Historic Preservation and the Planet

Written by Caitlin Meives, The Landmark Society’s Preservation Planner

The Landmark Society went “green” long before reusable shopping bags, LEED certification, and organic shampoo became popular: historic preservation is the ultimate recycling. As an organization that advocates for and fosters preservation, we have been practicing sustainability for more than 80 years. While preservation is a critical component in revitalizing urban communities and rural villages, it is also central to smart growth and environmentally sustainable development.

When most people imagine a “green” building though, they probably think of a glamorous new building with solar panels, a rooftop garden, and other cutting-edge technology. The environmental value of the reuse, or continued use, of historic buildings gets less attention than it should. Here are just a few reasons why preservation has always been a green activity:

1. Reusing buildings reduces landfill waste. The demolition of buildings in the United States generates at least 124 million tons of debris each year. Every building that is saved and reused is one less pile of brick, wood, stone and glass in the landfill.

2. Redeveloping urban areas preserves undeveloped land. Reinvesting in historic neighborhoods – for example, by reusing vacant historic buildings – preserves open space, farmland, and natural habitats by diverting development away from undeveloped areas.

3. Historic neighborhoods encourage transportation alternatives. Sidewalks, higher density, and mixed uses encourage walking, biking, and public transit – and are features typically found in historic neighborhoods. Low-density suburban residential and commercial development, on the other hand, encourages an automobile-reliant lifestyle. Residents of suburban developments have to drive everywhere and have longer commutes (on average), which translates to increased usage of fossil fuels. Compact, walkable neighborhoods are friendlier to the environment, and have been shown to be healthier: studies have shown a direct link between areas with sprawl characteristics and higher rates of obesity and associated diseases.

4. Historic buildings were built to last. Historic buildings have already survived 50 or more years and, due to typically higher qualities of materials and construction techniques, can often be expected to last many more years. Generally, new construction is limited to a 20- to 40-year life expectancy.

5. Historic buildings incorporate climate-sensitive design techniques. Traditional features such as operable shutters, courtyards, double-hung windows with operable upper and lower sash, porches, real masonry construction, and appropriate roof pitch naturally help to keep a building warm in winter and/or cool in summer. These attributes can contribute to reductions in energy usage.

6. Considering “embodied energy” can tip the scales. New buildings, especially those that incorporate “green” elements like thermal-pane windows and solar panels, are often thought of as more energy-efficient than historic buildings because of their reduced energy usage, and we can all applaud efforts to improve efficiency. But what about the energy expended in constructing them? When “embodied energy,” defined by Mike Jackson of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as “the sum of all the energy required to extract, process, deliver, and install the materials needed to construct a building,” is taken into account, it can take at least three to five decades (which is longer than the expected life span of many new buildings) to realize any life-cycle energy savings through the construction of an energy-efficient building. This is especially true when the environmental impact of abandoning or demolishing an existing building is also factored in.

7. The quality of historic building materials cannot be replicated. Historic buildings were constructed of natural, indigenous materials such as old-growth wood, brick, and stone. These materials were also very durable and in some cases either renewable or reusable. They are usually prohibitively expensive today, if they are available at all. While there are exceptions, many of the materials used today are less durable, are mass-produced (sometimes using processes and products that are harmful to the environment and/or to human health), and are transported great distances from their point of origin to construction sites. To discard traditional building materials and quality craftsmanship in favor of less-durable, mass-produced construction seems the height of wastefulness.

8. Reusing historic buildings and neighborhoods recycles existing infrastructure.Established neighborhoods already have the sewers, roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure elements that support development. Duplicating these facilities by extending new infrastructure into undeveloped areas is often an unnecessary use of materials, energy, and taxpayers’ money, and also encourages more sprawl and land consumption as development follows infrastructure improvements.

To learn much more about this topic, see the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab.

Seeking Nominations for Preservation Awards

American Hall Building, 59 Market Street, Attica, NY – recipient of 2017 Award of Merit

What do a former dental dispensary, a beach bathhouse, two family estates in Geneseo, a lumber company, and a carpenter-contractor have in common?…

All were recipients of Preservation Awards from the Landmark Society of Western New York in 2017!

