rochester history

David Bowie was arrested in upstate New York on March 21, 1976 on a felony pot possession charge. Bowie, 29 at the time, was nabbed along with Iggy Pop and two other co-defendants at a Rochester hotel following a concert. Bowie was held in the Monroe County jail for a few hours before being released. The above Rochester Police Department mug shot was taken three days after Bowie’s arrest, when the performer appeared at City Court for arraignment.

Rochester Castle
Rochester, Kent

Completed in the 12th century, Rochester Castle stands out as one of England’s most significant medieval fortifications. Owing to its strategic position on the River Medway, the castle was targeted during the First and Second Barons’ Wars (1215-1217;1264-1267) and the 14th century Peasants’ Revolt. Its stone keep remains one of the best preserved in all of Western Europe 


I was recently commissioned to photograph five generations of descendants of Solomon Northup, author of “12 Years a Slave”. The feature can be seen in this week’s newsstand ‘Oscar’s Edition’ of The Hollywood Reporter as well as here.

However small, I feel honored to play a role in the sharing of Solomon Northup’s legacy. It was definitely an experience that I’ll always treasure. Enjoy!

Over at Lapham’s Quarterly, Alice Gregory has an appreciation of one of my favorite ever historical badasses, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester – a notorious rake who was given a pension by Charles II for his ability to bust an extemporaneous rhyme, and then eventually banished from court (more than once!) because the ensuing rhymes were so filth-tacularly disrespectful. The politician Horace Walpole, writing several decades later, called him “a man whom the muses were fond to inspire but ashamed to avow.”

Fun fact: In the 1670s, Rochester and his rowdy friends actually founded a society called The Ballers, devoted to all kinds of sexual hijinks. And you thought being a baller was a modern phenomenon!

I particularly love Gregory’s description of the relationship between the king and the poet:

Rochester received favors in the form of land, money, and women from Charles II, but the symmetry of the friendship is hard to parse. Considering the constant humiliation, disrespect, and ridicule the king endured at Rochester’s hand, one is forced to conclude that there was some sort of inconspicuous symbiosis between the two. In this light, the friendship begins to resemble one of those inscrutable wingmanships that occur at Manhattan nightclubs, wherein a socially incompetent millionaire buy drinks for a charming (but unemployed) young man.

There’s a limited amount of Rochester’s poetry that we can reproduce here without resorting to the Warning Puppy, so here are just a few lines of a satire on the king that resulted in one of many banishments from court:

Restless he rolls about from whore to whore,
A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.

You can find more of his poetry (including the infamous “Signior Dildo” here.

Wilmot burned too fiercely to last; his health deteriorated and he died in his thirties, most likely of some combination of venereal diseases.  But hey, Johnny Depp played him in a movie, and Johnny Depp can make anything look kind of hot:

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– Petra

Rochester Cathedral
Rochester, Kent

Made a cathedral in 604 CE, Rochester is the seat of the second oldest bishopric in England. Much of its architecture dates back to the 11th century when it was headed by Bishop Gundulf – a Norman monk who would later go on to lead the construction of Rochester Castle, the White Tower of the Tower of London, and Colchester Castle. 

Ghosts of Rochester Castle, Kent, England

The castle is said to be haunted by Lady Blanche de Warren. Her apparition has been seen many times staggering along with an arrow protruding from her chest. It is said that she was accidentally killed by her fiance during Easter in 1264. The arrow was shot by her betrothed in an attempt to protect her from the unwanted affections of another man. Tragically, the arrow bounced off the armor of its intended target and hit Lady Blanche in the heart, killing her instantly.

The alleged ghost of Charles Dickens has also been reported at the castle near the Old Burial Ground. Dickens loved Rochester Castle and at one time expressed his wish to be buried there. After his death, he was deemed too important for such a humble resting place so he was buried at Westminster Abbey instead. However, his ghost seems to return to the place that he loved.

In addition to Lady Blance and Charles Dickens, a ghostly drummer boy is said to inhabit the castle grounds as well. His drumming can be heard at night every now and then.

Built after the Norman Conquest of England, the 12th-century castle keep is one of the best preserved in England. Rochester was a strategically important royal castle built on the site of a Roman town at the junction of the River Medway and Watling Street, an old Roman road. The castle is a Norman tower-keep made of Kentish ragstone and was built about 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury, with the encouragement of Henry I. Consisting of three floors above a basement, it still stands 113 feet high.

