East Rochester was uniquely located in parts of three towns, Pittsford, Penfield and Perinton. In 1890, it was farmland with a railroad running through it from east to west. One road — Lincoln Road — connected Fairport Road and Penfield. Another road ran from Penfield to a small passenger and freight station on Washington Street. This station was locally referred to as Penfield Station. It is now a model train store.
Around 1896, Walter Parce, a Fairport businessman, chanced to overhear a conversation between two New York Central officials as he traveled to work on the train from Fairport to Rochester. They were discussing an urgent need for a location where the railroad might relocate their shops from the Culver Road area in Rochester, due to lack of expansion space. A new factory was needed where freight and refrigerator cars could be built.
Mr. Parce contacted Mr. Chauncey Depew, president of the railroad, and learned that several prerequisites are needed to make the decision where to relocate. They wanted a level area requiring no blasting or grading, water, cheap electrical rates and access to the main line of the railroad.
Mr. Parce then saw a possibility in the level land alongside the railroad west of Fairport, frequently traveled by hundreds on their way to Rochester. He conceived the idea of building a town around the car shops. It would be a working man’s town in the vicinity of the Penfield station. Mr. DePew was interested and told Mr. Parce to buy up all the options on the farmland needed. The deal was made with the understanding that the car shops would get 35 acres of land free to construct their plant.
Mr. Parce then succeeded in talking Edmund Lyon, who was involved with the Eastman Kodak Company, Dean Alvord and Harry Eyer, all of Rochester, to bicycle out to the proposed site and inspect the lands. Their enthusiasm was aroused and the Vanderbilt Improvement Co. with the starting capital of $800,000 was organized.
With the building of a small real estate office, the area turned into a beehive of activity. Since the workers who were to build the new refrigerated cars needed a nearby place to live, construction of the new village was urgent. Dean Alvord and a Mr. Gray laid out the plans. Lots were to be 40 by 120 feet for homes and 20 by 120 feet for businesses. The New York Central railroad built a passenger station at the end of the new main Street which looked out of place to passing trains, as there was no village to justify it.