Tiny’s Grill Celebrates 25 Glorious Years
The original Tiny’s Grill was established in 1931 by Anthony (Tiny) Wolak and was located in Whitesboro
Circle (where the Utica Aud sits today). It was passed from father to son in 1953 when the senior Wolak passed away.
In the late fifties, it became necessary to relocate the business to make way for the development occurring in the area, and Tiny Jr. purchased the former Oneida Grill (another iconic Polish establishment) on the corner of State and Mandeville Streets.
Joanne “Jojo” Gerace has been the owner of Tiny’s going on 26 years now. She is originally from Utica, but moved away to pursue a career in the management of professional and semi-professional sports. She had an opportunity to return to Utica when she was offered a job with the last iteration of the Utica Blue Sox by Bob Fowler in 1983.
Tiny’s became available for sale and she was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning a restaurant by purchasing
it in 1990. The building required an extensive amount of work and loads of “TLC,” but with the help of her father, she was able to accomplish it. While her Dad originally though she was crazy to buy this restaurant, he spent nearly every day there until his death. The bar and back bar are original and have been lovingly restored. Joanne was able to purchase a house that once sat to the west of the property on Mandeville Street, take it down, expand the dining room and add a meeting room and an outdoor deck which opened in 1992.
Joanne has promoted three basics that she never changes: music, primarily jazz and some blues, sports, primarily baseball and hockey, and, of course, awesome food. Tiny’s is revered for its food particularly its Polish cuisine. Soups and sauces are homemade by Joanne herself, as are the golabki (Polish stuffed cabbage rolls). She features pierogi and kielbasa, as well as a variety of sandwiches and other specialties, such as roast pork, and a remarkable fish fry every day. Tiny’s was noted throughout the 1990s and beyond as a mecca for local and national-level jazz. Sal Amico (her uncle), the late, great J.R. Monterose, and other local notables were regular players for many years. National recording artists Chuck Mangione (3 times), Maynard Ferguson (6 times) and Chuck’s brother Gap Mangione have all played there to standing room only crowds. Tiny’s still has music there on occasions.
While it has been a labor of love for her, it has not always been easy. Changing times, shifting demographics, and a myriad of other competitive choices has made business challenging at times. However, Tiny’s perseveres. Does Tiny’s have a ghost? Well, personal experience would bear that out: during a dinner outing there several months ago, a fork inexplicabl “jumped” off of the adjacent table even though there was no one remotely nearby. Joanne herself has experienced a “brush by” where she felt a presence pass closely behind her. She also hears her name called occasionally from someone who is not exactly there. There have been numerous other unexplained occurrences over the years. She refers to this benign paranormal phenomenon as “Tiny the Ghost,” perhaps the spirit of the original owner. In any event, it appears to be friendly, so there are no worries. Christmastime is special at Tiny’s, for that is when the famous Nutcracker Collection is brought out. From Thanksgiving to just before St. Patrick’s Day, over 500 antique and collectible nutcrackers are displayed throughout the restaurant. It I the largest collection in New York State and perhaps the Northeast US. Her display has prompted a number of young people to begin their own collections
Tiny’s is located at the epicenter of the redevelopment of Utica, midway between Oneida Square and Varick
Street, Uptown Utica and Bagg Square, and on the fringe of the burgeoning Arts district. Joanne is a staunch community supporter, advocate, and a longtime Landmarker who has done her part by saving this terrific little gem in West Utica, pledging to “keep the tradition going as long as we can.”
Utica Bread 106 Genesee Street, Utica, NY
From the friendly folks who brought you The Tailor and the Cook, comes Utica Bread — European bread and pastry in Bagg’s Square in beautiful Downtown Utica, NY.
The idea for Utica Bread was born a little more than two years ago. Tim and Melissa Hardiman and their partner, Chris Talgo, thought that the area needed a European Style bakery as a “next step” to their very successful business down the street — The Tailor and the Cook. Utica Bread offers European style bread, pastries along with a limited menu selection for breakfast and lunch, and much like The Tailor and the Cook, the focus is on healthy, local ingredients.
Utica bread offers bread, pastries and breakfast and lunch specials. They are open seven days a week- from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Several tours of Old Main coming in May, June
Posted Apr. 21, 2015 at 12:33 PMUTICA
The New York State Office of Mental Health will be providing free educational tours of the historic Old Main building at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center.
The tours, provided with assistance from the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, will focus on the history of the building and the formative role it played in America’s early mental health system.
Scheduled for May 1, 15 and 29, and June 5 and 19th, these tours will take place every half hour from 9 until 11:30 a.m. Individuals interested in touring the building must register in advance and tour group sizes are limited to 35.
Additional tour opportunities are expected to be announced in the late summer or early fall.
Last year, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, organized a working group to examine the future of the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center campus, including Old Main.
“One of the group’s immediate concerns has been providing more opportunities for people to see Old Main,” Brindisi said in a news release. “A tour conducted last summer by the Office of Mental Health in conjunction with the Landmarks Society was so popular that several thousand people wound up in line for a tour. It is obvious that there is a great deal of interest in this historic building.”
Built in 1843, Old Main was the first publicly funded facility to treat mentally ill individuals in New York. Designed by William Clark, Old Main was one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture of its time and to this day, and its iconic columns are reportedly the largest outside of Greece, according to the release. In 1971, the building was placed on the National Register for Historic Places.
Interested individuals must make a reservation at least one week prior to the requested tour date by emailing OldMainTours@omh.ny.gov. Anyone requesting a tour is asked to include the names of all individuals interested in the tour; the requested date and time of the tour; organization or school affiliation, if any; and any special arrangements for wheelchair access. People taking the tour are asked to arrive 10 minutes before the start of the tour.
Tours of Rutger Park Act As History Lesson, Fundraiser
June 2, 2012
New Hartford resident Melinda Freetage peered out a window of the third mansion in Rutger
Park on Saturday, surprised by the preservation of the historic building. “It’s beyond my expectations,” she said as she followed a group of about 30 people through former politician Roscoe Conkling’s mansion.
Utica’s Historic Rutger Park Part II – Zach’s Weekly Snaps
Big Frog 104FM
June 2, 2012
Two weeks ago, I took you on a photographic tour of Rutger Home number 3 in Utica’s historic Rutger Park. Yesterday, June 2, the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica held its annual “Picnic in the Park,” where those who attended had the opportunity to get tours of the historic homes. And, I had the wonderful opportunity to revisit the homes. I was able to look around and take some photos of Rutger Home number 1. The interesting part about Rutger Home number 1 is that in the early 1950s, the house was turned into a private nursing care facility. It’s very interesting because there are still beds in some of the rooms. And, a lot of the rooms have old phone systems in them, which I found to be most fascinating. So, needless to say, you definitely feel the history when you stand in any of the rooms. Today, I would like to share with you my latest visit to Rutger Park. I’d like to take you on a photographic tour of Rutger Home number 1. This week’s theme—Rutger Park Revisited.
Utica’s Historic Rutger Park Part I – Zach’s Weekly Snaps
Big Frog 104FM
May 20, 2012
I recently had the opportunity to visit Rutger Park on Rutger Street in Utica and tour Rutger Home number 3. History definitely come alive when you walk through the doors of the nearly 200 year old home. Staged to look like how it did when it was occupied, the beautiful architecture is still a sight to be seen, despite years of aging. Yes, although there are parts of the home that have aged and weathered more than others, all the houses in Rutger Park are definitely a gem to be seen in Utica.
Transforming Historic Old St. John’s Church in Utica
March 16, 2012
On any weekday, dozens of worshipers mill in and out of Historic Old St. John’s Church for
12:10 p.m. Mass. Since February, as the 19th-century Bleecker Street church nears the completion of a three-year $1.2 million renovation, parishioners have been redirected from their usual worship space. A white sign on
the door reads: “12:10 p.m. Mass moved to the parish center during renovation.”
In two weeks, the plastic will be removed from inside the church, the pews replaced and the dust swept
away. Though weekend Masses have taken place amid the renovations, when the church fully reopens on
Palm Sunday, April 1, it will be a “rebirth” for the building that hasn’t been renovated since the 1950s,
said Rev. John Buehler, St. John’s pastor.
NY Unveils Heritage Tourism Project for Thruway
March 9, 2012
New York is launching a tourism and economic development project aimed at getting
motorists zipping along the Thruway to exit the highway and visit some of the Empire State’s historic
sites, museums and cultural attractions.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has enlisted a roster of prominent New York-based historians to advise the
Thruway Authority on creating the “Path Through History” initiative, which includes installing new
signs along the interstate directing travelers to local attractions and placing history information kiosks
at rest stops. The project is designed to boost New York’s heritage tourism trade, Cuomo said in announcing the
initiative during a cabinet meeting Thursday in Albany. Heritage tourism is a key segment of the state’s
multibillion-dollar tourism industry.
Fiscal Concerns Lead to End of Utica Monday Nite Summer Series
March 7, 2012
Citing concerns about funding, Utica Monday Nite Executive Director Lynne Mishalanie said
that the 15-year summer concert series will not continue this year.
“The finances are just too unpredictable,” Mishalanie said Wednesday. “The climate is just too difficult
for the arts.”
** Landmarks is very sad to see the end of this great Utica tradition. But, the show must go on! Our Monday night Walks & Talks free lecture series will continue.Meanwhile, please join us in a big thanks to Lynne Mishalanie and the UMN crew for 15 great years of history, heritage and arts! **
City Wants Hotel Utica to Remain Viable Downtown Business
January 12, 2012
Hotel Utica was a hot topic during the 2007 election, when eventual winner David Roefaro
made clear that the priority was to make sure the hotel was keeping up on its federal loan payments and
Four years later though, the focus has shifted: Keep the doors open. Make sure the business is healthy.
Help find a buyer, it that’s necessary. These are the sentiments from the city’s new sheriff in town, Democratic Mayor Robert Palmieri, who’s been in office for about two weeks. “The one thing I don’t want to see is that it goes to a point where there’s no one in that building,” the mayor said. “We’ll be a partner to make sure this is a fruitful investment for anyone that’s there.”
Cathedral Hopes to Return Itself, Park to ‘Former Beauty’
January 10, 2012
In 1870, when the church that now houses the Italo-Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace was built, the neighborhood around South Street and Howard Avenue was surrounded by dignitaries and homes of stature.
Today, the church sits in a pocket of empty lots, abandoned buildings and newly built Hope VI homes.
But by this time in 2014, that neighborhood will look vastly different, said the Very Rev. Stephen Enea, archbishop of the Italo-Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas and Canada. The Utica parish, which has 130 members, is the headquarters for the archdiocese, which has about 2,000.
Park Ave. Parking Plan Quashed
December 13, 2011
There goes Oneida County’s plan to close off Park Avenue. Again.
The controversial parking proposal was vetted for a few minutes at a Common Council meeting last week and then pulled from the council’s agenda by Councilman Frank Vescera, D-1.
In response, County Executive Anthony Picente fired off letters to each of the council members calling his treatment by the city an “insult.” Picente gave a short presentation and was asked a few questions before the council moved on amidst reminders of a packed schedule that night.
And now Picente, who first floated the idea several years ago but was effectively blocked then by council members, says he’s done with the proposal.
Former Polish Princess Mansion Sold; Plans Underway for B&B
December 1, 2011
The mansion at 294 Genesee St. that once housed a self-appointed Polish princess has a new owner who might convert the property into a bed and breakfast. Jake Thurston, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Faith Properties who oversaw the transaction, said a Utica-based familyplans to move into the mansion soon. “They would like to see the public in there,” he said. “This is a great thing for Utica. It’s a wonderful property with a lot of history.”
F.X. Matt Brewing Co. Expansion Underway in West Utica
December 9, 2011
Riding the nationwide explosion of craft beer popularity, F.X. Matt Brewing Co. is moving toward more investments to increase its West Utica plant’s capacity and become more energy efficient. Example one: A $4 million “green” energy generation project, which is currently underway to support the facility.
