Seven to Save: 2012-13 Edition

Knox Farm | East Aurora, Erie County

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Knox Farm State Park boasts a remarkable collection of 21 buildings and structures built between the 1860s and 1940s. Many of these are related to three generations of agricultural and equestrian activities by the Knox family, and while currently at risk, hold great potential for re-use. Knox Farm needs a strategy and funding for short-term repair and long-term stewardship, and illustrates a situation facing virtually all of New York State’s parks and historic sites in this time of great fiscal challenges.

The inclusion of Knox Farm on the Seven to Save list provides the opportunity for the League to work with local advocates to develop a strategy for protecting the park’s most architecturally-distinguished buildings, including the 1927 Polo Stable, the 1920s Greenhouse and attached picturesque Gardener’s Cottage, and the stately 1917 Main House. These and other buildings were designed by some of Buffalo’s and Cleveland’s most distinguished period architects.


IRT Power Station | Manhattan, New York County

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The Powerhouse holds a unique position in the history, life and physical fabric of New York City. It was constructed to generate power for the city’s first subway line, which opened in 1904 and revolutionized transportation between the city’s neighborhoods. This massive structure—occupying an entire city block—stands as a symbol of modernity, on a par with great public buildings such as the New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1902, the IRT hired Stanford White of the firm McKim, Mead and White, among the most prestigious architects of their day, to design this Beaux-Arts masterpiece.

The rapidly growing waterfront neighborhood surrounding the Powerhouse presents both opportunities and challenges for the building’s preservation. Most of New York’s early power stations have been demolished, including four operated by Consolidated Edison (the current owner of the IRT Powerhouse) between 2005 and 2008. By virtue of its architecture and pivotal location, however, the Powerhouse has captured the imagination of developers and investors, who recognize its potential for vibrant adaptive use as a mixed-use space, with its energy functions relocated to a more efficient, sustainable facility. The inclusion of the Powerhouse on the League’s Seven to Save list will help raise awareness of this building’s significance and facilitate discussion around creative solutions for preserving the building. To foster the conversation, a blog called “Save the IRT Powerhouse” has been launched at http://saveirtpowerhouse.blogspot.com.


Smallpox Hospital | Roosevelt Island, New York County

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James Renwick designed the Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island, which was completed in 1854. In 1976, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission referred to the Hospital as a “great Gothic ruin” and noted its incorporation into plans to develop a park on the south end of Roosevelt Island.

A portion of the northernmost wall collapsed in 2007, serving as a wake-up call for immediate and necessary stabilization, a project championed by a colleague organization of the Preservation League, The New York Landmarks Conservancy. The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC), owner of the Smallpox Hospital, commissioned a stabilization plan for the site, although only had funds to complete phase one of the proposed three-phase stabilization.

The Four Freedoms Park Conservancy nominated the Smallpox Hospital to the Seven to Save list in recognition of the site’s importance and location between a future Cornell University applied sciences campus to the north and the soon-to-be-completed Louis Kahn-designed Four Freedoms Park to the hospital’s south. The park conservancy wishes to see a completed feasibility study for adaptive use of the Smallpox Hospital, as well as additional site stabilization.


South Village | Manhattan, New York County

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According to a survey completed by architectural historian Andrew Dolkart and funded in part by the League’s Preserve New York grant program, the South Village contains a wealth of architecturally and historically significant buildings and sites constructed between the 1820s and 1930s. This 35-block area boasts sites associated with the immigrant experience, bohemian and artistic achievements (especially in music) and counter-cultural movements. As a neighborhood comprised predominantly of tenement housing, the South Village is one of the few remaining intact Manhattan neighborhoods that reflect the immigrant experience.

This neighborhood faces threats from demolition, development pressure, and loss of visual and architectural integrity. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) has led the effort to document and advocate for the preservation of the South Village. They are seeking the League’s assistance in urging the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to recognize the significance of the entire neighborhood with a historic district designation, which would also help protect the neighborhood’s architectural integrity.


