The Editorial Board: Historic Preservation in Suburbs Can Bring Same Benefits as Buffalo | Editorial

News Editorial Board

Western New York’s fascinating history extends far beyond Buffalo’s city limits. It would be a serious mistake to assume that suburban towns and villages lack the free-standing historic structures and intact blocks of 19th-century architecture that are often protected by local, state, or national preservation designations.

Anyone in doubt should stroll through the Carnegie Art Center in North Tonawanda, drive along South Cayuga Road in Williamsville, or perhaps grab a meal at the Grange Restaurant in Hamburg, which occupies the former home (built in 1892) of the Hamburg Patrons of Husbandry barn, part of a national organization that supports farmers and agriculture.

Founded in 1808, Clarence was the first town in Erie County, incorporated two years before the town of Buffalo in 1810. A c. The 1825 log cabin can be explored in its historical museum, while remnants of the flour mill built by Asa Ransom in 1803 can still be seen near the 1853 inn that bears his name.

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Buildings that have been named — or should be named — to the National Register of Historic Places can be found in Erie and Niagara counties, even in enclaves like Cheektowaga or West Seneca. While it’s true that much has been lost, it’s not too late to save what’s still there through historic preservation designations and hopefully tax benefits that can help restore and maintain structures. 20 to 40% of costs.

In several suburban communities in Erie and Niagara Counties, Historic Preservation Commissioners have been established or are under consideration. These are commendable undertakings.

A recent News article looked at West Seneca, citing structures that survive from the Ebenezer township years (1843-1865). This utopian group, also known as the Inspirationalists, came from Germany in search of religious freedom; his beliefs included refusing military service or attending public schools. Amazingly, 50 Ebenezer buildings still stand, including modest dwellings, a cider house, and a general store. Here’s a compelling slice of history that can be associated with other American utopian movements, from Bronson Alcott’s Fruitlands of the 1840s to the township explosion of the ’60s.

Historic preservation is as much about stories as it is about architecture. Without buildings, it’s hard to bring stories to life; without the stories, the buildings aren’t as interesting.

Consider the stories that accompany structures such as the Richardson Olmsted Campus, Central Terminal, and Darwin Martin House. As beautiful as these buildings are, we cherish them just as much for what we know of who built them, who occupied them, and the history that was made there.

There are gracious mansions in Lockport, brick farmhouses in Tonawanda and Victorian storefronts in Lancaster that have their own stories to share, not quite as spectacular, but equally important to what makes Western New York so much more. than Anywhere, USA

We’ve all seen Anywhere; it’s a land of chain restaurants, failing malls and characterless office buildings. Western New York also has these elements; fortunately, it also has a lot more. And much of what makes our region rise above Anywhere must be preserved.

Of course, preservation only works if it is done with the cooperation, enthusiastic if possible, of municipalities and building owners. This shouldn’t be too difficult because nowadays historic preservation is much more the carrot than the stick. The bulk of the work falls to the cities, which must transform the councils and advisory committees into full-fledged historic preservation commissions.

Once a municipality completes the state and federal process to be certified for its historic preservation efforts, it can designate properties as local landmarks, making them eligible for state and national historic registers. This is where tax credits come in, making it less expensive for homeowners to make repairs they probably should have done anyway, without help.

Too often, preservation efforts take place in a contradictory context, but that is clearly not the intent of these efforts taking place in the cities and towns of Western New York. Rather, these municipalities have witnessed the resources available to those who would restore historic structures and the renewed economic vitality that comes with adaptive reuse.

Preservation today is about ensuring that communities can thrive in the future.

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