Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is Santa visiting your house this Christmas?

Happy Holidays!!

“It's the most wonderful time of the year …with the kids jingle-belling, and everyone telling you "Be of good cheer…"

This being the most wonderful time of year got me thinking about Santa. Kids believe Santa climbs down the chimney, but how can he do that without a fireplace? See, there is another great benefit of living in a historic house. Your kids can actually believe you. (So while preservation may be the most sustainable and green way of living, it’s all the little details of historic properties make the experience even more enriching!)

A lot of activities and end-of-the-year celebrations are happening at The Landmark Society, along with planning for some incredible things to come in 2010. We would like to thank all of our members, readers, supporters, fans and friends for their generosity and interest. It is only because of you all that we are able to do such great work and be an important resource for our community. We wish you all very happy holidays!

Image source: Angela Wyant/Getty Images

Posted by Nimisha Thakur, Preservation Associate

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How's THIS for adaptive reuse

The most beautiful, um, Pizza Hut?

I came across this article via the National Trust for Historic Preservation's press room (a fantastic place to get daily preservation news, btw...) and had to share.

So without further ado, I offer you...The Most Beautiful Pizza Hut in the World

I offer no pithy prose, just a "wow, ain't this cool" moment to share. Just goes to show that innovative adaptive reuse can be found in the strangest of places. Consider the unique dining experience this Pizza Hut offers over its other cookie-cutter locales. And, most importantly, what could you do in your town?

Smart. Sustainable and smart. And gorgeous. Enjoy the read.

(photo by Annie Scott from gadling.com)

posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Times Square Building in the spotlight

I am lucky enough to have a window in my office that offers a view of the magnificent Wings of Progress atop the Times Square Building in downtown Rochester. On a sunny day like today, they are quite a sight to behold (and would be better still if not partially blocked by the Public Safety Building - oh well!).

The cornerstone for the Times Square Building was laid on October 29, 1929, the day of the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression. Despite its inauspicious beginning, the Times Square Building, then the tallest skyscraper in downtown Rochester (and second-tallest building in the city after Kodak Tower), became the most distinctive element in our skyline. Its architect, Ralph T. Walker, got his inspiration for the wings from seashells he set together on edge at the beach. He noted that they suggested "a sense of flight ... a sense of upward lift," a perfect metaphor for the new possibilities created by the early-twentieth century skyscraper.

Stone carvings on the building, also in the Art Deco style, depict motifs like Security and Trust (apt for what was originally the home of the Genesee Valley Trust bank). A mural in the main banking hall by Carl Peters depicted the historical development of Rochester and its 1930 skyline. The interior was designed to be modern, yet conservative, conveying the bank's stability.

The building began attracting attention in architectural circles before its completion, and remains widely admired today. Its fans include a blogger from Australia who is a fan of Art Deco architecture and featured it in a post today. (Along with a nice link to our walking tour - thanks!)

In addition to our admiration for the building, we at The Landmark Society can claim a special connection to the building: our trustee and incoming board president, Henry Williams, is descended from one of the bank's vice presidents who presided over the opening of the building in September 1930.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Monday, November 23, 2009

You like me! You really like me!

Chase Community Giving is donating $5,000,000 to charities around the USA. Facebook users are voting for the recipients.

If you're on Facebook, we'd sure appreciate it if you'd click on the box below, become a fan of Chase Community Giving, and then cast your vote for us!

(And just in case you're not a fan of Landmark on Facebook, click here.)

posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tax credits for storm windows and doors?

The following is from a listserv posting by Adrian Scott Fine, Director of the Center for State and Local Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is reposted here with permission from the National Trust.

There have been a lot of questions recently about the eligibility of storm windows/doors for the $1,500 stimulus tax credit -- through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The new law increases (from $500 in 2007) the energy tax credit for homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their existing homes, raising the amount to 30% or up to $1,500 towards qualifying improvements placed in service in 2009/2010. The 2009 and 2010 rules establish a higher threshold for the credit that was available in 2007 for products that qualify as “energy efficient” for purposes of this tax credit.

Question: Do storm windows/doors qualify for the $1,500 tax credit. Answer: YES!

Despite some confusion and misleading information, storm windows and doors do qualify for the tax credit. This chart (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index#c1) from the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Star clearly lists storm windows/doors as eligible products for the tax credit.

Question: Are all storm windows/doors eligible? Answer: NO.

As stated earlier, the 2009/2010 provisions established a higher standard than in 2007 and all eligible storm windows/doors (purchased from June 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010) must have a U-value of 0.30 or lower and solar heat gain coefficient of 0.30 or lower. Here’s where the main problem lies regarding questions on eligibility. While it is common for new windows to offer specific qualifications regarding performance, it is a difficult to assess for storm windows/doors. Measuring the U-value and solar heat gain of storm windows/doors depends on the performance of the existing window in combination with a storm window, which will always be a case-by-case basis. This can only be tested after storm windows/doors are installed and will vary greatly from building to building.

