Organization of the Month: Landmark Society

One of the nation’s oldest and most active regional preservation organizations, The Landmark Society of Western New York has advocated for the Rochester-area’s unique architectural heritage, and promoted planning practices that foster healthy, livable, and sustainable communities, since its 1937 founding. As we celebrate our 80th Anniversary, we are assessing and redoubling our efforts to protect and redeem the special places that act as visible and artistic reminders of who we as a community once were, who we currently are, and who we want to become.

Our ever-growing Statewide Preservation Conference forges connections and encourages coordination among the state’s preservation professionals; the keynote address for this year’s conference was held in the recently rehabilitated sanctuary inside downtown’s Temple Building.

The Landmark Society serves our community on a number of levels. Our annual Inside Downtown Tour in October and House and Garden Tour in June showcase some of the best examples of how preservation intersects with livability, revitalization, community pride, and tourism. Our burgeoning annual spring NY Statewide Preservation Conference fosters regional coordination among preservation professionals and grassroots community advocates. Our four historic properties, which include Brighton’s Stone-Tolan House, downtown’s St. Joseph’s Park, Mount Hope Avenue’s Ellwanger Garden, and our headquarters in Corn Hill’s 1840 Hoyt-Potter House, offer examples of preservation’s possibilities to visitors.

We celebrated the 150th anniversary of our historic Ellwanger Garden this year with a public celebration that included period dancing.

Moreover, our organization consists of preservation advocates. We are at the forefront of economic development initiatives in our region, linking our heritage with our potential. We collaborate with architects and developers to utilize commercial revitalization tax credits, a key component in larger preservation projects that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and save irreplaceable historic buildings from being discarded and forgotten. Our staff and contractor partners offer technical assistance on how best to preserve local historic resources, and The Landmark Society’s research assistance and archives are often catalytic in jump-starting preservation activities and projects.

Listed as one of our Five to Revive properties in 2013, the historic Eastman Dental Dispensary on East Main Street was redeveloped as senior apartments in 2016, bringing new life to the area after sitting vacant for nearly two decades.

Our Young Urban Preservationists group helps define preservation’s priorities for a new generation with their outward-looking grassroots events. In addition, partnerships with New York State, the City of Rochester, County of Monroe, and other local governments enable outreach, such as a Summer Youth Employment Program, a citywide historic survey, and the Homework Column in CITY Newspaper. Moreover, our annual Five to Revive list highlights five historic properties each year that are in need of investment and represent latent potential for our communities; this program communicates need, identifies opportunity, and leverages rehabilitation investment for some of our most challenging properties. Similarly, our Preservation Grant Fund offers funds for preliminary design and planning to make improvements to at-risk buildings.

Preliminary analysis of the distinctive Old Town Hall in Orangeville was made possible by a grant from our Preservation Grant Fund.

We recognize the need to continuously improve and expand our service to the community. Among our aspirations going forward from our 80th year are expanding our highly sought-after Preservation Grant Fund, since requests for funding typically exceed the amount of funding available five times over. We also hope to build a traditional trades program: as regional craftspeople prepare to retire, we are approaching a crisis of diminishing resources to care for historic resources, but we see as an opportunity to provide marketable skills and employment to young men and women here in western New York. Of course, we also plan to continue building on our role in economic development activities and projects that enrich our individual and collective lives.

For two decades, our “Walk the Walk” program has afforded Rochester school children close encounters with the city’s African-American ancestors.

With these goals, we look forward to ushering in our 80th year of service at our Gala on September 9th! Our special events throughout the year will be a unique opportunity to recognize past contributions and success, as well as to lead the organization forward with a renewed sense of energy and commitment to the Greater Rochester community we serve. We hope you will join us as partners in Rochester’s preservation and development.

You can also join us by following along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Each Valentine’s Day, the YUP heart bomb a building in need of love. This year, they chose one of our past Five to Revive properties, the former Pulaski Library in the 14621 Neighborhood.
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