The Elwood Building

Northeast corner of State and Main Streets.

The Elwood Building was constructed on the northeast corner of State and Main Streets in 1879. This prime location at the city of Rochester’s busiest intersection, known as the Four Corners, ensured the success of the building as a commercial block.

The old Elwood Block.


The building was constructed for Frank Worcester Elwood (1850-1899), a lawyer whose family had owned the property since 1864. The previous building on the site was a stone business block built in 1818. This block underwent several additions and renovations. It was commonly called the Burns Block until 1864, when it was purchased by the heirs of Isaac R. Elwood (1800-1863), a city alderman and Western Union executive. The old block then became known as the Elwood Block. The owners razed this structure in 1879 to make way for a new commercial building named in remembrance of Isaac R. Elwood.



James G. Cutler.The cornerstone for the Elwood Building was laid on May 13, 1879. It was erected from designs drawn by James G. Cutler, who went on to become mayor of the city of Rochester after enjoying a successful career as an architect. Cutler was also the architect for The Kimball Tobacco Factory and several other Rochester buildings.

The Saturday evening edition of the Union & Advertiser on October 25, 1879 reported in its "Items in Brief" column: "The occupancy of the new Elwood block, on the Four Corners, was formally begun by one tenant this morning. The block is a credit to the city." The Elwood Building was seven stories high and had a large Gothic clock tower. Its two most remarkable features were its mail chute and its gargoyles.

Main Street at Four Corners.
The Elwood Building on the northeast corner of State & Main. The Powers Building is on the left.

Cutler Chute.

Cutler designed the Elwood Building in an age when multi-storied office buildings were becoming more commonplace. In fact, buildings were growing taller and taller every year as construction techniques were modernized. Cutler built a mail chute for the Elwood Building as a convenience for tenants. People on upper floors could drop their mail into the chute, which would carry it down to the lobby area. The mail would land in a receptacle where a postal worker could collect it. The mail chute in this building proved such a success that Cutler patented his invention and started his own business, The Cutler Manufacturing Co. (later known as the Cutler Mail Chute Co.). Cutler chutes were placed in the ever-growing number of skyscrapers all across the country.

Cutler Chute.

The gargoyles were the other notable characteristic of the Elwood. They were included in Cutler’s design and had wooden cores with metal (possibly tin or zinc) exteriors. There were originally 16 gargoyles. However, one was removed in 1962 for fear that it was going to break free and fall to the street below.

Elwood gargoyle.
An Elwood gargoyle appears ready to devour the Powers Building Tower on the opposite corner of State & Main Streets.

Eighty- eight years after it was built the Elwood Building fell to the wrecker’s ball in the name of progress. The building was razed in 1967 as part of the Genesee Crossroads Urban Renewal Project. A modern structure, the Crossroads Building, was erected on the site. The gargoyles, however, were taken down and put into storage.

Elwood gargoyles.
The gargoyles

Elwood Building, left. Wilder and Crossroads Buildings.

Before and after: Looking north from Exchange towards the northeast corner of Main and State. The image on the left (from circa 1910) shows the Elwood Building and a portion of the Wilder Building (which was on the southeast corner). The image on the right (from 1986) shows the Crossroads Building, which replaced the Elwood Building, and a portion of the Wilder Building

Elwood Building, left, located at the Four Corners.
The Elwood Building towering over the Four Corners

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