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Historic Preservation Month

May 1st, 2020

By John Marks, Curator of Collections

Since 2005, May has been National Preservation Month. It grew from National Preservation Week at the end of April, which was established in 1973. I have been remiss in promoting it for quite awhile.

I love Geneva stories because, at any time period, they illustrate what is or was going on in America. Historic preservation in the 2010s is no different. Some efforts are seen as radical and are opposed by neighbors. Other projects are met with, “That will never work, but I guess it’s your money.” I don’t have room to recognize all the historic preservation projects in Geneva, but here are several pairings of issues and buildings.

Two Story Building With RampThe Nathaniel Block and the Patent Block

A 21st-century issue in downtown revitalization is using the upper floors of buildings. The first wave was to bring businesses back to empty buildings. Storefronts alone often can’t pay for the buildings, and most businesses don’t add to the life of streets after 5 pm. Dave Linger and Wendy Marsh have done a number of projects with market-rate apartments above stores and offices. Two recent projects are the Nathaniel Block on Castle Street (formerly the Almarco building), and the Patent Block on East Castle Street (most recently the Comedy Playhouse).

Green Sign on a fence in front of a Yellow Brick BuildingParrott Hall

In 1971, Parrott Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). However, the NRHP doesn’t offer any protection unless federal funds are used to demolish a building. Parrott Hall illustrates demolition by neglect. When an owner, in this case the New York State Department of Parks, doesn’t want to spend money on rehabilitating a building, they do nothing. Eventually they claim that the building is beyond repair and should be demolished. There is an effort to save Parrott Hall and you can read more at friendsofparrotthall.org.

Decorative Entrance with Green Door and Warning SignsDove Block

The exterior of the Dove Block on the corner of Castle and Exchange Streets has changed little since it was built in the 1870s. The building has been vacant since the early 2000s. A current effort  has raised money and secured grants to renovate the building. The group is seeking a new owner and use for the building. This is an example of a cornerstone building in search of a purpose. It’s too important to downtown to lose, but it needs tenants to keep it alive.

Brick Building Black Doors Event EntranceCracker Factory

The old Geneva Cutlery factory on Lehigh Street is a case of owners with a purpose in search of a building. When the building of their furniture company burned in 2007, Brandon and Amy Phillips needed a new site right away. The factory was a lot of space for less money than modern buildings. With the furniture company on the ground level, there were thousands of square feet of space on the other two floors. They turned the second floor into an event space for concerts, weddings, and parties. That part of the building operates as The Cracker Factory  Contrary to the name, crackers were never made there, just razors, knives, and kitchen utensils. If you stop by, maybe Brandon or Amy will tell you why they chose the name.

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