Grove Place Historic District
The Grove Place Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Grove Place Historic District is a small, primarily residential area located in the eastern portion of Rochester's central business district and a block north of the city's cultural center on East Main Street. The Grove Place Historic District includes twenty-two buildings arranged around short, irregularly shaped blocks. The irregularly shaped 8.1 acre Grove Place Historic District is roughly bounded by University Avenue on the north, Gibbs Street on the west, Grove Street on the south and Carpenter Alley on the west. There are no intrusions.
The Grove Place Historic District includes all that remains and is associated with "The Grove," the original homestead area of Rochester's prominent Selden and Ward families. It is a roughly rectangular area, sandwiched between University Avenue (on the north) and Main Street (on the south), both of which are busy main streets. Selden Street forms the east-west axis, with Gibbs Street running perpendicular on the west and Windsor Street on the east. Directly to the north, the Grove Place Historic District is bounded by large empty lots, while the tall YMCA building to the south provides a natural barrier from the adjacent commercial and institutional Main Street area and visually identifies the entrance to the district. To the east and west are new buildings or nineteenth- and twentieth-century structures which have lost their historical or architectural integrity.
The buildings in the Grove Place Historic District were constructed during the middle and late nineteenth century, with the majority dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Most are two- and three-story residential structures which give the area a small-scale, neighborhood ambience. The residential facades are harmonious in size and setback; many stand near the sidewalks and have small lawns. Some residences have handsome cast- or wrought-iron fences and gates such as those found at nos. 125, 131-135, and 164 Gibbs Street.
Architectural styles within Grove Place include Italianate (18 Grove Place), Gothic-Tudor Revival (128-152 Gibbs Street), Queen Anne (51-59 Windsor Street and 158 Gibbs Street), Eastlake (164 Gibbs Street), and transitional Greek Revival Cottages (34, 38 Windsor Street). Building materials include cut stone, pressed brick, decorative wood and slate shingles and decorative woodwork. Most of the buildings are well maintained and several have recently undergone or are undergoing rehabilitation and restoration (158 Gibbs Street, and 51-59 Windsor Street).
There are no non-contributing structures in the Grove Place Historic District; parking lots, though in the midst of the district, do not destroy its cohesiveness. They are partially screened by shrubbery or pivotal buildings and are not visually obtrusive.
The Grove Place Historic District is significant both architecturally and historically as an enclave of substantially intact small-scale (1850-1895) nineteenth-century residences which were built, owned and occupied for over 100 years by a complex extended family.
Two prominent Rochester families, the Wards and the Seldens, who settled the area in the 1840s, were connected by marriages among the many family branches and lived in the buildings constructed within the original homestead area known as "The Grove." The Grove had its own common land, grove of trees, recreational facilities and, to some extent, its own offices on the premises. Almost sixty percent of this original area is encompassed by the Grove Place Historic District.
Due to the prominence of the Seldens and the Wards, The Grove was a focal point for both society and business in the city of Rochester during the nineteenth century. It was here that George B. Selden, one of the early contributors to the automotive industry, developed and perfected his internal combustion engine, which was patented in 1870. His non-extant workshop was located to the rear of the five Selden Street buildings. Other family members were prominent in law (The Grove's first Selden was a judge, and another Selden was Susan B. Anthony's attorney), science and engineering (the Ward Natural Science Establishment is a nationally known and patronized source of scientific specimens), politics, business (Levi A. Ward was a leading real estate agent and banker in nineteenth-century Rochester), charitable and religious organizations, and cultural affairs.
The original homestead, now demolished, also called The Grove, was built in 1828 by Josiah Bissell and subsequently sold to Dr. O.E. Gibbs. Eleven years later, it was purchased by Samuel L. Selden, who in 1840, sold half of the property to his father-in-law, Dr. Levi Ward, and his brother-in-law, Levi A. Ward. At one time, the house was occupied by the elder patriarch, Dr. Levi Ward, his wife, his son and his family, and two of his sons-in-law and their families — the Seldens and the Clarkes. Gradually, other houses, such as the present Ward House, c.1855, and its wing (18-20 Grove Place), were built on the property for members of the extended family. Two streets were also cut through the original tract. The first of these was Windsor Street (originally Cherry Street), built between 1839 and 1845, and the second was Selden Street, built between 1850 and 1859. Later generations maintained a preference for the area and it remained the focal point of daily life for the families. Judge Henry Selden inherited the original homestead and site in 1870 from his brother and later parcelled off a northern part of the land to his son-in-law, Theodore Bacon. On this land Bacon proceeded to construct the Gibbs Street Townhouses (128-152 Gibbs Street) for his family. These row houses were constructed in the Gothic-Tudor Revival style, which was uncommon at the time in upstate New York. Row houses are particularly unusual for Rochester which, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, has been noted for its predominance of detached one-and two-family homes.
Architecturally, a small-scale neighborhood ambience is formed in the district by the homogeneous size and setbacks of the residences within an otherwise commercial area. Many fine examples representative of the building tastes of the time may be found here which remain relatively unaltered and possess a high quality of building materials and craftsmanship. Besides the Gothic/Tudor Revival row houses, there is an Italianate style structure at 18 Grove Place with a widow's walk, wide eaves, tall first floor windows, and central one-bay porch. Queen Anne style characteristics such as the mixture of textures, materials, and colors, turrets, projecting bays, porches with spindles and brackets are exhibited in 51-59 Windsor Street and 158 Gibbs Street. Also, 164 Gibbs Street has Eastlake style bargeboard, eave trim, and porch details.
Development of the area continued as the city of Rochester grew. In 1814, the original homestead was purchased by the city and demolished to make way for the new YMCA headquarters. Lots fronting on University Avenue and Scio Street (north and east of the district) were disposed of gradually for business and commercial purposes. Neither these lots nor the YMCA is included in the district. While development of residential building continued through the turn of the century, the majority of the structures remained either owned and/or occupied by the Ward and Selden families until 1973.
Rochester plat maps and city directories.
Historic and architectural files and surveys, Landmark Society of Western New York.
Local History Division, Rochester Public Library.
City of Rochester public records.