While some storm window/door manufacturers are marketing their products in conjunction with the tax credit, others are not because the performance standard is difficult to substantiate for all cases. Some are listing classes of exterior windows (single pane, clear glass, double pane, low-E coating, etc.) that a product may be combined with to be eligible in specific climate zones (for a map, go to http://resourcecenter.pnl.gov/cocoon/morf/ResourceCenter/dbimages/full/973.jpg).


Question: What do I need to claim the tax credit? Answer: MANUFACTUER’S CERTIFICATION STATEMENT

A Manufacturer’s Certification Statement is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the product or component qualifies for the tax credit. Taxpayers must keep a copy of the certification statement for their records, but do not have to submit a copy with their tax return. Some manufacturers are providing these Certificates on their website. Other manufacturers are not, taking a more conservation approach and not issuing these certificates since it’s difficult to substantiate on a case-by-case basis. Though there are others, two storm window/door manufacturers that do provide certificates are Gorell (http://www.gorell.com/pages/energy_tax_incentive_act.htm) and Kaufmann (http://www.kaufmannwindow.com/2009energytaxcredit.htm).

As always, please check with your tax advisor for advice.

**Also, for more information on the stimulus funding, and constantly-expanding case studies, check out the Perfect Storm webpage(s) on PreservationNation at http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/public-policy/perfect-storm/


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Live greener, and save money, too!

Are you interested in living greener?

Tomorrow night we're offering a special workshop on practical, sensible ways to make your living space greener and healthier.

When you hear phrases like "green design" and "sustainable technologies," you may think about new construction with high-tech energy-saving gizmos, but as you probably know, reusing a building is the best way to go green on a big scale! Of course, existing buildings can and should be sensitively upgraded so that they operate as efficiently as possible. At tomorrow night's workshop, Jay Tovey, president of Tovey Co., a Certified Green Professional and a nationally recognized expert on energy efficiency in home remodeling, will share practical tips on making existing houses and renovation projects greener and healthier for you and for the planet. He'll provide specific tips about greening historic houses, but the workshop is applicable to old and new houses alike. Don't miss it!

The workshop will be held this Wednesday, November 18, at the Rochester Home Builders Association, 20 Wildbriar Road in Henrietta, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 advance, $30 at the door, free with new membership in The Landmark Society.
Advance registration is strongly recommended - buy online or call us at 546-7029.

Architects can earn two AIA CES credits for attending this workshop.

For more details, see our website.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Monday, November 16, 2009

Eagle Scout Project at Stone-Tolan

Saturday, October 24, 2009 saw the completion of an Eagle Scout candidate’s project designed to satisfy the curiosity of visitors to the Landmark Society’s Stone-Tolan House Museum property who ask, "What is that tree? What is that shrub? What is that herb? His idea was to produce permanent labels for the noteworthy plants on the grounds. As Horticulturist for the Landmark Society, I had spent hours rewriting labels every year that had become faded or had deteriorated due to their exposure to the weather. I was happy to supervise his worthy endeavor.

Timothy Castelein, a member of Tay House, Seneca Waterways Council, Inc.(formerly Otetiana Council, Inc.), Boy Scouts of America, worked for most of the summer to establish labeling systems for the many kinds of plants on the property. He sought advice about proper nomenclature so that he could include both the scientific and common names of the plants on the labels. He worked diligently to make corrections to an existing list of plants and worked with me to identify which plants should be labeled. He learned how to use the labeling machine at the County Parks’ Lamberton Conservatory and produced the 115 anodized -aluminum permanently-stamped labels he needed for the project and then determined the best ways to attach the labels to trees, shrubs and herbs. For the herb garden he was careful to choose a material for the stakes that would not leach chemicals into the soil. Instead of pressure-treated wood, he found a composite waterproof product made from recycled materials. We are grateful to the Monroe County Parks Department for granting Timothy permission to use their labeling machine.

Timothy was required to supervise a group of people as one of the criteria for his Eagle Scout award so he enlisted the help of some other scouts to cut the stakes and attaché the labels to them with epoxy.

When it came time to place the labels on the plants he organized a group of volunteers and friends who met early on a Saturday morning and worked hard to accomplish the task. His preparation and leadership skills made short work of the jobs. Everyone seemed to be having fun learning about the plants and sharing information. I certainly enjoyed working with these energetic young people and some of their parents.

