The SUNY Cortland Alumni Association this week won a $500,000 state grant to support restoration projects at the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House, a key structure in Cortland’s downtown historic district.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation this week announced the award, which will restore the terrace veranda entrance of the mansion, addressing safety and accessibility concerns and ensuring its continued operation in the community.
The elegant Tompkins Street mansion is owned by the alumni association, an independent, non-profit organization and used to host a variety of alumni, university and community events. The facility also provides office space for alumni engagement and campus event management personnel.
“This grant is transformative,” said Erin Boylan, the association’s executive director. “It will allow us to make the capital repairs needed to maintain the building’s historical integrity while the Parks Alumni House continues to serve as the Cortland home for our more than 80,000 living alumni, a venue for university gatherings and a premiere event facility in our community.
“We are so thankful to New York state, the Regional Economic Development Council program and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation department for their support. It will allow generations of SUNY Cortland students, alumni and community members to enjoy this magnificent structure.”
The 15,000-square-foot mansion at 29 Tompkins St. was built in 1912 by Gilded Age industrialist Charles Wickwire, who eventually became president of Wickwire Brothers, Inc., on south Main Street in Cortland. The company was founded by his father, who invented an innovative wire mesh. It produced a wide variety of steel wire and related products and was one of the area’s largest employers.
“One of our goals in maintaining and operating the Parks Alumni House is to help preserve the rich history of the Wickwire family and their impact on Cortland,” Boylan said. “We strive to be good stewards of this amazing property and use it to help educate the community about its heritage and pay tribute to a family that helped make Cortland what it is today.”
The house is part of the Tompkins-Main Streets Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is a wonderful recognition for the university’s alumni association,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum. “The Parks Alumni House has served as an impressive events facility for many years, and this award will help with necessary accessibility improvements while maintaining the historic charm of the building. I am elated that this venue will continue to shine for our Cortland graduates as well as our local community.”