By Greg Conley:
Erie Community College staff and community members celebrated the near completion of ECC's $10 million Old Post Office restoration yesterday. The academic building, built in 1901 and saved from the wrecking ball in 1980, was ceremonially crowned with four, 11-foot-high copper finials at the event, signifying the college's long-term commitment to the City Campus.
Due to limited resources at the time, cheaper modifications were made to the exterior of the building to preserve the structure. Now, ECC is restoring the building to its original grandeur. Beyond installation of the finials, ECC noted additional restorations being made:
· Roof. When the building was converted for the college in 1980, resources were not in place for proper restoration, so an asphalt shingle roof was installed. Surpassing its average lifespan of 20 years, the roof was clearly due for replacement. The new roof will match the original roof by using clay tiles. With a life cycle of over 75 years, the clay roof will be a more cost efficient solution for the campus.
· Building Exterior. Work is being done to fight water damage due to the sealant practices of the 1970s, which has led to "trees" growing on the building. The stone cladding is being reassembled and repositioned following re-bedding and mortar work.
· Windows. When the building was converted for the college, aluminum frames replaced the original wood frames. This project is restoring the original wood frames for all of the windows in the building, about 400 in total.
· Art Glass. These windows were never addressed in the 1980 conversion to a college. In dire condition, the frames and sash units containing the glass were removed and restored off-site.
· Loading Dock. Also succumbed to budget concerns in the 1980 conversion, the long neglected Oak Street loading dock will have its original cast iron piers, cornice, and railings repaired or replaced in-kind.
"Thirty years ago this building was threatened and was going to come down," noted Tom Yots, Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. "We do have buildings that are being threatened in our community, buildings that are very important to our community, and we must use this one and what happened here as a model for what can be done."
Greg Conley is co-chair of Young Citizens for ECC. Photo credit: David Torke. - Buffalo, NY