204 High Street again sits in the shadow of the wrecking ball as the City of Buffalo plans demolition of the long neglected Civil War era property
“We will try one last time to see if we can find somebody to save the property,” said Lou Petrucci, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Permit and Inspection Services, speaking of 204 High Street.
Known as the Meidenbauer House, the 1865 Italianate home in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt will fall to the wrecking ball in September if a new owner cannot be found to save the historic property that the city repossessed in 2005 and has neglected since with the intention to demolish.
Standing on the edge of the ever-expanding Medical Campus, the value of deteriorating properties has risen as developers seek to profit on the long neglected Fruit Belt neighborhood where 140 demolition permits have been issued over the last twelve years.
“If anybody’s out there,” Petrucci said, “we need them to come forward.”
You can’t go far in Buffalo without tripping over something historically significant, or randomly meeting the guy who’s grandfather built your house. Or something like that.
It’s always interesting to open up these old porches and see for ourselves why there are now so many building codes and regulations. One reason we have to get our foundations inspected and plans drawn up and approved before getting a permit is because back in the day people would just throw a 2×4 on top of an I-beam that was anchored in nothing but heavy clay and maybe some rocks and call it a day. If you need any more convincing that this is nowhere near enough to support that porch roof, take a look at how that 2×4 is bowing under the weight.
During our Greenfield porch project last year our on-site inspector made us swap out the 4×4 posts the permit inspector had approved with 6x6s because of concerns that the porch roof would be too much for them to carry.The framing around those posts that the shingles were nailed to was all tied in and carried some of the load, but that’s probably the only reason this porch wasn’t in worse shape. And by worse, I mean it hadn’t started to collapse and take the porch roof and part of the second story with it.
That’s even more surprising when we learned a little about the house and its neighborhood. It turns out that Matt, who rented us the dump trailer to haul away the old porch, had some history with the house. His grandfather had actually helped build the house we were working on back in the 1920s, as well as many more on the street. It was a company neighborhood, with the houses being built first for the executives of the Pierce Arrow Company and later, as the neighborhood expanded, for the rest of the workers.
The Pierce Arrow complex at Elmwood and Great Arrow, which is undergoing massive renovations, was designed in 1906 and operated until 1938 and during that time produced some of the most powerful and efficient automobiles in the country. President Taft ordered two Pierce-Arrows and two White Model M Tourers to serve as the first official cars of the White House, in addition to many Hollywood stars and tycoons of the day owning one of luxury cars.
One interesting feature of these executive homes that Matt learned from his mother was that apparently the porches sported a steel I-beam as the header. This explains why there is absolutely no sag to the front of the porch but makes it even more baffling that with a steel beam running along the top there would be only a 2×4 at either end supporting all that weight. But who knows, those columns could have been rebuilt later by someone who didn’t realize what was hidden above. Either way, I’m glad that I’m some cases they don’t make them they used to.
In October 1907, a new bookstore opened on the seventh floor of the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago designed entirely by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Designed when Wright was thirty-nine years old and little known outside the circles of Chicago’s elite, Browne’s Bookshop was as unique for it intent to feel very much like a home library or study as for its location on the seventh floor, and despite its short life was known as “the most beautiful bookshop in the world.”
Wright modeled the glass lamp shades from the windows he’d designed for his childrens’ rooms, and organized the store’s bookshelves around reading tables to create cozy alcoves in which to explore.
Francis Fisher Browne, the store’s owner and editor of the literary magazine The Dial, relocated the store to the building’s ground floor in 1910 but closed it for good two years later.
Perhaps hoping to learn from past mistakes with the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Western New York, the Preservation Board has moved ahead with landmarking two of the homes he built in Buffalo.
Two Buffalo houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were recommended for local landmark designation Thursday by the Buffalo Preservation Board. While the board has often been criticized for not acting quickly enough to protect the historic and significant buildings throughout Buffalo, not everyone is happy with their decision to move forward on these two properties.
Both the William R. Heath House and the Walter V. Davidson House were granted landmark status despite the owners’ objections.
Although the homes met seven of the nine criteria for landmarking, Nancy Schmid, who has owned the Heath House for 50 years, said she did not welcome the added tourist attention she feared landmarking could bring. People often come to her front door asking for tours of the home, unaware that its a private residence.
Likewise, Russ Maxwell, owner of the Davidson House and a former member of the Preservation Board, also objects to landmark status, claiming, “The property at 57 Tillinghast is in the finest condition in its 110-year history.”
Both Schmid and Maxwell have said they believe the homes should be landmarked in the future, but assert that since they have maintained the integrity of Wright’s designs and continue to use the homes as private residences, their wishes should override the Preservation Board’s decision.
The final decision will be up to the Buffalo Common Council, which will rule on the matter following a public hearing. Since the Preservation Board has stated that their only responsibility is to the buildings themselves and the significance they represent for the community, perhaps the Common Council will be more willing to take the owners’ opinions and track records for stewardship of the properties into account.