October 22, 2021

Saving history

City, developer honored for preservation of buildings

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Deputy Chief Wayne Friedman views a picture of the firehouse with vintage fire engines that fit easily in the bays.

The owners of two buildings with a century of history each in Cortland have been awarded for their efforts to preserve those buildings and their historical elements.

The Preservation Association of Central New York awarded city officials with a Stewardship Award for the department’s care of the 103-year-old fire station at 21 Court St. David Yaman and Housing Visions Unlimited accepted The Pat Earle Award for their reuse of the former Crescent Corset Co. factory, now Crescent Commons — an almost 100-year-old building. They were among nine awards given.

“The station is just a very well-maintained kind of high style example of an early 1900s firehouse that has maintained a lot of its history,” said Grant Johnson of the preservation association. “Crescent Commons is also an excellent example of a good reuse of an older building. The changes breath a new life into a historic building and the area.”

The fire station was built in 1915 by architectural company Sackett & Park and has remained in use by the department.

“It brought all five of the companies together into one centralized station,” Deputy Chief Wayne Friedman said. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

“The building itself is an iconic piece of the city,” Friedman said. “When you say Cortland, people will say, ‘Do you still use that old beautiful fire station?’ ”

Friedman said because of that historical distinction it has allowed the department access to grants to restore and repair portions on the building, including a $235,400 grant in 2015 to repair the clay tile roof and $237,740 in December 2017 to refurbish the windows.

However, Fire Chief Charles Glover and Friedman agree the station isn’t perfect.

“Architecturally it’s a beautiful building, but for a modern fire department it doesn’t work,” Glover said.

The fire department is outgrowing the space, Friedman said. The fire trucks barely fit into the bays.

However, he also said it would be impossible to replicate the station if another was to be built.

A conference table is emblazoned with the Cortland Fire Department emblem Wednesday on the firehouse’s third floor in downtown Cortland.

“You can’t build a new fire station and say you want it to look like the old fire station because it can’t be replaced,” he said. “It would be very odd to go to a new fire station just because of the tradition and history here. We’ve got pictures that are just amazing of time spent here.”

Crescent Commons at 165 Main St. was originally the Crescent Corset Factory built in 1923, where Lady Luke corsets were made for the JC Penney department store chain.

The site is listed on both the New York State Register of Historic Places and National Register of Historic Places.

In 2015 Yaman, owner of David Yaman Realty Services, and co-owner of the former Crescent Corset Co. factory, partnered with Syracuse-based developer Housing Visions Unlimited to transform the property into joint office and apartment space — a $16.3 million redevelopment project.

Tanesha Bennett of Cortland leaves the Cortland Crescent Building on Wednesday after an appointment at Family Counseling Services.

Yaman said he is honored to have been nominated.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “It feels good. It’s been three years that we’ve been working on this.”

He said the focus on design details is what really led the project. Some of the old elements of the building still stand out even with the new renovations.

He said they kept some of the original hardwood floors, metal doors, brick and even old hinges.

Yaman said the commercial floor renovations are done and companies have filled that floor space. Now he is working toward filling the vacant apartments and starting on another 10,000 square feet of space that is being built out.

“I hear a lot of stories of relatives and previous generations of people having worked in the facility,” he said. “We’re just very pleased with the outcome.”