excitement; a time when everything was simpler. Luckily for us, we can look back through the lens of a camera.

Picking Out the Tree

A favorite pastime for many Rochesterians is picking out the Christmas tree. Austin H. Morgan, pictured below, sold Christmas trees at his home on Joseph Avenue for over twenty years. Morgan and his sons would go to the Adirondacks to cut trees themselves to sell in their lot. You can see trees layered on top of one another practically to the second story of his home.

Lighting Up the Neighborhood

The technology behind Christmas lights has come a long way since they first became popular in the early 20th century. The tradition comes from using candles to decorate the Christmas tree. With the introduction of electricity and the incandescent light bulb, string lights became the new technological decoration.

The entrance to the Grace Methodist Church on Driving Park Avenue illuminated for the Christmas holidays.

The illuminated front porch of W.H. Brown’s home on Seneca Parkway with a tree out front decorated to match.

The Genesee Valley Club building featuring a large decorated evergreen tree.

Holiday illumination at the home of Carl F. Lomb on East Avenue.

Lighting the Tree

A tradition, still carried on today by many communities around the world, is the lighting of the Christmas tree. You can see in the image below that many people have gathered for it, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

The community Christmas tree in Anderson Park, at University and Main Streets.

What’s in that Window?

The holidays were a time where storefronts created amazing displays of toys and gifts. Attracting both adults and children, these stores would create a winter wonderland of exciting new trinkets to peer at through the glass. 

A crowd window-shopping at Edward’s department store.

Children stop to look at a toyshop window.

A young girl looks wistfully at the toyshop window.

Holiday Gift Giving

Once the window-shopping is done, the real holiday shopping begins. From shopping to shipping, a carefully handpicked gift can be a wonderful exchange between family and friends. 

Two well-dressed women stop to talk on a street corner near the Sibley, Lindsay & Curr Company store.

A man stands on a brick sidewalk, surrounded by boxes and partially wrapped toys.

Men and women wait in line to mail their Christmas gifts at the Rochester Post Office.

A small boy peeks into a letter carrier’s massive load of mail.

To Be A Kid Again

For children, the time around the holidays is one of the most exciting of the year. Each child peering into stores full of glimmering toys, delighting in the warm glow of lights and decoration, and awaiting the arrival of Santa brings a look of excitement to their faces.

A young girl dressed in her finest looks in a toyshop window, her reflection showing in the storefront glass.

Two little girls talk to Santa Claus outside a store.

The Front Street Playground jazz band performs at the Christmas party.
They play instruments improvised from hoses, trash bin covers, and kitchen utensils.

A Time for Reflection

Looking back through time at the holidays in Rochester is a vivid look into the lives of the people who came before us, who enjoyed the same traditions that we still enjoy today. While the photographs from the Albert R. Stone collection are an amazing representation of Rochester, we know that they do not show all of the holidays celebrated by Rochesterians; so whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, the holidays have great meaning to many.

Happy Holidays from the Rochester Museum & Science Center!

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