Heart Bombs Across the Rust Belt

On February 11th, young preservationist organizations across the Rust Belt–in cities like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis–gathered in their respective cities to show their love for old buildings in need of some TLC. In Rochester, The Landmark Society’s Young Urban Preservationists (YUPs) convened at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in the northeast section of the city.

How do you show your love for old buildings, you ask? By heart bombing them, of course! A phenomenon created by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists five years ago, 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 involving young children. Like last year, we started the day by teaching some kids about preservation and how vacant buildings can be transformed into community assets. This year we worked with kids at the Polish School at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.

The kids had a great time learning about preservation, watching the Disney film The Little House, and crafting their own valentines. Then we all headed across the street to heart bomb one of our 2013 Five to Revive, the former Pulaski Library.

After heart bombing Pulaski, the older YUPs headed off to a few more buildings…

The vacant former theater on Monroe Avenue:

A house in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood that has been vacant since 1996:

The Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. Not a building in need but we love it so much, we couldn’t help ourselves! (and we were in the neighborhood):

And, finally, the Hotel DeMay in Greece:

To learn more about why this building is at-risk, follow the Save the DeMay Facebook page.

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!


Best of 2016: Preservation Successes in WNY


It’s that time of year, when pundits, news outlets, and TV shows look back on the year in review, when  Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with best-of lists. So why not jump on the bandwagon? Here’s our look back at 2016 with our Top 12 (we couldn’t limit ourselves to just 10!) preservation successes.

Thank you to everyone who supports our work; together we can make a difference in communities across WNY. You can continue to support successes in your community by donating to our 2016 Annual Fund.

Here’s to many more successes in 2017!

1. Lyons saves 2 buildings and creates new historic district


Arsenau House before rehab and repairs began

Local preservation advocates in the former village of Lyons rallied this past summer to save two historic buildings slated for demolition. Wayne County officials proposed to demolish the Arsenau House and the Park Bakery, two prominent buildings in the center of the village, facing the public square. With advice from Landmark Society staff, preservationists were able to convince Wayne County to offer the properties at public auction before moving towards demolition. The buildings were acquired by local residents and are in the process of being rehabilitated.

Arsenau House, after an exterior paint job and repairs

Arsenau House, after an exterior paint job and repairs

With assistance from Landmark Society staff, the Lyons Main Street Program successfully applied for funding to create a new National Register Historic District in the downtown commercial core. National Register listing will allow property owners to take advantage of the NYS and Federal historic tax credit programs.Work is well underway and the district should be in place in 2017.


2. Food truck zone at St. Joseph’s Park


Working with the City of Rochester, we were able to establish an official food truck zone right outside of St. Joseph’s Park. Partnering with our friends at Staach, we celebrated with a cleanup day and poutine from Le Petite Poutine. Earlier in the summer, Staach and Weld Works, LLC also worked with us to fabricate brand new benches for the park. Thanks to Staach, Weld Works, Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, the City of Rochester, the Rochester Police Department, and all those who have supported our work to improve St. Joseph’s Park and make it a downtown destination!


3. Sunset Concerts play at Landmark Society sites


This summer, the folks at Sunset Concerts expanded their programming to all three of our historic sites. Evening concerts at St. Joseph’s Park, Stone-Tolan Historic Site, and Ellwanger Garden attracted new crowds to these irreplaceable historic spaces.

4. Celebrate City Living launched


Working with our partners in the Rochester Coalition for Neighborhood Living (which includes the City of Rochester, M&T Bank, Ibero-American Development Corp, The Housing Council at PathStone, NeighborWorks® Rochester, Citizens Bank, Greater Rochester Association of  Realtors, Game Plan Marketing, ROC City Realty, New2U Homes, Hart’s Local Grocers and Magellan Realty), we launched a new program designed to promote city living, housing, and neighborhoods. Celebrate City Living is a year-round program to encourage city residency for consumers at every stage of the housing search, including renters, first-time homebuyers, experienced owners, those who require financial assistance and those seeking high-end, luxury spaces.

The CCL website (www.celebratecityliving.com), along with the annual Celebrate City Living Expo in April and other neighborhood celebrations throughout the year, help consumers search city neighborhoods for a house or apartment and connect them to available resources, including REALTORS®, landlords, lenders, and non-profit agencies that specialize in city housing.

Follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

5. YUPs join Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists

Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists meetup in Buffalo

Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists meetup in Buffalo

This past spring, the YUPs were proud to join a new coalition of young preservationist groups from across the Rust Belt (and beyond). Meetups took place in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cincinnatti. The Coalition has fostered collaboration and friendships. Learn more on the RBCoYP blog and follow along on Instagram.

Inspired by fellow RBC members, the YUPs also held the first heart bombing event. (Never heard of heart bombing? Click here to learn more). Despite the exceptionally frigid temps, the event was a great success! The YUPs partnered with the Lincoln Branch Library to teach kids about the value that historic buildings can have in their community and how vacant buildings can be turned around to become assets to the community. We’ll be heart bombing again February 11, 2017–stay tuned for details!

6. East Main Street Downtown Historic District completed


Photo: Gina DiBella

The Landmark Society completed the National Register nomination for the East Main Street Downtown Historic District. The district encompasses a five-block area on the east side of the Genesee River in downtown Rochester, including one of our 2015 Five to Revive listings, the E. Main St./N. Clinton Ave. retail district. Although the heart of the district is East Main Street, portions of streets that extend north and south with contiguous historic properties are included: Mortimer Street, Division Street, Franklin Street, Pleasant Street, Atlas Street, Achilles Street and Liberty Pole Way.

The district was approved by the State Review Board in the fall and will be sent to the National Park Service for final approval shortly. With this listing, nearly 30 properties can now access the historic tax credit programs, which should help spur the ongoing revitalization of the downtown core.

7. Geneva receives Downtown Revitalization Initiative


Downtown Geneva was selected as the winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative in the Finger Lakes region. Over the last decade, Geneva has emerged as a major employment center, boasting over 200 firms and nearly 1,500 jobs in the central business district alone. Geneva’s historic walkable downtown is poised to become a vibrant retail, dining, cultural and entertainment destination for the burgeoning workforce and for students at the three local colleges. Under the DRI, the City will focus on the rehabilitation of key buildings; diversification of housing and retail options; access to healthy food; and building entrepreneurship in the downtown area.

We’ll be partnering with local leaders in Geneva to facilitate the rehabilitation of downtown historic buildings, including our 2016 Five to Revive, the Dove Block.

8. LGBTQ Initiative launched

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In August, we announced the launch of our newest initiative–a Rochester LGBTQ Landmarks Survey. The survey will identify landmarks of significance in the history of Rochester’s LGBTQ community and recognize their importance both historically and culturally.

9. Landmark Travel Tours goes to Cuba!

Our travel tour program left the country for this first time in years to journey to Cuba. It was an educational, jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring trip at a time when the country is undergoing significant changes. We’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…


10. Conference goes to Albany

Photo: Chris Brazee

Photo: Chris Brazee

For the first time ever, our Statewide Preservation Conference ventured outside western New York to the Capital Region to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Partnering with our colleagues at Historic Albany Foundation, the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, and the Preservation League of NYS, we again had record-setting attendance, with just under 350 preservationists from across the state.

11. Phase 1 of Citywide survey completed


Working on behalf of the City of Rochester, with funding from the City and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, we completed the first phase of a multi-year project to update a 1986 historic resources survey of the city of Rochester. As part of this first, pilot phase, we surveyed historic resources (buildings, parks, structures, and neighborhoods) in the city’s southeast quadrant. This project was an outgrowth of a past Five to Revive listing–the city’s Designated Buildings of Historic Value. Pending funding for future phases, we hope to continue this important work to document and catalog Rochester’s historic places.

12. Eastman Dental Dispensary saved


Eastman Dental Dispensary before rehab.

What could be more appropriate to cap off our year of preservation successes than one of the biggest success stories in recent history? Built in 1917, the former Eastman Dental Dispensary had been vacant since the 1980s. It remained one of the most prominent at-risk historic buildings in the city until Home Leasing and Edgemere Development took on the $20 million rehab project. Now known as Eastman Gardens, the rehabilitated building provides affordable housing for seniors. The project recently received a NY State Historic Preservation Award.


Eastman Gardens, after rehab.


Of course, none of these successes would be possible without the support of our members, donors, sponsors, tour-goers, and the community at large. So THANK YOU for supporting our work to protect irreplaceable historic places and revitalize communities.

You can continue to support our work across the region by making a contribution to our 2016 Annual Fund. 


