Seven to Save: 2002

The 2002 Seven to Save list spotlights historic properties that exemplify challenges facing historic places across the state. Sites listed this year draw attention to the issues of municipal abandonment of historic downtowns, the need for a statewide “Main Street Revitalization Program” and for state passage of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Act. These seven valued historic resources are in danger of disappearing because of insufficient funding and financial incentives, insensitive public policies, general neglect, disinvestment, and in some cases, demolition.

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church & Ten Broeck Triangle Historic District | Albany, Albany County

Threat: deterioration and demolition

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church is one of Albany’s great landmarks, defining the neighborhood in which it stands. The Ten Broeck Triangle Historic District was developed primarily between the mid 1840s and the early 1900s with outstanding examples of townhouse architecture of numerous styles. But by the second half of the twentieth century, the wealthiest families had moved out and magnificent townhouses were converted to small apartments or simply neglected and left to be ravaged by time and the elements.

Decades of urban disinvestment have taken their toll on the buildings in this National Register historic district, but Ten Broeck Triangle remains remarkably intact with a unified frontage of townhouses facing St. Joseph’s, one of the finest Gothic churches in the state.

In addition to strong support from the City of Albany for St. Joseph’s and its surrounding neighborhood, the Historic Albany Foundation and Ten Broeck Triangle Preservation League have worked together to make this a priority issue. Both St. Joseph’s and 41 Ten Broeck Street need owners capable of restoring and maintaining the buildings for new productive use. As well, the neighborhood could greatly benefit from tools such as the Neighborhood Reinvestment Act, which is the top priority for the Preservation League in the 2003 Legislative session. Passage of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Act would create a state tax credit for owners of historic homes, to encourage reinvestment from within existing neighborhoods, while also attracting new owners.

Downtown Randolph | Randolph, Cattaraugus County

Threat: demolition; municipal disinvestment

The Village of Randolph, East Randolph and the Town of Randolph in rural Cattaraugus County, are currently exploring the opportunity to upgrade their combined administrative facilities in a new location. Unfortunately, in what is an all too common decision by local governments today, the municipalities are proposing to build a new complex outside of the existing commercial center. If this were to happen, it would truly be a missed opportunity for the people of Randolph to see the best, and perhaps only, chance for substantial investment in the future of their downtown and in the historic fabric that defines the unique character of their community.

A decision by the local municipalities to re-use one, or potentially two, of the underutilized buildings along Main Street would set a positive example for communities across New York State with similar opportunities. Too often, municipal office facilities are located today in new, single-story structures surrounded by parking. These non-descript buildings do not adequately inspire a sense of pride in or contribute to a community’s vitality or unique sense of place. In addition, the common location of these new facilities outside of downtowns further contributes to the deterioration of older central business districts.

Erie Lackawanna Railroad Passenger Station | Jamestown, Erie County

Threat: demolition

The passenger station of the Erie Railroad, built in 1931, was central to Jamestown’s bustling daily life and served as the gateway to the city, and to the outside world. Both historically and architecturally significant, the station stands as a reminder of the cultural and economic impact of the railroad on the development of Jamestown. Currently vacant, the station suffers from general neglect and, given its condition and location, if it continues to deteriorate, it is in danger of being demolished.

The building suffers from water infiltration, vandalism and general neglect of both its interior and exterior. Due to the train station’s condition and proximity to this new development, there have been serious discussions of the station’s future. One idea put forward is its demolition for a parking lot.

The Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation, Fenton History Center, City of Jamestown, Chautauqua County and Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau have all come together to try to save and restore the Station. The threat of demolition can be eliminated if funding can be secured to, at a minimum, land bank the building for future development. This would protect the building from further deterioration while the local community explores options for additional funding to redevelop the station. With proper planning and adequate funding, the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad Passenger Station can become an anchor facility and public asset, complementing the exciting redevelopment underway in downtown Jamestown.

