Located in the Northeast section of Rochester, Marketview Heights offers a remarkable reflection of Rochester’s past and present. Dating back to the 19th century, the area was a center of the region’s development, first with flour mills along the Genesee River and later with industrial development, including a vibrant garment industry. Marketview Heights grew steadily after the Erie Canal opened and waves of new settlers, particularly from New England, moved to Rochester. By the early twentieth century, the area reflected a steady wave of European immigrants, including those from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and Italy. Italian immigrants comprised a large percentage of neighborhood families and they worked in various trades, including the garment industry. By the 1940s and 1950s, African American and Latino families ascended in both the neighborhood and city.
By the 1990s, economic and industrial fortunes declined in Marketview Heights. By this time, many of the larger industrial employers had either left the city, drastically reduced operations or had ceased all together.
Economically, the once vibrant neighborhood has struggled recently, with roughly 75% of the population making less than $35,000 per year. Today the area remains ethnically and racially diverse: roughly 20 % of the population is white, 50% is Black, and 30% is Latino. (There is also a growing Southeast Asian population.) Though it played a key role in Rochester’s industrial and urban growth – particularly in the garment trades — Marketview Heights is now often at the edge of a revitalizing local economy trying to navigate a range of complex issues, including new immigration patterns, political representation in city and metropolitan political debates, the fate of community redevelopment projects, and the meaning of area history and memory in a new global era emphasizing change.
A major focus of current re-development efforts is the Rochester Public Market. This historic site, in the heart of Marketview Heights, has been in continuous operation since 1905 and serves more than 20,000 customers weekly. The Market hosts over 300 area farmers and specialty vendors. On any given Saturday, a visitor can hear more than 29 individual languages spoken by customers. The Market has recently completed $8.5 million in renovations and additions that improve and expand Market amenities. These recent renovations have attracted more private investment along the streets adjacent to the market, adding upscale housing and commercial venues.
One of the area’s famous families was the Mangiones. Chuck Mangione is an internationally recognized jazz legend. His uncle Jerre Mangione, was a well-known 20th century author and scholar. Mangione headed the WPA writer’s project in the 1930s and later served as distinguished professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He chronicled life growing up in the Sicilian-American community in northeast Rochester in his beautifully written autobiographical book, Mount Allegro.
This neighborhood has been the focus of a 10-year partnership between RIT’s University/Community Partnerships program and the Marketview Heights Collective Action Project.