Seven to Save: 2016-17 Edition
Rapp Road Historic District | Albany, Albany County
Threat: Demolition, Lack of Public Awareness
An important example of the story of the Great Migration of 5 million African Americans from the South in the early 20th century lies tucked among shopping malls, highways and a landfill. Today, Albany’s Rapp Road Historic District is threatened by deterioration and encroaching development. Located in the Albany Pine Bush, this area once had a rural character that appealed to the early settlers of Rapp Road, members of the congregation of Pastor Louis Parson of the Church of God in Christ in Shubuta, Mississippi.
The district is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and includes twenty-two shotgun-style homes built between 1942 and 1963. Over the last 20 years, several of these homes have become vacant and begun to suffer from deferred maintenance as the original owners and their children have aged on limited incomes and deferred routine maintenance. While many homes are lovingly maintained, deterioration and code violations threaten other buildings. Designation as a Seven to Save site will call attention to the history of Rapp Road and help make a case for its preservation and stewardship.
Gould Memorial Library | Bronx, Bronx County
Threat: Deterioration, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Lack of Public Awareness
Built in 1900, the Gould Memorial Library is the masterwork of architect Stanford White. The building reflects a time when scholarly spaces were designed with careful attention to the relationship between structure and function. Initially, the building served as a primary library space when New York University had a northern campus in the Bronx. At present, the Gould has not served as a library in many years, but remains an impressive fixture on campus. It is designated as a City, State and National Historic Landmark.
Since the 1960s, both arson and water infiltration have damaged the building and begun to affect library’s structural integrity, putting the iconic domed roof at risk. The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York - the building owner - and the City University of New York are seeking financial assistance to make the necessary repairs to this building. Bronx Community College administrators hope that one day, the Gould Memorial Library will be fully restored and serve as a center for students and local not-for-profits. Designation as a Seven to Save site will help foster support for preservation and restoration of the Library by calling attention to a treasured resource in an underserved community.
Wildroot | Buffalo, Erie County
Threat: Vacancy, Demolition, Deterioration, Lack of Public Awareness
The Wildroot Company was founded in 1911, and soon became one of the largest hair care product manufacturers in the world. In the 1940s, the company established its headquarters on Bailey Avenue on the east side of Buffalo. This daylight factory building sits adjacent to a railyard, and a nearby neighborhood that was originally developed as worker housing is currently thriving with families. Although the Wildroot building has been vacant and abandoned for many years, the grassroots group Buffalo’s Young Preservationists has been advocating for its preservation as an industrial site with great potential for reuse. Unfortunately, without a real champion, the building has continued to deteriorate and become increasingly open to the elements, and the threat of its loss continues to grow.
The building has been found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and a City of Buffalo local landmark nomination is pending. Seven to Save designation will provide opportunities for the League to work with Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the City of Buffalo to establish practical and attainable goals for preservation of this important industrial structure.
Adirondack Scenic Railroad | Several Municipalities, Essex and Franklin Counties
Threat: Demolition, Development Pressure
For more than a century, this active rail line has contributed to the prosperity of the western and central Adirondacks. Passenger and freight service dwindled over the years (with a brief rebirth during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid). In 1992, a group of railroad enthusiasts worked, with the support of New York State, to develop the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. The New York Central Railroad, Adirondack Division Historic District was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1993.
A draft management plan completed by New York State in 2015 and approved in February, 2016 calls for the removal of 34 miles of track between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake. Adirondack Recreational Trail Advocates (ARTA) drove the effort to accommodate multi-use recreational activities including walking, biking, snowmobiling and skiing. A coalition of local and regional preservation advocates, rail enthusiasts and municipal leaders formed the Trails and Rails Action Coalition (TRAC) to present alternatives for this important and historic rail corridor.