“In the next couple of years, we’ll be investing pretty heavily into our plant,” said Fred Matt, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “It shows our commitment to the area.” The craft beer industry is growing by about 15 percent each year, and Matt said the brewery is looking to stay ahead of that curve.
When the current project is over, the brewery will own most of the Court Street property up to Schuyler Street. Newly acquired property will become the plant and a park-like area adjacent to the stage used for outdoor brewery events.
County Revives Park Avenue Parking Plan
December 6, 2011
Oneida County again is pushing a proposal to close a section of Park Avenue and add nearly 100 parking spaces for
downtown governmental buildings. The proposal first surfaced in 2007 when the city’s Common Council ultimately did not act upon legislation that would have moved the project forward.
The council again will be the major hurdle in estimated $2 million to $3 million project that County Executive Anthony Picente said would be paid for by county borrowing.
Guest View: Massive Journal Needs to be Made Easily Accessible
November 26, 2011
One of my current research obsessions is the legacy of the Hooker family of designers and builders in the Central New York area, and, specifically, whether a part of that legacy is the venerable house of Dr. Alexander Coventry at the corner of Coventry Avenue and Cosby Manor road in Deerfield.
Coventry, born and educated in Scotland, kept a journal for most of his adult life, spanning the years 1785-1831, and the published transcript of the journal (“Memoirs of an Emigrant,” New York State Library, 1978) runs some 2,800 typed pages! In this fascinating journal, we learn that the Coventry mansion dates from 1798, not the 1804 date surmised in Bagg’s Pioneers of Utica.
Op/Ed: There really are ways to grow the community
November 5, 2011
The vacant position of Utica’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development is one focus of Utica’s mayoral race. With the nation’s unemployment rate stabilized above 9 percent, Uticans are not the only Americans wondering how to create more jobs. What makes a community grow?
Renaissance Center Getting Closer to Opening in Utica
October 27, 2011
More than two years ago, the Neighborhood Investment Association purchased the former Teamsters building at 7 Rutger St. On Thursday, that building’s doors were opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but what will be a multicultural center called The Renaissance Center wasn’t quite ready for business. The first floor foyer – which will be a multicultural museum — boasted borrowed art from Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute representing varying cultures.
State Defends Utica Arterial Plan
October 26, 2011
The ranking local transportation official defended the proposed North-South Arterial Project at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting – though a series of speakers afterward made clear they aren’t convinced. Michael Shamma, director of the state Department of Transportation Region 2, told council members and roughly 35 attendees that the controversial $62 million proposal is the result of years of studies and constitutes the best possible plan given the money available.
“The solution we are proposing, we believe, is in the best interests of Utica and the residents of the city of Utica,” Shamma said. Critics have recently sought to slow down the proposal – for which the state is currently seeking final federal approval. Council and community members have instead advocated for a multi-way boulevard, which they believe will cost less, help neighborhoods and spur development. Councilman James Zecca, D-2, has proposed legislation urging the state to halt the plan. That legislation was sent to a council committee Wednesday.
Baggs Square West Awakens from Long Slumber
October 18, 2011
The most recent downtown neighborhood to break out of years-long stagnation appears to be the block that hosts the National Distance Running Hall of Fame. Major renovation projects will lead to three food establishments that are expected to open before year’s end, and the historic but crumbling Hayden Building at 96-98 Genesee St. is about to have a new owner with big plans.
Could this and other downtown projects be the beginning of a large-scale turnaround seen in other cities?
‘Polish Princess’ Abdicates Utica, Mansion ‘Completely Gutted’
October 7, 2011
In the end, this city would have no glass slipper for Diana Lenska.
The self-proclaimed Polish princess – recovering from throat surgery and smarting from her treatment by the media and local officials – moved out of her 19th century Genesee Street mansion last week and doesn’t plan on coming back.
Royal Order Kingdom of Poland Departs… Taking some of Historic Utica
October 4, 2011
Cassandra Harris Lockwood
Princess Diana Lenska, the poorly received descendent of Polish King Stanislaw Leszcynski, vacated 294 Genesee last week. Lenska, who established the Royal Order Kingdom of Poland at the site, departed with a small entourage the evening of Thursday, September, 29. With them has gone a significant portion of the architectural elements of what once was known as ‘the most beautiful home in the City of Utica.’
The removal of these items from 294 Genesee St. has caused major protest in The Landmark Society and the
preservationist community. The building was once the home of the Catholic Women’s Club, being originally built by Congressman Orasmus Matteson in 1842.
Baggs Square West
September 30, 2011
Much good news about the rebirth of Bagg’s Square has appeared recently – an upscale café, The Bagg’s Square Café, a high end steak house, Pier’s and Blake, and a weekly Farmer’s Market at Union Station. There is even more to add to this story of rebirth – just around the corner.
Many people do not realize that Bagg’s Square historically extends to Washington Street on the west side of Genesee Street. Bagg’s Square is divided by the Genesee Street overpass. During the 1800s, Bagg’s Square West was home to the Bank of Utica, Horatio Seymour’s residence, the County Clerks Office, the Saturday Globe building, and the still-standing Mechanic’s Hall, just to name a very few.
The 1900s provided the booming City of Utica with great entertainment spots like Birdland and the Candle Light Lounge that nurtured our great jazz performers. Retail was a big part of downtown life, and Bagg’s Square West was home to the ever-popular retail store, Philipson’s Army and Navy.
History Comes Alive
September 15, 2011
On Saturday, September 10th, Utica was transported back to centuries gone by for the magnificent celebration “History Comes Alive.” The event, inspired by Karen Day, Landmarks Society Trustee and Programs Committee Co-chair, was hosted to re-live this remarkable era in United States history, and to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. However, if all visitors thought was in store for them was presentations and hum-drum lectures, they would have been gleefully mistaken. Music and an elegant private collection of Civil War Era Ball gowns were on display in the mansions, open to the public.
Guests strolled the grounds, enjoying desserts and drinks on the lawn, as well as visiting the homes of Roscoe and Julia Conkling and Samuel and Flora Remington. While viewing the elegant collection of ball gowns owned by Mark Tillson Jr., guests could take the opportunity and listen to a full schedule of professional speakers, bringing attendees back in time.
Our View: Downtown Finally Beginning to Show Signs of Progress
September 7, 2011
Part of Mayor David Roefaro’s legacy will be the roundabout at Oneida Square — a project currently under way and one that has been roundly criticized in the community as being disruptive and a waste of taxpayer dollars. But the final chapter on that hasn’t been written yet — completion is expected this fall — and we maintain that the end result will be better than the obnoxious tangle of lights that once dominated that spot. Time will tell.
But one part of Roefaro’s legacy that critics should not argue with is his commitment to development over demolition. The evidence is clear.
Photos of Sculptures Give ‘A Different Viewpoint’
September 7, 2011
With a hand to her face and a keen eye, Utica resident Sandra De Visser admired the photographic work depicting
prominent sculptures throughout the area.
As part of Sculpture Space’s 35th anniversary, the Utica Public Library hosted the first-ever Celebrating Sculpture in the Community exhibition Tuesday evening.
Our View: Next Mayor Must Build on Recent Growth
September 6, 2011
Part of Mayor David Roefaro’s legacy will be the roundabout at Oneida Square — a project currently under way and one that has been roundly criticized in the community as being disruptive and a waste of taxpayer dollars. But the final chapter on that hasn’t been written yet — completion is expected this fall — and we maintain that the end result will be better than the obnoxious tangle of lights that once dominated that spot. Time will tell.
But one part of Roefaro’s legacy that critics should not argue with is his commitment to development over demolition. The evidence isclear.
St. John’s Renovation Project Reaches New Heights
August 10, 2011
A $1.5 million renovation project to update the exterior of Historic Old St. John’s Roman Catholic Church went to new heights this week as workers began the task of cleaning and recoating the church’s two spires and making repairs to the roof.
For Sale: Downtown Utica’s ‘Gold-Domed’ Bank Building
July 8, 2011
An iconic downtown landmark is for sale, but its owner says it isn’t going anywhere. M&T Bank is looking to sell the former Savings Bank of Utica gold-domed building at 235 Genesee St., which it inherited in a 2007
acquisition of Partners Trust.
But a caveat to any sale will be a long-term lease, ranging anywhere from 15 to 25 years, so the bank can continue operating in the building as a tenant.
What happened to the HSBC building?
June 21, 2011
In late 2008, Ronald Prince was scouring Upstate New York for a place to stage a Victorian-style fair.
The accountant, who lives and works in Orange County, Calif., couldn’t do it in Southern California for several reasons. Reenactments of a Christmas scene from a Charles Dickens novel, for instance, required an air of authenticity that only comes with snow.
At that time, Prince said he remembers driving past the city’s Rutger Street mansions, thinking Utica was “a beautiful old town” and wondering about its potential for rebirth.
Critics Assail Downtown Utica Parking Plan
June 15, 2011
A city-backed plan to alleviate downtown parking woes includes several controversial elements.
Among them: razing the former HSBC building on Seneca Street and also closing a section of Park Avenue to add more parking for nearby government buildings.
The Picture of a Parking Problem?
Fault Lines blog
June 15, 2011
The proposal to tear down the landmark HSBC building to create parking has brought the parking issue front and center again. . . . But a picture is worth a thousand words…
Pam Jardieu was kind enough to work up this picture of Downtown Utica’s parking situation. Blue = existing parking garages, green = existing surface parking, red = PROPOSED additional surface lots.
The picture shows there is plenty of parking in Downtown Utica. So there should be no need to destroy a landmark . . . nor to re-propose the blockage of Park Avenue and disrupt hundreds of motorists.
There may be parking issues in Downtown Utica, but there is plenty of parking. The problems may be that certain places have a high demand at certain times, that much of the parking is privately owned and may be underutilized, and that many of the public lots and garages are for pay.
The City and County have now created a new parking problem for the general public at the train station by turning a free public lot over to private hands. No expertise has been brought to bear on the issue. Our public officials are winging it and don’t have a clue.
Landmarks Society to Mayor: plan to raze HSBC building “short-sighted, financially irresponsible”
June 10, 2011
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica has unanimously passed a resolution strongly opposing any such demolition of the former HSBC building in Downtown Utica, calling the plan “short-sighted” and “financially irresponsible,” according to a letter sent by the Society to Mayor David Roefaro.
Our View: Move Ahead on Market Plan at Union Station
June 2, 2011
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente’s plan to pump life into the long-vacant Railway Express Agency wing at Union Station is a no-brainer. The Bagg’s Square area around Utica’s train station has shown steady revival, and creating another venue to attract people can only add to the growth.
Now is the time to move ahead with the plan. It’s not the time to bicker over the idea to eventually add a regional market there because it might “compete” with the Utica Farmers’ Market at nearby Chancellor Park. That’s parochialism at its worst. The ideal solution would be for the Utica Farmers’ Market to be folded into a regional market in the 35-bay wing that has sat vacant for decades. Picente said the county is working with Cornell Cooperative Extension and an outside company to market his idea, and it could be ready to go by the end of June.
Council haggles over fate of HSBC building
June 1, 2011
The city’s leading economic development official told Common Council members Wednesday he’d like to see the city purchase the downtown former HSBC building for $350,000, for the purpose of demolishing it and turning it into a city-owned parking lot.
Randy Soggs, Urban and Economic Development commissioner, said the money for the purchase and demolition, an estimated total of roughly $700,000, would come from state money allocated for downtown parking.
Guest view: Monument Serves as a Lasting Memory
May 28, 2011
The roundabout planned at Oneida Square in Utica will beautify the area and help bring our city back to its glory. This is a great start, and other areas will soon develop along with the Bagg’s Square Historic District and Harbor Point, as well as the development of Rutger Park, a center of 19th-century politics and architecture. The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica wants to develop the latter project.
Our past will be our future. History will repeat itself. People once more will get involved and see that Utica is a city of many happenings for America’s greatness. Utica was a city that was asleep; it now has woken up, yawned, and stretched its arms. Now it is going to work, wide awake.
