At the turn of the 20th century, Rochester was not only surviving, it was thriving.
The city flourished through the mid 20th century, posting a large enough population to earn a ranking among the top 20 cities in the nation; at the same time, it was home to three blossoming corporations – Xerox, Bausch and Lomb and Kodak.
This may be hard to believe passing through Rochester today. What was once a bustling downtown is now merely a collection of neglected buildings. What was once the first stop of the city’s subway system is now Broad Street.
Yes, that’s right – a subway system.
“Rochester is a pearl of the industrial era and, as such, it has many monuments from this period,” said sophomore Eryk Glowacki. Glowacki is the Safety Officer of UR’s newest club: Urban Exploring. “There are a lot of things that people don’t know about the underbelly of this city and around the city that are actually very interesting.”
The Urban Exploring Club is a recently sanctioned organization at UR dedicated to finding out about the “underbelly” of Rochester by literally exploring many different, mostly unknown and abandoned, historical landmarks in the city.
“Rochester is really a treasure chest waiting to be cracked open,” club president and sophomore Carline Getliffe said. “If you’re an urban explorer, you’re not looking for a pristine upper-middle class suburb. You’re looking for a place that is undergoing rapid urban evolution, has some great architecture, a whole lot of history and a little bit of grit. Rochester epitomizes those qualities.”
Getliffe and a few of his friends came up with the idea for the club after he returned from a year off from school. He wanted to learn more about the city of Rochester, something he said he did not do enough of during his freshman year.
“Urban exploring was something I had dipped into in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, but very little elsewhere,” Getliffe said. “Most places, however, pale in comparison with the opportunities for interesting exploration that Rochester presents.”
In forming the group, Getliffe and the other Urban Exploring officers faced many challenges, including concerns from the SA regarding safety and legal issues. To combat these worries, the club connected with organizations in the city, including the city’s Civil Engineering Department and the Rochester Landmark Society, which not only helped reaffirm the club’s legitimacy, but also helped them gain access to places they otherwise may not have been able to go, including the abandoned subway system – known as the “aqueduct.”
“Our first outing to the subway system had about 40 people,” Glowacki said. “I could easily see it becoming an annual trip because it’s so interesting and has probably the coolest graffiti art I’ve ever seen.”
There are other trips planned, most of which will take place after spring break, to places like the unused utility tunnels under campus, the fallout shelter located in Rush Rhees, and an abandoned revolving restaurant.
“We’ve also talked to other city organizations that give us ideas of where to go,” Glowacki said. “New York is filled with cities that are essentially shells of a strange and interesting industrial past.”
Club members are also excited to return to the top of Rush Rhees. “There are other opportunities to go up there,” Glowacki said, “but this gives us a great chance to bond as a club.” Indeed Glowacki sees the club, which meets on Sundays at 2 p.m. in Havens lounge, as more than raiding abandoned buildings. “The greatest thing,” he said, “is this club has been around for a month or so and everyone has already bonded with one another.” At the rate of the club’s popularity, the bonding and exploring won’t cease any time soon.
Fischer is a member of the class of 2008.