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Brown and Franczyk add Broadway Barns to Lengthy Demo List

The leaders behind the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor have a vision for the Michigan/Broadway neighborhood surrounding the Michigan Avenue Baptist Church and the Nash House, and that doesn’t include the City’s Broadway Barns at Broadway and Nash Street.  Though unsightly today, the building, the 65th Regiment also known as the Broadway Armory or Broadway Auditorium, has an interesting history. 

From the Campaign for Greater Buffalo:
In 1858 money was approved to build several arsenals around the state.  Buffalo’s cornerstone was laid in May 1858 and the building completed in January 1859 (below).  The architect was Calvin N. Otis, a noted gothicist.

Broadway_Arsenal.jpgThe 74th and 65th regiments were based in the building.  The arsenal stored munitions, and was surrounded front and rear by open areas that could be used for drilling. Otis was the author of numerous influential architectural essays in the mid-19th century, and contributed many designs to Andrew Jackson Downing’s Rural Residences, itself an influential book of the Gothic revival.

The 74th moved to its own armory in 1868, but in 1884 the 65th built the giant drill shed in front of the arsenal, which still survives and is the basis for the current city facility.  It incorporated the portal of the 1858 arsenal into the back wall of the drill shed.  The drill hall is 270 feet long and over 160 feet wide.  The buildings were converted to a civic gathering hall in 1910 (below).

U202196ACME.jpgIn 1948 the arsenal portion at the William Street end of the property suffered a large fire and was demolished by the City, save for the portal that had been incorporated into the drill shed (see second last image below).  This portal is thought to be the only remaining work of Otis in Buffalo, and the oldest fragment of a major public building left in the city (the Buffalo Lighthouse is older, but is technically a piece of infrastructure).

The walls of the 1884 drill shed survive as the inner walls of the lamentable “renovations” and additions that were constructed after the property was repurposed as the streets and sanitation garage in the late-1940s.  The upper extremities of the corbelled drill hall walls are visible above the yellow brick of the additions.  Peeled off, the drill hall would be revealed, intact.  The Broadway frontage was bastardized by the work in the 1940s and 50s.

Mayor Brown and Common Council President David Franczyk say the City’s garbage trucks and plows should be relocated from the heritage area.  But they’re not only targeting the messy operations, they want the building gone too.  The cost of building a new truck maintenance facility is estimated at $25 million.

Franczyk told The Buffalo News:

“You go to the Nash House and you see this monolith there that just takes over a third of the block,” Franczyk lamented. “It’s out of proportion. It totally takes away from that experience.”

“If you’re a tourist coming in, you see this building with trucks going in there — garbage trucks and plows,” Franczyk grumbled.

Look no further than NYC for an example of building reuse.  There, the 168th Armory has been converted into a track facilityReopened in 1993, it’s just one of many possible uses if the fleet operations move.  If the building does come down, the tourists get a full-block site to picnic in.  Just like the Buffalo Forge property a few blocks to the east.


Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  • MrGreenJeans

    It’s no more “unsightly” than any of its (few) neighbors. And of what “Michigan/Broadway neighborhood” do they speak? There IS no ‘neighborhood’ around this, anymore! It’s almost all gone! Another terrible Buffalo joke – trying to add another vacant lot to an empty ‘neighborhood’.
    The City has no need of, and no money for, another garage, especially if it’s just to please some hallucinatory lovers of an imaginary “heritage corridor”, which consists of 2 crummy buildings on a nearly abandoned street in a neighborhood which no longer exists.
    If anything, tear up some of the unused sidewalk in front of this place & plant some trees. Then water them & help them live, unlike most trees planted lately. It works fine as a garage, and ought to be left where it is.

  • rebecca.black66

    Nice pictures!

  • WNY_Nick

    Complete demo would be a mistake, Returning it to the 1910 configuration would be cool though
    Any idea if the exterior butressing for the drill hall walls is still in place?

  • Tahooter

    Forget the Broadway Barn. Just demo the City’s auto impound site along the 198/Buff State as well as the burned out, multi-story brick warehouse across the 198 just east of Rock Commons. Very embarrassing.

  • Travelrrr

    This site offers a great re-use opportunity-the internal works ARE gorgeous, which can be encased in (mostly) glass. There could be a wide array of uses: indoor skating, event space, etc.
    The East Side needs density, NOT more shovel-ready.