It was evident immediately that the project was a success when one of our docents, staff member Sharon Pratt arrived to open the Stone-Tolan House Museum for our usual Saturday tours. She was thrilled to see the new labels on the plants and said that the scheduled school tours in the next couple of weeks would be enhanced by the information now readily available to all comers. And I saw the benefit as visitors to the property started reading the labels as we were preparing to leave for the day.

Timothy deserves the gratitude of the Landmark Society of Western New York and all of the future visitors to our Stone-Tolan House Museum for a job well done!

Posted by Beverly Gibson, The Landmark Society Horticulturist

Monday, November 9, 2009

Siding for your historic house - Assessment • Treatment • Maintenance

Second in Your Old House Workshop Fall’ 09 Series

On Nov 2’09 Landmark Society had its second session for Your Old house workshop. The speaker for this session was Mr. Peter Trieb, a preservation consultant with over 30 years of experience. He has his own company named Preservation Matters in Lima New York. Peter’s love for the field of preservation began when his family bought a historic house in Lima almost 35 years ago and ever since, he has been fascinated with historic buildings and has devoted his life to the practice of preservation.

Peter started his talk by giving an overview on how to do a comprehensive survey of a building to look for possible causes of deterioration. He said that time and moisture are the two main enemies of the building. According to him, the best approach to follow in preservation projects is minimal intervention. He believes “less is more” in preservation.

From here he delved into different replacement siding materials including vinyl, aluminum, sheet goods like plywood (T-111), pressboard and masonite. He tried to unravel the myths associated with Synthetic siding such as synthetic siding “protects your property” or is “maintenance-free”. He mentioned that covering the historic building with replacement siding is never a solution instead it further invites more problem, as it becomes a trap for moisture.

He then talked about different siding types including horizontal and vertical siding and mentioned about their properties. With this brief description, he talked about the installation process and what does it involve. He gave us a detailed description of each part and issue involved in the installation of siding covering topics like preparation, house-wraps, ventilation, flashing, membranes, caulking and painting.
He greatly emphasized the significance of historic buildings and mentioned repeatedly that old houses should not be treated like new houses. One must be extremely cautious when using new materials on historic buildings and should carefully assess their effects.

He also talked about different maintenance strategies such as reactive maintenance, unfocussed maintenance and efficient maintenance. He said that a pro-active approach takes one a long way in the care and maintenance of their historic house.
This was a very extensive talk but Peter made it look very simple and easily do-able. He answered many questions during the talk including the use of new materials like hard board cement clapper boards. It was an extremely informative session and all our attendees thoroughly enjoyed it.

A special thanks to Peter for his lovely presentation, Morse Lumber for providing their space for the session and all of you who attended the session.

Posted by Nimisha Thakur, Preservation Associate

Friday, November 6, 2009

Providing Comfort Heating and Cooling for your Historic House

First in Fall Your Old house Series

On October 19, Landmark Society began its fall series of Your Old House Workshops. The first presenter for the series was Dave Feldman- owner of Feldman Heating and Cooling Inc, a locally renowned HVAC company for over 90 years. Dave brought with him an interesting blend of practice and education to his session. He is an adjunct faculty on the MCC’s HVAC program.

Mr Feldman started his talk with a brief overview of different methods of heating a historic house including wood fireplace, coal stoves, coal fired steams, gravity hot water and warm air. He talked about the advantages of different methods and mentioned that steam has much better distribution and was the premium system till early 1900s. By that time the trades were in place where pipe fitters did plumbing work and sheet metal workers did roofing and architectural sheet metal.

He mentioned about the modernization and the changes due to new technological developments. By mid 1930’s electrification allowed for circulating pumps on hot water systems, electric stokers on coal fired systems and vacuum steam systems. Vacuum steam was a big improvement as it speeded steam distribution and more importantly it allowed the steam temperature to be controlled. Many houses on Sandringham and Ambassador St had this system. After WW II Rochester had many homes converted from coal to either oil or natural gas.

With this background on historic systems, Mr Feldman transitioned into the current heating systems and talked about condensing furnaces, boilers and steam pumps. He stated that the fossil fuel costs have risen in the last few years and the combination of a heat pump and a fossil fuel furnace have proven to increase efficiency.

As for air-conditioning older homes, he cited that comfort cooling is not a matter of temperature reduction. It requires removal of humidity from the air at the same time as the temperature is reduced. Comfort cooling systems may be central, like a traditional ducted forced air system. They could also be specialty ducted such as Unico or Spacepac, or spot cooling may be provided with ductless air conditioning systems such as those from Mitsubishi and Sanyo.

Overall it was an extremely informative session and the interactive nature of the workshop made it all the more engaging. Mr Feldman answered numerous questions from the audience and most attendees enjoyed that. Some questions touched upon important issues like district heat and fuel cells.

