Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Long-Lost Cousin in Ohio

I recently was part of a tour sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians to Springfield and Sidney Ohio. Sidney has one of Louis Sullivan's gorgeous small banks and I was glad to see it again and find it still in excellent shape.

I knew that Springfield had a Prairie Style house by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it had been in dreadful condition when I saw it about twenty years ago. Remarkably, it has been rescued. A local campaign helped out by the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, a group mostly composed of owners and curators of FLlW buildings, has managed a miracle. The house had been divided into apartments, the furniture dispersed, and the grounds neglected. It is now sparkling clean and re-planted.

The house, originally built by Burton Westcott in 1908, has some striking resemblances to Rochester's Boynton House of the same date. I was most surprised when I walked into the dining area and found their table. It has those pedestal legs similar to the Boynton's, with lanterns raised above the top on metal legs. There are two other houses, of course, with similar tables: the Robie House, in Chicago, and the Meyer May House, in Grand Rapids, MI. Both are 1907-08, as well. All the tables have differences, principally in the lanterns. The Westcott table is new, not like the others, built recently from the original designs now in the Archive. I was not sure about the finish, but the staff assured me that it had been researched. It may just be too recent to look right.

It's not surprising that any architect should repeat himself. It's dumb to waste a good idea and nobody ever said Wright was dumb.

The floor plan is quite different and there is very little leaded colored glass. A long garden wall links the house to its garage. The wall supports a pergola which covers a long walk. The plan for the original Boynton garden included a similar garden feature which was never built.

Please note: The Boynton House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only building in Rochester, is a private residence that is not open to the public. While you may view the house from the sidewalk or the street, please respect the owners' privacy by not trespassing. If you would like to visit a Frank Lloyd Wright house, there are two in Buffalo that are open as museums: the Darwin Martin House and Graycliff; both are well worth a day trip!

Posted by Jean France, architectural historian and longtime Landmark Society trustee

Photo is from the Burton Westcott House website,


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lightning strikes once...

How likely is it that when lightning strikes a neighborhood of several thousand homes, it hits the historic district? And how likely is it that of the several hundred historic structures it hits the one deemed the most important? And all that on the eve of the annual home tour... Well, this exactly what happened in Maplewood when on Friday, June 13 (no joke) lightning struck and severely damaged the Vanderbeck House on Lake Avenue.

The Vanderbeck House is one of the oldest and most prominent residences on Lake Avenue, and reflects Rochester’s post-Civil War expansion. Built in 1874 by Andrew Vanderbeck, a farmer and saw mill owner from Parma, it is one of the most distinguished examples of the Second Empire architectural style in the entire county.

This incident shows the inherent fragility of our architectural heritage. It is not enough to protect some of this heritage, we must protect as much of it as possible, for part of it will be lost to unpredictable events. In this particular case most of the exterior fa├žade, the molding and dentil trim flowing around each window on the third floor, and the large hood supported by heavy consoles over the second story window were mercifully not damaged. Given adequate funding the majestic gray and red slate mansard roof might still be saved. But we should view this event as a wake up call for the entire community to advocate preservation.

Posted by Nicholas Zumbulyadis, Maplewood resident and longtime Landmark Society volunteer

The photo of the Vanderbeck House is from the National Register nomination for the house. To see the complete nomination, search the name at the NYSOPRHP National Register search website (click "Basic Criteria in the upper right; enter "Vanderbeck" in the "Property Name" field and click "Results" in the upper right; you will then have the option of viewing text or photos).


Friday, June 20, 2008

What's New is Now Old!

In a recent issue of Preservation: The Magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the National Trust celebrates the architecture of modernism. Last year, at The Landmark Society, we organized our regional effort to identify and protect resources of the “recent past” by structuring a committee and by co-launching Archipedia -- an interactive website – with the Rochester Chapter of the AIA.

Getting these actions going is exciting and we are already seeing results, with information gathering and educating ourselves to the significance of these resources. But, as the complexities surrounding the understanding of and valuing of such resources become more apparent, and as we do not yet see the “passion of the people” that would reflect a deeper understanding of this period of design, I can’t help but wonder…”a minute too late and a dollar too short?”

From where I stand, we are about 20 years behind the curve on getting the most outstanding or significant structures from the period of modernism protected in advance of the threats that already put them under pressure.

Why does that happen? Why do proponents of preservation always seem behind the curve and reactive, rather than proactive?

Multiple factors conspire: Too many resources, too few people working to protect them? Too many fires to put out distracting from the work at hand? Too many who do not see the outstanding qualities due to their day-to-day familiarities? Stereotypical ideas of what is historic?

