What many thought would surely see the landfill has had nothing short of a rebirth. St. Vincent's Orphanage stands as an incredible example of historic preservation near the brink of loss. In just two weeks students will begin filling the classrooms as Buffalo Health Sciences Charter High School (BHSCHS) officially moves from Tonawanda to the revived E.B. Green-designed masterpiece.
Thankfully there was not much work that needed to be done on the shell of the building. With the exception of the cornice line, there were only minor mortar repairs. One of the greatest challenges however was replacing the over 270 windows in the building because there were about fifteen different window styles to replicate. Ellicott Development is overseeing building renovations.
When the school opens, only freshman and sophomores will be attending, but each year a new grade level will be added as building renovations continue. The former chapel in the building will likely be completed by October including the repair and restoration of all the plaster. It will serve as the school's Learning and Resource Center providing computers to the students. Renovations to the 3rd through 4th floors will start within the next six months in preparation for adding the two upper grade levels in the next two years.
Attendance will max out at 480 students according to school officials, not because of building limitations, but because of the school regulations. By keeping the school at a reasonable amount of students it allows for smaller classes and more one-on-one learning. Classroom spaces are divided into two areas, the larger classroom space and a smaller lecture space for one-on-one work or study.
When the search began for their new home, the school looked at over thirty different locations around WNY, but St. Vincent's was the best choice for their needs. The proximity to the medical campus, access to public transportation like the Metrorail, and the short distance to downtown all made the building the obvious choice regardless of the building's conditions.
Some parents were apprehensive about the location, but once they visited their worries were eased. The neighborhood has been extremely supportive of the project and thrilled to see the building revived rather than demolished. Now that the school is the newest neighbor in the area they want to actively participate in addressing neighborhood issues and lend a helping hand.
Currently the empty lot across from the building is used as parking for the constructions workers. It will be converted to the school's athletic field when the construction parking is no longer needed.
For all those who are wondering about the cornice, no it will not be replaced, at least not in the immediate future. While they would love to restore the cornice, the cost is prohibitive at this time and whatever they can spend will go towards the students first.