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City of Rochester Communication Bureau

Rochester is the Flower City.

In the early 1800s, we were the Flour City, so named because of the many flour mills along the Genesee River. In 1859, we became the Flower City because of booming seed and horticultural companies. Many people think “Flower” now refers to our lovely lilacs.

We learned the story of our city’s nickname from our first grade teachers – and from the little bear in the now-defunct High Falls Laser Light Show.

After listening to WXXI’s story about Rochester’s Flour City Pasta, I wondered if the old moniker is making a comeback.

A quick search of DBAs filed in the Monroe County Clerk’s office since 2000 shows 17 new businesses using “Flour City.” The old description never really went away. In the 1890s, “Flour City” corporations were still forming, decades after we became the “Flower City.” Guess they didn’t get the memo.

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

“Flower City” remains far more popular, with dozens of businesses forming in the last decade using our “correct” nickname.

I tend to be a Puritan about these sorts of things. (Don’t get me started on whether downtown exists outside the Inner Loop.) But I have to admit, “Flour City” doesn’t look so wrong anymore. It feels like an embrace of another part of Rochester history.

People have actually suggested switching back to Flour City, according to Greater Rochester Enterprise CEO Mark Peterson. “Flour” would no longer reference mills, but the area’s huge agriculture and food processing industries. There are more than 100 food and beverage manufacturing companies in the region.

Peterson said there are no plans to change the name back to Flour City. (Who’s in charge of that anyway?)

Flour or Flower, it’s nice to have a city with enough character and history to have a choice.

8 Responses to Flour or Flower?

  1. when in doubt, change the logo.

  2. I’ve always thought of us as both. My mom working in the gift shop at the RMSC might have had a little to do with that though. I practically lived on the third floor mesmerized by the cross-section diorama of the mills.

  3. When I moved to Rochester in 2001, this really confused me. So did trying to find the State St exit on the Inner Loop (when circling in the wrong direction), but in particular, no one could tell me if it was Flower or Flour. Or why.

  4. January 9, 2012 at 9:53 pm Trisha responds:

    When we moved to Rochester in 2008, I assumed it was because of the Lilacs and no one told me otherwise. At least not until I read this!

    • That’s interesting! When I was a kid, every elementary school student could recite the story of why the name changed from F-L-O-U-R to F-L-O-W-E-R. It was standard fare, including learning about George Eastman, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

  5. January 10, 2012 at 6:04 am Donovan Williams responds:

    The first building erected on the site that would become Rochester was a flour mill built by one Ebenezer Allen, a dynamic and historically maligned figure who has been unfortunately misrepresented and all but forgotten for his important contributions to our westward expansion and early growth. Kind of like the city itself. I say Flour city holds a lot of pride for our earliest roots, but the necessary reinvention of our identity when the mills went away is also something to be proud of, as well as a timely reminder for certain formerly powerful local businesses. Adapt or die. It was and continues to be our heritage…

  6. January 10, 2012 at 9:10 am Jim Webster responds:

    Who says we can’t be, and are, both. Most of the ag/food sites aren’t within the city limits, nor are the flower sites.
    Pretty neat that we’re known for both though, isn’t it?

  7. January 10, 2016 at 9:07 pm Lawrence Feeley responds:

    I have a medallion approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter that is in a blue velvet lined case. On one face, the medallion says “City Hall” at the top and “Rochester,New York” around the bottom edge with a corner view of the City Hall in the center. The opposite side says “Flour City-Flower City” at the top edge and “Citu of Rochester, N.Y.” around the bottom edge.. In the center is an embossed five-segmented flower.

    Can someone tell us anything more about this medallion. We know my wife’s parents lived there at one time and her grandfather played for managed the Rochester Red Wings in the late 1920’s early 30’s.

    Thank you,

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