There were over 200 cottages on Hemlock Lake before there was a single one on Conesus Lake. With the development of the lakeshore, Slab City became the village of Hemlock Lake, then briefly Holden, and finally simply Hemlock.
Most of the hotels and cottages of Hemlock Lake were built in the latter half of the 19th century. The three story St. James Hotel opened in 1879 on the east shore of the lake. It was considered elegant for the time and had rooms for 60 guests.
Other hotels on Hemlock included the Jacques House, the Port House, the Half Way House, and the Hermitage. The Lake Shore House was famous for its dance hall and fine restaurant.
A cholera epidemic in 1852 was responsible for the growing city of Rochester to first recognize its need for a reliable water supply. After considering a number of alternatives, Hemlock Lake was chosen on the basis of its purity and elevation. The City of Rochester purchased the watershed and began removing the cottages.
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