Listen to narration by a local historian
Historical Researcher, City of Rochester
The unsuspecting ivy-covered building pictured here in 1925 was the focal point around which the Upper Monroe neighborhood developed.
Nestled between Laburnam Crescent and Crosman Terrace, the three-story brick structure at 905 Monroe Avenue was once the headquarters of the Crosman Seed Company, one of the oldest businesses of its kind in the United States.
The company’s founder, Charles F. Crosman, got his start as a seed peddler while living in a Shaker community in Columbia County, New York. He moved to Rochester in 1838, where he found an agricultural community in need of good seed.
Turning down a partnership offer from George Ellwanger, Crosman struck out on his own, establishing his successful business in 1838. The pioneering efforts of these two men (along with Ellwanger’s partner Patrick Barry), in large part contributed to Rochester’s rebranding from “the Flour City” to “the Flower City”.
While Ellwanger and Barry tried their luck in the Highland Park neighborhood, Crosman set up his seed garden at the current site of his namesake street and erected his wholesale warehouse on Monroe Avenue just south of the Erie Canal (the waterway would later be re-routed).
The soil on the Crosman grounds proved particularly conducive to growing plants for seed. In addition to cultivating native garden, flower and field seeds, Crosman also used his fertile land to test out experimental and imported seeds.
By the time C.F. Crosman passed away in 1866, the company property stretched from Crosman Terrace to Field Street and ran from Monroe Avenue up to Pinnacle Hill. Crosman’s sons Charles and George, aged 20 and 17, respectively, were left with the daunting task of maintaining this expanse of land and carrying on the family firm.
The young men not only honored their father’s legacy, but expanded his business as well. By 1890, Crosman was one of the largest seed houses in the world. Within the walls of the building pictured here, some 200 employees collected, sorted, stored, packed and shipped Crosman products. The company’s catalogues, packages and labels were printed in the stout office beside the main building.
A boon to the local economy, the agricultural business also helped shape the city’s development. In the early twentieth century, Crosman established an affiliated realty firm which laid out a residential district surrounding the company property.
As Crosman’s garden sprouted seeds at the turn of the century, dozens of houses cropped up along nearby streets, forming the neighborhood now known as Upper Monroe.
The Crosman Seed Company remained in the area until 1924, when the operation, then under new ownership, moved to East Rochester, setting up shop at the former Gleason trailer factory on West Commercial Street.
A pared down version of the old Crosman headquarters would go on to house a variety of establishments over the years including Smith Ceramic Studios, Lakeshore Records and, most recently, the Center for Youth Services.
Still in business today, the Crosman Seed Corporation’s legacy lives on locally through its namesake street and the popular neighborhood the company spawned.
Retrofitting Rochester Listen to narration by a local historian Emily Morry Historical Researcher, City of Rochester The unsuspecting ivy-covered building pictured here in 1925 was the
The scoop on ‘Crosman’s Seeds’