In 2014, 70,000 passengers on the line included 21,000 on the Lake Placid to Saranac portion of the railroad. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad provides $3.7 million in direct economic impact and leverages an additional $5.4 million. In addition to financial impact, the collapse of the historic rail corridor would threaten the preservation and public use of stations, depots and other rail infrastructure – including historic stations at Saranac Lake and Lake Placid currently in active use.
The removal of tracks from an active railroad line to produce multi-use trails is without precedent. Since 2014, the League been working with Historic Saranac Lake and Adirondack Architectural Heritage to ensure that the regulatory obligations of the State Historic Preservation Act are followed when considering the impact of proposed changes on National Register-designated resources. Seven to Save designation will allow the League to work toward an outcome where both rails and trails deliver a robust recreational trail system to the Adirondacks.
Dutch Reformed Church | Newburgh, Orange County
Threat: Vacancy, Deterioration, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity
The Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1835 to the design of Alexander Jackson Davis, and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The structure is also a National Historic Landmark. In 1999, after over thirty years of vacancy and extreme deterioration, the church was recognized as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture with a Save America’s Treasures grant. In 2002, the League partially funded the first phase of a historic structure report by Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker through the Preserve New York grant program. In 2006, the World Monuments Fund placed the church on its “Watch List.”
Since that time, the structure has continued to deteriorate despite specific stabilization efforts and numerous grants secured for additional work. In 2012, the sanctuary ceiling collapsed, crushing the pews inside. At present, debris from the collapse still remains in place and the overall condition of the building is worsening. Designation as a Seven to Save site will help the League refocus attention on this long vacant, nationally significant building. The League will also play an active role in working with the City of Newburgh and local preservation advocates to help stabilize the structure, see the grants through to contract and brainstorm an economically feasible use for this important landmark.
Stockade Historic District | Schenectady, Schenectady County
Threat: Vacancy, Deterioration, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Lack of Public Awareness
The Schenectady Stockade Historic District, listed on the local, State and National Registers of Historic Places, is situated along the Mohawk River. The Stockade was also the first Historic District established in New York State, boasting a mix of early 18th through early 20th century structures. The National Park Service notes that the Stockade has the “highest concentration of historic period homes in the country.”
The Preservation League has chosen the Stockade Historic District as the representative for a number of significant historic communities throughout New York State that have suffered severe flooding. Many of New York’s historic cities and towns are situated on floodplains, and, unfortunately, “historic” floods seem to be happening more frequently. This designation would foster resilience in New York’s river and coastal communities by promoting FEMA guidelines and the hardening of residences and commercial properties to mitigate the damage caused by flooding. The Stockade represents a unique opportunity to develop educational programming, workshops, and technical briefs on best practices for communities affected by flooding.
Dennis-Newton House | Ithaca, Tompkins County
Threat: Vacancy, Deterioration
The Dennis-Newton House was built circa 1868 for Norman Dennis, an early African-American resident of Ithaca who was born in New York and worked as a laborer and mason. Dennis helped found the first African-American lodge of the Odd Fellows in Elmira, New York. His daughter, Lula, inherited the property in 1893 and transferred it to her husband, Edward Newton, in 1898. Edward Newton worked for the Psi Upsilon fraternity at Cornell University and gradually became a steward for the organization. In the early 20th century, black Cornell students had no central gathering location and wished to have a base for socializing and mutual support. The Newtons hosted a study group and literary society at 421 North Albany Street. The nation’s first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, grew out of these gatherings.
Today, Alpha Phi Alpha views this property as the birthplace of their organization, which includes over 550 collegiate chapters throughout the United States. In 1982, the property was transferred from the last descendant of the Newtons to a private owner who currently lives in the City of Ithaca. Over the years, the property has fallen into disrepair but remains structurally sound. The City of Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Dennis-Newton house as a local landmark in 2015. The City is now cooperating with Historic Ithaca on code enforcement, and involvement from the League on behalf of a Seven to Save designation will bring statewide attention and enhanced technical services to this important site.