In 2010, it was reported in the Buffalo News, USA Today, New York Times that Buffalo’s St. Gerard’s Church had been sold. You might wonder why would the selling of a church make the national news? Well, it is very simple. The purchase became national news when it was revealed the structure’s new owners were the members of Mary Our Queen Parish in Norcross, GA.. It was estimated that to construct a new parish $40 million dollars would be required. Purchase, dismantling, transportation and re-assembly some 900 miles away would cost a considerably less $12 million.
Since this purchase was announced, I began thinking about the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Building. Their historic building was originally constructed to be the New York State Pavilion for the 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition. It became the home of the BECHS after the Exposition ended.
As you can see, the building is beautiful and the setting is tranquil. Unfortunately the wonderful Mirror Lake facing Portico is no longer the entrance but the rear of the building. Access to the Lake and Portico has been effectively blocked by a New York State Expressway (Route 198) and named the Scajaquada. For over 40 years the property has been cut off from its original Olmsted home – Delaware Park. The bland rear of the building is now the main entrance. It faces a tiny parking lot, cannot be seen from the nearby busy nearby Elmwood Ave, it faces. Without a car, BECHS is a tough place to visit for a tourist, conventioneer, or, sports fan in town for a game. Making matters worse is that parking is further restricted because the building shares frontage on residential Nottingham Parkway.
There is a better way to present our history. I propose doing to the BECHS what Mary Our Queen is planing on doing to St. Gerard’s – take it apart and move it to the waterfront.
This valuable piece of Western New York history needs to be situated were all forms of transportation has access. The Canal Harbor is that site and the money for the move could very well be available. I believe the property on which the building now sits has considerable value to an upscale residential developer. A win win for all involved.
Where should the building go? Well, the University of Buffalo identified 3 downtown sites that were prime development parcels. All that need be done, is choose one where the building would sit and attract attention – more attention than it currently receives while attracting more visitors to our new hotspot.