Fernwood Park Historic District
The Fernwood Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, the Gombach Group.
Fernwood Park Historic District is located on a triangular 10-acre plot in the northeast quadrant of the city of Rochester, bordered on the south by Fernwood Park, on the east by Woodman Park and Culver Road, and on the northeast by Waring Road. The surrounding urban area is comprised principally of residential streets with Frederick Douglass Middle School, located directly west at 940 Fernwood Park. The Fernwood Park Historic District property includes 38 two-story garden apartment buildings, each with four-family units, a total of 152 units; one pair of garage units, totally 36 garages; all built in 1947. A triangular play area is located at the base of the triangle, between two clusters of apartment buildings. The one non-contributing building is a community center built in 2008. The property is flat and is landscaped with mature trees.
The garden apartments are arranged in three main clusters. At the east end of the property and the top of the triangle is a somewhat triangular-shaped cluster of 14 apartment buildings. The top end consists of three attached buildings, oriented southwest to northeast, with the middle building recessed half the width of its flanking buildings. Directly northwest of the middle building and oriented northwest to southeast, is a row of three attached buildings. The two sides of the triangular grouping consists of an identically grouped set of four buildings arranged in attached ells, with the ends of the ells offset by half the width of a building.
To the west and northwest and separating the other two clusters of apartments are two parking areas, of which one leading from Fernwood Park, contains the original pair of garage units which face a common driveway. A parking lot with a short row of attached garages and the recreation center off Waring Road has replaced the second original pair of attached garages.
At the base of the triangular, at the west and northwest end of the property, are the other two apartment clusters, which are identically arranged. Each cluster forms a square with two facing U-shaped groupings containing five attached buildings each and two attached buildings located in the center of the square. The U-ends of the groupings are offset by half the width of an apartment building. Between these two main groupings is a play area and a parking lot.
Sidewalks are laid out in a linear plan and access the apartment entrances located in the center of both sides of each apartment building. Green space surrounds the entire complex and in small courtyard areas defined by the sidewalk patterns.
The two-story, four-unit apartment buildings are rectangular with gable roofs. The facades on both sides of each building consist of a covered center entrance with two apartment door entries. On the front facade the entrances are flanked by two window bays; on the rear facade the entrances are flanked by three window bays. Buildings are clad in brick and vinyl clapboards. Some buildings are all brick, some are vinyl, and some have brick first floors and vinyl second floors. One apartment building, the center building representing the front of the complex at the top of the triangle that faces Woodman Park, is unique from all other buildings: its center three bays are clad in vinyl and topped cross gable that is also clad in vinyl. The flanking bays are brick.
The covered entrances have either gable roofs or shed roofs supported by narrow, round fluted columns. The complex's front building has a three-sided hipped roof with a narrow frieze and is supported by two narrow, round fluted columns. Each entrance porch covers two identical entrance doors with plain trim. Windows on both facades are double-hung windows with divided lights. On the front facades, the entrances are flanked by two window bays, the closest having paired windows, each with six-over-six sash. The outside bays are generally eight-over-eight sash, although some are two-over-two sash. On the rear elevation, the entrances are flanked by three bays of six-over-six and four-over-four sash. Side elevations that are exposed have two bays of four-over-four sash, although some have a bay each of four-over-four and a six-over-six sash. All of the windows are replacements for the original windows but, generally, fit the original window openings.
The interior floor plan is identical in all units with four units per building: two on the first floor and two on the second floor. Each apartment has its own private entrance with one entering on the first floor and, on the opposite side of the building, entering to a staircase to the second floor unit. Each enters into the living room (12-1/2 x 16-1/2), which opens to a rectangular kitchen. At the corner of the living room is the entrance to the front bedroom (12 x 12-1/2) with closet, a back bedroom (11-1/2 x 10) with closet, and a full bath. All of the door openings have plain trim.
Fernwood Park Historic District is significant as an intact post-World War II veterans' garden apartment complex, which was representative of the leading model promoted by the Federal Housing Administration before, during and after the war. The development is associated with the Rochester Plan, a post-war housing solution developed by Rochester bankers and the City of Rochester, to provide quality, low-rent housing for veterans and their family. Built in 1947, the complex of garden apartments illustrate the principles of the Garden City Movement of the early 20th century, where small two-story apartment buildings were arranged in small clusters in landscaped settings, providing private entrances for individual apartments, pedestrian walkways that were separate from vehicular roads, and green space for recreational activities.
Fernwood Park was the first of three projects built under the Rochester Plan, an innovative post-World War II veterans' rental housing project in which a private, non-profit corporation, formed by eight local banks, built and held title to a garden-type apartment complex of 38 two-story apartment buildings, providing 152 four-room units, on land provided by the City of Rochester. The cost of construction was financed by an F.H.A. insured mortgage. The Rochester Plan was an example of the city of Rochester's continuing tradition of private and public enterprise and cooperation in creating the financial resources to improve the quality of life in the community. While other communities throughout the country resorted to public housing for veterans in the wake of World War II, the citizens of Rochester insisted on providing quality, low-rent housing for veterans and their families, using the resources of local banks and cooperating with the City of Rochester, which provided the land, a low tax assessment, and street improvements.
