Preservation Horror Story #3

You chose door number 3, which by far is the scariest story of them all! For Demolition by Neglect lurks in the shadows and grows stronger with every drop of rain, gust of wind, and shake of the pavement. As once occupied and vibrant buildings are forgotten about, or purchased by neglectful owners they can quickly turn into just a memory.

That’s what happened with 324 Oak Street when in 2021 it collapsed and was demolished.  Built in 1881 by George Urban Sr and his son George Urban Jr., it was home to the Urban Roller Mills. Capable of producing 300 barrels of milled grain a day, it did so with corrugated steel rollers rather than stone grinding wheels- the first in the city to use such technology.  In 2014 the cultural and architectural landmark was purchased by a neglectful property owner and sat vacant with no work to secure or stabilize the building, even with our harsh winters! In the Summer of 2021, the building had reached its end, it was tired under the strain of supporting itself with no love, and the front façade collapsed into the street below. That was it, 140 years of history gone.

An example of where we can stop this ill-fated pattern is two of the oldest buildings in downtown Buffalo. Located at 110 and 118 Southpark Avenue we see two sister Buildings reaching back to the Buffalo of the 1850s and 1860s struggling to stay alive. For years we have used our platform to advocate for these structures and share how easily they could be rehabbed for a new use!  However, the owner of these buildings saw more value in the lot than the legacy. These buildings have been landmarked by the City of Buffalo since 1994 which provides an added layer of protection against unnecessary demolitions. Unfortunately, after the owner had purchased the property, and discovered he could not tear down these buildings he decided to just let them sit and rot. As preservationists and the City continued to fight for these buildings, the Winter Storm of 2022 whipped around causing a wall to collapse, the brick that broke the camel’s back if you will.  The City of Buffalo couldn’t sit back and watch anymore and initiated eminent domain proceedings to get the buildings out of the hands of the neglectful owner. With what seems like a win this story is far from over, as it has been silent, but silence is never good when the race against Mother Nature has already begun!

Judge approves emergency demolition of 19th-century Cobblestone District buildings

When buildings begin to show the start of demolition by neglect it is easy for people to just accept their fate, however, there is always hope! Look at some of the largest preservation projects in Buffalo the Richardson Olmsted Campus, Guaranty Building, and even Shea’s Theater just to name a few were almost written off as losses to time, but they stand tall and strong because people fought for them!

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