Author Paul Goldberger frames his response to these questions in his article “The Modernist Manifesto” by stating: “I think we are not particularly inclined to value things created in our own time-we remember the world without them, and we don’t easily believe that these buildings can possibly possess the depth and resonance of “true” history.” Mr. Goldberger goes on to say, “…just because buildings were built for ordinary purposes and not created as major works of art hardly makes them less worthy of saving.”

Pick your choice and add your multitude of other reasons and here we are – now trying to catch up. I like to think optimistically and not resign myself to the soul-deadening endless cycle, but until many more of us get to understand just how critical and integrated our built environment is to our daily lives, aesthetics, environmental sensibilities, consumer trends and local/national/global economies, here we will stay.

This issue of Preservation, entitled Modernism: A Star is Reborn, Dwight Young reminds us about why preservation is important. Simply put, “…historic preservation is …having the good sense to hang on to something – a building or a neighborhood or a piece of landscape – because it’s important to us as individuals and/or as a nation.” Young goes on to say that preservation “…has more to do with the heart and soul and psyche…”, yet it is not that simple – it is tied deeply to aesthetics, the economy and the environment. Preservation of modernistic architecture is important because it stands as historic record to “…how we lived during this time but also represents what we valued, what we wanted, how we saw the world and our place in it.”

Modernist resources deserve to be protected.

Goldberger exhorts us to better understand the work that lies ahead.

The critical challenge today is to keep preservation fresh and vigorous and on the cutting edge. The movement is no longer new, and maybe more to the point, it is no longer outside the establishment. With historic preservation generally accepted as a good thing in most places, we easily forget how sharply the battle lines were once drawn, how much zeal and energy and commitment this movement had back when it saw itself as challenging common wisdom, when it saw itself as a movement of outsiders combating established ways of doing things. So taking the lead on modernist preservation is a way, paradoxically, for preservationists to return to their roots, which is to say, it is a way to challenge common wisdom once again.”

We must not rush to judgment on these resources without giving them the benefit of study and evaluation. We need to gain perspective on these resources, to better determine what is significant and what is worth saving.

But we cannot do it without your participation.

Log on to to participate in the Archipedia resource survey, or come see us when we meet in committee. Call us for more details – 546-7029. Tell us more about your favorite icon of modernism.


Joanne Arany, Executive Director

The Landmark Society of Western New York, Inc.


Monday, June 16, 2008

This isn't the Griswold Family Vacation! Architourism.

I found this article on yesterday on architourism....if I had more time today I would write a longer blog post about it, but it's almost dinner time and my stomach is growlin' so this means no waxing least until I hit Pelligrinos for some grub.

Regardless, it's an interesting article that discusses a concept we've alluded to several times with the Recent Past project. I thought it was interesting/appropriate/whatever-enough to share on its own.

Check it out. See what you think. Marvel at Modern Architecture. Also: economic advice for "architourists"

Any ideas of what you'd like to see in terms of architourism in Rochester? I'm thinking this has a lot of potential, especially as people are taking the quickly-becoming-overused-buzzphrase-du-jour "staycations" to combat the high cost of travel in these tough economic times.

posted by Laura Zavala, Director of Marketing


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A green conundrum: sustainability, density, and preservation

An interesting article from Seattle points out the need for environmentalists and preservationists to find common cause as that city pursues its strategy for a "sustainable" future.

According to the author of the article, Seattle's sustainability policies suffer from a single-minded focus on increasing density. There are clear environmental advantages to denser urban fabric: a certain level of density is needed to ensure walkability, viable public transportation, lively street life, and so on, and directing redevelopment toward a region's core reduces the pressure to sprawl outwards. The author of the article argues, however, that Seattle's pursuit of increased density comes at the exclusion of other goals, including historic preservation and the conservation of the embodied energy that old buildings represent.

The issues in Seattle are so different as to be almost unrecognizable to us in Rochester: in Seattle (and some other trendy cities) the demand for high-rent housing in desirable city neighborhoods leads developers to eye existing buildings for demolition and replacement by higher-density apartments and condominiums. Redevelopment of hot city neighborhoods has always resulted in the demolition of older buildings, but now some cities like Seattle are encouraging this process as evidence of their "green" credentials.

Unlike in Seattle, here in Rochester the resurgence of downtown housing has (so far, at least) taken the form of the adaptive reuse of existing buildings, with the exception of the Sagamore, which was built on a long-empty lot (of which there are many left to be redeveloped, as a flight over downtown or a peek at Google Earth will dramatically reveal). We have not seen the demolition of historic buildings to make way for high-density downtown housing. Instead, we have the opposite problem: although our region's population is not growing, it is continuing to spread ever more thinly across an ever-widening area, leading to the decline of existing neighborhoods in the city and suburbs.

