The Rochester Historic Resources Survey continues this summer in the city’s SW quadrant. John Southern, Lead Intern for last year’s SE quadrant survey and a Master of Arts candidate at Cornell University’s Historic Preservation Planning Program, recaps his experience:
When I was selected by The Landmark Society of Western New York to take part in Rochester’s first comprehensive Historic Resources survey in thirty years, I was both honored and elated. As a graduate student of Historic Preservation Planning I welcomed the opportunity to gain more exposure to surveying and documenting historic buildings in the field. However, it turns out that the most
rewarding aspects of this job have been the human interactions that take place out in the field as well as in the office. Everyone at the office-level of the survey has treated us with so much respect and courtesy, while making us feel that we are all part of one unified team. Additionally, all of us on the survey have had great experiences meeting the owners and tenants of Rochester’s historic homes, and have been treated to many delightful impromptu tours of these buildings. Virtually every time these folks have warily approached us (often mistaking us for tax assessors) they have been invariably pleased to discover we were with The Landmark Society. Judging by many sidewalk chats with homeowners, it’s clear that the reputation of The Landmark Society is highly favorable wherever our fieldwork has taken us.
The 2016 leg of the operation surveyed approximately 19,000 buildings in the southeast quadrant of Rochester. The range of the survey will eventually cover all four quadrants of the city over a projected four-year timeframe. This project is funded by the City of Rochester and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.
Survey data is collected using a vantage point from the public right-of way (sidewalk or street) where members of the survey team gain information on properties and record it on tablets. To collect, record, and transmit data obtained in the field, each tablet employs an app known as CRIS (Cultural Resource Information System) Trekker.
CRIS Trekker is a newly developed program employed by the State of New York that operates on smart devices using the Android or IOS platforms, and —true to its name— CRIS Trekker is designed for gathering data while mobile. CRIS Trekker’s primary function is to record, transmit, organize, and archive data as related to historic buildings, sites, and structures from a mobile perspective. In CRIS Trekker each property is recorded on a digital form, utilizing approximately twenty points of informative criteria, including photographs and GPS coordinates that are recorded in the form of a specific touch-and-select point on a satellite map.
Professionally speaking, the key strength of our team has undoubtedly been its diversity of backgrounds. For example, Tyler Lucero is a geologist and teacher, Luke Nicosia is a history buff and competitive athlete, while Greg Heinrich is a student of architecture and geography. Additionally, Susan Wylie is pursuing a Master of Architecture degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Brad Huber serves as the president of his neighborhood association and has a strong background in preservation and urban planning. When combined with my own skillsets of historic preservation and cultural anthropology, the six of us have made a formidable team. What Tyler, Luke, Greg, Susan and Brad have all brought to the table is their visceral geographic knowledge of — and deep affection for— their hometown, which has been indispensible to the success of the survey. To them, I have offered my graduate-level understanding of historic architectural style and anatomy as well as the law as it pertains to historic preservation planning. I’ve also approached the survey from an observant/participant theoretical perspective that is native to cultural anthropology, and applied it to my interactions with property owners to gain a relativistic viewpoint of the culture that resides in the southeast quadrant. They worked together over the summer and each brought their strengths to that team.
Although I was hired as Lead Intern for this survey, I quickly realized that there wouldn’t be much need for excessive directing or oversight of my fellow team members. All involved have been so insightful, civil, and proactive. Hence, the organization and execution of various survey agendas and activities have been incredibly effective.
It should be noted here that I had never set foot in Rochester before I interviewed for the survey position. Thus, I can honestly say that it has been an honor and a treat to become familiar with both the buildings of this city and the people who live in them on a block-by-block basis. It has also been a pleasure becoming acquainted with all at The Landmark Society of Western New York. Through the eyes of so many good people who are involved in the advocacy and preservation of its historic built environment, I can see that Rochester’s future looks very bright indeed.