Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards - 2003
A boathouse in the middle of Brooklyn. Court facilities in two upstate municipalities. A passionate student of - and advocate for - the history of New York's Hudson River valley . These were just a few of the Award-winning projects honored by the Preservation League on May 14, 2003 at the W Union Square in New York. Descriptions of each of the Awards are below.
The League celebrates projects, individuals and organizations that are doing exemplary work through its Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards.
Skylight and Laylight, New York State Capitol
Capitol architect Isaac Parry took over construction of the Great Western Staircase in the New York State Capitol from Henry Hobson Richardson in 1883 and made distinctive design modifications including increasing the amount of decorative stone carving and reworking the skylight system. When the staircase was completed in 1897, its crowning feature was the extensive and well-designed skylight system that flooded the staircase with natural light and illuminated its beautiful hand-carved sandstone ornamentation. However, in 1942, as a wartime air raid precaution, the underside of the skylight was covered and painted. The covering and skylight were removed in the 1960s and replaced with plywood and slate, leaving one of the grandest features of the Capitol a dark and gloomy place.
In April of 2000, as part of The Master Plan for the New York State Capitol, the New York State Office of General Services Design and Construction Group undertook the restoration of the laylight and reconstruction of the skylight. Through tremendous teamwork, and using high standards of quality for restoration and preservation, this technically challenging project was completed within two years. For the first time in over 60 years, the public can now see and experience natural light in the architecturally grand Great Western Staircase.
Brighter Choice Charter School
Designed by renowned Albany architect Albert Fuller, the former Public School No. 10 is one of Albany’s historic treasures. Built in 1890, the building is an outstanding example of the Romanesque Revival style. Vacated in the 1990s, the building slowly deteriorated to the point where a national pharmacy chain proposed to tear it down for a new suburban style drugstore. Local, state and national preservation groups, along with the public, rallied to rescue this historic building for a new use.
The Preservation League of New York State then introduced the Brighter Choice Foundation to the idea of reusing the building to establish a new charter school. Brighter Choice quickly realized that reusing the historic building would not only give the new charter school identity and character, but it would be more cost-effective than building a brand new school. The architectural firm, Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, Architecture & Engineering, P.C. (EYP), was hired to restore the original building and design a new space to accommodate the school’s needs.
The project’s quality restoration and sensitively designed new addition serve as a model for the entire state. The once vacant school building is again full of children and the streetscape has been given an anchor that will contribute to the continued revitalization of the urban neighborhood.
Orleans County Courthouse and Clerk’s Building
The stately Greek Revival style Orleans County Courthouse was designed by William VanNess Barlow, Architect, and built between 1857-1858. The Clerk’s Building was constructed between 1882-1883 to the design of Isaac G. Perry, Architect, in the High Victorian Gothic style. These handsome public buildings are key landmarks in the Orleans County Courthouse Historic District in the Village of Albion.
In the late 1990s the county recognized that, in addition to being substantially inaccessible to the disabled, these structures required significant rehabilitation and were becoming inadequate for the programs they housed. The project architects, Crawford & Stearns, worked closely with county and court personnel to identify actual needs, as well as the applicable regulatory requirements for restoration safety and accessibility.
All the restoration and renovation objectives were successfully achieved due to creative design, close consultation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, support from the county and encouragement from the court’s personnel. The success of the project allowed these buildings to remain in use for their original purposes while continuing to serve as active landmarks in the historic Village of Albion. This project can serve as an example and inspiration for counties across the state with landmark courthouse facilities needing improved stewardship.
Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse
The 1905 boathouse, constructed of ornamental terra cotta, suffered from years of severe water damage, high usage and lack of technical understanding of terra cotta care. Slated for demolition in the 1960s, the boathouse was saved by a local grassroots group and became the first New York City designated landmark in Prospect Park. Several attempts to repair the deteriorating terra cotta failed however, and the boathouse was closed in 1997.
Soon after, its restoration became part of the Prospect Park Alliance’s (PPA) overall management plan, which included creating a major destination for park visitors and tourists, especially around the eastern section of the park where the boathouse is located. Painstaking research into the original terra cotta and subsequent failed restoration efforts, allowed PPA to address key problems, and as a result, the restoration was faithful to the original architectural detail and the historic structure was restored in a manner which will prevent future deterioration.
While the boathouse restoration is the focal point of the newly created Audubon Center, the project also involved the restoration of 21 acres of surrounding natural habitat, reconstruction of an original rustic arbor and boat dock, and the creation of nature trails. The Prospect Park Alliance, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Audubon Society and the city’s public schools all played critical roles in this project. Since its opening in 2002, the Prospect Park Audubon Center has welcomed nearly 50,000 visitors.