Fernwood Park was built in the northeast quadrant of the city, where it was convenient to bus lines, schools, churches, and a few shops. After the third of the three projects, Norton Village, was built in 1949, also under the Rochester Plan, a recreation center was created on five acres, nearby, providing play areas for residents of both complexes, as well as newly-built single-family houses. A shopping center, Waring Plaza, was constructed in 1949-50 to serve the families of the growing residential neighborhood.
Fernwood Park Historic District is architecturally notable as an example of a garden apartment complex, which consisted of three or more two- or three-story buildings clustered around a landscaped courtyard with a central entrance, but no common hall or lobby. These complexes closely followed the Garden City Movement principles, which included a separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic and the use of shallow building plans with staggered setbacks to increase ventilation and light. The garden apartment complex is also a representation of the leading model promoted by the Federal Housing Administration during the 1930s through the 1950s.
Fernwood Park's complex of 38 two-story, four-unit garden apartments is characteristic of the ideals behind the garden apartment movement. It is built on a 10-acre triangular plot with the buildings, including garages, occupying about 30% of the land, with the remaining 70% set aside for landscaped lawns, pedestrian walks and play areas. The apartment buildings are grouped in three main clusters, with both sides of the buildings overlooking green space which also surrounds the clusters. Clusters consist of U-shaped or L-shaped groupings, where the end apartment buildings are offset enough to allow for windows at the ends of buildings, providing as much light as possible in each unit. No more than three apartment buildings are built together on a straight axis, although building elevations are stepped up or down to visually separate each building. With double entrances on both sides of the apartment building, each individual apartment has a "front" entrance that faces a lawn area. All of the buildings are solidly built of brick and concrete, but the cladding varies, giving buildings individuality. Some buildings are all brick, while others have brick first floors, vinyl clapboard siding (originally wood clapboards) second floors, or all vinyl cladding on the first and second floors. The only "unique" apartment building is the center building at the front of the complex and the top of the triangular. This building is offset from its two adjoining buildings and features a central cross pediment in the gable roof, three central bays clad in vinyl with the outside bays brick clad. The double entrance is also unique with its three-sided porch roof.
The apartment buildings reflect the vernacular form of the Colonial Revival style, the most popular style for garden apartment designs, with a symmetrical arrangement of bays and double-hung windows of various sizes and forms. The front entrance porches are based on vernacular Colonial Revival models, with a simple pediment or shed roof supported by simple round columns. C. Storrs Barrows (1889-1971), of the architectural firm, Carpenter and Barrows, designed the complex. Barrows was one of the most prominent local architects of residential homes, especially in the town of Brighton. During the war, Col. Barrows had supervised the housing of headquarters staff on various fronts. Upon his return, he became chairman of the Housing Advisory Committee, under the Service Housing Bureau, which was responsible for creating a few hundred units from the remodeling of schools and other buildings. He continued his career into the 1950s, designing residences, as well as schools, firehouses, and libraries.
The landscape was designed by Francis Hastings Gott (1886-1966), a local landscape architect, who began his career with the prominent landscape architect, Alling S. DeForest (1875-1957). A rendering of the plot plan shows foundation plantings as well as trees located around the perimeter of the complex and interspersed within the several of the courtyard areas. While the original foundation plantings have been eliminated or replaced, the original trees throughout the complex have matured and remain signature elements of the garden apartment plan. The major children's play area, although updated with contemporary play furniture, remains in its original location, in a triangular plot between two square clusters of apartments at the base of the triangle.
The interior plans of all the apartment buildings are identical and follow the garden apartment ideals — to provide light, fresh air and a view of green space. Each unit has its own entrance: the first floor unit entrances located on the "front" side, and the second floor entrances located at the "back" side. The square plan of each unit provides for a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a full bath, as well as closets. Because apartments fill the full width of the apartment buildings, windows are located in all of the rooms, with larger windows generally found in the living rooms. Some of the apartments have side windows, where the apartment buildings are at the end of a line, U-shaped or L-shaped group. The apartments have no architectural features, as all window and door trim, if any, is very simple. The private heating unit still remains in the center of the layout, which, in the original brochure, was described as a "unique heating arrangement." The brochure further describes attributes of the system in that "no outlet is farther than six feet from the furnace, and cold air returns assure good supplementary circulation in combination with the blower." The basement still features locker facilities for storage. The laundry center, originally in each basement, is located in a separate building.
Fernwood Park Historic District is an important example of a post-World War II garden apartment complex design, promoted by the Federal Housing Administration, and, as a product of the Rochester Plan veterans' housing solution, a symbol of the Rochester tradition of private enterprise and innovation.
McKelvey, Blake. An Emerging Metropolis: 1925-1961, Rochester, NY: Christopher Press, 1961.
________, "The Rochester Plan: Low-Cost Rental Housing for Veterans and their Families." Rochester, NY: Rochester Civic Rental Project, Inc. 1948 (?), p.9.
________, "Garden Apartments, Apartment Houses and Apartment Complexes in Arlington, VA 1934-1954" National Register Multiple Resource Nomination, 2003, Section E.
________, "Garden Apartments: Three Preservation Case Studies in Virginia," Gail Baker. CRM, Vol. 22, No. 5. Washington, DC: US Dept. of Interior, Cultural Resources, p.23.
† Robert T. Englert, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Fernwood Park Historic District, Monroe County, New York, nomination document, 2009, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.