Work to remove the EIFS covering at 1762-66 Main Street has proceed rapidly over the last two weeks since the initial post about the buildings sale to the Monroe Building redevelopment team.
“The coverings on 1762 and 1766 Main hid what were in their day, very handsome storefront buildings,” said Jack Nossavage who has done some preliminary research into the buildings for Common Bond Real Estate. “Many people probably didn’t realize that 1762 Main was actually designed by renowned Buffalo architect, Louise Blanchard-Bethune.” 1762 was built for Henry Bald, the son of a prominent Alsatian immigrant, who opened a meat market in the storefront in the 1890s. Bald’s market flourished in the Buffalo’s Cold Spring neighborhood, due in part to contracts Bald secured with City and County governments early in his career. “Bald, at one point, supplied meat for the then Erie County Penitentiary, as well as for many functions in and around the city’s Olmsted Park system,” noted Nossavage. Bald died in 1943, and the market soon closed after 50 years of operations. Following the Bald Meat Market, 1762 Main would eventually be purchased by the Niederpreum Company, a “firm of Buffalo contractors & builders” founded in 1888.
In the early 1970s, 1762 Main entered a new phase of existence when it was operated by a group known as the Buffalo Black Drama Workshop (BBDW). “BBDW was founded by Ed Smith, a now acclaimed theater director, after he arrived in Buffalo to work at the then Studio Arena,” stated Nossavage, “and it would become a major hub for the Black Arts Movement of the 1970s.” BBDW transformed the interior of 1762 Main into a 65-seat theater. The group built a stage, added professional lighting, offices, and restrooms. BBDW had many community programs, including free music, writing, dance, and theater lessons for Buffalo’s youths. On Saturday’s BBDW members would take local children to libraries.
According to Ed Smith , it was not uncommon for famous musicians to stop by BBDW, many of them friends of Smith, who, in addition to his teaching position at the University of Buffalo, was also a jazz disc-jockey. Local jazz musician, Abdul Qadir explained that BBDW, as well as another local organization, the Black Dance Workshop, hosted musicians and entertainers, such as Gil Scott-Heron, Frank Foster, Ron Carter, and the Alvin Ailey Dancers. Qadir also noted that some of his first opportunities as a musician were performing along with the many dance classes and theatrical performances.
BBDW took on an even more meaningful role in 1972, when the New York State Department of Corrections started a program to “re-educate” inmates following the 1971 riots at Attica Correctional Facility. BBDW was enlisted to begin a series of poetry and theater classes for the Attica inmates. The response was so enthusiastic, inmate participation had to be chosen by lottery. Dr. Celes Tisdale, who was running the Nia Writers Workshop at BBDW at the time, told The Challenger in 2017 that the venture was “the only Black poetry workshop in Upstate New York.” The arts program at BBDW even resulted in the publication of a book of poetry by the inmates entitled “Betcha Ain’t.”
In 1982, both buildings were acquired by Lenny Silver, for use as new headquarters for Transcontinent Record Sales, the parent company of Silver’s music publishing company, Harlem-Halwill, his record label, Amherst Records, and his well-known chain of retail music stores, Record Theatre. “Michael Pierce, the chief financial officer of Transcontinent, explained that Silver wanted to be closer to the Record Theatre flagship store, located across the street,” said Nossavage.
According to Pierce, in the late 1980s, following a citation from the City of Buffalo for falling bricks, Silver hired local developer and entrepreneur, Jimmy Dilapo to reinforce the two buildings. Dilapo owned a prominent construction and renovation company in Buffalo, as well as the famous Cloister Restaurant, the Delaware Avenue institution built on the site of Mark Twain’s Buffalo home. It was then that the buildings’ two facades were covered to simulate a single, modern facade.
The two buildings became the hub for Silver’s empire, with as many as 40 people reporting for work at the height of its operations, according to Pierce. The first floor of the 1762 Main storefront housed offices for numerous departments, as well as the central computer for the Record Theatre. The second floor of 1762 saw brief use as an apartment before Silver converted it to offices for his food brokerage company and his paging service. The promotions department for Amherst Records also was located on the second floor of 1762.
The first floor of 1766 Main became offices as well, including Pierce’s office. The second floor of 1766 Main was completely remodeled, becoming Silver’s private office. The central feature of the second floor was the conference room, complete with curved doors, mirrored skylights, dimmable banquet lighting, plush blue carpeting, and a very swanky wet bar.
The history of 1766 Main is more vernacular than its neighbor to the south, but still locally significant. Constructed in the early 20th century, one of the earliest occupants of 1766 Main was A. C. C. Pollard, who operated a dry goods store in the late 1910s through the late 1920s. Following that, 1766 Main was occupied in the late 1920s by a prominent druggist, B.J. MacAniff. After MacAniff’s departure in the 1930s, 1766 Main was used as a retail storefront for various grocers, including Maurice Lasman’s “Maury’s Food Shoppe” and Frank Scarpace’s “Main Food Market,” becoming a staple corner store in the Cold Spring neighborhood.
Go Bike Buffalo and Shared Mobility will be shifting their plans for taking space in the Monroe Building and instead will be a tenant on this side of Lafayette Avenue in addition to the office plans for the second floor by Common Bond Real Estate, Urban Vantage, & Common Owner.
Some space is still available to round out the total project and inquiries can be sent to Derek King at firstname.lastname@example.org