Back in the day, I was an art major at the University at Buffalo. It was the University of Buffalo back then. I was a freshman, who immediately got herded to the North Campus. Was I sore? You bet, but not because of any political motivations about where the campus should be; none of that had occurred to me at the time. I was 17, looking for an education in art and writing, and I knew nothing of local politics.
No, what upset me was that I lived all the way on the North Campus, so far away from all of my art classes in Bethune Hall, the old Buffalo Meter Company building at the foot of Hertel Avenue at Main Street. I would bus from the Ellicott Complex in Amherst to the Main Street Campus and walk down to Bethune on a daily basis. Right next door to Bennett High School, I loved Bethune. It was the perfect series of art studios, and I spent my time there developing prints in dark rooms (I also took over a janitor closet in the dorms and built a darkroom there too), painting in oils, bending metal in sculpture classes, drawing live models, modeling wax. The building had just the right feel for budding artists, and we were a community unto ourselves in the vast science and engineering school that UB was in the 70’s.
I admit, there was some sense of segregation, as most of my friends were English majors or art students, but it wasn’t like we didn’t mix. I had plenty of science, engineering, law and medicine-focused pals too. But we art majors were like real family in our old brick warehouse. It was a little nitty-gritty and somewhat romantic in it’s deviation from the north or south campuses.
A few weeks ago, I went to a track meet next door to the old Bethune at Bennett High School. First, let me say that Bennett is one beautifully renovated school, and All-High Stadium behind it is a treat. The neighborhood is great too. I asked a woman inside the gate about the legality of my parking spot, and she directed me to her own driveway across the street, telling me I could park there. Only in Buffalo.
The former Bethune, however, is sadly empty. As seen in this WCP post from a year ago, the building is waiting for a buyer and has suffering vandalism, even while illustrious (but preliminary) concept plans sit in wait. After seeing what Sam Savarino has done on Mississippi Street, both at the corners of Perry and Southpark, the turn-around for the old Meter Building isn’t so hard to imagine.
It would be so wonderful if some developer came along, scooped this building up and continued with the current owner, Meyer Landau’s plans. Picked up at auction 3 years ago for $384K and later stripped of $100K of copper, the original asking price of $2.1M is down to $1,250,000 according to Pyramid Brokerage Company agent Arthur Judelsohn.
Judelsohn says he’s had interest, including a lot of UB alumni who have the same fond memories of the building that I do. “We’ve heard a lot of good stories,” he said.
Though Judelsohn makes it a point not to talk client business, he says there’s been interest and he imagines the building will be best adapted as living quarters. Certain possibilities occur; It could be medical student housing between the campus and the corridor. It could be home to BPS teachers who need to relocate to the city for jobs. Most importantly, it would be occupied, making it a better neighbor to Bennett and a destination, once again, for those who would call it home.
I picture myself and my ex-art school comrades buying lottery tickets in the hopes of hitting it big and fixing up Bethune. I picture ArtSpace making it home once again to a bevy of artists. Whatever happens, I hope it happens soon.
Those with a dream and the wherewithal can contact Judelsohn at Pyramid @ 716.691.9329.