Historic Highland Park is best known for its unparalleled collection of lilacs, more than 500 varieties which fragrantly bloom throughout May. Famous for hosting the annual Lilac Festival, the surrounding neighborhood affords enviable opportunities to enjoy the stunning beauty of Highland Park all year-round. However, the neighbors of Highland Park, which encompasses Azalea and Lilac neighborhoods, have more than the park and its lilacs to call their own.
For much of the 1800s, the crest and hillside belonged to the first and leading nursery company in the region, Ellwanger Barry Nursery Company, which helped to establish Rochester’s title as the Flower City. In 1888, 20 choice hilltop acres of this land were donated to the city and Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect of New York City’s Central Park, was enlisted to design the curving paths and outlooks that still navigate Highland Park today. Smaller pocket parks and green spaces throughout the neighborhood provide additional, more intimate gathering spots.
Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School’s long sloping lawn ends at a black iron fence on Highland Avenue. The 22-acre ecumenical theological college was formed in 1850 in Hamilton, New York and was later moved to South Goodman Avenue in 1928. Famous students include the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Walter Rauschenbusch.
The idyllic homes and streets of the neighborhood are perfect for those who value the accessibility and action of urban living, but crave daily immersion with nature. The Highland Park neighborhood is terraced against the glacial moraine that creates the city’s highest elevations. Century old trees frame many of the neighborhood’s classic American Foursquares and stately Tudors, a living reminder of the area’s early horticultural roots. Along with a variety of 20th century single-family homes, including the former residence of famed architect Claude Bragdon, the area can also lay claim to a neighborhood castle. Warner Castle on Mount Hope Avenue was built for Horatio Gates Warner in 1854. The 22-room building, designed by A.J. Warner, was modeled after Scotland’s Castle Douglas, a setting in Sir Walter Scott’s book titled “Castle Dangerous” (1832).
While Highland Park provides an unparalleled scenic edge to the southern part of the neighborhood, there is a seamless blend into the South Wedge and Upper Mount Hope to the west and north and Swillburg to the east. The multi-ethnic restaurants and trendy shops of these adjacent communities are within easy walking and biking distance of all of Highland Park. The close ties between the neighborhoods create a vibrant mix of energetic twenty-somethings, urban-by-choice families, and first-time home buyers. Residents also enjoy convenient access to the bustling business corridors of Mount Hope, South Clinton Avenue, and South Avenue.
Residents can be seen at monthly neighborhood association meetings, and annual events such as the HPNA Holiday Social and Market and the beloved Taste of the Neighborhood potluck held at Ellwanger-Barry Park. The park, whose playground is the social center of the neighborhood, is also the starting point for the photogenic Halloween Kids’ Parade, Easter Egg Hunt, and Christmas caroling. More children’s activities and neighborhood events are held at the Linden-Meigs playground. During the warmer months, Highland Bowl hosts movies and plays, and concerts of all kinds. Just around the corner horticultural enthusiasts can wander through the Lamberton Conservatory.
R-Center – 999 South Avenue
Neighborhoods are living breathing entities, which can change over time. Although we have tried to capture the essence of this area, the Coalition will be reviewing information twice a year to determine if any updates should be made. If you have suggestions for an update, please contact us and we will consider it at the next review.