  • elias

    i respectfully diagree with there not being a neighborhood there anymore…there is a neighborhood, and in its own way, it is actually quite charming. this site sits on the southwest corner of the neighborhood i believe was once called ‘little harlem’ back in the old buffalo days, being the first african american neighborhood in buffalo…its borders are michigan to the west, william to the south, jefferson to the east and cherry to the north…it is true that most of its commercial infrastructure is now gone and many smaller abandoned factories still exist. many of the older homes are maintained, there were many residential developments in the 80s and early 90s. the 80s new builds i thought were great in the way that they maintained a classic and appealing look…the same style was built on rabin terrace around the same time…too bad we didn’t see more of these styles go up, but i suppose thats the way it goes…
    i am not sure how to feel about the proposed demo, i would feel better if they provided a plan for reuse for either the land or existing structure…if the need to build up the heritage district is that great, may i suggest a darwin martin type welcome center built on the site…it would be typical and sad to raze the building and leave it undeveloped for years…

  • flyguy

    Umm the east side needs PEACE before anything else.

  • Chris

    This building looks to far gone to me. The deal was sealed in the decades earlier when they destroyed the look and feel.
    The Armory in NYC works because it still kept the exterior. This building is unrecognizable from its former self.

  • WNY_Nick

    The interior you see is the interior that that section of the building had. Whats missing is the brick building that fronted on Broadway.

  • al labruna

    Ill say it again, this is a good candidate relocating the Broadway market. Its a lot closer to downtown. THe space is smaller and more manageable. The interior has is more interesting detail.
    Sadly, the exterior is what it is. Its likely that it would be expensive and very difficult to resurrect the old facade.
    Just swap the Market and the Barns. Move some city workers into a neighborhood that needs their attention.

  • Captain Picard

    If you’re so concerned with density on the East Side, then you should move there. Oh wait…I forgot. You would rather pontificate from your ivory tower, so long as you don’t have to spend any of your own money or move to a war zone.

  • Travelrrr

    Captain Prickard: morning! Let’s not make any assumptions on who I am, or where I spend my money? k? And, I won’t assume you are anything other…than a douche bag.

  • WNY_Nick

    Al Labruna, im actually curious what it would cost to rebuild the old facade. it would be 160×40 or so, and part of it is JUST a facade (second floor next to the towers, “3rd floor” in the middle)
    demo the side bays and the rear building, clean up the parking lot behind it and turn it into green space along w/ the area formerly taken up by the sidebays …
    Yea its not the greatest section of town right now, but id rather see them do selective demo / restoration then just spend money to make another dirt park

  • hamp

    For the cost of demolition you could put a new exterior on this building.
    The interior would be great for a public market hall or convention center, or African American Museum.
    I’m disappointed in Franczyk for not looking at more options.

  • lenlam

    Some good ideas here. Bombard Brown,Franczyk and the leaders behind the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor
    with them.

  • phrank

    This historic district needs to replace or replicate as much of the surrounding context as possible, not clear more. This block (like most city blocks 100 years+ ago) was tightly packed with buildings. It’s impossible to feel you are in a historic district when there’s only 20 percent or less left of ANY building fabric, let alone original buildings. I agree there should be more density. Sure, the Broadway garage isn’t the prettiest building around, but it’s got a lot of history in itself. I agree to the idea to actually landscape and plant trees to mask the facade. Trees would help that whole block.
    Wasn’t it considered the arena for Buffalo events until the Aud was built in the 1930’s?

  • pampiniform

    Where did all this talk come from about tearing down the garage? Sure the thing is ugly, but it is a pretty utilitarian structure. Where is the city supposed to get the money to build a new one? What reason is there for them to build a new one? What part of the city gets the honor of a replacement one? What is the purpose behind a heritage quarter with practically nothing left in it of any historical value?

  • Mike Duff

    Practice regionalism and let Amherst plow city streets. They do a much better job of it than the city crews.

  • WNY_Nick

    As for where to put a new one, one idea thats pops to mind is the area behind Central Terminal. The city owns the land and has wanted to tear down the building there for a while. In fact you could probably do it with just a shovel and a tack hammer.
    s for the money for this whole plan, yea, this city cant afford this plan AT ALL.
    Said building:

  • sobuffbillsfan

    I’m begining the think Brown has absolutley no idea what an urban environment is. The beauty of cities and why i have been enthralled with the since I was a child is the mixed use of the landscape. It breeds efficiencies and an interwoven fabric that is missing from a large portion of newer sprawl developement.
    Here is a good example of what I am talking about. Trucks come and go from that barn 24/7. You build some sort of African American welcome center in this vicinity. Some dirtbags decide to vandalize the new welcome center, it is grafitied late night say 2 am. A plow driver returning for salt happens to drive buy and see the characters in the act, radios the cops and they are caught. If that is an empty lot and the facilities are moved you won’t have that watchful eye.
    Mixed use is what makes urban areas tick and healthy. I’m not against the city sprucing up this rather dreary exterior. But demolition is nothing short of counter productive.


