Turning Point at Ten

In October, PBN celebrated its tenth anniversary.  As you know, PBN was not created anew, but, rather, from the merger of  two decades-old local preservation giants: the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier and the Preservation Coalition of Erie County.  The result was a single professionally staffed, full-service organization that signaled a new day for preservation in Buffalo.

As the first ten exciting years were coming to a close, we spent this past year setting the stage for the next decade of building up the kind of leading-edge preservation organization that a region with our cultural riches deserves. 

The first thing you will notice is that PBN has a new look. With help from the Oishei Foundation and consultant White Bicycle, we created a new visual brand for PBN that we feel better conveys our organizational strength and the forward-looking nature of our preservation mission. We hope you agree.

But rest assured, this is not mere window dressing. The visual branding is simply the most visible part of a year’s worth of work to update our strategic plan to ensure that we are using preservation best practices to meet our mission and to build a strong, sustainable organization for generations to come.  Along with updating our strategic plan, we have adjusted our mission statement to now read:  PBN identifies, protects, and promotes our unique architecture and historic legacy, and connects people to the places they love in Western New York.  

The first part of the statement remains relatively the same, but we’ve added new words at the end that we thought were important to include: people and love. As preservationists, many of our traditional tools involve talking about buildings and the past, but we know that we do this work because of our belief in people and the future, and we wanted to make sure to convey that concept within our mission statement. 

We also wanted to include the word love because people often come to us for help because they love their home or their neighborhood or a special place or moment in history. We wanted to be sure to recognize and honor that love as part of our mission.

Of course, we will be continuing much of our community development, technical assistance, and advocacy work in 2019, but we will also be launching two new programs in the coming months that will allow us to take a more proactive approach to working with at-risk buildings.

First, thanks to a significant gift from the Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Foundation, PBN will be unveiling a Sacred Sites Assistance Program. As you no doubt know, religious architecture in Western New York is in crisis. There are many contributing factors, and our responses run the gamut from creation of an updated sacred spaces inventory to robust advocacy for endangered buildings. This new program will allow us to provide proactive technical assistance to small congregations who own their own buildings but are having trouble keeping up with maintenance and rehab costs.  Several sources provide grant funding for religious buildings; however, National Register listing is a prerequisite for applying to them for funds. The application process for listing on the National Register can be daunting for many small religious organizations, so the Bauer Foundation grant will enable us to provide much-needed technical assistance and allow these groups to be good stewards to their historic places of worship.

Second, PBN will be launching a revolving fund for lower- income homeowners in local historic districts. The goal of the fund is to l assist these homeowners in the preservation of their property, allowing them to participate more fully in the long-term benefits of owning historic property. We also hope that this initiative will encourage other neighborhoods to seek historic district status by removing some of the perceived cost barriers.

Former Nature Conservancy president John Sawhill once said: “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” By renewing your membership every year, by attending events, and by giving to the annual appeal, you signal that our historic places and communities are important and should not be destroyed. We are honored to stand with you to protect and invest in  the wonderful region we all call home, and are looking forward to continuing to promote preservation over the next ten years.

Preservation in Progress Winter 2018

Scajaquada Downgrade/Route 198

On January 8th, NYS DOT Region 5 Director, Frank Cirillo, announced that the DOT will “hit the ‘reset’ button and begin a fresh dialogue with stakeholders.” This is a huge victory for the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, our fellow members of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition, and the thousands of people who voiced their opposition to the project. PBN looks forward to participating in future conversations to create a new plan that prioritizes the park user’s experience and works to restore the landscape to Frederick Law Olmsted’s original intent.


On February 6th the Common Council approved the Local Landmark Application for 1740 Bailey Avenue making it the first Local Landmark of 2018! Thank you to the Buffalo Preservation Board for submitting the nomination and to the continued advocacy work by Buffalo’s Young Preservationists and the Preservation League of NYS. Securing landmark status is an important step towards supporting rehabilitation of the property.

