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.