Emblematic Waterfront Elevator Complex Threatened; Wreckers on-site Prior to Preservation Board Hearing


The giant cement manufacturing and shipping complex that has marked the southern border of the Buffalo waterfront for almost a century is under dire threat of demolition. A wrecking company has set up shop on the site, installed signage, and a number of people were observed working on the site the morning of June 14—prior to a Preservation Board hearing to consider the demolition request. All such requests must be reviewed by the board to ensure that no significant structure "fall through the cracks" before a landmark designation or other measures can be taken to protect it, stemming from the infamous demolition of the Harbor Inn during the Masiello Administration.

Brown Administration Commissioner for Permits and Inspections James Comerford has regularly flouted the procedure, claiming he must issue permits unless the Preservation Board succeeds in designating a building a landmark within 30 days. It is constitutionally impossible to have proper notice for public hearings within that span, let alone conduct research and assemble documents. With this action out on the waterfront, the Brown Administration seems to have dropped even the pretense of public review to protect threatened structures. It is unimaginable that a company would hire and have on-site a wrecking team without a rock-solid assurance from city officials that the demolition permit is a certainty.

The complex of concrete storage elevators and associated structures, built as Great Lakes Cement beginning in 1926, is every bit as character-defining for Buffalo as the grain elevators of the Buffalo River. Located on the Union Ship Canal and the Outer Harbor, the complex is seen by tens of thousands of commuters every day, and additional thousands on fair-weather evenings and weekends throughout the year. It is a huge tract of land—55 acres—surrounded by water on three sides, with 4,000 feet of shoreline. The remaining structures on the site occupy a small footprint, but that may be too much, perhaps, for a company that sees  more value in selling a cleared and clean waterfront parcel.

The industrially picturesque cement manufacturing, processing, and shipping complex was built in 1926 and c. 1951 There are two large elevators on the site: a squat set of 24 bins, in two bundles of 12, set on a muscular concrete frame under which trucks are loaded (c. 1951), and a taller and narrower elevator for rail service (1926), which is connected to a packing house of concrete. A three-binned clinker elevator to store and ship clinker (1928) stands to the south of the first two, and is interesting for its one interstitial “bin” on the east side, which, in fact, is a stair tower with windows at each landing. This is and example of form not following function. Rather, here and elsewhere in Buffalo, it seems to be a case of “form follows economy.”

A voluminous coal and shale storage building, likely the largest such concrete building ever built in the city, with two concrete coal-crusher towers, completes the complex. It is a unique landscape of reinforced concrete architecture. The complex stands alone as an emblem of Buffalo, and a marketing device for the product it manufactured and shipped (all the buildings were of fireproof reinforced concrete construction).

The wrecking company representing the owner avers that "...removing these unsightly structures ...will also enhance Buffalo's waterfront...These structures are unsightly and unwelcoming for residents, tourists and new commerce." Nothing could be further from the truth. The complex is a defining element of the Buffalo waterfront, a picturesque part of the image our local tourism program projects to the outside world. How many cities in the world have reinforced concrete elevators on the cover of their official tourist magazine, as Buffalo does this year?

Since I wrote the first guidebook to Buffalo’s waterfront in 1993—which sought to document and popularize these industrial and social monuments—Buffalo has lost the H&O Oats, Wheeler, Wollenberg, and Schaeffer grain elevators. We cannot afford to lose this complex without eroding our heritage and a foundation of our visitor economy. 

Imagine saving the complex and restoring the land, too. That would be a magnificent public amenity that would pay dividends across the generations, and be the closest we are ever going to get to realizing Frederick Law Olmsted's 1888 vision for a park on Lake Erie just south of this point.

How you can make your voice heard to stop a DOT disaster and launch a new era in public transportation and urban development in Buffalo

Train Station flyer 1

Please make the time to attend the Campaign's important meeting on Canal District development and DOT's April 16 proposal to spend $25,000,000 for a two-bit train station in exactly the same place as the old, failed, Amtrak station. And they did it without an environmental review, sidestepping the public meeting process and any discussion of alternatives. Thereby jeopardizing the successful rebirth of the Canal District, which we preservationists have been fighting for for 25 years, and cementing for the next hundred years the untold harm to our public transportation system and the people who would use it
The Buffalo News, agrees with us that the train station proposal is deeply flawed and insensitive to Buffalo's needs. Check out their editorial: 


