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The Bandstand in the Park - History of a Landmark

The Bandstand in the Park - History of a Landmark
Town/Village of East Rochester
/ Categories: Local History

The Bandstand in the Park - History of a Landmark

Submitted by Anita M. Mance, Historian, November 2023

     For over 100 years the bandstand has had a special spot in Edmund Lyon Park—the first park created in our community.  Originally called Vanderbilt Park, the area was just a large vacant space.  Then, Kate Gleason purchased the property, and donated the land to the village.  With help from the village’s Department of Public Works crew and workers from the Gleason Works Company in Rochester, the area was transformed into a beautiful park.  In 1916, the park was formally dedicated, and at Kate Gleason’s request, it was named in honor of Edmund Lyon, one of the founders of our community.  The celebration on July 15th was several hours in length.  It began with the raising of the flag on the new flagpole on the hill on the corner of East Ivy and Main Streets.   This was followed by a parade which ended where a quickly built platform had been constructed where the bandstand is now located.  A crowd of about 5000 attended the events of the day.  After several speeches, a concert was held, and later school children performed the play “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” under the direction of Superintendent Louis Bird.  The day’s festivities concluded with a fire drill conducted by the firemen.

     By 1918, a sturdier bandstand made of wood was built on the spot where our current bandstand is located.  Throughout the years the park and bandstand have been used for many purposes.  During World War I, a unit of the Home Defense Corps was formed.  The first meeting at the bandstand was attended by almost 100 men who later held drills in the park.  During the Depression Years when money was scarce, free concerts were held in the summer in the park with the band appropriately seated on the bandstand.  The music was provided by the award-winning Fire Department band conducted by Al Tubbs.  In the 1940s, Albert W. McConnell, the high school music teacher, conducted the musicians.  Many of those who attended the weekly concerts sat on the hillside.  In 1947, when East Rochester celebrated its 50th anniversary, the park and bandstand were the places where most of the festivities occurred.  In 1974, the bandstand was considered for historical landmark status by the National Register for Historic Places; but it was not given that classification.

     By the mid-1980s, both the park and the bandstand were in great need of repair.  Weather and vandalism had taken their toll.  With funds from the NY State Dept. of Parks, and Village Recreation money, numerous upgrades were made to the park.  These included: an improved drainage system, reconstruction of the baseball diamond, new playground equipment, new restrooms, and the building of a new ice skating rink.  Much discussion took place to determine what was to be done with the old bandstand.  After much thought, it was decided that for safety purposes the bandstand could no longer be repaired, and a new, sturdier one would be built.   In the summer of 1986, the original bandstand was burned down in a controlled burning by the Fire Department.  A new gazebo was designed by D.J. Parrone and Associates with the same shape and size as the first one.  The footings were set in the summer of 1987.  It was constructed of blocked brick and pressure treated lumber by the ER DPW, GD & V Construction, and D’Agostino General Contractors.  On July 26, 1988, the dedication was held which coincided with the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the US Constitution by New York State.  A plaque near the site states that the bandstand was dedicated “to the past, present, and future citizens of East Rochester.”  A time capsule containing a copy of the dedication program, a list of people attending the event, and a current issue of the ER Post Herald was placed in a storage compartment in the top of the bandstand.

     Since the first bandstand was built, it has been the site of many annual events including the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies.  For many years, Nicholas Verzella was the keynote speaker.  In his honor the bandstand was named the Nicholas Verzella Gazebo.  A plaque given by the East Rochester American Legion Post 1917 was installed in 2015 thanking Mr. Verzella for his service to our community.

     Our park and bandstand have survived much during their years as special places in East Rochester.  Several months ago, when a new Town/Village logo was chosen, the bandstand was prominently included.  In the center of our community, the park and bandstand continue to reflect the pride and joy of East Rochester.  And soon, another annual tradition will take place there, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
     
 

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