A few weeks ago I got the chance to explore some local history when I visited Rochester’s St. Michael Church and photographed workers replacing copper ridges and slate shingles on the church’s 225-foot steeple. I knew the church had a rich history, but hadn’t investigated much beyond that. Here’s some of what I found:
The first Bishop of Rochester, Bernard J. McQuaid, dedicated the current St. Michael Church, at 869 N. Clinton Ave., in 1890. The building was constructed at an estimated cost of $150,000, which is staggering to think about all these years later. It is now a priceless landmark and many of its components, including 15 large stained-glass windows, could not possibly be replaced. The ceiling of the 200-foot-long church is more than 80 feet high, buttressed by 10 enormous granite columns.
Its sheer size makes it a visual center of northeast Rochester, but the church also serves as a cultural touchstone, holding many special events and offering community outreach. In inquiring about the height of the steeple, I learned from Mary Beth Fuhrer, a lifelong parishioner and expert on the history of the parish, that along with regularly hosting Eastman School of Music recitals, the church served as the stage for a full-length play and hosted a film crew for the 2008 movie "Alphabet Killer." Fuehrer also said staff members frequently field requests from photographers and videographers eager to document the church’s spectacular interior.
It’s a good reminder that although plenty of people have rushed to the serenity of the suburbs many treasures remain in the city of Rochester. Next time you’re here, drive just north of the Inner Loop to see the restored steeple and maybe even take a peek inside. You won’t be sorry.