Frederick Douglass Urban Homesite
In April 1848, abolitionist Frederick Douglass purchased his first home in Rochester at 4 Alexander Street. Under the street numbering then in effect, this would have been quite close to then-Main Street, now East Avenue. Douglass purchased the house from an anti-slavery activist, jeweler John Kedzie. The sale was engineered by Joseph Marsh, publisher of an Adventist newspaper whose offices were in the Talman Block, where Douglass edited his anti-slavery newspapers. The homeowners on either side were fellow abolitionists who welcomed Douglass as a neighbor; other residents of the block protested an African-American moving into their "aspiring" suburban neighborhood.
The Douglass family resided here until 1852, when they moved to a rural homesite that could better accommodate fugitive slaves traveling toward Canada on the Underground Railroad.
Fixing the exact location of Douglass’s city homesite is difficult, in part because street numbering on Alexander Street has changed. Assuming that street numbers then began at Main Street and that even numbers occupied the east side of the street as they do today, the Douglass home was presumably quite near what is now the southeast corner of East Avenue and Alexander. This corner now contains an empty lot, south of which stands what appears to be an early 20th-century brick school building that has been converted to apartments. Douglass’s home probably stood either on the empty lot or on the site of the current Alexandrian Apartments. Anyone with more exact information about the exact location of the Douglass homesite or the history of the Alexandrian Apartments building is invited to contact the Freethought Trail (contact link at the bottom of the Credits page).