Heart Bombing at the Driving Park Hotel

In February, young preservationist organizations across the rust belt – in cities like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis – gather to show their love for old buildings in need of some TLC. On February 9, the Young Urban Preservationists (YUPs) convened at the Driving Park Hotel in the Maplewood neighborhood of Rochester, NY.

What is Heart Bombing?

A phenomenon created by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, heart bombing is a fun and festive way to draw attention to vacant buildings and to the potential that these buildings have to serve as community assets rather than eyesores. The process is simple: you gather all your favorite crafting supplies (construction paper, doilies, glitter, markers, etc.) and your favorite preservationists in a room, make valentines for needy buildings, then go out and tape those valentines to the building(s) in question or just hold them up, take lots of pictures, and post those pictures to social media.

The YUPs put their own spin on heart bombing by making the event a family affair. The day began at the Maplewood Community Library where kids could learn about preservation and how vacant buildings can be transformed into community assets. Then, they created their own hand-made valentines!

The Driving Park Hotel Background:

Built in 1874, the former Driving Park Hotel is the last remaining structure from the Driving Park Racetrack, which operated from 1874 to 1902. The Racetrack was a sprawling campus of some 84 acres which included, in addition to a mile-long oval track, grandstands capable of seating 10,000 people, horse stables, administrative offices, and the hotel for visitors from near and far. Once known as the fastest mile in America, Rochester’s Driving Park hosted nationally famous performers including Buffalo Bill Cody and renowned business leaders such as William Vanderbilt, many of whom stayed at the hotel. What structures were not lost to fire in 1899, were demolished in 1902 to make way for the homes seen today—all except for the former hotel at 298 Selye Terrace.

Today, the Driving Park Hotel is vacant and, due to unresolved code violations from its current owner, HSBC Bank, has been placed on the City of Rochester’s demolition list. The property is currently for sale; a rehabilitation would require a substantial investment.

To Learn More:

To see heart bombing in action all over the Rust Belt and the rest of the country, search #IHeartSavingPlaces on Instagram. We hope you’ll continue to show your love for historic buildings all year long AND join us for next year’s heart bombing!


Historic Woodlawn Chapel Rehab Underway

Established in 1884, Canandaigua’s Woodlawn Cemetery sits on over seventy acres of picturesque land on North Pearl Street. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, the cemetery features the stunning Mary Clark Thompson chapel. Thanks to a preservation-minded board of directors led by President Patrick Cooney, along with superintendent Doug Stone, the chapel, long in need of substantial maintenance and identified community uses, is currently undergoing extensive rehabilitation with funding from New York State and a collection of private donors. The project architect is Bero Architecture, with Frank J. Marianacci, Inc. serving as the general contractor. The Landmark Society is assisting with general project consultation.


Construction on the chapel began in 1909 through the generosity of philanthropist Mary Clark Thompson. The building was designed by Boston architect Francis R. Allen, known for his work in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. Dedicated in 1910, the chapel is constructed of limestone and Medina sandstone, with imported stained glass and a pipe organ built by the Massachusetts firm, Hook and Hastings. During construction the chapel was actually built around the already existing receiving vault, which had been built in 1892. Changes in funerary customs led to the chapel becoming underutilized and falling into disrepair. It was closed form use in 1960. Over the decades further deterioration threatened the chapel’s survival. Realizing an opportunity to embrace the cemetery’s history, and seeing an opportunity to expand the cemetery’s connectivity with the community, rehabilitation of the chapel was long a goal for superintendent Doug Stone.
“I always liked history and architecture. When my wife and I came to Woodlawn twenty
years ago, we could see the chapel’s potential. Looking beyond the maintenance needs, you could still see the craftsmanship.”
The project is comprehensive, with a first step aimed at addressing major roof and
structural needs. Stone masonry, stained glass restoration and a complete interior rehabilitation will allow for a unique adaptive use that reflects a vision to include the
greater community. Anticipated uses include weddings, lectures, recitals, meetings, and worship and funeral services. The targeted completion is late spring of 2019. Cemetery chapels face challenges associated with neglect and lack of use. The Landmark Society encourages and applauds creative uses for these forgotten resources. Another chapel success story, the Hillside Cemetery Chapel in Clarendon, appeared on The Landmark Society’s Five to Revive list in 2014; it is currently undergoing rehabilitation and will be used for a variety of uses.

Mount Morris Partners for Success

When I first moved to Rochester in 2012, I kept hearing about Mount Morris. Apparently, a developer who had revived Red Hook, Brooklyn had purchased many of the buildings, restored them, and brought this small village back to life. Well . . . with my background in revitalizing small villages and towns, I was skeptical! Absentee landlords are often a problem, and renovation of buildings without community partnerships can be a recipe for disaster. But at that time, I didn’t know Greg O’Connor, Louise Wadsworth, Pete Bishop, Bill D’Angelo, or Nicole Manapol.

