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Building and Restoration in the Modern Age: Brick by Brick

Take a slow drive
through Delaware Avenue’s Millionaire’s Mile, historic Allentown, or anywhere in the
downtown area, and gaze at the architectural glory of our Rust Belt city. 

of the 19th century mansions, houses, and buildings that line
Buffalo’s streets have been built, brick-by-brick, by the hands of master
craft-workers. Aged and weathered, some of our finest architectural beauties
are in serious need of delicate and careful restoration. So where are all the
bricklayers? “I have been waiting to respond to that question for some time,”
says Mike Di Virgilio, Vice-Chair and Field Representative for Bricklayers and
Allied Craftworkers (Local No. 3) NY. “Our organization dates back well over
one hundred years in Buffalo and includes bricklayers, stone masons, tile
setters, tuckpointers, marble masons, terrazzo workers, and finishers.” They
are alive and well, and have recently purchased through their training fund a
20,000 sq. ft. training facility on 1175 William Street, east of downtown Buffalo.

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Bricklayers and Allied
Craftworkers’ presence in Buffalo dates back to the mid-to-late 1800’s,
possibly as early as 1869. They were several different trade unions of
craftsmen that eventually merged together to form the present organization. The
Local No. 3 NY has a 24-county jurisdiction, while the Buffalo Chapter includes
8 Western New York counties. The union has been advocating for fair wages, good
benefits and safe working conditions for its members for quite some time. “Our
work includes, but is not limited to, the building, constructing, fabricating,
erecting, cleaning, maintaining, repairing, renovating, sealing, caulking,
waterproofing, acid proofing, application of chemical products to, an all other
work to or upon walls, floors, ceilings, roofs, decks, roads, paving and other
objects or structural, building or construction components consisting wholly or
partially of masonry,” Di Virgilio says.

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Bricklayers and Allied
Craftworker Local # 3 has played a major part in the restoration and
maintenance of many architectural jewels of the City of Buffalo. Their master
craftsmanship has graced the famed Frank Lloyd Wrights Darwin D. Martin House
Complex, the ornate Guaranty building, the Liberty building, and the classical
Art Deco architecture of Buffalo City Hall. Their work can also be celebrated
in the opening of the newly constructed and nationally recognized Burchfield
Penney Art Center. Though steel and concrete dominate modern construction, “Brick
building construction is on the front edge of green architecture,” says Di
Virgilio, “Whether we are constructing, restoring, or tearing down an old
building, the environmental impact is minimal. New and innovative designs are
being created by architects to boost efficiency in brick building construction.
Sustainable architecture/design may be a high initial expense, but long-term
durability and maintenance is very cost effective. There are new products that
may eventually be incorporated into the construction.”


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Not to be encumbered
by the revolutions in building construction, Bricklayers and Allied
Craftworkers Local # 3 is empowering a generation of highly skill craft-workers
through the organization’s four year apprenticeship program. They are committed
to training future craft-workers in trade. “Currently we are conducting
apprenticeship school in bricklaying and will begin the tile and restoration
classes soon, at no cost to the public,” says Di Virgilio. Need I remind you
that their classes are free, defrayed by union dues? You can check out their
website: for more information. 

Images: ECB

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