Restoring Old Utica
May 20, 2011
The old Foster Brothers Mill building on Broad St. had definitely seen better days. Originally a bedspring and bedding manufacturing center, the huge old growth pine timbers of its cavernous spaces were now home to roosting pigeons and mice.
The HSBC Building in Jeopardy
May 13, 2011
The City of Utica announced that it may pursue demolition of the former HSBC Building for surface parking. Would the demolition of a major urban landmark be a positive for the future development of the downtown business district?
In Utica, N.Y. demolition has been the primary tool of redevelopment for close to 60 years. Beginning in the 1950’s, city government has chosen to clear hundreds of buildings that may have otherwise been redeveloped and put to adaptive reuse.
Our View: Parking Lot at HSBC Site a Bad Idea
May 11, 2011
The thought of leveling the HSBC building at Columbia and Genesee streets to create a parking lot is downright disturbing. It seems the city’s whole economic development strategy of late seems to hinge on parking lots. First there’s a grand plan for a parking garage, and suddenly that’s history.
Now it seems any building that blinks is suddenly placed on the death watch with the parking lot buzzards circling overhead waiting for that last gasp.
Is this the city’s economic development plan? Maybe we should just level downtown, pave it over into a giant parking lot, buy a fleet of buses and run service to the suburbs.
Future of Downtown HSBC Building in Limbo
May 5, 2011
Concerned with the condition of the former HSBC Bank building downtown, codes officials are working with the
California-based owner to arrange an interior inspection.
If the owners prohibit that, codes likely will issue a court order that could lead to the building’s demolition.
Officials: Grant Will Help Downtown Utica Businesses
March 17, 2011
A half-million dollar state grant will be directed toward a group of downtown business owners on Bleecker and Genesee streets, officials announced at a news conference Thursday. The Main Street grant program allows rehabilitation and renovation projects, mostly for existing buildings, officials said. Businesses
in the 100 block of Genesee Street and 100 and 200 blocks of Bleecker Street will be able to apply, with awards being announced in May.
“We’re going to take the best projects; the ones that are going to revitalize the area,” city Mayor David Roefaro said. The city’s Main Street grant application was once left for dead as the city missed the application deadline after the Common Council voted too late to approve it. The program itself was also in danger, and Roefaro said he lobbied in Albany to continue the program and to revive the city’s application.
Union Station Linchpin of Evolving Neighborhood
February 27, 2011
John Hathaway’s preferred method of travel isn’t train or even bus. But there he sat on a recent day in Union Station, waiting for a ride. The Utica transplant chose the Main Street station as a meeting point with a friend driving from out of town to take him to Rochester.
“We both know where the station is, so he’s picking me up here,” Hathaway said. “This place, it’s where people from all walks come when they’re traveling. It’s a checkpoint if you want to travel anywhere in the state.”
Landmarks Society of Greater Utica Recognized
New York History
January 11, 2011
Landmarks Society of Greater Utica President Michael Bosak accepted the John J. and Wilma B. Sinnott 2010 Conservation Award at a brunch held in December at the Hotel Utica.
Munson-Williams-Proctor Makes N.Y., U.S. Historic Registers
November 16, 2010
The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute’s museum building received a special gift for its 50th anniversary – it was placed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places. State officials and the institute’s Museum of Art staff pointed to the Philip Johnson-designed building’s significant contribution to
architectural and cultural history as making it worthy of the distinction.
“The Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute is an exceptional example of modern architecture and the first museum designed byworld-acclaimed architect Philip Johnson,” said Ruth Pierpont, director of the New York State Historic Preservation Office. “Since opening in 1960, the institute has been at the center of the region’s cultural life. Its distinct architecture and role in the community make it a fitting addition to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.”
Historic Rutger Park Mansion Sold
October 25, 2010
A duo of Massachusetts developers with a burgeoning portfolio of local properties has taken on another historic property, the Swancott Home at 4 Rutger Park.
Kenneth Rockett and Richard DeRosas closed on their $66,000 purchase of the property from the Rescue Mission of Utica last week, Rockett said. They plan to make it the office of their newly formed company, Paramount Construction, and to restore the surrounding grounds to its original setting when it was built in 1854.
“The building is phenomenal,” Rockett said. “There’s not many buildings in the area that have the value and reputation of Rutger Park.”
Guest view: Oneida Square Landmark More Than Just a Monument
October 23, 2010
As the multi-year debate continues over whether to move the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Oneida Square — one side intent on making it the centerpiece of a roundabout on Genesee Street, and the other motivated to leave it in place — it might be interesting to examine the history of this important Utica memorial with emphasis on what it commemorates.
Our View: Rutger Park Campus Should be Maintained
September 17, 2010
At issue: The future of the Swancott Home, a three-story brick mansion at 4 Rutger Park, in the city’s most historic district. It became the Swancott Home in 1955, a care facility for elderly women, and was sold to the Rescue Mission in 2008.
Swancott Home Buyer Backs Out of Bid
September 9, 2010
The future of the Swancott Home is in question again.
The buyer who purchased the historic 12-bedroom mansion at auction earlier this year has asked the Rescue Mission to release him from his contract, attorneys for both sides said.
In This Town, Open Arms for a Mosque
The New York Times
August 18, 2010
In the boiling caldron of American outrage, here’s one to throw in the pot.
In this faded industrial town on the Erie Canal, the old United Methodist church downtown is being turned into a mosque, the old roof topped with minarets, the crescent moon and star of Islam on new white stucco replacing the familiar red-brick facade. Like the immigrants and refugees making up an ever-increasing share of the local population and the 42 languages spoken in the local schools, it is one more sign of how much the familiar world here is fading into the past.
Somehow, though, people here have not been given the current script. Instead, while mosques and Islamic community centers have been contested from near ground zero and Staten Island to Murfreesboro, Tenn., Temecula, Calif., and Sheboygan, Wis., Utica is a place where the dog hasn’t barked.
Instead, the mosque has been welcomed by, among others, former church members grateful that the old building will be saved. Some 200 people showed up this month for a tour by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica.
Utica Block Once in Danger of Demolition Now Coming to Life
August 13, 2010
All four of the projects on a Bleecker Street block once slated for demolition are expected to be finished by early- to mid- 2011, the owners of the properties say. Already, a karate studio is up, running and gaining popularity, according to one of its instructors. It will soon be joined by a mix of night clubs, office space and apartments.
And city officials say the development will have effects beyond the buildings being renovated. “There’s no doubt in my mind there will be spin-off of that,” Mayor David Roefaro said. “That’s just the first step.”
Local Muslims Find Acceptance Missing Elsewhere
August 3, 2010
While other parts of the nation have been polarized by the spread of Muslim groups and worship centers, Utica, it seems, has embraced its growing Islamic community.
Evidence of the community’s degree of acceptance could be seen in the almost 200 residents who came Monday night to the newly renovated Court Street mosque – formerly a Methodist church — during a Utica Monday Nite tour hosted by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica.
St. John’s Renovation Project Reaches New Heights
August 10, 2010
A $1.5 million renovation project to update the exterior of Historic Old St. John’s Roman Catholic Church went to new heights this week as workers began the task of cleaning and recoating the church’s two spires and making repairs to the roof.
Miner: Developments, literally
August 3, 2010
The past few days have led me on some fascinating tours of Utica projects.
Guest View: Key Piece of History Must be Saved
July 29, 2010
When Bagg’s Hotel, a venerable Utica landmark for more than a century at the western end of Main Street, was razed in 1933, Bagg’s Square Memorial Park was created. Within its confines, a building was constructed.
The building’s interior was elegantly dressed in beautiful carved woodwork. In the southeast corner of the one room, there is a door to a vault constructed as a repository of the hotel’s records. The building was topped with an eagle, a work of art fashioned at Tiffany’s in New York City. A beautiful stone wall surrounded the park.
Guest View: Party in the (Rutger) Park
June 2, 2010
Two years ago, in June 2008, the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica embarked on a new and yet unprecedented commitment to historic preservation in Utica, when we purchased Nos. 1 and 3 Rutger Park and the land between them.
While the premiere local and regional advocate for preservation since 1974, Landmarks had never before been able to commit itself to actually purchasing, owning, maintaining and restoring historic properties prior to this. This was accomplished via grant funds through the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, and a loan from The Preservation League of New York State and others. This purchase has certainly been a challenge, but has proven to be a uniquely rewarding opportunity for the society and for the greater Utica community even more.
Storied History, Uncertain Future for Rutger Park
May 22, 2010
An afternoon stroll down Rutger Street is a reminder of the city’s former grandeur, its challenges and its potential. A couple sits and watches the newly fixed centerpiece fountain at Rutger-Steuben Park.
Our View: Don’t Snub Rich History of Rutger Park
May 5, 2010
The Rescue Mission of Utica hasn’t exactly distinguished itself when it comes to supporting historical preservation efforts in its neighborhood.
Its latest plan to auction off Swancott Home and then separately the antiques and furnishings inside is but the latest example of the nonprofit agency’s apparent lack of concern for the richness of Rutger Park’s history. The Rev. William Dodge, executive director of the agency, should do the right thing and stop the separate auction from going forward.
Our View: Make Rutger Park a Historic Package
April 18, 2010
A cursory look at Utica’s past will find that many of its historic treasures were lost to the wrecking ball. Among them: Vice President James Schoolcraft Sherman’s stately home on Genesee Street, demolished in the 1940s, and the venerable City Hall, designed by renowned architect Richard Upjohn and razed in the 1960s to make way for urban renewal.
Today’s leaders cannot make amends for past travesties. But they have an opportunity to salvage a key part of Utica’s history with the pending sale of the former Swancott Home on historic Rutger Park. They must seize that opportunity and make certain this property remains part of a parcel that could one day become a centerpiece to
showcase the region’s history.
City to Apply for Support for Bleecker Street Projects
April 7, 2010
New life is coming fast to a Bleecker Street block that once faced demolition, as a host of developers seek to open the
various businesses they have planned there.
And the projects may receive a boost from the Main Street grant program offered by the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The city’s Common Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday authorizing the city to proceed with the grant application.
City Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Robert Sullivan said the city would ask for anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million for projects underway on Bleecker Street, as well as several
City Officials: Genesee St. Mansion Sold to Polish Princess
November 13, 2009
Is a Polish princess headed for Utica?
A woman who claims to be a descendant of Polish royalty has purchased a downtown Genesee Street building with plans to establish a “cultural embassy” there, city officials say.
Former HSBC Bank Building Has New Owners
November 12, 2009
Plans for the former HSBC bank building remained a mystery to city officials Thursday despite the fact the building was purchased by new owners more than three weeks ago, Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Robert Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he last spoke with the new owners of 520 Seneca St. about two weeks ago, but that their plans still appeared to be “up in the air” at that time. Ideas mentioned included a restaurant or a night club, and the three men were planning to apply for a liquor license. He added that to his knowledge the group has not applied for any city permits or approached the IDA for tax breaks. They also turned down his offer of information on the city’s Economic Reinvestment Program.
Rebirth of the Former Doyle Hardware Building
October 11, 2009
Only a short time ago, the former Doyle Hardware building was full of dusty, worn-out floors and clutter.
And although the signs of decay and abandonment are still visible, a recent tour of the building shows it’s moving toward rebirth.
“It’s got incredible potential and could really be the catalyst to turn that side of Bagg’s Square around,” city Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Robert Sullivan said. “It’s what people are looking for.”
Guest View: A Walk Through History
September 19, 2009
Utica’s Forest Hill Cemetery is literally a “who’s who” of notable and prominent historical figures whose significance goes far beyond Utica to Albany and Washington, D.C. It is also a repository for some of the most stunning, beautiful, and haunting outdoor sculpture in the area, some of which was designed by famous artists.
$2.1 Million Grant to Help Revitalize Downtown
September 3, 2009
A $2.1 million state grant for improvements and renovations at three Genesee Street buildings could be the beginning of “a new era in downtown,” Utica Mayor David Roefaro said Thursday.