In Rochester and Seattle the issues are different, but the point is the same: as communities think about how to be greener, a great place to start is the recognition that the existing building stock is a critical environmental resource that must not be squandered. It would be unfortunate if environmentalism became yet another justification for treating historic buildings as disposable, when in fact the reuse of existing buildings conserves their embodied energy and keeps their irreplaceable materials out of the landfills.

Richard Moe, President of the National Trust, may have said it best: "It makes no sense for us to recycle newsprint and bottles and aluminum cans while we’re throwing away entire buildings, or even entire neighborhoods."

(photo of New construction in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood by Chuck Taylor, )

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Most people are deathly afraid to participate in fundraising. Yes, it is rather intimidating to ask people for money, but I find it rewarding to raise funds for a cause I believe in. And, I believe in historic preservation! How could I not get excited about raising funds to help protect the beauty of the city, parks and countryside which I enjoy every day?

We recently sent our members a request for support which illustrated examples of how historic preservation touches our lives every day. How many of us have savored a breakfast burrito at the Public Market, ridden the Denzel Carousel, kicked a volleyball at the beach or relished a martini at Restaurant 2Vine?

Rebecca Rowe, Landmark Society’s Preservation Program Coordinator eloquently described on this blog her walk to work each day. Besides the obvious health benefits, Rebecca is fortunate to walk through such beautiful neighborhoods on her way to work. And just think of the destination, the Hoyt Potter House! I thank my lucky stars every day that I am fortunate enough to work in this beautiful building, in this beautiful neighborhood. What would be here if members of The Landmark Society had not been working diligently for over 70 years to make sure future generations can connect with and enjoy our past?

So, don’t feel too sorry for me if you think my job is hard, it’s not. But you can help make it a lot easier by giving to The Landmark Society’s Spring Appeal! Your support means so much and will allow members of The Landmark Society to continue our good work.

And, by the way, how does historic preservation touch your life every day? I would love to hear about it, post your comments and I will share them in my future blogs.

Susan Latoski
Director of Development


Friday, June 6, 2008

My big news debut

Today I had the honor of going on the news to talk up the House and Garden tour, which takes place this weekend.

I was super nervous, and of course today happened to be about 9,000 degrees in the shade and humid so my hair is super frizzy and I'm about wilted. I didn't know some of the answers but I think I covered pretty well. In all it was really fun! Perhaps not the most inspiring of performances, but I certainly hope it at least gets some more people interested in checking out the tour this weekend! It should be a fantastic tour and I'm sure it will be a success.

Clicky here if you want to see the news spot.

And if you want to go to the Tour, head out to Lamberton Conservatory tomorrow at 10 a.m. to get your ticket. You won't be disappointed!


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Historic Tours! Tours! Tours!

You’re off on an adventure when you travel with The Landmark Society!

As one of the oldest and most active preservation organizations in America, The Landmark Society of Western New York prides itself on offering travel steeped in history, architecture and cultural heritage. With over 20 years experience of planning and hosting tours, who better than The Landmark Society to guide the way to unique, interesting and fun destinations?

We offer a tremendous variety of extended trips to locales outside of New York State, as well as many day trips intended to explore the amazing adventures to be had right here in our own back yard.!

We spend countless hours searching for extraordinary destinations, places and activities that showcase exceptional features off the traditional beaten path. All our tours are distinctive, fun, totally worry free and personally escorted to ensure you have the time of your life!

We create a warm and friendly atmosphere where you can meet new friends and enjoy a group atmosphere, yet still feel extremely comfortable and have the freedom to enjoy independent exploration. Many of our traveling friends have been traveling with us for over 20 years and have made lifetime friends in the process. When so many travelers continue to return, we know we are doing things right!

Read what some former tour-goers have to say:

“We enjoyed our experience and met some special people!”

“Wonderful! This is a first time experience traveling with The Landmark Society. I will certainly sign up for another tour.”

“Wonderful trip with wonderful memories.”

We are proud of our quality tours in the historic destinations we choose. Join us on our next excursion and discover for yourself why our tours remain so popular.

Happy Travels!

posted by Cheryl Corsi, Director of Member Services


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'll show you walkability...

