Progress put its unsentimental foot on one of the oldest landmarks of Rochester - and one of the scenic gems of the lower river gorge - when he Common Council voted to make Brewer's Landing a part of Seneca Park.
So, the haven of the rakish lake two masters back in the historic 50's and the port of old Carthage, which had earlier been regarded as an amateur metropolis and a youthful shipping center, are to make way for 1917 improvements.
The landing on the east shore of the river, to which a winding pathway gave and gives romantic charm, became a lower river institution back in 1843 when it was established by Jennings and Keeler as a help to bring bark to their tannery from Canada and from up and down the lake shore east and west. The tannery was on a plateau some feet back from the river edge - a knoll in a way, that was about seven feet above water level.
The stone buildings quite crudely erected, owing to the limited facilities for assembling rock in those times, served them until 1855, when the tannery was taken over by S.Y. and L.H. Alling and Josiah Fitch, a partner of Jennings & Keeler.
Fire swept the whole plant in 1858, consuming 5,000 cords of bark and practically leveling the tannery itself. The flames wrapt themselves about the dock, which had a frontage on the water of some 1,000 feet, and when they were extinguished the wooden half of the dock had been destroyed, and the stone section while not gone, was in need of repair.
Alling Brothers left it as a ruin and moved to Steuben county. They got a small rent out of it, but it wasn't until a man named Horace Hoyt from Missouri moved to the city prior to 1868 that the old wharf began to show signs of renewed life. Hoyt proved a real pulmotor. He ran opposition for the rive traffic with Bennett & Sons who operated Buell's Landing across the river.
Hoyt's brother-in-law, an engineer for the United States government, took over the contract for the first Summerville pier and tore down what was left of the tannery and used the stone as ballast for the pier. But from the time of the fire the big lake was lost to the east side of the river. Except for government lighterage the east dock saw no big boats, or very few from 1858 on. ????????? and the horse power elevators that had been installed to lift lake-steamer passengers from the dock to the top of the bank fell into disuse.
Buell Landing was the favorite. The fact that Bennett and Sons owned both flour and lumber mills was an attraction to commerce. The old Alling dock, for that matter, was more of an importing station than otherwise, nearly every schooner from across the lake unloading her 1,000 tons of bark and then going back with her decks empty.
The tannery had a front of almost half a mile on the river beginning some 200 feet north of Norton Street and continuing down to a point opposite Hanford's Landing. At Norton and St. Paul streets in those days the father of Seth Green kept a hotel and at the corner of the entrance to the landing was a large three-story framed dwelling that was used as a boarding house for the men in the tannery. On the west side of St. Paul street to that point north to the Ridge road were twenty-one small cottages for employees.
In anticipation of tremendous trade because of the splendid river facilities the Carthage and Steamboat Hotel was built just north of where the Deaf Mute school stands. The hotel is utilized now as quarters for institute employees.
The long frontage owned by the Allings fell away, to a small strip along the river. Some years after, Mr. Brewer, now dead, took over the property, the land being deeded to the city for park purposes. The area now to be taken over by the city by an ordinance of the Common Council is not more than 150 feet on the river front.
In a letter Written by Edward Angerine, now dead, the fishing at the spot where Brewer's Landing was particularly extolled. The communication printed in the Kalendar Karnival Kronicle read in part: "There were fish in the river those days, the early 40's, sturgeon, pike, eels, sheep heads and pickerel. there are very few now that the sewers of the city and the refuse of the manufactories on the bank having destroyed the fish and made the happy hunting grounds uninviting and unprofitable."
"It was my delight to go down to the lower landing on the tramway, or horse railway on the east side and thence on the east side to what is known as Brewers Landing on the endless chain railway. Here the steamboats and vessels from Canada landed their passengers and freight. The river from Charlotte was a great commercial highway."
Near the base of the inclined railway stood the big stone tanneries. On the opposite side Alexander Kelsey built a warehouse and the place was afterward known as Kelsey's Landing. A road was hewn through rock from the Landing to the top of the bank at McCracken Street now Driving Park avenue. It was a great accomplishment, and from that time on the decadence of the east side commenced.
The tide of travel was on the west side. It was a tortuous dangerous road but served its purpose admirably until the steam roads were built, especially the Niagara Falls and Charlotte roads. The latter, so to speak, knocked out the river travel and the commercial glory of the lower Genesee was extinguished never to return.