Lehigh Valley Railroad Station
Nearly everyone familiar with downtown Rochester knows about Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. It’s located on Court Street and it’s a popular lunchtime spot. They are also open evenings and have live entertainment. Dinosaur started in 1983 as a mobile concession stand near Albany, NY. They served food at motorcycle shows, fairs and festivals. In 1988 they opened their first permanent location in Syracuse, NY. They now have six locations (Syracuse, Rochester, Harlem and Troy in New York state; Stamford, CT; and Newark, NJ).
The Rochester location of the Dinosaur is the former Lehigh Valley RR Passenger Station. The building was built in 1905 and housed a passenger terminal and freight terminal. The building was built over the Johnson-Seymour Mill Race and the Genesee River. The mill race was able to produce 1300 horse power of energy from the Genesee River for local mills. The station was in operation providing passenger service until the 1950’s when the Lehigh Valley Railroad lines were abandoned.
The station was briefly used as a bus station and abandoned completely in 1954. The buildings sat vacant and were an eyesore. A refurbishment attempt in the 1970’s failed. In 1982 Max Farash bought the buildings for $1 and a two-year restoration project was started. “The interior was badly damaged by vandals. Graffiti covered the walls, all of the windows were broken, and part of the roof had collapsed. Holes in the floorboards—some as large as three square feet—exposed the building to the Genesee River rushing below” (landmarksociety.org, 2012).
The Farash restoration was a labor of love. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. It was briefly a nightclub called Carpe Diem. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que bought the buildings for $1.1 million and opened their Rochester location in 1998. They currently serve over half a million customers each year in Rochester.
It’s always nice to see the old buildings preserved, respected and re-used.