Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rochester War Memorial, 1 War Memorial Sq., Rochester, NY

Kimball Tobacco Factory 1882-1903

Unknown date

1954 postcard
Capacity 12,428 (originally 8500)


Arena Timeline
1880 - Kimbal Tobacco Factory opens on the present site of the War Memorial. It was designed by James G. Cutler, local architect who later became mayor of Rochester. William Kimbal's wife disliked the dirty smokestack and instead placed a 21-foot statue of the Roman God of Commerce, Mercury, atop the building.
This new factory, designed by James G. Cutler, extended 218 feet on Court Street and almost 500 feet from Court Street to the aqueduct. It stood four stories tall, with a slate roof and timbered gables and dormers. The 150-foot smokestack was topped with the foghorn from the original factory.
The truly distinguishing feature of the Kimball Tobacco Factory, though, came a year after it opened. 

In 1881 William Kimball commissioned his brother-in-law, J. Guernsey Mitchell, to create a replica of Mercury, the symbol of commerce. Mercury was made of riveted bronze plates, assembled by the John Siddons’ Architectural Galvanized Iron Works, and stood 21 feet tall on top of the smokestack.(1)
In its heyday, the factory produced one million cigarettes per day, and employed 1,200 people. 

1897 photo of the busy aqueduct crossing the Genesee River. At left is the Kimball Tobacco Company, with the original location of the Mercury statue just visible above the smokestack.

1905 - The Kimbal Tobacco Factory closes and Cluet-Peabody & Co. take over the building. They begin manufacturing collars and shirts.
In 1917, Cluett, Peabody & Co., makers of Arrow shirts and collars, occupies the old Kimball Tobacco Company.

Cluet-Peabody and Company is  to the right in this postcard.

1924 - The property is purchased by George Eastman and later left to the University of Rochester by Mr. Eastman for "municipal purposes." One plan proposed for an 8,000-seat Auditorium and Opera Hall, situated on the once tobacco factory site.
The University later gives the property to the city. The site begins to operate as a City Hall Annex and public library.

May 23,1945 - Plans for a grand Civic Center Arena are revived following World War II. The Rochester City Council directs a citizens committee to study, "the possibilities for constructing and financing such a memorial within the Civic Center."

July 19, 1945 - The committee concludes that the memorial should have enduring civic usefulness. Also the structure should be, "a living memorial rather than a mere commemorative monument."
The committee recommends that the building contains an auditorium, sports arena, physical recreation facilities, meeting rooms, and display rooms, among other things. Estimate for construction, $2.5 million.

1951 - Kimbal Tobacco Factory is demolished for the construction of the War Memorial. The statue of Mercury is removed and placed into storage (until 1974).

October 18, 1955 - Rochester Community War Memorial opens for business. Total cost, $7.5 million.

1974 - The statue of Mercury, which once was located on the roof of the Kimbal Tobacco Factory, is reborn atop the West Group building where it still stands, across the street from its original home.

March 13, 1996 - Ground breaking for a $41 million renovation/expansion takes place, which includes luxury suites, increased concession stands, additional restrooms, fully functional banquet/meeting rooms, and larger capacity seating.

July 24, 1998 - Blue Cross Blue Shield and City officials announce the name of the renovated arena will be Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

September 19, 1998 - Although the arena continued to function throughout the renovations, the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial officially reopens to the public during a formal ribbon cutting/rededication ceremony.(3)



Jerry performed here on
3/30/73 Grateful Dead
9/27/76 Grateful Dead
11/5/77 Grateful Dead
11/21/78 Grateful Dead
9/2/80 Grateful Dead
4/9/82 Grateful Dead
4/15/83 Grateful Dead
4/16/84 Grateful Dead
11/7/85 Grateful Dead
11/8/85 Grateful Dead
There was the announcement from Bobby that it was nobody's birthday that day. Then he clarifies it with "nobody in the band." 
11/20/91 Jerry Garcia Band
11/4/93 Jerry Garcia Band



1.)^The Kimball Tobacco Company Factory, http://www.libraryweb.org/rochimag/architecture/LostRochester/Kimball/Kimball.htm
2.)^http://www.bluecrossarena.com/
3.)^http://www.bluecrossarena.com/arena-history-c27.html

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