Roefaro and Empire State Development Chairman Dennis Mullen announced the Restore New York Communities Initiative grant award during a well-attended 3 p.m. news conference at the corner of Genesee and Lafayette streets – within sight of two of the businesses that will benefit from it.
“This is a block that used to be the busy corner, and we’re going to make it the busy corner again,” Roefaro said.
Zoning Board turns down Rescue Mission request
August 11, 2009
The Rescue Mission of Utica will not be allowed to create a substance abuse recovery program at historic Rutger Park after the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals rejected a request for a special use permit Tuesday. “We will be talking with our board to see what’s next,” said the Rev. Bill Dodge, the mission’s executive director, after the meeting. Dodge declined further comment.
The board voted 3-0 to deny the request, with member Gary Wereszynski abstaining because he is a trustee of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica board. Chairman Joseph Priore and members Leonard Vetere and Marianne Brooks voted against it.
“The growth of this campus is very disturbing,” said Priore, referring to the Rescue Mission’s expansion in the downtown neighborhood. “I do not believe this area was ever meant for that or can be.”
Zoning Board Must Protect Area’s History
August 7, 2009
The Rescue Mission of Utica has been quite persistent in seeking to open a substance abuse recovery program in Rutger Park, which is arguably the most historic area of the city. Whatever the merits of the program, the location is wrong.
The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals should reject the nonprofit agency’s latest push to overcome neighborhood opposition to its plan.
City Parks Become Part of National, State Register
June 9, 2009
The city park system’s inclusion in the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places was celebrated Tuesday with a ceremony in F.T. Proctor Park.
The honor, bestowed upon F.T. and T.R. Proctor Parks, Roscoe Conkling Park/Valley View and the Memorial Parkway, came just before the 100th anniversary of the park system and follows three years of work by local departments and agencies, officials said.
State Grant Boosts Rutger Park Restoration
June 2, 2009
A state grant obtained by a local historic preservation group will help that group move forward with its goal of restoring the mansions at 1 and 3 Rutger Park to their former glory, an official with the group said Tuesday.
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica purchased those properties, along with 2 Rutger Park, which no longer has a house, about a year ago, President Michael Bosak said. Since then, the group has been working on restoring the buildings with the goal of making them “mansion museums” and creating a heritage tourism destination.
Guest View: The Aud Turns 50
May 23, 2009
Paul and David Romano
This year, the Utica Memorial Auditorium is celebrating 50 years as an unmistakable feature of Utica’s cityscape.
The auditorium is a proud product of 1950’s architectural trends, when concrete facades were popular as a “modern” design element.
In its gray cylinder-like form, the auditorium was designed to stand out among the brick box buildings it stood alongside; a lasting achievement of post-war urban architecture and modernization. Beyond its curbside appearance, there is much more to the story than meets the eye.
Landmarks Society Uses Radar to Restore History
December 6, 2008
Fourteen years after the house at 2 Rutger Park was demolished, the Landmarks Society is trying to figure out just exactly where the building once stood with the help of ground penetrating radar.
Landmarks Society trustee Mary Lyon Bradley said the group has no plans to rebuild the home at his time, but wants to identify it. “We want to give it an identity, maybe with a garden and stone work to show the original footprint, and some text
Council Asks for State Funds for Bleecker St.
November 12, 2008
The city Common Council voted Wednesday to apply for up to $500,000 in state funding for improvements to the Bleecker Street historic district.
Utica officials are asking for the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal Main Street grant to fund façade upgrades, building renovations and streetscape enhancements. City Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Robert Sullivan said the state was looking for an area with many vacant, underutilized buildings in a downtown, commercial district. Several buildings on Bleecker Street are empty, historic, privately owned and on the tax rolls, he said.
Preservation League of New York State Helps Fund Purchase of Rutger Park Buildings in Utica
September 12, 2008
The Preservation League of New York State recently disbursed a loan from its Endangered Properties Intervention Program (EPIP) to a Utica group seeking to protect and restore two architecturally significant residences in Rutger Park. The League’s EPIP program was established with state funds to foster the revitalization and protection of historic resources and neighborhoods throughout New York.
Editorial: Rutger Park must be a package
June 21, 2008
AT ISSUE: Leaders should work to find Rescue Mission alternate site.
The Utica Rescue Mission has been helping people in this community for more than a century. And it does a marvelous job. But if it wants to continue doing what is best for this community and its people, the mission needs
to abandon plans to expand its outreach into a home at 4 Rutger Park and instead work with other
community leaders on a plan to develop this area into a historic park.
Utica Mansions Saved
National Trust for Historic Preservation
June 11, 2008
This month an upstate New York nonprofit won a hard-fought preservation victory when it acquired two mansions in Utica’s historic Rutger Park neighborhood after decades of trying to preserve the structures.
“It has been a long road, to say the least,” said Michael Bosak, president of the board of trustees of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, in a June 5 statement. Saving the two houses has been a priority for the Landmarks Society for 35 years. With loans from the county, grants from community groups, and private donations, the Landmarks Society purchased the mansions for $325,000. The nonprofit has listed both buildings on its annual most endangered list several times.
Landmarks Society of Utica Purchases 1 and 3 Rutger Park for Restoration
June 6, 2008
Two historic Rutger Park mansions are off the market, and the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica has big plans for the properties.
1 Rutger Park was built in 1854, and 3 Rutger Park dates back to 1830. They’re architectural treasures that have been in legal limbo for some time.
Restoring Rutger Park: With Sale, Landmarks Society Hopes to Create Museums, Park
June 6, 2008
It took 34 years for the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica to realize one of its greatest quests.
On Thursday, the society finalized its purchase of the historic mansions at 1 and 3 Rutger Park, officials announced Friday at City Hall. The society hopes to restore the 19th-century buildings – one of which was home to powerful 1870s U.S. Sen. Roscoe Conkling – to a house museum or park site. The project will take at least three years, landmarks society President Michael Bosak said. But the immediate goal is to evaluate and then stabilize the buildings, including major roof, heating and electrical work, Bosak said.
“We did this because we strongly believe that this was absolutely the best option to protect, preserve and eventually promote these architectural and historic treasures for this and future generations,” Bosak said during the news conference. Over the past year, landmarks society members fought in state Supreme Court along with the city of Utica and the Preservation League of New York State for upkeep of the remaining Rutger Park properties.
But Friday, they celebrated.
A Star is Reborn: The Stanley is Back
April 3, 2008
For the first time in about a year, the Stanley Center for the Arts was full again.
Its gilded lobby was packed with people anxious to see the newly refurbished 1920s theater, and the clamor of voices filled the air at the theater’s grand reopening.
Chandelier Lights Up the Stanley
March 30, 2008
The 6,500-pound chandelier that now hangs in the Stanley Center for the Arts took eight years to make from conception to completion.
But the $130,000 piece of steel, glass and acrylic finally is up, and is waiting to greet the audience when the theater reopens this week.
Stanley Narrowly Avoided the Wrecking Ball in ’70s
March 28, 2008
The wrecking ball stood poised overhead, waiting for the order to smash the Stanley Theater marquee and the movie house behind it.
Soon, a discount store would be on the site. Or a motel. Or, perhaps, a parking lot.
But on Dec. 27, 1974, the Central New York Community Arts Council saved the 46-year-old Stanley.
The 8-year-old group purchased the theater for $135,000 and began to raise an additional $100,000 to convert the rundown movie house into a first-class performing arts center.
The feat was somewhat of a miracle. The late 1960s saw the demolition of many magnificent movie palaces across the country. More and more families were staying home to watch television, and small movie theaters were becoming popular.
OP/ED: Judge Must Act To Save 2 Mansions
March 4, 2008
The owner of properties at 1 and 3 Rutger Park has had more than enough time to comply with a court order to keep the two historic mansions from deteriorating – nearly 14 years, to be exact.
It’s time for state Supreme Court Justice Anthony F. Shaheen to enforce his 1994 court order requiring the properties be kept up. That order was issued as a stipulation in granting the owner permission to demolish another home at 2 Rutger Park.
Rutger Park Ruling Requested
February 28, 2008
UTICA – The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica Thursday called on a judge to make a decision in the case of historic mansions at 1 and 3 Rutger Park.
It’s been two years since the city of Utica filed a suit against estate executor William Dowling to force him to comply with a 1994 court order that requires the properties to be maintained. Now, the group wants a decision.
“If these properties were children, they would have been taken away from this person already for mistreatment,” Landmarks Society President Michael Rizzo said.
Deadline Tonight for Landmarks Society’s Offer for Rutger Park Homes
February 22, 2008
UTICA — An offer to purchase the historic properties at 1, 2 and 3 Rutger Park by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica will be terminated at midnight tonight, society President Michael Rizzo said Thursday. Rizzo would not disclose the amount of the offer because negotiations are continuing, he said.
“Eleven weeks ago, we were told the estate would accept our offer, and it’s been back and forth for 11 weeks,” Rizzo said. “It’s either they accept it or they reject it, and we both move on.”
St. James Episcopal Gets $10,000 Grant
January 16, 2008
CLINTON – St. James Episcopal Church of Clinton was awarded Monday a grant pledge of $10,000 for replacement of its slate roof. The money is from the New York Landmarks Conservancy that announced 66 landmark religious properties in 32 counties that were awarded $460,000 in 2007 funding from its Sacred Sites program.
The Sacred Sites grants range from $2,000 to $45,000 and stretch from Brooklyn to Buffalo. Grants will help religious institutions to restore stained glass, roofs, façades and masonry and help them prepare crucial conditions surveys. Many of the institutions are listed on the New York State and National Register of Historic Places as well as being designated city landmarks.
Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Annual Report 2007
It has been said that if the walls of 3 Rutger Park in Utica could talk, they would provide firsthand accounts of historical events that shaped the nation in the late 19th century. A National Historic Landmark, the mansion was the home of United States Senator Roscoe Conkling, one of the most powerful political figures of the era. It sits to the east of the architecturally magnificent 1 Rutger Park. Together, the structures anchor one of the most historically significant neighborhoods in the Northeast.
A $125,000 grant from The Community Foundation’s Rosamond G. Childs, Bull Family and Ted & Melva Max Family funds helped the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica purchase the properties, a turning point in that group’s longtime eff orts to ensure their preservation and restoration.
OP/ED: Building a Future From the Past is Challenging
December 7, 2007
During the 1870s, U.S. Sen. Roscoe Conkling lived in 3 Rutger Park, which now is designated as a national historic landmark. Recently, Utica Mayor-elect David Roefaro questioned the extent to which the city should be involved in protecting the historic house and another next door. The city is engaged in a lawsuit to force the owner of the two buildings to better protect them. Readers and community contributors were asked whether Utica city government should be working with local preservationist groups to protect these historic buildings, and to what extent. Here’s what they had to say:
OP/ED: Reasons to Save Rutger Park as Deep as the City’s History Itself
December 05, 2007
By MIKE RIZZO
Special to the Observer-Dispatch
As the Observer-Dispatch has reported in recent weeks, two of Utica’s most historically and architecturally significant buildings, 1 and 3 Rutger Park, are in critical condition.
It is our belief that if they are not stabilized immediately and their future planned for, these irreplaceable structures will no longer stand and their footprints could become another empty space on our cityscape, the most tragic yet.
Why is it important to save these buildings?
The reasons run as deep as the city’s history itself. Often lost to a generation preoccupied with 21st century issues is the fact that Utica’s heritage is one few cities in the Northeast can claim.
In the 19th century, Utica was one of the most progressive and influential cities in the country. Rutger Park was at the center of that prosperity and influence.
Built in 1854, the Italian-villa style 1 Rutger Park was designed by nationally famous architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Among its occupants has been gun maker Samuel Remington, who live there during the Civil War.
