The Dove Block rises three stories at the corner of Castle and Exchange streets in the heart of downtown. It has stood vacant for more than a dozen years, despite interest in its redevelopment.
“This really is an architectural gem," says Jim Spates, an emeritus professor of sociology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. "It’s a beautiful 19th century building all the way to the top. Arthur Dove’s father, William Dove, when he came to decide on such a building in such an important location, he didn’t mince he made a great building. It remains pretty structurally sound so far as we know.”
Spates and local real estate developer Dave Bunnell have taken a significant step forward in returning the Dove Block to use. “We now have the lease in hand, lease with an option to buy, up to five years to get our purchase money together and all the monies we need to fund the project on the different floors," says Spates "So, we have a certain amount of time to get going, but we have a lot of community enthusiasm about this.”
And, a lot of work to do. What was once a bar and restaurant is clearly visible through the ground floor windows. Finger Lakes Public Radio's Kelly Walker joined Bunnell and Spates for a walk-through with the real estate agent and the climb to the second floor reveals the remains of small apartments.
“As you can see from looking around, some of the walls are in need of serious repair," says Spates. "As you can see from looking up we have heating issues that are going to need to be addressed. We have water issues that are going to have to be addressed. We have electrical issues that are going to have to be addressed. All of this will take us quite a bit of time and money. So we’re going to use a fair amount of the time we have secured the lease for to get this floor ready and the first and the third floor as well with the idea being that when they’re ready, first and second floors we’re going to try to get people to buy the floor, become part of the whole building structure and the third floor we’re going to have the Arthur Dove museum and memorial.”
That museum and memorial to Arthur Dove is integral to Bunnell and Spates’ vision for the renovated Dove Block. Dove is considered one of the first American abstract painters. His family home was in Geneva and he attended Hobart College in the early 20th century.
"He painted here," says Spates. "So, if you look at all the walls, what's wonderful about this room, which is where we're going to have the Dove museum and memorial is that there's light all around because of all the beautiful windows. Our hope is, if you go back to Dove's day, all the walls would have been covered with his paintings that he was working with at the time. And, the other thing that was great, one story that I would like to have verified, is that he used to roller skate around the room working on a different painting and then go off to another one because the room is so big."
Spates and Bunnell are seeking support and input on their plans for the Dove Block. They’re hosting a public meeting tonight.
“My view and Dave’s view as well is that the city is on a roll now we’re doing well now, we have all these new restaurants, Linden Street is thriving and we want to contribute to that," says Spates. "And, it will do so much better if we have significant community involvement in the project because then we’ll have the enthusiasm that will stretch well beyond the people who are funding and overseeing the development of the project. We need lots of folks and we’d love to have anybody come to that meeting, ask us questions.”
The Dove Block Community Meeting happens tonight at 8 PM at the Geneva Public Library.