I've attached a flyer for the event, as well as some fact sheets that highlight our alternative proposal for an Intermodal hub, including a train station facing Washington Street. 
Please feel free to share with anyone that is concerned with preservation, downtown development, public transit, stopping sprawl, and open public decision-making processes. 
Check out and "like" The Campaign for Greater Buffalo's Facebook page, too.
Lastly, if you can't make the meeting, you can still make a difference. Write a letter (most effective!), email, or call the elected officials below, urging them to stop the DOT plan and support a true Intermodal hub on Washington Street
The absolutely best thing you can do is to write a similar letter to The Buffalo News. 100's of thousands of people will read it, from Buffalo to Albany!
Governor Cuomo is the ultimate decider who must save us from this fiasco. But he won't do it unless he hears from us! Write him and copy everyone else on this list. Local Senate and Assembly districts split the project site right down the middle, so a lot of elected officials will be interested to hear from you!
The Buffalo News Letter-to Editor prefers email:
Governor: Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
NYS State Capitol Building • Albany, NY 12224
U.S. Congress: Hon. Brian Higgins
726 Exchange Street, Suite 601 • Buffalo, NY 14210
NY Assembly (149): Hon. Sean Ryan
936 Delaware Avenue • Buffalo, NY 14209
NY Assembly (141): Hon. Crystal People-Stokes
425 Michigan Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14203
Ph: 716-897-9714
NY Senate (63rd District): Hon. Timothy M. Kennedy
2239 South Park Ave.• Buffalo, NY 14220
NY Senate (60th District): Hon. Chris Jacobs
65 Court Street, Rm 213
Buffalo, NY 14202
Ph: 716-854-8705
Mayor: Hon. Byron Brown
201 City Hall • Buffalo, NY 14202
Canal District Hub
View from Platform 1

Campaign for Greater Buffalo to host "A New Nexus for Buffalo: Intermodal Transport for the 21st Century

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo is holding a public meeting to call attention to the problems of an isolated new downtown Buffalo train station and lack of public process. "A New Nexus for Buffalo," will take place at 1:00pm Saturday, May 12, 2018 at the Pizza Plant restaurant, 125 Main Street, Buffalo.
Tim Tielman, Exceutive Director of The Campaign and Principal of urban consultants Place Advantage, will review D.O.T.'s controversial proposed project—a single-mode station under the Thruway, the same place as the current station—and offer an intermodal alternative sited on Washington Street, facing Main Street with interconnections to all other modes of travel, as well as hotels, restaurants, and the Canal District.
The program begin will reprise the 200 years of transportation development in the neighborhood, and analyze the potential of an Amtrak station as part of a new public multimodal transit hub stretching from Main to Washington Street. After the slide presentation, Tielman will lead a walking tour of neighborhood, discussing the history of the site and its future potential.
Participants will be asked to fill out comment cards to be forwarded to DOT and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Train Station meeting 1

Landmarking of manufacturing site of FDR presidential limousine, Playboy Motorcar, and world's first amphibious vehicle before Common Council Tues. Oct 24 at 2:00pm. 

Truman in Brunn & Co. Lincoln
Green & Wicks-designed factory for Brunn & Company, designers of Lincoln,
Pierce Arrow, custom cars
Seymour Knox-backed Aqua-Cheetah made splash in WWII
Agent for Medical Campus recently demolished Green & Wicks house on site
On Tuesday October 24 at 2:00pm, the Buffalo Common Council's Committee on Legislation is holding a public hearing on the designation of the Brunn Coachworks site (also known as 980 Ellicott Street) as an official City of Buffalo landmark. 
The Buffalo Preservation Board, after its own public hearing, recently voted unanimously to designate an early automobile factory as a City of Buffalo landmark. The landmark application was put together after months of research revealed a fascinating history of the site, not readily apparent in its modest scale, nor in the information provided to the Preservation Board when the owners applied to demolish parts of the site in February.
Campaign for Greater Buffalo Executive Director Tim Tielman was appointed to an ad hoc committee that researched the property.
Aqua-cheetah-1941 at South Grand Island Bridge“The first thing we found was that a small house on the site was designed by Green & Wicks, then that most of the factory itself had been," said Tielman. "Every piece of digging led to more discovery. The very first presidential limousine made to Secret Service specifications was built there by the Brunn coachworks for Franklin Roosevelt (photo above). Then we found out an amphibious vehicle was manufactured there. It turned out to be the world's first. A U.S. Army representative was aboard for the launching at the South Grand Island Bridge (left). A film of the grand event, led by Seymour Knox, Jr., survives. So does the original amphibious vehicle—it is in a museum in New Jersey that I visited in July.
"We also pieced together the enduring partnership between an engineer who built a futuristic "Rocket Car" and his master 'body man.' After the war they produced the Playboy Motor Car. We have a letter from Hugh Hefner saying that was the source of the name of his magazine.
"The coachworks complex is the embodiment of how industries developed during Buffalo's peak—people with creativity and energy linking up with other creative people who had the capital to make it happen. On this site it happened again and again over a 50 year period. That's why the site deserves designation as a landmark."
Certainly to protect it from any more demolitions. Judge Diane Devlin refused to prolong a temporary restraining order the Campaign had obtained from Judge Henry Nowak in the spring, and the building owner contemptuously demolished the Green & Wicks house on the site before The Campaign's attorney, Richard Berger, had even seen the judge's decision and order, or been notified. There was no opportunity to appeal the decision. Tielman drove by the sight in the early evening of June 28, to find that the house had been demolished. So hastily, it seems, no fencing was up to protect the public. Apparently, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus had a standing instruction to demo the house as soon as a decision was reached. That is contempt.
Download the Coachworks site documentation below.

