Seven to Save: 2000
132-140 State Street | Albany, Albany County
Threat: demolition and inappropriate development
Lower State Street is arguably Albany’s most historic and architecturally important streetscape, extending uphill from the Gothic style D & H Building to the magnificent State Capitol Building. As a result of recent demolitions and new office construction, the five properties at 132-140 State Street stand out as an intact and historic row in the downtown’s most significant commercial corridor. The five buildings, which include two former hotels, the Elks Lodge, and a rare surviving townhouse, are included in a local historic district and are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The buildings of 132-140 State Street, designed by leading local and national architects between 1832 and 1923, reflect Albany’s singular importance as a commercial and governmental center. However, beginning in the mid-1980s, the properties were acquired by Sebba-Rockaway, Ltd., a British developer, that is marketing them as a single property poised for clearance rather than as landmarks ready for reinvestment. With no response to an unsuccessful strategy meant to attract large-scale development, the future of the historic row on lower State Street is precarious.
Seneca Park | Rochester, Monroe County
Threat: inappropriate new construction/development in zoo section of park
Seneca Park is nationally recognized as an important historic landscape, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. late in his career. Olmsted is hailed as the “father of American landscape architecture” and was the designer of Central Park in New York City. He himself chose the land along both sides of the Genesee River for Seneca Park with the goal of creating a wild and scenic refuge in a busy urban center. But since the creation of the park in 1893, much of it has been lost to residential, industrial, and roadway development. The area that most retains Olmsted’s design is around Trout Pond in Lower Seneca Park. But that's precisely where the Monroe County administration plans to expand the Seneca Park Zoo and construct an 800-car parking lot. Currently, the zoo occupies 12 acres on a narrow plateau, hidden from the open land, walking paths, mature trees and recreational space of the Trout Pond area. The zoo expansion plan favored by the administration, which has development rights in the city-owned park, would triple the size of the zoo and extend it off of the plateau. Parkland would be lost for animal exhibits, while a seven-acre parking lot would eliminate an open meadow, forested area, walking paths and vistas to Trout Pond. Under strong protest by park advocates, preservationists and neighbors, the development would undo much of the extensive and historically appropriate restoration completed after the devastating ice storm in 1991.
A. Conger Goodyear House | Old Westbury, Nassau County
In 1999 the A. Conger Goodyear House, a seminal work by Edward Durell Stone, was in danger of demolition. The 1938 residence, inspired by elements of the International Style and some of Frank Lloyd Wright's approaches to building, had fallen into the hands of a Long Island developer with plans to subdivide the property. By 2001, the company had applied to the town’s board of historic review for a permit to demolish the house.
Recognizing the architectural significance of the property and the danger posed to it by development, Caroline Zaleski at the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities nominated the property to the League’s 2000 Seven to Save list. It was the first effort to publicly support the property’s survival. In late 2001, the World Monuments Fund joined the effort to preserve the property by added it to its 100 Most Endangered Sites listing for 2002.
The Preservation League, along with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and members of the Museum of Modern Art, sent letters to the mayor urging that the pending demolition be halted. On October 23, 2001 the World Monuments Fund won a temporary restraining order for the demolition of the house until all parties could be present in court. Three days later, all plaintiffs in attendance, they went before a State Supreme Court Judge to come up with a resolution. Although not listed as a local landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places at the time, it was the League's and WMF’s listing that gave the property credibility. By noon on the same day, an agreement had been reached that pending purchase, the building would not be demolished. With funding provided by the Barnett and Annaless Newman Foundation, purchase was finalized in December of 2001.SPLIA held the title and would manage the site.WMF provided expertise and funding for the restoration.
The tripartite effort by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, the Preservation League, and the World Monuments Fund resulted in resounding success. It is through preservation partnerships like these that change can be leveraged. In recognition of this collaborative success the Preservation League honored SPLIA and WMF in 2003 with an Excellence in Historic Preservation Award for “Organizational Excellence.” This same year, the property was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, an honor further signifying the property's importance and confirming SPLIA’s initial lobbying.
