Blog

My Geneva is…

December 11th, 2020

By Anne Dealy, Director of Education and Public Information

My Geneva is… a place I know well and yet, not so well. As a commuter from Rochester, I have traveled back and forth between Geneva and the northeast suburbs of Monroe County for 19 years (18.5 if you subtract the last 8 months), going in the opposite direction of many inhabitants in the city. Aside from the Prouty-Chew House, my Geneva is intimately connected to the transportation infrastructure.

View of tollbooths on New York State Thruway.

The Geneva tollbooth, soon to disappear, has been my entry point to the community for almost 20 years.

When I interviewed for the position of Director of Education and Public Information way back in the fall of 2000, my husband said, “Just don’t plan to move to Geneva.” Nothing against the community we knew little about, but with all of our family in Rochester and his job requiring early hours, he was understandably unwilling to take on an hour-long drive to work. I went blindly forward, not expecting to drive over 400,000 miles to work over nearly two decades.

View of Lake Street to Lake with a diner, Firestone, and Texaco on the left and a Sunoco on the right.

My parents’ car may have been towed to one of several garages in Geneva, including the Texaco and Sunoco stations on Lake Street.

When I told my parents I was interviewing for a job in Geneva, a community I had never visited despite growing up in Rochester, they told me I had been there before, in a way. My parents moved to Rochester from Syracuse in the fall of 1969, when my mother was pregnant with me. My father had just gotten a teaching job at The Harley School and they were moving to town on the day of his welcome reception. On the drive, their car broke down on the Thruway near Geneva, and it was towed to town for repair. They had to leave the car and take a bus to Rochester in order to make it to the reception in time, so in a sense Geneva was one of the first places I visited in the Finger Lakes.

A four-storey brick building with two storefronts, one with the signs: Calvary's Thrift and For Lease.

Shown in 1988 and since demolished, this building at 394 Exchange Street housed the Chalet Coffee Pot Restaurant and Greyhound bus station in 1969. Both moved to 48 Lake Street in 1973.

My parents would have seen a very different community on their drive down Route 14 than we see today. The view has changed a lot just since I began commuting in October of 2000. The traffic has gotten worse, though compared to driving in and out of Rochester, it’s not anything to complain about. My changing view has included the construction, collapse and completion of the garage at Geneva Foreign and Sports; the demolition of buildings at the corner of Lake and Exchange, followed by the construction of the Hampton Inn and Bicentennial Park; the removal of the old Chamber of Commerce building on the lakefront and construction (twice!) of the current State Visitor’s Center; and now the removal of the Thruway toll booths. I’ve seen South Main, North, Hamilton, Washington, and Exchange Streets ripped up and resurfaced. When I ultimately start back with my daily commute, I may be driving through the work planned for the Lakefront and Castle Street.

Spending so much time in Geneva and with our supporters, school children, and teachers, gives me a unique, if limited, perspective on the city. I understand more of the community’s roots and historic context than the average resident, but of course am missing the personal connections I would have if I lived in the city with my family. I do miss knowing that part of the city, but hope that My Geneva, like that of our newcomers over the centuries, can provide some insight into where the city has been and perhaps where it is going.

Everyone has their own Geneva.  If you could capture your Geneva in just one photo, what would it be?  A favorite restaurant or store?  A place from your childhood?  An individual or group of people? A street?  A place connected to favorite memory?

The Geneva Historical Society is collecting these photos for the exhibit My Geneva is …. The exhibit will be made up entirely of photos submitted by community members. Along with a photo, submissions should include a narrative about why the photo captures your Geneva and a description of who or what is depicted.   Some submissions to My Geneva is… will become part of the Historical Society’s photograph collection.  The deadline for submissions is January 4, 2021.  My Geneva is …. will be on display at the Geneva History Museum from January 25 through June 26, 2021.   

If you have questions or submissions, please email Becky at archivist@genevahistoricalsociety.com

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