Old Holley High School named to list of ‘Five to Revive’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo Courtesy Richard Margolis – The former Holley High School, which sits in a high-profile spot on Route 31, has fallen into disrepair and has been mostly vacant for two decades.

HOLLEY – The former Holley High School has been identified by a preservation organization as one of five sites in desperate need of investment in the Rochester region.

The Landmark Society of Western New York today announced the “Five to Revive” list. The group intends to annually publish a list of five properties in need of improvement.

“Whether buildings, landscapes, or structures, they are significant historic properties whose rehabilitations can become catalytic projects for the neighborhoods and communities that surround them,” the Landmark Society stated on its Web site.

Landmark Society staff picked the five sites, calling them “irreplaceable historic resources.” The Landmark Society offered to work collaboratively with owners, municipal officials and developers to facilitate investment and foster rehabilitation so that these structures can again play an active role in their communities.

In addition to the Holley school, the Landmark Society picked the following as Five to Revive: the Pulaski Library, 1151 Hudson Ave., Rochester;Former Eastman Dental Dispensary, 800 Main St., Rochester; Pedestrian Bridges in Genesee Valley Park, Rochester; Sampson Theatre, 130-136 East Elm St., Penn Yan.

The Holley school was last used about two decades ago by Liftec Manufacturing, which went bankrupt. The site was last used as a school in the early 1970s.

Here is what the Landmark Society wrote about the school:

Holley High School
Wright Street (NYS Route 31) at Main Street (NYS 237)
Village of Holley, Orleans County

Built in 1931, the former Holley High School is a strategically located and well-recognized landmark, which occupies a prominent site in the village at the central intersection of Wright and Main streets (NYS Routes 31 & 237).

This Neo-Classical Revival building is located within the Holley Village Historic District, which has been declared officially eligible for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

This historic district, situated in the core of the village, is a significant collection of late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century commercial, religious, residential, and educational architecture.Between 1825 and the early twentieth century, Holley was a small, yet bustling, canal-side transportation hub, as well as a center of commercial activity for the surrounding rural, agrarian region.

The very irregular street pattern is a reflection of the village’s earliest decades of prosperity, when its primary thoroughfare (Route 31) developed along the curving route of the west bank of the 1825 Erie Canal.The canal was rerouted to the north during the 1850s-’60s, although the southern loop through the center of the village was in local service well into the early twentieth century.

The highly visible site of this former school has been the location of two high school buildings, one constructed in 1896 and its successor, the present building, which was erected in 1930. Designed by Rochester architect and school specialist, Carl Ade, the former Holley High School was described as “the latest type of modern school construction” and featured fire-proof construction with structural steel frame, reinforced concrete floors, and brick exterior walls.

Its restrained Neo-Classical design included a handsome columned portico on the façade. This prominent building served as the community’s high school into the mid-1970s. There has been only intermittent use of limited sections of the school in the intervening years. The former high school is a major visual anchor in the village business district.

A contributing building in the proposed “Holley Village Historic District,” the former Holley High School also appears to be individually eligible for listing in the State and National Register of Historic Places.


A highly visible anchor in this historic Erie Canal village, the former Holley High School is one of the most important civic buildings in Orleans County. Its notable historic and architectural significance, combined with its prominent location and scale of design, make it an important candidate for rehabilitation and re-use after nearly 30 years of vacancy.