ALBANY, April 23, 2012 – The Preservation League of New York State has named Garnerville Arts Center located 30 miles north of New York City in the lower Hudson Valley to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.
The Garner Print Works was built in 1828 on the site of a former 1760s grist mill and is named after the Garner brothers, the second owners of the calico printing plant. At one time, the plant employed some 800 workers and grew to include the printing and dyeing of wool, cotton and linen. A once-prolific plant, it manufactured uniforms for the Union Army during the Civil War and in its heyday produced enough dresses to clothe every woman in America. The plant closed during the Great Depression but was brought back to life in 1934 by the Garnerville Holding Company, the current owner of the complex, which offered the textile industries free rent to return and reopen. Reminiscent of a small village in a Dickens novel, the facility includes more than 30 buildings of 19th century industrial-age architecture on a 14 acre site that spans both sides of the Minisceongo Creek, the water source that once powered the mill.
By the late 1980s, the complex was in a state of extreme disrepair as the textile industries closed their doors one-by-one, abandoned their equipment and left the northeast mills altogether. The complex was again in danger of closure.
In the mid-1990’s, the Garnerville Holding Company began to make space in the underutilized industrial center available to artists. With its close proximity to Manhattan, more than fifty artists and artisans soon established studios there. The not-for-profit GAGA Arts Center was incorporated in 2003 and over the next 8 years sponsored the creation and celebration of art at the Garnerville complex through events, festivals, student educational opportunities, open gallery space – one of the largest in the northeast – and a creekside sculpture trail. New life was breathed into the complex and it was becoming known throughout the region as an artists’ mecca and growing cultural center.
In late summer 2011, arts and industry at Garnerville faced perhaps the greatest challenge to date. Heavy rains from Hurricane Irene and overtopped upstream lakes forced a huge volume of water and debris down the Minisceongo Creek through the mill raceway at the core of the complex. The Art Center’s Main Gallery and many warehouses and studios sustained serious damage. Numerous businesses were put out of work and the Art Center’s programming came to a complete halt. Once again, the future of this historic complex was seriously threatened.
“Since 1999, Seven to Save has mobilized community leaders and decision-makers to take action when historic resources are threatened,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “A Seven to Save designation from the League delivers invaluable technical assistance, fosters increased media coverage and public awareness, and opens the door to grant assistance for endangered properties.”
The League’s Seven to Save designation focuses on the site’s historic importance and the Garnerville Arts Center’s commitment to rebuilding. Many historic downtowns and centers of light industry lost their very lifeblood as a result of damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The difficult choice faced by the Garnerville Arts Center and its tenants is emblematic of challenges faced by many around the state following the tropical storms in late August and September, 2011. The Preservation League will work with the Garnerville Arts Center to highlight the innovative model of adaptive use in this historic mill complex and spread the word that the Arts Center remains open for business.
“We are pleased and so very grateful that the Preservation League, in designating Garnerville Arts Center a Seven to Save site, recognized not only the historic value of the Garnerville complex but the energy, passion and devotion of so many who have worked together to create a thriving cultural and small business environment here”, says Robin Rosenberg, President of Garnerville Arts Center. “It is our hope that the Seven to Save designation will open a new chapter in the history of this 200 year old complex, and that the greater preservation-minded community and art-loving community will join with us in our efforts to rebuild and recreate ourselves into a regional center for culture and commerce while helping to preserve our “diamond in-the-rough.” The inclusion of Garnerville Arts Center on the Seven to Save list provides the opportunity for the League to work with local advocates to protect the complex. “With this program, we provide targeted support to seven of New York’s most important and endangered historic resources,” said Erin Tobin, the Preservation League’s eastern regional director for technical and grant programs. “Whether sites are threatened by insensitive, ineffective or insufficient public policies, general neglect, or, in some cases, outright demolition, we have a proven record of working with community advocates to save a number of significant properties.”
Since 1999, publicity and advocacy resulting from Seven to Save designation has led to the rehabilitation and reopening of the Oswego City Public Library, the rebirth of Montauk Manor on Long Island, and the rededication of the once-abandoned George Harvey Justice Building in Binghamton along with successes at several other locations.
The Preservation League of New York State is a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1974. The League invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, and the protection of New York’s historic buildings and landscapes. It leads advocacy, economic development, and education programs all across the state.