Buffalo City Hall Council Chambers
This major restoration project preserved the outstanding Art Deco style Council Chamber in the 1931 landmark Buffalo City Hall. The original semicircular plan of the chambers included a dais and councilpersons’ desks, all originally made of inlaid wood, a spectacular sunburst skylight, and a structural ceiling tile system created by Raphael Guastavino which is overlaid with hand painted designs in Native American motif. In addition, bronze and plaster grillwork, carved limestone, multi-colored marbles, carved walnut, and cork flooring added to the original palette of enduring materials in the chambers.
Over the years, however, the space’s deterioration included a leaking skylight, cracked Guastavino masonry, crumbling plaster, peeling paint, broken glass in the skylight, and inappropriate remodeling. The city funded the work to restore the original painting, sculpture and intricate woodwork that embellished the public meeting space. The challenging project, executed by Hamilton Houston Lownie Architects, LLC, took nearly two years to complete and is now a public reminder of the city’s architectural heritage. The return of this magnificent space to its original splendor can serve as an inspirational model to other municipalities across the state.
Roosevelt Island, New York City
Designed by Withers and Dickson and completed in 1892, this fieldstone and brick building was constructed by the Charity (City) Hospital. Vacated in 1958, arson, vandalism and the natural elements had caused considerable damage. In 1990, MTA New York City Transit initiated an ambitious plan to convert it to a transportation substation and a plan for restoration was developed. The design team was faced with the dual task of restoring the exterior to comply with state and local preservation standards, while designing the interior to comply with extraordinary safety and code requirements for bulky, high-powered, state-of-the-art electrical equipment.
As a result of considerable research and the careful salvaging of materials under the guidance of Page Ayres Cowley Architects, the exterior of the building was beautifully restored to its original appearance. In addition, the MTA New York City Transit now has a much needed substation between Manhattan and Queens and its commitment to preservation has saved a piece of the city’s history. This adaptive re-use stands as a model for other buildings considered beyond the point of salvage.
King’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga is best known as a military site significant in both the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. By the early 19th century, the Fort no longer served a military purpose, but had gained new significance in the origins of heritage tourism and historic preservation. In the 1820s the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga and the surrounding Garrison Grounds were purchased by the Pell family to preserve both history and the landscape. A century later, Marian Cruger Coffin, one of the first academically trained, female landscape architects in America, was hired to design a garden on the premises, later to be known as the King’s Garden.
In 1992, the King’s Garden was recognized as "a masterwork American Garden" by The Garden Conservancy. In the same year, Fort Ticonderoga began an extensive restoration of the garden, which was overseen by noted landscape historian, Lucinda A. Brockway. The nine-year project to restore the garden is a model for landscape research and interpretation and an inspiration for systematic and energetic fundraising to support an important preservation project. The King’s Garden is the only designed garden in the Adirondacks open to the public, and its beauty, splendor and history are viewed by several thousand people every year.
Rensselaer County Court Facilities
The Rensselaer County Court facilities were originally constructed between 1894 and 1898 to the design of Marcus F. Cummings and Sons, Architects, of Troy. In 1912, the adjacent Presbyterian Church was purchased to accommodate the expansion of these facilities. In 1915, a corridor was built between the two buildings and the church was completely renovated. Finally, in 1964, a third annex was built.
In 1996, having determined that the judicial needs of Rensselaer County were not being met by the existing facility, the county commissioned John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC to execute a phased renovation/restoration plan for the Rensselaer County Court facilities that would preserve its architectural character while meeting the court’s needs. This was a complex and multi-phased project. The architects had to manage the renovation of four buildings from various periods, work with two branches of county government and remain sensitive to the operations and interactions of the various agencies utilizing the complex.
The results of the six-year courthouse restoration project are truly magnificent, and importantly, the facilities continue to serve the residents of both Rensselaer County and the City of Troy as a vital public resource. The decision by the county to remain in its existing buildings should serve as a model for municipalities throughout the state.
Built in the 19th century, the Gazette Building is situated on Main Street in the heart of the downtown waterfront area and was one of the first projects undertaken by the City of Yonkers in its downtown revitalization plans. Before restoration, the building had been abandoned for over 20 years, and its boarded up façade was emblematic of a troubled downtown.
