Buffalo’s Old First Ward, historic waterfront home to Irish cottagers and iconic grain elevators, is losing another one of its landmarks even as neighborhood finally gets national attention for its heritage. Demolition has started on the Wheeler Elevator and GLF Feed Mill, despite apparent outstanding fees for permits to demolish them, and immediately after a judge’s order was delivered. Since it is an emergency order, asbestos in the building is not removed prior to demolition.
“In just the last 18 months,” says Tim Tielman, executive director of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo, “we’ve had Monocle Magazine, the Travel Channel, the New York Times, Cornell University and independent filmmakers visiting The Old First Ward and to see its priceless industrial heritage, and yet the city seems intent on demolishing as much of the area as it can.”
The Campaign brought suit in New York State Supreme Court to block a demolition order issued by the city several weeks ago. On March 16, Judge Timothy Walker denied The Campaign the opportunity to send in its own engineer to assess conditions. Yesterday it received court transcripts and the judge’s order, necessary to weigh an appeal.
“[T]he decision to demolish [the Wheeler Elevator] by the Brown administration was hasty, and in my opinion, ill advised,” said Campaign attorney Richard Berger. The elevator, is one of the three grain complexes on Kelly Island, virtually a museum of the development of the type (the others are Great Northern and General Mills/Wasburn-Crosby).
Much of the 19th-century Irish culture of Buffalo is disappearing. Other significant losses in the Old First Ward include the Harbor Inn, Chicago Street workers’ cottages, a row of South Street houses, and a bar and boarding house last occupied by Kitty O’Malley’s bar.
Photo courtesy of David Torke at Fix Buffalo