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Franklin High, 1935

Franklin High, 1935


I visited the former Franklin High School last night. It now houses several different schools. School #58 had an expedition and a teacher friend invited us to come by. I was very impressed with the student displays on hydrofracking and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

I was also struck by the beauty of the building. Franklin was built in 1930 on 23 acres at Hudson and Norton. Back in 1930, Rochester had 325,000 residents and Kodak employed 23,000 people. When it was built, Franklin was the largest school east of the Mississippi, with 500 rooms and a mile of hallways. At one point, Franklin had 4,100 students.  Check out this Life Magazine spread on the school, which includes a bizarre boys shower picture.

They just don’t build schools like this anymore. Marshall, Jefferson and Charlotte are also beautiful schools, loaded with big windows, wood and decorative features. I’m encouraged that the modernization plans already under way in some schools are preserving many of the historical features. These schools are community treasures.

The Auditorium

The Auditorium


Students lost in World War II. Memorial outside the auditorium.

Students lost in World War II. Memorial outside the auditorium.


Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance.

Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance.


Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance. Unfortunately, metal detectors detract from beauty.

Benjamin Franklin quote near main entrance. Unfortunately, metal detectors detract from beauty.


Links of the Day:

– Buffalo’s bishop lives in an 11.500 square foot mansion with nine bedrooms and six bathrooms. Some are wondering if he’ll sell the million-dollar place, with Pope Francis living so simply.

– On the $350 family rebate check, a Buffalo columnist writes, “The only group it’s still acceptable to single out are the childless”

– When the power goes out, you could be issued a small credit on your bill.

– Developers of the complex that will house Costco in suburban Syracuse claim they will add tens of millions of dollars to the tax base and generate millions more in sales tax revenue. Here’s the problem with this kind of math when dealing with this kind of sprawl: The new roads and infrastructure will eventually have to be replaced – at a cost to taxpayers. Furthermore, the sales tax figures assume people wouldn’t spend that money anyway in Onondaga County. Sprawl is a Ponzi scheme.

Meanwhile, Costco is scouting sites in Albany. I wonder where it’s looking in Rochester.

A Jersey cow in Syracuse sold for $170,000.

Pulaski Branch, 1933

Pulaski Branch, 1933


The city wants to sell the Pulaski Library branch at Hudson and Norton. The 1931 Renaissance Revival building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The story of the library is a rather sad. It opened as the second branch library in Rochester. It closed in 1994 because of lack of funds. Group 14621 took it over in 2001 and intended to turn it into a computer center. The association never found enough funding and eventually abandoned the project.

In the nearly 20 years it’s been unoccupied, the library has suffered extensive damage, according to the city’s Request for Proposals:

The condition of the building has declined greatly from lack of maintenance, inattention to needed repairs and water intrusion. Repairs must be made to the roofing system, gutters, and masonry. Installation of HVAC, electrical, fire protection and plumbing systems is required. The first floor contained decorative woodwork and extensive built-in shelving and cabinetry. Due to water damage, many the interior features and finish materials cannot be salvaged.

The sale price is $1,000. Developers must show they have the wherewithal to rehab the place. Because it’s a historic building in a challenged neighborhood, the project is eligible for tax credits and other incentives. The city would like to have a sale done by June.

We’ve talked so much lately about preservation in Rochester. What does it say about our city that we let a beautiful library deteriorate? I hope the building can be saved and put back to use.

Links of the Day:

– Governor Cuomo wants three casinos Upstate. Yonkers is not Upstate. Sorry.

– A study says Lake Ontario is the most stressed of the Great Lakes.

– The Dolphins owner pledges to use private funds for most of a $400 million stadium upgrade.

– Video slot machines are mind-numbing money suckers.

– Post Traumatic Stupidity Syndrome after Sandy Hook.

– I’ve had an interesting week at work. 13WHAM’s new owners have a policy of owning workers’ social media accounts.

There’s a new trend in Upstate New York: Developers wanting to tear down beautiful old churches.

In Rochester, there’s a proposal to tear down a 140-year-old former Presbyterian church and build a Dollar General. City Hall put the brakes on the plan, though it’s not completely dead.

Former Westminster Presbyterian Church (Photo Credit: Rochester Subway)

Former Westminster Presbyterian Church (Photo Credit: Rochester Subway)


In Buffalo, the city plans to issue demolition permits to the owners of a church damaged by fire, despite opposition from neighborhood and preservation groups.