The building’s design is eclectic, with a lively combination of Italianate style brickwork and Queen Anne style bay windows. The project involved the restoration of the facade and all of its decorative features. To accomplish the rehabilitation, the Gazette was combined with the neighboring building to use its elevator and stair core to serve both buildings. In addition, all systems were completely modernized and the building brought up to the current standards of life, safety and operational efficiency. The ground floor is now a restaurant and a small retail space and the upper floors are used as office space. The restoration is noteworthy because it demonstrates the commitment of the City of Yonkers to quality preservation in its historic downtown. The Gazette Building is a signature property of the waterfront area and its dramatic restoration is a significant visual indicator of desirable changes in the area that are attracting more pedestrians to the city’s Hudson River waterfront. This project will serve as a model for other communities throughout New York State seeking to keep their downtown areas vital and attractive.
J. Winthrop Aldrich
Wint Aldrich has lived beside the Hudson River all his life and for much of that time, has been a passionate student of the region’s history and an advocate for preserving its natural and historic resources.
A member of the tenth generation of his family to own land at Rokeby, in Red Hook, he was an incorporator of Hudson River Heritage in 1974 and played a major role in establishing, in 1990, the Hudson River National Historic Landmark District, extending along the river from Staatsburg north to Clermont. This extraordinary district is the largest National Historic Landmark District in the United States, and its federal landmark status is acknowledgement that the mansions, hamlets, farmsteads and other historic resources in the heart of the Hudson Valley are of the highest national significance. This work, in turn, contributed to the Congressional enactment of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in 1996.
Mr. Aldrich served as president of the Hudson River Conservation Society (1974-84), facilitating its evolution into today’s Scenic Hudson, and he was the founding president of Wilderstein Preservation in Rhinebeck (1980-88). Since 1975, he has been Red Hook Town Historian.
In January of this year, Mr. Aldrich retired from his position as New York State’s Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, a post at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to which he was appointed in 1994. For the proceeding 20 years, he had served as a special assistant to six successive commissioners of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. During this long tenure, Mr. Aldrich was the leading force for the preservation of historic resources that range from the Adirondack Great Camps of Santanoni and Sagamore to New York State’s four National Historic Landmark psychiatric hospitals in Binghamton, Buffalo, Poughkeepsie and Utica.
A graduate of Harvard College, with a degree in history, and a former Army captain in Vietnam, Mr. Aldrich and his wife Tracie Rozhon now live in New York City and at Rokeby.
Canisius College was founded in 1870 and moved to its present site in North Central Buffalo in 1911. In 1993, the college embarked on an ambitious plan to become an integral part of its surrounding neighborhoods and to contribute to their development, while at the same time investing $90 million in private funds in 11 different capital projects to improve the campus. Of the 11 campus projects, four demonstrate particular emphasis and excellence in reusing historic buildings and cultural landscapes. They are: Old Main, the 1912 symbol of Canisius College; Lyons Hall, a 1908 neo-Gothic, former high school building; The Montante Cultural Center, formerly St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church; and George M. Martin Hall, formerly the historic St. Vincent de Paul Rectory.
The college also constructed new housing that is designed to be sensitive to its historic surroundings and, to foster community vitality, Canisius introduced the city’s first Employer Assisted Housing Program. This innovative program provides financial incentives to all employees who purchase a home in surrounding neighborhoods, two of which are local historic districts. In addition, plans for Main Street improvements are also underway.
The Canisius neighborhood is now seen as a bright spot on the city landscape, with the college playing a leadership role in community development. The college’s sensitivity to its neighbors and its historic surroundings can serve as a model for educational institutions located in urban areas throughout New York State.
World Monuments Fund New York City
and Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities
Cold Spring Harbor
WMF and SPLIA are being honored for their resourceful collaborative efforts in preserving the A. Conger Goodyear House (1938) by Edward Durell Stone in Old Westbury, Long Island. The Goodyear House is one of the most significant Modernist houses in the New York region, an early masterpiece of Stone’s domestic architecture. In 1999, the then owners of the residence declared their intention to demolish the home once a luxury housing development was complete within subdivisions of what had once been Goodyear’s 60-acre property. Although the house had been neglected, it was almost completely intact.
SPLIA initiated a campaign to save the house by nominating it to the Preservation League’s Seven to Save, a statewide endangered properties list, and then following up with a successful nomination to WMF’s World Monuments Watch, an international endangered properties list. The resulting publicity brought forth the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation which provided critically needed financing. Currently, WMF is providing expertise and funding for repairs and maintenance, while SPLIA holds title. The intention is to sell the building with covenants that will protect the architectural integrity of this masterwork of modern design.