Landmark Society would like to thank all the people who attended the session and would encourage them to attend the next sessions too! A special thanks to Mr Feldman for his time, effort and most importantly his understanding, as we faced some technical difficulties during the session and he gracefully took it in his stride. Also not to forget, architects got 2 AIA CES credits for attending one session!

Posted by Nimisha Thakur, Preservation Associate

Confused about lead? We'll help you get the facts.

I have young kids, and I live in a house built in the 1920s. Naturally, I have wondered at times whether the lead that is undoubtedly in some of the paint used on my house before the 1970s is posing any harm to my kids. There seems to be conflicting information everywhere: I hear that the paint is safe as long as my kids don't eat it; that they are in danger if they touch a windowsill even if there's no visibly peeling paint; that the lead around my foundation is likely contaminated; that the best thing to do is leave it alone - or strip it - or keep my windows closed - or clean regularly - or replace my windows - or...

What's a parent to do? And what about people who don't have young kids at home - do they need to worry?

To get some answers, we asked the folks from the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning to share their expertise on this issue. They'll help us sort out when and why lead paint poses a danger, and how to safely deal with it in ways that also respect the integrity of your historic house. This practical workshop will be held at the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, 1150 University Avenue, on Monday, November 9, at 6:30 p.m. The workshop is $25/advance, $30 at the door; or free with a new membership to The Landmark Society. You can register using our secure server. For more details, see the full schedule of Your Old House workshops or call (585) 546-7029.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Preserving REAL GREEN

Having read so much about how “green” it is to adapt and reuse old buildings, which I heartily support by the way, I thought it was time for me to add my perspective to the tide of articles dealing with eco-friendly practices.

Once upon a time George Ellwanger, noted horticulturist, planted (or so I assume) a Wier’s Cut-Leaved Silver Maple next to his mansion at 625 Mt. Hope Ave. This tree was introduced to the nursery trade by Ellwanger and Barry Nurseries and documented in their 1872 Mt. Hope Nursery catalog with the following words:

“We have the pleasure of offering for the first time this elegant novelty-one of the most remarkable and beautiful trees with cut or dissected foliage yet introduced. Its growth is rapid, shoots slender and drooping, giving it a habit almost as graceful as the Cut-Leaved Birch. The foliage is abundant, silvery underneath, and, on the young wood especially, deeply and delicately cut. The leaf stalks are long and tinted with red on the upper surface. We believe it will rank at once among the most interesting and attractive lawn trees, and may be easily adapted to small spaces by an occasional cutting back, which it will bear to any degree necessary, as well as a willow.”

The tree did grow rapidly and very large. It dominated one side of the house along with the purple beech tree planted nearby. Sadly, in 2006 when the new owner of the Ellwanger Estate hired a professional tree evaluation service to examine all of the trees on the property, the Wier’s Cut-Leaved Silver Maple was deemed a hazard to the house and slated for removal.

Now I had great affection for that tree having enjoyed its stature and its beauty for the many years I had worked in Ellwanger Garden. Many birds and animals called it home and its delicate, drooping branches formed a soft green backdrop for the vivid colors in the garden. So I when the saws and trucks arrived to take it down, I gathered some small branches from the crown of the toppled tree and delivered them to Oriental Garden Supply in Pittsford with a plea to try to propagate a replica or two.

Three years hence, after annual visits to my green charges so carefully tended by the folks at the nursery, I am delighted to report that there are five clones of the very tree that cooled the house at 625 Mt. Hope Ave. for over a century. And what clones! They started out as eight-inch cuttings and now stand almost seven feet tall. Springtime, 2010 will see a “Son of Wier’s Cut-Leaved Maple” growing on the Ellwanger Estate property and in a very few years the branches will gracefully sweep the sky.

And I am thankful to have helped preserve a piece of Rochester’s horticultural history “in the flesh” or should I say “in the bark”.

In the photo: Al Pfieffer, owner of Oriental Garden Supply, displays one of the seven foot tall "babies." Photo by Tom Ewart of Love Arboreal.

Posted by Beverly Gibson
Landmark Society Horticulturist

Monday, November 2, 2009

It is rightly said, adversity brings opportunity… so how many of us are ready to take the challenge?

Did you know you can you do the repairs around the house that you would normally not do…? It's true!

In these harsh economic times, each one of us is looking for ways to cut costs and save expenses. The Landmark Society feels your pain! With our Your Old House Workshops, we present you with a great opportunity to save money.

This fall’s workshops will arm you with effective, innovative and easily implemented tools to save you money by doing home repairs yourself instead of having to pay a contractor. The topics for this series rightfully address your concerns and are carefully chosen with the current dynamics of economic turmoil in mind. You will learn to do big repairs like fixing your siding, but at the same time will also learn how little things like installing programmable thermostats, washing clothes in cold water and drying them on a clothesline can help you lower your energy bills and have consistent savings over a long period of time.