The Fruit Belt

238 Carlton Street moves closer to Local Landmark status after the Preservation Board approved the application at their February 8th meeting. PBN has been working with Commissioner Comerford and the Dept. of Permits and Inspection Services to avoid the demolition of this c.1876 Italianate mixed-use building and to work with the owner to find a productive future for the building. Council President Pridgen has also pledged his support for the landmarking of 238 Carlton Street and preservation efforts throughout the Fruit Belt Neighborhood. The preservation of 238 Carlton Street also affects the Fruit Belt Cultural Resource Survey which is nearing completion by project consultant Preservation Studios. Once completed, the first-ever full scale survey of the historic neighborhood will offer recommendations for future preservation efforts.

Sycamore Street

Disaster struck on January 10th when 68 Sycamore Street suffered another fire resulting in a total loss of the building. Built c.1843 by Joseph Staub, the property had been vacant since c.2015 when it suffered a fire that caused substantial interior damage. In May 2017 landmark status was secured for 68 & 72 Sycamore. In June, they were purchased by Rocco Termini and PBN has been working with Termini on plans for the rehabilitation of the buildings. The loss of 68 Sycamore is heartbreaking but we are continuing to work on finding a fruitful future for the still standing 72 Sycamore Street.

University District Survey

After successfully securing a 2017 Preserve New York grant, the University District Community Development Association, Inc. (UDCDA) is undertaking a reconnaissance-level survey focusing on the Summit Park, Kensington Heights, and Kensington Park neighborhoods. Project consultant kta preservation specialists will be surveying these neighborhoods which were originally developed between 1900 and 1940, in large part because of the expansion of streetcar service and the University at Buffalo. The goal of the survey will be to determine whether any of the neighborhoods under review would be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Getzville Historic District

The Amherst Historic Preservation Commission is looking to establish an historic district in the hamlet of Getzville. What would be the first local historic district in the town, the district centers around the land purchased by Jacob and Franklin Getz at what is now known as Dodge Road and Campbell Blvd and focuses on the buildings which were essential to the business core of the hamlet in the years 1850-1870, including the original train station at 175 Campbell, an early hotel, store, tavern, and post office at 260 Campbell, and the cider and grist mill, cooperage, and a weigh station known as 1-7 Center Street. PBN spoke in support of the district at the February 5th Town Board Meeting and the Town Board is set to vote on the measure their March meeting.

East Aurora

The East Aurora Historic Preservation Commission is exploring the possibility of a new local Historic District for the neighborhood of East Main Street. The Commission hosted a information meeting with homeowners and residents to learn about the benefits of local designation. Receiving an overall positive response and interested in moving forward, the Commission is looking towards the next step of holding a public hearing.

Creating a Broadway-Fillmore Historic District

In 2016, Preservation Buffalo Niagara was approached by the Historic East Side Neighborhood Initiative (HESNI) to explore preservation options for the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. Together, we were able to secure funding through the Preservation League of New York State and Councilman David Franczyk to hire Preservation Studios to update a 2003 survey, and make recommendations for how to approach preservation in this important Buffalo neighborhood. After numerous stakeholder meetings and two community meetings held over the course of two years, the first recommendation from that study is ready to be implemented.
Participants in the planning process expressed two strong goals for this initiative: 1) That the district would help to slow demolitions in the neighborhood, and 2) that preservation efforts would open community members up for financial incentives to invest in their properties. The initial recommendation that is being implemented now is for a Certified Local Historic District in the area along and immediately east of the Broadway-Fillmore intersection. A Certified Local District is a locally designated historic district that is certified by the National Park Service allowing those homes and buildings in the district to be eligible for Historic Tax Credits even though they are not listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once formally accepted by the Buffalo Preservation Board and Common Council, the new local district will include a total of 247 buildings, including homes, religious, civic, commercial, and industrial structures (see map for boundaries).

