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Larkin Men’s Club – Looking Back at The Future

The next phase of Larkinville is starting to get underway. It’s the part that sees infill, as well as the introduction of residential units, which is a key part of the Zemsky family vision. On Friday, I was invited to take an initial look at a historic rectory building that once served as a nunnery and a home for Larkin Men’s Club.

The brick building extends all the way from Seneca Street to Swan Street, situated directly behind the fire station located at the Larkin Square intersection. It is interesting to note that the rectory’s parent church is now a parking lot. It is thought that the building was demolished in 1937 as part of the Larkin Administration Building’s growing footprint. Leading up to the demolition, the church was used as an auditorium for the Larkin company.

Demolished church to the left, and demolished engine house to the right. The intact rectory is positioned front and center

Currently, the husband-wife team of Kayla Zemsky and Michael Myers, are in the midst of preparing the rectory building for a new use. Kayla is project manager at the Larkin Development Group. Michael recently served as project manager for the prominent British sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy, although his intentions are to “throttle back” his involvement in order to help develop and run the 696 Seneca project.

At this point, the team is just finishing select demo work on the property. Interestingly enough, there is no pass through from the older Seneca building (1890) and its Swan Street counterpart (1905), even though the two are buildings are bridged by a third (even newer) building. 

You can see the only existing remains of the Larkin Administration Building in this photo – a small partial brick wall can be circled in red at the top right of the image. The red brick rectory/nunnery building is in full view behind the yellow brick firehouse

According to Kayla and Michael, the building once served multiple purposes, including a nunnery, Lee’s Tavern, and a men’s club for Larkin Soap Company employees. They even tracked down a historic image…

While there are obviously a lot of significant missing architectural elements of this historic neighborhood, we should count our blessings that the rectory remains. The plan is convert the Swan Street end into five apartments, while converting the Seneca Street side into a commercial component, although there are no concrete plans for a business as of yet.

One thing is for sure – there’s a lot of history to work with, and these buildings exude bare bones character. When Kayla and Michael first got a hold of the rectory, the interiors were pretty much trashed – the interiors had ultimately been divided up as a rooming house. The first objective was to open everything back up, which is the state that we find it in today.

Next up is reinstating the original masonry window openings, which have been boxed in over the years. The buildings have great bones with which to work with. There are arch windows (interior), and Medina sandstone headers on the exterior.

Apparently, the building was “caught just at the right time” – there is water damage inside, but nothing insurmountable. There’s plenty of brick to work with, along with architectural character including a domed space that was once used for small congregations (perfect for a lofted residential unit).

The commercial component could be two+ floors… vaulted… lofted… a real spiritual undertaking.

Live/Work Buildings – plans are underway for live/work spaces on Seneca Street near Smith Street (right).  A series of buildings with retail on the first floor and residential on the second and third floors are planned.  Targeted for Fall 2019 occupancy.

As I mentioned previously, this is just the spark of residential in Larkinville. Larkin Development Group is looking to move forward with infill projects that will go a long way towards bringing a different sort of community vibe to the neighborhood.

Now that a density of amenities have been built, Larkinville-living is prime. There are places to eat and drink, play pickleball, attend concerts, nano-golf… there are breweries and distilleries, and bowling is coming soon. 

Public Park Space – the development of the former Ameripride site, next to Flying Bison, will include recreational amenities such as tennis, basketball, volleyball and a running track available to be enjoyed by those who live, work, visit or attend school in the neighborhood by Fall of 2020.

Additional public park space is also on the way, as is the creation of a significant cornerstone building at 111 Hydraulic Street – learn more.

111 Hydraulic Street – this site is located east of Larkin Square, across from Flying Bison Brewery. The company will be conducting an architecture competition for over 100,000 sq.ft. of retail, commercial, and residential to be built on this site this year. Completion is anticipated in Fall 2021.

The idea is to transition Larkinville into a Live-Work place, where amenities are close at hand. The reuse of this Italianate and Romanesque structure is the first of a number of developments to come.

Larkin Lanes – the development and return of the former neighborhood bowling alley at the corner of Seneca and Griffin Streets. This long abandoned building will have a new chapter as a refurbished bowling alley and eatery with a fall 2020 completion date.

It won’t be long before the 696 Seneca building fulfills its role as an integral part of the Larkinville story. ”

“We are still debating if we are going to call it ‘LMC’ or use the ‘City Clubhouse’ name we found in a different logo (see inset drawing) created for the building,” said Michael.

Either way, we’ve got something special here, and the name will only add to the magic.

Written by queenseyes

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 Statler City, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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