Preservation Buffalo Niagara Acquires 72 Sycamore

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On Thursday December 19th, Preservation Buffalo Niagara acquired 72 Sycamore Street from local developer Rocco Termini with plans to protect the landmark and bring new life to this part of Sycamore Street.

The previous owner of 72 Sycamore proposed demolition of the former boarding house in 2017. In addition to opposing the demolition, PBN worked to acquire landmark status for the building and local developer Rocco Termini stepped in, agreed to purchase it and hold the property for PBN until initial funding could be acquired by the local non-profit.

“I am proud to have provided the stepping stone for PBN to acquire 72 Sycamore,” said Rocco Termini. “Their work to protect historic buildings has been important to revitalizing Buffalo and Western New York and its exciting to see them take this next step in their own evolution as an organization.”

Preservation Buffalo Niagara intends to rehabilitate the building into three units of affordable housing, office space for local non-profit affordable housing specialist Heart of the City Neighborhoods, and a Preservation Resource Center space for PBN where they can hold preservation workshops and provide educational experiences.

“In addition to being an important remaining part of the Sycamore Street landscape,” said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, “This building has a unique and fascinating history and we are looking forward to ensuring that this building remain a part of our city-scape for another 170 years.”

“Heart of the City has been working with historic Buffalo neighborhoods for over twenty years to build and maintain high quality affordable housing options,” said Stephanie Simeon, Executive Director of Heart of the City Neighborhoods. “By partnering with Preservation Buffalo Niagara on this project, we will not only be assisting in the development of more quality affordable housing on Sycamore Street, but we will also finally have a long-term home for our day to day operations.”

The Eliza Quirk Boarding House (72 Sycamore), located on the edge of downtown and the East Side of Buffalo in Erie County, is a pre-Civil War boarding house designed and constructed circa 1848 for its original owner, Eliza Quirk, a well-known courtesan, who occupied the building until her death in 1868.  The structure is a simple, red brick vernacular townhouse style that represents a typical pre-Civil War design signifying its residential use. While the architect (if any) is unknown, the boarding house appears to have been built as both Ms. Quirk’s primary residence and a boarding house with likely additional use as a brothel throughout this period. It is one of the few remaining intact boarding houses and pre-Civil War buildings in downtown.

It is within the Impact Zone of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, and its preservation is seen as an important component of continuing revitalization efforts in this area.

PBN will be working on securing additional funds through the winter and spring, and hopes for a summer 2021 occupancy.  Preservation workshops will be held throughout 2020 on the site, to help the community better understand the technical aspects of preservation projects.

Fruit Belt Cultural Resource Survey

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On September 21st, Preservation Buffalo Niagara presented the Fruit Belt Cultural Resource Survey with our friends from Preservation Studios. Funded by the Preservation League of New York State through a Preserve New York grant, this tool offers opportunities for the community to preserve their important history and culture. We are looking forward to continuing on with this important Buffalo neighborhood in their journey. To read the entire survey, click here.

Press Release: Willert Park Courts

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Willert Park announced as One of the
11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States.

Buffalo, N.Y., May 30, 2019

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Buffalo Niagara are coming together to announce that Willert Park Courts has been named one of the United States 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Each year, the list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places sheds light on important examples of our nation’s heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. Over 300 places have been listed in its 32-year history, and in that time, fewer than 5 percent of listed sites have been lost.

Architect Frederick C. Backus created one of the first garden/courtyard housing projects in the nation and the only project in Buffalo to have a significant sculptural program.  An outstanding example of early Modern design recognized by the Museum of Modern Art, Buffalo’s Willert Park Courts were groundbreaking achievements in architecture, urban planning, and landscape architecture. The distinctive bas-relief sculptures depicting scenes of African American life and achievement were purportedly developed in cooperation with the first residents of the complex.

Perhaps even more important than the architectural significance is the cultural heritage represented at this site.  When social housing was first introduced to the United States under President Roosevelt, it was used as a tool to create and reinforce racially homogenous communities.  Locally, Willert Park Courts was designed and sited as a black-only housing project of 170 units, in contrast to the Commodore Perry and Lakeview projects, which were reserved entirely for white families and contained 1700 units between them.  The Buffalo Urban League and other prominent black Buffalonians were deeply involved in their creation, and they served as an incubator of Buffalo’s black middle class, nurturing a generation of our City’s most prominent citizens.

The site has been vacant and neglected for approximately 10 years.  The complex’s owner, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA), has previously announced plans to demolish the historic complex.  A 1942 addition on the site has already been demolished and replaced with townhomes.

“To lose these buildings would continue the destruction of Modern Architecture in Buffalo and obstruct our ability to tell our story as a community – a story that we are still in the midst of understanding” said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. “As Buffalo begins to stabilize, as population is added, especially to our downtown and adjacent East Side neighborhoods, how will we understand and honor those who have come before and created community?  How will we understand and recognize our complicated past, while working together to create a shared vision for our future?  Sites like this force us to think deeply about what stories we are telling about our City, and how we ensure that the New Buffalo has space for everyone.”