Ten years ago, downtown Mount Morris had gone the way of so many of our small villages and towns with the rise of the internet and big box stores, with over fifty percent of the storefronts vacant and the buildings in disrepair. Worst of all was the perception that nothing could be done about it. And then Greg O’Connell appeared.

A 1964 SUNY Geneseo graduate, O’Connell had the vision and experience to turn Mount Morris around. Greg purchased 20 downtown buildings in 2008, renovated and rented them. When Greg buys a building and restores it, he doesn’t just rent it to the first person who shows interest: he targets a good mix of retail businesses, helps them out with an affordable rent, and requires them to have consistent hours of operation. He also wants them to keep lights on in the second floors to show that the downtown is still alive after the businesses close. Greg O’Connell is anything but an absentee landlord! He created a true partnership with not only the community but also the Livingston County Development Corp (LCDC).

It takes engagement with different demographics – the newcomers as well as longtime residents – for a real community revival. Bill D’Angelo, President of the merchant organization Mount Morris Partners for Progress, is owner of the John W. Martin Funeral home. He reflected “The Funeral Home has 132 years of operation in Mount Morris, and is the oldest business in town. I am proud to be a part of Mount Morris history.” Louise Wadsworth, LCDC, Downtown Coordinator, has seen the change over time, as she explains “Since 2008 over 2 million dollars has been invested in 30 downtown buildings. The merchants work cooperatively to promote the downtown and each other. With new residents living downtown and significant visitor traffic, there is an excellent mix of retail businesses, including a cluster of wonderful antique stores and specialty restaurants.”
So what is it that keeps communities like Mount Morris chugging along? It takes hard work and partnerships. The Landmark Society started our Affiliate Program to create a network of likeminded, grassroots preservation groups that could learn from each other and know they were all part of a preservation movement larger than their own community. Mount Morris Historical Society joined the program this past year and Pete Bishop, a hometown boy who moved back to Mount Morris recently, shared the latest activity. “I just attended an event run by the LCDC called What’s Next For Mount Morris, Downtown 2.0. It was heavily attended by business owners, residents, and other local leaders. Key themes were ‘using our partner resources and creativity to continue to attract viable mom and pop retailers’ and ‘focusing on maintaining our small town charm but modernizing through digital media and using placemaking to give visitors as robust a visitor experience as possible’.”

Which brings me to the newest partnership for Mount Morris, Letchworth Gateway Villages (LGC) – a municipal collaboration established in 2017 for communities that provide services to the nearly one million Letchworth State Park visitors every year. This innovative partnership crosses over county lines to include Perry, in Wyoming County, along with Geneseo and Mount Morris. Nicole Manapol, the Director of LGC, writes, “The revitalization efforts initiated 10 years ago not only transformed Mount Morris’ main street, but served as a catalyst bringing together businesses, residents and municipal leaders. In many ways LGC is a direct outcome of those efforts and the conversations they inspired about ‘what’s next?’ It’s exciting to be working with municipal and community leaders on this next chapter – to be at a place where we’re transforming investments in those cultural and heritage assets into new economic possibilities.”

Transforming investments in heritage assets into new economic possibilities. That really sums it up. The Landmark Society is proud to be a part in the partnerships transforming this area of our region.

Written by Larry Francer

Preservation Scorecard

Keeping score? We are – here’s the latest on several preservation issues around the region.

SAFE: Marion Steam Shovel, LeRoy

One of our region’s most unusual National Register listings, the Marion Steam Shovel is located in and owned by the Town of LeRoy. It is a significant and rare surviving example of the technology that evolved in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to provide large, inexpensive supplies of crushed stone for the vast American railroad network and, later, for the construction of roads. A condition assessment was recently completed on this 105-ton historic resource and will hopefully pave the way for increased attention and visibility.

SAFE: Former Holley High School

Included in our inaugural 2013 Five to Revive list, the decades-vacant former Holley High School in the village of Holley is finally on a path to a better future. This past spring, Rochester-based Home Leasing announced it had received crucial state funding to transform the building into affordable senior housing. This $17 million adaptive reuse project, which will also utilize state and federal historic tax credits, will result in 41 senior homes. The former auditorium will serve as meeting space and will also house the Village offices.

SAFE: Epworth Hall, Silver Lake Institute

Built in 1892, Epworth Hall is located on the grounds of Silver Lake Institute, a small, summer resort community on the banks of Silver Lake in the Town of Castile. After struggling to address a prematurely deteriorated roof that threatened the building’s viability, the Institute was able to secure a $100,000 grant from NY State Senator Patrick Gallivan this year. This critical funding will go a long way towards maintaining this unique, National Register-listed structure.