First Market Farm

First Market Farm is a collaborative urban agriculture project that increases long-term access to locally-grown food, provides safe community growing spaces, and offers seed to table educational programs for families facing food insecurity.  The farm, now in the planning phase, will include a 4,500 square foot home garden designed to maximize food production and community educational opportunities.  The garden will be installed in time for the 2018 growing season.    

The First Market Farm site is born out of a long horticultural tradition in the Marketview Heights Neighborhood.  Located across the street from the northern gate of the Rochester Public Market, the families that have lived at 20 First street since it was built in 1872, have embodied this tradition and Taproot is proud to revive the space transform t into a community asset.  

 20 First street & 100 Pennsylvania Avenue circa 1900, 5 years before Moulson Orchard became the site of the Rochester Public Market

20 First street & 100 Pennsylvania Avenue circa 1900, 5 years before Moulson Orchard became the site of the Rochester Public Market

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History: The Growing Space

The house at 100 Pennsylvania was demolished in 1978.  It is not clear when the  large 110’ by 40’ parcel was incorporated into Sam Alu’s property, but it is now one large city lot.  This residential lot offers a unique opportunity to serve as a model homestead.  The city ordinance does not allow construction of sheds or greenhouses on vacant residential land, but on properties that have a home, these types of buildings are possible.  


History: The House

This classic Folk Victorian house was built in 1872 by the Beihe family, originally from Germany.  We know little about the Beihe’s but we do know that by 1900, a young German couple, Jacob and Minnie Blaesi were living at the house.  Minnie died at home, after giving birth to their daughter in 1900.  Her daughter passed away a few weeks later and Jacob took his surviving son and moved out of the house shortly thereafter.  

Two other German families lived in the house for a period of time, but by 1922, the Prizzi family had moved in. From Sicily, the large family would own the house for many years to come. In 1930, they divided the house into two apartments.  There’s evidence that the family expanded over the years and lived in other homes on First Street, but they continued to own the house and some of their family members likely still lived in the front apartment.  

The housed passed through marriage to the Gambo and Alu families over the years.  It is evident from the family photos, old receipts, materials and equipment found in the house, that 20 First Street residents have been economically engaged with the Public market since it opened at the current site in 1905.  The Gambos and Prizzi's worked for fruit and meat wholesalers at the market.

1935 map shows the location of both 20 First and 100 Penn.

The Alu’s were the last residents of the house and were living at the house by about 1950.  Their large family, also Sicilian, appears to be related to the Prizzis.  Sam Alu, a WWII veteran, lived in the house for much of his life, with a big white cadillac parked in the driveway.  His companion lived in the rear apartment and he lived in the front apartment.  For the last several years of his life, Sam had a hard time taking care of the house and large yard, and in 2012 or 2013, he moved into a VA nursing home.  He passed away in early 2014 and the city forclosed on the vacant house in 2015.  The owner that bought it in the 2015 tax auction held the property without paying taxes or doing repairs for 2 years, allowing it to be placed on the city’s demolition list.

Hoping to save the house, Greg Shear and Amber Powers purchased it in late October and gave Taproot Collective permanent, free use of the large attached lot.  The house is currently being rehabbed and Amber and Greg hope to have a certificate of occupancy awarded by late fall of 2018.