Community comes to grips with loss of landmark
CANASERAGA — A truly historic local landmark was largely reduced to rubble over the weekend, when the Kingston Hotel in Canaseraga was demolished.
In early November of last year, catastrophe struck the building when the North Church Street side of the building began to crumble and suffered a partial collapse.
In the days that followed, there was optimism that the building could be properly braced to prevent further damage, and make the area safe for pedestrians.
The Kingston has a long and storied history as a centerpiece of the Village of Canaseraga.
The Hotel Kingston has served as a landmark for the community for generations, a symbol of resiliency that was built in the aftermath of an 1895 fire that claimed 25 stores, two hotels, Union Hall, a bank, newspaper office, T.G. Wooster Manufacturing Co. Furniture, and 34 homes.
Completed in 1898, the building spent its early days as an opera house, before becoming a renowned hotel, then apartments before being abandoned. The Hotel Kingston was an elegant place to stay back in the days of the railroad.
The building was part of the heralded Four Corners, later added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Kingston was not just a point of pride in the village's local history, but also a place where some local families got their start. For many years it served as an apartment building.
"It was the first place I lived in Canaseraga back in 1974. Rent was $65 a month with heat and electricity," said a former resident. "It was a beautiful building."
However, time marches on.
Charles Mann of Canaseraga had owned the hotel since 2009, and was working on getting it fixed up. He owns several properties in the village, including the former State Bank building at the corner of Main and South Church Streets, which had experienced similar problems, but has been successfully braced with help from an engineering plan.
In the intervening years, the village and Town of Burns worked collaboratively, seeking grants for the building's restoration, going so far as to reach out to the office of State Senator Catherine Young, and looking into as much as $250,000 in grants for the revitalization of historic buildings in the village's downtown area. The Kingston was set to be a centerpiece of those plans.
Following the collapse, North Church Street remained closed to through-traffic for several months.
By March, no plan for moving forward with the building or to prevent further collapse had been presented to the Village Board, and saving it became muddled in a legal quagmire.
"It's unfortunate ... It's sad," members of the village board said.
The process involved village attorneys presenting a court petition. A date was pending for June 27. Parties will conference by phone, and the village will request that the owner move on the old bank as well within the next 30 days.
“The reason we’re keeping on this is No. 1, we want to keep them moving on it. He knows as well as anyone else that there is no way he can fix either of those buildings,” Village Mayor Peggy Sleight said. "It could have been 4-5 years down the road for a structural grant."
On Friday, demolition began, carrying on through the weekend, ultimately leaving a vacant lot and a vacancy in the heart of local residents. Currently there are no plans for what will now be vacant land.
North Church Street was finally reopened after consultation with the County engineer.