ALBANY, NY, December 28, 2022 – Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that nine projects and one individual are being recognized with 2022 New York State Historic Preservation Awards. Projects highlighted with this year’s awards include a community-led establishment of a historic district in Chautauqua County, transformational design of historic garden space in Westchester County, and the completed restoration of a historic pier in New York City.
“Preserving notable landmarks across New York allows us to celebrate our shared history and honor our collective past,” Governor Hochul said. “I congratulate this year’s recipients on their efforts to capitalize on our historic and cultural resources to build a brighter future for our state.”
Created in 1980, the State Historic Preservation Awards are presented by the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) each year to honor excellence in the protection and revitalization of historic and cultural resources.
NYSOPRHP Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “Historic preservation is collaborative work and we welcome the opportunity to recognize projects that harness the energy and demonstrate the remarkable potential of historic preservation. We are proud to be an active partner on projects throughout New York State and congratulate all of the individuals and groups who make preservation possible. Their extraordinary efforts and creative visions are inspirational and have positive, long-lasting effects in our communities.” Read the official announcement here.
The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) was honored for Excellence in Non-Profit Achievement in recognition of its rehabilitation and stewardship of the Jay Estate Gardens. The award was the only one made to a Westchester County non-profit. Commissioner Kulleseid remarked, “The transformational design of the gardens not only reflects the historic context but emphasizes an intentionality to restore native species and original voices and to cultivate an appreciate and understanding of sustainable landscapes through partnerships and public outreach.” The awards ceremony was held at the New York State Museum in Albany on December 8 and also recognized project teams responsible for the renewal of Pier 56 and El Barrio in Manhattan, the T Building in Queens, and the rehabilitation of the Niagara Falls River Gorge Stairway.
Kulleseid applauded the ingenuity of a three-room garden design by landscape architects Nelson Byrd Woltz that complements JHC’s curriculum of innovative programming. Historic features that had long lost their integrity and were subsumed by invasive species were successfully rehabilitated and can now be interpreted for the public. Integral team members included the engineering firms of Silman and Langan and archaeologist Dr. Eugene Boesch. Funding for the project came entirely through a $500,000 grant from NY State’s Regional Economic Development Council and generous donations from the public.
The 23-acre Jay Estate is a large, exciting campus for young citizen scientists and the reimagined Jay Estate Gardens are its newest, most dynamic classrooms. Apart from their impact as hand-on laboratories to study the natural sciences, the gardens also serve as a living tableau – a botanical backdrop – against which the narratives of all the families, owners, and servants, free and enslaved, who lived and worked on this site are being explored. In fact, deliberate design choices were made to protect extant archaeological resources including those associated with Indigenous and enslaved African American residents of the property such as the Valentine Family (pre-1787- 1847).
Together with guidance from the dedicated staff at NYSOPRHP, the Jay Estate Gardens team successfully recaptured the compelling character of the historic gardens. The refreshed new green spaces hold the potential to help inspire underserved youth to pursue careers in a multitude of professions from historic preservation to horticulture to archaeology. Most importantly, the project elevates the role of community partnerships as central to sustainable parkland restoration. Incorporating many voices was integral to creating these inclusive, safe, and welcoming spaces for thoughtful educational programming.
Together with members of the board and staff of the Jay Heritage Center, the project has been supported by numerous entities from concept through execution and usage including the African American Men of Westchester, the Japan Society of Fairfield County, the Port Chester Youth Bureau, Meals on Main Street, American Women of African Heritage, Westchester County Parks, Lower Hudson Partnership for Invasive Species Management (LHPRISM) and many, many more. Constructed and executed during the height of the Covid pandemic, the gardens became a refuge and beacon of hope for volunteers who continue to contribute hundreds of hours of time to help maintain the health and beauty of the walled rooms.
JHC President Suzanne Clary said “JHC is immensely grateful for this recognition and our powerful partnership with New York State Parks. This award affirms our shared belief that a sustainable landscape rehabilitation can simultaneously restore ecological balance, attract wildlife, while also aiding in the interpretation of American history, cultural identity and placemaking.”