When I was doing some research for a post last week on Buffalo’s most beautiful storefront, I also came across this vintage image of another elegant building, nearby on Delaware Avenue. My first thought was, “What a tragic loss. It is just the kind of graceful urban building Buffalo needs more of.” I looked more closely in an effort to figure out where it had stood, when it hit me. This building still exists! I asked WCPerspective to grab the “now” image below. With a brief description, he knew exactly the building I was talking about.
It takes a bit of work to see the original building below, through several decades of changes and abuse. A graceful multi-level porch has been removed, and a less graceful (but not too bad) storefront has been added in what was the front yard. At some point it was painted a uni-color (probably gray because it has been gray as long as I can remember). Uni-color is a term I just invented for a color scheme applied to older buildings by less than stellar ownership. Uni-color often marks the end years for a building, but is usually a more garish tone than in this case.
Up until about 10 years ago or so, this building was a decrepit flophouse style apartment building. Its withering state was exacerbated by the demolition of neighboring structures to the north, that were replaced by a gravel parking lot (actually a gravel and mud parking lot–on what was Buffalo’s most elegant street! Crazy!) Kissling Interests bought the building when they entered the local rental market, as one of their first Buffalo buildings in their portfolio. They quickly spruced it up with some moderate improvements that make a major improvement along this stretch.
A few years ago, the mud parking lot was paved and landscaped for use by The Mansion on Delaware Avenue located across the street. A parking lot never adds life any to a street, but this improvement has also been a major plus. These days, the building is looking a bit dowdy again. The gray paint is less than inspiring and is showing stains and rust. A motley collection of window coverings hints at lower-income occupancy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Kissling cleaned off the brick, replaced the “replacement” windows, rebuilt the cornice, and rebuilt the porch? I can dream.
It is important to know where a building came form to have a true appreciation for what it could and should be. I never really liked this building until the vintage image gave me an appreciation for it. I found the image at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society website in a story about the architects, Boughton and Johnson. (This website is becoming increasingly valuable, as they move more of their vast historical archive to digital media.)
As background, the original building was built in 1895. A three-story addition by Esenwein and Johnson was added to the south in 1900, and the storefront was added in 1920. It is so interesting to pull back the curtain of time; researching a subject can lead in such unexpected directions. I wish I had more time and resources to dig deeper.