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Al Rochester, a lifelong Seattle resident, was a New Deal Democrat who served twelve years on the Seattle City Council and became an influential booster of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. Rochester was born in Seattle, Washington, on March 28, 1895, one of four children from a pioneer Seattle family. His parents, Judge George Alfred Caldwell (G.A.C.) Rochester and Julia Gwynn Smith Rochester, came to Seattle from Kansas City in the late 1880s. G.A.C. followed his brothers, Junius and Percy, to what was considered the bountiful Pacific Northwest. Despite the fact that the three brothers found themselves caught in the 1893 depression, they prospered in business (Percy) and the Law (Junius and G.A.C.).
Al Rochester graduated from Broadway High School and served in World War I (1917-1918), seeing action in the second battle of the Marne and at Meuse Argonne. Following the Great War, Rochester served a short stint as a Wall Street bond salesman. However, he soon returned to Seattle and at age 36 married Marguerite Reynolds; they had two children, Junius and Mary Ellen.
During World War II, Rochester served as state director of the Office of War Information. In the mid-1940s, having been bitten by government service and by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, he ran for elective office – the Seattle City Council. To his surprise, he was a winner and served on the Council from 1944 to 1956. Among his proudest contributions during that time were his chairmanship of the Parks and Streets and Sewers committees; his leadership in the adoption of daylight savings time, one-way streets, and special street parking for the physically handicapped; and his advocacy for construction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. During his City Council tenure, Rochester served as "official greeter" to more than one-half million U.S. military personnel returning from the Korean War.
At the age of 14, Rochester had operated a bread-slicing machine at a restaurant in the “Pay Streak” carnival section of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition exposition. Nearly five decades later, he proposed a golden anniversary commemoration of AYPE. At a small, informal Washington Athletic Club luncheon during the mid-1950s, Rochester proposed a Seattle “world’s fair.” His luncheon mates seconded the idea and Rochester returned to his City Council office to draft a Memorial to the state legislature suggesting such an event. In 1957, the State Legislature allocated $7.5 million for a fair and authorized creation of the World's Fair Commission. Rochester served for a time as Executive Director of the Washington State World’s Fair Commission. The eventual result of his idea was Century 21, the 1962 “Seattle World’s Fair.”
Besides his civic work, Rochester threw himself into non-profit and charitable endeavors. He was an officer of the Pioneer Association of Washington State, chairman of the King County U.S.O., and chairman of the Easter Seal campaign for crippled children. He also served as organizer and chairman of the local Infantile Paralysis Foundation chapter, was director of Red Cross and Heart Association campaigns, and was twice president of the Young Men’s Democratic Club of Seattle and King County.
Rochester died in Seattle at the age of 93, on February 4, 1989.
This series is comprised of two scrapbooks relating to the life and work of Al Rochester, compiled by Rochester's daughter, Mary Ellen Rochester. Each volume is described more fully below.
[Item and date], Alfred R. Rochester Scrapbooks, Record Series 4678-02. Volume [number]. Seattle Municipal Archives.
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Contains newspaper clippings from Rochester's public life, focusing almost exclusively on his years as a City Council member. However, there are a few clippings that pre-date and post-date his tenure on the Council.
Contains newspaper clippings commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.