Imagine the activity in the Old First Ward in the early 1900’s. You can see remnants of it in the industrial buildings that survived, even when underused and often neglected. One of those structures housed the Barcalo Manufacturing Factory. It is comprised of nine buildings filling a city block where they made things including tools, and mattresses and the well-known BarcaLounger chair.
With respect for its history and a vision for its future, architect Karl Frizlen and general contractor Mike Masters are developing the Barcalo Complex. When the two year construction project is finished in 2023, there be 116 apartments and about ten business in the Barcalo Living and Commerce building (learn more).
In the heyday of Barcalo’s manufacturing days, the facility had waterfront access in the form of a hand-dug basin off the Buffalo River where barges could load and unload products. Later, when trucks replaced ships to transport goods, the Ohio basin was filled in and is now called Father Conway Park.
The area was attractive to businesses not only because of the water access, but also the many residences where workers were living in the neighborhood. It was populated mostly by Irish immigrants relegated to live by the water. At the time, living by the water was not considered the prime real estate that it is now.
Besides the BarcaLounger, a symbol of relaxation, the company became known for its policy of the coffee break. In 1902, the Barcalo Manufacturing Company made history by officially making a coffee break part of the benefits the employees enjoyed. The company also had a cafeteria where employees could have lunch breaks, a novelty in those days.
The initial building was designed by the Green and Wicks architectural firm in 1899 and the last building was completed in 1919 as needed by the growing company. Buildings in the complex were separated by an outdoor alley that Frizlen and Masters are currently developing into an art gallery and museum.
They are interviewing art professionals to curate shows on a rotating basis. The “Art Alley” is nearly two football fields long, ideal for large exhibits and art shows, including a permanent historic display of pictures and artifacts from the building and Buffalo’s past.
Architect Karl Frizlen, a German native, tells the story of his engineer father showing him an adjustable wrench in the 1950’s. Frizlen remembers the excitement about the design and usefulness of one of the tools manufactured by Barcalo. While cleaning out the building prior to construction, Frizlen discovered patents for adjustable wrenches which he plans to display.
Before long, when residents look out the big apartment windows to the north and east, they will see houses, schools, and churches. To the south and west, the view is of the Buffalo River, grain elevators, and train yards. Father Conway Park is just across Louisiana Street on the west of the building. Standing side-by-side, there is evidence of the industrial past and a framework for the future.
No longer a manufacturing hub, the Old First Ward is now attractive as a dining, recreational and residential area. There are parks, kayak launches, restaurants, and piers for strolling and fishing. When the Barcalo is finished, there will be a fitness center, brew pub, restaurant, coffee shop, laundromat, and offices in the ground floor commercial space. Parking will be inside the building and in parking lots to the south and north of the building. Tenant amenities will be lounge areas throughout the building, a dog wash station, and storage facilities.
In the story of Barcalo, the past meets the future in an updated historic shell with modern state of the art interior finishes, technology, and comfort. When the Barcalo Living and Commerce restoration is completed next summer, 116 apartments and ten commercial spaces will restore life to an underused building, located in a suiting, and very deserving neighborhood.
Contact Matth@schneiderservices.com for leasing information.