High Falls
Rochester, NY

Location:Location: North central Monroe County, in the City Of Rochester. Parking is available at the High Falls Garage located at 240 State Street.

     From the High Falls Garage walk to the southeast along Mill Street to Commercial Street and then turn to the northeast. At the end of Commercial Street is the High Falls Festival Site. From here you can get a good view of the gorge downstream of High Falls, but the view of the falls is rather poor.
     Walk back along Commercial Street and turn to the northwest on to Browns Race. In a short distance you will come to the Triphammer Forge archaeological site. In the early 1800’s numerous factories in this area used the power of falling water to turn giant water wheels. Continue along Commercial Street and you will soon come to the Center at High Falls. It is handicapped accessible and admission is free. This interesting museum has exhibits on the history and culture of the High Falls area. Of particular interest is a geology exhibit that shows how the Lower Falls, Middle Falls, and High Falls were formed.
     After touring the “Center at High Falls” walk to the corner of Brown’s Race and Platt Street. To your left will be the 858-foot long Point-de-Rennes Pedestrian Bridge. This bridge is about 100 feet above the Genesee River, with the northern end offering the best view of High Falls. Follow the path for a short distance on the east side of the river to a small park and the High Falls Observation Deck.

     High Falls, also known as Upper Falls, Genesee Falls, and the Great Falls of the Genesee, has a height of 96 feet and a crest width of 200 feet . The falls faces to the northwest, and the entire crest of the falls is overhung, resulting in a fantastic curtain of falling water. The falls is at its best in the spring, when the flow of the river is torrential. In the summer months the river volume can be rather low. Click here for another photo of High Falls.
     About 1789 Ebenezer "Indian" Allen built a flour mill that was powered by the Genesee River about 0.6 of a mile south of the falls. In 1811 Colonel Nathaniel Rochester purchased the site, and built additional flour mills. The river not only provided power to an ever increasing number of flour mills, but also allowed schooners from Canada to bring wheat up to the Lower Falls. Much of the milled flour was shipped to New York City by way of the Erie Barge Canal. For a time Rochester was known as “The Flour City.”
     In the late 1820s, Sam Patch had earned a reputation for making daring leaps from great heights. Born in 1807, Patch began his daredevil career by leaping from the roof of a 100 foot high mill building at Pawtucket Falls, Rhode Island. In September of 1827 he made a 70 foot leap at Passaic Falls, New Jersey, repeating the leap the following July. In August of 1828 he leapt 90 feet from the mast of a sloop in Hoboken Harbor. In October of 1828 Sam leapt twice from a tower built beside the American Falls, 100 feet into the swirling waters of the Niagara River. These leaps made him nationally famous.
     On November 6, 1829 Sam and his pet bear, Papa Bruin, made a 96 foot leap from the High Falls. Disappointed by the amount of donations collected from the crowd, he planned an even higher leap. A platform was built near the crest of the falls and increased the leap to 120 feet. The leap was promoted and scheduled for November 13, 1829, a Friday, and was advertised as Sam’s last leap for the year. A large crowd, estimated at 7,000, gathered for the event. At 2:00 pm Patch appeared and climbed to the top of the platform, and gave the following speech.
     “Napoleon was a great man and a great general. He conquered armies and he conquered nations. But he didn’t jump the Genesee Falls. Wellington was a great man and a great general. He conquered Napoleon. But he didn’t jump the Genesee Falls. That was left for me, and I can do it, and I will.”

     And then he jumped. No one ever saw Sam Patch alive again. Some say he had come directly from an area tavern, and was a little unsteady as he walked to the platform. His body was found the following spring. He is buried in Charlotte Cemetery, near the mouth of the Genesee River.

     To the right is an 1836 view of the High Falls area.

For a MapQuest map of the area click here.

For a ACME Mapper 2.0 map of the area click here.

Web site: High Falls Heritage Area

Copyright © 2007 by Scott A. Ensminger.
This information may not be reproduced without written permission.

    You can send me e-mail at:falzguy@verizon.net

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