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Preservation, it’s not just a city thing.

When I write about the preservation of our irreplaceable architectural heritage, my focus has understandably been concentrated on the City of Buffalo.  The City is where most of the older buildings are and where most of the destructive disinvestment has occurred.  But that does not mean Buffalo is the only place in the region where preservation is an issue.  
Metro Buffalo spent most of the 20th century as one of the largest 15 urban areas in the country resulting in construction of dense historic urban neighborhoods throughout WNY. Niagara Falls, Lackawanna, Lockport and all the small towns have wonderful dense historic neighborhoods and many of these neighborhoods have been severely damaged by disinvestment as the region has invested in sprawl instead its historic resources.  
The City of Tonawanda is another place with a concentration of historic buildings, including its rejuvenating downtown, home of the recently renovated Remington Lofts.  But, even with signs of new life downtown, Tonawanda has been losing population as WNY continues to spread its population thinner and thinner.  This continued sprawl and general population loss puts older neighborhoods and buildings at risk. Adding to the danger is that people don’t naturally think of the suburbs when they think of saving historic buildings. 
The unassuming old house featured here, located at 227 Broad Street in Tonawanda, popped up on Facebook recently.  It is a faded but solid.  It may be tough to imagine what it could be but with some simple fixes – it could be a stunning home in a great neighborhood full of conveniences and unique assets. It is for sale at a very low price and it needs a new loving owner.
The house is the former home of Henry Rech and family of C. & H. Rech Niagara Bottling Works/Rech’s Better Beverages/Rechso (they changed their name a few times over the years.) The barn in the backyard used to house the office and bottling works, but two years ago it was torn down. Neighbors fear that the house is next if a good buyer does not step forward. Most recently the house was owned by an elderly woman who owned other property in the area as well. When she passed away last year, and her adult children inherited the house. Neighbors believe they want to sell fast meaning that you could possibly get the house for much less than asking. Neighbors are hopeful that decent, preservation-minded people will fall in love with this house and bring it back from the brink. There are several historic houses in the neighborhood that have been renovated and a Facebook page was started to generate interest. 
From the FB page:
Mostly intact – can you make her pretty again? This house is not mine, but is on my block and really needs a new owner to love, which is why I’m lobbying for her. Former home and office of Rech’s Bottling Co. (1883-1940s), supposedly built in 1902 but I think may be a bit earlier than that. 

From what we understand, she mostly needs cosmetic help – someone to spend some quality time shopping for bits and pieces at ReUse on her behalf. We have been inside with the owner and saw nothing scary. Single family, 2330 sq. feet, 3-4 bedroom, 1.5 bath, 3 year old roof, everything brought up to code last summer under the housing inspector’s direction. Original woodwork (and original finish), Eastlake/Aesthetic hardware, and original floors; fireplace; stained glass; pocket doors; sandstone porch; really largely intact. Original wood clapboard is under the current siding (we checked.) 

Excellent neighbors are assured and would be happy to offer an extra set of hands with anything you might need (seriously.) Owner is asking $59,900 but would almost certainly take less – he inherited the house and is eager to be free of it. Contact me if you need more info or want the owner’s contact info.

The next door neighbors say it was the architecture that attracted them to the area. They note, “So far as old houses go, there’s a ton of variety here that you don’t usually see in suburbs. We have an 1857 Italianate, the neighbor across the street has a great Craftsman, behind me there’s a brick Second Empire, the next block over is Queen Annes, etc. Housing is cheap, everything is within walking distance, the crime rate is practically nonexistent, and the river (3 blocks away) and parks have concerts and events going on all the time. Tonawanda is great for an old house lover/restorer on a budget (which is why we are here.).” 
They could have also noted that downtown Tonawanda is also a short walk up the street. 
If anyone is looking for an easy Victorian fixer-upper in Tonawanda, this house is available and reasonable. The neighbor says “I’d just love to see someone fix it up, because it’s worth restoring. The historic bottling works in the backyard have already been demolished and I’m concerned for the house, as the seller wants to get rid of it ASAP. So if you want to get into renovation the easy way but don’t see yourself in the city check this one out.”


[ some corrections to this story if you will allow.  As a city boy it is hard for me to keep my Tonawandas straight. But even so WNY’s confusing overlapping and nutty redundant government jurisdictions can keep you confused even if you live in these places.  This house exists in the City of Tonawanda which is a compact munisicpality on the Erie Canal but is not part of the much bigger Town of Tonawanda. According to Wikipedia the Town of Tonawanda, an adjacent municipality, also includes the village of Kenmore which is a municipality within a municipality (there you have NY’s problems in a nutshell).  These Tonawandas are further differentiated form North Tonawanda which is directly adjacent to the City of Tonawanda in Niagara County on the other side of the canal.  North Tonawanda is where most of the Tonawanda’s downtown is and where the Remington Lotfs , referenced above, is located]

North Tonawanda
City or Tonawanda
Town of Tonawanda
Village of Kenmore

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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