    I didn’t realize that Amherst plows were plowing city streets. Where is the report showing the comparison? That would be intersting to see. How did they decide which city streets the Amherst plows would do?


    The tear down crowd have their heads stuck in the 60’s. This empty lot shovel ready concept was discredited about 30 years ago guys. There is nothing wrong with this building and the city certainly does not need to be wasting money building a new garage. Is this a real proposal or is it an April Fools joke?

  • WNY_Nick

    Original article published March 29, 2011, 12:05 AM … you had me scared there for a few moments with the April Fools comment, had to run check the Buffalo News site for the date, lol.

  • The Kettle

    Agreed. The place is doing its job so I don’t see any need for a multi-million dollar replacement. If there is an aesthetic issue, they ought to try sprucing this place up before building a new one.

  • RaChaCha

    I “snuck” in this building several years ago, early in the morning. The sunshine pouring in through the monitor roof was broken up by the truly awesome roof trusses into individual sunbeams which continued to the floor. An unforgettable site. Not something to be eliminated; in fact, just the opposite — it’s a site more people should have the opportunity to experience.
    I’m convinced that a major factor behind calls for removal of this building — as is all too often the case with calls for demolition — has more to do with the building’s current use, appearance, and state of maintenance. But all those things can be changed.
    While the city has gotten good service out of this building in recent decades for its current use, its highest and best use would be its original one: as a community gathering space, and auditorium available for events. I think that such a multi-purpose space would add great value to the heritage corridor, giving a space flexible enough to accommodate even the largest events and gatherings right in the corridor. That would also attract more folks to the other great assets nearby: the Michigan Street Baptist Church, Nash House, Colored Musician’s Club, Heritage Trail, original site of Vine Street, Lyceum, etc.
    Also, as this article outlines, the building is a part of the community’s heritage — exactly the kind of thing a heritage corridor should be advocating to preserve, not eliminate. Although substantially modified over the years, as the article points out, that’s in some way an advantage. As with the Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Site (portions of which incorporate troop barracks and thus provide a tangible link back to the days when Buffalo was part of a contested military frontier), the “Broadway Barn” is something of a palimpsest: its layers go all the way back to portions of the original Gothic revival structure. That’s a rare link to the day when exactly this type of Gothic revival architecture — and this building was an outstanding example of the type started by the architect most closely associated with initiating the Gothic revival in America, Andrew Jackson Downing — was highly sought after as sign of style and progress in cities of the day. Rochester has a rare intact (an with its original setting largely intact) example of just this type of Gothic revival architecture, across the street from Mt. Hope Cemetery.
    Finally, if this building were to be remove, what would take its place? If not years of surface parking vacancy (a real possibility as we’ve seen all too often where important buildings in Buffalo have been removed), almost certainly a housing development. But as we’ve come to expect with East Side housing development, it would almost certainly be badly conceived, organized, planned, designed, bid out, contracted, constructed, sold, and maintained.
    No. This building should be retained, and repurposed as an asset in and for the heritage corridor.

  • whatever

    It sounds like this city garage is functioning well and shouldn’t be considered a problem. There are many far better uses for public $ in Buffalo than what the mayor and Council President Franczyk are suggesting about this.
    Even if, as they say they hope, a large number of tourists start traveling to Buffalo to see things near there on Michigan Ave (trying hard to not say anything about likelihood of that), there’s no good reason to think many of the tourists would be shocked or disappointed to see sanitation trucks or snow plows using a city garage.

  • RocCityGuy

    The City of Buffalo actually has a Request for Proposal (RFP) out right now to conduct a study for the potential adaptive reuse of the Broadway Barns facility as an Urban Arts Center. Therefore, this news seems contradictory.

  • city_girl

    Hopefully, they will take an objective look at feasibility of reuse examining the cost and benefits of alternative options including the proposed demolition. The consequence of not looking at alternative reuse of historic structures in the city has been the devastation of neighborhoods and substantial population losses. It is unclear yet as to which cities experienced a rebound because of understanding the potential of adaptive reuse to their central business districts versus the shovel ready strategy of cities like Buffalo.