Having emphasized the significance of low economic times, The Landmark Society helps you all the more by offering a free session worth $25 if you become a member. This is a great deal! Membership gets you lower prices for all our events year long, and your dollars go towards our mission work to actively engage in preservation and planning practices that foster healthy, livable and sustainable communities. This is a no –brainer! If you haven’t registered yet, do it now! To register, please use our secure server or call (585) 546-7029 x10.

To top it all, if you are an architect, you get 2 AIA CES credits for each session.

Schedule and program of classes:

November 2, 2009, Monday: Siding for Your Historic House - Assessment, Treatment and Maintenance
In this session you will learn about siding materials and installation procedures. You will also be able to investigate reasons for materials’ deterioration and understand repair and replacement methods. This will help you assess the amount of work required to do these repairs. You can choose to do it yourself or if not, at least make sure that a contractor does not fool you.
Instructor: Peter Trieb, Preservation consultant and owner of Preservation Matters
Location: Morse Lumber, 40 Jarley Road, Henrietta
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $ 25, $30 at door (or free with new membership in The Landmark Society!)

November 9, 2009: Monday: Identifying and Addressing Residential Lead Paint Hazards
This session will help you identify potential residential lead paint hazards and give you specific answers to what’s involved in getting tested and cleared for lead paint hazards. Most importantly it will give you a sense of the expected costs for remediation and help you understand lead safe work practices.
Instructors: Elizabeth McDade, Program Coordinator, Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning and Sue Kreiser, President, Jade Enterprises of Rochester, Inc.
Location: Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, 1150 University Avenue, Rochester
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $ 25, $30 at door (or free with new membership in The Landmark Society!)

November 18, 2009, Wednesday: Green Systems and Practices for the Health of Your House
This session will help you understand benefits of “green” design and practices and how these principles can be incorporated into existing homes and home renovations. You will also learn about the key reasons, why your house is not energy efficient and solutions to improve it through mechanical systems and other ways.
Instructor: Jay Tovey, Tovey Building Co.
Location: Rochester Home Builders Association, 20 Wildbriar Road, Henrietta
Time: 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Cost: $ 25, $30 at door (or free with new membership in The Landmark Society!)

To register, please use our secure server or call (585) 546-7029 x10.

Posted by Nimisha Thakur, Preservation Associate


Saving Main Streets in Livingston County, NY

WOW, what a turnout Thursday October 29th at the Enhancing Main Street: Making Upper Floors Work Again program in the Village of Mt. Morris, New York (.pdf).

Approximately 90 attendees from 11 counties were represented! The program, provided by the Preservation League of New York State , has also been offered as part of The Landmark Society of Western New York’s Annual Preservation Conference (insert link to a save the date/more info coming soon page on LSWNY website?).

Cheers to the Livingston County Development Corporation , the Alliance for Business Growth , and the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Livingston County Planning Department , and the Association of Village Boards of Livingston County for their support and understanding of the business of historic preservation!

It was particularly exciting to hear the latest on the increased potential for historic preservation and rehabilitation projects with the enhanced tax credits program that will go into effect in NYS in 2010 ).

There was also some interesting buzz around a project recently completed by a group of concerned and, clearly organized, citizens in Perry, NY. The project discussion came up during the closing question and answer session and I hope to hear more about that initiative at The Landmark Society’s Annual Preservation Conference in Palmyra, NY in April 2010.

Historic preservation promotes job creation and serves as an effective economic engine for a more diverse, and subsequently, more stable, economy…something our upstate NY communities need! In fact, according to the 2008 National Trust for Historic preservation report, “Economic Development: A Vision for the Obama Administration”, historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings produces a greater number of both temporary and permanent jobs. For every $1 million spent to rehabilitate a building, there are five more temporary construction jobs and 4.7 more permanent jobs created than with new construction projects alone.

Judging from the turnout, and the projects shared, this is something our upstate NY communities understand, are committed to and are working diligently towards!

Maranne McDade Clay
Landmark Society of Western New York


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is it really preservation? Let's call Midtown plan what it really is.

Our Director of Preservation Services, Katie Comeau, attended last week's press event where plans to proceed with the Midtown Plaza project were announced. We were excited to learn the tower structure will be re-purposed – that's a great 'green' strategy.

What struck us, however, was the variance in understanding of what constitutes the language of preservation and reuse, and the retention of historic fabric.

This proposal, in fact, still involves demolishing the atrium and clearing nearly all of a site deemed eligible for the National Register based on "exceptional significance," and will totally alter what is being saved (i.e. the tower will be brought down to the structural steel – retaining none of its historic fabric). Clearly the mall, as we know it is not being "renovated."

