(Rochester, N.Y.) -- Those of us who grew up in Rochester need only close our eyes for a moment to remember the Main Street of old with department stores like Edwards, Sibley’s, and McCurdy's stretching from East Avenue to the Genesee River.Construction began on Midtown Plaza following discussions between Gilbert McCurdy and Maurice Forman, owners of department stores which bore their family names. The first downtown indoor mall was designed by architect Victor Gruen.
The mall received so much attention, that it was featured prominently in a video Rochester Gas and Electric commissioned about the community.We watched it grow through portholes in the construction wall. At first, a mighty hole in the ground, then girder by girder to a retail, office, and hotel complex at a cost of $25 million in private funds.The mall's centerpiece was the Clock of Nations with marionettes performing on the hour from countries around the world. And, in years to come, many remember it most for Santa's Magic Mountain at Christmastime and, of course, the monorail.Every year, live television covered the journey of the mall's Christmas tree which was carefully selected from the community and hauled to the plaza.But, what took a few years to build took many more to become vulnerable to a changing world. From the mid 1990s on, the mall struggled. One by one, stores closed, but the symbols remained.Little shops struggled. Then, in 1994, McCurdy's sold to Bon-Ton, and the downtown store closed.Forman’s was also sold, but new owners would struggle, and it too, ultimately closed. Peebles ultimately took over the space.Many remember the Wegmans store at Midtown; it closed in the 1990s. Even with fewer places to shop, Midtown Plaza was still the place to see the Christmas tree, ride the monorail, and, until very recently, meet a friend under the Clock of Nations.
Midtown Memories Week
This week, 13WHAM News will cover the past and future of Midtown Plaza. On Tuesday, Patrice Walsh takes a closer look at the success and the struggles of Midtown. On Wednesday, Rachel Barnhart looks to the final days and what the future will bring.
We invite you to join us on Thursday, May 8, to be part of the audience for our live broadcasts at 5 & 6 p.m. from Midtown Plaza. We look forward to seeing you and sharing your "Midtown Memories."