Neighborhood History

This neighborhood’s rise and challenges very much mirror how Buffalo and much of the industrial Northeast and Midwest were developed, and later impacted by urban renewal and sprawl development. By creating this designation, the community hopes to highlight Broadway-Fillmore’s history as a catalyst for revitalization.
The buildings included in the district represent a variety of styles, types, and uses, many designed by prominent Buffalo architects. The district was named after the intersection of Broadway and Fillmore Avenue, which as its name suggests, is the heart of the neighborhood. Broadway (known as Batavia Street until 1877) was laid out in 1821, extended in 1848, and paved east of Fillmore by the 1870s. It was one of the earliest radials in Joseph Ellicott’s plan for Buffalo, connecting Buffalo to the City of Batavia and beyond. Fillmore Avenue was surveyed as a public highway around 1830 and was extended to Broadway in the late 1840s. It was eventually named after former President Millard Fillmore, who lived in Buffalo after his presidency. While much of the area around the proposed district has been heavily impacted by demolition, the proposed historic district itself remains relatively intact, providing a critical view of the development of commercial and residential architecture in East Buffalo.
That said, the historic district is threatened. It has experienced several decades of physical and environmental deterioration from disinvestment, which has led to increased vacancies and high demolition rates. Although many buildings have been lost, the remaining buildings for the most part, retain their historic architectural character, and combine to form a distinct sense of place, recalling a significant era in Buffalo’s history.
The Broadway-Fillmore Historic District has a significant social history tied with its residential and commercial development, representing the period of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Polish immigration on Buffalo’s East Side. The district is part of the area known as Polonia, a Buffalo enclave of what was one of the largest Polish communities in the United States.

Architectural Distinction

The majority of the architectural fabric is defined by detached, frame workers’ cottages consisting of one and two stories falling under the following categories: one-story residences mainly with telescoping additions that expand to the rear of the lot; two-story residences, similarly containing rear additions; two-story residences with no additions; and two-story doubles with separate flats on each level. The Worker’s Cottage is significant for its widespread popularity in American urban and semi-urban areas during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Earlier, more prominent homes are located mainly along Fillmore Avenue and are predominantly built in the Colonial Revival, Craftsman, American Four Square, and Queen Anne styles.
Commercial structures in the Broadway-Fillmore Historic District were largely architect designed. These commercial buildings consist primarily of early twentieth century commercial style; flat-roof, two-part blocks that vary between two to five stories. The early twentieth century commercial style emerged as a contrast to the more decorative Victorian-era styles of architecture popularized in the late nineteenth century. Defining characteristics of early twentieth century commercial architecture that can be found in the district are the use of patterned masonry wall surfaces, shaped parapets at the roofline, and large rectangular windows arranged in groups. A common feature is the “Chicago Window”, one large fixed piece of glass with two narrow, double-hung windows on either side for ventilation. A good example of this can be found at 239 Lombard Street in the Lederman Building. The early twentieth century commercial style is exemplified on Broadway where buildings are primarily two-part commercial blocks, varying from two to five stories. Other less common but significant twentieth century architecture utilized for Broadway-Fillmore’s commercial structures are the Neo-Classical styled Union Stockyards Bank at 949 Broadway, the Art Deco style of the former Lederman’s Furniture store at 239 Lombard Street, and the Art Moderne style department store at 950 Broadway.
Like the commercial buildings, religious and civic institutions followed the residential growth of the area, changing the scale and style of the neighborhood. These architect-designed structures are stylistically distinct in that many are monumental in scale. There are several religious institutions in the district, the most prominent being the Corpus Christi Church at 199 Clark Street, designed in the Romanesque style in 1909 with later additions of a school, rectory, and convent.
Notable architects also designed the schools, firehouses, and police stations needed by this burgeoning population. There are three such important structures in the district: PS 57 at 243 Sears Street, built in a simple Neo-Classical style in 1914; Hook & Ladder Company No. 11 at 636 Fillmore Avenue, designed with a gable-front; and Police Station No. 8 at 647 Fillmore Avenue, designed in the Classical Revival style in 1915.
Social and cultural centers are similarly impressive buildings that were an integral part of Polish-American life. The three most significant social and cultural centers in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood are the Renaissance Revival styled Dom Polski Building at 1081 Broadway (1905-1906); the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle at 612 Fillmore Avenue (1895), and the striking three-story Polish Union Hall at 761 Fillmore Avenue (1914).
As one of the leading manufacturing centers in the country, Buffalo’s industrial economy attracted and employed thousands of Polish immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. While most of these businesses were located outside of the Broadway-Fillmore Historic District, the A. Schreiber Brewing Company is an extant example of a manufacturing facility located in the actual neighborhood. Located on Fillmore Avenue, this two-story brick building at 662 Fillmore Avenue was built in the early 1900’s, was the largest Polish-American business in Buffalo, and was one of the most successful among a number of local breweries.

