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Historic Black Rock building designed by W.F. Zawadzki Threatened—Campaign on Case

One of Black Rock's landmark buildings, 399 Amherst Street, is endangered.

Quick action by The Campaign for Greater Buffalo has averted demolition, at least for now, of a distinctive, center-towered commercial and residential building designed and built by Wladislaw Zawadzki, perhaps Buffalo Polonia's most notable designer of the early 20th century. The building was to be the subject of a demolition application review at the city Preservation Board on Thursday, November 21. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo learned of the endangerment when the application was posted on the city's website on Friday, November 15, and posted a notice on its Facebook page. The demolition permit application was dated November 5.

Building owner Carolyn Grasper operates a flower shop at the 399 Amherst Street address. The demo application, filed by Hannah Demolition as agent for the owner, claims the "foundation is bad,"and that "the building is constructed [sic] unsound." The structure is assessed at $80,000. The building is a pair with 408 Amherst across the street, also designed by Zawadzki, and acts as a gateway to the Grant-Amherst commercial district.

Zawadzki also designed the Polish Cadets building around the corner on Grant Street, as well as the original St. Floarian's church and school on Hertel Avenue nearby. Zawadzki is best known for his East Side work, which includes several churches and the Dom Polski. He is also credited with designing the former Holy Trinity complex in Niagara Falls.

The building was constructed around 1910, and appears to be in general good condition, with some deferred maintenance. There is a dispute with a neighbor over the neighbor's building allegedly leaning on the Zawadzki structure. 

All demolition permit applications in Buffalo must be formally reviewed by the Preservation Board; absent that public review, no legal demolition can take place. (The demo application itself is still on file in City Hall, and the review process can be reinstated in person or by email at any time.)

The building owner, contacted Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman, contends that she was unaware of the Nov. 5 demolition application or the scheduled Nov. 21 hearing at the Preservation Board. Tielman advised her, then to withdraw the application first thing in the morning. Demolition contractor Hannah Demolition withdrew the item via email the morning of Nov. 20. 

The Campaign is now working with the owner to seek ways to save the building.