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Northwest neighborhoods will get a 'history survey'

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Rochester has an unusually large number of older buildings: homes, small commercial buildings, houses of worship, former factories. And street by street, the Rochester-based Landmark Society of Western New York has been documenting them.

The next stage: surveying part of northwest Rochester, including the Brown Square, Edgerton, and Lyell-Otis neighborhoods. City Council approved the study at its September 18 meeting. Funding – a maximum of $21,500 – will come from the State Historic Preservation Office and the Preservation League of New York State.

The purpose is to identify properties that are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to getting a bit of prestige, properties listed on the National Register are eligible for tax credits. But the survey's benefits go beyond that, says Landmark Society preservation planner Caitlin Meives.

The Landmark Society has already surveyed southwest and southeast city neighborhoods. When surveys of the remaining neighborhoods are completed, city officials will have data to guide them in designating buildings of historic value, including those that could attract investment, as has happened in the other quadrants of the city.

And, says Meives, neighborhoods can use the information as marketing tools. Houses of worship with historic value may be eligible for restoration funding.

The study, which will take about a year, will start with a "windshield survey," followed by staff walking the streets, photographing buildings, and noting basic characteristics of properties. That will be followed by research on properties that might be eligible for National Register listing.

Not all historically valuable structures are obvious, Meives says: "It may be something that doesn't look like anything special." Among the valuable but ordinary-looking houses found recently, for instance, is a home formerly occupied by Frederick Douglass.

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