Each year, in the fall, the Landmark Society presents several awards to projects, people and organizations who, through their dedication and hard work, have helped to promote historic preservation in our nine-county area. With the start of a new year, the Landmark Society’s Awards Committee is seeking recommendations for its 2018 Preservation Awards. Award suggestions are welcome from Monroe, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.

Click HERE for a list of the award categories, along with descriptions and criteria for each award. If you know anyone deserving of any of these awards, please email your suggestions to Cynthia Howk at chowk@landmarksociety.org by Tuesday, May 1, 2018. The Awards Committee will begin reviewing submissions at its May meeting.

Ted Robertson / Kirkwall Construction, carpenter-contractor – recipient of 2017 Craftsman Award

If you have any questions, please contact Cynthia by email or phone, 585-546-7029, ext. 24.

2017 Preservation Awards

And, the envelope, please…!  It’s again time for The Landmark Society’s Annual Preservation Awards, given to individuals and organizations in our nine-county area that have made outstanding efforts in the preservation of their homes, public buildings, historic properties, and landscapes. 

The ceremony will be held Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 3:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Rochester’s historic City Hall, itself an award-winning example of adaptive reuse.   

We are proud to announce the following winners of the 2017 Preservation Awards:

Barber Conable Award

  • Eastman Gardens                                                                                                             800 East Main Street, City of Rochester, Monroe County

Award of Merit

  • Bevier Memorial Building                                                                                                   42 South Washington Street, City of Rochester, Monroe County
  • Bath House – Hamlin Beach State Park                                                                       Lake Ontario State Parkway, Town of Hamlin, Monroe County
  • Palmyra Community Library                                                                                            402 East Main Street, Village of Palmyra, Wayne County
  • American Hall Building and former Citizens Bank                                                         59 Market Street and 8 Main Street, Village of Attica, Wyoming County
  • Statue of Liberty replica                                                                                               Oatka Creek Park, Village of LeRoy, Genesee County

Historic Landscape Award

  • The Wadsworth Family: The Homestead and Hartford House properties     Main Street, Village of Geneseo, Livingston County

Historic Home Award

  • 1316 East Avenue                                                                                                 Rochester, New York – Owners:  Lewis & Kathy Parker

Paul Malo Award for Community Preservation Advocacy

  • Lynne J. Belluscio                                                                                                     Director, LeRoy Historical Society
  • Trude Brown Fitelson                                                                                   Thousand Island Park, Jefferson County

Special Citation

  • William B. Morse Lumber Company                                                                               340 West Main Street, Rochester, New York

Craftsman Award

South Wedge’s Calvary St. Andrews Church One of Rochester’s Newest City Landmarks

Written by Marjorie Searl

Open the door of the brick building at the corner of Averill Avenue and Ashland Street in the South Wedge, and step into a “Masterpiece Theatre” village church.  St. Andrew’s was designed by Richard M. Upjohn for a Rochester, New York Episcopal congregation.  Completed in 1880, it is a virtually intact building with site-specific art and stained glass windows by artist George Haushalter.

In 1968, a merger with Calvary Presbyterian Church created a joint parish, Calvary St. Andrews, that led, ultimately, to a single affiliation with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in 2001. Dwindling numbers forced the dissolution of the congregation, with the building and grounds continuing to be owned by the Presbytery.

At this point a small group of friends and neighbors of the Church, recognizing its historic and aesthetic significance, encouraged the Presbytery to support an application for local landmark designation. While the Church was already on the National and State Registers, only local designation would give it the protection it needed to retain its historic interior and exterior. In addition to their aesthetic significance, artistic commissions for the Church memorialized members of important local families, including the Sibleys, the Ellwangers, and the Andrewses, all dedicated parishioners.