A few weeks ago I started walking to and from work a few days a week. Per this is a round trip of about 4.4 miles which means that walking to and from work 2.5 times equals one pint of Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake or Willie Nelson Peach Cobbler ice cream; walking 3 times equals a pint of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream...wait a minute...what was I talking about? Oh yeah...walking...I started doing this for a number of reasons - I live close, no reason to not walk, save a little gas, save a little coin, get some exercise. So far, other than the light rain this morning and no umbrella, I have really enjoyed it. I get to start my morning with an extra dose of Highland Park, follow it up with Mt. Hope Ave and Mt. Hope Cemetary, Ford Street Bridge and the Genesee River and then beautiful and historic Corn Hill. I arrive to work more alert than if I sleep-driven in and feeling pretty good about life. This walk allows me to enjoy the old stone sidewalks along Mt. Hope, the statue of Frederick Douglas - looking north towards freedom, or Charlotte - to enjoy the Ellwanger Berry built homes and to generally notice all of the details that you fly past in a car.

In fact, I have so enjoyed my walks that I have started walking to other meetings as well - this past week was a short trip down South Ave to the NeighborWorks headquarters for a Home Buyer Orientation, to represent The Home Room and The Landmark Society. The funky little shops, bars, restaurants, parks, sculptures and houses. What a feast for the senses South Ave is. I noticed a turn of the century house with crazy mid century addition on the front that I have driven past a million times and have never seen before. What fun.

I encourage every to walk one place this week that they would normally drive to. Tell me what you see along that way that you don't see from your car...

posted by Rebecca Rowe, Preservation Program Coordinator


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I know my vote for next year's conference Keynote Speaker....

So tonight I get to do something I previously only thought about in my wildest dreams....

I get to post a blog about two of our favorite office topics of conversation as of late - preservation (we always talk about this, it's what we do) and Edward Norton (we always talk about this when we're taking a mental break from what we do. It's what he does for us).

Now, I know you're likely scoffing and thinking "what is that crazy woman talking about?" Yes, I know, hot actors and preservation aren't usual bedfellows. They don't mix, much like Dick Cheney and West Virginians, Dick Cheney and rifles...hell, Dick Cheney and anything for that matter...but stick with me here. I promise by the end you'll see that Ed Norton and preservation really go hand in hand.

Now, for those of you not familiar with actor Ed Norton, he's in the upcoming release of The Hulk and has starred in such films as American History X, Fight Club and The Painted Veil, directed by Rochester's own John Curran.

This is a photo of him, his head obviously filled with dreams of being in Rochester.

And, just because I enjoy sharing, here is Ed holding his hand in the shape of an "L" which coincidentally is what my name starts with...

But I digress. This isn't the blog of my Ed Norton thoughts, although that might be fun. This is about preservation and other things.

I wasn't aware that Norton is on the board of Enterprise Community Partners. The non-profit organization was founded by his grandfather, James Rouse, who is a well-known developer known for his work in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, among other projects. One of Enterprise's main concerns is sustainable low-income housing. To that end, Norton recently appeared before the US House of Representatives Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to ask for a commitment on behalf of the federal government for green construction.

He asserted that whether you believe in global warming or not, there are some serious steps that have to be taken to protect the Earth and climate change, and the fastest way to do that is to reduce energy waste in buildings.

"The most cost effective ways to do that are by retrofitting existing buildings, while the deepest energy and greenhouse gas reductions can be made in new buildings as they come online," Norton testified. "We must address existing and new buildings and in each case major gains are achievable by applying what we know today."

Norton, along with several other leaders and dignitaries such as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, addressed the panel. Newsom talked to the benefits of implementing LEED energy conservation standards to San Francisco’s building stock. He also asserted that non-green buildings may becoming "obsolete" in the future.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation released comments related to this, which said that "older and historic buildings are not considered 'obsolete' simply because of their age and condition because they are already 'green buildings' based on the embodied energy contained within these existing structures." These comments, not surprisingly, were in line with their sustainability initiative. (which Katie did a fantastic article on in our Summer Special Landmarks newsletter. You may read the article online here. )

This whole thing excited me to no end...and no, not just because of Ed Norton. Also, I am, of course, completely simplifying the entire Congressional hearing to serve the purpose of this post. However, this is a roundabout way to get people to think about the new "green" initiatives in a different light and realize our missions really do overlap quite a bit. Preservation isn't on the outside - we're right in the middle of it all. See, our job is not just about preserving the past for the sake of history - it's about creating a sustainable future while not destroying where we came from. Sounds like the same mantra all the neo-environmentalists are fashionably waving about, doesn't it?

But then again let's also remember this is a thread about Ed Norton. Lest you forget, worlds are colliding, people! I'm not just talking 'greenies' meeting preservationistas here....this is personal. What we have here is a political junkie and a film nerd who works in preservation whose main celeb crush Ed Norton is now testifying to Congress about something that has to do with her job?!

