The 2019 Historic Ithaca Preservation Awards
La Tourelle hosted the 2019 Historic Ithaca Preservation Awards on Thursday, May 16, 2019. More than 120 guests gathered to honor preservation projects and preservation professionals from throughout Tompkins County.
Four historic preservation projects, one creative project showcasing the built environment, and one preservation advocate received awards. Of particular note was the run-down former residence that OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives & Resources) of Tompkins County, using volunteers, rehabilitated for the use of formerly incarcerated men returning to the community. Also acknowledged was the tremendous stained-glass restoration project undertaken by St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was built in 1859 and is on the National Register of Historic Places and as part of DeWitt Park Historic District.
The final award of the evening went to Tania G. Werbizky. A long-time statewide advocate for historic preservation and Historic Ithaca volunteer, Werbizky received the Joseph O. Ciaschi Preservation Excellence Award. In her acceptance speech, she recounted her long and productive involvement with Historic Ithaca and detailed why she continues to be involved with the organization:
“Over my twenty-five years at the Preservation League of New York State, only three were in the Albany headquarters. As a Regional Director of Technical and Grant Programs, the League maintained a field office on The Commons. My service area was most of Western and Central New York, some thirty-three counties, including Tompkins. This allowed for deeper, more productive relationships between local constituents and the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and of course, the League.
Throughout those years, Historic Ithaca and the Preservation League enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. As one example, when the League launched two grant programs in 1993, Historic Ithaca vigorously promoted the opportunities to its Tompkins County constituents. Over the decades, among the successful grant recipients were the Towns of Danby and Lansing, the City of Ithaca, and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. Historic Ithaca also received project support and sometimes its staff served as consultants. The most recent success was a 2011 grant for what became the local Henry St. John Historic District in 2014.
Also, when it comes to public policy, Historic Ithaca maintains a strong partnership with the Preservation League, which sets an annual legislative agenda. Historic Ithaca staff members spend hours communicating with state and federal officials about the need for legislation and appropriations that advance revitalization back home.
On the flip side, Historic Ithaca has created model programs that benefit the state and can inspire its sister organizations. While at the Preservation League it was always a special pleasure for me to spread the word about the good work coming out of Tompkins County.
As an example, while employed at Historic Ithaca, Lynn Cunningham Truame proposed a property tax abatement that gives local communities the authority to offer a five-year freeze on local property assessments. This is an attractive option for homeowners bearing the costs of rehabbing their historic homes. The program is called the “Real Property Tax Exemption for Historic Preservation,” but its shorthand name–known thoroughout the state–is “the Ithaca Bill”.
The Work Preserve Program is another model endeavor. Historic Ithaca offers job and skills training to youth and young adults in the context of architectural materials salvage and furniture repair. New York State has some three-dozen preservation not-for-profits, but Work Preserve is unique in the Empire State.
So during the twenty-five years of working with our statewide preservation organization, I was privileged to serve nine years on Historic Ithaca’s board, including as co-president with Margaret Hobbie and then as president. Since 2016 it has been a pleasure to reengage with Historic Ithaca through participation on several committees and task forces.
You may ask, why? Well, the long arm of Historic Ithaca does reach out, but it’s really more like a warm embrace. Among the reasons I’ve stayed engaged are that Historic Ithaca is: forward-looking, sometimes feisty, and fun.
FUN. I think we’ve got that covered today with this happy event.
FEISTY. Historic Ithaca takes stands on projects, always with the aim of improving design elements so that new construction can be a complementary and welcome neighbor in a historic context. But when needed, Historic Ithaca will use available regulatory and legal means to reshape or stop a project. That’s a very rare occurrence, at the far end of advocacy efforts.
FORWARD-LOOKING. Certainly Historic Ithaca cares about the futures of individuals in its Work Preserve Program. Significant Elements recycles building parts, giving them second lives and thus helping keep materials out of landfills. Historic Ithaca’s many educational activities underscore identifying, retaining, and enhancing community character so that people, businesses, and institutions want to put down roots here and help build a more diverse and inclusive place.”
Werbizky’s remarks underscored the importance of Historic Ithaca’s role in preservation and the need to celebrate each and every preservation success in our community. The especially strong roster of award winners this year points to the continued strength of historic preservation locally. Click here to view the presentation of the 2019 Preservation Award Winners and see below for the list of awardees.
2019 Award Winners
The Missing Chapter, Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY: Aoise Stratford and Katie Marks, playwrights; Sam Buggeln, director; Norm Scott, sound designer; Laura Miller, producer; Diana Riesman, co-producer
The Danby Gathery, Danby, NY: Nancy Medsker, Tom Seaney, Jason K. Demarest Architecture, Josh Rocha
626 West Buffalo Street (Endeavor House) in Ithaca, NY: OAR of Tompkins County
Rockefeller Hall Northwest Exterior Stair, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Klepper, Hahn & Hyatt, Cornell University, Streeter Associates
Stained glass windows at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ithaca: St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bovard Studio, Inc.
Joseph O. Ciaschi Preservation Excellence Award
Tania G. Werbizky