  • Travelrrr

    Agreed, but I think it is pretty clear that
    Buffal has lost out, resoundingly, by creating shovel ready; we simply haven’t replaced those sites, whereas a healthy percentage of sites that have been saved from the wrecking ball are being re-used.
    Moral of the story: mothball for future use. Glad to see an RFP for The Barns re-use!!

  • N. Page

    Does no one care that they knocked over the building next to Frank’s Italian on Delaware over the weekend?

  • BuffaloHead

    Id call that both a historic building that needs restoration and the potential for a great urban space.
    Its also situated between ECC downtown and the Larkin district which has great future potential. It would be a shame to look back and wish it was there.

  • CindyLee

    WAY too far gone! Let’s think in terms of creating a new feel, not keeping the old! We’re going for a new Buffalo. WHY must every building with a solid frame be saved? The concept does not work for every single neighborhood!

  • CindyLee

    Anyone who advocates supporting the Broadway Market probably doesn’t shop there. It’s an antiquated concept that doesn’t work 50 weeks out of the year. Yet we keep trying to save it. Why don’t Buffalonians see clear cut clues, year after year? Let the Michigan Avenue African American Heritage Corridor become what it will. People in small cities don’t shop at quaint neighborhood markets. People in Buffalo hardly shop… no money no shopee…

  • Travelrrr

    Yes, people care and it would be great to get more input on buildings at risk in Kenmore. Join Preservation-Ready Sites on Facebook if that is you, or someone you know. Time to get proactive.

  • CindyLee

    No matter what, the garage should not be part of the Heritage Corridor. First of all there are plenty of locations it could be moved to, that support large-format municipal vehicles. Secondly, the Heritage Corridor is being designed to acknowledge the struggles of African Americans and the Railroad they forged. NONE of the old structures are of any significance to that end. This building is past its prime. No Croce is gonna come along on this one, so who is gonna come up with the funding to redo this monstrosity, and for what purpose within the RFP? Get rid of it, so that smaller operations can come in and bring fresh new construction and fresh new ideas!

  • Travelrrr

    Cindy, you are a tool. Crawl back under your rock.

  • JSmith

    I’ve been waiting grimly for that news. I certainly care, and argued against its demolition at the public hearing about the urgent care center that will be built on the lot, but in the end, it’s not a landmarked building and is not in a historic district, so there really wasn’t any legal means of stopping the demolition.
    I’m crossing my fingers that the Buffalo Green Code will put some enforcement teeth into preventing the further continued slide into car-oriented sprawl of Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo. If nothing else, it will hopefully clearly define the expected walkable quality of commercial streets like Delaware, so developers aren’t starting with an assumed sprawl-based model.

  • CindyLee

    The Mayor and the Councilman are just trying to clear an area that can be used for a good cause, without creating another Statler. If a building gets renovated it’s because someone other than the city is backing the financials. If someone were to come up with funding maybe renovation would be feasible. I cannot imagine who that someone would be, but every single building still standing does not need to be rehabbed. Honestly this area of the country is so stuck on saving the past. It’s no wonder we have so much here, and have done so very little with it!

  • CindyLee

    Yea… and while we’re at it, SCREW these PEOPLE, and their HERITAGE crap, right? They don’t deserve any of this! Who do they think they are, having a DREAM and everything?! Two little buildings and the alleged beginning of the entire American civil rights movement… PFfffffft! Toss the RFP and let’s park some more soot-spitting trucks everywhere! Let’em breath carbon!

  • CindyLee

    Everyone who disagrees with you is a tool… we consider it a badge of intellectual HONOR!!

  • CindyLee

    Why doesn’t it surprise me that you are against new buildings and fresh ideas! Welcome to WNY!

  • Monster

    Two children at play…

  • grad94

    last i knew, kenmore had no preservation ordinance. if you dislike what kenmore is demolishing, you need to lobby your elected officials to adopt a preservation ordinance.

  • grad94

    done so little with…
    the guaranty building?
    shea’s buffalo?
    buehl block aka the burchfield building?
    coit house?
    the lighthouse?
    dr. martin luther king urban life center?
    new phoenix theater?
    jesse nash house?
    theodore roosevelt inaugural site?
    591 delaware?
    trimain center?
    all were merely vacant and deteriorating or out and out saved from demolition. i’m sure others can add more.

  • ReginaldQMerriweatherIV

    Having solved all of Buffalo’s actual problems, the Mayor and Common Council are now free to focus on the imaginary ones.
    What would we do without their inspired leadership?

