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.
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.
“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.