The Preservation League of NYS has announced this year’s Excellence in Historic Preservation Award winners. The Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards recognize notable achievements in historic preservation throughout New York State.
2020 Awardees are described by the Preservation League of NYS as follows:
River House Project | Hudson, Columbia County
This 1903 red-brick building in the Hudson Historic District served as a school until it closed in the mid-1960s. Aside from a short-lived stint as a textile assembly site, it sat vacant and fell into significant disrepair until Melissa Auf der Maur and Tony Stone took ownership of the building in 2015. The League was happy to be a resource back when the River House Project was first getting underway – we encouraged using historic tax credits – and we are delighted to see what a complete and impeccable transformation has occurred thanks to the people behind this preservation success story. This 19,000-square foot space is now home to a creative coworking space focused on film, media, and innovation.
Fire Watchtower at Marcus Garvey Park | Manhattan, New York County
Constructed in 1856, this Fire Watchtower is a New York City Landmark, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of America’s oldest surviving cast iron framed structures. Firefighters could watch over the community from this tower, and alert local fire companies to a fire by ringing a bell. But when pull boxes rendered fire watchtowers obsolete in the 1870s, the system was discontinued and other towers were torn down. Community support saved the tower back in the 1870s, but by the late 20th century, this structure had fallen into disrepair and was near collapse. Harlem residents rallied to protect the tower from demolition once again. In collaboration with several city agencies, the team at Thornton Tomasetti did a wonderful job preserving the watchtower’s historic character while making modern adjustments that will keep it standing tall for years to come.
Henry Street Settlement – Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center | Manhattan, New York County
Built in the 1880s, this four-story firehouse was designed by Napoleon LeBrun — who helped define the FDNY’s expression of civic architecture throughout the city. This firehouse operated continuously until September 11, 2001 and remained vacant and deteriorating until 2017 when the nonprofit Henry Street Settlement took ownership of the building. In 2019, the newly opened Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center would once again allow this building to be of service to its community, offering programs that provide assistance with food stamps, health insurance, employment resources, mental health, parenting help, and access to financial and legal assistance.
Ethel T. Chamberlain House | Syracuse, Onondaga County
Formerly the Sagamore Apartment Complex, this post-World War I apartment building was built in 1926 and was home to the rising middle class of Syracuse. Vacant since 1990, this property was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2017. The redevelopment of this property overcame deterioration due to decades of neglect and extensive fire damage. The team at Housing Visions made every effort to save the building’s historic details while prioritizing sustainability (a solar array was installed on the roof, for example). Today it houses the Salvation Army’s Women’s Shelter which provides much needed permanent housing solutions and on-site support staff.
The Restoration & Adaptive Reuse of Building 207 | Fort Totten, Queens County
Building 207 was built in 1905. It is one of 80 purpose-built structures to house officers and soldiers, and one of over 100 buildings located within the 136-acre historic district Fort Totten Park. The building had been vacant since 1969, before the Center For the Women of New York negotiated with the NYC Parks Department to turn it into their new headquarters in 2002. Page Ayres Cowley Architecture, the firm that led the restoration work, did a remarkable job adapting this site for modern everyday use.
The Architecture of Downtown Troy: An Illustrated History by Diana S. Waite | Troy Rensselaer County
The League is honored to present an award for a deserving publication to author, and member of the League’s Trustees Council, Diana S. Waite. The Architecture of Downtown Troy delves into the history of significant buildings in downtown Troy and details how they were designed and constructed. Through a combination of archival and contemporary photography, the reader is able to discover the importance of preservation in shaping an important American city, discovering its past and how that past has been brought into the present. Drawing attention to what has been lost versus what remains, we believe this book to be influential in stimulating more investment in downtown Troy.
Cropsey Farm Barn Restoration & Rehabilitation | New City, Rockland County
This barn rehabilitation demonstrates a dedication to preserving New York’s agricultural heritage. The former owners established a covenant to ensure this land would continue to serve an agricultural purpose before transferring ownership to Rockland County. The local Community Supported Agriculture association is now the primary user of the rehabilitated 1796 Dutch barn, growing and selling organic produce. The entire property, including the Historic Barn and Bunkhouse, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. The barn underwent considerable repairs including its lifting for the purpose of timber repair and placement of a new foundation. This rehabilitation re-establishes not only its status as a local landmark but also points to the importance of the numerous barn structures across New York State in need of rehabilitation.
Restoration of the Yaddo Mansion | Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County
A federally designated National Historic Landmark, Yaddo is a unique institution that has encouraged and inspired artists of all disciplines from all over the world since 1926. Yaddo welcomes over 200 artists every year. Suffering from deterioration for many years, a major rehabilitation began several years ago focused on restoring the building envelope and the replacement of certain mechanical systems. This project was led by Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson. Collectively, Yaddo artists have won 77 Pulitzer Prizes, 31 MacArthur Fellowships, 69 National Book Awards, and a Nobel Prize. With the completion of these important restorations, they will be able to host the nation’s best artists for another 100 years.
Rehabilitation of Dr. Ferguson’s Office | Glens Falls, Warren County
Built to house the medical practice of prominent doctor James Ferguson in 1870, this petite National Register-listed building is unique in that it typifies a high French Second Empire Style in an unusually small 20′ x 20′ building. The city of Glens Falls had solicited demolition bids, but there was wide community support in favor of saving it. When no one had stepped up, general contractor Darren Tracy and his wife Lisa came forward with an offer to purchase it — and the city council agreed to sell it to them for $1. It was saved from its deteriorated state by exhaustive rehabilitation and serves as an example of what preservation-minded individuals can accomplish in cooperation with municipalities all across New York State.
The 2020 Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards were made possible by The Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation.
Photo of Ethel T. Chamberlain House provided by Preservation League of NYS.