The history of Number 3 is even more extraordinary. Designed by another renowned architect, Philip Hooker, construction of this Greek Revival-style mansion with Federal-style features was begun in 1820 by Judge Morris Miller. It was completed in 1830 by his son, Rutger Bleecker Miller. Do these names sound familiar?
The structure’s most famous occupant, however, was Utica lawyer Roscoe Conkling, who served as the city’s mayor, in the House of Representatives and ultimately as a U.S. senator, rising to become one of the most powerful Republican leaders in the nation. In 1882 he was nominated to the United States Supreme Court, but declined.
Conkling’s stature has led to his home being designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation bestowed by the National Park Service.
But its intrigue doesn’t stop there. Conkling was married to the sister of another nationally prominent and powerful Utican, Horatio Seymour, a two-term governor of New York and the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 1868.
This remarkable convergence of historical figures quite possibly gives 3 Rutger Park a unique place in American history in being the only residence owned by a family whose immediate and extended members included, concurrently, the two most powerful opposing political leaders in the country.
Even the footnote to this chapter of the home’s history is fascinating: Hortaio Seymour died at 3 Rutger Park in 1886 after being cared for there by his sister.
Furthermore and often lost in the magnitude of the Conkling-Seymour connection is the fact that 3 Rutger Park was later owned by the Kernan family, whose members included another influential U.S. senator from Utica, Francis P. Kernan.
A favorite saying among Landmarks Society members when visiting a historical building is, “If these walls could talk….”
In the case of 3 Rutger Park, one can only imagine.
Why and how should government be involved in saving these structures?
First, the city has an obligation to seek enforcement of the 1994 agreement entered into by it and the owners of 1 and 3 Rutger Park, who at that time also owned number 2. The agreement allowed the owners to demolish the historic house at number 2, with stipulations that 1 and 3 be properly maintained and a plan be developed for their future. It is the belief of both the City and Landmarks that these requirements have not been met. In Landmarks’ view, this is morally and legally wrong, and should outrage all Uticans regardless of their interest in history.
Second, virtually since the founding of the Republic, government has been at the forefront of efforts to appreciate and preserve the fabric of our national heritage. From battlefields to monuments, national parks to museums, there is precedent for government’s leadership in this area.
Third, government can be the catalyst for bringing together parties and resources from both the public and private sectors to establish appropriate long-term ownership, preservation and rejuvenation of these properties. Communities across America, many of which are not as historically rich as Utica, are successfully using historic preservation not just to build civic pride, but to revitalize downtowns and neighborhoods, generate tourism and spur economic development.
The expansion of the Stanley Theater and revitalization of Union Station are examples of what can happen when we come together to save and transform treasured assets.
The Landmarks Society has envisioned and drafted a plan for an exciting historic and cultural center based in Rutger Park.
But any plan must begin with the preservation of the cornerstone 1 and 3 properties. They offer our community a unique opportunity to build our future by preserving our past.
OP/ED: Protecting 2 Rutger Park homes critical
November 26, 2007
Utica Mayor-elect David Roefaro’s comments regarding two key historical properties on Rutger Park could undermine the effort to save them, and we would strongly encourage him to find out more about what has been an ongoing effort to preserve a valuable piece of history.
Last week, Roefaro questioned to what extent the city should be involved in saving the buildings, saying he needed “concrete answers” before he would say whether he supports the effort. His comments came following an appeal by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and the Preservation League of New York State asking State Supreme Court Justice Anthony F. Shaheen to order that 1 and 3 Rutger Park be protected before winter weather causes potentially irreparable damage.
Last spring, the two groups joined the city in a lawsuit against William Dowling, executor of the Dowling estate, which owns the mansions, one of which was once owned by U.S. Sen. Roscoe Conkling, one of the nation’s most powerful political leaders of the 19th century. The city had filed suit in January 2006 to force the owners to comply with a 1994 court order by Shaheen that requires the properties be kept up.
That order was issued as a stipulation in granting the owner permission to demolish another home in that area.
No one is asking the city to commit taxpayer dollars to these two private properties. The concern is that if left to the elements, the two historic mansions could deteriorate beyond repair. Both are for sale, and earlier this year were posted on Internet auction site eBay. Landmarks President Michael S. Rizzo said last week that the homes have not been maintained, and if left unheated this winter they could be lost forever.
That would be tragic. These homes are among the most significant historical structures in the region, both designed by nationally prominent architects. No. 3, the former Conkling home, is designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
On Friday, Dowling’s brother, Michael, called on his brother to preserve the mansions as best he can, including heating them this winter to prevent further deterioration. Michael Dowling said he wants to see the property “live on,” adding that his mother, the late Anne Dowling, would have wanted the same thing.
Mayor Tim Julian has supported efforts by the Landmarks Society to acquire the buildings, although bids submitted by that group in the past were not accepted.
The issue is not a new one, and Roefaro should be familiar with it from his work on the Common Council. Other council members have said the city should do what it can to support saving the mansions, and we would urge Roefaro to discuss the issue with them, Julian and city attorneys so he is better prepared to support the city’s court case that could help determine the future of these two historic homes.
Parking Planned On St. E’s Lawn
November 25, 2007
UTICA – St. Elizabeth Medical Center is one step away from approval to build a parking lot on the hospital’s front lawn. Supporters say the plan reflects a delicate balance between addressing the needs of a growing medical center and maintaining the historical appearance of the Genesee Street hospital in South Utica.
The city’s Scenic and Historic Commission in a 3-2 vote approved a plan to create 102 parking spaces on the lawn, pending a detailed landscaping plan.
Group Seeks To Preserve Old, Private Cemeteries
November 25, 2007
NORWAY — When members of the Upstate ATV Club arrived at Black Creek Cemetery in Spring of 2003, what they found barely resembled a graveyard. Tree limbs rested on headstones, and a thick carpet of pine needles covered the ground. Overgrown grass and brush loomed nearly 5-feet tall throughout the area where 75 to 100 people had been buried.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Purpose: A resource to help individuals and organizations adopt and maintain abandoned cemeteries.
Contact: Martin J. Dunckel at 866-1517.
Family Member: Save The Mansions
November 24, 2007
UTICA – Preservationists and city officials have fought to save Rutger Park’s historic mansions, but perhaps no one wants that more than Michael Dowling. Michael Dowling, 48, grew up in 3 Rutger Park. He and several other family members have an interest in the estate.
Michael Dowling called upon his older brother William Dowling, the executor of the estate, to preserve the mansions at 1 and 3 Rutger Park. “The executor needs to fulfill his fiduciary responsibility to the estate and the parties of interest to preserve those houses as best he can,” Michael Dowling said. “And, that means the heat is on in the winter.”
Bleecker Street Demolition At Standstill
November 23, 2007
Jennifer Fusco and Renee Gamela
UTICA – Plans to construct more parking space downtown is at a halt, Mayor-elect David Roefaro said. That includes the proposed demolition of the 200 block of Bleecker Street, which Mayor Tim Julian planned, Roefaro said.
Judge Asked To Save Buildings
November 22, 2007
UTICA – On a day that preservation groups urgently asked a judge to save two of the city’s most historic structures, Mayor-elect David Roefaro questioned to what extent the city should be involved. The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and the Preservation League of New York State Wednesday asked for the court to order 1 and 3 Rutger Park to be protected before winter weather causes potentially irreparable damage.
Ornament features Whitestown Town Hall
November 22, 2007
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica’s 2007 commemorative ornament features Whitestown’s historic 1807 Town Hall.
“2007 marks the first year that the Landmarks Society’s collectible ornament commemorates a site outside Utica’s city limits,” said Martha Wallace, Landmarks trustee. “So it seems only fitting that Oneida County’s oldest continually occupied public building is that structure.”
The ornament costs $22 (plus tax). It is available through the Society’s Web site www.uticalandmarks.org and at several retail outlets in the area, including Danella Photographic, Lennon’s-W.B. Wilcox Jewelers, McHarris Gifts in Clinton, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Gift Shop and the Oneida County Historical Society.
The focal point of the Whitestown green, Whitesboro Town Hall was built on land donated by Whitestown founder Hugh White. The hall was one of two Oneida County Courthouses built in 1807.
Meyda Builds Stanley Chandelier
November 21, 2007
UTICA – After decades of not having a chandelier, the Stanley Theatre will re-open in January with a fixture weighing more than 6,000 pounds, said Ron Thiele, executive director of the Central New York Community Arts Council, which owns and operates the theater.
After Long Course, Roomier Courthouse Nears Finish Line
November 14, 2007
UTICA – After more than $30 million dollars and more than a decade of construction, Oneida County Courthouse renovations should be completed by March, an engineering official said.
The project began in the mid-’90s and its primary goal was to have county’s court facilities meet standards mandated by the state, including space for employees, said Mark Laramie, the county’s engineer and deputy commissioner of public works.
Children’s Museum Named Historic Site
November 9, 2007
UTICA —The Children’s Museum of History, Natural History, Science & Technology announced its building has been declared a New York State and Federal Historic building.
“This designation, coming after two years of required paperwork, demonstrates once again the importance our Children’s Museum plays in our local culture and economy as an educational resource and tourism attraction,” Executive Director Marlene Brown said.
Oops! Historic structure demolished in Utica
Sep 26, 2007
Tory N. Parrish
UTICA – A historic Broad Street building was demolished without proper authority last week, leaving the city to acknowledge it made a mistake and a preservation group outraged.
The property’s owner, Cobblestone Construction LLC, demolished the century-old former office wing to create a parking lot.
The property is part of Utica’s Scenic and Historic District so the property’s owner should have obtained a certificate from Utica’s Scenic & Historic Preservation Commission.
While that didn’t happen, Cobblestone did obtain a demolition permit from the city’s codes department Sept. 6. The permit was issued erroneously, said Frank Suppa, acting codes commissioner and deputy fire chief.
“And I take full responsibility for it,” Suppa said.
The president of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica expressed anger.
“It was illegal,” Michael Rizzo said. “There has to be accountability and ‘I’m sorry’ just isn’t cutting it.”
The demolished structure had been connected to 421-423 Broad St., which is referred to as the Byington Mill building. A five-story structure there was constructed in 1910 by the Frisbie-Stansfield Knitting Co.
The portion demolished last week had been a two-story office wing added in 1912.
The Broad Street building was also registered with the National Register of Historic Places on May 27, 1993, according to the register’s online database.
An awning described the structure’s address as 419 Broad St, but historic register records clearly describe the two-story structure as part of the historical designation.
The demolition permit was issued by a building inspector, a one-time mistake caused by the codes office being overwhelmed by an increase in construction projects. Those including projects at Utica College and the former Weaver Estates, he said.
“The process of checking the fine, minute details of the map was overlooked that day,” Suppa said.
The city’s Scenic and Historic Districts encompass 1,500 parcels of land and properties, according to the city’s Web site.
When contacted by the O-D Tuesday, Cobblestone Owner Walter Moore said he wasn’t aware that the building was in a scenic and historic district.
“If it was, they certainly wouldn’t have given me a permit to knock it down,” Moore said.
In 1994, a similar failure occurred when a demolition permit was issued improperly for a Rutger Park property.
Now, Rizzo said he would like the City Council to pass legislation that would institute a 10-day waiting period after a permit is issued so that preservation groups could review them.
“If the city is overwhelmed, then let us check to make sure they’re not ripping down landmarks,” he said.
Courtroom renovations unveiled- Work includes new benches, paint, carpeting
August 14, 2007
UTICA — When state Supreme Court Justice Robert Julian saw the coffered ceilings and arched windows hidden beneath makeshift panels at the Oneida County Court House about three years ago, he knew the 100-year-old courthouse’s original design must be preserved.
OP/ED: Pass Bill To Help Those Who Fix Homes
August 8, 2007
AT ISSUE: Assembly bill that would give more tax credits to those who fix up homes
Revitalizing Bagg’s Square West
July 12, 2007
UTICA —Varick Street isn’t the only Utica neighborhood where people are dreaming of economic revitalization, boutiques and loft apartments. A pocket of red-brick warehouses, many of them crumbling or boarded up, known as Bagg’s Square West, is now getting a closer look.
