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10 Western New York Treasures To Explore

10 Western New York Treasures To Explore

Words by Caitlin Meives and Marléna Ahearn
Photos by Julia Merrell

“Everyone is a preservationist, they just don’t know it. I hope to pull it out of people and give them a new appreciation for it by learning history through their own surroundings,” says Caitlin Meives, Young Urban Preservationists (YUPs) member and Preservation Planner at The Landmark Society of Western New York, Inc.

In the spirit of getting Rochesterians to become their own version of a preservationist, we have some places for you to explore! Check out these 10 must-see Western New York treasures to pull out the preservationist in you, as told by Caitlin Meives.

1. Monroe County Office Building (Interior)

Monroe County Office Building Photo by Julia Merrell

The materials and detail in the main atrium and halls are awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping. For me, definitely one of the most impressive public interior spaces in Rochester. Be sure to walk all the way through the main level, to the back hall where you’ll see marble walls.

2. First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Road

First Unitarian ChurchPhoto by Julia Merrell

Designed by internationally famous modern architect, Louis Kahn. This is the most architecturally significant building in the entire Rochester area. More significant even than our one Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. Modern architecture is not everyone’s cup of tea—like many examples of modern architecture, this one has a lot of hard edges and cold materials like concrete. Unlike more decorative early 20th and 19th century styles, there isn’t a lot of ornament to drool over. But spend a few minutes reading up on modern architecture and visit some modern masterpieces like this with an open mind, and it might just change your perspective. It definitely changed mine.

3. James Johnson Architecture

James Johnson ArchitecturePhoto by Julia Merrell

Anything designed by Rochester’s most innovative modern architect, the late James Johnson is a must-see. Most folks know about the Mushroom House in Perinton but I recommend visiting two historic houses of worship: Temple Sinai in Brighton and St. Januarias in Naples. Both must be experienced from the interior. (P.S. Johnson also designed the Liberty Pole downtown!)

4. Mount Hope Cemetery

Mount Hope Cemetery
Photo by Julia Merrell

The oldest (1838) municipally owned cemeteries in the country. It reflects two periods of cemetery styles: the Rural Cemetery style popular from the 1830s through the 1870s and the Lawn-Park Cemetery style popular from 1855 into the 1920s.

5. Rochester’s Olmsted Parks

Rochester’s Olmsted ParksPhoto by Julia Merrell

Most Rochesterians don’t realize what a unique treasure we have in this city; we are one of only 4 cities in the country to have a parks system designed by famed landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is, of course, best known for designing Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn but even NYC doesn’t boast an entire parks system designed by Olmsted. The 4 major parks that Olmsted conceived of are: Seneca Park, Highland Park, Maplewood Park, and Genesee Valley Park.

6. Broad Street Aqueduct

Broad Street AqueductPhoto by Julia Merrell

Included on Landmark Society’s 2018 Five to Revive, the Broad Street Aqueduct is a  unique structure in downtown Rochester that contains three layers of transportation history. It was originally constructed to carry the Erie Canal across the Genesee River. When the Canal was rerouted away from downtown, the aqueduct became a subway bed. A roadway was later added to the top of that. And, of course, today it has an amazing collection of street art from both local and world famous artists.

7. Silver Lake Institute Historic District

Silver Lake Institute Historic DistrictPhoto by Julia Merrell

Adorable historic cottages galore! The Silver Lake Institute is located outside of the Village of Perry on (you guessed it!) Silver Lake, which is technically considered a minor Finger Lake. The lake is also reputed to be occupied by a sea serpent. The Institute was a small, Methodist summer resort community, established in 1873.

8. American Hotel, Lima

American HotelPhoto by Julia Merrell

The American Hotel is a place that must be experienced. It’s like stepping back in time. They offer a variety of delicious homemade soups (their specialty) and sandwiches. I recommend getting your sandwich on a toasted pretzel roll.

9. Cobblestone Museum, outside of Albion

Cobblestone MuseumPhoto by Julia Merrell

Cobblestone structures can be found all over our region but this is the place to learn all about this unique construction method. Did you know that cobblestone structures can be found in a few other states but that 95% are within a 75 mile radius of Rochester?

10. Historic gas/service stations

Historic Gas and Service Station

Photo by Julia Merrell

These are one of my favorite historic building types. When gas/service stations first started appearing along American roadsides, they were an unfamiliar and foreign concept. So, the earliest service stations were constructed in the domestic style to resemble Craftsman style and Tudor Revival style houses of the day. These are really rare to find. But you can get a peak at one in Mumford. It was built in 1933 in the Tudor Revival style and has just been rehabbed into a new use.


The Landmark Society, one of the oldest of its kind, is a not-for-profit membership organization that is dedicated to protecting unique architectural heritage and promoting preservation and planning practices that foster healthy, livable, and sustainable communities. Join us for an upcoming class with The Landmark Society and YUPs, with a portion of the ticket sales going to support their missions.

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