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Then and Now: Central Terminal

These black and white images of Buffalo’s New York Central Terminal were taken in 1995 by Michael F. Joyce.  The examples shown here and many more are posted on the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation (CTRC) Facebook Page.  Anyone who has been to the Terminal in recent years will understand how these dismal images bare dramatic testament to how far the restoration process at the terminal has advanced in the last few years.  As progress moves forward on the building in baby steps it is hard to fathom how much has been accomplished unless you look back at the starting line.
Seeing these images I was shocked at how bad the building had actually become. I had only seen it prior to its closing and then again about 1 1/2 years ago. This amount of damage and absolute neglect  happened in a short 16 year span from when the last train left in 1979. The massive building complex has a long way to go but when you see the change from 1995 you get a clear picture of the very significant progress that has been made by a shoe string non-profit company run by preservationists, most of whom are volunteers.  Major work is ongoing in the building and momentum is building to fill it with tenants.  Here is a summary of recent progress from the CTRC:

Phase I of  the roof is complete, awaiting new transformer for Solar PV – already have permits and preservation board approved for that, have a memorandum of understanding signed with an Arts organization for 40,000 sq ft at the end of 2016 move-in, have interest from a state university for an urban agri-center, another interested party re: a Charter School of music, meeting with other orgs and educational institutions for space (don;t forget, we have an underground parking lot for 453 cars), partnering for light rail expansion and we have MINI-Fest this Saturday with a showcase of Arts and Cultural organizations and performers from 2 – 8 where we’ll also have a MINI Road Rally and the drawing for the 2-year lease or $5,000 cash.

The [arts]museum will go in the Ticket Counter area.  Concourse will always be public space in future and available for rentals, gallery openings for our tenants and others, lectures, seminars, etc.

Not mentioned was all the other other work up to now which has made the terminal into one of Buffalo’s favorite gathering places.  As can be seen in newer images, (above and below) the building has been cleaned and secured. Much more has been done as well. A master plan was developed  for completing restoration and filling the building with tenants. Each step by step  improvement brings the building closer to that goal of full reuse.  In May the terrazzo floors were polished back to their original luster. Not long ago the tower was relit and the tower clocks restored. The concourse pylon clock and with several wall light sconces were also recently reinstalled.  I believe there is a project in the works to restore the entry canopies soon as well. There have been many other small hidden improvements too.
This building was a must save.  It still has a long way to go and will still require great effort and lots of money but it will be saved thanks to the foresight of people who realize the value of these great cultural artifacts that we inherited. There will be a time when people will look back at images of this building from 2013 and be shocked at its current state. I am confident of that only because Buffalo has a strong and growing preservation community willing to get in, roll up their sleeves, and get the job done. The current trajectory of this building is nothing short of a preservation miracle.  Anyone complaining that preservationists only show up at the last-minute to obstruct some mythical progress has no idea what they are talking about.

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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