By the time the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation took ownership of Buffalo’s Central Terminal in 1997, the building had gone through twenty years of neglect and abuse during which it had been stripped of anything that could be readily sold. All the ornamental detail, light fixtures, signs, the clock, were removed by previous owners or vandals. By the time Buffalo recognized the building as an important asset, it was too late.
Similarly, when Buffalo finally realized the value of the Darwin Martin House complex and began investing millions in its restoration, the campus had been divided, three of the five buildings had been demolished, furniture, stained-glass windows and other fixtures had been sold off and the building had endured years of vandalism.
Today the same thing is happening to another of Buffalo’s iconic structures. Scrap metal thieves are systematically stripping the city-owned Concrete Central Elevator. Anything that could be easily carried off is long gone, but recently thieves have begun attacking major components of the building itself. The building is unsecured and wide open to looters. Accompanying photos (taken by one of Buffalo’s intrepid urban explorers) of the bin floor at the top of the silos show the destruction.
Built between 1915 and 1917, Concrete Central stretches for almost a quarter of a mile along the river and is the largest elevator in Buffalo. It was the largest in the world at the time of its completion. It was in active use for grain storage until 1967, after which it went through several owners until the city acquired it for back taxes in 1975. Concrete Central was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
In 1976, after a young boy was killed in a tragic fall from the roof, the city removed all the stairways from the first two floors of the building but this has not been a deterrent to looters. The fire earlier this year which brought out the E. M. Cotter fireboat was likely caused by thieves cutting metal.
The recent sale of the Canadian Pool elevator on the waterfront for half a million dollars is an indication that these elevators have some value, or at least that someone recognizes that they might in the future. In light of the new waterfront revival and the recent proposal for a San Antonio Riverwalk-like attraction along the Buffalo River with laser light shows projected on the elevator silos, it is ironic that Buffalo simultaneously celebrates its industrial heritage as it is being destroyed.