A Monthly Column on Historic Structures of New York's Southern Tier
Preservation and YOU

This article is one of a series during the months of May and June in recognition of National Preservation Month.

What do the Alms House, Deposit's State Theater, and the Johnson City Arches have in common? Besides representing this area's architectural heritage, they are all part of an exhibit, "Preservation and YOU", running though mid June at the Broome County Public Library.

During the opening reception for the exhibit on May 1, a formal proclamation was made by Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala, officially designating May as "Broome County Preservation Month". Binghamton Architect James Bryden initially conceived the idea for the exhibit to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Bryden commented that the organization is encouraging its local chapters to become more involved in their communities and has launched a nationwide effort they call "Blueprint for America". This exhibit is the local Southern New York Chapter's response to that request. He added, "our chapter chose the theme of preservation, and our gift to the community began with a website, www.nysLandmarks.com , to showcase historic landmarks of our ten-county region. The idea of highlighting local preservation issues resulted in this exhibit which coincides with National Preservation Month". The event is co-sponsored by the Preservation Association of the Southern Tier (PAST).

Located next to the history center on the second floor of the library, a visit to the exhibit can result in a whole new outlook on historic preservation, and a renewed appreciation of this area's architectural treasures. The exhibit is filled with pictures and information regarding historic buildings throughout Broome County, some beautifully preserved, some in danger of demolition, many in the process of being preserved, and a few that have been lost forever. Created in celebration of National Preservation Month and originally intended to run through the month of May, the exhibit has now been extended until mid June. Visitors enter the exhibit by walking through a full-size reproduction of the ornate marble-columned entrance to Binghamton's famous Kilmer Building, that building in particular is a current example of preservation and adaptive reuse at its finest.

For long-time Broome County residents, browsing the displays of the exhibit provides a nostalgic trip down memory lane with images of magnificent structures long since demolished… the famous Johnson City swimming pool, Binghamton's Rose Mansion, the Farmers' Bank in Endicott… all gone, victims of the wrecking ball. There are displays of historic buildings that are in danger of meeting the same fate, like the Alms House, the Inebriate Asylum, and the Stone Opera House. In addition, current preservation efforts are described and there are several examples of adaptive reuse… the Art Mission Theater, the Kilmer and Harvey Justice buildings, Rounds Coal House, and dowtown loft projects to name a few.

The exhibit material is a compilation from many sources, including historians throughout the county, as well as government agencies, preservation and historical societies, schools, local architectural and engineering firms, galleries and private citizens.

As the name "Preservation and YOU" implies, each one of us can participate in the effort to learn about and help save Broome County's historical and architectural treasures, and with this exhibit, we see how easy it is to get involved in the process. For instance, visitors can learn about upcoming events such as tours of historic homes, how to take self-conducted tours of historic areas, how to join the Preservation Association and receive newsletters and announcements regarding preservation issues and activities, and where to find this type of information on the internet. One of the newest internet resources for information on historic landmarks of our region is presented in the exhibit at the "AIA150" display. The website: www.nysLandmarks.com , provides information on landmarks throughout a ten-county region of New York's Southern Tier. Created locally and employing the latest internet mapping technology, website visitors can easily locate landmarks on area maps, then select those of interest to display complete descriptions with photographs. Although the website was only recently launched, it includes many area landmarks and new information is continuously being added. Preservation and YOU?… nysLandmarks.com provides one of the easiest ways to get involved. Visitors are encouraged to submit information to be added to the website, and it can be done very easily from a home computer. Instructions may be found at the website by selecting "Survey" from the home page.

In addition to the ongoing exhibit, each Tuesday evening at 6pm a lecture is given in the Community Room at the library. On May 8 the topic was "Castle on the Hill... Preservation by Involvement", a presentation on the history and current status of the New York State Inebriate Asylum. Last night John Lewis spoke on "Preservation and Politics". Upcoming lectures are entitled "Preserving the Past... Honoring the Future", by Naima Kradjian, and "Binghamton Lost... and Not Found", by Gerald Smith.

A five-minute walk through the "Preservation and YOU" exhibit shows very clearly what a vast array of architectural treasures we have in this area… ranging from a magnificent castellated Gothic-Revival asylum, stately Italian-Rennaisance and Second Empire Victorian mansions, an English Gothic Revival church… to an Art-Deco bus station, theater and diner, a small Greek Revival country store, and of course the trademark arches and carousels. By taking time to study the displays and by attending the lectures, you can learn more about Broome County's magnificent landmarks, what is being done in terms of historic PRESERVATION, and more importantly, how YOU can get involved in the effort to save these treasures.