Brighton Cemetery Becomes
Rochester City Landmark

2021 marks the 200th anniversary of this historic site.

aerial view of Brighton Cemetery

Aerial view of Brighton Cemetery – photo by Ron Richardson

By Arlene Vanderlinde

On December 14th, 2020, the 1821 Brighton Cemetery completed its final hurdle to become a designated landmark of the City of Rochester.

This 2-acre historic site, where many of Brighton’s early pioneers are buried, is located near what was the Old Brighton Village, at the corner of Winton Road and East Avenue. The people buried in this site represent the earliest history of our community before Brighton and Rochester existed. They each have a story and much can be learned by becoming aware of how they lived and what they believed.

In 1905, the growing City of Rochester annexed this part Brighton, taking in Brighton’s post office, town meeting hall, police headquarters, as well as several businesses located there. This area is now part of Rochester’s 21st Ward, located on Hoyt Place, off Winton Road South.

Historic Brighton was the official applicant for the designation, paying the application fee from its Leo Dodd Fund. The Brighton Cemetery Association endorsed the application.

Members of the Rochester Preservation and Planning Boards unanimously approved the application and were excited to learn more about this important site.

Historic Brighton plans to celebrate the designation with a 200-Year Anniversary Luncheon Lecture and cemetery tours to be held sometime in 2021. At this event, the 2021 Leo Dodd Heritage Preservation Award will be presented to Mr. Richard Miller, a volunteer caretaker and researcher of the cemetery. Mr. Miller has been the leader in re-establishing the lost records of the cemetery, as well as giving tireless hours of keeping the grounds and monuments in good condition.

More details to come. We hope to see you there!

Brief History of the Brighton Cemetery

photo of Brighton Cemetery in 2020

Photo of Brighton Cemetery in 2020 by Ron Richardson

Excerpted from articles by the late Ruth Blossom Kingston Porter. Find the full articles here: Historic Brighton News Volume 1, Number 2, Fall 2000 & Volume 9, number 4, Fall 2008.

“When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, it flowed quietly past the Brighton Cemetery on the eastern and northern sides. Today, that quiet flow of water has been replaced by a never-ending flow of thousands of noisy vehicles as they speed through the interchange of Expressways I-490 and I-590 which were built on the bed of the old canal. Most of the early pioneers of Brighton were pious Congregationalists from New England who soon organized a church which met in members’ homes for several years. In the early 1820s they built a small church (40’ x 55’), using locally-made bricks, on the high ground adjacent to the cemetery at the cost of $4000.

In pleasant weather, the members would stroll through the cemetery reading the inscriptions and finding a shady place to enjoy the nearby lock. In 1867, a flaming shingle blown by the wind from a burning Village tavern landed on the steeple of the church and soon reduced it to ashes. Many valuable items were saved by quick-acting church members, but the cemetery records, which were stored in the church, were completely destroyed. Therefore, the records of the Brighton Cemetery are far from complete.

A larger and more beautiful church was built in 1868 on East Avenue in the Village, and the church and cemetery were now separated by the canal. For years, the church continued to be responsible for the cemetery. However, in 1892 the Brighton Cemetery Association was formed to manage the cemetery culminating in a complete separation of the church and the cemetery.”

Cover image, Historic Brighton newsletter, Vol. 22, Number 1

Due to our current inability to properly distribute the most recent newsletter to the public we have made it available online here for your convenience and enjoyment.

In our new Winter 2021 issue, some of the featured topics include:

  • The Chateau: Historic Night Life at Twelve Corners
  • A Tribute to Arthur M. Holtzman, 1921-2020
  • Gordon Harris: Brighton Freedom Rider
  • Brighton Cemetery Becomes a City of Rochester Landmark

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