The Church embodied important chapters of Rochester’s progressive religious and social history. Reverend Crapsey was an impassioned spokesman for social justice whose liberal rhetoric was seen as heresy by his superiors. Many of his ideas inspired the church community even after he resigned in 1906, and parish efforts to feed the hungry and to empower individuals continue today in programs like the Food Cupboard. Calvary St. Andrew’s was the spiritual home for people working for racial equality, women’s rights, rights of disabled, and gay rights. Its last minister, Reverend Judy Lee Hay, kept the doors open to all and represented the church in successful efforts to turn the South Wedge into one of Rochester’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

What are the next steps for the church? Friends of Calvary St. Andrews hope that the building will continue serve the community. The Food Cupboard will remain on site. FoCSA is hoping to sponsor programs – lectures, performances, exhibitions – and is exploring the possibility of having life cycle events at the church.  The Presbytery hopes for a continued presence at the church as a base for mission groups coming to do service projects.  The group has been hard at work preparing for an October 15 open house for the public to celebrate the recently awarded landmark status and give visitors an opportunity to tour one of the city’s treasures.

Rochester Historic Resources Survey

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.

When new uses are slow in coming, SecureView can help

We heard about this product at our NY Statewide Preservation Conference this past weekend and thought it might be useful to those in localities where the preservation process can lag, and more immediate, interim fixes for vacant buildings are needed before new uses can be visioned for them.Check it out!:

SecureView clearboarding is a cutting edge historic preservation tactic.

SecureView is a polycarbonate boarding material used on vacant properties in lieu of plywood.  SecureView reduces unwanted behaviors at vacant properties.  Banks and cities are taking a proactive approach by investing in SecureView while communities across the country are passing ordinances or encouraging Blight Mitigation Plans that no longer allow structures to be boarded with plywood.

Check out the First Responders Video – demonstrating the durability and safety of SecureView ClearBoarding.

Quote from Fire Chief in Maryland:

“SecureView Clearboarding is a game changer with the security of vacant buildings.  It provides a more secure board up process, as well as, a lot cleaner aesthetic appearance from the street.  The fact that SecureView has recognized the necessity of the fire service knowing about their product speaks tremendously about the company.  SecureView can definitely pose a formidable challenge to fire service members, whether gaining access or needing egress, and the assistance that is being provided for educating our members is exceptional.”  

Quote from Tehachapi CA Police Department:

“I am glad more cities are getting on board.  This is great for neighborhoods.  We still have yet to have anybody get past the polycarbonate.”

SecureView polycarbonate Clearboarding is great for:

  1. A vacant and abandoned property that you have secured numerous times
  2. A property that has become a hub for crime, drug activity, squatters, etc.
  3. A boarded property near any school or school route or on a major thoroughfare where visitors to your city pass
  4. A vacant property where boarding would significantly impact surrounding property values
  5. A historic property where you want to ensure the property isn’t compromised


Out of Character Development Proposed in East Avenue Preservation District

Rochester’s East Avenue Preservation District is one of the nation’s best preserved late-nineteenth century neighborhoods and ennobles our community life. Join The Landmark Society as we support District neighbors in expressing strong opposition to a proposed 5-unit condominium project on the corner of East Ave. & Culver Rd., which we believe is clearly out of character with the surrounding scale, massing, density and design of this historic and civic treasure of a landscape.

Rochester Preservation Board Meeting

Rochester City Hall; Wednesday, March 1st  6:00 PM



Hillside Cemetery Chapel Restoration receives Grant


Progress for another of our Five to Revive properties!: the Clarendon Historical Society just received a $10,000 grant from the Orleans County / Curtis Foundation to help in the restoration of the 1894 Hillside Cemetery Chapel, which was on our 2014 list. This building will grace our landscape and community life for years to come, thanks to this support!

Learn more HERE.

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Eastman Dental Rehab wins Preservation Award from NYS

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We are honored to have been a part of the rehabilitation of Eastman Dental Dispensary, which was one of five projects to receive a 2016 Preservation Award from the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation in Albany earlier this month. This historic property was on our first Five to Revive list in 2013, and it is now home to many in downtown Rochester. That’s our Executive Director Wayne Goodman second from the right!


This is the power of preservation…

Learn more HERE.