Rochester’s Quiet Jewel – The Maplewood Neighborhood

By Gini Denninger

Thinking about popular neighborhoods in Rochester; Park Ave, Upper Monroe, Corn Hill and the South Wedge come to mind. They are trendy, have lots of stores and restaurants, strong neighborhood associations, and offer a vast variety of home styles. But, did you know there is one neighborhood that offers all of that and more? Located in the North-West side of the city is The Maplewood Neighborhood. This area has been horribly overlooked and additionally, the shrinking of Kodak has not helped. Yet, a revival seems on the horizon for this part of Rochester. People are beginning to remember or uncover the neighborhood for the jewel of the city that it is. More homes are being restored and new businesses are becoming established.

Bounded by the Genesee River as a natural boundary on the east side, Driving Park is the southern boundary, Mt. Read Boulevard on the west and the Riverside and Holy Sepulchre cemeteries’ on the north. In this area you will find some of the most interesting architecture in the city, from small, simple homes to grand mansions, this neighborhood offers huge variety. There are three full size grocery stores within a two mile radius and many small “mom & pop” stores and national chain convenience stores, some with gas stations. Varied restaurants are pocketed throughout the neighborhood. Besides city schools, Nazareth Academy and Aquinas Institute are also found here. There are numerous beautiful churches and Rochester’s only cathedral, the magnificent Sacred Heart Cathedral. A newly refurbished YMCA serves the community and there are even three large parks!

With all this one would think Maplewood would be the premier area to live. Unfortunately negative publicity began to overshadow the positive points of the area. There are down-trodden pockets, some of which are sadly associated with violence, noise and crime. Sadly, this negative image is what sticks in many peoples minds when thinking about the North-West side of Rochester, including the Maplewood area. What people do not know is that most of the streets here are actually quiet neighborhoods!

At this point, I must make a disclosure. I have lived in the Maplewood neighborhood for the past eight years. As a displaced east-sider, I shared many of these misconceptions. I came here because I bought an incredible bargain, a shell of an elegant Queen Anne Victorian. It had good bones and I thought I would restore and flip it. Yet I am still here, because I discovered what a gem of a neighborhood I live in! My greatly restored home is beautiful, roomy and relatively inexpensive! Add into the equation, where else can I find this quality home for the price? I stayed put, and am continually discovering more reasons the Maplewood Neighborhood is the quiet jewel of Rochester. I no longer wonder why the area has such loyal residents, some even are starting to move back in, after leaving for various reasons.

Why love living here? First, and foremost, housing prices immediately come to mind. In this area you get more for your money! Most of the old homes were built on a larger scale. While many have been converted to multi-families, there are still large numbers of single family homes that are unscathed by the frenzy to chop grand old homes up into apartments; so, so many years ago. These homes, invested with quality materials, were a cut above in quality to many other homes in the Rochester area. Lots are generally large and often planted with ornamental trees and shrubs. Inside, find chestnut instead of gumwood for trim, doors, and moldings. Leaded and stained (often quite intricate) glass windows are commonly found. Homes range in design from Victorians, Italianate, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Prairie, Mission, and many other styles. Rare is the street with cookie cutter homes in Maplewood.

Single family home prices are ranging from $24,000 to $119,000. The average family home sold in the last year is 2500 sq.ft and cost $60-65,000. 2-4 family homes currently on the market range from $40,000 through $120,000. Two real estate firms operate in Maplewood. They are Platinum Properties and Goodman Realty. Vince Nebbia, a Realtor with 25 years experience opened Platinum Properties at the corner of Flower City Park and Lake over seven years ago, growing it to a full service Realty which also offers property management services. Vince chose to live and work in the Maplewood area because it “is a beautiful part of the city and offers so many unique and beautiful homes”. He saw opportunity in a neighborhood with potential to rebound. Another thriving Maplewood Realtor is Sam Morreale, who had the most real estate deals in the area in the last year. Besides working here, he lives here. Sales in the area have been steady. Ask any Realtor that knows the area and they are all likely to agree that single family home prices are currently the lowest they have been in a year, combine this with low interest rates, this is the time to buy into the Maplewood Neighborhood!!!

When people ask what brings a neighborhood back, I tell them several factors come into play. Some of the biggies are properties with unique features making them interesting. A perception of having lots of value for the dollar, even when factoring in property improvements. There must be business infrastructure in place servicing those in the area and providing space for new businesses to come in. The neighborhood has to be easily reached by expressways and major arteries of the city. And preferably there should be unique neighborhood features not found in other parts of the city. Lastly, there should be a strong neighborhood association like the Maplewood Neighborhood Association. The Maplewood area boasts all of the above.

In addition, there are special features many are blissfully unaware of. Did you know that the Maplewood Area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as of 1997? Or, that there is a world-famous Rose Garden on the corner of Lake and Driving Park, with thousands of rose bushes lovingly tended by the garden staff. You can attend the

yearly Maplewood Rose Festival in June, when the roses are at their peak. This two day festival has vendors, workshops on growing roses and lots more! Holding weddings here has become very popular! The gardens are next to the Genesee River Gorge, where a trail runs alongside ending at Lake Ontario. It’s very scenic and equivalent to Letchworth Gorge in many ways. Yet most Rochestarians have no idea that they live, play or work near this natural wonder. Stand on the Driving park bridge and enjoy awe-inspiring views. On one side you can see the depth and length of the gorge, on the other side; the falls. The “upper” and “lower” falls are visible from the bridge. Walk down the path by the newly refurbished YMCA and you can stand right next to the “lower falls”, feel the ground rumbling from tons of water rushing by and get wet from its spay. After that, meander a path under the Driving Park Bridge to the Maplewood Park and back to the Rose Garden or continue on the trail to Lake Ontario. The Maplewood Park was famously designed by Olmstead. It is one of the most serene parks in the city.

Love looking at houses? Take a walk to see the many styles. By Nazareth Academy is 1017 Lake Ave, one of the earliest surviving homes in the Maplewood historic district. Further north enjoy the Vanderbeck House at 1295 Lake Avenue. This home is featured on this years Maplewood House and Garden Tour. Its owner John Acker, bought the property after it suffered extensive damage due to a lightning strike. He had always loved the house and when the opportunity came to put it back to it’s former glory, he jumped at the opportunity. His firm “Cam Real Estate Development“, has beautifully restored the house to it’s former glory, housing John’s office and four apartments. If you love Queen Anne homes, stroll down Lakeview Park. There are many examples of this style here, some rival the painted ladies of San Francisco. Seneca Parkway is known for the many Tudor Revival style homes gracing that street. If you like Bauhaus inspired buildings, check out the apartments at 1043-1059 Lake Avenue. Further north are the famous Thistle Apartments at Lake and Seneca Parkway. This building is a rare example of a Tudor Revival apartment building. These mentioned homes and buildings are just a small sample of what the Maplewood neighborhood has to offer. Its time you get acquainted with Rochester’s Quiet Jewel! Who knows, you might just find your own private jewel, like I found mine!

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