Lilac Festival at Ellwanger Garden

While you’re exploring the lilacs at Highland Park, escape the crowds and stroll over to the Ellwanger Garden on Mt. Hope Avenue.

New hours this year! The Ellwanger Garden will be open daily during Lilac Festival, May 10-18

Monday – Friday  – 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday– 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Free admission, donations accepted.

Along with the beauty of the garden, additional activities (weather dependent) will be taking place on the grounds as well.

Monday May 12 – Professional photographer David Boyer will be on hand to offer tips on photographing flowers and plants – whether you are using a camera or your phone

Tuesday through Friday – Individual members of the Striking Strings Hammered Dulcimer Group (directed by Mitzie Collins)  will provide live acoustic music, floating over the garden. On Wednesday the 14th they will be joined by an acoustic guitarist.

Thursday – Watch watercolorist Mary Nicosia create a painting live, as she paints en plein air (in the open air.)

2008-5-6 LKZ Ellwanger 1

What’s the Lilac Festival Connection?

The altruism of George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry changed the face of Rochester. Their gift of 20 choice acres prodded the city to form the Parks Department in 1888. The 20 acres were the start of Highland Park, location of the world famous “Lilac Festival” each May.

The success of the Rochester nursery trade, as exemplified by the Mt. Hope Nursery, earned Rochester the title “The Flower City.” The Lilac Festival maintains the heritage of that name, and Ellwanger Garden gives you the chance to experience the inspiration of that heritage.

Film|Frederick Law Olmsted-Designing America

Please join our friends of the NY Upstate Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in celebrating their 60th anniversary with the film Frederick Law Olmsted-Designing America, at The Little Theatre at 6:30 pm.

The documentary is an hour in length and following the film will be a panel discussion featuring local speakers; JoAnn Beck, ASLA, City of Rochester’s Senior Landscape Architect and Katie Eggers Comeau, Architectural Historian at Bero Architecture PLLC, as well as guests from Ithaca, NY Judy Hyman, and Jeff Cluas. The panel will be moderated by Project Manager at Bayer Landscape Architecture, Zakery Steele, ASLA.

At the conclusion of the panel discussion, attendees are cordially invited to the 60th Anniversary reception at Ballroom 384 at East Ave Inn & Suites. Tickets are just $25 for this great documentary and wonderful occasion! 

>>Click here to purchase your tickets

Olmsted Bridges Named to “Seven to Save”

The Preservation League of New York State has named the three Olmsted pedestrian bridges in Rochester’s Genesee Valley Park to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

Photo courtesy Dan Dangler

Photo courtesy Dan Dangler

These handsome concrete bridges were built in 1916 and 1919 and designed by the influential Olmsted Brothers firm. They link regional and statewide trails including the Erie Canalway and are functional and historic assets. Limited funding, deferred maintenance, and uncertainty about rehabilitation responsibilities have put these bridges at risk.

“Since 1999, Seven to Save has mobilized community leaders and decision-makers to take action when historic resources are threatened,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “A Seven to Save designation from the League delivers invaluable technical assistance, fosters increased media coverage and public awareness, and opens the door to grant assistance for endangered properties.”

In late 2011, the New York State Department of Transportation (Region Four) released a Conditions Assessment and Concept Study for the three bridges which identified structural deficiencies, erosion issues, and other concerns. Even without a study, the deterioration of concrete surfaces and details are obvious. The report identified five treatment alternatives, three of which call for replacement.

With this announcement, the League hopes to launch a collaborative effort with local stakeholders such as the City of Rochester, Monroe County, the NYS Department of Transportation and The Landmark Society of Western New York, to devise a plan for stewardship of these bridges.

“Through the Seven to Save program, we provide targeted support to seven of New York’s most important and endangered historic resources,” said Tania Werbizky, the Preservation League’s regional director for technical and grant programs for the Southern Tier and Western New York. “Whether sites are threatened by insensitive, ineffective or insufficient public policies, general neglect, or, in some cases, outright demolition, we have a proven record of working with community advocates to save a number of significant properties.”

Photo courtesy Jenny McCabe

Photo courtesy Jenny McCabe

“These Erie Canal pedestrian bridges, designed by the renowned Olmsted Brothers firm, are a unique community asset and a highly visible feature in one of our most important historic landscapes, Genesee Valley Park,” said Wayne Goodman, Executive Director, Landmark Society of Western New York. “They are part of The Landmark Society Five to Revive List and now inclusion on the Preservation League’s Seven to Save list will increase awareness of these resources across the state as we partner with other stakeholders on funding opportunities to assist in the repair and maintenance of the structures.”