Bent's Opera House | Medina, Orleans County

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Bent’s Opera House is an imposing three-story corner commercial building constructed of the famed red Medina sandstone. It is an anchor building in the Village of Medina’s Main Street Historic District, designated at the local, state and national levels. It opened on February 28, 1865 with three store fronts on the first floor, mostly offices on the second level, and an ornate performance space on the third floor. The Orleans Renaissance Group Inc. (ORG), an arts not-for-profit, is now the owner of this handsome but neglected resource. Since the performance space has not been used for decades, water damage, structural issues and deferred maintenance threaten this landmark.

The inclusion of Bent’s Opera House on the Seven to Save list provides the opportunity for the League to work with advocates to develop a strategy for returning this multi-story historic building to full use. With so many opera houses in New York’s small cities and villages, solutions to the use, design, current code, and financial issues facing the building could serve as a statewide model.


Garnerville Arts Center | Garnerville, Rockland County

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The Garner Print Works, now the site of the Garnerville Arts Center, was built in 1828 and is named after the Garner brothers, the second owners of the calico printing plant. At one time, the plant employed some 800 workers and grew to include the printing and dyeing of wool, cotton and linen. The plant closed briefly during the depression but was brought back to life in the 1930s by the Garnerville Holding Company, the current owner of the complex, which includes more than 30 buildings.

In the mid-1990’s, the Garnerville Holding Company began to make space in the underutilized industrial center available to artists. With its location just 30 miles from Manhattan, more than fifty artists and artisans soon established studios there. The not-for-profit Garnerville Arts Center was incorporated in 2003 and over the next eight years sponsored the creation and celebration of art at the Garnerville complex through events, festivals, student educational opportunities, and open gallery space.

In late summer, 2011, arts and industry at Garnerville faced perhaps its greatest challenge to date. The Minisceongo Creek runs through the complex and once powered the mill, but heavy rains from Hurricane Irene forced a huge volume of water and debris through the mill raceway at the core of the complex. The Main Gallery and many studios sustained serious damage.

The League’s Seven to Save designation focuses on the site’s historic importance and the Garnerville Arts Center’s commitment to rebuilding. Many historic downtowns and centers of light industry lost their very lifeblood as a result of damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The difficult choice faced by the Garnerville Arts Center and its tenants is emblematic of challenges faced by many around the state following the tropical storms in late August and September, 2011. The Preservation League will work with the Garnerville Arts Center to highlight the innovative model of adaptive use in this historic mill complex and spread the word that the Arts Center remains open for business.


Impact of Hydrofracking | Statewide

The Preservation League of New York State has named the historic and cultural resources in the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas regions to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

The Preservation League of New York State has a nearly forty-year history of protecting New York’s diverse and rich heritage of historic buildings, communities, and cultural landscapes. As the statewide advocate for New York’s historic resources, the League has become increasingly concerned about the negative impacts that high-volume natural gas hydraulic fracturing could have on historic buildings, communities and landscapes in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of New York State.

The inclusion of the historic and cultural resources in the Marcellus and Utica Shale gas regions of New York on the Seven to Save list provides the opportunity for the League to work with local advocates to protect the area’s built and natural environment.

Update: In December 2014, Governor Cuomo announced that New York State would take steps to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing, welcome news for historic communities and cultural landscapes that faced numerous risks from the advent of high-intensity drilling activity and related impacts. Among the many organizations and advocates working on the hydrofracking issue, the League, with Colleague organization Otsego 2000, delivered public testimony and provided extensive comments to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) draft environmental impact studies concerning potential historic resource impacts from this industrial activity.

As a result, the threat of hydrofracking on New York's historic communities and resources, previously overlooked, rose to much higher relief. The need to protect historic resources in the New York State was specifically referenced in DEC Commissioner Martens' presentation and statements to Governor Cuomo in support of a recommendation to ban hydraulic fracturing.

Seven to SaveErin Tobin