Revamping the Upper Levels of Downtown Life & Times of Utica
April 26, 2007
Matthew W. Moran
UTICA — Enhancing Main Street: Making Upper Floors Work Again” was the subject of a strategic workshop held at the Hotel Utica’s Crystal Ballroom on Tuesday, April 24. At the close of the specialized training session, the Preservation League of New York State awarded a $7,500 grant to the City of Utica.
Lofts, Stores Planned For Doyle Building NYC Developer: ‘There’s Obviously A Need’
April 25, 2007
UTICA — The Doyle Hardware building should be sold within two months to a New York City developer who wants to create at least 80 living units on the upper floors.
Stuart Bannatyne, a Manhattan resident, was on his way to Rochester several months ago, but said he stopped in Utica and discovered the Doyle building. He is under contract to purchase the building for approximately $500,000, and is working with the city to address parking issues, he said.
“There’s obviously a need for lofts in downtown Utica,” Bannatyne said. “I saw the potential there. Downtown Utica is ripe for development.”
Preservation League Presents Grant for Downtown Revitalization $7,500 awarded to city of Utica
APRIL 24, 2007
UTICA, NY – At the close of a specialized training session on strategies for making the most of upper floors in downtown commercial districts, The Preservation League of New York State awarded a $7,500 grant to the City of Utica.
The grant will help support a design study for a building in downtown Utica that holds the promise of introducing residential units on the upper floors. Specifically, the grant will support the cost of design and other professional services to demonstrate how the upper floors of typical Main Street buildings can be converted using some of the architectural, building code and financial principles discussed in the training session.
After visiting half a dozen buildings in Utica, the Preservation League selected Doyle Hardware on Broad Street for this rehabilitation study. Doyle Hardware anchors a key block between Main and Broad streets at First Street, near Utica’s landmark train station. The building’s significance was officially recognized in 1993 when “The Doyle Hardware Building” was individually listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It remains a handsome example of commercial design by one of Utica’s leading architects, Frederick H. Gouge (1845-1927), a graduate of Hamilton College.
“In 2005, the Preservation League launched an ambitious pilot project to address an important aspect of Main Street revitalization: the reuse of vacant upper stories in downtown commercial buildings,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of New York State. “We developed and offered a model workshop in six Western New York counties, and made strategic grants to demonstrate how upper floors can offer attractive housing options. The Preservation League is now bringing this successful program to other areas of New York State, starting today with this full-day conference and design study grant in Utica.” Additional workshops will be offered in the Rochester area in May, and in Binghamton in June.
“In the coming weeks we will work closely with the Preservation League to finalize the terms of the study,” said Utica Mayor Timothy J. Julian. “We expect that the results will address many of the questions faced by any building owner who may be thinking about upper floor conversion possibilities.”
Once the design study is done, the results will be publicized. “We hope that this example will spur additional investment in the historic districts and structures that represent distinctive elements of Utica’s historic, architectural and cultural heritage,” continued Mayor Julian.
“The repopulation of the immediate downtown area and the historic neighborhoods that surround it is paramount to Utica’s future,” said Landmarks Society President Michael S. Rizzo. “It has been shown in other cities that this method of adaptive reuse and residential conversions of vacant upper floors works. The $7,500 in seed money will help continue that process here in Utica.”
“The Preservation League is proud to partner with the city of Utica and the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, and to acknowledge the leadership roles of local and state government, not-for-profit groups, the business community, and many others in encouraging downtown revitalization,” said Tania Werbizky, Director of Technical and Grant Programs for the Preservation League. “We look forward to returning to Utica and seeing the design ideas developed here. We are certain that the results will be an inspiration to others.”
Uptown Theater Facing Changes After Sale New Owner to Renovate the Uptown
March 29, 2007
UTICA — The Uptown Theatre’s new owners are hoping some changes will create box office buzz.
Last week, Dan Martini sold the three-screen theater in Utica to Chris Anderson, owner of Valley Cinemas in Little Falls, and his brother Scott Anderson and sister-in-law Tracey Mills Anderson.
Preservation Groups to Join Lawsuit Want to Protect Rutger Park Mansions
March 29, 2007
UTICA — Two preservation groups can join the city of Utica in its suit to protect two historic mansions at Rutger Park, a state Supreme Court judge decided Wednesday.
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and the Preservation League of New York State will be able to offer the court technical information about how to accomplish short-term stabilization and long-term preservation of 1 and 3 Rutger Park.
Firm’s report: Best Option Is To Lower Arterial Recommendation Follows Months Of Study
March 22, 2007
UTICA — An engineering firm studying the redesign of the North-South Arterial Corridor has decided the best option would be a lowered expressway, according to the city councilman whose district the road divides.
Representatives of the Greenman-Pedersen Engineering firm will present their final plan to the local advisory committee at 3 p.m. today, said Common Council member James Zecca, D-2.
One-Room Schoolhouse Will Hit The Road Will Move To Westmoreland Historical Society
March 21, 2007
WESTMORELAND — A trailer will soon come to the back yard of Beverly Zingerline’s former Dix Road home, dismantle the roof on a one-room schoolhouse in the back yard, and move the structure five miles down the road to the Westmoreland Historical Society.
Julian: Build Townhouses At Valley View
March 8, 2007
UTICA — A top priority for Mayor Tim Julian this year is the construction of townhouses on the Valley View Golf Course, he said Wednesday afternoon during his sixth State of the City Address.
Landmarks Society to Present Three Awards for Historic Preservation
at November 16 Ceremony
November 2, 2006
CONMED Corporation, Utica homeowner Pat Anderson, and Howard P. Sears, Jr. and the Sears Oil Co. Museum in Rome will be honored for historic preservation and design excellence by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica at its annual dinner meeting and awards ceremony on Thursday, November 16 at the Fort Schuyler Club in Utica.The event will also feature a keynote address by Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League of New York State. The award honorees will be recognized for the following:
CONMED Corporation ‹ Award of Design Excellence ‹ for the renovation of the
interior spaces of its worldwide corporate headquarters located at 525 French Road in Utica.
Pat Anderson ‹ Award of Recognition ‹ for the impeccable restoration of 22 Higby Road in Utica ‹ a circa 1915 Arts & Crafts-style bungalow with beautiful woodwork, box beam ceiling, hardwood floors, built-in bookcases, china cabinet and window seats, large windows, spacious interiors, fireplace and sweeping fieldstone front porch.
Howard P. Sears, Jr. and the Sears Oil Co. Museum ‹ Award of Recognition ‹
for the impeccable restoration and conversion of the vacant Sears Gas Station at 201 N. George Street in Rome into a museum of Sears’ history. Not only did the project turn a blighted neighborhood corner into a shining star, it saved a truly noteworthy roadside landmark of a simpler, bygone era.
Other items on the agenda will include remarks by Landmarks Society President Michael S. Rizzo and a brief history of the Fort Schuyler Club by Landmarks Trustee Mary Lyons Bradley. The evening, which is open to the public, will begin with a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m. A sit-down dinner will be served at 7 p.m., followed by the program. The cost is $50 per person for Landmarks members and $65 for non-members. Reservations can be made by mailing payment, along with name, address, telephone number, e-mail address and number in party to: Landmarks Society Annual Dinner, 1124 State Street, Utica, NY 13501. Space is limited.
Tax Credits Offered For Historic Preservation
August 23, 2006
Staff and wire reports
ALBANY — A new state measure could give a face-lift to upstate urban neighborhoods: a tax credit for revamping historic commercial and residential buildings.
A City in Decline Fighting To Preserve Its 1800’s Heritage
July 14, 2006
NEW YORK TIMES
UTICA, N.Y., July 13 — The decline of the Mr. Lamp Building began long before a rainstorm in June 2005 ripped off part of its mansard roof. Rain poured in, and part of the western wall collapsed onto the sidewalk. No one stepped forward to pay for the repairs, which were estimated to cost at least $180,000, and in October, the Mr. Lamp Building, which dated from the 1870’s, was torn down. To Utica’s preservationists, the demolition was emblematic. They said that over the years, the city had lost about 40 percent of its 19th-century buildings — demolished after years of neglect, set on fire by arsonists or sacrificed
Sometimes It’s About The Bigger Picture
June 20, 2006
In its June 5 editorial the Observer-Dispatch said the Landmarks Society “punted” this year by replacing its annual list of buildings worth saving with a broader observation that the architectural integrity of the entire city is endangered. That charge was unjustified and indicates not only that key points of the endangered city message were missed, but an important aspect of Landmarks’ mission is misunderstood.
Promoting the preservation of neighborhoods, districts and our community at large is as much a part of Landmarks’ work as saving individual buildings. We have played an active role in the successful preservation of such structures as Union Station and Old Main, but for those efforts to be successful in the long run, buildings like these cannot be island museums in a wasteland of decay and empty lots.
Communities that have benefited the most from revitalizing historic buildings have done so by addressing them collectively, as neighborhoods and districts, where common preservation standards apply. Property values are protected, support services are enhanced and further residential and commercial investment is attracted.
Area-wide thinking is an approach that finally seems to be getting more than lip service locally. In the impending power line crisis, for example, are we limiting our concern to how it will affect one or two houses? No, the focus is rightly on the broader impact this debacle will have on the neighborhoods and communities it will violate.
This concept applies to historic preservation as well. And not only is promoting it the right thing to do, the degree of demolition underway and the decay exhibited in the city makes this the time to do it. The article in Landmarks’ newsletter that announced our endangered city theme and led to a news story and the subsequent editorial in the Observer-Dispatch, explained how the theme encompasses the need for Utica to develop a vision and plan for revitalizing downtown that is superior to the urban renewal strategies of the 20th century, which largely failed not only in Utica but nationwide. Downtowns were devastated, neighborhoods and cultures were displaced, and the unique character of many cities was lost forever to misguided planning and the wrecking ball.
We need only look to our sister city, Rome, to see the difficulty of trying to recreate a downtown decades after urban renewal virtually obliterated it. A 21st century form of creeping urban renewal has us on a similar path.
Finally, the endangered city theme signals that everyone has a role in preserving our historic resources, not just those directly affiliated with a few well-known buildings. From Union Station to a small business in west Utica, Old Main to an irreplaceable 19th century home in north Utica, ours is a community worth saving, citywide.
Landmarks will always maintain a prioritized list of prominent buildings in danger of being lost. But sometimes the message we need to communicate is even more important than that. Sometimes it’s about the bigger picture.
OP/ED: Endangered Landmarks List Too Broad
June 5, 2006
AT ISSUE: Protecting Utica’s landmarks means setting priorities…
Landmarks Society Says Utica ‘Endangered’
May 31, 2006
By RENEE GAMELA
UTICA – Each year, the Landmarks Society of Greater usually selects 10 to 20 buildings in the area that are considered most endangered. This year, the list is a bit more extensive. “We have come to the conclusion the entire city of Utica is endangered,” Landmarks Society President Michael S. Rizzo, wrote in an e-mail.
Harsh winters with many freeze-thaw cycles and years of consistent neglect of key private structures have created so many candidates, it forced the Landmarks Society to look at what is happening to the city as a whole, Rizzo wrote.
It is unusual for an entire city to be considered endangered, but the group has chosen neighborhoods throughout the city where it feels the architectural heritage is being destroyed. From Bagg’s Square to Oneida Square, in West Utica and East Utica, even on Varick Street, which in recent years has seen much restoration, the list of endangered sites continues to grow.
Deeming the entire city endangered was not an easy decision, Rizzo said. “It was a tough thing to say and think about,” he said. “It’s not just tearing down things, it’s adding appropriate things.” Rizzo cited the power line that could be added throughout the Mohawk Valley would destroy residential neighborhoods.
Whose responsibility is it to reverse the society’s conclusion? “It’s everybody’s,” he said. “It’s every citizen. That’s what makes a city.”