“The Olmsted Bridges are unique to the Canal System, adding to the beauty and heritage that visitors and residents of the Erie Canalway value,” said Bob Radliff, Acting Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “We applaud the Preservation League of New York State, the Landmark Society of Western New York, and the citizens of greater Rochester who are working to save these treasured landmarks.”

“Arching so gracefully over the Erie Canal, these bridges are a key component of the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail and the 90-mile Genesee Valley Greenway Trail as well as a defining feature of the Olmsted landscape in Genesee Valley Park,” said Robin Dropkin, Executive Director, Parks & Trails New York. “We commend the Preservation League of New York State and the Landmark Society of Western New York for bringing attention to the critical need for rehabilitation of these threatened historic structures and look forward to the start of a collaborative effort to ensure their long-term preservation.”

Since 1999, publicity and advocacy resulting from Seven to Save designation has led to the rehabilitation and reopening of the Oswego City Public Library, the rebirth of Montauk Manor on Long Island, and the rededication of the once-abandoned George Harvey Justice Building in Binghamton along with successes at several other locations.

The Preservation League of New York State is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1974. The League invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, and the protection of New York’s historic buildings and landscapes. It leads advocacy, economic development, and education programs all across the state.

 >>Check out photos by Richard Margolis from the press conference here

RIT Student Project Highlights Five to Revive


Photo courtesy Jenny McCabe

When Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) students, Jenny McCabe and Mariah Lamb, contacted The Landmark Society regarding a collaborative project featuring one of our Five to Revive selections for 2013, we jumped at the chance. Jenny and Mariah wanted to do a feature on the pedestrian bridges that span the Erie Canal in Genesee Valley Park. The bridges not only provide transportation to walkers, runners, bikers using Rochester’s extensive trail system but they’re also significant as a design element in the park.


Photo courtesy Jenny McCabe

The park itself was designed by noted landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, while the bridges were designed by his successors in the Olmsted firm when the Canal was re-routed through the Park.


Photo courtesy Jenny McCabe

We thought Jenny and Mariah’s project would be a great opportunity to highlight the beauty of the bridges to a new audience. Here, in their own words, is a bit more about the project:

This project was for a class at RIT called Editorial Design and Photography. In this class photographers and graphic designers team up to create an editorial article. We do this three times with different partners and different topics with the end result of a magazine called Positive/Negative. The topics are completely open to the students with one guideline: it has to have either a positive or a negative spin. We write the article, photograph the story, and design the layout. For our project, Mariah Lamb (designer) and I (Jenny McCabe/ photographer) knew we wanted to focus on something local. We knew The Landmark Society would make for a great story and wanted to showcase the positive things they do for Rochester. I was attracted to photograph the pedestrian bridge in Genesee Valley Park because of its wonderful shape and the purpose it serves to the Rochester community. We very much enjoyed working on this project in collaboration with The Landmark Society.

And here is the final product that Jenny and Mariah produced: We so enjoyed working with them and love how they have showcased the bridges! Congratulations on a beautiful final project!


Photo courtesy Jenny McCabe

Barber Conable Award: Holy Rosary Apartments

The Landmark Society’s 2013 Preservation Awards will be presented this year at a special event on Sunday, November 10 at 3:00 p.m. in Rochester’s historic City Hall, the spectacular Richardsonian Romanesque landmark located downtown at 30 Church Street. The Awards are given each year to individuals and organizations in our nine-county area who have made outstanding efforts in the preservation of their homes, historic properties, and landscapes. In anticipation of the upcoming Awards Ceremony we will be featuring some of this year’s award winners.

The Barber Conable Award recognizes a large-scale rehabilitation of an historic building in our region completed within the past two years. This includes buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places and projects utilizing the Federal Investment Tax Credit Program.

This year’s recipient of our major preservation award is Holy Rosary Apartments.  Established in Rochester’s Edgerton neighborhood in the early 20th century, the former Holy Rosary campus features handsome buildings designed in the Mediterranean Revival style.

Holy Rosary Apartments Credit Preservation Studios

Photo courtesy of Preservation Studios

The church (c.1916) has been adapted as a community center and 35 affordable housing apartments have been created in the former rectory, convent and school buildings.  Listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the campus buildings were rehabilitated using the Federal Investment Tax Credit program and design review by the NYS Office of Historic Preservation.


Photo courtesy Richard Margolis

This $15,000,000 project was coordinated by Providence Housing Development Corporation, working with SWBR Architects & Engineers, PC and LeCesse Construction Corporation.

