Like most cities in the US, Rochester established itself around a booming industry, and as in many of those same cities, sometimes those industries go bust. As economies and populations fluctuate and factories and plants open up and shut down, there remain the casualties of industry and the ghosts of long lost establishments. Factories, hospitals, churches, and schools from years ago stand abandoned, unattended save the wind and the rats. But the past few decades have seen a surge in an adventurous pastime that shines a light into the neglected worlds of our industrial pasts.
Somewhere between adventurers and historians, urban explorers enter abandoned structures and buildings to discover the secrets that they harbor. The exact definition of urban exploring differs between the individuals, but the communities of explorers that spring up around the world share a passion for discovery. However, it’s not just about wandering around inside creepy old buildings. There’s a strong importance placed on respecting and maintaining the places they enter, and explorers often operate under the mantra of the Sierra Club: Take only photographs, leave only footprints.
Urban exploring, while often referred to as a hobby or pastime is still a serious venture. It can be quite dangerous, and has the potential to result in arrest or injury. One of the earliest recorded instances of Urban Exploration in history was the 1793 death of Parisian man Philibert Aspairt, who got lost and died in the massive system of catacombs underneath the streets of Paris. The risks associated are enough to keep most casual and curious individuals from fully embracing the activity. There are also the legal troubles of trespassing; the risk of getting lost or injured in a place where help won’t get to you; involuntarily inhaling dangerous fumes from mold or asbestos; and the chance of running into unsavory individuals that might be squatting in the locations.
With all that said, Rochester features a multitude of prime locations to explore. If you still feel compelled to take up an urban expedition, there are a number of things to keep in mind to stay safe.
Buddy system — Never go into a structure alone or without telling someone where you are in case of emergency.
Pack light, pack smart — The less stuff you carry, the better. Essentials: Flashlight, water, gloves. Extras: Camera, respirator mask.
Plan Ahead — Make sure you know how you’re going to get in and out of the building, and how much climbing, crawling and razor-wire you plan to encounter.
Mind the Weather — Underground tunnels like sewer drains carry a risk of flash flooding when it rains, so try and stick to dry nights.
Watch out for the fuzz — Cops and troopers have no problem arresting explorers for trespassing or destruction of property. Keep an eye out; if you get snagged, you’re on your own.
Rochester’s strong industrial past inevitably proceeds with the curse of recessions and economic downturns, leaving a number of factories and installations unattended and inviting to the novice explorer; here are some of the more popular locations in the city.
Abandoned Subway — Perhaps the most popular and easily accessible urban exploring locale in Rochester. The east entrance is located at the corner of Court Street and South Avenue, behind Dinosaur Bar-B-Q
Fall Street Incinerator — Located along the Genesee River northwest of the Inner Loop. Be sure to watch your footing, as many of the floors are unstable. Dust masks are a must.
Mt. Hope Chapel — Located along the side of Mt. Hope Cemetery that runs along Mt. Hope Ave.
Veteran Foods Warehouse — Located on the north side of Genesee Riverway Park, along the Genesee Riverway Trail.