For years, one particular building in Allentown has been a complete mystery. Nestled in-between all of the bars, restaurants, galleries and antique shops sits the Puritan, a structure that inherently commands respect, attention and admiration, despite being boarded up for as long as I can remember. Up until last week, the Puritan was used as a single apartment by owners who basically kept to themselves, which meant that the property was underutilized for many, many years. Fortunately for the Puritan (and all of Buffalo for that matter), the owners never broke it up, and the interior remained just as it was since the time that it operated as a speakeasy (on one side) and a diner (on the other). Talk about a place that’s loaded with history and heresy. Over the years there have been whispers of the floors being filled with architectural treasures, and talks of a notorious femme fatale gangster who operated a speakeasy out of the place. Through resident folklore and widespread architectural admiration, the Puritan has set its own stage for a modern day reemergence, if and when the time came for a new owner to take the reigns of the veiled beauty.
After years of hoping and dreaming (over many beers at the old Pink) that the Puritan would somehow be released from its slumbering spell, I recently came to find out that a young developer had managed to acquire the grand old dame. Apparently Noel Sutton (Sutton Development), owner of The Savoy on Elmwood, had set his sights on the Puritan a couple of years back when he realized that the lights had gone out in the building. “I was looking up at the Puritan, wondering who was living in it and what was inside,” Noel told me. “It was getting dark and I realized that there were no light on at all, which struck me as odd. Later that night I woke up from my sleep, and paid a visit to building again. Still no lights. That’s when I thought to myself that ‘there’s nobody living in the building’ – the next day I started to track down information on the owners to see if there was a way to get the building back into working order. I knew what this could mean for Allentown, if I could get the Puritan back to being a functioning part of society.”
Noel Sutton is no stranger to turning around buildings. He started off by purchasing problem properties in Allentown, fixing them up in order to resell. When he first started to invest in Allentown he would find the hidden beauties that looked forlorn, but had plenty of character to play around with. “I took the houses that you would never have paid any attention to, and today they are shining examples on the streets, similar to my commercial ventures” Noel said. “After fixing up the residential units, I took on another commercial property by turning a beat up-looking liquor store into a quality restaurant destination near the corner of Allen and Elmwood [The Savoy]. While that was not so much a preservation move, like my residential remodels, I wanted The Savoy to reflect the history of the neighborhood. My dream is to make Allentown the best neighborhood in the city, and I’m helping to do that one building at a time. The Puritan has had the same owners since the 60s. The wood floors have been perfectly preserved, and there are eight elegant working fireplaces, interior transom windows, stained glass features, wood spindles, custom Puritan andirons, intact wood carved spandrels, double pivoting oversized doors with stunning door handles, switch plates, and a skylight that allows the sun to penetrate four-storeys in order to illuminate the staircase. Then there are the serving stations, the pantries with pass-throughs, the wainscoting… and the views! These will soon be some of the most desirable two-plus bedroom apartments in Buffalo.”
On top of refurbishing a series of stunning historically sensitive apartments, Noel also has possession of what will someday be two key business addresses on Allen Street (possibly even one with the right operator). The iconic Puritan will no longer be a gap-toothed parcel on the street. Instead it will become a dynamic and pivotal retail/restaurant component that will enhance the neighborhood, similar to what The Savoy did for Allentown, but on a much grander scale. The interior will be brought back to life, and the exterior will once again sparkle as it did back in the day. “This is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city,” Noel told me. “Wait until you see what I’m going to do with it. In front of the adjoining yard (a parcel of cleared land that was bundled with the real estate transaction) I will build an iron arching gate along Allen Street, with a large fountain in the back. My plan is to recreate the sort of atmosphere and appeal that must have been found in and around the building when it was originally built.”
My hat comes off to Noel as he begins to take on the task of restoring the lifeless Puritan back into the talk of the town. This recent real estate development bodes well for the street, the neighborhood and the city of Buffalo.
The Puritan | 228 Allen Street | Buffalo NY