Landmarks and Historic Districts in Buffalo - Table of Contents

Local LANDMARKS in Buffalo - Table of Contents

Buffalo's Local Landmarks - FAQ

What are Buffalo's local landmarks?

See Landmarks in Buffalo, NY for an unofficial, up-to-date list with links to Buffalo as an Architectural Museum.

What does "landmark" mean?

Sometimes the word simply refers to a well-known building in a neighborhood. Thus, it may be a term of endearment. Lafayette High School would be an example.

"Landmark" can also refer to a building that has been legally designated as such. Lafayette High School fits this definition, also.

This website is concerned only with legal landmarks. See the official criteria listed in Chapter XIII of the City of Buffalo Charter and Ordinances, 1974

How are LOCAL vs. STATE and NATIONAL landmarks are referred to?

LOCAL landmarks are "designated" as such, whereas STATE/NATIONAL historic districts are "listed on the National Registers of Historic Places."

What's the difference between a "landmark" and a "historic district"?

A landmark is an individual building, etc., whereas a district is a collection of buildings, etc.

For an official definition, see Chapter XIII of the City of Buffalo Charter and Ordinances, 1974

Why would anybody want to live in a landmark building?

There are lots of reasons. See Benefits of Historic Districts and Landmarks for a list of reasons.

Has any research been done that will help property owners determine if their building is eligible for landmark designation?

Yes. In 2005, three Intensive Level Surveys were completed. These contain a wealth of information.

The 3 surveys:

See also: Historic Resources Surveys in Western New York

How does a building became a designated local landmark?

The process begins with requesting an application (nomination) form from the City of Buffalo Preservation Board.

How do I go about researching the history of my building?

Librarian Cynthia van Ness has prepared a great guide: Built in Buffalo: How to Research Local Architecture

What's "preservation"?

Preservation means retention of essential character of an improvement, object, building or structure as embodied in its existing form, integrity and material. This term includes the retention of the trees and vegetative cover of a site. This term may include temporary stabilization work as well as ongoing maintenance of historic building materials. (Source: Chapter XIII of the City of Buffalo Charter and Ordinances, 1974)

What's the difference between "reconstruction," "rehabilitation," and "restoration"?

Reconstruction - Reproduction of the exact form and detail of a vanished building, structure, improvement or part thereof, as it appeared at a specific time. (Source: Chapter XIII of the City of Buffalo Charter and Ordinances, 1974)

Three good examples are the reconstructed buildings on the Darwin Martin House Complex. In the 1970's, the pergola, conservatory, and carriage house were demolished. In the autumn of 2006, there was ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the reconstruction from original plans. See photos of the three reconstructions.

Rehabilitation - Repair or alteration that enables buildings, structures or improvements to be efficiently utilized while preserving those features of buildings, structures or improvements that are significant to their historic, architectural and cultural values.

See March 1, 2007, photos of the interior rehabilitation of the 1888 Webb Building at 90 Pearl Street, originally a factory to be opened as a day care center and apartments in the autumn of 2007.

Restoration - Recovery of the form and details of a building, structure or improvement and its site during a particular time.

For example, The Martin House Complex is being restored to its 1907 condition. Thus, Martin House Restoration Corp. intends to return the structure to its condition at that time, and to reverse the changes made by the family. This will recreate Wright's original work.

What's "adaptive reuse"?

Conversion of a building originally designed for a certain purpose to a different purpose (Source: Chapter XIII of the City of Buffalo Charter and Ordinances, 1974)

A good example of adaptive reuse is the Sternberg House at 414 Delaware Avenue. It was built in 1869070 as a residence for a wealthy grain elevator owner. In the 1880s, it was turned into a hotel. World war II, restaurateur Hugo DiGiulio bought the establishment, turning it into the celebrated Victor Hugo Wine Cellar. The restaurant closed in the 1970s and remained abandoned until April 2001 when it opened as The Mansion on Delaware Avenue, one of highest rated hotels in the country.

The 1901 Old Post Office, now servings as an Erie Community College campus building, and the 1919 Elk Market Truck/rail Terminal, now the Lofts @ Elk Terminal, are two more good examples.

see the adaptive reuse Buffalo's large stock of historic Victorian and early modern buildings as one key to Buffalo's future prosperity.

I heard that if I live in a historic building I can't do anything to change it. Is that true?

The short answer to this question is "no." Preservation laws recognize that change is a necessary part of life. In order for old buildings to remain a vital part of contemporary life, they must be allowed to change. Historic preservation does not mean that buildings are to be frozen in time.
It is true, however, that there are limitations on changing certain old buildings.

First of all, it is important to find out whether the building in question has been designated as a local landmark, or is in a locally designated district.

Properties in the National Register are not subject to any restrictions unless they are also designated at the local level.

Does the owner of a building in a local historic district need to get approval from the City before doing any exterior repair and improvement?

Yes. The owner needs to contact the City of Buffalo Preservation Board.

Interior changes are not subject to review.

Where can I learn more about the Buffalo Preservation Board?

See City of Buffalo Preservation Board

Does Buffalo give tax credits to encourage repair and improvement of landmarks?

Yes. Contact City of Buffalo Preservation Board

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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