2016 Five to Revive announced


Today we announced our 2016 Five to Revive – a list that identifies opportunities for targeted, strategic revitalization. The announcement was made at our headquarters on South Fitzhugh St. in Rochester. The list includes:

  • Former Rochester Brewing Company complex, Rochester, NY
  • Downtown Perry Block of Commercial Buildings, Village of Perry, Wyoming County
  • Dove Block, City of Geneva, Ontario County
  • Lake Ontario State Parkway, Monroe and Orleans Counties
  • The Traditional Trades

>>Click here to see the 2016 Five to Revive.

“This the fourth year that The Landmark Society of Western New York is announcing the Five to Revive list to call attention to key properties and priorities for revitalization in western New York,” said Wayne Goodman Executive Director.

“The Five to Revive initiative is proving to be very successful and continues to showcase our ongoing efforts demonstrating that preservation and adaptive reuse are effective strategies for revitalization in Western New York,” said Tom Castelein, Vice-President of Preservation on The Landmark Society Board who chairs the Five to Revive initiative.

The 2016 Five to Revive list represents a diverse selection of buildings, landscapes and preservation issues in Western New York.

Significant Progress

“Each year, The Landmark Society works closely on these priorities with owners, municipal officials, and developers to facilitate investment and foster rehabilitation,” said Goodman. The ultimate goal is to return these important historic resources to a place of prominence in their respective communities, as economic and social assets that spark even more investment and revitalization.

Most of the 2015 Five to Revive properties have moved closer to that goal. “The Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building has had a bumpy ride but with the hard work of a local advocacy group, Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation (CAMP), things are looking brighter,” said Castelein. “The County is examining options for selling the property while our staff works with CAMP to explore options for future uses.”

The Former Wollensak Optical Company is on the market. The Main St. East/North Clinton Avenue Retail District will soon be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, providing developers access to the historic tax credit programs.

“Our partner on the Lockwood-Alhart Cobblestone House and Retail Plaza, NeighborWorks Rochester, has acquired funding to design a welcoming public space in front of the building,” said Goodman. “This should be the first step in making the Cobblestone a friendlier environment for the neighborhood.”

The Landmark Society is also working with two Fraternal Meeting Halls, the Grange Hall in Huron and the Carter Memorial G.A.R. Hall in Nunda, to assist with repairs and ideas for creative programming. The Huron Grange Hall also received funding from The Landmark Society’s Preservation Grant Fund to plan repairs, some of which were completed this summer.

>>Click here to see the 2016 Five to Revive.

Call for Session Proposals


The 2017 NY Statewide Preservation Conference will take place April 6-8th in downtown Rochester. This conference will be presented by The Landmark Society of Western New York, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Historic Albany Foundation, The Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

In order to make this conference a success, we need your preservation projects, ideas and initiatives. Share your success stories, challenges, and new ideas with preservationists and community advocates from across the state. Submit your session proposal by Monday, November 14th (at 11:59 PM) in order to be considered. Proposals on a wide variety of topics are welcome and encouraged.

 >>Click here to see more detailed information and submit a conference proposal.

Allyn’s Creek Garden Club Pollinator Garden at Stone-Tolan

The Landmark Society is fortunate to have a beautiful new garden full of native plants on the Stone-Tolan grounds designed to attract many kinds of pollinators. The Allyn’s Creek Garden Club voted this spring to donate the garden in response to an initiative by the National Pollinator Garden Network, a group of established conservation and horticulture organizations, and the Garden Clubs of America. NPGN launched the “Million Pollinator Garden Challenge” to urge gardeners across the country to create spaces that would be havens for insects, birds and other pollinators.


On June 6, 2016 a small group of ACGC members led by Susan Murray brought the plants they had chosen from their own gardens and from Amandas Native Plant Nursery and settled them in their new home in front of the Stone-Tolan barn. They added mulch soon after that and for the rest of the summer they carefully monitored, watered and weeded their fledgling garden.


What a blooming success! By late August after some of the earlier-blooming plants had flowered, the garden was full and lush with later-flowering plants visited by hundreds of…pollinators!  Next season there will be a succession of blooms beginning with early spring throughout the summer and fall for visitors of all kinds including humans.

Thank you Allyn’s Creek Garden Club for your generosity throughout the year and your great new addition to the Stone-Tolan grounds!


Historic Lyons properties to be auctioned

Two historic buildings in the former village of Lyons are set to be auctioned by Wayne County on Thursday, July 7th. The public auction will take place at 10:00 a.m. on the steps of the Wayne County Courthouse in Lyons. [NOTE: an earlier version of this post and the Landmark Alerts e-newsletter listed the auction date as June 20th. It has since been changed to July 7th].

