Saving the Dove Block

The picture above shows a portion of the third floor of The Dove Block in Geneva, New York, the space where Arthur Dove and Reds Torr lived during 1937 and part of 1938. One of the reasons Dove was eager to move to this floor was not only its great size, but its wonderful, high, west-facing, arched windows, a feature that ensured that, before midday and for the rest of any day, he would have wonderful light to do his painting.

The picture has value for another reason, however. It is one of many in our possession that clearly shows the current, much reduced, status of the building we wish to reclaim and make functional again. As can be seen, the floor is in major need of repair, the result of serious roof leakages over decades. It is a problem which affects all three floors of the building—see the following photo of the second floor ceiling in its current condition.

But there is more, much more, of concern. Considering the building as a whole, the entire substructure that is used to make its spaces usable must be replaced—including the entirety of the electrical, water, and air-conditioning, systems. In addition, all the stairways which lead upward from the ground floor (as well as the one which leads to the copious basement) will require reconstruction and, throughout the building, many windows will need to be repointed and have their glass replace. And then there is the matter of inserting an elevator (never a necessity in the building’s hey-day).

While a recent study by a local professional architectural firm has determined that, overall, the structure of The Dove Block is sound, it is obvious that, if we are going to make this glorious nineteenth century High Victorian Gothic structure alive again, a great deal still demands doing, a doing which will require a large amount of money.

(It is worth mentioning here, that the bathtub in the center of the first picture on this page, was Arthur Dove’s! It will be preserved!)

The history of our efforts to “Save the Dove Block” can be told briefly. In 2015, a small group of Geneva citizens, curious about why one of their city’s most striking pieces of architecture, a building sited on what is arguably the most important commercial corner in the city (the corner of Castle and Exchange Streets) had been standing vacant and deteriorating for more than a decade without any plans to revive it.

These answers (too complex to rehearse here) gained, this same group decided that they would begin a non-profit venture dedicated not merely to saving The Dove Block as a building, but to dedicating a portion of it, in the form of an art gallery, to honoring the vital role played by Geneva native—the internationally renowned American artist, Arthur Dove—in its history. And thus, The Dove Block Restoration Group (DBRG) was formed. Here is an image of our initial logo:

Since its founding the DBRG has met dozens of times with its eye always fixed on achieving these goals. Initially, mostly from local citizens, it raised $200,000 to secure a lease-with-an-option-to-buy agreement with the current owner and to defray the on-going costs of our effort: the aforementioned architectural study of the building, its city taxes, and its electrical costs among these.

Happily, we can report that our effort to save the building has been widely applauded. In 2016, the Landmark Commission of Western New York awarded our project with one of its annual “Five to Survive” Awards. Then, in 2017, working with The City of Geneva, the project was awarded two major development grants by The State of New York: $900,000 from The Downtown Redevelopment Initiative and $500,000 by The Main Street Initiative Program. While both grants are most generous and very welcome, together, they represent only about half of the money will we need to make the building fully functional again! As well, neither grant includes any monies set aside to aid the creation and maintenance of The Arthur Dove Gallery portion of our efforts.

Recently (late 2018), we have secured a loan from one of our local Geneva banks which will give us the funds to pay the building’s current owner the outstanding balance of the purchase price. Once that happens, the DBRG will have full legal control over the direction our reclamation effort will take.

Finally, we are in what we believe will be final negotiations with a known and respected local contractor who, once these talks are complete and the proper papers signed, will begin refurbishing of the building immediately. This same contracting company will, as the essential restoration of the building is taking place, be seeking tenants for the building, leaving aside from such searches the space which will be used for The Arthur Dove Gallery.

Overall, we are delighted that these steps have been made and that it now appears as if, eventually, we will be able to meet both of our goals: the saving the Dove Block as a significant building in Downtown Geneva and open in it a gallery which will serve, simultaneously, as a space for honoring Arthur Dove and for displaying the contemporary arts of the Finger Lakes to local and regional citizens and to visitors to Geneva from all over the country. Here is an artist’s rendering of what the refurbished building will look like:

Theresa Heinz, The Dove Block, 2015

Before that congratulatory moment arrives, however, in order to ensure that it does, we still need to raise another $1.5 million dollars!

To which end, we would be delighted if you might aid us in these efforts!

dove-block-neil-sjoblom-photo