All of us, probably along with the entire western New York region, hope this project turns out to be great for the revitalization of the city, yet we remain conflicted when we know that we are losing some unique opportunities to redevelop the atrium in particular. And, as educators, we want to make sure that we all speak the same language and should not blur our understanding of what constitutes 'preservation.' Preservation of this site would mean keeping the structural bones of the complex of buildings and modifying them through a restoration or adaptive reuse that respects its historic integrity.

Let's call this exciting new project what it is – new construction that incorporates structural elements from a previous construction.

Posted by Joanne Arany, executive director


Monday, October 26, 2009

Charles Mulford Robinson

Imagine my pleasant surprise--combined with some mortification for not knowing sooner--when I learned that one of the pioneers in urban planning and planning education was a Rochesterian. Charles Mulford Robinson was not only a pioneering urban planner who took the lead on plans for several American cities, but was also a leading planning theorist, journalist, and writer. He also was one of the first teachers of planning and community design-- a Professor of Civic Design at the University of Illinois.

Certainly, some of Robinson's ideas unfortunately reflect the prevailing discriminatory views of his time, but even though I would disagree with and discredit some of his planning ideas as a result, I think raising his name from obscurity can serve as a great conversation-starter about community planning, design, and development--topics that more people need to be talking about more often!

A Wikipedia page for Robinson gives a decent overview:


And this excellent, detailed post from my former hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia gives a solid overview and critique of Robinson's ideas:


Robinson is buried in Rochester's famous Mount Hope Cemetery.

I have only once heard Robinson included in a list of prominent and important Rochesterians. Hence, I have a(nother) new crusade: to make sure Rochester and the planning profession know about Charles Mulford Robinson! Including him on oft-spoken lists of prominent Rochesterians would not only honor his work, but again, get people thinking and talking about important community planning and design concepts and issues!

I wonder if Robinson is included in the popular and fascinating Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery walking tours. I will find out...

Thankfully, there's no shortage of information about Charles Mulford Robinson and his work on that amazing universe we call the internet. Try a search...

by Evan Lowenstein

Evan is the Coordinator of the RochesterCityLiving program at the Landmark Society.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Historic Preservation is not just about landmark designation…..

It is environmental planning, sustainability and healthy living

Last week I attended the Monroe County Land Use Workshop on Historic Preservation for Municipalities. It was refreshing to see professionals echoing the same sentiments that we deal with in our office every single day!

To me, this workshop was fascinating as it reinforced my ideologies about preservation and how it is not just about preserving a beautiful building, but also is a commitment to protect our built environment through sustainable practices and philosophies.

We are often asked if we designate buildings and help the owners in getting a landmark status. It’s a common misconception that we are the prime authority involved in the designation of a building just because our name is The Landmark Society. Actually, this is a federal procedure! We can surely help the building owners achieve this designation through our expertise and guidance. We try to work with people in our community as often as we can. This is something that was echoed by both the speakers that preservation is a communal effort and how each one of can us contribute towards it.

Amy Facca, preservation planner in the Field Services Bureau of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (SHPO), was the first speaker. She talked about historic preservation as a field and its perception in the general public, as well as an identification of who’s who in the field and federal, state and local laws. It seems that many share similar first impressions of historic preservation – that we’re just a group of people appealing to save a building at the eleventh hour. Amy explained it’s extremely hard to understand the complexity and boundaries of preservation since it’s a new field in the United States. She shared that preservation is not just the work of a professional, but also the responsibility of every citizen who cares for his/her community and its character. I totally understood her sentiment as I deal with it on a regular basis…this is perhaps the reason we work with communities and their individual preservation boards.

As examples, Amy mentioned various case studies in NY where innovative methods and techniques have been used. Each project highlighted key principles ranging from grassroots approaches to highly-innovative marketing strategies to promote community and economic revitalization. She concluded with a quote from famous preservation economist Donovan Rypkema: “Any community can duplicate your community’s water lines, industrial park or tax rate; no community can duplicate your historic and other place- based resources.” I think this very well summarizes our advocacy efforts!

Jayme Breschard, senior planner with the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council presented an interesting perspective about the inter-disciplinary and multifarious nature of the field of historic preservation. I am very much in sync with this thought process as I feel preservation is inherently sustainable and all our efforts should be directed in promoting this awareness.

Her talk focused on local historic preservation legislation and three prime principles of preservation— green building, environmental planning and quality of life. She presented very novel case studies from the local communities of western New York and how they each incorporated historic preservation towards a common goal of protecting community resources.

One of the best examples she gave was the story of the Palmyra Elementary Walking Route to Education and Wellness. This project involved construction of sidewalks, installation of bike racks and educational materials to encourage walking/biking to school. She also mentioned the Green Brighton Task Force- an initiative taken by the Town of Brighton to consider regulatory amendments to incorporate green principles and incentives to protect the existing housing stock of the neighborhood.

