Ramona Park Historic District
The Ramona 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.
Ramona Park Historic District is located on a rectangular 10-acre plot in the northwest quadrant of the city of Rochester on Ramona Park, which is situated at the north end of Ramona Street. It is bordered on the north by the Kodak Park and the tracks of the Kodak Park Railroad, on the east by the tracts of the Rochester & Southern Railroad, on the south by Leopard Street, and on the west by LaGrange Avenue. The surrounding urban area is comprised principally of residential streets, with some industrial development on the east, south and west sides, and by Kodak Park on the north side. The Ramona Park Historic District property includes 34 two-story garden apartment buildings, each with four-family units, totally 136 units; two groups of garage units; all completed in 1948. There is a small designated play area. The one non-contributing building is a community center built in 2008. The property is flat and is landscaped with mature trees.
Ramona Park is a one-way rectangular drive with the garden apartments grouped in L-shaped or U-shaped groupings around the perimeter and in the center of the drive. The west side of the plot has a wider perimeter and contains four L-shaped groupings of three apartment buildings with each building at the L-end offside by half the width of the attached apartment. The U-shaped groups of four buildings are located in the center of the drive, with each U-end offset by half the width of the attached apartment. At the east end of the drive on the perimeter is a single U-shaped grouping of four buildings. Two groupings of three attached apartments, with the middle building recessed by half a width, are located on the north and south perimeter at the east end of the drive. The garage units are located on the north and south sides of the drive, in the middle of the complex, and each consist of a long row of garages facing two shorter rows of garages with a driveway in between the short rows. One set of garages on the north side was made into a laundry and office area. The play area is located in the northeast corner of the property, near the new community center.
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 center entrance with a single door entry. On the front facade the entrance is flanked by two window bays; on the rear facade the entrance is flanked by three window bays. Buildings are clad in brick and vinyl clapboards. Some buildings are all brick, some are all vinyl, and some have vinyl-clad first floors and brick-clad second floors.
Each building entrance has concrete steps leading to a six-panel door, the upper panels consisting of two small square windows. The door is set into one of three designed surrounds: a simple, plain surround with molded edge; a simple architrave with Doric pilasters; or a simple pedimented surround. 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 wide window openings consisting of a central eight-over-eight sash with flanking two-over-two side lights. The outside bays are eight-over-eight sash. On the rear elevation the entrances are flanked by three bays of either four-over-four sash, two-over-two narrow sash, or wide eight-over-eight 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. After entering through the outside door there is a small vestibule with a private entrance to each apartment. On the opposite side of the building, the second floor apartments are entered from a staircase off the main entrance to a similar vestibule. Each enters into the living room (167 sq.ft.) with a 50 sq.ft alcove that leads to a rectangular kitchen (65 sq.ft.). At the corner of the living room is the entrance to the front bedroom (127 sq.ft.) with closet, a back bedroom (93 sq.ft.) with closet, and a full bath. All of the door openings have plain trim.
Ramona 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 home builders and the City of Rochester, to provide quality, low-rent housing for veterans and their family. Built in 1948, the complex of garden apartments illustrates 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.
Ramona Park was the second 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 was formed to build and hold title to a garden-type apartment complex on land provided by the City of Rochester. The first project, Fernwood Park, located in the northeast quadrant of the city, was locally subsidized by eight banks. Ramona Park was built in the northwest side of the city, an area that was convenient to major industries; particularly Eastman Kodak Company, and was subsidized by the Rochester Home Builders Association, which formed the private, non-profit corporation to build a 136-apartment project on ten acres. 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 insisting on providing quality, low-rent housing for veterans and their families, using the resources of local builders and cooperating with the City of Rochester, which provided the land, a low tax assessment, and street improvements.
Ramona 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.
Ramona Park's complex of 34 two-story, four-unit garden apartments is built on a 10-acre rectangular plot with the buildings, including garages, occupying approximately 30% of the land, and the remaining 70% set aside for landscaped lawns, pedestrian walks, play areas and the one-way oval drive, in and around which the apartment buildings are grouped. The apartments are arranged in three- or four-apartment L- or U-shaped groupings, with a total of ten block groupings. The apartment buildings at the U or L ends are offset enough to allow for windows at the ends of buildings, providing as much light as possible in each unit. Two groups of three are arranged in a straight line, with the center apartment building staggered a half unit back to allow for an extra end window in each unit. With 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 vinyl-clad first floors and brick second floors, or all vinyl cladding on the first and second floors.
The apartment buildings reflect the vernacular form of the Colonial Revival style, with symmetrical arrangement of bays and double-hung windows of various sizes and forms. The three front entrance surround designs are based on Colonial Revival models, with a simple pediment, simple architrave, or plain surround. C. Storrs Barrows (1889-1971), of the architectural firm, Carpenter and Barrows, designed the complex, as well as Fernwood Park. 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 architect is unknown but is similar to that of Fernwood Park, with foundation plantings as well as trees located around the perimeter of the complex and interspersed within 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 design. The children's play area, located in the northeast corner of the complex, has contemporary play furniture.
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 off a small vestibule: 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, a dining alcove 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 staggered in a line, or 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 is located in the basement of each unit. The original brochure about the first veterans' project, Fernwood Park, described the individual heating source 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 features facilities for storage facilities. The laundry center, originally in each basement, is located in a separate building.
Ramona 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 B.
________, "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, Ramona Park Historic District, Monroe County, New York, nomination document, 2009, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.