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The Utopian Paradise of Rochester

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gillette-01

The scheme of the founder of the Gillette razor company to turn Rochester area into a futuristic socialist utopia is fascinating:

Architecture

The primary goal when designing the architecture for Metropolis was to make each public space as beautiful as possible. When building a city of such large undertaking Gillette estimated that world renowned architects would fight for the chance to build a structure that would house an entire nation. Architects would each submit their designs to a bureau of architecture then the plans would be voted on based on their beauty and uniqueness as well as there practicality and longevity. Of all the thirty to forty thousand buildings in the city, no two need be alike in artistic treatment.

“Each and every building of “Metropolis” would be a complete and distinct world of art in itself. Every color and every shade of color would be found in their ceramic treatment. In some instances, there would be a gradual dissolving from a dark shade of color at the base to an almost white at the top of the buildings. In others, the general dissolving of one tint into another would give an effect that would combine all the prismatic tints of the rainbow. In others, a single delicate tint would be the predominating feature. Here, one would look as though chiseled from a block of emerald, another from jet, another from turquoise, and another from amethyst.”

Imagine a city sprawled over three counties with massive buildings each with their own unique world renowned architecture. This would become a world wonder in itself, and encourage people to move and live in the city. Coupled with effective infrastructure and an open public space, city living not only becomes a preferable option it became the only logical residence.

While covering our city in multi colored tiles or jade and emerald is a little far fetched the basic principle of his idea remains the same, city building should be unique and beautiful, adding to the city’s environment instead of subtracting from it.

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  • NewishLawyer

    No place that cold can ever be called Utopia. Utopia won’t exist until there is a place that has:

    1. 6-7 months of perfect Northeast Autumn weather. Think mid-October when it is cool and crisp and the leaves are at peak color.

    2. 1-2 months of early winter weather. Thanksgiving to NYE basically.

    3. The remainder can be a perfectly warm June. Hot enough to go to the beach or the pool without needing air conditioning at night. Also being able to walk around in a t-shirt at night.

    • Denverite

      This is basically Denver’s weather but with the month or so of early winter scattered in two or three day intervals between mid October and early May.

      • Michael Cain

        Shhh! The state’s population has gone from 3.3M to 5.5M since I got here, and it’s getting crowded.

        • Linnaeus

          I’ll do my part to help reassure you – I have zero plans to move to Colorado during my lifetime.

          • N__B

            Not even as a winter caretaker at the Overlook? I hear the perks are fantastic.

      • Captain Oblivious

        The last time I was in Denver, some years ago, it got hit with a fairly pedestrian snow storm in September, and the locals were driving like they’d never seen snow before.

        • Denverite

          Same people would have had no problem driving through snowy mountain passes 10 mph over the speed limit if they were going skiing instead of to work.

          • Captain Oblivious

            Only 10? My experience was the only thing that would slow them down to even close to the speed limit was when I-70 was single-laned after a big snow dump, so they couldn’t weave in and out and the traffic would back up for miles.

    • Captain Oblivious

      It doesn’t get real cold there, or warm either (I grew up about fifteen miles east of Rochester). The lake moderates the weather quite a bit.

      However, it does snow a fuck-ton. Woke up one Xmas morning with three feet of new snow on the ground.

      • keta

        That wouldn’t be a problem in Gillette’s utopia because the snow plows would have five blades.

        • Captain Oblivious

          LOL.

          Seriously, though, it wasn’t a problem for us, either. We had the driveway cleared by noon, the town streets were pretty much all plowed out, and my uncle and aunt were able to drive from the other side of Rochester to have Xmas dinner with us.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            And then their car broke in half from the salty rust.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Nine-bladed! Not two or five or seven, but nine, which he will wield on all wretched sinners, sinners just like you

      • dr. fancypants

        My junior year of college, Rochester got hit with so much snow in January that they couldn’t plow it anymore, because there was nowhere left to push the snow to. So they loaded the snow onto trucks and dumped it into the Genessee.

  • Murc

    There’s a whole exhibit on this guy at Strong. Or at least there once was.

