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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


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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  • Kevin Ryan

    city clubhouse

    • OldFirstWard

      There was a period back in the 90’s I believe when the building was a halfway house for sex offenders and child molesters. There were petitions circulating in the neighborhood and surrounding areas warning people.

  • Johnny Pizza

    Demolish a historic structure for parking for a Frank Lloyd Wright project and nobody bats an eye. Demolish a historic FLW or E.B. Green structure for parking for a new development and everyone starts losing their mind.

    • greenca

      What historic structure is being demolished? What FLW project? What are you talking about?

      • Johnny Pizza

        “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.”

        • Andy Wulf

          There was nowhere near the level of awareness of historic preservation 60+ years ago when the FLW building was demolished as there is today. (And by the way, “no one bats an eye” isn’t true either – though the dissenting voices were far outnumbered by those in favor of demolition, they were passionate and made their voices heard, and in fact the loss of the Larkin Administration Building was one of the pivotal events that led to the birth of Buffalo’s present-day preservation movement.)

          • Johnny Pizza

            Tuesday is my trolling day

          • Andy Wulf


        • patrick mahoney

          The former Sacred Heart Church, then known as the Larkin Auditorium was reported as being demolished May 12th, 1936 in the Courier Express of May 13th, 1936.

          • OldFirstWard

            Is there a link to that story?

          • patrick mahoney

            No, you would need to search at Fultonhistory under Larkin Auditorium

  • ILikeBuf

    I’ve noticed workmen in here since late this summer. I’m glad that we’re getting formal details now for this new Larkinville project!

  • I live in Las Vegas now, but I grew up in Buffalo and lived there until I was 28. I still have family there and I go back often.

    I’m so happy to see these renovation projects being undertaken. They’re really needed by the community.

  • macnak

    Sounds promising. You would be amazed at how many people stop and take pictures of that last portion of the larkin building. It represents an amazing part of our history.
    Also, that neighborhood,or just across fillmore, was once referred to as”Little Hollywood”. Many Vaudeville players lived there, because they were not wanted elsewhere. Or so I’ve heard. I’d like to learn more about that.

  • OldFirstWard

    “Currently, the husband-wife team of Kayla Zemsky and Michael Myers…”

    Just when I was starting to enjoy the article, I’m abruptly confronted with the above sentence. Now admittedly, I’m no fan of the feminist tinged hyphenated last name usage, but total dismissal of your husband’s name is quite selfishly appalling and has been universally labeled as man-hating feminism. What’s left in a relationship? Just call it a team. What happens to the children, do you sell off the last name to highest bidder? Such an erosion of traditional values.

    • Dana K Szczepaniak- Rodriguez

      Man hating????? Are you serious? I’m pretty sure your statement is the most offensive comment I have read in a long time. Would you be willing to take your wives last name? If not, then why do you assume she should take yours? If you are after all building a union, then why not combine the names and truly become one? To assume she would take something that you would not do yourself, you are automatically stating that you are superior to your significant other, and your name is more important, and your family more righteous. I pity you and your false set of beliefs.

      • greenca

        He’s just trolling for responses. It’s better to not address him.

      • OldFirstWard

        “If you are after all building a union, then why not combine the names and truly become one?”

        Part of my point exactly. She has refused to accept her husband’s name in any form. So by what last name should the children use? Doe?

        Hundreds of millions of married couples have taken the name of their husband. It is a precedent set in stone. It is a tradition that goes back centuries. If a woman is unwilling to take her husband’s name, even in some form, then she is not committed to that marriage. A man deserves respect in a relationship too. When couples get engaged to be married, who gets the ring? Does the woman put a ring on a man’s finger and ask him to marry her? There are traditions.

        • Dana K Szczepaniak- Rodriguez

          You again have clearly missed he point. It’s a choice for all parties! A man assuming a woman will take his name is antiquated and presumptuous and as stated before clearly stating you are better than herself. I respect women OR men who take their spouses last name, I respect those who take neither, or I respect those who take both. It is their choice, and what works in their relationship.

          Kayla is an educated woman doing brilliant things in this city and you have disregarded her because of he and her husbands choice for her to keep her name. Her not taking his name has nothing to do with her commitment to him or her marriage. It’s simply a commitment to her heritage and family name, the same commitment you also have with your last name. As I suspect, you would not agree to take your wives last name would you?

          Tradition? As Nicole stated above the tradition of marriage is not based on commitment or love so let’s just accept that your comment is void and not all “traditions” are forever, some are meant to be broken.

          Let’s look at an example. A boy lived his whole life in foster home going from City to City. He had a last name, but with no meaning. He meets a woman with a wonderful family. Filled with love and traditions. Should a women give up her centuries of traditions for a last name that is meaningless. To a backwards man like yourself, I suppose the answer is yes. But to a progressive woman like myself, I think just perhaps maybe the man might want to take her name. A name with value and meaning. Nothing is set in stone. All things are up for discussion when there is enough love, communication and commitment in a relationship.

          • OldFirstWard

            “It’s simply a commitment to her heritage and family name”

            With her paternal last name given to her by her father. She also carries her mother’s last name as her middle name. Another tradition used by both males and females.