Areas of concern
Here is a brief description of endangered city sites, by neighborhood:
1. Rutger/Steuben streets – 1, 3 and 7 Rutger Park.
2. Bleecker/Mohawk streets – Meyda Tiffany block: scheduled demolition for parking.
3. Areas in Bagg’s Square.
4. West Utica – Director’s mansion at the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center campus: compromised roof; Dixhurst building: extensive water in basement.
5. Downtown core – Columbia/Lafayette streets: commercial buildings.
6. Oneida Square – Oneida Castle: hole in roof; Knights of Columbus: leaking roof.
7. East Utica – Constant and repeated loss of both commercial and residential properties, and neighborhood character.
8. South Utica/Uptown – Loss of streetwall, strip mall going in at corner of Genesee Street and Auburn Avenue.
9. Varick Street – Pasquale’s building: compromised roof and walls, codes violations.
Landmarks Society Releases 2006 Endangered Buildings List
MAY 30, 2006
Our Endangered City
It has been customary at this time of year for the Landmarks Society to publish our annual list of “Buildings Worth Saving” — a roster of between 10 and 20 architecturally and/or historically significant local structures in imminent danger of being lost through deterioration or neglect.
It is a list neither developed nor taken lightly.
In 2006, with entire blocks of downtown Utica facing demolition by the City, and the winter’s harsh freeze-thaw cycles exacerbating the effects of years of neglect to numerous key private buildings, we felt it essential to look at the bigger picture of what is happening to our city and its neighborhoods as a whole.
This has brought us to the conclusion that regarding the architectural and historic integrity of our buildings, the entire city of Utica is endangered!
Disappearing Urban Fabric
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, Utica is losing its structures, context and urban fabric — the elements that make a city, a city. Once worthy of the moniker “The Landmark City,” it is succumbing to a new creeping form of urban renewal, the failed planning technique so prevalent during the 1960s and ‘70s, which became a municipal version of forest clear-cutting or strip mining.
Utica is becoming less and less a city, and more and more a suburban setting.
A contributing factor is this area’s growing propensity toward sprawl. Orchards and farmlands are forever disappearing under the individuality-challenged “McMansions” and the sprouting gigantic box stores, accompanied by seas of asphalt parking lots. While we are tempted to tout this as progress and opportunity, the fact remains that the farther out we go with our development, the harder it will be to sustain it.
“Walkability” an Asset
Urban landscape author James Kunstler, the guest speaker at Landmarks’ 2005 annual dinner meeting, spoke of the walkability of Utica as one of its major advantages. The proximity of our buildings and relative low scale of the structures could be an invaluable asset to Utica’s future, as the ever-volatile energy market continues to take its toll on the American consumer.
All cities will invariably lose some buildings for reasons beyond anyone’s control. What’s more, declining population makes it increasingly difficult to sustain certain establishments, with notable examples being our magnificent urban churches. As consolidation of parishes and congregations continues, we will see more and more irreplaceable houses of worship go up for sale and face an uncertain future.
Unfortunately, however, rather than learn from the mistakes of others or the past, we seem destined to experience or relive them. Urban Renewal, a.k.a. the wholesale destruction of entire city blocks to provide “attractive, inexpensive, shovel-ready developable land companies will flock to build on,” was largely a bitter and unfortunate failure throughout the United States.
Downtowns were devastated, neighborhoods and cultures were displaced and dispersed, and the unique character of cities and their “sense of place” was forever lost to misguided planning and the wrecking ball. We have only to look to our sister city to the west, Rome, to realize the difficulty of trying to recreate a downtown 30 years after urban renewal literally obliterated it.
Utica is losing its urban fabric one building at a time, either by active demolition in the interest of “more parking” or through blatant neglect by landlords who either cannot afford or do not care to keep their historic properties in decent repair.
Vision and Plan are Keys
As successfully revitalized downtowns across the country have shown, older buildings are prime venues for redevelopment. There are already excellent “move-in-ready” buildings in Utica’s central business district. The City must become more business friendly and make others “move-in ready” as well — instead of “shovel-ready” vacant sites. It is often largely a question of matching the right entrepreneur with the proper structure. More important is having the vision and adhering to a solid economic development plan that will make it happen.
Of course, we cannot and should not rely solely on the public sector. Saving our extraordinary heritage and revitalizing our community will take everyone’s participation. Utica has a proud heritage of enlightened leaders whose business, cultural and philanthropic achievements set remarkable examples for our citizenry. These leaders built and meticulously maintained their properties, many of which are the magnificent structures whose care are entrusted to us today.
Among the most notable of those community builders of the past were the Proctors, eminent benefactors of the city in countless ways. Out of admiration and perhaps with a hint of frustration the question is sometimes asked today, where is the next generation of Proctors? — enlightened individuals whose focus is on enhancing and not destroying or endangering the greatness of our city?
The answer to that question lies within each of us — and together we can carry on the legacy.
Some examples of our Endangered City, by neighborhood:
1. Rutger/Steuben – 1 & 3 Rutger Park, deterioration of roofs among numerous issues affecting these properties that are facing demolition by neglect.
2. Bleecker/Mohawk — Meyda Tiffany/Big Daddy’s block, scheduled demolition for parking; Security Building, roof and extended vacancy.
3. Bagg’s Square — REA wing, extended vacancy; Jacoby building, badly compromised roof. Remaining original, historical railroad structures (including O&W freight house, New York Central Tower 30, Schuyler Street watchman’s tower and numerous other railroad-related structures) could be preserved and incorporated into a museum setting that would complement the Adirondack Scenic Railroad operation. The new proprietor of the Union Station restaurant is building a raised dining area over the marble countertop, encasing it (see page x). Landmarks will continue to monitor.
4. Cornhill — constant and repeated loss of both commercial and residential properties, along with the general deterioration of the neighborhood.
5. West Utica — Deteriorating neighborhood fabric. On the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center campus, the Director’s Mansion has a compromised roof and the Dixhurst building has extensive water in basement.
6. Downtown Core — Foto Fair building (Jones-Haberer), compromised roof and extended vacancy; Columbia Street.
7. Oneida Square — Oneida Castle building, hole in roof; Knights of Columbus building, leaking roof.
8. East Utica — Constant and repeated loss of both commercial and residential properties.
9. Varick Street — Pasquale’s building, compromised roof and walls, code violations.
10. South Utica/Uptown — loss of streetwall, strip mall going in at Genesee and Auburn.
11. North Utica — Often forgotten, this section of the city along Herkimer Road and Riverside Drive contains some of the city’s oldest and most historic homes. Many seem to be well-maintained, however commercial development is compromising the Herkimer Road corridor.
OP/ED: Gone But Not Forgotten: Remembering Utica’s Lost Treasures
May 29, 2006
The city of Utica has numerous obsolete buildings, most of which have outlived their usefulness and should indeed be razed.
Others, however, are important links to the past, many aligned with the people and events that should forever remain as symbols of what made Utica one of the more important communities in the nation….
Landmarks’s Bid For 1 and 3 Rutger Park Fails
February 8, 2006
UTICA — After making several offers for 1 and 3 Rutger Park, the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica is no longer bidding for the historic mansions.
Landmark’s Society Statement:
“We are disappointed that the Dowling Family and Landmarks Society of Greater Utica could not achieve a mutually beneficial agreement for these key historic properties in Rutger Park at this time. Regardless, we stand ready to provide the following:
1. Assistance in developing conceptual plans for reuse and restoration of 1, 2 and 3 Rutger Park.
2. Assistance in applying for reasonable, appropriate and applicable grants and/or low interest loans from the City of Utica, The Preservation League of New York State NYSOPRHP and other governmental agencies or private foundations.
3. Facilitating meetings with city’s Urban and Economic Development Department and the Scenic and Historic Commission relating to the long term, economically viable plan that is consistent with the properties historic significance. ”
OP/ED: SAVE RUTGER PARK HOMES
January 29, 2006
Historic mansions part of what we were, what we can be.
The city of Utica has little choice but to pursue legal action in an effort to protect two of the region’s most historic homes.
Utica Corporation Counsel Linda Sullivan Fatata said Tuesday the city will go to court to force the owners of Nos. 1 and 3 Rutger Park to comply with a 1994 court order that requires the homes be kept up. That order was issued by State Supreme Court Justice Anthony Shaheen as a stipulation in granting the owner permission to demolish another home at No. 2. Rutger Park.
The City Is Planning Legal Action
January 25, 2006
UTICA — The city is planning legal action to save two of its most historic homes.
The city’s Scenic and Historic Preservation Commission asked Corporation Counsel Linda Sullivan Fatata Monday to recommend ways the city can force the owner of 1 and 3 Rutger Park to maintain the homes, Fatata said Tuesday.
“We will act now to save (the homes) from any more deterioration,” Fatata said. “We want to get the ball rolling right now.”
Rutger Park Named to the Preservation League of New York State’s “Seven To Save” List
January 19, 2006
The Preservation League of New York State has named 1 and 3 Rutger Park in the City of Utica, Oneida County, to the nonprofit group’s annual list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic places, Seven to Save.
Preservation League of New York State Welcomes Landmarks
January 13, 2006
ALBANY, January 13, 2006 – Though founded thirty years apart, the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and the Friends of Historic Herkimer County have similar goals: advocating for the preservation and restoration of the historic, irreplaceable buildings, districts and sites in their communities. Now, they can learn from one another, and from dozens of similar groups across New York State, as members of the Preservation League of New York State’s Preservation Colleagues program.
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica was the first all-volunteer group to host and participate in a regional meeting of the Preservation League of New York State’s Preservation Colleagues program. The meeting, held at the historic Hotel Utica in December, was attended by representatives of historic preservation groups from Albany to Buffalo to Binghamton, as well as staff of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). A representative from Friends of Historic Herkimer County, the other new all-volunteer member of Preservation Colleagues, also attended.
Launched with a NYSCA grant in 1997, the Preservation Colleagues began as a network of professionally-staffed not-for-profit groups. “Preservation Colleagues are the behind-the-scenes heroes and the front-line advocates who work on behalf of endangered landmarks, historic neighborhoods, rural landscapes and commercial centers in their respective service areas,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “The Preservation Colleagues program works to foster an even stronger bond between the organizations to advance the goals of each one individually, and to collectively promote a statewide preservation agenda.”
Last year, the Preservation League conducted a statewide survey, partially funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, to identify the all-volunteer preservation groups in the state. “The League’s search revealed 20 such groups which have historic preservation as the core mission,” said Tania Werbizky, Director of Technical and Grant Programs for the Preservation League. “Some of these organizations serve a single community, while others have a regional focus. Some are well-established, while others are new. After a series of follow-up calls and site visits, the League formally invited two all-volunteer groups to join the Preservation Colleagues program.”
“Being invited to join the Preservation League’s Colleagues Program is both an honor and privilege for our organization,” said Landmarks Society President Michael S. Rizzo. “It affirms not only the mission of historic preservation that Landmarks has pursued vigorously for over 30 years, but Landmarks’ effectiveness, even as an all-volunteer organization, in promoting the appreciation, preservation and restoration of irreplaceable local properties and districts.”
“Friends of Historic Herkimer County was founded in 2004 to bring attention to the important architectural, historical and cultural resources of Herkimer County,” said Sue Perkins, a member of the group. “As a newly-formed organization, we are looking forward to learning from others’ experiences, as well as sharing our excitement, enthusiasm and new ideas. The Preservation Colleagues meeting in Utica gave us a taste of what was to come, and we’re looking forward to upcoming meetings and opportunities to network.”
Utica area businessman and philanthropist F. Eugene Romano, who was recently named to the Preservation League’s Board of Trustees, also commented on Landmarks’ joining the Colleagues Program. “This is a partnership of two organizations that have demonstrated at both the local and state levels that historic preservation is important culturally and economically to our communities. Greater Utica is rich in structures and neighborhoods that have extraordinary historic and architectural significance, as is New York State. We can all be excited about the work being done to make sure these assets are as valuable a part of our future as they have been our past.”
