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Don’t Pick on the Little Guy II–Can You Save the First Ward’s Most Unique Cottage?

You may remember Buffalo Rising’s coverage last year of
a charming cottage on Grant Street that was endangered by Buffalo State
expansion plans.  Fortunately, that plucky little cottage
got a reprieve: the preservation board put its proposed demolition on hold, encouraging
Buffalo State College to look at alternatives to demolition (perhaps moving the
house).

 

But what will become of this house, a none-other-like-it
brick cottage of great character, overlooking a fascinating intersection in
Buffalo’s Old First Ward?  A
proposal for its demolition is being considered by the Buffalo Preservation
Board at its Thursday meeting this week.

 

first ward cottage2.jpg

While brick Italianate cottages are by no means a rarity
in Buffalo, this one has some “hidden” surprises that make it unlike any other
I’ve seen anywhere.  As seen in
many buildings in the First Ward affected by Buffalo’s city-wide grade-crossing
elimination effort, when an embankment and bridge over nearby railroad tracks was
constructed, the bridge builders gave the house a new set of stairs and
entrance.  But this house was so
small as to have been overwhelmed by the embankment, so it was raised up a full
story with a deck and entryway added to the side.  A two-story structure attached to the rear may house an
internal staircase.  This house was
built long before the automotive era–most likely for an employee of a business
within walking distance–but there is automotive access from a rear street.

 

first ward cottage3.jpg

For over a century in the Old First Ward, the sight of
this charming cottage has greeted anyone traveling north on Katherine
Street–one of the First Ward’s most interesting streets, and a walk through
Buffalo’s industrial history stretching from South Park Avenue to the tip of
the “Katherine Peninsula.”  At the south
end of Katherine Street, the Buffalo River bends around the peninsula, opposite
which stand Buffalo’s two largest grain elevators.  The peninsula also hosts the slip where the river’s
remaining working tugboats dock when not guiding lake boats around the river’s tortuous
twists.

 

first ward4.jpg

Across the street from this cottage is the former Beals,
McCarthy, & Rogers foundry, which until its closing about a decade ago was
Buffalo’s oldest continuously operating industry–a descendant of an 1826 smithy
with ties to city father Samuel Wilkeson. 
And still standing along South Park, from Katherine Street to Michigan
Street, are remnants of the First Ward’s once-thriving commercial district–of
which Mazurek’s Bakery,
just down the street, is a notable survivor. 

 

first ward Danny's bar.jpg

I spoke with preservation board members Harvey Garrett and
Tim Tielman about what will become of this charming and unique cottage.  While they both reiterated the standard
disclaimer that the preservation board cannot, ultimately, “save” a structure,
they can delay–for further consideration–applications for demolition if the
circumstances warrant.  Generally,
the preservation board needs to see that there is some hope for the building,
like an owner with the resources to undertake alternatives to demolition (as
with the Buffalo State case mentioned above), or someone willing to step
forward to take on the building as a project, with the resources to acquire,
stabilize, and rehab it.  That is
what would be needed here.

 

The bottom line: unless someone steps forward, the clock
will run out on this unique First Ward gem.  But if you–or someone you know–may have an interest in this
building, PLEASE contact–without delay–the Buffalo Preservation Board (contact
below) and let them know of your interest in this charming bit of Buffalo’s Old
First Ward.

 

Get Connected:

Buffalo Preservation Board

Michelle Brozek

Senior Planner – Historic Preservation
Office of Strategic Planning
City of Buffalo
901 City Hall
Buffalo, New York  14202
p 716.851.5029
f 716.851.4388

 

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