The buildings will be auctioned as separate parcels. They are located on either side of the County Courthouse, facing the village square. The County owns both buildings and no longer has any use for them. If the buildings are not sold at auction, the County may demolish them.

Up for auction is a historic commercial building, at one time home to the Park Bakery, at 24 Church St. The minimum bid for this property is $7500.


Also up for auction is 30 Church St., the historic Arsenau House. The minimum bid for this property is $10,000.ArsenauHouse_1

The sale of the buildings is subject to a number of terms and conditions, which can be viewed here, in an excerpt from the County Finance Committee agenda of June 14, 2016. Inquiries regarding these properties or the auction should be directed to Wayne County.

Note: To request a report on the condition of both properties, along with photographs, potential bidders can email: elainesinniger@gmail.com.


Celebrate Olmsted and the Erie Canal!

Celebrate the 194th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted with live music, food, and selfies with Olmsted! Free and open to the public!

Bridging The Canal: An Olmsted Birthday Bash

You’re invited! On Sunday, April 24th at 2:00 p.m., The Landmark Society’s Olmsted Subcommittee will host a birthday bash for revered landscape architect and designer of Rochester’s parks system, Frederick Law Olmsted. The occasion will also be an opportunity to celebrate and showcase Genesee Valley Park’s concrete arch pedestrian bridges (listed on The Landmark Society’s Five to Revive list and the Preservation League of New York State’s Seven to Save). We’ll be celebrating with light refreshments, music, walking tours, and good company on one of the bridges, over the Erie Canal! We’ll also have a life-size cutout of Fred himself available for selfies.



The Bash will run from 2 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at Genesee Valley Park. If weather allows, the event will take place at the easternmost concrete arch pedestrian bridge (see below for location details) spanning the Erie Canal. If the weather does not cooperate, we’ll celebrate at the Roundhouse Shelter.

Bridging The Canal is sponsored by:

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and the NYS Canal Corporation
Preservation League of New York State
NY Upstate Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects
Highland Park Conversancy
Friends & Neighbors of Seneca Park


Rochester is just one of four cities nationwide that boasts an entire park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for his design of New York’s Central Park. Olmsted designed Highland, Genesee Valley, and Seneca Parks for Rochester. He and the firm that continued his work after his retirement also designed several parkways and small neighborhood parks.

In 1888, Rochester’s Board of Park Commissioners selected Olmsted to design a network of parks and parkways for the city. Olmsted encouraged the Commissioners to set aside generous amounts of open space as the city’s first major public parks and proposed a system focused on the city’s great natural asset – the dramatic Genesee River in all its glorious variety.

GVP Map Graphic

Heart Bombing with the YUPs

Last weekend the YUPs held their first heart bombing event. (Never heard of heart bombing? Click here to learn more). Despite the exceptionally frigid temps, the event was a great success! We started with a brief lesson and video for neighborhood kids at the Lincoln Branch Library on Joseph Ave. YUP member and city schoolteacher, Bradley Huber, explained to the kids what historic preservation is all about, why old buildings matter, and what we can do to help bring them back to life.

YUP (1 of 28)

Then the fun started! With a smorgasbord of crafting supplies, adults and kids alike got to work making valentines for the abandoned former synagogue down the street. There was an explosion of pink construction paper, doilies, and stickers! Here we are hard at work:

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The end results were fantastic and heart-warming!

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YUP (20 of 28)

We did an indoor heart bombing while we were still at the Library to spare some of the smaller kiddos from the subzero windchill.

YUP (16 of 28)

Then the rest of us (including a few adventurous and hardy kids!) trekked a few blocks down the street to heart bomb the former synagogue in person. The former B’Nai Israel synagogue has been vacant and deteriorating for years but its future is finally looking a little brighter. The Joseph Avenue Arts and Culture Alliance plans to adapt this building to a performing arts center and has begun planning for its adaptive reuse and fundraising for rehab.

YUP (22 of 28) YUP (23 of 28) YUP (25 of 28)

Next stop on the heart bombing express was a vacant former brewery along the Genesee River gorge on Cliff St. This amazing building is slated for demolition by the City of Rochester. Us YUPs think it has great potential for an adaptive reuse project.

YUP (27 of 28)

What better way to spend your Valentine’s Day weekend than by showing some love to a few historic buildings that could really use it?! You can show your love for old buildings all year long by getting involved with the YUPs, joining The Landmark Society, rehabbing a building, advocating for preservation in your community, and by spreading the word that these places matter.