According to DiLorenzo, “The Preservation League is pleased to work with the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica in this new way. We look forward to assisting this organization to enhance its abilities to bring the benefits of preservation to public and private stakeholders who are engaged in planning, economic development and neighborhood revitalization. Thanks to NYSCA support, the League is able to extend the Preservation Colleagues program to Utica and thereby to the constituents of the Landmark Society of Greater Utica.”
4 Property Owners Honored For Preserving History
October 20, 2005
When Michelle Klosek and her husband, Steve, bought the 120-year-old Stiefvater building 17 years ago, the water in the basement reached Michelle Klosek’s hips. What she didn’t know was that a rich history lay below.
Dipping Into History: Utica Fountain Restored
October 18, 2005
UTICA — A brown-and-white-spotted paint horse named Mel drank water from the 8-by-6-foot granite pool.
Honey, a golden retriever, dipped his paw in the dish-like extensions jutting out from each side of the newly restored monument on Utica’s Memorial Parkway. The scene could have been pulled from a history book, said Michael Rizzo, president of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica. He stood at the intersection of Elk and Pleasant streets looking at the circa-1910 Swan Memorial Fountain.
Landmarks Group Puts In Its Bid For Historic Homes
September 23, 2005
UTICA – The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica has submitted a bid to purchase 1 and 3 Rutger Park, two of the city’s most historic properties, society President Michael Rizzo said Thursday.
History For Sale – Conkling Home On The Block
June 25, 2005
UTICA – After months of speculation, two of Utica’s most historic buildings are for sale. In a twist, however, the mansions at 1 and 3 Rutger Park don’t have an asking price. Rather, interested buyers must submit by September a bid and short essay describing their plans for the buildings.
PYRAMID BROKERAGE COMPANY HAS BEEN RETAINED TO SELL RUTGER PARK
June 24, 2005
Crowds flock to Utica’s Old Main
Reopening sparks interest in facility
May 26, 2005
UTICA — The line of visitors stretched from the containment fence down onto the access road in front of Old Main in Utica Wednesday, 35 people deep for hours on end…
Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center’s Old Main Building Reopens Renovated Facility to Store OMH Documents and Records
New York State Office of Mental Health
May 25, 2005
Sharon E. Carpinello, R.N., Ph.D., Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH), was joined by local officials and community leaders on Wednesday, May 25 to officially reopen the Old Main Building at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center as the OMH Record and Artifact Center. Tours of the renovated building, conducted by current and former psychiatric center employees and by members of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, followed the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The large limestone Greek Revival building first opened in 1843 as the first New York State operated facility for the mentally ill, and operated as a inpatient psychiatric facility until it closed in 1978. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and in 1989 its status was elevated to National Historic Landmark.
City Pitches Old Main
January 26, 2005
City pitches Old Main: Officials want building to become training center.
Questions Loom as Rutger Park Sale in Utica Begins
November 4, 2005
UTICA — When a four-day estate sale at 1 and 3 Rutger Park begins today, antiques dating back to the Civil War era will be on the auction block.
Groups Seek to Preserve Historic Utica Mansions
October 18, 2005
SHAWN ANDERSON and ELIZABETH COOPER
They’re two of Utica’s most historic homes, sitting in one of Utica’s most historic districts.
Speculation about the future of 1 and 3 Rutger Park has run rampant since the spring death of Anne Dowling, whose family owns the properties.
Former State Lawmaker Nick Calogero Dies at 80
October 10, 2005
Gov. George Pataki said Saturday that he has ordered flags across the state flown at half-staff “in honor of Assemblyman Calogero.” Pataki said, “Nick … will long be remembered for his tireless efforts and advocacy to restore Utica Union Station. The train station will serve as a lasting tribute and example of his devotion.”
Community Foundation Grant Helps Landmarks
July 23, 2005
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica today 7-23-04 announced that its campaign to fund restoration of the historic Swan Memorial Fountain on Utica’s Parkway has reached the goal thanks to a $5,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Inc.
Landmarks President Michael S. Rizzo said the grant brings to $40,000 the amount raised in the drive, which will provide needed repairs to the fountain, located on the east side of Elm Street between Pleasant Street and the Memorial Parkway. He noted that other major contributors to the project have been the CONMED Corporation, members and friends of the William C. Locke family, and the City of Utica which matched total private-sector support with $20,000 in funding.
“The Swan Fountain is one of Utica’s most significant pieces of outdoor sculpture,” said Rizzo, “it has graced the city’s picturesque Parkway corridor for nearly a century and with this much-needed conservation, will continue to do so for years to come.
“The Landmarks Society and countless others who appreciate our many local architectural treasures are grateful to all who have believed in and supported this project, including Utica Mayor Tim Julian. It is another example of historic preservation linking our community’s proud past with a new vitality for the 21st century, and a model of public and private-sector resources coming together to make that happen.”
Rizzo said the restoration will include base and infrastructure repair, site work and gardening. He expects the refurbished fountain to be ready for a public unveiling by next spring.
According to “Historic Utica: A Guide to the City’s Outdoor Sculpture” by Rand Carter, the fountain was built in 1910 as a memorial to Robert Swan, a prominent Utica lawyer who had died four years earlier. His widow commissioned Frederick William MacMonnies to design and execute the fountain, with its bronze figurative elements and granite pedestal and basin.
The publication goes on to say, “The Swan Memorial charms passersby with its variety of mythic creatures, including a cast-bronze figure of an infant Pan playing the panpipes, two mythic creatures, half goat, half serpent, and four waterspouts in the form of a dog and fish heads.
“The water flows into bronze seashells mounted on a granite shaft, as well as into the large granite basin below. For almost a century this fountain has been a favorite of Uticans, many of whom stopped to let their dogs drink from the two dog fountains at the base.”
Since 1974 the Landmarks Society has been the leading voice for preservation and restoration of historic, irreplaceable buildings, districts and sites throughout the Greater Utica Area. The group has played an active role in such projects as the rejuvenation of Union Station, preservation of the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center’s “Old Main” building and its reopening as the Records Archive for the New York State Office of Mental Health, and safeguarding the architectural integrity of Utica’s Rutger-Steuben Park and other historic districts.
City Cites Rutger Street Residents
June 20, 2004
Utica: Historic codes violated
UTICA — City officials say nearly 30 homeowners on Rutger Street are violating Scenic and Historic Preservation District regulations.
OP/ED: Owner, City Must Work Together To Save Homes
June 4, 2004
Finger-pointing is easy. Progress is not. What’s needed at the heart of Utica’s historic district is public/private cooperation that helps preserve two of the city’s most famous addresses — 1 and 3 Rutger Park.
Questions Surround Key Historic Homes in Utica
May 31, 2004
Owner still deciding fate of 1, 3 Rutger Park
UTICA — As the city steps up efforts to restore the Rutger-Steuben Park Historic District, the future of two of its most historic mansions — 1 and 3 Rutger Park — remains unclear.
Spirit of Renewal Moves Into Neighborhood
May 24, 2004
If these walls could talk.
That’s what many of us were thinking recently as we stood in the dining room of 219 Rutger St. Built around 1860, this graceful second empire-style house still stands proudly in a neighborhood that once personified one of the nation’s most prosperous and rapidly growing cities……
Utica’s Scenic and Historic Preservation Commission Adopts New Guidelines
May 17, 2004
At the regular meeting held May 17, 2003, Utica’s Scenic and Historic Preservation Commission adopted the new guidelines that finally set down principles for working within Utica’s Scenic and Historic Districts. The publication has been financed in part with Federal funds from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior and administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and were prepared by Historic Preservation Consultant Taylor & Taylor Associates, Inc. David L. Taylor, Principal-in-Charge. Download and or read them by cliking on the link below.
On The Block: Historic Rutger Street Homes To Be Sold By City
May 7, 2004
At one time, the three mansions — built during the 1860s to 1880s — ranked among Utica’s most desirable homes.
OP/ED: Future Can Hinge On Past
April 5, 2004
Preserving the past is an honorable goal for us all. A country without an Old North Church, a Monticello or an Independence Hall surely would be missing part of its soul, and the dedication of those who stand guard over these national treasures cannot be compensated.
Group Deems Landmarks ‘Worth Saving’
Wed, Mar 31, 2004
UTICA — Progress has been made in stabilizing and preserving Utica’s most historic buildings, but much work still remains.
Former Conkling Home A Treasure Worth Guarding
March 29, 2004
While it’s important to pay attention to all of the homes on the Landmark Society’s endangered list, this community must be especially vigilant in protecting the former Roscoe Conkling home at 3 Rutger Park.
LANDMARKS SOCIETY’S 2004 “BUILDINGS WORTH SAVING”
MARCH 23, 2004
The Landmarks Society of Greater Utica has published its 2004 list of historically and/or architecturally significant area buildings and districts at risk or in danger of being lost.
Michael Bosak, chairman of Landmarks’ Endangered Buildings Committee, said the list is compiled annually and is meant to review and update the status of those buildings, sites, districts and vistas previously reported as endangered or newly identified as such.
Said Bosak, “Landmarks has been working with the City of Utica, private owners and organizations to help draw attention to the need for preservation, maintenance and repair of our vital historic architectural environment.
Bosak disclosed the top ten sites on the list as follows:
1 Rutger Park
Threatened o Italian Villa, ca. 1854.
3 Rutger Park
Threatened o Greek Revival, ca. 1830.
7 Rutger Park / Former Teamsters Building
Watch o Modern, ca. 1977
Rutger Park Greenspace
Watch o Landscape, ca. 1830.
22 Steuben Park
Emergency o Queen Anne, ca. 1872
Corner of Hobart and Oneida Streets
Watch (was Threatened)
100 South Street
Threatened o Queen Anne, ca. 1885
Railway Express Agency (REA) Wing of Union Station
Guard (was Watch) o Ca. 1914..
3 Hopper Street
Threatened Neoclassical, ca. 1895.
Swan Memorial Fountain
JUDICIAL FIGHTS TO RESTORE COURTROOMS
February 16, 2004
As construction continues, judicial branch pushes to restore at least one of the ceremonial third floor courtrooms at the Oneida County Court House. Current plans never attempted to restore courtrooms to their original grandeur. Incredible plaster coffered ceiling found hidden under cheap drop ceilings. Photo of intact ceiling shows it to be in great shape!
Recently, Hon. Robert F. Julian, Supreme Court Justice gave an emotional and inspiring presentation to the Oneida County Legislature imploring them that it is their “constitutional and statutory obligation to restore and protect the people’s property”. Past courthouse renovation did not respect its’ historic significance or character. He added that considering the significant history the Oneida County Bar Association has played in shaping this country, restoring at least one courtroom is not too much to ask for.
Fort Schuyler Club Nominated
December 21, 2003
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Bernadette Castro announced that the New York State Board of Historic Preservation has recommended 39 properties for nomination to the State and National Registers of Historic Places. One of the properties recommended for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places is the Fort Schuyler Club Building, Utica.
City of Utica Matches Funds
November 14, 2003
Mayor Tim Julian has agreed to co-sponsor the Save the Swan Memorial Fountain Campaign matching money raised by the Landmarks Society dollar for dollar. With this news, the total funds rasied to date is $10,000 and the official kick-off has not occurred.
WHY PRESERVE? HOTEL UTICA ATTRACTS NATIONAL ATTENTION
November 8, 2003
The Hotel Utica, a member of the Historic Hotels of America, re-opened on April 4, 2001. Its effects are now becoming apparent throughout downtown.
CONMED Donates $5,000 To Save The Swan Fountain
November 6, 2003
The CONMED Corp of Utica has committed $5,000 to Landmarks’ Save the Swan Memorial Fountain Campaign.
New Beginning Envisioned For Old Main
March 31, 2003
Building would become museum, records archive
Mike Bosak, past president of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica, wants to turn the Old Main Building at the former Utica Psychiatric Center into a museum and a place to keep record archives from various psychiatric institutions.