Due to heightened publicity and exposure to a wider international market, in July of 2005 a private buyer was found. An historic preservation easement was placed on the building and grounds restricting the property from future demolition and stipulating that there be no future additions.
Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms | Manhattan, New York County
Threat: Removal of historic interior features; lack of landmark protection
The penthouse of 809 United Nations Plaza in New York City is a rare sight to behold. It contains the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms, the creation of an internationally acclaimed master in modern architectural design, Alvar Aalto. The rooms are one of only three projects in the United States designed by Aalto (1898-1976), a renowned Finnish architect. Now, the three rooms are facing an uncertain future. The owner, Kokuren Shien L.L.C., plans to convert the conference rooms into offices, destroying Aalto’s masterpiece. Once the owner was made aware of the importance of the rooms, they offered to give the removable portions to anyone willing to pay for the cost of removal. They also agreed to wait 90 days before commencing with demolition.
Update - November 2015
League staff testifies in favor of designating the Conference Rooms.
Niagara Falls High School | Niagara Falls, Niagara County
Threat: demolition for strip style development
Across New York State and the nation, communities are facing difficult, often divisive decisions concerning the fate of older school buildings. While some municipalities are choosing to rehabilitate schools, others are favoring new construction and abandoning buildings that have functioned as neighborhood anchors for generations. The City of Niagara Falls is in the midst of such a controversy regarding the future of the 1924 Niagara Falls High School, vacated in June 2000 after a new high school opened elsewhere in the city. What’s at stake in Niagara Falls is whether the landmark-quality school will be retained for new community uses or demolished and replaced with a plaza-style shopping mall. The handsome three-story building, with its ornate 1,200-seat auditorium, occupies a prominent site in the heart of the city’s “Little Italy” neighborhood, which is experiencing reinvestment. After determining that the school district could not use the former school, the Niagara Falls School Board agreed to sell the property to Benderson Development Corporation. Benderson proposes to redevelop the site with a new commercial facility if it can obtain the necessary zoning change. Unless city government, the school board, and others can agree on the desired outcome for the building and site, the Classical Revival style school will be leveled and a shopping mall will be built in its place.
Glimmerglass/ Upper Susquehanna Region | Multiple Municipalities, Otsego County
Threat: inappropriate development
The Glimmerglass/Upper Susquehanna Region, which includes the nine towns and villages surrounding Otsego or “Glimmerglass Lake”, is one of New York State’s most intact and lovely cultural landscapes. From Cherry Valley to Springfield to Milford, the homes, churches, farms, fields, and roads retain a remarkable degree of visual and architectural integrity. In fact, 2,300 buildings and sites are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Yet the region's agricultural activities and small town character are threatened by the growing impact of tourism in the form of sprawl development. Due to its historic association with the origin and popularity of baseball, Cooperstown and environs has become a magnet for rapid and large-scale development. Youth baseball camps, motels, amusement parks, strip malls, and parking lots are consuming open land and straining aging infrastructure. The cumulative effect of these projects—some in place and more proposed—threatens to destroy the unique and beautiful network of historic sites and settings that distinguish the Glimmerglass Region in the state and the nation.
Downtown State Street | Schenectady, Schenectady County
Schenectady’s downtown is like many in upstate New York. Retail development on the outskirts of cities has led many businesses to relocate, leaving once thriving “Main Streets” nearly empty. Schenectady’s “Main Street” is State Street, which has witnessed disinvestment over the decades, and a decline in the number of people coming downtown to shop. The city has made a commitment to reversing this trend, but at the expense of what gives Schenectady a sense of place and distinguishes it from any other downtown—its historic buildings. With the intention of bringing more people into the central business district, the city has supported the demolition of 11 turn-of-the-century buildings for a new state Department of Transportation headquarters. Eight of these buildings are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. After much contest from the Schenectady Heritage Foundation, the Preservation League of New York State, and many residents, the city has refused to locate the DOT building elsewhere. And, Schenectady may be gearing up to demolish another eight buildings which stand on the preferred site of a new City/County Courthouse. One of the buildings in this block is the former Oddfellows Hall, a terracotta-clad structure that was recently restored by Proctor’s Theater for an Arts Center.