Updated: Jan 5, 2021
The Greece Historical Society (GHS) is undertaking a Cultural Resource Survey to document Rochester’s first Black architect, Thomas W. Boyde, Jr., and his work in our region which includes the ornate exterior of what is now Monroe Community Hospital as well as private residences, commercial projects, and buildings for economically disadvantaged communities.
“Thomas W. Boyde Jr. is one of the most notable and accomplished architects of the mid-twentieth century in the Greater Rochester Region, in spite of the professional and personal prejudice he faced throughout his life,” says architect Christopher Brandt of Bero Architecture, who is a member of the survey team. “He was one of the first architects that I became intimately acquainted with nearly fifteen years ago before pursing my own career in the profession. I look forward to reviewing his beautiful color renderings again, and am honored to be part of the team that seeks to uncover, document, elevate, and celebrate the full and complete accomplishments of his decades long career.”
“There is a long and storied history of African American architects, but all too often, because of the era of Jim Crow, those early architects either were forced into the shadows, or had their work questioned, because of their race,” says survey team member and independent historian and historic preservation consultant Jeffrey A. "Free" Harris of Hampton, Virginia. “This project, I believe, is a part of a larger project to bring those architects, and their works out of the shadows, and into a deserved spotlight.”
GHS received two grants totaling $30,000 which has facilitated the hiring of a survey team that in addition to Brandt and Harris is comprised of architectural historian Katie Eggers Comeau of Bero Architecture PLLC; preservation consultant Gina M. DiBella of Greece; and research assistant Alexis Rivers, a 2020 graduate from SUNY Geneseo.
The Survey will involve online and in person research, oral history interviews, creation of a database of Boyde's projects, photography, and a focus on Thomas Boyde, Jr. in the context of mid-20th century African American architects. The team will utilize the Thomas W. Boyde, Jr. collection of architectural drawings and papers at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.
“The Greece Historical Society is honored to be sponsoring the cultural resource survey of the life and architecture of Thomas W. Boyde, Jr.,” says GHS president William Sauers. “Mr. Boyde had an important influence in the local community, not just Greece, but the greater Rochester/Western New York area. We are grateful to the Preservation League/New York State Council on the Arts and the Rochester Area Community Foundation for their support of this project.”
A previous Cultural Resource Survey completed by GHS with Bero Architecture and Gina DiBella, Preservation Consultant and Grant Writer, focused on architect James Johnson and garnered a New York State Historic Preservation Award for Excellence in Historic Documentation from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and a Special Citation Preservation Award from the Landmark Society in 2019.
Several AIA Rochester members are featured in an article in the Democrat and Chronicle which details the survey and expounds on the life of Boyde - most notably Troy Williams, AIA, of LaBella Associates and a board member of The Architectural Foundation of Greater Rochester, and Falon Uloth, Associate AIA – Boyde’s great-granddaughter – who is pursuing her architectural license as well.