The Greece Historical Society (GHS) is the recipient of two grants totaling $30,000 to fund a Cultural Resource Survey of the architecture of noted Rochester African American architect Thomas W. Boyde, Jr.
The grants were awarded by the Preservation League of New York State and their program partners at the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
Thomas W. Boyde, Jr. is one of Rochester’s first and foremost African American architects. He was a prolific designer of Mid-Century Modern homes and businesses, but also did significant work designing buildings for economically disadvantaged communities.
Several of Boyde’s projects have been lost to demolition or have been severely altered. This survey will help identify his buildings, calling attention to them and hopefully averting further losses. Boyde’s built work spans across Western New York, including several houses in the town of Greece.
A $15,000 Preserve New York grant from the Preservation League and NYSCA and a $15,000 Preserving Historical Assets Vitality Grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation will enable the Greece Historical Society to hire a project team that includes: architectural historian Katie Eggers Comeau and architect Christopher Brandt from Bero Architecture PLLC; independent historian and historic preservation consultant Jeffrey A. “Free” Harris from Hampton, Virginia; preservation consultant Gina M. DiBella of Greece; and research assistant Alexis Rivers, a 2020 graduate from SUNY Geneseo, to complete this survey.
“Thomas W. Boyde Jr. is one of the most notable and accomplished architects of the mid-twentieth century in the Greater Rochester Region, in spite of the professional and personal prejudice he faced throughout his life,” says Brandt. “He was one of the first architects that I became intimately acquainted with nearly fifteen years ago before pursing my own career in the profession. I look forward to reviewing his beautiful color renderings again, and am honored to be part of the team that seeks to uncover, document, elevate, and celebrate the full and complete accomplishments of his decades long career.”
“There is a long and storied history of African American architects, but all too often, because of the era of Jim Crow, those early architects either were forced into the shadows, or had their work questioned, because of their race,” says Harris. “This project, I believe, is a part of a larger project to bring those architects, and their works out of the shadows, and into a deserved spotlight.”
Harris is a specialist in African American history who is joining the team to share his expertise researching and writing about African-American historic sites. His role includes conducting oral history interviews, writing a section of the report to focus on Thomas Boyde, Jr. in the context of mid-20th century African American architects, and providing editorial review of the report.
Rivers is a recent college graduate whose academic experience includes research into local African American history. She is conducting online and in-person research to gather materials related to Boyde’s life and career and is expected to assist Harris with oral history interview transcriptions.
DiBella is taking the lead in creating and populating the database of Boyde’s projects, assisting with additional research, writing, and photography, and handling data entry at the end of the project. The team is making use of the Thomas W. Boyde, Jr. collection of architectural drawings and papers at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
In July 2020, the Preserve New York grant panel selected 19 applicants in 15 counties to receive support totaling $193,390. Many of these grants will lead to historic district designation or expansion, allowing property owners to take advantage of the New York State and Federal Historic Tax Credits. Support provided by Preserve New York since its launch in 1993 totals more than $3 million to 457 projects statewide.
In August 2020, the Rochester Area Community Foundation awarded a total of $177,450 in historic preservation grants to 14 organizations in its eight-county region, which comprises Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties. Projects funded by the grants will lead to historic district designations or expansions, preservation of historic properties, preservation education through virtual and live programming, oral histories, and mapping of historic and culturally significant sites. Grants from its two historic preservation funds have been awarded for the past 15 years.
The Preserve New York grant program (PNY) is a partnership between the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Preservation League, made possible with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. PNY enables the Preservation League to support projects in all of New York’s 62 counties. Since 1993, the Preserve New York grant program has been providing funds to municipalities and nonprofit organizations that need technical, professional assistance to guide a variety of preservation projects. The historic structure reports, building condition reports, cultural landscape reports, and cultural resource surveys that are funded through this program can have profound impacts on the sites they are studying.
The Preserving Historical Assets Vitality Grants support the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Historic Preservation Action Area by supporting its goal to strengthen regional vitality by preserving its region’s historic assets and promoting educational efforts that build on these assets. Of particular interest are projects that result in the preservation of historical assets; contribute to community or neighborhood revitalization; promote sustainability or expression of a sense of place; and provide new opportunities for the community to engage with our region’s rich historical assets. The funds supporting this competitive grant are the Elizabeth Gibson Holahan Fund to support historic preservation and the Lloyd E. Klos Historical Fund to support historic preservation, education and information.
For more information on the project contact Christopher Brandt at (585) 262-2035; firstname.lastname@example.org or Gina M. DiBella at email@example.com.
Photos, from above: Thomas W. Boyde, Jr., c. 1930; Aero Industries Office, designed by Thomas W. Boyde, Jr., 1954; Rendering of a private home in Penfield by Thomas W. Boyde, Jr., 1941; One of several Star Markets designed by Thomas W. Boyde, Jr. c. 1955 (provided by Rochester Museum & Science Center); Fort Hill Terrace Apartments in Rochester, NY, designed by Thomas W. Boyde, Jr.; Private home in Brighton, designed by Thomas W. Boyde, Jr. (photos by Christopher Brandt); and Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester, NY, designed by Thomas W. Boyde, Jr. (photo by Tim White).