Buffalo church (Credit: Buffalo Rising)

Buffalo church (Credit: Buffalo Rising)


In Watervliet, a judge cleared the way for a former Catholic church built in 1891 to be torn down so Price Chopper can build a store.

St. Patrick's Church, Watervliet

St. Patrick’s Church, Watervliet


In Albany, a proposal to reuse a 19th century Gothic-style church as a brewery and pub met neighborhood opposition. The historical society says the brewery may be the last option to save the structure.

St. Joseph’s Church, Albany


One need only Google “church demolition” and you’ll see this has been happening all over the country for some time. These buildings, with their beautiful designs and craftsmanship cannot be duplicated. Their loss changes the character of neighborhoods. It would be nice to see creative reuse, restoration and preservation take precedence over big box stores and parking lots.

Links of the Day:

– The Rochester Police Department could go from two precincts to four. The department used to have seven sections until then-Chief Bob Duffy recommended going to two. The East-West model has been extremely unpopular.

– Big pharmaceutical companies are interested in buying Bausch + Lomb. Some might want to break it up.

– Buffalo city schools look to go from eight football teams to four.

Patronage is rife in Onondaga County.

– Amid calls for more mental health screening and treatment, experts say there’s simply no tool to identify potential mass murderers.

– This city is ditching curbs, so pedestrians, bicycles and cars have to equally share the street.

– The bride (and groom) wore camouflage. Soldiers get married at the Albany airport before heading back to active duty.

Remains of Hojack Swing Bridge

Hojack Swing Bridge







The Hojack Swing Bridge is no more. It was demolished by CSX, which finally acted on an order from the U.S. Coast Guard. Despite the fact the bridge was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Place, CSX was granted demolitions permits this year by the DEC and Army Corps of Engineers without a single public hearing. A paltry notice by the DEC was published in the Democrat and Chronicle classifieds for people wanting to give input.

Port Huron Railroad Bridge

A similar story is playing out in Michigan, where there’s a public fight to save an old railroad bridge in Port Huron. The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public input because the bridge is historic. The Times Herald reports:

More than 690 people have signed a petition on change.org asking the State Historic Preservation Office to stop the demolition permit. The Army Corps of Engineers has to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office before authorizing the demolition of the potentially historic landmark.

The train bridge was built in 1931 by the American Bridge Company of New York using a “special patented design that … was only used in eight bridges in the country,” Nathan Holth, a bridge historian and preservationist, previously told the Times Herald.

It looks like people in Port Huron is getting more of a head start and the process might be more open.

Links of the Day:

– There’s a cool plan to turn a historic Albany church into a brewery. Some neighbors object.

– Governor Cuomo is vetoing a bill that would have expanded state tax credits for historic building rehabs. Meantime, this week Sen. Schumer was in calling for expansion of federal tax credits for historic buildings.

– The Syracuse school superintendent is donating her bonus to a group supporting teachers. She notes teachers are stressed out and spending their own money on supplies.

Eastview Mall is overhauling its Von Maur wing.

The fight over the proposed demolition of a church on West Main St. is about more than historic preservation. It’s also about the proliferation of dollar stores.

Marvin Maye wants to tear down the 140-year-old former Westminster Presbyterian Church and put up a Dollar General. He said the building is in truly terrible shape and got the state to agree.

As for building a dollar store on the lot, Maye points to the low-income housing going up all along the strip. “Panera isn’t coming here,” Maye said.

Meanwhile, neighbors in the Susan B. Anthony area are horrified at both the demolition and the idea of a dollar store. There are already several within a mile radius.

This fight has played out in many communities across the United States. Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree have found a niche as the economy soured. Proponents say the dollar stores offer affordable goods in so-called “food deserts,” places with no full-scale supermarkets.

Opponents of dollar stores decry their unhealthy food options, potential to push out mom-and-pop stores, unsightliness. The opponents desire more diverse retail options. There have been dollar store fights in Philadelphia and Atlanta. New Orleans proposed restrictions for “medium box” stores:

“Family Dollar and Dollar General have got to become more sensitive to the needs of the communities they are going into,” Councilman Jon Johnson said. “They have got to become better corporate citizens.”

The two discount chains are “running everybody else off because they buy up the property,” Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said. “They’re just saying, ‘This is all you’re going to get.'”

