2019 Five to Revive

former Wesleyan Church,         Seneca Falls 

Logan Community Center,       Hector

Trinity Episcopal Church,         Geneva

The Historic Parsells Church,       Rochester

Photos courtesy of Kyle Benjamin

Adaptively-reused historic houses of worship

Throughout the region

Throughout our region—and the country—historic houses of worship of all denominations face the challenges of declining membership and financial resources along with the substantial responsibilities and costs of maintaining historic buildings, many of which are large and complex. Although some congregations have combined forces, reduced costs, and generated alternative sources of revenue, many still struggle to make ends meet, leaving the historic buildings they occupy at risk.

With the percentage of Americans who claim no formal religious identity soaring from only six percent in 1991 to twenty-five percent today, this trend is likely to grow worse. If we are to save the rich heritage of religious architecture, religious entities must work creatively with partners outside their congregations to find new uses for these special buildings. Examples of successful adaptive reuse projects—where historic houses of worship have been adapted to new uses—can be found throughout New York State. However, adaptive reuse projects involving historic religious buildings and campuses face several hurdles—significant costs, access to development partners with capital, the difficulty of adapting large open, sanctuaries to new uses, and community opposition, to name a few.

With this thematic listing, we are highlighting four current or former houses of worship, at varying stages of development, all of which must find new, economically viable uses and partners to secure their future: Historic Parsells Church in the city of Rochester; former Wesleyan Church in the town of Seneca Falls; Trinity Episcopal Church in the city of Geneva; and Logan Community Center in the town of Hector.

Photos courtesy of Kyle Benjamin

Hamlet of CHILDS

Town of Gaines, Orleans County

The unincorporated hamlet of Childs is located a few miles north of the Village of Albion, at the intersection of State Routes 98 and 104. The hamlet is home to the Tillman’s Historic Village Inn and Fair Haven Inn, several pre-Civil War wood frame and brick historic houses, and the National Historic Landmark Cobblestone Museum. Also known as the Ridge Road, Route 104 has served as a main artery for east-west travel between the Genesee and Niagara Rivers since the early 19th century. Childs has functioned as a stopping point along the route since the first portion of the Village Inn was built in 1824. 

The hamlet’s history as a transportation corridor, which initially allowed it to flourish, has paradoxically contributed to its present-day struggles. Automobile-oriented design and development have made the hamlet inhospitable and dangerous to patrons of the Museum and local businesses while insensitive new developments threaten to further erode the character and vitality of the historic hamlet. The future economic potential of Childs lies in its unique historic character. Modern planning and zoning practices that encourage sensitive new construction, along with the addition of pedestrian-oriented infrastructure and design, could help guide the hamlet’s growth and enhance its economic development.


Highland Reservoir

Cobbs Hill Reservoir

Photo courtesy of Kyle Benjamin


City of Rochester, Monroe County

Built as part of the City of Rochester’s water system, both Highland and Cobbs Hill Reservoirs are also prominent components of the City’s parks system, integral to the designs authored by renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted and his successor firm, the Olmsted Brothers. Highland Reservoir was constructed between 1873 and 1876 as part of early efforts to develop state-of-the-art water infrastructure for a growing city. With the creation of Rochester’s park system in the late 1880s, the reservoir became a major landscape feature at the heart of Highland Park, carefully integrated into the park’s sophisticated design.

Cobbs Hill Reservoir was built between 1905 and 1908 as the centerpiece of Cobbs Hill Park. Sited atop the Pinnacle Hill range and visible from many areas throughout Rochester, Cobbs Hill Reservoir is a uniquely prominent aesthetic and recreational asset in our community.

Both reservoirs are key functional components in the City of Rochester’s water supply system, collectively holding 160 million gallons of drinking water. But both are also key visual features in their respective parks, inseparable from the surrounding landscape design. Cobbs Hill Reservoir is surrounded by a circular roadway and pedestrian path that experience heavy use throughout the year. With the planned reconstruction of the former Children’s Pavilion adjacent to the reservoir in Highland Park, the Highland Reservoir will become an even more prominent feature.

Today, both water features face potential drastic alterations as the City of Rochester Water Bureau seeks to comply with a federal law that requires public water systems provide physical covers over the reservoirs or provide additional water treatment to protect against microbial contaminants. The City of Rochester is currently investigating options for bringing Highland Reservoir into compliance with these federal regulations.

Several of the options under consideration would result in partial or complete removal of the water feature from these parks. Once the future of the Highland Reservoir has been determined, attention will be turned to Cobbs Hill Reservoir for compliance action. Although the Water Bureau is only discussing Highland Reservoir at this time, the decisions made now may establish the precedent for Cobbs Hill in the future.

If performed without sensitivity to the historic reservoirs and their respective surrounding park landscapes, the mandated compliance processes risk destroying two prominent community assets. We believe an economically responsible solution can be found that allows the reservoirs to come into compliance with the federal legislation while also retaining the water features and respecting the essential character of these important parks.


6 Madison Street

City of Rochester, Monroe County

Located in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood west of downtown, 6 Madison Street is a vernacular two-and-a-half story brick house. Unused for more than 20 years, it is one of the few vacant properties in the neighborhood awaiting rehabilitation. Although the building has been secured from the elements, the longer it waits for a new use, the more expensive—and unlikely—a rehab project becomes. With an active neighborhood association, significant recent investments in the West Main Street commercial corridor, ongoing investments in residential properties, and the proximity of community assets like the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, and 540WMain Communiversity, 6 Madison Street is well-positioned for a full-scale rehabilitation. 


Photo courtesy of Kyle Benjamin

King’s Daughters & Sons Building   

Village of Dansville, Livingston County

Most recently known as the King’s Daughters and Sons Home, this c.1860 three story, brick building was originally constructed as the Dansville Seminary. In 1890, it became the first hospital in town and from 1924 through 2012, it served as the King’s Daughters Home, an assisted living facility. The property, which sits at the edge of the village in a residential neighborhood, has been vacant since the King’s Daughters Home closed. In 2014, the sprinkler system burst, causing significant water damage throughout the interior. However, the building remains structurally sound and secure from the elements. With its solid construction, historic architectural detailing, and village location, it would make an excellent candidate for residential reuse.