Over the weekend, a group of conservatives gathered to express their concerns and dismay over the possible demolition of the Great Northern grain elevator on Ganson Street. New York State Senator Sean Ryan and Assembly Member Jon Rivera, along with representatives from Preservation Buffalo Niagara, have joined a growing contingent who believe the city has not exercises due diligence in granting building owner Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) a demolition permit. The preservation party said the city should have retained the services of an independent structural engineer.
Once again, the preservation community is scratching their heads collectively at Mayor Byron Brown’s pledge to save the historic structures that are at risk in the city. Recently, we have witnessed many scenarios of negligent demolition. The mayor speaks well, but at the end of the day there are those who feel his head is not in the preservation game. For various unknown reasons, he just doesn’t seem to care about our park of historic buildings, which is unfortunate as it is one of the things that is generally revered, both locally and around the world.
ADM purchased the building in 1993, three years after it was designated a local monument. In 2003, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the saddest aspects of all of this is that a number of parties have come forward to express their interest in saving the Great Northern, including developer Douglas Jemal. Jemal stepped forward, stating that he had had a heavier burden when it came to saving and developing structures, and made it clear that he was interested in purchasing and preserving the local monument.
It was the world’s first electrically powered elevator, along with the Buffalo Electric Elevator, and helped prove that Nikola Tesla’s alternating current (from Niagara Falls) could be carried long distances , which made the world as we know it. It used huge, tall cylindrical silos that gave the grain elevator its classic look, and its non-structural brick cladding makes it one of the largest and most distinctive brick buildings in the world. It is the last “Brick box” elevator in the world.
“For years, we have witnessed the constant destruction of Buffalo’s cultural history,” said Senator Ryan. “Every time one of our historic monuments deteriorates and then gets demolished, we lose a little part of what makes Buffalo, Buffalo. In their haste to deal with what they perceived to be an emergency, city officials relied on an assessment made by an engineer hired by the company who has been waiting for nearly 30 years for an opportunity to demolish the building. . This is a prime example of why the City of Buffalo created its new receivership program – and the city should make use of it. ADM should be treated like any other Buffalon that leaves a property in disrepair. We love to celebrate preservation successes in Buffalo, but we create those successes by acting in times like these. “
Built in 1897, the Great Northern is considered the last grain elevator of its kind in the United States.
“The potential loss of the Great Northern is yet another unfortunate example of this region’s inability to maintain intact its industrial architectural heritage that sets WNY apart from anywhere else,” said Assembly Member Jon D. Rivera. “ADM has had the opportunity to demolish the structure for decades, but instead chose to demolish it negligently. We need to be more adamant in preserving Buffalo’s unique history while berating landowners who refuse to maintain it.
“As the steward of a building so important to Buffalo history and culture, ADM has a responsibility to manage the Great Northern in good faith,” said Mitch Nowakowski, member of Buffalo City Council. “Decades of inaction have resulted in a building deteriorating before our eyes. I strongly urge ADM to do whatever it takes to preserve this building for future generations, or work with a buyer who will.
“Buffalo’s Historic Building Park has proven to be a treasure trove of economic development opportunities,” noted Jessie Fisher, General Manager of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. “When we allow a big corporation to destroy our heritage for their own short-term ease, we allow them to destroy the very things that bring our city back to life. We urge ADM to be a responsible corporate citizen and agree to sell this iconic building to those who can see the value of it, and we ask Mayor Brown to work with the preservation community to ensure we stop to be able to constantly respond to self-created emergencies, but have a clear and achievable plan to protect our very precious heritage. “
The next step? The preservation group said that “If ADM will not carry out repairs, the building should / go to a receiver, who would then make the necessary repairs, stabilize the building and find an interested buyer, such as Jemal. “
Click here to sign the petition to save the great north.
A large contingent of faculty and students from UB’s School of Architecture and Urbanism attended the rally, including Dean Robert Shibley.
It was great to see the school championing the historic architecture of Buffalo. Professors Beth Tauke and Greg Delaney were among those who rallied the troops, saying:
Many of us think it is important for our School of Architecture and Urbanism to weigh in to save this important structure, an icon in our community. The Great Northern is the oldest elevator in the Buffalo Grain Elevator District. This carries a significant additional weight because Buffalo is the city where the grain elevator was invented, an innovation that was later exported around the world.
They added, “Actions like this are what members of caring public universities do to support their communities.” Amen.
Main Image: The Campaign for the History, Architecture and Culture of the Greater Buffalo has started the petition for Byron Brown, Mayor of the City of Buffalo