She had a very fascinating case study about South Shore Bay Houses in Long Island, which were floating homes, traditionally used as a shelter for fishermen. They were remnants of vernacular architecture of the region and were intrinsic to the cultural value of this area. She explained how such a project could be a part of the larger goal of preservation. She concluded her talk with various strategies used by different communities towards historic preservation planning and reasons for their success.

Overall, it was a thought provoking session exemplifying how preservation is a part of our daily lives and how we breathe in our built environment every single day of our lives!

Posted by Nimisha Thakur, Preservation Associate

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2009 Political Poll Results

In just a couple of weeks, we'll be heading to the polls. Wondering how your local candidates view historic preservation, downtown development, and other important issues? Check out our Candidate Questionnaire! We asked all candidates for county and city office, as well as for selected town offices, to answer a few questions about issues we think are especially important. Find out how they answered.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

See the spirits for yourself...

The ghosts have voices!!

Check out this awesome photo/video slideshow done by CITY Newspaper's Kathy Laluk.

Ghost Walk continues this weekend, October 23 & 24. More information here.

Thanks Kathy and CITY!

Posted by Laura Keeney Zavala, Director of Marketing

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Nashville whirlwind

I'm back from Nashville, where I spent most of last week at the National Trust's annual conference. Despite the miserable weather, it was a great week of catching up with colleagues, meeting new people, seeing some of the sights of Nashville, and being inspired by what our counterparts around the nation are doing. I came back with lots of new ideas and look forward to putting some of my new knowledge to work!

A few highlights:

* Music everywhere! Nashville makes the most of its status as "Music City" - and when it comes to heritage tourism, music is a great theme that is relevant to their history, the present, and the future. The Trust integrated music into the conference, starting off the opening and closing plenary sessions as well as special lectures with musical performances. I especially loved hearing the Fisk Jubilee Singers before the closing plenary. (Left: The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the incredible, Egyptian Revival Downtown Presbyterian Church)

* Sustainability, likewise, was everywhere - the Trust is hard at work to ensure that preservation and sustainability become linked in everyone's mind, not just the minds of us preservationists. I didn't get to Nashville in time to hear about the "Nashville Challenge," which involves aligning the preservation movement with nationwide sustainability efforts, but will be checking out follow-up materials about it. Educational sessions, field visits, and special lectures on the topic throughout the week ensured that we all got the message!

* The Parthenon - what can I say about this unusual local landmark. I visited as part of my overview bus tour of Nashville, which was tremendously interesting and quite educational. Our wonderful guide, a longtime Nashville preservationist, shared her insights about about various zoning techniques used to protect many neighborhoods, and it was interesting to see how these techniques are playing out. We visited Fisk University, saw "music row" (the center of the business side of the music business), circled the magnolia-lined perimeter of the not-bus-friendly Vanderbilt University campus, toured revitalizing neighborhoods, and stopped at the Parthenon for a tour and snacks. In case you aren't familiar with this Nashville site, it is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, constructed of plaster for Tennessee's Centennial Exposition in 1897 and rebuilt in concrete in the 20th century when the building had proved too beloved to be taken down with the other temporary exhibit buildings. Inside is a 42-foot statue of Athena, intended to replicate the one in the original Parthenon. (Left: The Parthenon, of course!)

* My session on local advocacy, held at 8:30 Saturday morning (yikes) was gratifyingly well attended for such a crummy time slot, and I thought it went very well. Rhonda Sincavage of the National Trust's policy department moderated; my fellow panelists were Mike Buhler of the Los Angeles Conservancy and Michelle Kimball of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. Despite our cities' very different sizes, geographical locations, and challenges, we found a lot of common themes in our approaches to advocacy. It was an interesting discussion to participate in, and I hope our audience enjoyed it and learned something! (Left: Michelle Kimball, me, Mike Buhler, and Rhonda Sincavage)

* The Hermitage was one of three sites I visited on a tour highlighting "Preservation Leadership Case Studies." We saw three models: the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's beloved home) is run by a very longstanding nonprofit organization; we visited 20th century historic house that was recently acquired by a greenways commission and will be rehabbed for a park use; and also toured an 1850s mansion owned by the city that is in need of some TLC and a more viable use. (Left: Visiting the Rachel and Andrew Jackson gravesite at The Hermitage)

* Laura Bush was the speaker at the annual Advocacy Luncheon; she talked about the Preserve America and Save America's Treasures programs, which she championed as First Lady. She told the assembled preservationists, "Whatever you're doing, you're making sure that future generations of Americans can enjoy the natural and historic treasures of our nation." (Left: Laura Bush at the Advocacy Luncheon)

* The Preservation Action auction and party, held at B.B. King's on Friday night, was fun, as always! I am a former PA intern and always happy to support this great cause. They are part of a coalition advocating for full funding of the Historic Preservation Fund, which supports critical preservation activities such as Section 106 review of federally funded projects, the National Register of Historic Places program, preservation grants, state preservation plans, and much more. Please read more about it and find out what you can do to help this important effort.