2017 Open-Air Autobus tours underway! Have fun, imbibe some entertaining information, and help historic preservation all at once!

Hi Gang, check out our tours for Summer 2017: our ever-popular Whirlwind Tour and our new Picturesque Buffalo Tour.

All the info you need is on the reproductions of our mini-posters below. You can download the pdfs, pass them along to friends, or print them out! 

Reserve online by clicking the button below, or call us for reservations at 716-854-3749.

Download 2017 Picturesque Buffalo tour

Download 2017 Buffalo Whirlwind

Buffalo Whirlwind tour


The Campaign for Greater Buffalo's 2017 Open-Air Autobus tours

Dear Buffalo Lover, there is simply no better way to see Buffalo and grasp what it is all about than a tour on the Open-Air Autobus. 2017 is our 11th season. It really is the best way to get around and see, hear, and smell Buffalo (ahh, toasted oats, chicken wings, charcoal-grilled hot dogs!).

Open-Air Autobus tours are built on 30 years’ worth of architectural and his- torical research by members of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture in the course of preservation activities. The tours enhance our educational mission and help cover the costs of wide-ranging preservation work.

The Campaign is Buffalo’s most dynamic preservation organization. Our tours reflect our character: Passionate, lively, and knowledgeable. Five-star reviews: People rave about us on TripAdvisor.

The Campaign’s tours are popular, informative, well-done. We are the go-to organization for the general public and experts alike.

By doing a tour, you are doing good: We are a charitable organization chartered by the New York State Dept. of Education. Revenues are plowed directly back into local historic preservation.

The Buffalo Whirlwind Tour

• 10:00am Saturdays & Sundays July 1 - September 3.

• Meet at Elmwood & Potomac Aves. $25. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations: Click on button below or call 716-854-3749

There are few places you can see buildings by America’s Big Three architects— Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and H.H. Richardson— plus a park system by Frederick Law Olmsted. Buffalo is one of them.

On this tour, besides the master works by the Masters, you’ll see scores of other beautiful buildings and houses by prominent national and international architects and the streets and neighborhoods where Buffalonians carry on their everyday lives.

We start with the foundation of modern Buffalo, and modern urban America: The building and grounds of what was the Buffalo State Hospital, designed by H.H. Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted, conceived in 1870. We end with the Heath House by Frank Lloyd Wright of 1904.

In between, you’ll see world-altering industrial architecture, the preening mansions of Delaware Avenue, and the prototype for the skyscraper, Sullivan’s Guaranty Building. We’ll put it all in context for you, as we point out dozens of buildings as markers of Buffalo’s progress through the years.

You’ll see:

• Kleinhans Music Hall • First Presbyterian Church • Ellicott Square by Daniel Burnham & Co. • St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral by Richard Upjohn • The Canal District • Niagara & Lafayette squares • Millionaires’ Row • Allentown Historic District • Delaware Historic District • City Hall and Old County Hall • Theater Historic District • Bidwell, Chapin, Lincoln parkways

The Whirlwind tour is an astounding 90-minute tour of a great American city, given by the passionate experts of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture.

The Picturesque Buffalo Tour

• 12:30 Saturdays & Sundays July 1 - Sept. 3

• Meet at Elmwood & Potomac Aves. $20. 

• Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations: Click on button below or call 716-854-3749

Buffalo’s development wasn’t all about bare-knuckled capitalism, political turpitude, and pell-mell growth. Fun as that was, the sense that the city needed some civic grace came to the fore after the Civil War. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, designers of Central Park in New York, were brought in. They conceived a system of expansive parkland and parkways with residential areas of curving streets.

It was capital-P-Picturesque, for the movement that shaped England from the late 18th century onward. Olmsted envisioned the neighborhood of Parkside, built by others a generation later, just as the Arts and Crafts movement was peaking, and wonderful examples of the style line the streets by the dozen.

Buffalo was left a legacy which pays dividends to this day. Enjoy a 60-minute ride through Buffalo’s most beguiling precincts and see how artistic principals were integrated with urban planning and domestic architecture. Delaware Park, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, and Craftsmen bungalows highlight this tour given by the capital-P Passionate Experts of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture.

Charter the Open-Air Autobus!

Tour anywhere around Buffalo anytime you want by chartering the Open-Air Autobus. There is no better way to see, hear, smell the city. We’ve done tours for students from grade 2 to graduate students, weddings, bar mitzvahs, reunions, and corporations. You get a ride like no other and expert commentary from the passionate pros of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture. We know our stuff!

• 46-person capacity • See-thru, roll-down rain fly • $700 for up to two hours with expert commentary; longer tours available • About $15 per person at capacity • $400 for up to three hours for bus & driver only • Take a walking tour with same top-notch experts: $200 for 2 hrs. for up to 20 people; $10 ea. add’l. Call now: 716-854-3749

2017 Buffalo Whirlwind

  2017 Autobus tours 3