The Landmark Society of Western New York has announced its 2021 Five to Revive – a list that identifies opportunities for targeted, strategic revitalization in the region.
The list includes:
• Inner Loop North Infill Project – City of Rochester, Monroe County
• St. Michael’s Church and surrounding neighborhood – City of Rochester, Monroe County
• Alasa Farms – town of Sodus, Wayne County
• Phelps Hotel – village of Phelps, Ontario County
• Epworth Hall at Silver Lake Institute – town of Castile, Wyoming County
It is the ninth year that the nonprofit organization has named the Five to Revive list to draw attention to key priorities for revitalization in Western New York.
“The heart of preservation is community revitalization,” said Landmark Society Executive Director Wayne Goodman. “In 2013, we launched the Five to Revive program to call attention to five properties in Western New York that are in need of investment. Whether buildings, landscapes or structures, they are significant historic properties whose rehabilitation can become catalytic projects for the neighborhoods and communities that surround them. The ultimate goal is to return these important historic resources to a place of prominence in their respective communities, as economic and social assets that spark even more investment and revitalization.”
In writing about the five projects, officials noted that the Inner Loop North project has the potential to be “transformative, knitting back together several Rochester neighborhoods, re-creating the urban street grid, and providing land on which the community can start to rebuild the houses, the livelihoods and the social fabric that highway construction destroyed. If done carefully and with an eye towards social justice, the project could begin to right some of the racial inequities that urban renewal projects like the Inner Loop perpetuated.”
Faced with ongoing operational pressures, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester in 2020 planned to close St. Michael’s Church. Parishioners rallied, forming the St. Michael Society and drafting a proposal to preserve the church as a sacred space and prevent closure. St. Michael’s has since received a new pastor and remains open; however, the building and the surrounding neighborhood remain at a critical tipping point. Like many houses of worship throughout the country, St. Michael’s faces declining attendance and finances, along with mounting building repair costs. With costly repairs needed, fundraising and repair plans are critical to ensuring the future of the building and its place as the heart of the El Camino neighborhood, Landmark Society officials said.
Alasa Farms is owned by Cracker Box Palace, a nonprofit that manages the farm and operates a shelter for large animals on the property. Many of the historic buildings on the site are early 20th-century agricultural outbuildings, however, the Farm also includes two extremely rare and remarkably intact 1833-34 communal residential buildings built by the Sodus Bay Shakers.
Despite the significant expenses that the organization faces in addressing its historic buildings, a newly formed Historic Committee has been formed to focus its efforts on the buildings while the rest of the organization focuses on animal care. The Cracker Box Palace board adopted a new vision and mission statement in 2020, which includes not only providing shelter and sanctuary to farm animals but also promoting the rich history of the area and engaging and educating the community.
Built in 1867 by peppermint magnate Lehman Hotchkiss, the Phelps Hotel played a central role in the village’s economic and social life for more than 150 years. It housed hotel rooms, office space, meeting and banquet rooms and a restaurant and bar. After being vacant for several years, the building was purchased by new owners who have begun the process of making the significant repairs and upgrades that are needed, including repairs to the roof. Although rehabilitation of this scale presents a challenge for a small rural village, with new owners, the support of the Phelps Business Development and Tourism Council, its location in a community with an impressive collection of exquisite historic buildings and proximity to Rochester and the Finger Lakes region, the future of the Phelps Hotel may be looking brighter, Landmark Society officials said.
Epworth Hall is an intact example of a large-scale late-19th-century assembly hall designed to house a variety of types of public meetings in a seasonal religious camp. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the multi-purpose building combines simple Queen Anne style elements in its interior finishes with an exterior executed in the Colonial Revival style. It was built in 1892 as part of the Silver Lake Institute, a Methodist-affiliated camp facility, and was designed by prominent Rochester architects Jay Fay and Otis Dryer.
The hall is owned and operated by Silver Lake Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of residents and visitors in the small, lakeside community. Since separating from the Methodist church in 2016, the institute has provided cultural and educational programming in the building, attracting guests from the region and beyond. The organization has worked tirelessly to plan and fundraise for the long-term preservation of Epworth Hall, however, it faces significant costs to make the building safe and accessible for all visitors.