The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is renewing its push to demolish the remaining portions of the Willert Park Courts complex on the East Side. Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the buildings one of the United States’ “11 Most Endangered Historic Places.”
The Willert Park complex was designed by architect Frederick C. Backus and was one of the first public housing projects in New York State developed for African American residents at a time when Federal policy mandated segregated public housing. It is a notable example of Modern design and has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Preservation Buffalo Niagara and others argue the remaining units could be revitalized as affordable housing. The social housing project, built under the President Roosevelt administration, became a hub of social activity, partially because it was one of the first garden/courtyard housing projects in the nation, and partially because it was unique in that it was the benefactor of an unprecedented sculpture program. It is known for sculptures built into the building facades. The themes were decided upon by the first residents of the complex, as a point of pride. The bas-relief sculptures, depicting scenes of African American life and achievement, have also been recognized by the Museum of Modern Art.
The first Spring Street parcel, next to William Street, was demolished in 2006, followed by the Jefferson Avenue parcel in 2009, all replaced by newer housing units. The last remaining parcel, on Spring Street near Mortimer Street, contains ten of the original buildings that are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans for demolition have been temporarily halted due to renewed objections by the Michigan Street Restoration Corporation and Preservation Buffalo Niagara.
The last remaining parcel, on Spring Street near Mortimer Street, contains ten of the original buildings that are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans for demolition had been temporarily halted due to renewed objections by the Michigan Street Restoration Corporation and Preservation Buffalo Niagara.