Their increasingly ubiquitous presence “is defeating the purpose of us trying to get retail back into the East, back into the city,” Hedge-Morrell said.

The City of Rochester just got done passing strict regulations for bodegas, seen as attracting crime. The corner stores have also been accused of preying on the poor by selling diapers and cigarettes individually. But the city totally skipped over dollar stores.

Was that a mistake?

Links of the Day:

– A beautiful spiral Frank Lloyd Wright house in Arizona could be torn down by developers.

– An art student from Rochester made Play-Doh busts of Obama and Romney and won an award.

– Some California sex offenders are suing over laws that don’t let them display Halloween decorations or give out candy. Good. These laws are ludicrous and do nothing to protect people.

– Have you noticed a lot of your friends getting gel manicures? They’re hot. They’re also expensive and expose your hands to UV rays.

– NFL players think their new jerseys make them look fat. Poor babies.

c. 1916-1925

Links of the Day:

– It’s decision day for 13 Cataract St. There will be a hearing tonight. No matter what happens, the city’s process to review proposals to demolish historic buildings will likely be revised. This debate has revealed a disjointed process and a limited role of the preservation board.

These cases will continue to come up. The Democrat and Chronicle‘s Brian Sharp has a great example. A developer wants to tear down a historic church on W. Main St. to put up a Dollar General. He compares his situation to the brewery and delivers the best quote of the day:

“Here they approved the one for the brewery,” (Marvin) Maye said. “I think mine is kind of similar, but I don’t have the kind of jack the brewery has got.”

The Hojack Swing Bridge, High Falls smokestack, 13 Cataract and Midtown Plaza are all examples of structures with historic value either in danger or torn down. The City School District’s modernization plan could have some preservationists raising eyebrows.

The Rochester Subway blog, an advocate for preservation, has been highlighting “eyesores” saved from the wrecking ball.

Rochester has a sad history of blowing up buildings, such as the RKO Palace. It’s a good idea to put a better process in place. But the city has to figure out what kind of outcome it wants.

– Is the downtown rental housing market too expensive? A Democrat and Chronicle blogger says he’s priced out. He questions why anyone would want to live downtown when there’s “nothing there.”

People want to live downtown for unique spaces, convenience and an urban environment. Landlords charge what people will pay. Apparently, there is something downtown people want.

– Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero says kids should never be left alone in a car. His office arrested a couple claiming they left their 3-year-old alone in a Best Buy lot for 5 minutes. Deputies claim it was 45 minutes. That’s a significant difference.

The Free Range Kids blog has the tale of a mom who let her young kids wait in the car. The incident is now ruining her life.

– We now know why Mike Green wasn’t appointed to the top job at a state criminal justice agency. The governor was getting around salary rules.

– This is everything you would want to know about Gannett buyouts across the country.

It was a stroke of genius for Genesee Brewing Company to link the demolition of 13 Cataract St. to the planned visitors center and brew pub.

The latest chapter in the fight over 13 Cataract St. is whether it should get landmark status, halting the demolition.

The visitors center could proceed with 13 Cataract St. still standing, but company CEO Rich Lozyniak gave three big reasons that’s not going to happen:

We’re not going to invest $2.5 million dollars in this building and have a building deteriorating right next door, in front of it. Why would anyone want to come here?


One of the winners in this thing if we walk away from it – not to be coy about it – is the prostitutes and the drug dealers who ply their trade behind that building.


If (Cataract) becomes a landmark nobody can touch that building without government approval.

The public relations on this project has been pretty aggressive and effective. Genesee has the mayor and city council president on its side. Today it also brought out neighbors who support the project. More importantly, the idea of a brew pub and visitors center is very, very popular.

But here’s where the message falters. Lozyniak said his comments today didn’t amount to a threat to pull the project.

Threatening is not the right word…We want to do this. We want to do this really badly. If we’re going to spend the next year in court or the next two years in court, then we’ve got much better opportunities throughout our whole company to invest and we’ll put our resources there.

Among the definitions of threat is “To give signs or warning of; portend” or “an indication of something impending.”

What do you think his statements mean?

– The Cataract Building clearly needs millions of dollars of work and no one knows who would pay. Preservationists aren’t deterred, saying there are developers and programs to help problem cases.

They point to the building at University and Atlantic. Check out the before and after. I have a feeling that was a much smaller project, but I can see their point.