Midtown Plaza Was Not Rochester ís First Indoor Shopping Mall


Rochester ís Midtown Plaza was said to be the first downtown indoor mall in America with underground parking. Its recent closing brings to mind an earlier downtown mall in Rochester which many have forgotten, the original Reynolds Arcade. It was built by Rochester ís early pioneer, first postmaster and second permanent settler, Abelard Reynolds. Reynolds took a great risk when making a very strategic business decision that would prove to be significant to the early development of Rochester . The initial boom to the local economy, resulting from the Erie Canal going through the heart of downtown, presented an entrepreneurial opportunity which Abelard Reynolds had the vision to foresee. The opportunity was the need for a center of commerce in Rochester .

Reynolds decided to proceed with a massive project to build that center of commerce, the Reynolds Arcade, in 1828. The arcade was a four-story brick building with a glass skylight containing 86 offices and stores inside. It was said to have been the grandest commercial structure west of New York City at the time. The decision to build the facility was a significant financial risk. The Arcade was the most expensive commercial structure under construction at the time outside of New York City, costing an unbelievable sum back then of $30,000. The amount of money required for the mortgage was finally procured from New York City lenders.

The Reynolds Arcade was very important to the development of early Rochester . It was the early one stop indoor shopping mall with services like an optician, jeweler, barber, post office, Western Union office, artists, insurance companies, attorneys, Athenaeum library, etc. The Arcade was where early Rochesterians went for news, mail, gossip and just about everything else. Interestingly though, women generally did not congregate there, only men. The original building was demolished in 1931, being torn down and replaced by the current structure in 1933.