* The candlelight house tour featured East Nashville neighborhoods that reminded me of Corn Hill: wonderful 19th-century architecture; a legacy of terrible blight in the mid-20th century; renewal since the 1960s as houses have been rehabilitated. Unlike Corn Hill, they have also had to contend with an unusual string of disasters: a devastating fire in 1916 cut a wide swath through the neighborhood (its path visible today by the presence of bungalows rather than Queen Annes), followed by terrible tornadoes in 1933 and 1998 that similarly destroyed and damaged thousands of houses. (Left: One of the houses on the house tour)

* At the annual Preservation Awards Ceremony on Thursday evening, my favorite college professor, the incomparable Vincent Scully, received the Louise Crowninshield Award, the National Trust's highest award for lifetime achievement. As part of the ceremony, the speakers noted that many people were inspired to enter the preservation field by taking his classes, and I am one of those people. I took two of his classes, and could never get enough of his animated delivery, his incredible comparisons, and his awe-inspiring insights about architecture, nature, and humanity. It was a bittersweet moment, however, because Professor Scully was unable to attend due to ill health. (Left: The awards ceremony)

* Of course, it wasn't all tours and parties - I spent most of my time in educational sessions, which were informative and stimulating, as always. My favorite was a session titled "Preserving Housing in Low-Income Neighborhoods," where Brent Runyon, executive director of Thomasville Landmarks, and Amy Kissane, executive director of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, described programs in which v0lunteers rehabilitate houses in low-income historic neighborhoods. The programs are exciting, and the before and after photos are impressive! I also learned a lot in sessions on the recent past, the Trust's "Green Lab," providing effective field services, and more.

My trip was partially funded by a Partners National Preservation Conference Travel Grant, and I am so grateful for the National Trust for this assistance.

I brought back a huge pile of materials, notes, and brochures, and as I make my way through them, I hope to share more details on some of the most relevant information and ideas.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Live from Nashville

I'm in Nashville this week at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Annual Conference. It's exciting to have a chance to visit a city I might never have been to otherwise, although truth be told, I haven't seen much of it yet! I arrived in the rain late yesterday afternoon, attended a reception in the hotel last night, spent the day (rainy again) in training sessions in the hotel, and finally ventured out late this afternoon to go to the Opening Plenary Session at the historic Ryman Auditorium, the "mother church of country music."

After a few songs by a local singer/songwriter, we heard some news about new and continuing National Trust initiatives, and then our two keynote speakers took the stage. Dame Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust in England, spoke about her organization's programs in the sustainability arena, particularly their efforts to connect locally grown, seasonal food with a larger ethic of more sustainable living at their historic sites. She noted that western nations, whose lifestyles over the past 50 years have been so negatively impacting our global climate, need to change our ways and begin living in a more responsible, sustainable way, "and to help us, we have a recession." With the recession, people are finally starting to rethink the need to constantly buy more things, and are seeking out simpler, authentic activities to connect them with family and community - perfectly playing into our interests.

The second keynote speaker was author Bill McKibben, who talked about climate change and the need for immediate action to reduce emissions. He made the interesting point that climate threatens culture as well as the environment, in that our connection to past events and cultural patterns is certain to change. As an example, he pointed to Vermont, where he said forecasts indicate that by the end of the century there will be no more snow; how will we relate to Robert Frost's poetry about snowy New England woods when the New England woods have no more snow? He also showed us a short video from the Maldives, where the land is just a few feet about sea level; with rising sea levels, their entire country may cease to exist. Bill is involved in the organization 350.org, which is planning worldwide actions on October 24 to demand global action to combat this threat to our planet and our culture.

After the plenary session, I headed to the opening reception, held at an Art Deco post office converted into a gorgeous art museum, where I caught up with colleagues from the Trust and other organizations and met new people as well.

Tomorrow's schedule includes an overview bus tour of Nashville (I hope the skies clear so I can actually SEE Nashville by then!), the annual advocacy luncheon (Laura Bush is this year's keynote speaker), and afternoon sessions on sustainability and modern resources, followed by an evening candlelight tour of houses in East Nashville.

The National Trust is offering opportunities to be a "virtual attendee" of several sessions - check out their website to find out how!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services
(Photos: A view of Nashville "honkytonks," from the hotel; and the historic Ryman Auditorium after the plenary session.)