Cook Park dropped the 'e' to reclaim its history

Sep. 4—Oh Wise One,

I know where to go to get the right answer. So, is it Cooke or Cook Park? I have seen it both ways on signs and notices.

— A Park User

Park User,

The silent "e" tends to pop up now and again, but the name of the park quietly reverted back to the original — Cook Park — in 2020, after years of the altered spelling.

As I pointed out a couple years before the recent change,

the park was originally named John R. Cook Park after the founder and president of Rochester's First National Bank. He was also the owner of the Cook House, a four-story hotel that was the peak of luxury for Rochester in 1869. His commercial buildings housed W.W. Mayo's medical offices for nearly two decades after the tornado of 1883.

After Cook House was damaged in a fire and torn down in 1949, his heirs donated and sold a portion of the Cook family land to the city for the purpose of a new neighborhood park.

The Park Board recommended putting Cook's name on a park in the same year, since there was no landmark remaining with his name and he had been a supporter of the city's park system.

While it makes me wonder why there's no park or monument in the city with my moniker attached, that's not your question.

The stray "e" appears to have attached itself to the park nearly two decades later.

In 1967, the first record of "John R. Cooke Park" was found in a Rochester directory. Volumes of the same directory referred to it as "John R Cook Park" from 1949 to 1966, but the apparent 1967 typo appeared to stick and future references kept the "e" attached.

The misspelling eventually landed on the park's sign.

The sign and official references were changed after local historian Sean Kettelkamp raised the issue with the Park Board in March of 2020, but as with many name changes, complete adoption will likely take some time. Just ask the folks at the Galleria at University Square, who gave up on trying to get residents to drop "Galleria" in reference to the downtown shops.

As a bonus answer — dessert, if you will — I'll address a question at least one person has asked since the name change: What kind of cooking facilities are located in Cook Park and what does it cost to host a family cookout at the site?

An incorrect reading of the name might suggest the park is dedicated to picnics, barbecues and other cooking adventures, but as previously noted, there is no culinary connection.

The biggest food link is likely the fact that it is most commonly known as the park with the pickleball courts.

That doesn't mean family cookouts aren't welcome. While none of Rochester's public parks come with grills, the rules say you can bring your own.

Additionally, Cook Park is one of five parks with rentable

"Level 2" picnic shelters

that offer limited electrical service, making it possible to operate an electric roaster or crock pot for a gathering.

Rents for Level 2 shelters, which include sites at Silver Lake, Quarry Hill, Slatterly and Soldiers Field parks, are $250 for a gathering, with the shelter at Silver Lake Park's Three Links site only being available at four-hour intervals.

Now that you have fed on my wealth of knowledge, I must admit that all this talk about parks and cooking has me thinking about firing up the grill.

Send questions to Answer Man at