Visit our Success Stories page to see 2012 Preservation Award winners and stay tuned for more 2013 winners!

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Symposia

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. photo-credit Olmsted National Historic Site, NPS

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Photo couresty Olmsted National Historic Site, NPS.

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., whose famous father designed parks in Rochester and many other cities in the 19th century, broadened the Olmsted legacy with his groundbreaking 20th century work in urban and environmental planning, natural resources conservation, park management, and landscape architecture, among other fields. His contributions in Rochester included design work in the city’s major parks and small neighborhood squares, including extensive design work to integrate the Barge Canal into Genesee Valley Park.


One of the three concrete arch pedestrian bridges designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. in Genesee Valley Park.

The National Association for Olmsted Parks and its partners will present a multidisciplinary, two-part symposium on the work and legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Participants will gain an understanding of how Olmsted Jr.’s designs, writings, organizational leadership, and politically astute collaborations offer insights and models for solving complex contemporary issues in landscape architecture, preservation and planning.

>>Visit NAOP’s website to learn more about the Symposia.

National Mall-credit Commission of Fine Arts-small

National Mall. Photo courtesy Commission of Fine Arts.

Part I:

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: Inspirations for the 21st Century
Washington, D.C.
October 10-11, 2013

Part II:

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: A Vision for the American West
Stanford University
March 27-28, 2014

>>Visit NAOP’s website to learn more about the Symposia.

View from Olmsted Point Yosemite, CA-credit Douglas Nelson-small

View from Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park, California. Photo courtesy Douglas Nelson.


New Signs in Rochester’s Olmsted Parks

With the impending storm from Hurricane Sandy, now might not be the best time to head out and see them for yourself, but here’s a look at some of the new interpretive way-finding signs that have just been erected in Rochester’s Highland Park.

A number of years in the making, the signs were funded, in part, by grants from the federal Preserve America program and the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The Landmark Society worked with the City of Rochester and Monroe County to secure the funding back in 2006. The project also funded signs in Genesee Valley Park, Seneca Park, and Maplewood Park, for a total of 13 signs in all.

All three parks are part of Rochester’s park system designed by renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is perhaps more commonly known for his work in New York City (Central Park and Prospect Park) but Rochester bears the rare honor of being one of only four park systems designed by Olmsted (the others being Buffalo, Louisville, and Boston).

If there’s any fall foliage left after the storm passes and the brush is cleared, take a lovely fall stroll or a bike ride through one of Rochester’s Olmsted-designed parks and learn a bit more about the parks’ design and why Frederick Law Olmsted was such an important figure in the development of many American cities and parks.

Thanks to JoAnn Beck, Senior Landscape Architect with the City of Rochester, for the photos!

Field Trip: Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks

A guest post by Katie Eggers Comeau, Architectural Historian at Bero Architecture, PLLC (Katie also serves on The Landmark Society’s Olmsted Subcommittee and the board of the National Association for Olmsted Parks)

In June, a delegation made up of members of the Olmsted Subcommittee, Landmark Society trustees, and interns from local planning and preservation organizations travelled to Buffalo to visit the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and tour their park system, the first system in the nation designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., and an important inspiration for Rochester’s own Olmsted park system.  In addition to a fun outing, we hoped to learn from and be inspired by our neighbors to the west.  We got all that we came for and more.

The Conservancy began as an advocacy and fundraising group; in 2004 the group entered into a unique partnership with the City of Buffalo that gave the organization the responsibility for directly managing the system.  The Conservancy implements an ambitious range of projects, ranging from everyday maintenance to long-term restoration of the parks.

We were treated to an inspiring daylong tour of the parks, led in the morning by the Conservancy’s President and CEO, Thomas Herrera-Mishler, and in the afternoon by landscape architect Brian Dold.  We toured several parks to see recently completed projects, works in progress, and challenges and future projects.  We heard about the Conservancy’s active role in managing and promoting the parks, and learned about their successes and setbacks in ensuring that the Olmsted parks, so integrally woven into the city’s fabric, are appropriately celebrated and protected.

I asked the folks who were part of the trip to share what they took away from the trip: what most impressed them, what inspired them, what they would like to bring back to Rochester.  Here’s what they told me, accompanied by some photographs from the trip:

“What impressed me the most is the fact the Buffalo Olmsted Park System is managed by a private-public partnership, that seems to work mostly. The community is greatly involved in the management of the system.”

“I was impressed with the scope of their landscape management activities: Including vegetation management using some maintained meadow etc.”


