The Erie Freight House

I want to take a few minutes to explain my thoughts on this issue. You may not agree but please, hear me out. For those who have not read about the Erie Freight House issue, click here.

Buffalo was born, raised and almost died because of the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal made Buffalo the Queen City. The wealth, the growth and decline of Buffalo and the industrial fabric that dots the skyline of our city was provided by our historic industrial past and connection with the Erie Canal. The past is still connected and represented across our city in our buildings, parks and even our street names.

Currently, our entire waterfront is dedicated towards representing and recreating our historic waterfront. Canalside and the introduction of the historic Commercial Slip was rebuilt at the expense of millions of dollars to recreate the historic location of the Erie Canal… and guess what? It is a HUGE hit and a major reason why we have seen so much success along our waterfront. Have you been to the Liberty Hound Restaurant? That too is a recreation of a historic Canal era building.

Because of this, I feel that we can give the last remaining original freight house the respect and due diligence it deserves. If we don’t consider all options and let this one rot or die, one day soon we will wish we had a large, historic freight house for weddings, events and public space along our historic buffalo river. This building is much more than a tin shack. Beneath the crappy siding is giant tree trunks for joists, wooden clapboard and a space that even in its existing state is breath taking. There is no doubt that it needs work but considering all the money spent to recreate other Erie Canal era type buildings and canals – we should consider all options before allowing the demolition of the only original freight house left.

Now consider this; Preservation advocates don’t have the resources to preserve everything so if Preservation Buffalo Niagara sticks their neck out there pleading for reuse, the City Council makes it a local landmark (we couldn’t even get that for Trico!) and an experienced architect says it can be reused, re purposed and saved – I believe it. I am thankful for PBN and everyone else who has pushed hard to make this conversation happen.

Lastly, I am not here to fight or argue but regardless of what your opinion is or what happens – this conversation really needs to be about the legal PROCESS. We, as citizens of Buffalo, cannot allow the legal process be forgiven and forgotten for a developer. If that’s the case, all developers would get away with whatever they want. Put it in perspective – you wouldn’t want your neighbor to get away with a violation when you followed the rules, right? It’s not fair to you or to the public.

The decision is expected to be made soon. I for one, would love to see parties, weddings and public events in a large, open historic warehouse. Places like these don’t exist anymore. Places like this will never be built like this again. Let’s think BIGGER than one condo proposal that isn’t financed yet. The proposed condos can be built anywhere in this area considering there is sprawling vacant land that surrounds this historic local landmark. We need to create a vibrant, mixed use area that drives our city forward while embracing our incredible, unforgettable history.

Here is text from buffaloah.com on the Freight House. There is a lot of information here on why this building important.

On January 10th, 2012 the Buffalo Common Council approved the nomination of the Erie Freight House as a designated city landmark. Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) would like to reinforce this informed decision that was made by the means of direct public participation. The Local Landmark status provides the highest level of protection for historically significant assets in our community, and ensures meaningful public participation in the future of said resources.

The circa 1868 Erie Freight House located at 9 Ohio Street is considered to be the only extant freight warehouse building in the city associated with the Erie Canal and historic railway companies along the Buffalo River. Freight houses are a building type that once dominated the banks of the Buffalo River, and the Erie Freight House is the last surviving example.

Common Councilman David Franczyk, whose district includes the Erie Freight House, also highlighted the historic importance as well as the potential for reuse during that same January 10th Common Council meeting, saying “The historically significant 1868 freight house on the Buffalo River is worthy of restoration as a catalyst for the continued revitalization of Buffalo’s waterfront, terminus of the Erie Canal and cradle of the city’s industrial origins. It is required of the owner of this currently neglected structure to adhere to all city building codes and laws in order to enhance the building’s future re-use.”

On October 1st, 2012 Preservation Buffalo Niagara received a letter from a Registered Architect and Professional Engineer outlining his own assessment of the Erie Freight House’s current structural condition. The professional, Kevin V. Connors, PE, AIA, LEED AP, the Principal of eco_logic STUDIO, has extensive experience with historic structures having worked on the Granite Works at Main and Virginia, the White Brothers Livery on Jersey Street as well as numerous 19th century residential homes.

Mr. Connors’ letter states that “While I recognize the risk and security issues of the current facility’s condition, it is my professional opinion that the structure can be stabilized and protected by performing selective demolition and salvage operations; structural shoring and bracing of the remaining structure; enclosure of exposed portions of walls and roof; and securing the waterside exposure.” Mr. Connors’ assessment of the condition of the structure is based off of his participation in a September 12th, 2012 walk-through of the local landmark in addition to reviewing the ‘Preliminary Structural Observation’ report by Tredo Engineers.
Mr. Connors’ continues, stating “The significance of the building is well documented. Its heavy timber and truss structure is mostly intact. The process of repair and renovation can be one that enriches the historical interpretation of the site, while simultaneously building local capacity for specialty restoration construction. This structure has great potential as a community waterside attraction and mixed-use development, providing neighborhood employment opportunities.”

Preservation Buffalo Niagara encourages the community to join us in asking that this important piece of our history be given the opportunity for appropriate reuse.
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2 thoughts on “The Erie Freight House

  1. Old First Ward

    FYI: Bernice

    Speaking of the Erie Freight House my friend just received a notice in the mail today from Savarino for a community meeting concerning the Freight House Landing project.

    The meeting is scheduled for Monday February 25, 6-8pm in the Old First Ward Community Center. The notice says:

    “Please come and see our initial plans for this project. As a neighbor and stakeholder, we want to hear what you have to say and answer any questions you may have. Light refreshments will be served.” Hosted by Savarino Companies.

  2. Old First Ward

    Well the meeting was tonight and you were not there. If you are concerned about such development and demolition, then you needed to attend. Here was your opportunity to speak out. I did. To the extent of preservation I’m the only one who spoke in favor of it. Since you never commented or posted a topic on this meeting or bothered to attend, my conclusion is that you are for demolition.

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