If you’ve ever visited Utica (perhaps for a past ReLeaf conference), you know what a treasure the City’s Olmsted-designed Parks and Parkway System is. The Central New York Conservancy has preserved and restored the Parks and Parkway System, listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places, since 2002.
After 15 years, the nonprofit organization is establishing its first-ever office, and in the most ideal location, in Utica. Thanks to a generous donation of property by the family of the late Albert Shaheen, M.D., the Conservancy has begun renovations to its new office located at 1641 Genesee Street.
“The Conservancy’s Board of Directors, executive director, landscapers, administrative consultant, and volunteers are beyond excited to finally have a ‘home’ of our own,” said founder and President, William F. Locke.
“We could not have found a more appropriate location for the Conservancy than this beautiful property, which is right at the entrance to Utica’s Parks and Parkway System,” Locke continued. “We are touched by this thoughtful, once-in-a-lifetime gift that the family has made in memory of Dr. Shaheen for the Conservancy and all who live in Utica and love its parks to appreciate and enjoy.”
The Conservancy is making modest renovations to the house and grounds. “Currently, we are updating the HVAC system in what once served as Dr. Shaheen’s consultation and examination rooms. We plan to modify the existing floor plan so that we have office and meeting space for our Board, committees, and our full-time executive director,” Locke explained.
The property – which encompasses three parcels of land – also has two large specimen trees growing on it: a bur-English oak hybrid (Quercus macrocarpa x Q. robur) and a cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata). “These are elegant, important trees, and the Conservancy intends to preserve and maintain them,” said Locke.
According to Peter C. Falzarine, executive director of the Conservancy, space will also be created to house the Conservancy’s archive of historic materials, which has been meticulously collected over the last 15 years. “We have original plans for Utica’s parks, as well as maps, photographs, historic postcard images, and correspondence among T.R. Proctor, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and City of Utica officials who worked together to make our parks a reality,” said Falzarine. “Our archives include both printed and digital materials.”
“We intend to make the archives available to anyone who would like to see and use them for educational purposes, research, or for personal and professional enrichment,” Falzarine continued. “In fact, our vision is that our new space will include an educational center that other community organizations whose focus is historic restoration and preservation, gardening, horticulture, and related subjects may use for meetings, public lectures, or smaller events.”
The Conservancy also plans to create a garden that will be dedicated to the memory of Dr. Albert Shaheen and in honor of his wife, Gloria. “The large, metal sculpture that is currently on the grounds of the property will become a centerpiece of the memorial garden’s design,” Falzarine noted. (See photo, left)
“The people who govern and guide the Conservancy have worked diligently these last 15 years to preserve and restore Utica’s Parks and Parkway according to the plans meticulously developed by T.R. Proctor and the Olmsted Bros. Firm,” said Falzarine. “Many of us have literally run the organization from our dining room tables! It is wonderful to finally have a place that the Conservancy may call ‘home’,” said Falzarine.