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Funding secured for iconic E.B. Green Tower

Buffalo’s prized church stock has just scored a major win. The historic E.B. Green Tower at First Presbyterian Church has just landed a $328,400 State Parks grant that will be dedicated to restoring and repointing the tower. This is tremendous news for one of this city’s most iconic architectural focal points. 

“This grant will allow us to complete the most critical phase of the project plan; the restoration and repointing of the E.B. Green tower,” stated First Church Interim Pastor Rev. Elena Delgado.

“It’s important to note that the community has embraced this effort and has very generously donated approximately $108,000 to One Symphony Circle Inc., in the past year for this project,” said First Presbyterian Church supporter and advocate Barbara O’Neill. “This includes two challenge grants. One from the the First Presbyterian Church and the other from the NYS Landmarks Conservancy.”

Formed in 1812, the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo is the first and oldest religious organization in Buffalo, pre-dating the incorporation of the City.

One Symphony Circle, Inc. (“OSC”) and the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo (“First Church”) obtained this latest round of funding through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s environmental protection fund for Historic Preservation Work Detail. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration made the announcement, saying that One Symphony Circle “will have an immediate, significant and ongoing impact to both the cultural and social fabric of the region.”

By securing this funding, the entire amount needed to restore the tower has been met – $437,920. Work on the tower is set to begin in early 2018. 

It is interesting to note that the church currently houses a number of groups and organizations, including Buffalo Urban Mission Partnership, Explore Buffalo, Houghton College Buffalo, Village Church, Native Offering Crop Share and the congregation of First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo. Altogether, the building sees roughly 12,000 community members walk through its doors annually. 

While this is incredible news for the tower (Phase 1), the building’s slate roof is also in need of replacement (Phase 2). We will have additional news on that front soon enough.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is ‘queenseyes’ – Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world’s largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • breckenridge

    Great news. Will the restoration include the removal of the external bracing, or is that now needed permanently?

  • Wise Profit

    Why are my tax dollars flowing to an organization who pays no taxes?

    • greenca

      Plenty of organizations who pay no taxes receive tax dollars. An example is right across the street from First Pres – Kleinhans and the BPO. Besides other culturals, plenty of social service agencies who pay no taxes receive plenty of taxpayer support. It’s nothing new. Nor is there anything wrong with it.

      • Captain Picard

        You are correct, but that doesn’t diminish Wise Profit’s very valid question. Religious institutions own some of the most valuable real estate in any given city in America. It is not inappropriate to question the wisdom of relieving them of all tax liability, particularly if their crumbling facades are being repaired with taxpayer money that is supplementing an ever-dwindling congregational support.

        • DanF

          I think the general consensus is that an architectural treasure, such as FPC, that is the home of a congregation that actively serves its community and houses the other organizations/businesses (including Lloyds Taco Truck which rented FPC’s commercial kitchen, when its business was starting) is worth saving. Unlike the architectural treasure at the opposite end of Richmond Ave (the old Psyche Center), the FPC building is a hub of community activity thru its congregation and other organizations. Also, the funds allocated for the FPC tower are much lower than what has been spent and/or earmarked for the Old Psyche Center.

          • OldFirstWard

            “…houses the other organizations/businesses (including Lloyds Taco Truck which rented FPC’s commercial kitchen, when its business was starting) is worth saving.”

            I think you just provided a good reason why it could be taxed. You just made a strong case against it being strictly a house of worship, or church. BTW, the former Insane Asylum, Psychiatric Center, State Hospital at the other end was/is owned by the State of NY.

          • DanF

            If FPC and other congregations in similar situations did not rent out space to either non-profit or small for profit organizations, and had to be strictly houses of worship, you would likely see plywood over the stained glass windows, a no illumination at night, and fencing with danger signs surrounding the building, rather than a building full of human activity as mentioned in Liz Kolken’s comments. I know this because I saw it happen to a church building of similar style vacated in a city near where I live. It almost happened to Asbury Methodist (now Babeville) on Delaware Ave. Those rents, whether from a profit or non-profit, offset the cost of maintaining the building. Bear in mind that the for profits do pay tax as businesses, and in the case of the one I mentioned (which has since moved to a larger location in Buffalo) have grown into current taxpayers in the City and State. Imposing a tax (especially a high one) may actually be counterproductive if were to prevent the ability to rent space within the building or keep up the cost of building maintenance (beyond that of the tower and roof). Perhaps limits on the type or nature of for-profits would be an adequate compromise.

            Regarding the Richardson Complex, yes, I do know it is owned by the state, but consider this. The state wants to uses your tax dollars to the tune of 72.5 million dollars (number is from a few years ago) to renovate that building. The building is vacant and crumbling. FPC is an active center in its community. The cost to repair the tower (some of which the congregation has paid for, the metal bracing came from church funds) is remarkably cheap. Don’t you think the state would make a wiser use of taxpayer money putting a comparatively small amount of funds into an active FPC than over $70M into a vacant Richardson complex. That’s one tower for 328K vs 72.5M for 2 towers. I think its an easy choice. BTW – the 160 foot tall Battle of Saratoga monument in Schuylerville, NY, which is relatively smaller and less complex than FPC’s, was repaired 10+ years ago for well over 1M dollars. The cost of the FPC tower repair is actually a bargain!

            Well, the arguements are valid, but the choices that maintain the vitality of the FPC building are probably the best for all in the long run.

    • Michael Jarosz

      It’s my tax money too, and I approve of this expenditure. I have my own issues that would drive you crazy, like why are MY tax dollars spent on abortion? Do you approve of that?

  • DanF

    I would also add, that besides the building, the real treasure is the congregation and how it continues to serve the community. Many congregations in similar situations have left or disbanded. FPC is still where it has been since 1889.

  • Liz Kolken

    This iconic building was E B Green’s homage to HH Richardson and completes the dialog between the two buildings with the conduit of Olmsted’s parkway on Richmond. The building is a cultural and social hub. The Gay Mens Chorus, Viva Vivaldi, The Organ Society, The BPO, and Explore Buffalo Lectures are integral parts of the programming in the building. English as a second language classes, Master
    gardeners lectures and plant sale, food pantry, KCA Community meetings, Allentown Association events, Gardenwalk Events, Community Night Out, are integral parts of the daily schedule. In addition we proactively raise money through parking for Kleinhans events, bathrooms for Garden Walk and the Art festival, participate in First Friday, and have Sunday Jazz Services.This building is the hub in the spokes of the West Side and is more than just a religious institution.
    Additional validation of our import is our induction into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in 2016.

    • DanF

      Thank you for sharing that info Liz!. It truly shows how FPC is much more than a building (and a beautiful one at that)!

  • Randy503

    I’ve also heard a few Viva Vivaldi concerts there.