Triphammer Forge – 40 Browns Race
The Triphammer Building was built as a forge in 1816 and occupied by the William Cobb Scythe and Tool factory. A large, heavy hammer – the triphammer – was raised by waterpower and dropped to forge wrought-iron tools. In 1830 the building was advertised for sale as having a furnace with the greatest blast in the state and two triphammers.
In the 1830s, Lewis Selye bought the Triphammer Building. Previously, in 1826, he had constructed the building at 208 Mill Street that extends between Browns Race and Mill Street. In these buildings, the Selye Fire Engine Company built Rochester’s first fire engines and supplied fire engines for federal fortifications and other sites across New York State. A cast-iron shaft transferred power from the Triphammer Building to the Mill Street plant.
In the 1860s the Triphammer Building and 208 Mill Street were purchased by Junius Judson, inventor of the steam governor used in locomotives and ships. Judson expanded the Triphammer building another 75 feet toward the gorge edge. The wall with the large arch is part of this addition. The shaft of Judson’s water turbine was found in this addition. Appropriately, he also manufactured triphammers at this site. Judson’s son eventually became the first president of Rochester Gas & Electric.
As electricity and steam replaced water power in the 1890′s, Browns Race lost its strategic advantage for industrial uses. For example, the vacant lot south of the Triphammer site was once the location of the Gleason Works, internationally noted makers of beveled gears. No longer needing the falls for water power, Gleason moved to its current location on University Avenue in 1905 after fire destroyed its Browns Race plant.
The Triphammer Forge site serves as the “Flour City’s” archaeological park, providing a good view of the history found in High Falls and Brown’s Race. Today, the stabilized ruins and reconstructed water wheel symbolize Rochester’s early 19th century industrial past along the lower Genesee River in what is now High Falls (at the time, High Falls was known as Frankfort).
The Triphammer site will be upgraded, with new signage, lighting, and other improvements. It may also one day serve as the entry point to the Lower Level of the Gorge to a large green area currently known as Beebee Park.
Here are some conceptual drawings to see how the Lower Gorge might be used in the future!