  • JSmith

    Gallagher’s Printing was not in Kenmore. It was just north of Tacoma Avenue. Buffalo’s existing preservation ordinances did not cover it, since it wasn’t in a preservation district and was not individually landmarked.

  • Peter_Parkdale

    It might be time to landbank the Broadway/Fillmore district. There are less than 2,300 people living there and more moving out every day. I saw two houses torn down last week and three uhauls moving more families from the area. It might be time to close down schools and fire houses and community centers and police stations and tear down more houses. Move the residents into other areas of Buffalo or Cheektowaga. Mothball the Central Terminal and Broadway Market and put our resources where they will give us more bang for the buck. It pains me to say this but after walking through the area last week and again today I don’t think there is much hope for the area.

  • Peter_Parkdale

    “African-American” corridor? Buffalo made the list of most segregated cities in America again. We moved to number 6 this year. When will be be an integrated city?

  • EllicottNick

    When will we be an integrated city? Are you daft, man? Let’s start with less crime on the East Side, less criminals from the East Side burdening the working folk of the other city areas, students who are “segregated” actually graduating from HS or even attending for that matter. Start there, then talk to me about “integration.” Fix those problems and we will open our minds and integrate. Until that happens, I’m going to lock my car doors twice and keep my wallet in my front pocket.

  • Peter_Parkdale

    Those things come down to disparity in opportunities and inequities in distribution of wealth. These things might not go away if we move city residents and land bank Broadway/Fillmore, but they definitely won’t go away if people like you believe in all the fear media and don’t open your minds enough to see the real root of the issues.

  • EllicottNick

    Ahh yes, the old “its society’s fault” argument. Because that one hasn’t been beaten to death. Preach on, sir.

  • WNY_Nick

    “Mothball the Central Terminal and Broadway Market and put our resources where they will give us more bang for the buck”
    Donno if you noticed but its pretty much moth balled as it is right now. Would it somehow cost the city less money if they stopped holding CTRC funded events there ?
    Eri county forked over money to board the windows and light the clocks, Theres $40,000 worth of New bathrooms that the state will write a check for once they are actually finished, the new sidewalks WOULD have been grant money if they had been properly bid out (found out after that they did it wrong and had to pay out their own money)
    What other $ is going to CTRC that true mothballing would save? And the park they are putting in doesn’t count because that will happen either way.

  • CindyLee

    First, I don’t see that any of those places have been successful in making WNY a national/international destination… they’re just lovely, and nice to have.
    Second, I cannot think of one other place, where a Wonder of the World has a Mighty River feeding it, which river begins at a Great Lake, where thereby a city is ensconced, within which city, there is no action on the waterfront.
    See what I mean..? Nothing’s been done with the place. 🙂
    The people that run the city are just trying to pump some outside thinking into the place. I do not think there is one person that writes on this blog, that has enough street cred, to think for this neighborhood. It’s all wrong ..for what the people in the neighborhood would want. Anybody asking them?

  • Greg

    The Broadway Barns are the perfect size for a hockey rink. If you can place shops on the front facade, I think it would be a great success.
    With such proximity to Downtown, it could fill hotels for youth hockey tournaments. In the summer time, it can be converted to a sport court for summer leagues.

  • Greg

    I think there is some serious potential for such a large structure. Certainly a sports facility would be a success. Tournaments can fill some hotels Downtown.
    Travel Hockey tournaments can fill nearby restaurants in the Winter if it’s made into an ice rink, and conversion to a sport court in the summer will bring more local people there.

  • Norse1

    After you are done peeling off yellow bricks to uncover original
    structures, why not put that Splash Lagoon inside?

  • charger

    This is a classic example of the myopia that often accompanies calls for demolition. The building’s current use and condition are deemed to be undesirable, so it has to be demolished is the “logic” of this argument.
    I’ve twice heard respected members of the community make the case that historic buildings (different ones in each case) in a preservation district should be knocked down because prostitution or drug use had occurred in them. Now one of those buildings is a highly sought after residential address.
    I saw on the tv last night that the Ira G. Ross Aerospace Museum is being asked to vacate the space they are in in HSBC Arena so the Sabres can expand their visitor experience space. What a great space the Broadway Barns would be the Ross Museum. With that clear-span you could put a whole plane in there.
    Let’s hope that the idea of moving the garbage and plowing operations, and renovating the building for civic use will displace this knock-it-down mentality.