            “He had a last name, but with no meaning…Should a women give up her centuries of traditions for a last name that is meaningless.”

            A meaningless last name? Who is being presumptuous. Don’t let feminism cloud your judgement. At this stage in your life you’re life (my guess is that you are around 30 or so) you’re just a naive millennial. Your stage is with your peers. To those older than yourself, you come off as pretentious, as to be expected. Which is to say that I speak of your attitude, not intelligence. Your enlightenment is still about 10 to 15 years away. Though I applaud your energy.

          • Johnny Pizza

            Being a foster child doesn’t make your name meaningless, one could argue that in the absence of biological family, someone’s name is the most important part of their identity. I don’t share my last name with my mother or father but I wouldn’t change my last name for anything. At the same time I’m not going to demand someone else take my last name in marriage.

          • Dana K Szczepaniak- Rodriguez

            Hey Johnny! I wasn’t implying all foster children wouldn’t want there name was just giving an extreme possibility of how It should be a choice for either gender to keep, hyphenate, change or combine. Making someone do something that you wouldn’t do is just underserving to your spouse. I appreciate your response and honesty.

        • Dana K Szczepaniak- Rodriguez

          Oh in regards to the children. Quite frankly, they should use the females name solely as she carried them, she altered her body, she breast feeds them while men physically and biological doing much less. But since I’m into communication, I would be open to the discussion of hyphenating!

          Also did you know, for centuries in Spain children take all 4 of their grandparents last names? This isn’t exactly a “new” concept here.

          • OldFirstWard

            I can give you an argument here, but I know where it’s going. I understand Polish women. Some of my most cherished relationships were with Kaisertown polish girls some years ago. Very stubborn and hard-headed, but great lovers, though I digress.

    • Nicole Maria

      What’s left in a relationship? Love. Trust. Honor. Shall I go on? A marriage is not dismissed if the woman doesn’t take the name of her partner and vis versa. A marrriage is a union, and yes, in essence, a team. It is far from the man-hating feminism you stated above. In fact, a woman’s decision is her own (mind blowing, right?). There is no label to it. It’s not feminism. It’s not anti-men. It’s a decision, plain and simple. It’s not selfish. A woman’s name is just important to her as a man’s name is to him. Simple.

      • OldFirstWard

        ” A marriage (sic) is a union, and yes, in essence, a team. It is far from the man-hating feminism you stated above. In fact, a woman’s decision is her own.”

        Well, it didn’t take long for that “team” to be usurped by the wife without any input from her other team player, her husband. It only took you one paragraph.

        • Nicole Maria

          Based on your argument above, aren’t all wives then usurped by their husbands when they automatically take the mans name? I think you’re (unfortunately) missing the point, women have a choice as much as men do. If both parties decided to keep their names, so be it. Me keeping my last name does not mean I’m not committed to my marriage. That’s laughable.

          Further, you state that name changing is a precedent set in stone. This is a logically fallacy. Agurmentum ad antiquitatum. Woman were married off as a man’s property for hundreds of years and love had nothing to do with marriage. Just because that was set in stone, as you submitted, does not make it a tradition worth continuing.

          Ultimately, my point stands, taking or not taking the name of a partner (man or woman) is a choice. It does not reflect the commitment, love, trust, etc. of a relationship. It’s a choice discussed between both parties. It’s a choice that opens up further lines of communication and ultimately makes a partnership stronger.

          • OldFirstWard

            “Me keeping my last name does not mean I’m not committed to my marriage. That’s laughable.”

            Actually, it is a lack of commitment and it’s selfish, and that’s no laughing matter. Be a team husband and wife, or else divorce awaits you. Respect traditions. You’re not a child anymore, it’s not all this feminist me, me, me. A real man engaged you, put an expensive ring on your finger, and married you. So some respect for HIM in return.

          • Matt Marcinkiewicz

            Classic OFW on display here.

    • PaulBuffalo

      ‘What happens to the children, do you sell off the last name to highest bidder?‘

      If any of your children want to bid on taking a different last name, I’m sure many of us on BR would contribute generously. It would make a perfect Xmas gift.

    • BlackRockLifer

      As the supporter of a vile vulgar serial liar that cheated on all 3 of his wives and also bragged about sexually assaulting women you have no moral authority to whine about the “erosion of traditional values”

      • OldFirstWard

        Once again, you misconstrue my political intentions. But since you mentioned it, how exactly do you reconcile your love of Hillary Clinton and her husband whom AS President, cheated on his wife and committed public serial lying while in the White House.

        • BlackRockLifer

          You clearly support Trump and have taken several opportunities to childishly make that point. As for lying and cheating, your hero is heads and shoulders above any politician in my lifetime for dishonesty and disloyalty.
          I’ll repeat for clarity, no supporter of Trump has any business whatsoever lecturing us on “traditional values”. In fact no supporter of Trump has any credibility when it comes to morality, integrity or basic decency.

    • Captain Picard

      If my surname was Zemsky I wouldn’t change it, either.