Next Steps

The proposed district went before the Preservation Board and the Common Council in March of 2018. We will keep our members apprised of its progress! The Preservation Studios report also gave several more recommendations regarding other sections of the community and individual buildings within the study area. Once this designation occurs, we will look forward to working on additional ways to protect the historic heritage of the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

Saving Our Sacred Sites

Religious architecture plays a vital role in urban communities by helping people express religious beliefs, celebrate art and architecture, and come together as a community. But as people and money sprawl out of traditional neighborhoods and attitudes towards religion shift, these community landmarks are increasingly vulnerable to deterioration and loss. In the City of Buffalo alone, over the last two years, no less than three National Register Eligible churches have been demolished.

There are many reasons why we are ultimately faced with the demolition of so many religious buildings. It’s common for buildings, when sold by the religious institution, to place restrictive covenants in the deed. This can make the buildings difficult to re-use, and so buildings may be left to languish for want of a new owner. Municipalities must hold owners accountable for keeping their property up to code and not allow the cycles of demolition by neglect to continue. Code enforcement should be using the full potential of the law to either get owners to fix the property, fix it themselves and then place the bill as a lien on the property, or work to get the property transferred to someone who can and wants to bring the property back to its full potential.

Another key aspect of why religious buildings often sit vacant for many years is because of limitations in the use of Historic Tax Credits (HTC). While HTCs are a key driver of Western New York’s current renaissance turning around countless vacant properties, they aren’t as encouraging to the rehab and reuse of religious buildings. HTC are guided by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, which can be tricky to apply to places of worship, with their wide-open spaces, high ceilings, and other character defining features. There are, however examples across the state and country of sacred sites that were able to alter or modify the open space and still use HTC, but it takes a lot of planning and negotiating with SHPO and the National Parks Service.

So, what can be done? Here’s some ways that PBN is moving forward to stop the loss of religious architecture and encourage the revitalization of these historic structures.


Over the years there have been many different lists and inventories completed but today we find those lists out of date or they only included sites which were threatened with demolition at that moment. Starting this spring, PBN will be surveying our communities sacred spaces. Focusing on structures originally built as places of worship we will inventory their current use, condition, ownership status, and current landmarking status.

Proactive Outreach

With a current inventory, we can more effectively work with religious institutions, private owners, and municipalities to address issues before they become a problem. It’s easier to find a productive future for an underused building than a longtime vacant building with a pending demolition order.


Every year there are more examples of innovative rehabilitations which are able to marry preservation best standards and a property owner or developer’s project needs. These projects are not just happening here in New York, but across the country. PBN will be exploring and highlighting these projects so we can expand conversation from why we should preserve to how we can preserve. And then working to engage our design community to help show current and prospective owners the potential to be had with our religious architecture.

We can use a few good interns and volunteers to help us survey building and research case studies. If you’re interested in helping or have any questions, contact PBN’s Director of Preservation Services, Christiana Limniatis.