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Old… meet new.

Every time I pass by the site of the demolished Saint Mary’s on the Hill and Guild Hall (take a trip back) I can’t help but think how we could have saved at least part of the church. Unfortunately now all we have is a shovel ready site. Looking back at the mess that Buffalo politics (with its hands always “tied”) caused, and witnessing City officials who had no clue how to fix the telltale problems early on, we can only wonder what would have happened if we there had been an architecturally progressive administration in place to stop the madness.

Moments ago a friend of mine sent me a link to Cool Hunter, a website that explores all things “cool”. In the segment called Old and New Again, we see a series of historic buildings that have not only been rescued from the recking ball, they have also been retrofitted with modern additions in order to accomplish the goal of staying current and practical while respecting original architectural features. Some may say that these examples only bastardize the historic structures, but given the circumstance that many of Buffalo’s buildings face, this route is a hell of a lot better than total demolition. 
Using the intact design elements of the former Saint Mary’s on the Hill and Guild Hall, we could have seen a project unfold that would have been inspirational to the community. Guild Hall should be standing to this day. So should the walls of the church. With the bones of the two, a forward-thinking architectural firm could have built something great. Instead we have a depressing shovel ready corner lot in a historic neighborhood that is on the brink of coming back.
The next time we contemplate destroying our heritage, let’s not line the pockets of the demolition crew. Rather, let’s take a lesson from our ancestors who built this city to be a world class destination. It’s not an impossible dream, as we can see from these images.
Image 1 – Refurbishment of west tower in Huesca City, Spain
Image 2 – Shoreham Street, Sheffield, UK

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is ‘queenseyes’ – Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world’s largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • Tahooter

    …yep, missed an opportunity on The Hill.
    But on the bright side, I noticed cherry picker cranes up to the top of the grain elevator across the river from the old Pier. Something good to reuse the silos is happening by ECHDC?

  • Jesse

    “line the pockets of the demolition crew”? That’s the angle you want to take there, that blue collar guys working to make a buck are getting their pockets “lined”?

  • Up and coming

    “a lesson from our ancestors who built this city to be a world class destination.”
    Come on now with the fluff writing. How many of our ancestors ever thought of Buffalo as a world class destination? Buffalo has always been know as a dirty working class city, lets embrace this image any try to not rewrite history.

  • Travelrrr

    They didn’t “think buffalo was a world class destination” because, well, they were simply world class people. You are incorrect Up, yet again–at least you are consistent.

  • Quixote

    Looks like something like this may be the only option left for the Cooperage.

  • Polonia

    By now you should realize that this site is anti working class, blue collar and not so wealthy, but very trust fund with a touch of slumming it.

  • JimB

    I’ve read (on BRO, I believe) that the new building at the Cloister site on the corner of Delaware and Virginia may incorporate the Mark Twain carriage house, if it ever gets built.

  • Rand503

    Oh please. One of the reasons we were selected for the Pan Am exhibition was because we were considered one of the most beautiful cities in America.
    I recall a quote from Harper’s somewhere in the post-Civil War era that claimed the Buffalo was so beautiful, “all cities will pay tribute to her.”
    Our ancestors decided to hire the world’s best architects because they wanted Buffalo to be a world class city. They hired even people like Olmstead because they wanted him to outdo what he did for New York. They hired HH Richardson to design an entire campus to cater to the “insane” to provide model treatment for them. They established, long before other cities, public parks, public art galleries, public music halls, lending libraries, colleges and other learning institutions, all for the edification of her citizens and to prove a model for the world.

  • whatever

    Queenseyes>“The next time we contemplate destroying our heritage, let’s not line the pockets of the demolition crew.”
    Ironic to scapegoat it even partially on “line the pockets of the demolition crew” if no wealthy or upper income people (or group of mid/low income people chipping in) chose to proactively reach into their own pockets to buy St Mary’s and protect it before it was acquired by someone from out of town who I’d bet probably had no track record of ever rehabbing a building like that.
    Obviously it was for sale when the lady from out of town bought it.
    If any of you guys had offered more than she did, why wouldn’t the previous owner have sold it you instead?
    (Can’t believably claim being too busy with your lives to have been aware of St Mary’s until it was too late either… wasn’t it was a well known building?)
    Queenseyes>“we can only wonder what would have happened if we there had been an architecturally progressive administration in place to stop the madness.
    Also can only wonder what would have happened if “there had been an architecturally progressive” person (or group of them chipping in together) to simply buy it back when they could have.

  • paulsobo

    I dont understand how someone could possibly come to the conclusion that our city founding fathers never thought of Buffalo as a world class city.
    -multiple international wars (French and Indian, Revolution, War of 1812)
    -An international port
    -1901 PAN AM (world class exposition)
    -TESLA AC Power Plant in Niagara Falls made us world class in technology
    -numerous world class industries came out of our city
    -world class park system (Olmstead)
    -numerous world class homes and city buildings by world class architects
    -numerous world class artists, scultures, furniture, etc.
    and this is a short list…to say our fore fathers never thought of Buffalo as a world class city is to ignore everything above.
    We will never be a world class city the size of NYC or Paris but we can be a world class midsize city with the equivalent history and culture of NYC or Philly.
    The question is…poverty aside…why…doesnt Buffalo want to aspire to its historical and cultural legacy as a means to attract jobs and growth through quality of life?

  • grad94

    actually, no, that’s an image that has arisen only in the past few decades. we’ve been described as beautiful pretty much since the beginning. here’s one from 1841:

  • LouisTully

    “How many of our ancestors ever thought of Buffalo as a world class destination?”
    Come on now. Come on. You should get off your ship and take liberty more often so you can get a clue. I can name a few who may have thought so: George Williams, Charles Williams, Charles Goodyear, George Matthews, Jewett Richmond, Harlow Curtiss. Just a few… off the top of my head.


    NYC was built as a dirty working class city. Chicago and London too. B
    etter read up on your world class city history

  • Buffalo_Resurrection

    I love the juxtaposition of old and new being melded together in these photographs.
    However, I suspect the catalyst or driving force earmarking the difference between the United States and Europe is the amount of real estate available where certain regions in Europe have limited options to build unlike the United States which is probably the forerunner in urban sprawl and a culture of individuals who could care less about limiting their carbon footprint and the very thought of resurrecting a 100-year old building is either out-of-the-question or simply too costly.
    St Mary’s on the Hill was an ideal building to “retrofit” but Buffalo seems to have an abundance of buildings that remain fully intact but languish year after year mostly because of the locations they’re located in and not so much for the renovation cost.
    How many McMansion do you drive by that scream Barden Home Design and sit on several acres of property that were, more often than not, farm land at one time? So, money is definitely not the problem but more of a desire to limit your possible encounters with neighbors or urban street crime.
    Albert Einstein is accredited with making the statement of the more technology controls our lives the more we will lose our humanity.
    Think of that statement the next time you see a carful of teenagers or young adults where none are talking to each other because they’re all too busy texting or emailing (probably each other!).

  • Bekaval

    Reminds me of the new Blue Cross building.