Preserving history created by those who were here before us

Chester. The Historical Society has been awarded a $5,200 grant to survey and prepare a National Register nomination for a 3.52-acre historic district where the cheese enterprise of William Alfred Lawrence (1842-1911) once stood along what is is now Route 17M.

| 27 Jul 2021 | 02:00

The Chester Historical Society is one of this year’s Preserve New York grantees. The grant of $5,200 will fund a cultural resource survey of the West Chester Historic District.

The $5,200 grant will enable the Chester Historical Society to hire Neil Larson & Associates to conduct the survey and prepare a National Register nomination for a 3.52-acre historic district where the immense cheese enterprise of William Alfred Lawrence (1842-1911) once stood, and where Lawrence’s home and those of his son, grandson and their families still stand.

Famous in his day as the manufacturer of Neufchatel and cream cheese, the latter of which he is often credited with inventing, Lawrence was also a significant figure in the history of the Village of Chester, instrumental in its incorporation and elected as its first president (mayor in today’s nomenclature).

The five-parcel area to be surveyed is part of a much larger realm that belonged to Lawrence. Although today the property lies within a busy commercial area along Brookside Avenue in Chester, and is threatened by further development, the surviving structures’ mid-19th Century appearance and integrity remain relatively intact.

“The Village’s first Comprehensive Plan, currently awaiting approval by the Village’s Trustees, includes the goal of establishing a cohesive cultural identity for the Village through the preservation of its remaining areas of historical significance,” says Erle VandeBogart, President of the Chester Historical Society. “Creation of this small West Chester Historic District would help achieve that goal by preserving this particularly threatened, historically significant area.”

Chester’s competition

At its 2021 meeting, an independent grant panel selected 32 applicants in 25 counties to receive support totaling $297,995. Each grant supports important arts and cultural initiatives, as well as economic development related to our state’s arts and cultural heritage. Many of these grants will lead to historic district designation or expansion, telling the stories of communities throughout the state and allowing property owners to take advantage of the New York State and Federal Historic Tax Credits. This is even more valuable now, with the NYS Commercial Historic Tax Credit recently expanded for small projects, granting property owners a 30% credit.

About Preserve New York

With the announcement of the 2021 awards, support provided by Preserve New York since its launch in 1993 totals more than $3.3 million to 489 projects statewide.

The Preserve New York program is a regrant partnership between the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the Preservation League, made possible with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation has generously provided additional funds to support nonprofit projects in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Since 1993, Preserve New York has been providing funds to municipalities and nonprofit organizations that need technical, professional assistance to guide a variety of preservation projects. The historic structure reports, building condition reports, cultural landscape reports, and cultural resource surveys funded through this program lead to positive outcomes across New York’s 62 counties.

“Navigating the difficulties and hardships of the past year has been a challenge for nonprofits and municipalities across the state,” said Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy and Preservation and the Preservation League. “The League is grateful to our program partners at NYSCA and the Gardiner Foundation for continuing to support Preserve New York, which will grant much-needed dollars to so many worthwhile preservation projects this year.”