When it comes to historic houses in Buffalo few stand out like 467-469 Virginia Street. This is the property that STEEL wrote about back in 2013, where he also included some fabulous interior images. The property was on the market for a while, calling out for just the right owner, and it looks as if the perfect steward has finally come calling. David DePasquale recently picked up the house, and is in the midst of conducting a terrific renovation.
I was fortunate to be passing by the house this past spring, when I waved to a guy standing on the front lawn who looked like he fit the house. That guy turned out to be Dave, the new owner. I shouted “Congratulations from Buffalo Rising!”, and he waved back and thanked me. Later, I got a Facebook message saying that he wanted me to come check out the house, which I readily accepted.
It turns out that Dave picked up the place for what most people would consider a steal, although, as Dave put it, the only way that it would work is if a lowball offer was accepted. That’s because the amount of work that would need to go into the restoration was almost unfathomable. “It was always my favorite house in Buffalo,” said Dave. “My goal is to pay the respects the house that it deserves. I’m talking about a total roof restoration, the 84 windows all need help, there is copper work that needs to be fixed, the turret needs to be restored, and the walls have been leaking for years.
The Building was constructed in 1894 for Mr. Eleck F. Hall, a prominent photographer at the time, as his personal residence as well as to house his photography business. The house was designed by F.H. Loverin, Architect, in the French chateau style.
Despite the condition of the house, it is a miracle that, for the most part, the interior has been preserved, as you can plainly see. Moving forward, the plan is to retain a town home on one side, while creating a holistic center on the other. The center will feature a yoga studio, an art gallery, a spiritual center with reiki and healing arts, and some special surprises that will round everything out.
“People adore the house,” Dave told me. “I wanted to make sure that there was an element that was open to the public, and I felt that the spiritual path was the way to go. The building is so interesting – it’s a very happy place. The former photography studio is Moorish decor, which features patterns and designs with stars, moons, and geometric shapes. I believe that the history of the house lends itself well to an artistic and mystical future. At some point, I would like to restore the photographer’s dramatic skylight, but for now I need to get this place buttoned up.”
The interior of the photography studio was designed in the Moorish style, popular with the Victorians at that time.
Dave told me that his husband, Christiano, an artist hailing from Rio, will also have a hand in the gallery aspect of the house. He has already pinpointed someone to take on the yoga, and is working on preparing all of the rooms to serve these new uses.
“There are happy spirits in the house, I am told,” Dave shared with me. “We’re so so excited to be here. I feel as if this house will help to extend all of the great things happening in Allentown further outwards. I want this to become a cultural space that takes on a life of its own.
At some point, Dave might convert the backyard in to a sculpture garden with some sort of café element. The garden might even extend to the front of the house, where a couple of locally sourced sculptures would add to the dramatic appeal of the property. In the meantime, we will be keeping an eye out for all of the fantastic advancements that are coming our way.
This is a big deal for the city. To find an owner who is painstakingly restoring the property back to its original prideful state is a real coup.
Borrowing from STEEL’s article, 467-469 Virginia Street:
467 Virginia Street is one of Buffalo’s most spectacular but still relatively unknown architectural gems and it is for sale. This sale offers a rare opportunity to own something very special and unique. It is designed in a romantic French chateau style with 2 towers flanking a large sloping roof . The front entry is through one of the towers. Each tower has its original tile roof with the east tower sporting a dormer adorned with a wonderful filigree carving. The building was constructed in 1894 as a live/work studio for E.F. Halls Photography*. It is likely that Mr. Halls catered to the nearby wealthy families of Delaware Avenue. The long sloping roof once had a massive skylight (the edges of which can still be seen in a slight bumped up line in the modern asphalt shingles). Skylights such as this were common elements of photo studios the early days of photography when film lacked a high sensitivity and artificial lighting sources were less reliable. They typically faced these skylights north to scoop up precious daylight. There is an intact example of such a skylight on Genesee Street between Oak and Ellicott.
As amazing as this building is from the outside, it is the interior that will blow you away. From your first step into the rotunda entry with its hand painting and gilded trim you realize this is not some ordinary old timey building. Upon entering the first floor you are greeted with a beautiful but restrained paneled stair which contrasts to the opulent first floor rooms to your right at the front of the house. The main room is separated from a slightly raised inglenook like space by a spectacular 3 arched moorish screen wall. The portions of the walls and vaulted ceiling are hand painted with intricate tracery. The floors are covered with carpet but I am sure there is a wood or stone floor with spectacular inlay designs waiting to be uncovered. The pictures do not and cannot do justice to this place.
*The property was sold by E.F. Hall to Howard D. Beach, another prominent photographer in 1908. Hall continued operating there with Beach as “Hall’s Photographic Studios” until 1913. Beach’s studio was known for photographing the Native American Indians who had participated in the Indian Congress at the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. He had many famous clients such as; Katharine Cornell (American, 1893-1974) a stage actress from the 1920’s-50’s, and artist-writer & critic Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (Japanese-American, 1867-1944). His inventions included; the Mutotone photographic process, a universal-focus lens, a new bi-focal lens and the first concentric varifocal lens which was a design that incorporated a homogeneous lens that used an aspheric surface to create the radial progressive power. – From the renovation plan