    It’s crazyface but I wouldn’t mind living in his utopian wonderland. Although it sounds a bit garish. I’m imagining a city in which every individual building is in a completely separate style and going “bleah.” There’s a thing called unity of form and it is important.

  • Judas Peckerwood

    Shoot for Utopia, settle for Rochester.

  • efgoldman

    Interesting that his proposal was for Upstate New York, and not Boston, where the company was located.

    • Edward Bellamy had Boston utopianism locked up

    • Captain Oblivious

      I think the attraction was Niagara Falls.

      There’s a lot of history involving various schemes to harness all that power. Gilette’s was just one.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        That would be a very long copper wire to Buffalo. Rochester’s waterfall, not as big.

      • Niagara Falls!

        Slooooowly I turned. Step by step. Inch by inch…..

        • Captain Oblivious

          You’re showing your age. (BTW, both the Abbott & Costello and Three Stooges versions are on YouTube, because of course they are).

          • I learned about that bit from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Between MST3K and the Simpsons, a lot of old vaudeville and early film comedy bits have managed to be introduced to the younger generations.

        • postmodulator

          That woid!

  • Richard Hershberger

    Fun fact: Rochester had the first baseball team as corporate marketing tool. In 1879 Asa Soule of Rochester purchased the Capital City Club of Albany, moved it to Rochester, and renamed it the Hop Bitters. Hop Bitters were one of those 19th century alcohol-based medicinal tonics, in this case manufactured by Soule. The leading sports paper of the day was so offended by this crass commercialism that it refused to run box scores with that name.

    • Captain Oblivious

      Where TF did you dig that one up? :)

      • Richard Hershberger

        Everybody should have an unremunerative hobby. Mine is that I study early baseball history. I even publish articles. Though not on the Hop Bitters. That just stuck in my brain because it is cool.

  • D.N. Nation

    Rochester sits in a three-way tie for Worst City in America (along with Columbia, SC, and Jacksonville, FL). A rusted-over fallout zone that pretends like it’s some sort of creative, dynamic metropolis. The least-talented, laziest professionals I’ve ever worked with.

    • Captain Oblivious

      Rochester was pretty nice at one time, but it was overly dependent on just two companies for jobs — Eastman Kodak and Xerox. As their fortunes declined, so did the local economy.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        But wait, there’s more! General Motors!

        Mwaah mwaaaaah.

      • D.N. Nation

        I once worked for an agency based out of the ROC* that hitched its wagon to Kodak. In *2010*. Womp womp.

        *Yep, they desperately try to make that a Thing.

        • Matt McIrvin

          I read that and thought you were talking about Taiwan.

    • Murc

      … you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

      • D.N. Nation

        I speak from my experience. If there was any part and parcel of Rochester that didn’t reek of delusion and mediocracy, it was never revealed to me.

        • Richard Hershberger

          The Eastman School of Music enjoys an excellent reputation, which I have never had cause to question.

          • gmack

            We were named the “Hottest Music School in the Country!” just a few years ago! But that might have been because the building’s old radiator system was acting up.

        • Funkhauser

          At Rochester’s two fine R1 universities, you might meet someone who draws conclusions based on data rather than from first-person anecdotes.

          I’m sorry you didn’t like it here.

          • Linnaeus

            A friend of mine used to teach at U of R, so I visited the campus a few times during visits with her. Nice place.

            • dr. fancypants

              I’m not sure if this is still true, but U of R used to have damn generous scholarship programs. Between scholarships and my dad paying living expenses (which are quite low in Rochester), I got out of undergrad with no meaningful debt.

        • Ahuitzotl

          possibly Murc adverts to the omission of Fort Worth, Little Rock and Lincoln ?

    • cleek

      fuck that. Rochester is a cool city that’s had a long run of bad luck.

      i spent seven years there one winter.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    Would all the colorful buldings distract you from the muddy brown river or the fact that you haven’t seen the sun in two weeks?

    I would say the winters are mild… within context. 5 degrees? Sure, but only once in a while. Snow? Yes, but nothing like Buffalo. It’s not North Dakota. And temps in the summer used to be more like 88F (with humidity) rather than 96.