Gansevoort Market | Manhattan, New York County

Threat: inappropriate development

While the post-industrial service economy has transformed most of Manhattan, an approximately 20-block area in the northwest corner of Greenwich Village, the Gansevoort Market, remains a noisy and gritty mixed-use, mercantile district. One of New York City’s last remaining market neighborhoods, the area is today threatened by growing development pressure to tear down, replace or inappropriately alter its historic buildings, which would destroy the character of the district.

To protect this area, New York City historic district designation is needed to regulate and control alterations, demolitions and new construction. State and National Register listing can also add another tool to encourage appropriate development. In addition, variances need to be denied by the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals for projects that would significantly alter the physical fabric of the area or introduce incompatible uses. Innovative zoning tools to encourage the retention of existing and compatible uses in Gansevoort, and to limit development to appropriately configured, scaled and designed buildings, would also help.

Gansevoort Market reflects an important piece of New York City’s history and urban development; its preservation should not be overlooked because of the district’s mixed or commercial use, gritty characteristics, or because of alterations over time.

Albion Business District | Albion, Orleans County

Threat: economic decline and deterioration

For over a century, the Erie Canal was considered the “Main Street” of upstate New York, and its presence led to the construction of densely packed commercial cores in communities all along the canal. The Village of Albion has one such core, which still contains an almost completely intact collection of 19th century buildings. As in most of the villages along the Erie Canal today, however, the economic viability of Albion’s historic downtown is threatened by underutilization and new commercial development in the region, which is creeping toward the community’s fringes.

Albion awaits change, but the assistance that it and every other canal community desperately requires is not available. There is a strong need for a sustained “Main Street Revitalization Program” for canal communities, which has to come from state government. With the new State and National heritage corridor designations for the canal, there are new opportunities to focus attention on these villages.

Promoting a return to Main Street and using preservation as the means to economic development is the key to revitalizing the entire canal corridor. With the right tools, creative incentives and the elimination of existing barriers to downtown reinvestment, Albion can be a model, not only for western New York, but for the state as a whole.

Montauk Playhouse | East Hampton, Suffolk County

Threat: municipal disinvestment, demolition

The Montauk Playhouse (formerly known as the Montauk Tennis Auditorium) was built between 1928 and 1929 as part of developer Carl Fisher’s grand plan to establish Montauk as the premier resort community in the Northeast. Designed in the Tudor Revival style, the Playhouse is large — its three and a half stories cover a footprint of approximately 24,000 square feet. Its central location, size and varied history offer a unique opportunity to fulfill many of the community’s cultural, social, and recreational needs in one location.In the fall of 2001, an Advisory Committee established and appointed by the Town Board, made a final recommendation to the Board that the Playhouse be restored and adapted for use as a community center. Important first steps have been taken by the Town toward eliminating the threat of losing the structure, including applying for state funding and allocating $1.5 million in its capital budget to assist in the first stage rehabilitation. However, work has yet to start, and the Town Board is currently evaluating other options, including full or partial demolition. In the meanwhile, with no funds in hand, and conflicting opinions on the suitability of the building for new uses, it continues to deteriorate.

Pond Eddy Bridge | Pond Eddy, Sullivan County

Threat: demolition and replacement

The Pond Eddy Bridge is one of two surviving pin-connected Petit truss bridges remaining on the Upper Delaware River, built by the Oswego Bridge Company in 1904. This National Register-listed historic bridge is threatened with demolition and replacement, placing the scenic and cultural resources of Pond Eddy, New York, at risk from the potential construction of an unnecessary and extremely costly modern bridge.

Support for saving the historic Pond Eddy Bridge has come from a local grassroots organization, Friends of Pond Eddy Bridge, and members of the New York State Legislature. In addition, officials at the New York State Department of Transportation and State Historic Preservation Office have advocated strongly with Pennsylvania officials for the retention and rehabilitation of the bridge. The Bridge is also listed on Preservation Pennsylvania’s 2002 “Pennsylvania At Risk” list of threatened historic resources.

The controversial contemplation to replace the Pond Eddy Bridge comes at a time when New York State has just completed a multi-year, statewide project to document National Register-eligible bridges and assure that historic bridges, such as the previously-listed Pond Eddy span, receive special consideration and protection in state and local transportation planning efforts.

Seven to SavePLNYS Staff