Dec 30, 2014

Neighborhood Activists Believe Demolition Work Imminent at Thornton Hall

I was just tipped off by Kathy Mecca of the Columbus Parkway Association regarding what appears to be staging for an imminent demolition beginning at Thonrton Hall in the shadow of the Peace Bridge. The Episcopal Church Home property is threatened with wholesale demolition for the expansion of the plaza and a larger Duty Free Store to benefit private interests at the costs of the health and viability of the adjacent neighborhood. Plans for the Hutchinson Chapel previously called for its relocation, but ESDC has been silent on the issue as of late and has not produced any plans for its fate. Here's what Kathy had to say, spread the word.

Image courtesy of Kathy Mecca, taken this afternoon
Construction trailers are parked outside of Thornton Hall at the Episcopal Church Home. ESDC announced in November that Total Wrecking Company would begin asbestos removal. It figures they would start with the most historic building first which may jeopardize the stability of the adjacent historic Chapel.

As you know, Thornton Hall is a land marked icon inside of historic Prospect Hill-Columbus Park.  I am appealing to Preservation groups not to miss the opportunity to lodge a formal complaint against state and city officials who have decided to operate above the laws protecting historic buildings. It's a disgrace that government officials can blatantly dismiss the significance of land marking status and violate the City's Preservation Board's decision to deny a demolition permit for Thornton Hall.

Despite intervention from the National Trust, Preservation League of NYS, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Campaign for Greater Buffalo and the City's Preservation Board, demolition of historic properties inside of Prospect Hill-Columbus Park has continued at an alarming rate - greater than any other district in the city.  We are the only major historic district in the City of Buffalo whose historic legacy is destroyed to appease the self-perpetuation of a public corporation (Public Bridge Authority) and the skewed political will of elected officials.

The Columbus Park neighborhood has done everything in its power including funding several lawsuits to stop the further destruction of our historic community.

Most recently in October we filed suit against ESDC and the City of Buffalo to prevent the demolition of ECH and to stop the Gateway Ramp project from moving forward. NYS State Supreme Court Justice O'Donnell rescinded the TRO allowing ESDC to move forward on demolition, but has not made a decision on the environmental impact portion of the lawsuit which if favorable, would halt both projects.

However, the court's ruling may come too late to save historic Thornton Hall. ESDC has the authority to start asbestos removal of the remaining campus of non-historic buildings first and leave Thornton Hall alone until Justice O'Donnell issues his ruling.

Your collective voices could convince ESDC officials to leave Thornton Hall intact until at least the court issues a decision.  The state has no plans to build on the sight so why should they rush to compromise the structural integrity of an iconic structure first? 

I truly hope you will give serious consideration to my appeal. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Kathy Mecca, President
Columbus Parkway Association

Heavy Winds Do Damage at Duffy Silk in Midst of Developer Discussions for Possible Rehabilitation

The heavy winds on Christmas Eve claimed their victim at the Duffy Silk Mill building at 1270 Broadway. As the storm picked up a heavy gust battered the interior wall on the east wing launching bricks into the adjacent alleyway and collapsing a significant portion of the wall. Demolition crews were on site Christmas Day to claim their reward and got to work tearing down much of the eastern portion.


This collapse could not have come at a worst time for the building as the owner was in talks with various developers who had expressed significant interest in the sprawling 100,000 square foot factory. Adjacent to the Belt Line, which has been a hot topic for redevelopment, the building had endless potential to be converted to apartments in similar fashion to so many other buildings like it.

How the building appeared prior to demolition began
It was built primarily in two periods between 1905 and 1912 with the demolished eastern wing built in 1905 followed by the western portion in 1912. The building was expanded multiple times towards the rear of the site from 1913 to 1950. It was designed by prominent architects Esenwein & Johnson and was potentially eligible for historic tax credits to help offset heavy rehab costs. 


Duffy Silk built a total of three factories in Buffalo, one of which was also designed by Esenwein & Johnson and still extant at 207 Guildford Street. The company produced a variety of silk goods and later moved into producing nylon products as silk became difficult and costly to acquire.


The owner inherited the building from her father upon his passing, who operated a variety of endeavors for decades. The owner explained, “Among other things, he ran a sewing shop for making the canvas and coat pads for M. Wile and other men's clothing manufacturing. This was a business started by his father years before and I believe he bought the building partly to have a place for that business venture. But the building was so big that he had to fill it up with other things. He also manufactured corduroy jackets and I think for a while, women's low cost dresses." 

Historic Interior (1905-26)
The same view as above, nearly 100 years apart
"One brave venture was to start one of the first discount stores selling a variety of goods, especially pharmaceuticals, which he got into trouble for discounting prices. Another was selling groceries, clothing, fabrics, and other items that he bought at auctions from insurance companies that were selling off distressed merchandise after fires or other acts of nature. He bought and sold all kinds of things in that way, including a stock of records that I believe was the way Record Theater got started. The same was true of FWS furniture.  What he bought at auction dictated the beginning of various business, he was a successful entrepreneur who wasn't afraid to take chances.”


According to the owner, the city did not notify her of the demolition and just began tearing it down likely because it was classified as an emergency demolition. Her attorney is handling all communications and attempting to sort everything out. In the mean time, the owner believes the city only plans to demolish the affected portion of the complex. It’s unclear if that includes the remaining other half of the east wing, which in total compromises much of the square footage. The remaining west wing and central connector are in relatively good shape and still could be reused should the entire complex not be demolished. The building has been available for several years with an asking price of only $57,000, which had dropped to $32,000.

This still could be the view from a rooftop patio
For additional photos of the interior and the building before and after demolition, check out my Ipernity album here.
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Dec 5, 2014

E.M. Tea Coffee Cup Cafe - The Neighborhood Spot of Hamlin Park

If you’ve been following my posts lately, you know that Hamlin Park is the neighborhood I’m making my home and staying active in. Every good neighborhood has at least one place that’s “the spot” where a variety of folks in the community gather to relax, grab some coffee/food, socialize, and have a good time. That spot in Hamlin Park is unquestionably the E.M. Tea Coffee Cup in Hamlin Park on the corner of Oakgrove and Hughes Avenue.

The family owned and operated business has been serving up great coffee and delicious food in Hamlin Park for nearly 15 years and provides a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where if you go enough, the regulars and the employees know you by name.

Proprietors, Wil and Kat Tyler along with Kat’s son Sterling, run the day-to-day operations and have recently remodeled for an even cozier venue. In addition to their fantastic offerings, the café hosts live music as often as possible. The next event is a poetry slam, taking place on January 3rd, starting at 8:30pm.

All the food is made fresh to order and the café offers great baked goods made in house daily. The breakfast sandwiches are a great start to the day and served on flaky croissants. Lunch offerings are expansive and I’ve been making my way through the menu from the fish fry to the hoagies and everything in between. If you’re thinking about a special occasion you may also want to consider their homemade chocolate covered strawberries, which you have to order at least a day in advance. I’ve yet to have them, but I hear great things.

Next time you’re in the neighborhood or if you already live here, be sure to give it a try and support this great, local, east side business.

Hours of Operation:

Monday to Wednesday, Saturday: 7am to 4pm

Thursday & Friday: 7am to 7pm

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