National Association for Olmsted Parks - 'Field Notes' newsletter, May 2012

Upcoming Genesee Valley Park West Master Plan project and past historic parks research highlighted in National Association for Olmsted Parks newsletter.  Read the May 2012 NOAP newsletter here

City of Rochester Park System, NY

Master Plan for Genesee Valley Park West

Organization Name:  City of Rochester 

Program goals/description:

The City of Rochester has selected a team led by Bayer Landscape Architecture, PLLC, a Honeoye Falls-based firm with expertise in restoration and rehabilitation of historic landscapes, to produce a master plan for Genesee Valley Park West, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.

Documentation and analysis of the park’s Olmsted heritage and surviving features is one key component of the project.  The team includes NAOP trustee Katie Eggers Comeau, architectural historian at Bero Architecture PLLC, as the local historical consultant, and Charles Beveridge, a member of the NAOP Leadership Council, to provide additional historic landscape analysis from a national perspective.  Also on the team are architecture firm LaBella Associates and waterfront design specialists Moffatt & Nichol. 

Bayer Landscape Architecture principal Mark Bayer, project manager Zakery Steele, and Katie Eggers Comeau (then with the Landmark Society of Western New York, now with Bero Architecture) previously collaborated on the Inventory of Historic Parklands in the City of Rochester, which received an Honor Award of Excellence from the New York Upstate chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2010.  That project involved documentation and analysis of all parkland in the city over 50 years old, as well as a handful of more recent parks with potential for “exceptional significance” under National Register guidelines.  Parks examined included the Olmsted parks, later large-scale city parks, as well as other elements now included in the city park system such as street malls and historic cemeteries.  The resulting report provides the City with extensive documentation, including historic photographs and maps, evaluation of current condition and integrity, and analysis of National Register eligibility potential for each park.  The team concluded that twelve of the parks not currently listed in the National Register appear eligible for listing, and that the system as a whole may qualify for National Historic Landmark status.

Genesee Valley Park is one of three large “pleasure ground” parks anchoring Rochester’s Olmsted park system, designed in 1888-1893.  The system was designed to include connecting parkways and to incorporate existing neighborhood parks and squares.  While not all the parkways were built as planned, the three large parks were substantially implemented and are at the heart of what is now an extensive municipal park system. The Olmsted firm remained involved in the development of the Rochester system into the 1910s, helping the local park commission design and implement new facilities, and, significantly, helping to mitigate damage to Genesee Valley Park when the new route of the Erie Canal bisected the park.

Genesee Valley Park is an example of Olmsted’s distinctive pastoral style, taking advantage of gently rolling terrain around the Genesee River south of downtown Rochester.  Olmsted designated the portion of the park west of the river for active recreational use, such as boating.  John C. Olmsted advised the Park Commission on appropriate ways to incorporate additional sports venues into this west section of the park as he oversaw implementation of the original design into the early 20th century.   Genesee Valley Park West remains the most intensively developed portion of the park, now containing an ice rink, pool, rowing center, tennis and baseball courts, and other facilities.  The aim of the current project is to analyze current conditions of buildings and landscape features, provide recommendations for historic landscape treatment, and produce schematic designs for the park, particularly focusing on a redesign of boating facilities.

Contact information:

Zakery Steele, Bayer Landscape Architecture, PLLC
(585) 582-2000
19 North Main Street, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472

Katie Eggers Comeau, Bero Architecture PLLC
(585) 262-2035
32 Winthrop Street, Rochester, NY 14607