Photo Essay

Rochester in Decline

Clifford Ave.

This photo essay focuses on the decline of Rochester, New York. Rochester is my hometown and I still reside here. Its decline saddens me. Rochester once was a "company town." It still is the home of Eastman Kodak and was once the headquarters of companies including Gannett, Xerox, and Bausch and Lomb.

Xerox moved its headquarters to Connecticut in 1969. It still has some manufacturing in the Rochester area. Gannett moved its headquarters to Virginia in 1986. The Gannett owned Democrat and Chronicle remains in Rochester. Bausch and Lomb was recently purchased by a Canadian company and will be moving its headquarters to New Jersey. Bausch and Lomb will keep some manufacturing in Rochester. Kodak is a shell of its former self. In the 1980's Kodak employed over 60,000 people in Rochester and now employs about 3,500.

The loss of jobs and income have contributed to the decline in Rochester's population and once thriving neighborhoods. At its peak in 1950, Rochester's population was 332,488. The current population of Rochester is 210,885.

This essay contains photos documenting decay in residential areas that many people have forgotten about or now avoid. Although I photograph factories as well, it is the deterioration of residential neighborhoods that really shows how much a city has fallen. The loss of jobs, reduction in population and the decay of city neighborhoods have caused Rochester and other rust belt cities to be ghosts of their former selves.

Rochester will survive. It still has world class hospitals, cultural attractions, and universities. Kodak Park, Kodak's large manufacturing facility in Rochester, has changed its name to Eastman Business Park. It houses new businesses that employ about 7,000 people. The Park Ave. neighborhood and the Neighborhood of the Arts are going strong.

It is not known what the future has in store for Rochester. Rochester will never be what it once was, but hopefully it can reinvent itself to be a thriving city once again.

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10 responses

  • Sandy Adams

    Sandy Adams   said (24 Jan 2014):

    Wow, I can't believe the city has gone down so much. I lived there for 16yrs before moving back to DC. Sorry to see it that way. Great essay.

  • John Tanner

    John Tanner said (25 Jan 2014):

    I nominated your story for Story of the week because it's important.
    What's happening in Rochester is happening all over America and will continue until the U.S.gets out of these unfair trade agreements and returns to it's once great manufacturing base.

    A service sector economy does not provide enough revenue to maintain much more than a substandard living and a tax base far to low to support our cities.
    The situation where I live is no different than most other older manufacturing centers in the U.S.

    The Mahoning Valley has been in decline for 35+ years starting with the demise of the U.S.steel industry and the tens of thousands of jobs steel manufacturing once provided between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
    In Warren,Ohio the last operating G.E.plant in this area closed it's doors and turned out the lights for the final time yesterday Jan 24 14.

    Slightly more than 100 people a fraction of the number the plant once employed are out of work.
    The city of Warren has lost those taxable incomes as well as the revenue from the water and sanitary sewer.
    A sad end to 123 years of manufacturing in Warren with nothing on the horizon to replace those jobs.

    Your story and your pictures are sad but powerful.
    You could have written those words and found those same pictures here.
    The blight created by deindustrialization is spreading like terminal cancer across this country.

    When it started we blamed Mexico for "taking" our jobs.
    Next was Japan and now it's China and the Asia/Pacfic Rim
    You can't blame any country for acting in their own best interest,something we in America don't do !

    Getting our country out of these unfair,lopsided trade policies along with rational EPA policies that make sense could reverse a good deal of the damage done to domestic manufacturing.
    We the people of America have to push this issue because our so called leaders won't.but that's a whole other side to what's happened to American manufacturing.

  • kil roy metters

    kil roy metters   said (25 Jan 2014):

    sadness this isn't just a rochester story but a microcosim of the usa as we slip further into a country of haves and have nots on our way to third world status

  • Julie Oldfield

    Julie Oldfield   said (26 Jan 2014):

    Thank you so much everyone! It is happening all over the country. It seems to be worse in the northern states in terms of urban decay. The loss of manufacturing has really hurt these cities. Jobs at Walmart, etc can't make up for the loss. It's really sad.

  • JPG

    JPG gave props (26 Jan 2014):

    Congrats on being Story of the Week!

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak gave props (27 Jan 2014):

    excellent images and narrative - my vote

  • Lynn E. Harvey

    Lynn E. Harvey   gave props (27 Jan 2014):

    Outstanding narrative and a story that is a very sad commentary on many towns that were once so vital. Your images are compelling. Congratulations on Story of the Week.

  • Rachel Alfonso-Smith

    Rachel Alfonso-Smith said (28 Jan 2014):

    Nice work. It made me sad; but I guess that's the idea. Tell the story.

  • Julie Oldfield

    Julie Oldfield   said (28 Jan 2014):

    Thank you again! I am really happy to be story of the week!

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh (Deleted) said (29 Jan 2014):

    Wonderful work! Voted! Congrats on week #5 story of the week!

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