Restoration of Grand Staircase at Albright-Knox Begins

June 8, 2011 Updated Jun 8, 2011 at 12:46 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Restoration of Grand Staircase at Albright-Knox Begins

June 8, 2011 Updated Jun 8, 2011 at 12:46 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- The Albright-Knox Art Gallery on Wednesday broke ground on a major conservation project, and announced it has been awarded an important grant by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for essential repairs to the Grand Staircase of the Gallery’s historic 1905 Albright Building.

The $450,000 grant requires the Gallery to raise matching funds to fully finance and execute the conservation project, which is expected to cost in excess of $1,000,000.

"The restoration work has become absolutely necessary to preserve one of our city’s architectural treasures, and we are delighted that New York State has shown such great support for the project,‖ Gallery Director Louis Grachos said. "I know that our local community will rally behind this project and lend their support, too."

Completed in 1905, at a cost of about $750,000, the Albright Building was named after the Gallery’s great patron John J. Albright, who financed much of the construction. The building was designed by Edward B. Green, and was subsequently characterized by a critic of the time as "the finest example of pure Greek architecture to be found in America."

Today the Grand Staircase is a City landmark, and it serves the entire community, providing the setting for The Buffalo News’ Summer Jazz concert series, the Gallery’s Annual Art Alive event, and the Niagara Falls International Marathon. It is also one of the most popular sites in the City for wedding photography.

Since the staircase was completed more than 100 years ago as part of the original building, it has deteriorated and sustained damage to the stair treads, cheek walls, and underlying foundation. Water infiltration is a cause of ongoing corrosion, which further accelerates the rate of deterioration and exacerbates the damage over time, making the conservation work essential and urgent.

Commenting on the grant award, Rose Harvey, Commissioner, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said, "We are proud to be able to partner in the restoration of these iconic stairs — a place that is very special to the people of Buffalo. It is worthy projects such as this that the Environmental Protection Fund helps make a reality."

Additional funding for this conservation project is provided by Empire State Development Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund, the New York State Senate & Senator Mark Grisanti, the Western New York Foundation, the Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Buffalo.

"Empire State Development is pleased it could assist the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s grand staircase project with a $185,000 grant toward its stabilization and restoration,‖ said ESD Western New York Regional Director Christina Orsi. "The Buffalo/Niagara region prides itself on being home to this world-renowned cultural destination, which not only supports the region’s thriving arts and entertainment industry but also helps to boost tourism in the area by pumping critical dollars into the local economy."

The restoration work is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2011. During construction, the staircase will be inaccessible to the public. Festivals and events usually held in or near the staircase will be relocated for this year.