It's a sign. Obviously.

So Ed, babe, call me. We clearly have a lot to discuss. Over dinner. And wine.

Posted by Laura Zavala, Director of Marketing


Summer Time - My Favorite Things!

Summer school break is approaching, which means my days at Rush Henrietta High School are almost finished for the school year. But that doesn't mean I'm done teaching! Besides my work for the RH School district, I'm also the lead teacher for the Landmark Society's summer history day camp, Pioneer Days. I really look forward to spending time at the Stone-Tolan House Museum, surrounded by my favorite things.

One of the things I like best about Pioneer Days is that it mixes two of my favorite things: History and Teaching.

Okay, three things: History, Teaching and Kids.

Okay, four things: History, Teaching, Kids, and Crafts.

I just love getting to spend the warm part of the year outside walking kids through what I am passionate about. There is nothing like helping a group of kids piece together a part of history whether they are physically doing so with an artifact or mentally doing so as they make a realization about history that hits home with them.

The great thing about Pioneer Days is instead of just a small chunk of class time, I get to spend a whole week with a group of kids. This gives us a chance to dive into parts of pioneer life that we wouldn’t get an opportunity to otherwise. In school or even during a field trip, kids can get an overview of what life might be like. But, at Pioneer Days, we have much more time to spend on what the kids are interested in. We get to dig in the dirt, put artifacts together, come up with stories about what life might have been like, and make smaller versions of what they used in their homes.

Another great aspect is life at camp is very flexible. If a group of campers a particular week are interested in anthropology, we spend more time working with artifacts; if they are interested in domestic skills, we spend more time sewing and learning about how to run a house 19th century style; if they are more interested in how a whole homestead worked, we spend more time working with tools. Each week the program varies just as the campers vary.

If you know a kid that’s currently in 3rd through 6th grade, it’s not too late to register for Pioneer Days. We’re offering five different weeks of fun. Check out all the details on our website at Just scroll down on the home page, and you’ll find the Camp article.

Just be warned, that kid may come away with a list of favorite things similar to mine: history, teaching, kids, crafts – and Pioneer Days!

Posted by Anna Worden, Lead Teacher, Pioneer Days Camp

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ellwanger Garden's glory

I had the pleasure of working at Ellwanger Garden last Thursday. I arrived about 8:45 a.m. and read my morning paper in the sunshine, sipping coffee and enjoying the garden's gorgeous scenery.

As much as I loathe the Rochester winters, nothing beats the glory of a Rochester spring!

Here are some photos I snapped as I walked around.

What a way to start the work day, eh? No complaints here. If you haven't experienced this living museum, owned and maintained by The Landmark Society, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It's fabulous!

posted by Laura Zavala, Director of Marketing

Congratulations to a former trustee!

At the Preservation League of New York State’s Historic Preservation Awards Ceremony/Annual Meeting in New York City on May 15, former Landmark Society trustee Trude Brown Fitelson was recognized for her long-time preservation efforts in the Thousand Island Park, Jefferson County. A seasonal resident of TIP since childhood, Trude spends most of her time there (in the family’s restored 1880s cottage) as “preservationist-in-residence,” coordinating, coaxing, cajoling, encouraging, patrolling, negotiating, educating, promoting, regulating, advising …… and any other task you need to keep preservation activities before the public/residents/administrators of this “northern Chautauqua” summer colony. Her idea of “summer in TIP” means a 7-day work week addressing the preservation needs there (in addition to maintaining her real estate office commitments). Trude has worked with LSWNY staff for over 20 years, frequently consulting us about specific projects, problems & preservation board needs at TIP.

Trude was the only person honored in the category of INDIVIDUAL EXCELLENCE. Congratulations, Trude, on this well-deserved honor!

Other categories/honorees were:


Webb Lofts, Buffalo, Erie Co.

MacNaughton House Stabilization, Newcomb, Essex County

U.S. Post Office & Courthouse, Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn, Kings Co.

Downtown Revitalization Program, Canajoharie, Montgomery Co.

Eldridge Street Synagogue, Lower East Side, NYC, New York Co.

Proctor’s Theatre, Schenectady, Schenectady Co.

Hotel Kirkland, Kingston, Ulster Co.

Model Development Blick, New Rochelle, Westchester Co.


Hudson Valley chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors, Wappingers Falls, Dutchess Co.


“Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks” by Anthony C. Wood

Posted by Cynthia Howk, Architectural Research Coordinator