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Then and now: Christmas past meets Christmas present in Rochester

Then and now: Christmas past meets Christmas present in Rochester

Vintage images taken by Democrat and Chronicle show the hustle and bustle of Christmastime in downtown Rochester. Crowds pass a Salvation Army bell ringer at the corner of Main and Clinton, a Fanny Farmer store in the background. Midtown Plaza beckons children with its Magic Mountain and monorail. And the windows of Sibley's and McCurdy's are adorned with holiday displays meant to entice shoppers to visit their stores.

With the department stores having left downtown and the mall that's no more, it's easy to think that the spirit of Christmas has left downtown.

But a recent peaceful walk at dusk revealed that there's still plenty of Christmas to be found, if you know where to look.

The iconic Liberty Pole, erected in 1963, is lit up for the season. It appears to resemble a giant Christmas tree from one angle, but it is more amorphous from others. The lights make wavy reflections on the steel pole, making it is an Instagrammer's dream from many angles.

Much of Main Street is lined with snowflakes on light poles and white lights strung around the trees. A swag of lights hangs on the part of the overhead walkway that crosses Main Street at the river. And the tree made up of red windows in the Five Star Bank is lit once again.

Many downtown businesses have added to the atmosphere. The Sibley Building at East Main and Clinton, which is in the process of a major renovation, has a Christmas display in three of its windows, and across the street, the Democrat and Chronicle has several trees in its windows. The newly renovated Hyatt Regency Rochester has two Christmas trees, and CGI Communications, across the street has its doors bedecked by large wreaths and a reindeer display in the window. Much of the Christmas lighting is subtle, more easily appreciated on foot and looking up at the skyline. The top corners of the 30-story Xerox Tower, have vertical streaks of red and green, and a red spotlight illuminates the peak of the 20-story Legacy Tower.

Bright dashes of red and green outline Tower 280, and dots of red and green peek out from the wavy roof atop One East Avenue. A new addition this year, the 26 stores of the Metropolitan Tower (formerly the Chase Tower) and its modern new arched entrance are illuminated in red.

Behind the Seneca Building, which houses the Democrat and Chronicle and Windstream, trees devoid of their leaves are lit in rotating red and green, the natural shapes of the branches a relief of from the hard lines of city buildings. Nearby, in a park on Parcel 5, a group of sculptural installations that resemble the bells of brass instruments pointed at the sky are also lit in red and green.

Yes, the Christmas spirit still exists downtown, burning brightly at the Liberty Pole and more subtly in other places. Perhaps 40 years from now, the next generations will wax nostalgic about skyscrapers lit in red and green and a calmer, quieter expression of the season.

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