“My favorite was seeing the ‘Buffalo Olmsted Conservancy’ logo on everything from trash cans to utility trucks. I long for that kind of PR power.”

“I admired their success in communicating their mission, from the meadow signs to the logos on equipment, id and uniforms for workers, facilities, their website, the brochures- a comprehensive PR approach.”


“We were struck by the attention to project level preservation- in the rehab of the lodge building in Martin Luther King Park, to the reuse of the wading pool in MLK.”

Above, at right, is the recently rehabilitated lodge at Martin Luther King Park.

The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is restoring this five acre Wading Pool at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.


“I was inspired by the varieties of community engagement- from the garden contest in the block facing MLK, to the partnership with the not-for-profit that built the rowboats on Delaware Park Lake.”

“I was amazed by the enormous scope of their vision- the $400 million dollar master plan, with a complete menu of projects for potential sponsors, which is in keeping with the scale of Olmsted’s vision for the park system.”

“Now that I have seen the System from the inside I would like to go back every 5 years to see what changes have been made and the story behind those changes.”

Thanks to the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Thomas Herrera-Mishler, and Brian Dold for their time!

Spring Break in Detroit – Olmsted & More

A guest post by Katie Eggers Comeau, Architectural Historian at Bero Architecture, PLLC (Katie also serves on The Landmark Society’s Olmsted Subcommittee and the board of the National Association for Olmsted Parks)

This post is my long-overdue report on my spring break trip to Detroit!  I went for my first meeting as a board member of the National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) – and since the meeting happened to coincide with my children’s school vacation, we made it a family trip (and threw in a few days in Chicago).

According to its mission statement, NAOP “advances Olmsted principles and legacy of irreplaceable parks and landscapes that revitalize communities and enrich people’s lives.”  The board is made up of design professionals, parks advocates, conservancy leaders, scholars and others focused on protecting and promoting the hundreds of parks in this country and Canada designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., his nephew John C. Olmsted, his son Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and the Olmsted firm.

One of the early bridges at Belle Isle Park. Renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, designed the park. (Paint color not original).

As you may know, Rochester is one of just four cities in the U.S. for which Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. designed a complete park system.  (The others are Buffalo, Boston, and Louisville.)  The Landmark Society’s Olmsted Subcommittee, which I joined as a member after having staffed the committee for several years, is working to promote awareness for and appreciation of our remarkable Olmsted parks, and kindly sponsored my nomination to the NAOP board.

My first NAOP board meeting was a flurry of introductions, committee meetings, and, best of all, tours!  I sat in on all the committee meetings I could in order to get a sense of what the organization is doing, and it is a very impressive slate of activities.  NAOP is responsible for publishing the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, a massive, multi-volume undertaking several decades in the making and nearing completion.  In addition, the organization is sponsoring a project to map Olmsted (in this case John C.) parks in the state of Washington, and is planning a two-part symposium on the work of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. for fall 2013 and spring 2014.

NAOP also offers assistance to people who need the backing of a national organization in their own efforts to save an Olmsted park from inappropriate alteration or destruction.  Given my preservation advocacy background, I agreed to join the Advocacy committee, and I’m excited to work with accomplished colleagues from around the country to ensure that local activists have access to the tools they need to argue for protection of their local Olmsted legacy.

Having never been to Detroit, I particularly enjoyed the special tours of Detroit and its Olmsted park that were part of the weekend’s activities.  The first was an afternoon in the company of an enthusiastic guide, Jeanette Pierce, who started an organization called D:hive Detroit to educate Detroit-area residents and visitors about the good things going on downtown.  Jeanette is an ideal ambassador for her city who works hard to showcase the success stories and counteract the overwhelmingly negative press Detroit tends to get.

We saw some great stuff – the spectacular 1929 Guardian Building (an Art Deco fantasy in downtown Detroit),the up-and-coming Midtown neighborhood, the elegant Indian Village homes of former auto barons, and the Heidelberg Project were highlights.  At the same time, Detroit is a cautionary tale about a city that spread itself unsustainably thin, then experienced vast swaths of abandonment when the city lost population.  We saw plenty of vacant land (some being admirably reclaimed for farming, art installations, or parkland, but much simply lying vacant) and a stunning number of vacant buildings.  Despite the problems, Jeanette is optimistic, noting that the city is experiencing population growth in the college-educated, under-40 demographic, and showed us lively downtown bars and restaurants, new Midtown housing, and new small local businesses.

