Seven to Save: 2018-19 Edition

South End-Groesbeckville National Register Historic District | Albany, Albany County

Threat: Demolition, Deterioration, Lack of Public Awareness, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Vacancy


In the mid-nineteenth century, the South End-Groesbeckville National Register Historic District was one of the most densely populated areas in the city of Albany. The South End’s development reflects the city’s nineteenth-century industrial expansion and population growth and has buildings that date from the 18th century through the 21st century. German and Irish immigrants who worked in Albany’s nearby port socialized, worshiped, and found entertainment in the South End, all within walking distance to their homes.

During the Urban Renewal movement of the mid-twentieth century, many South End families left the neighborhood, leading to widespread abandonment and soaring vacancy rates. Left vacant, buildings deteriorated and many were torn down due to code violations and safety concerns. In 2015, New York State adopted the International Fire Code which identifies vacant structures with potentially hazardous conditions with a large red “X” placard on the building’s exterior. While these determinations alert emergency personnel to potentially dangerous life safety issues, the visible red “X” sign also attracts negative attention to these important historic resources and sparking concern among neighborhood residents.

The South End-Groesbeckville National Register Historic District is one example of many neighborhoods in Albany and across New York State tackling issues of vacancy and building deterioration amidst the adoption of the International Fire Code. This Seven to Save designation will call attention to the statewide issue of historic building vacancy. The Preservation League will bring together officials from the City of Albany, Historic Albany Foundation, and other local groups to discuss strategies for stimulating investment in the South End.

Watervliet Shaker National Register Historic District | Colonie, Albany County

Threat: Demolition, Deterioration, Development Pressure, Lack of Public Awareness, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Vacancy


The Watervliet Shaker National Register Historic District is in the town of Colonie, north of the city of Albany. The district is the site of the first Shaker settlement in the United States, founded by Ann Lee in the late 18th century. The Shakers were highly regarded for their architecture, inventions, and domestic arts. In Albany, the Shakers developed the first successful garden seed industry, the flat corn broom, and a variety of other innovations. The district was also the location of a spiritual revival in the 1830s that led to an explosion of art, dance, and music that continues to influence audiences today. The district includes three clusters or “families” of buildings: the Church Family, the South Family, and the West Family. These buildings are a distinct mix of classic Shaker-style architecture as well as early twentieth-century structures.

The site of the Watervliet-Shaker National Historic District is exceptionally susceptible to insensitive development: it is already bordered by the Albany International Airport and two major highways. The area is a natural gateway to regional attractions, especially shopping, lodging and other commercial features. Some of the important buildings within the Shaker district are vacant and deteriorating rapidly, while some others are in danger of being blocked by large encroaching development projects or demolished all together.

This Seven to Save designation will benefit the Shaker Heritage Society and the Watervliet Shaker National Register Historic District by bringing publicity and awareness to the importance of the district, as well as the varied threats. By engaging the Town of Colonie, the Albany County Legislature, and the local residents, the Preservation League will work with Shaker Heritage to ensure more audiences will understand the importance of preserving this site.

Haglund Building/Jamestown Arcade | Jamestown, Chautauqua County

Threat: Demolition, Deterioration, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Vacancy


Jamestown, the largest city in Chautauqua County, boasts a National Register-listed downtown commercial historic district and many historic neighborhoods. The Haglund Building, more commonly referred to as the Jamestown Arcade contributes to the Downtown Commercial Historic District and rests on a hill bordered by railroad tracks once used by the Erie Railroad. The Arcade building housed multiple businesses on Main Street, with retail, theaters, clubs, and studios. It was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and contains many intact interior features, including molding, metalwork, tin ceilings, decorative woodwork, and fixtures.

Jamestown was once known as the furniture capital of the United States but experienced decline as industry left the area. The Arcade Building represents important historic anchor buildings found across New York State. Over the years, a revolving series of owners had plans to stabilize and save the Arcade Building, but tight budgets and infeasible new uses stymied those projects.

The Seven to Save designation for the Haglund/Arcade Building will connect the Preservation League to city officials, preservationists, developers, and local advocates in Jamestown. The building is a perfect candidate for Federal and NYS Historic Tax Credits and partnership with local arts advocates or community groups. The designation will bring increased advocacy to this structure and the City to create a plan for stabilization and rehabilitation.

Wells Barns | Various Municipalities, Monroe/Livingston Counties

Threat: Demolition, Deterioration, Lack of Public Awareness


Wells Barns are named after John Talcott Wells, Sr., their creator and designer. Mr. Wells was the son of a prominent barn builder in the southwestern section of Monroe County and in the 1870s, he entered the profession himself. Wells quickly realized the shortcomings of typical post-and-beam construction for agricultural structures in terms of durability and strength. After a series of experiments and design modifications, he developed an ingenious truss system that strengthened the barn’s interior framing system while simultaneously creating open space in the upper sections of the structure. In 1889 he received a patent for this Wells Patented Truss. Wells Barns are sometimes referred to as “Country Cathedrals” because the resulting appearance of a Wells Truss is somewhat comparable to a Gothic Arch on the interior. Only found in a small section of Western New York, Wells Barns are difficult to identify from the exterior, but they almost always possess gambrel roofs and a double window with a decorative lintel underneath the gable.

