April 24, 2002

Students Aid In Restoring Landmarks Landmarks

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Cornell students and alumni involved in the Historic Preservation Planning Annual Work Weekend came to the rescue of deteriorating historic Civil War landmarks in Bayside, Queens on April 12 through 14.

Students and alumni involved in the program meet annually to contribute to preservation projects that are in need of restoration. The group works towards promoting preservation in areas that might not necessarily have the funds or resources to restore historic sites.

This year, the Historic Preservation Planning Work Weekend, under the guidance of Michael Tomlan, associate professor and director of Cornell’s historic preservation planning program came to the aid of New York City’s Parks Department. The weekend centered around restoring a battery used between the Civil War and World War I at Fort Totten. The site includes turn-of-the-century army quarters, batteries, magazines and tunnels, all of which have been declared part of the official New York City landmark district.

“We are thrilled that Cornell students and alumni are volunteering to help us prepare historic Fort Totten for now and the future,” said New York City’s Park Commissioner Adrian Benepe in a press release. The group was able to stabilize the first story porch of a 1905 Officer’s Quarters building at Fort Totten Battery.

To do this, volunteers replaced rotted or missing parts of the deck and balustrade and reshaped splitting columns supports. This was done to protect further deterioration until full-scale restoration can take place. In addition, the group cleaned up paths that leading to the battery, making the site is more accessible to the public.

“By restoring [the site] we hope to spark some interest to get some monetary support [to continue preservation],” said Sue Shuttle, grad, an organizer of the program. Though they were not able to completely restore the site, the group was able to rescue it temporarily and stimulate community support for the future projects

“The stabilization of the porch was a first step in a long restoration process. It is up to the NYC Parks and Recreation Department to find the necessary funding to preserve the run-down buildings at Ft. Totten, so there is an indefinite period of waiting. The whole site could use a lot more stabilization work until that happens,” said Trina Meiser, grad, another organizer of the program. According to a press release, restoration to stop the deterioration of the sites could run over $10,000. Though the weekend project may have been successful, the site still requires more attention, time and funding to be fully restored, according to Shuttle who added, “We are considering returning next year because there is still a lot of work to be done.”

Archived article by Carrie Tremblatt