In Remembrance: Tim O’Connell

Tim leads a walking tour of Highland Park

Tim leads a walking tour of Highland Park

Last weekend, Tim O’Connell, a dear friend of The Landmark Society and a passionate historian and preservationist, passed away. Tim had served as the co-chair of our Olmsted Sub-Committee for years and was a champion of our Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks here in Rochester. He also served as President of the Highland Park Conservancy.

In honor of Tim’s service to preservation and to the Rochester community, we offer a few remembrances from those who had the pleasure of working with him:

From Cynthia Howk, Architectural Research Coordinator at The Landmark Society:

Many of us met Tim in the early 1980s when he joined the staff at City Hall and became the in-house expert and advocate for many of their most historic documents. I clearly remember his phone call, inviting Landmark Society staff to come over to City Hall and see the original Frederick Law Olmsted drawings – huge documents – for Rochester’s Seneca & Genesee Valley parks. Another of Tim’s unique invitations was to climb up in the tower of Old City Hall one evening and experience the ringing of City Hall bell – up close & personal – nearly deafening all who were there! His walking tours of the Olmsted Parks were an amazing tutorial on the history and evolution of those nationally important landscapes. His astounding, in-depth knowledge of the local history, the City’s archives at City Hall and our historic Olmsted parks was without equal. I was always astonished at his recall of the most minute, yet informative data regarding the parks, park commission meetings, etc. – documents and information known to few, but sometimes critically important to current discussions/policy issues regarding the City’s park system.

Although technically “retired,” Tim was still avidly involved with local archives – specifically working with photo collections at the City’s Municipal Archives/Records Storage Office.

From Ira Srole, photographer for the City of Rochester:

Tim was a stalwart member of Rochester’s local history community, and could always be trusted to share his incredible knowledge of our community with humor and grace.

Tim and I started our careers with the City of Rochester on the same day, September 17, 1979, he in the Maps and Survey Office of the Department of Environmental Services and I in the Bureau of Public Information Photo Lab. Especially during Rochester’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1984, I could always count on Tim to offer his insights and opinions as we gathered photographs and other documents in support of that year-long celebration. He was dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of all manner of historic documents, with maps being his particular passion. Although it was not specifically in his job description, Tim went well out of his way to help anyone with an interest in local history not only to find the documents they were looking for, but also to help them understand those documents within the larger context of Rochester and its unique civic culture.

From JoAnn Beck, co-chair with Tim on our Olmsted Sub-Committee:

We mourn the loss of Tim O’Connell, founding co-chair of the Olmsted Parks Subcommittee since 2005. Tim demonstrated his deeply-felt commitment to our parks, as historic places of beauty and common ground, through his constant leadership and work on whatever had to be done for our programs and projects. We marveled at his deep knowledge of Rochester history, which he was always happy to share. He was a treasured colleague, a human of the highest order- intelligent, kind, and generous, with infectious good humor and joie-de-vivre. We will really really miss him.



Free public performance of Walk the Walk

The Landmark Society’s Walk the Walk: Encounters with Rochester’s African-American Ancestors has it all – and all are welcome. Music, laughter, joys, sorrows, challenges overcome and inspiration offered – everything you want in an enjoyable evening performance.

Photo courtesy David Boyer

Photo courtesy David Boyer

We’ll encounter several Ancestors from Rochester’s past during the performance. “Captain Sunfish,” a late 18th century frontiersman and formerly enslaved person will lead us in calling them forth. Sunfish is vividly portrayed by Shawn Dunwoody – those who have experienced his performances know that he will set the tone for a dynamic evening!

The Ancestors include the very famous – Frederick Douglass – as well as those not as well known, such as Bessie Hamm or Anna Murray Douglass. You’ll leave this performance with a better understanding of what people from our past have accomplished – and be inspired by what people of today can achieve.

Photo courtesy David Boyer

Photo courtesy David Boyer

The performance will be preceded by a special musical performance – and the main event will be enhanced with talented musicians supporting the actors.

Following the performance enjoy the chance to chat with the actors and musicians while enjoying a delicious cookie reception sponsored by The Links, Rochester NY Chapter.

ALL ARE WELCOME – please come out and support these amazing actors!

Thursday, February 11th | 7:00 PM | Memorial AME Zion Church, 549 Clarissa Street | FREE (free on-site parking available) | Event Calendar listing