In 1215, garrisoned by rebel barons, the castle endured a long  siege by King John. Having first undermined the outer wall, John used the fat of 40 pigs to fire a mine under the keep, bringing its southern corner crashing down. Even then the defenders held on, until they were eventually starved out after resisting for two months. The castle was rebuilt by Henry III and Edward I and remained as a viable fortress until the sixteenth century.

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Next up in Rochester’s Rich History: Tea With Mrs. Jeffrey

January 16, 2016, 1-2:30 pm

Presented by Robin Nowell

Join us for an afternoon with Mrs. Jeffrey and learn more about her fascinating life as an advocate for the causes of education, suffrage, and equality. Mrs. Jeffrey was instrumental to the effort to erect a bronze statue of Frederick Douglass in Rochester and was tireless in organizing African American women. A close friend and associate of Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Jeffrey was chosen to deliver a eulogy at her funeral.

Edible Fungi Interview with Olga (smugtownmushrooms)

How did you get into foraging for mushrooms?

It started about 8 years ago… I was always interested in botany and was taking a course at our local Community College, when I stumbled across the ever most inspiring class called “The Natural History of Rochester” taught by the genius Steve Daniel. This professor knew everything growing, forming and singing in the natural world around us.  He inspired me to take a deeper look outside of the Plant Kingdom and dwell deeper into other realms.  One class though was the trigger… we went to a local park that is one of the only places in Western New York that has naturally occuring ponds that were once formed by glaciers 12,000 years ago, on that day we found over a hundred different varieties of Fungi and about 40 pounds worth that were edible.  I was like, “Are you serious? There’s free food by the pounds in the forest? Breakfast, Lunch and DInner!” At first it was all about the food aspect but the more I studied and became immersed into Fungi I realized they held secrets to food sovereignty, health and becoming closer to the natural world.

What is your most fond foraging experience?

Oh dear, how do I count thy ways?? Every experience is amazing.  Its always great finding a huge haul the second you walk into the forest.  Its almost like welcome gift by the forest faeries or something.  But as I have already mentioned,  I live in the Great Lakes bio-region in Rochester NY. Where the weather in early spring can be either a foot of snow still or eighty degrees.  Last spring, in early May we had classic mid Spring temperature, blooming Lilacs and Magnolias all around, temperatures in the favor of the growing season ahead.  One day, we decide to take a hike to a new woodlot to look for the elusive Morel.  Which, at that time, I still have not had the privilege to find and try.  Well, that day was a warning of high winds and a blizzard!! Yet we still hike and are on our hands and knees in the under brush, plucking our first Morels we have ever found!  Days before we are sunbathing and that day, wet, cold, snow is hitting our faces, and we are wrapped in wool, romping around the woods with a basket filled with our first Morels ever!!  Oh the glory!

Do you have a favorite mushroom?

Its hard to pin point a favorite! Believe it or not I love finding Amanitas, of all kinds, A. muscaria for the sense that THIS mushroom may have created consciousness as we know it and A. phalloides for being a potent killer, the toughest mushroom in the forest. That it has the power to take life is SO powerful and to be in its presence is quite humbling. But this past fall I was in the Pacific Northwest and found my first cauliflower mushroom or Sparassis crispa!  Lordy lord what a beauty and a delicious find. I have to say this species might be my new favorite edible out there.  But the list could go on..and on..

Is there a mushroom you are really wanting to find?

Hmmm…Well my love affair for Amanitas make it tempting to find an edible variety out there.  My family originates from the mountains of Greece and when I visit there, the natives always harp that the Amanita caesarea is the best.  Alas, when I have gone to visit, its not in season.  One day!! I shall eat an Amanita!  But runner up would be Lepiota americana.  I feel like Ive found these dozens of times but havent had the proper IDing or confidence that it was what it was, so I’ve always tossed these potential edibles to the compost pile.  As they say: When in doubt, throw it out!


Want to be interviewed? Answer the questions above & include a favourite picture of yourself foraging or mushrooms you have picked and submit! If you don’t have a tumblr, you can email me at Make sure to include a link to your tumblr or any sites of yours that you want to share. Interviews are posted on Tuesdays whenever possible.