While thousands have attended events at the Central Terminal, a dedicated group of volunteers is working behind the scenes to save the beloved building for future generations. The Central Terminal Restoration Corporation (CRTC) was founded in 1997 to oversee the stabilization and restoration of the property and has made significant progress to date yet much work remains.
The CTRC is an entirely volunteer organization. Their early work focused on safety issues including securing and stabilizing the building, removing debris, and re-establishing basic infrastructure including electric and water service. The non-profit organization relies on grant money, government funds, and donations to continue its work on the building.
Previous owners sold all the ornamental artifacts that had been in the terminal. Light fixtures, iron railings, signs, the clock, and other items were all removed from the terminal and sold during the 1980s and 1990s. What was not taken was destroyed by vandals or ravaged by time and the elements.
Much of the group’s effort has been centered on the soaring concourse that has become a successful event site in recent years. With the concourse in usable condition and the grounds in presentable shape, incremental restoration projects are planned until a new use for the sprawling, half million square foot complex is found.
“It was decided a couple of seasons ago to focus on first impressions,” said Board Member Hank Olejniczak. “Work primarily underway is centered around the building’s main entrance alcove, particularly the doors, ceiling and fixtures. We are focusing our efforts there because people didn’t recognize that work was going on in the complex.”
The organization is focused on completing as much work as possible prior to Buffalo hosting the National Preservation Conference in October 2011. “It’s an opportunity to showcase our efforts and take the project to the next level,” says Olejniczak. “We have eighteen months to get ready.”
While the building’s original main entryway doors were removed years ago, the interior alcove doors remain. “The alcove doorways were still in one piece, but were rusted out and the transoms were shot,” says Olejniczak. Volunteers have restored the doors, primed and returned the original color scheme, and will soon reinstall the glass. Signage on the alcove walls has been repainted to reflect what appeared in the mid-1940’s.
The alcove wall sconces are being reproduced based upon historical photos. Local trade unions played a significant role in crafting the fixtures. Two are expected to be installed this year. Plans are underway to refinish the alcove ceiling which has suffered water damage. They plan to reproduce the light fixtures once found in the ceiling. Advertising panels on the walls have been restored.
Even the building’s dedication plaque was removed a previous owner. Volunteer Larry Schwindler raised $4,000 to create a reproduction that was rededicated on June 27, 2009 in the building lobby.
Volunteers will be restoring one of the ticket windows to its original condition including the reproduction of three wall rails that were provided to hold passenger bags. A watchmaking stand, a kiosk that was located near the baggage claim area, is also being restored. The Ticket Manager’s office has been refurbished and is being used as a gift shop.
In the main concourse, Art Deco mezzanine railings have been reproduced and installed (entry image). The Corporation bought the material and the owners of Goergen-Mackwirth Co. of Buffalo, Wayne Mertz and his wife Pat, fabricated the railings at their Hertel Avenue facility.
John Helak, Tom Stotz and Marty Slawiak spent countless hours on the railiing project scanning original blue prints and preparing the machines for the water jet cutting process. Each panel took a half and hour to cut.
Olejniczak estimates the cost of the fabrication work exceeds $10,000. The railings have been painted their original gold and silver color. Decorative ‘candy cane like’ elements found in the original railings, each costing $1,500, will be created when funding permits.
The CTRC is working on an agreement with several local building trade unions to restore the liquor store area which was originally used as a parcel post office. If an agreement is reached, the unions would utilize inner-city apprentices to restore the space.
One of the larger upcoming projects is securing and cleaning out the baggage building.
“People love the restoration work,” says Olejniczak. “It gives people a sense of what was in the building originally.”
While the projects underway are relatively modest, they allow the facility to continue its role as a special event facility. Longer term, the future is less clear. The terminal’s tower remains vacant and ancillary buildings are unsecure. Located 2.5 miles from downtown in a ravaged neighborhood, finding a mix of uses to utilize the complex is a challenge. There’s also the issue of cost. Full restoration of the complex with an acceptable level of historical integrity is expected to cost upwards of $75 million.
A Strategic Plan is underway and is expected to be complete later this year. The plan will identify priority maintenance projects to ensure the complex doesn’t deteriorate further and remains a viable restoration candidate. Time is of the essence however.
“The building was destroyed and we’ve done a good job saving it,” says Olejniczak. “But if major repairs aren’t completed on the roof and exterior brickwork in the next two or three years, we may not have a building to talk about.”
13th Annual Spring Clean Up– This Saturday, April 24 from 9 am to 1 pm, rain or shine. Help prepare the concourse and grounds for yet another busy summer season. Gloves, tools and work attire recommended.
Next: Long-term Planning for the Central Terminal