The following day, when our meetings were over, we were treated to an insider’s tour of Belle Isle Park, Detroit’s Olmsted park.  As the name suggests, the park is on an island, and for generations has served as an important point for Detroit residents to relax and play.  The Olmsted plan for the park included whimsical features, with a straight Central Avenue flanked by gently winding canals that Olmsted called “rigolettes” and an improbably long, sinuous ferry terminal hugging one curving end of the island (the rigolettes were not built; a smaller, still curving building was built but does not survive).  One part of the island was to be formally developed, while the other was to exhibit a wilder state, with a substantial forest, a naturalistic lake, and irregularly winding canals.

As you no doubt have heard, Detroit’s financial situation is dire, and budget cuts have hit the park hard.  The charming Belle Isle Aquarium closed several years ago due to a lack of funding; park staffing is insufficient to keep restrooms open.  On the bright side, the Belle Isle Conservancy was formed early this year by a merger of four separate groups working on different aspects of the park; this new group hopes to speak with a single voice to raise funds and keep an eye on threats.  Dedicated volunteers and the handful of remaining staff work valiantly to keep the park as tidy as possible given severe budgetary constraints.

The Belle Isle Aquarium, designed by Albert Kahn, closed for the last few years but still housing a small collection of fish.

As the lone Rochester representative on the NAOP Board, I look forward to being a conduit for information between our community and the international (one board member hails from Montreal) network of Olmsted enthusiasts.  We can learn a lot from what our counterparts are doing in Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis, Buffalo, Boston, and all the other cities represented on the board, and in turn we can share our experiences with advocacy for Seneca Park and other efforts to promote and celebrate our magnificent Olmsted parks.

The newly formed Belle Isle Conservancy is working on stabilizing this maintenance building and preparing it for reuse.


Flashback or Fast Forward–Rochester’s Highland Park

Last summer, my husband and I took our four children to Rochester’s Highland Bowl, or should I say the John Dunbar Memorial Pavilion, ca. 1937, for the Monroe County Parks’ program “Free Movies in the Parks.” On one particular evening, the title was Back to the Future, originally released in 1985 when I was a sophomore in college. Fast forward 25 years and here I am procuring my own version of Back to the Future by taking my kids to the same spot where I first heard, saw, and fell in love with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel during the then popular “Opera under the Stars” series, probably around 1972.

We sat on the lawn in the beautifully landscaped park, enjoying the harmonious relationship of the amphitheater, a product of human hands, with the sloping hillside, carved from glaciers, a natural acoustic partner for the “Bowl.” The ampitheater or the “Bowl” as it is now widely referred to, was originally dedicated in 1937 to the late John Dunbar who is credited with the early establishment of the world class Lilac collection in Highland Park.

Many of our friends and neighbors who reside in the City of Rochester also attend these firefly-lit summer events. On this night, the crowd was surprisingly small for a gorgeous August evening. The potential crowd, I surmised, whittled down by the competing outdoor movie series screened on the same night in the nearby Towns of Brighton and Pittsford. My observation made me pause and consider the impact that sprawl and decentralization has had, and will continue to have, upon the oeuvre of childhood, and adult experiences alike which, only a generation ago could be shared with someone from 3 doors to more than 30 miles away. The collective memory and the vocabulary that comes from common experience, can be crucial as a launching point for discourse and understanding.

In the early days of the Bowl, the Rochester Philharmonic and other symphonic programs performed frequently during the spring and summer performance season. Today, a smattering of events are on the program annually, including Shakespeare in the Park, concerts, the movie series I attend with my family, and other community activities.

My suggestion: do your best to attend an event in the Highland Bowl, and if you have children, bring them. Look around and enjoy the legacy of Ellwanger, Barry, Olmsted, and Dunbar, while Frederick Douglass and Goethe look on. The first 20 acres of Highland Park was gifted by George Ellwanger & Patrick Barry in 1887. Their gift served as a catalyst for the establishment of the City’s Department of Parks, the hiring of internationally recognized landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the establishment of an Olmsted designed park system in Rochester–one of four in the nation–and the cultivation of a world class botanical collection that draws millions annually. We are fortunate to be the recipients of decades of vision, philanthropy, and planning. The Highland Bowl site’s naturally occurring landscape was appropriately retained and maximized by people like Ellwanger, Barry, Olmsted, and Dunbar. It is an incomparable venue and should be part of every greater Rochesterian’s vocabulary.

Today, Thursday, August 18th is the last program of the summer for the “Free Movies in the Parks” series at the Highland Park Bowl.Adults can enjoy The King’s Speech, a quintessentially English film amongst a uniquely American cultural landscape.


Posted by Maranne McDade Clay, Grants Administrator