Preservation Buffalo Niagara's press release regarding yesterday's announcement by Savarino Companies and FFZ Holdings plan to demolish the Erie Freight House on Ohio Street and replace it with a five-story, 48-unit apartment building:
On January 10th, 2012 the Buffalo Common Council approved the nomination of the Erie Freight House as a designated city landmark. Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN
) would like to reinforce this informed decision that was made by the means of direct public participation. The Local Landmark status provides the highest level of protection for historically significant assets in our community, and ensures meaningful public participation in the future of said resources. The circa 1868 Erie Freight House located at 9 Ohio Street is considered to be the only extant freight warehouse building in the city associated with the Erie Canal and historic railway companies along the Buffalo River. Freight houses are a building type that once dominated the banks of the Buffalo River, and the Erie Freight House is the last surviving example.
Common Councilman David Franczyk, whose district includes the Erie Freight House, also highlighted the historic importance as well as the potential for reuse during that same January 10th Common Council meeting, saying "The historically significant 1868 freight house on the Buffalo River is worthy of restoration as a catalyst for the continued revitalization of Buffalo's waterfront, terminus of the Erie Canal and cradle of the city's industrial origins. It is required of the owner of this currently neglected structure to adhere to all city building codes and laws in order to enhance the building's future re-use."
On October 1st, 2012 Preservation Buffalo Niagara received a letter from a Registered Architect and Professional Engineer outlining his own assessment of the Erie Freight House's current structural condition. The professional, Kevin V. Connors, PE, AIA, LEED AP, the Principal of eco_logic STUDIO, has extensive experience with historic structures having worked on the Granite Works at Main and Virginia, the White Brothers Livery on Jersey Street as well as numerous 19th century residential homes.
Mr. Connors' letter states that "While I recognize the risk and security issues of the current facility's condition, it is my professional opinion that the structure can be stabilized and protected by performing selective demolition and salvage operations; structural shoring and bracing of the remaining structure; enclosure of exposed portions of walls and roof; and securing the waterside exposure." Mr. Connors' assessment of the condition of the structure is based off of his participation in a September 12th, 2012 walk-through of the local landmark in addition to reviewing the 'Preliminary Structural Observation' report by Tredo Engineers.
Mr. Connors' continues, stating "The significance of the building is well documented. Its heavy timber and truss structure is mostly intact. The process of repair and renovation can be one that enriches the historical interpretation of the site, while simultaneously building local capacity for specialty restoration construction. This structure has great potential as a community waterside attraction and mixed-use development, providing neighborhood employment opportunities."
Preservation Buffalo Niagara encourages the community to join us in asking that this important piece of our history be given the opportunity for appropriate reuse.
Entry Image: The surviving Erie Freight House is the rear building along the water in this 1914 photo from the Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society, provided courtesy of Ronald R. Dukarm.