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.

Out of the Shadows: The Legacy of Buffalo’s First African American Architect

Last November, the “Out of the Shadows” exhibit was on display at the Buffalo & Erie County Central Library. The traveling exhibit highlights the life and career of John Edmonston Brent (1889 -1962), Buffalo’s first African-American architect.

Despite devoting much of his architectural career to the Western New York region, Brent is a relatively unknown name. Part of this is due to the fact that many of his buildings have long been demolished, which has been an unfortunate consequence of Buffalo’s urban renewal policies of the mid-twentieth century. Among Brent’s lost buildings was the YMCA at 585 Michigan Avenue, built in 1928 as a cornerstone to what was then Buffalo’s African-American entertainment district (effectively dubbed, “Little Harlem”). The YMCA was demolished in 1977. Some of Brent’s surviving works can be found in familiar locations around the city, including the Entrance Court and Gateways to the Buffalo Zoo, Westbrook Luxury Apartments (675 Delaware Avenue), and Houghton Park (1675 Clinton Street).

As implied, “Out of the Shadows” aims to raise public awareness of John E. Brent’s contributions to Buffalo architectural legacy. His works are a testament to a time period when Buffalo’s rich heritage continued to attract seasoned architects from around the country. To overcome the challenge in traditional preservation methods, due to the fact many of Brent’s works are now gone, a series of local and national recommendations will be undertaken for continued research, including interviews with surviving Brent descendants residing in the city; promotion and preservation of his existing works; and historic designations, landmarking, and curriculum development in local public schools.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara has been a proud collaborator with local historian Christine Parker for this project, which has surveyed over 100 buildings and landscapes over the 50-year career of John E. Brent. Funding has been provided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the First Niagara Foundation.