The Wells Barn Legacy Project formed to preserve the heritage of this unique barn type in the face of a shifting agricultural landscape. The group actively spends time researching and advocating for the preservation of Wells Barns and their importance within the local community.

This Seven to Save designation will bring increased attention to the significance of Wells Barns, as an example of a building type that is threatened and rapidly disappearing throughout New York State. The League will assist the Legacy Project in publicizing Wells Barns, teaching the community about the building type, and providing technical assistance to property owners.

View a short video on Wells Barns.

Enlarged Erie Canal Schoharie Aqueduct | Fort Hunter, Montgomery County

Threat: Deterioration


The Enlarged Schoharie Aqueduct is located at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Fort Hunter, Montgomery County. A National Historic Landmark and part of the New York State Barge Canal Historic District, the Schoharie Aqueduct carried the Erie Canal over the Schoharie Creek. Construction of the aqueduct began in 1839 and it was placed into service in 1845, with additional alterations in 1855 and 1873.

The Erie Canal significantly contributed to development in upstate New York. As the canal was rerouted, the Schoharie Aqueduct was no longer needed and fell into disrepair. Despite a stabilization and restoration plan completed by New York State, large portions of the aqueduct have fallen and the remainder has not been stabilized. The Canal Society of New York State has long advocated for its preservation and maintenance.

This Seven to Save designation reflects the importance of the aqueduct and Erie Canal in New York State. In 2017, Governor Cuomo announced the creation of the Empire State Trail, which includes the Erie Canalway trail running from Albany to Buffalo. The Preservation League will assist the local community in advocating for resources to be devoted to this state park as NYS invests in the Empire State Trail, running alongside the aqueduct.

Want to learn about and explore the Erie Canal in the Mohawk Valley? You can begin your trip by exploring the Schoharie Aqueduct at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site. Our colleagues at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor can help you plan your trip.

Lehigh Valley Railroad Roundhouse and Related Structures | Manchester, Ontario County

Threat: Deterioration, Lack of Public Awareness, Vacancy


The railroad roundhouse and related structures in Manchester, Ontario County, were once an integral piece of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, a railroad that stretched from New York City through New Jersey and Pennsylvania and into the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Niagara Regions of Upstate New York. The railroad was nicknamed the “black diamond” corridor because it primarily hauled anthracite coal. The Manchester roundhouse housed workers that fixed trains, provided refueling, freight exchange, and/or train car switching. In its heyday, the Manchester railyard was one of the largest and most bustling freight transfer centers in New York State.

As industry evolves, historic industrial buildings are often abandoned. The Lehigh Valley Roundhouse has been vacant for over thirty years. Many of its related structures such as the coal dock, switch tower, and transfer house have been destroyed or lost. The site itself is also a brownfield, contaminated with petroleum and industrial waste after years of service. This presents usage challenges and environmental concerns for new owners of the structure that must be considered when crafting a rehabilitation plan. Recently, the town of Manchester acquired the property and wants to make this site safe for future use.

The Seven to Save designation for the Lehigh Valley Railroad Roundhouse and related structures will assist Manchester and Ontario County in following environmental protocol while simultaneously considering historic preservation and sensitive rehabilitation measures. This designation will also bring awareness to this pivotal piece of transportation history in Western New York.

View a short video of the Manchester Roundhouse .

Historic Opera Houses | Statewide

Threat: Demolition, Deterioration, Development Pressure, Lack of Public Awareness, Loss of Visual/Architectural Integrity, Vacancy


Opera houses are a ubiquitous building type across upstate New York, appearing in small rural towns and villages, larger commercial centers, and bigger cities. Opera houses were an important part of community life in the 19th and early-20th centuries. The Opera house was not only a venue for theater and cultural activities, but also the heart of the community and a gathering place to relax, socialize, and take in a performance. The buildings are characterized by lower floor non-performance space with an upstairs auditorium and often appear on main streets.

As small communities stopped housing traveling performers, many of the opera houses throughout upstate New York became vacant or building owners closed the auditorium level. Many opera houses are centrally located in a community, and are susceptible to demolition or insensitive commercial development. Current codes require creative solutions to repopulating the upper-level auditoriums. Several opera houses throughout New York State have reopened their performance spaces and serve as best practices examples for the many towns and villages with vacant or underutilized opera houses.

The Seven to Save designation will bring awareness to this threatened and disappearing building type. The Preservation League will build on our Enhancing Main Street: Making Upper Floors Work Again program, providing technical assistance to communities who wish to rehabilitate their opera houses and reopen their performance space. The Preservation League will also create a crowd-sourced inventory of historic opera houses in New York State, quantifying the number of buildings and advocating for increasing funding for this building type.