Over the years, we’ve talked about the unfortunate demise of numerous historic buildings in Buffalo. Occasionally, someone (like me) brings up the big idea of recreating the magic of a structure the likes of the Frank Lloyd Wright Administration Building. I know that that is a significant and controversial undertaking, but I still think, in that case, it should be done. But that’s not the building that I’m talking about today.
Today I want to discuss The Harbor Inn. Now that the Old First Ward is coming back strong, there is a glaring omission that draws attention to itself upon each visit. The Harbor Inn was located 286 Ohio Street, directly across from River Fest Park. Today, there is nothing left but a grassy field, and that’s beyond unfortunate. That’s because the missing building is such a glaring omission – once you know where it once stood, it’s hard to get it out of your mind. Now, instead of a building, only a tribute plaque remains, which tells the tale of the historic inn.
What is most unfortunate is that it wasn’t that long ago that we lost this unbelievable building. That’s right. Just as Buffalo was about to turn the corner, this building unnecessarily came down. If it has lasted a few more years, it would have lived to see the revitalization of the neighborhood. And for what? An empty parcel of land that’s position is vital to the fabric of the neighborhood. Too bad.
According to PreservationReady.org, the building was demolished by Ellicott Development in 2003. What’s done is done. There’s no point crying over spilt milk. At the same time, there’s no reason that a building could not be erected that pays tribute to the old inn. After all, it was more iconic than most anything else in the Old First Ward. Ellicott Development still owns the property. Plus, the development company has the wherewithal to build a structure that would mimic the building, or even build it out to spec, which would be the most fitting thing to do. Ellicott Development is currently investing heavily in the neighborhood. It’s exciting to see everything that is underway. The company is one of the largest development companies in the region, and most likely has the ways and means to get something like this accomplished. This would not only be a reversal of a tragic blunder, it would also be a moneymaker for Ellicott Development, which could lease the bar/restaurant and the apartments up above.