Southwest Quadrant - SWAN
Future histories of the S.W.A.N. Neighborhood (Southwest Area Neighborhoods) will record cattle drivers and Catholic nuns, yet will also add a passionate social activist who lobbied to rebuild a high school, and an innovative Green Project that replaced vacant houses with community gardens. An early addition was an 1816 country public house that stood at the intersection of “Buffalo Street,” now West Main Street. “Bull’s Head Tavern” served as a rest stop for cattle drivers passing through. In 1857, Rochester’s first hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital (now Unity Health) began in a stable nearby.
During its glory days, the Bull’s Head shopping area, at the intersection of West Main and Genesee St, prospered. Beyond the main thoroughfare, its streets were filled with residents who maintained their homes and gardens. Over time, the area languished, businesses closed, houses became vacant and the community became poorer.
For twenty-five years, S.W.A.N. kept a watchful and protective eye on its boundaries: Samuel McCree Way on the north, Genesee Street on the west, Cottage Street on the south and Reynolds Street on the east.
The Southwest Area Neighborhood Association was founded by the Honorable Willie W. Lightfoot (1940-2001), an African-American community activist and County Legislator (25th District) for almost four decades. Hon. Mr. Lightfoot left a profound mark on the community. As S.W.A.N.’s executive director, Mr. Lightfoot battled to replace West High School after it was torn down. Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School, rated one of the top high schools in the U.S., now fills the space on Genesee Street.
The neighborhood association runs a variety of programs: Emergency Services, After School Program, a Work Experience Program and Grow Green, “entrepreneur training via gardening.”
The area is enjoying a welcomed revitalization. Rochester's Project Green is looking for ways to transform the area through replacing vacant properties with green space: “land banking” some areas for future residential or commercial development, while building attractive flower beds or community food gardens. The Jefferson Avenue Revitalization Committee works with Mayor Robert J Duffy, U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, the Urban League and the University of Rochester to improve streetscapes in the area. A private corporation, Providence Housing Development, has plans to invest in the area through building affordable housing. The nonprofit DePaul Agency is constructing a large campus on West Main Street that will include single resident apartments for mentally challenged residents along with 20 units of affordable housing. Other beautification plans for the neighborhood include a commissioned sculpture by Rochester artist Pepsy Kettavong that honors the memory of Willie Lightfoot.
A Bull’s Head Physical Development Plan is seeking to bring back the vitality to Genesee, West Main, York and the northern side of Brown Street. This will mean installing a distinctive “western gateway” that will not only improve the area’s landscape via lighting and public art but also reflect its history.
If you would like additional information about this neighborhood, please contact the Southwest Quadrant Neighborhood Service Center:
923 Genesee Street
Rochester, NY 14611