    Speaking of heat, Columbia, SC. I don’t know how they do it, egads, it seems like it’s just the hottest place in SC. But on the other hand…. uh… can I get back to you on that?

    • wca

      Speaking of heat, Columbia, SC. I don’t know how they do it, egads, it seems like it’s just the hottest place in SC. But on the other hand…. uh… can I get back to you on that?

      Columbia even advertises the heat on billboards on I-20 going into the city. There doesn’t seem to be a readily-available image link, though. And if I’m going to get in the car and take a drive, it’ll be to Myrtle Beach and not Columbia!

      • BiloSagdiyev

        And it wouldn’t be as hot at the beach! Yes, right now:

        Myrtle Beach: 74F

        Columbia: 77F

        • wca

          To be fair, once you get past January or so, it’s always cooler on the Strand than in Columbia.

          I mean, Columbia’s so bad in the summer that they tube in the f’ing Saluda.

    • D.N. Nation

      Columbia smells funny. I tell this to everyone I know who passes through and to a man, they’ve all agreed with me after making the trip.

      • wca

        The “milkshake factory”, as we called it, is just off I-77*. This may have something to do with the smell on that side of town.

        *Chocolate milkshake … if you get my drift.

    • gmack

      Snow? Yes, but nothing like Buffalo.

      Actually, it’s almost exactly like Buffalo (the average yearly snowfall in Rochester is 86 inches; the average yearly snowfall in Buffalo is 94 inches).

      • gmack

        And just for fun, the average summer temps for Rochester are 76 (June), 81 (July), and 79 (August). I’ll add, from anecdotal experience, that it can get humid/steamy here, but unlike southern Ohio (where I’ve also lived), those hot/humid stretches tend to last a couple of days, as opposed to a couple of weeks.

      • gmack

        I’ll also add, apropos of nothing, that Syracuse crushes both Rochester and Buffalo in snowfall totals (average yearly snowfall in Syracuse is 117 inches).

      • PSP

        Decent snowfall doesn’t make up for the awful lack of vertical drop. Add a few mountains, and it would be perfect climate.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          Ever since the ice cap left them, they’ve been crushed. But they are slowly rebounding.

          • Ahuitzotl

            getting ready for our next exciting continent-racing competition?

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Maybe I’ve been distracted by peak blizzard events where snow plows were not enough, and front-end loaders and the National Guard were required. Buffalo had another one of those in recent years.

        • gmack

          Yeah, two years ago there was a massive lake effect event south (and iirc, west) of Buffalo, with some areas getting many, many feet of snow in very short periods of time. But the thing about lake effect snow is that it’s really hit or miss. Some areas get hit with seven feet, but just a few miles away, there’s nothing.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      More context on the context: the winters there didn’t bother me much, but yes, the U of R’s graduation ceremonies in May have, at times, been snow flurries, and I suppose in other parts of the country they don’t connect major buildings of the quadrangle area with subterranean tunnels.

  • I have laid over there but it was out at some suburban strip by the interstate. I could have been in Dayton for all I know. It all starts to look like “generica” after a while.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      There may be a reason for that…

      And, of course, it’s all generic until some kid sews Rhodesian flag patches on his jacket and goes and murders as many black parishoners as he can. That that turd was festering in the town of Red Bank, SC (near Columbia) is not much of a surprise. (The town aka Red Neck.)

      • BiloSagdiyev

        As Jello Biafra once “sang”, “this could be anywhere, this could be everywhere.”

  • BiloSagdiyev

    I will say this for my early years of bitter toil and struggle* in Rochester, when spring came, you had earned it. I have since lived in a place with nice weather and it all blurs together sometimes and I get confused.

    * Well it wasn’t all that terrible.

    • gmack

      Right. In my first spring in Rochester (we moved here from Seattle), spring felt like a miracle. Since then, I’ve grown to appreciate the winters, at least somewhat. I wish they wouldn’t last quite so long.

  • Mike in DC

    This seems like a nice setting or premise for an alt history novel or some kind of steampunk fiction or even an RPG.

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