Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards - 2011

From the majestic New York Public Library to the Montour House in Schuyler County, the 2011 Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards paid tribute to a wide variety of projects, organizations, and individuals exemplifying the very highest achievements to historic preservation. Our annual Awards program on May 12, 2011 highlighted projects that provide new examples of best practices in historic preservation.

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The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Interior, Albany County

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, completed in 1852, is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture. The building’s grand interior features a ribbed vaulted ceiling with ornate cast plaster bosses and robust clustered columns creating a series of archways throughout the space. Last painted in 1946, the interior was a monochrome brown. Close inspection revealed that much of the plasterwork was in need of repair, and water-damaged walls, ceilings, and cracked and gouged moldings were visible throughout the structure. The interior restoration is part of a decades-long effort to restore and rejuvenate the Cathedral to ensure that it continues to serve as a landmark of architectural excellence for the city of Albany.

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The Franklin Building, Jefferson County

The Franklin Building was constructed circa 1905 as the Franklin Arcade, a retail venture extending from Watertown’s Public Square through to Franklin Street. It was acquired by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) c. 1919 and substantially remodeled with the addition of a gymnasium, swimming pool, activity spaces and sleeping rooms. By assembling a team of experts in the fields of historic preservation, project development, financing and New York State building codes, Neighbors of Watertown ably demonstrates that once-vacant floors above street-level commercial space can offer attractive housing options.


The Knox Building, NYC

The Knox Hat Company was on the forefront of the trend to popularize Fifth Avenue as a retail corridor when it moved its headquarters to 452 Fifth Avenue. The 10 story building, completed in 1902, is one of New York’s finest examples of Beaux-Arts style commercial architecture. After undergoing alterations in the 1920s and 1960s, the recent restoration brings the building closer to its original appearance than it had been for 90 years. The re-introduction of details to the front facade and of curved glass sidelights to the 5th Avenue entry has returned this building to its Beaux-Arts glory. With strict attention to history, materials and practice, Platt Byard Dovell White Architects has positioned the structure for use long into the 21st century.

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The New York Public Library Exterior, NYC

The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, originally known as the Central Library, is considered a significant example of the Beaux-Arts style and is the most important work of the firm of Carrère and Hastings. This is yet another exemplary project from Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, demonstrating the methodical approach the firm takes to preservation and restoration. Careful consideration of technical, theoretical, aesthetic and practical issues makes this a model project that sets a high standard for other practitioners.


Pierpont Morgan’s 1906 Library Interior, NYC

The interior restoration of Pierpont Morgan’s library is the most extensive since the building’s completion in 1906. The Italianate library, designed in the spirit of the High Renaissance by McKim Mead and White, was created as the private domain of financier Pierpont Morgan. It ranks as one of New York’s great architectural and historical treasures, and its rooms are regarded as some of the most beautiful in America. The Library stands as Charles McKim’s masterpiece and is familiarly known as the McKim Building.

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1844 Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct, Onondaga County

The 1844 Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct is the only restored navigable aqueduct in New York State, one of 32 constructed in the first enlargement of the Erie Canal, of which only seven remain intact. The aqueduct – a water-filled bridge that carries canal boats over rivers, streams or valleys – is the centerpiece of the Camillus Erie Canal Park which is the midpoint between Albany and Buffalo. Four stone arches made of fine Onondaga limestone quarried from Split Rock support the towpath. High quality restoration work aside, the narrative of this project is breathtaking in the scope and scale with regards to collaboration. The all-volunteer Camillus Canal Society’s unyielding dedication to the restoration of this portion of the canal is truly commendable. The restoration of the aqueduct and re-watering of a portion of the prism are most ambitious and appropriate.

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Montour House, Schuyler County

The Montour House was built by Charles Cook as a hotel to accommodate travelers on the nearby Chemung Canal, and is said to be one of the finest examples of the Greek Revival style in western New York. In later years, the building housed professional offices, a restaurant and private club, and a bed and breakfast. Once considered a candidate for demolition, the property now has 10 occupied housing units, and has revitalized the village’s once-desolate Main Street with the addition of ground-floor physicians’ offices, a bank branch, a popular coffee house and wine bar, and administrative offices for the regional hospital.


Uncovering the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life in Wayne County, New York: 1820-1880 by Judith Wellman and Marjory Allen Perez, outstanding publication

According to Peter Evans, Wayne County Historian, “The importance of this project cannot be overstated. Over the course of 14 months, members of the research team visited cemeteries where African Americans and former slaves were buried, climbed the bluffs along Lake Ontario where Freedom Seekers signaled to passing lake schooners to pick them up, climbed through abandoned buildings where former slaves had lived, visited churches that had split apart over the issue of slavery, and searched for sites where anti-slavery presentations were made by the likes of Frederick Douglass. As a result of the survey, nearly 80 structures were verified as key locations within the Network to Freedom and in the lives of African Americans in Wayne County. Local residents can feel pride in discovering the sites that existed and continue to exist in the region – and the people and events associated with them. We are so pleased to receive this recognition.”

CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity in Syracuse, organizational excellence

CenterState CEO, the successor organization to the Syracuse Metropolitan Development Association, has reinvented itself by reaching beyond the roles of a traditional economic and business development organization. The group’s recognition of the key role preservation plays in redevelopment opportunities at the local level and support of New York’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit has been instrumental in securing adoption of this legislation. CenterState CEO was a driving force behind successful and ongoing historic preservation projects in Syracuse, including the Landmark Theatre in the 300 block of South Salina Street, adjacent to Armory Square, and the Pike Block project, also located along Syracuse’s primary commercial corridor. Recognizing the importance of green and sustainable industries in revitalizing Central New York, CenterState CEO also sponsors The Clean Tech Center, which provides for the incubation, acceleration and retention of companies in the clean technology sector.


Howard Kirschenbaum will be honored for individual excellence for his contribution to historic preservation in the Adirondack Park.

“Given the growing concern about the economy and the environment, about jobs and sustainability, historic preservation is more relevant now than ever,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “Howie’s name is synonymous with preservation in the Adirondacks. In addition to his work with the famed Great Camps, his leadership of the nonprofit organization Adirondack Architectural Heritage has helped make it a statewide model of an effective preservation advocacy group. An outspoken supporter of Camp Santanoni, including years of work alongside the Preservation League, his book about the Camp’s significance remains an important resource.”

The Preservation League awards program is supported by a generous grant from the Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Foundation.