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Reservoir News Article

Hemlock Lake’s Elevation

From the Livonia Gazette, 20 February 1931

Editors note: The elevation of Hemlock Lake is 38 feet higher than the peak of Rochester’s tallest skyscraper, Kodak Office. The profile shows that this Livingston County Lake could create a 649 foot waterfall if it could dump off directly into Lake Ontario. The high and low spots in Rochester vary nearly 500 feet.

A recent issue of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle contained a “typographical profile” of Rochester, including in the picture Hemlock Lake, which makes it of particular local interest. Through the courtesy of the Democrat the Gazette is reproducing the picture, as well as the article which accompanied it. This will serve as appropriate matter for scrap book devotees.




A topographical sketch of Hemlock Lake relative to landmarks in Rochester NY in 1931. Click image to enlarge.

If Hemlock Lake were to come to Rochester, not through pipes as it does but in a giant wave, keeping its present level above the sea, the city’s water supply would flow through the sky thirty-eight feet above the new peak of the Eastman Kodak Company office building in State street. And the new peak of the Kodak building is by 61 feet the highest point in all Rochester.

In fact, should such a thing occur, divers would be needed to find Rochester, it would be so wet. Every structure would be submerged far below the surface, and not even a second Columbus would be able to find land where Pinnacle Hill and the pavilion in Highland Park now rise.

If the Hemlock waters then should dump off directly into Lake Ontario, to continue this impossible picture, they would create a waterfall 649 feet high, or 482 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Hemlock Lake’s elevation is 896 feet above sea level, it seems, and that of lake Ontario is only 247 feet.

Elevations above sea level are anything but uniform in Rochester, one concludes. Authority for calculations which prove this conclusion correct is Morley B. Turpin, custodian of records in the Department of Public Works offices in the City Hall. According to Mr. Turpin’s figuring, Rochester is a decidedly “up and down” city, physically.

High and low spots of ground in Rochester vary nearly 500 feet in elevation, Mr. Turpin reveals. The ferry landing at Charlotte is only 251 feet above sea level, and the crest of Pinnacle Hill is exactly 750 feet above sea level. In between at what the natives think of as “center of downtown”, come the Four Corners at State and Main streets, with an elevation of approximately 500 feet.

Not even the already twice-mentioned Pinnacle Hill, however, rising as it does above Monroe Avenue in the south-eastern section of the city, approaches as near the moon as do at least four of the Flower City’s buildings and two of its chimneys.

The chimneys are at Kodak Park. The skyscrapers are: Eastman Kodak State Street office Main Street East; Genesee Valley Trust building at Exchange and Broad streets; Rush Rhees Library on the new University of Rochester River Campus.

Figures can be used to prove almost anything. If a person stands on the city’s highest hill and squints off to the north on a level plane, his gaze will hit anywhere from 6 feet to 108 feet down from the top of these man-built piles of brick and stone and steel. The following figures prove it:




Kodak chimneys




Kodak offices




Rush Rhees Library








Genesee Valley Trust




Pinnacle Hill




Highland Park pavillion




Pinnacle Hill




Cobbs Hill reservoir




Meanwhile, across and around the southern edge of the city, the Barge canal stretches quietly east and west at an elevation of 512 1/2 feet above sea level, or on a plane only a foot or two below that of the base of the Genesee Valley Trust building. And the Genesee River, from the point where the canal crosses it, falls down nearly 265 feet before it meets Lake Ontario.