Professor Alfred Price (left), former resident of Willert Park Courts and PBN Executive Director Jessie Fisher (right) discuss development and the chance of possibility for Willert Park Courts.

“The thoughtful Modern architecture of Buffalo’s Willert Park Courts are testament to an earlier era of government-funded affordable housing,” said Katherine Malone-France, Interim Chief Preservation Officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Previously recognized by design experts at the Museum of Modern Art, Willert Park Courts were public housing that provided a sense of dignity and pride-of-place to its residents. By naming this site to the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list, we hope to raise awareness of a key part of the African American community’s history in Buffalo and also spur interest in redeveloping Willert Park as much needed-affordable housing.”

Preservation Buffalo Niagara will continue to work with community partners to protect what is now nationally recognized as an endangered historic site, in hopes that the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority will re-visit their previous demolition plans and work to find a way to preserve this important piece of Buffalo’s past, bringing it back to life as a place that will once again nurture today’s families and tomorrow’s leaders.

For more information, please contact Tia Brown at 852-3300 or tbrown@pbnsaves.org.

Update: 238 Carlton

Update: 08/06/19

238 Carlton’s facelift continues! In the past week Carlton has received new rafters and while it’s charred roof once made an interesting frame for the bluest skies, it’s plain to see that this gem looks best covered up. For more sneak peeks of 238 Carlton’s metamorphosis look below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 












Update: 07/31/19

And, so it begins! We have received the first pictures of 238 Carlton’s grand makeover, photos credited to eco_logic STUDIO. The roof demo began last week and it has been determined that the floor joists on the 2nd floor deck are charred. Renovation options are being discussed. You can see the first few pictures of 238 Carlton’s below.

 

African Heritage Food Co-Op and Preservation Buffalo Niagara
Team up to Save Historic Fruit Belt Building

On Friday, May 24th, the African Heritage Food Co-Op and Preservation Buffalo Niagara announced that they have teamed up to save 238 Carlton Street from an emergency demolition order and to bring it back to life as the permanent home of the African Heritage Food Co-Op.

238 Carlton Street parallels the development of the Fruit Belt. It was built circa 1876 by Peter Knapp at the height of the building boom in the neighborhood.  Mr. Knapp was then residing with his family. who had emigrated from Germany to Buffalo in 1834, around the corner at 200 Locust Street. He built the building as a grocery store and residence, and it continued to operate as a grocery store and deli for 93 years.  238 Carlton Street is a fine example of a subset of Italianate Style architecture which finds Italianate detailing added to the simple front-gabled rectangular box popularized by the Greek Revival Style.  While this style is popular here in Buffalo, it accounts for only about 10% of surviving examples of Italianate stylings nationwide.  238 Carlton Street is accented by its cast-iron storefront columns and other character defining features such as a wide overhanging eave, original full-arched 2:2 windows, and its original unique decorative-stepped frieze with fleur running trim.

The property became vacant in approximately 2000 and the previous owner, Borderland Advantage, purchased it in 2017 just after a fire damaged the rear portion of the building.  Despite repeated assurances that the building would be repaired, stabilization work never commenced and the building was scheduled for an emergency demolition by the City of Buffalo.  Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Fruit-Belt McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force led a successful effort to landmark the building in 2018, and the African Heritage Food Co-Op to become interested in it as a future permanent home, but could not come to terms with the owners.  Finally, in April of this year, an anonymous community member stepped forward, purchased the building, and donated it to the African Heritage Food Co-Op.  PBN will provide initial funding to the AHFC to secure and stabilize the building, and the two entities will work together to fundraise for the remaining funds to complete the vision of bringing this community-owned and community-controlled grocery store to the Fruit Belt.

“This will be an opportunity for the residents to directly benefit economically from the Fruit Belt resurgence” said Alexander Wright, Founder and General Manager of the African Heritage Food Co-Op.  “We plan to hire residents within walking distance and hopefully partner with surrounding institutions to aid in the healthy eating of their constituents. We can not do this without the help of the community and allies.” 

“Preservation Buffalo Niagara commends the African Heritage Food Co-Op for its vision in not only preserving this building, but in preserving the culture and quality of life in the Fruit Belt” said Jessie Fisher, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara.  “We are so proud to stand with these dedicated community partners and to work alongside them on this project.”

The project will appear before the Preservation Board for approvals on May 30th, and stabilization work is expected to commence shortly thereafter.  The AHFC is actively fundraising for this effort.  To support the project and make the Co-Op a reality faster, you can donate through Facebook at AHFCBuffalo, call 716-573-1844, or email ahfcinfo@gmail.com.

For more information, please contact Tia Brown at 852-3300 or tbrown@pbnsaves.org.

 

– Jessie Fisher