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Ganson St. Grain Elevator decision to come "quickly"

After nearly a month, State Supreme Court Judge Emilio Colaiacovo rules on buildings demolition status.
Posted at 1:30 PM, Dec 27, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The fate of the "Great Norther Elevator" located at 250 Ganston St. in Buffalo's Old First Ward neighborhood is almost here.

"It should come shortly, but until the then the temporary restraining order will continue until that decision."

Both sides of the aisle, headlined by owner and grain conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland, and the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture, have sat down in court, been moved to mediation, and when that failed, returned to court for a final time.

Here's a timeline of the events thus far:

  • 12/11/21 - Grain elevator badly damaged during windstorm

  • 12/14/21 - City Office of Permits and Inspections conducts drone assessment of elevator
    • 12/14/21 - Congressman Brian Higgins (D-26) writes open letter to ADM to save and preserve elevator:
  • I write today to strongly encourage ADM to rehabilitate this structure, for its own benefit and the benefit of the community I represent in Buffalo and Western New York. I further urge you to consider the long overdue designation of this structure on the National Register of Historic Places in order to avail the federal Historic Tax Credit program, the New York State Historic Tax Credit program, and potentially other incentive programs to restore this historic structure.

    Congressman Brian Higgins (D, NY-26)
  • 12/16/21 - ADM files for "emergency demolition" with the City of Buffalo:
The elevator structure next to our flour mill in Buffalo, New York, was built more than 120 years ago and has not been operational for decades. We understand and appreciate the community’s interest in it and have spent thousands of dollars repairing and maintaining it throughout the years.

The structure suffered substantial and extensive damage from the wind and storms over the weekend and now poses significant safety concerns on-site and at adjacent properties and roadways. Our primary concern is always the safety of the public, our neighbors, and our employees. Under the circumstances, we have submitted an emergency demolition application to the City. In it, we share our commitment to dismantle the structure in a prompt, responsible and safe manner and look for ways to preserve the legacy of the structure, such as donating artifacts to a local museum. A copy of the application is attached for your reference.

Jackie Anderson, Spokesperson - ADM

  • 12/16/21 - Local union 36G declares interest in buying facility
  • 12/17/21 - City of Buffalo grants demolition permit for grain elevator, citing public safety concerns
  • 12/20/21 - New York State Supreme Court issues temporary restraining order on demolition
  • 12/20/21 - Developer Doug Jemal (Douglas development - Seneca One, Statler, etc) expresses interest in buying building
  • 12/21/21 - Congressman Higgins pens second letter imploring ADM to take action: 


12/23/21 - Mayor Brown pens open letter to ADM to save elevator, offers tax benefits to encourage cooperation.

  • While saving the elevator will carry a hefty cost, there are programs that could significantly offset those costs. The City offers its support in securing resources such as historic and brownfield tax credits, city property tax abatements, sales and mortgage tax exemptions, and working with our partners in the New York State and Federal government levels.I appreciate that ADM is willing to consider some form of preservation. It is important to note that there are also several offers from reputable entities to either form a partnership in preservation or to buy and save the elevator.
Mayor Byron Brown

  • 12/27/21 - Case heard in New York State Supreme Court, judge reserves decision on status of demolition. Case moves to mediation between parties of ADM, conservationists.
  • 12/29/21 - Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture releases plan on what renovations (if granted) would look like - including costs:

  • 1/03/21 - Mediation fails between Archer Daniels Midland and the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture.
  • 1/03/21 - A ruling made by State Supreme Court Judge Emilio Colaiacovo, to be released via a written statement "quickly"

Whether or not the building will be torn down, here's a look at the rich and deep history for the building, according to the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture:
The grain elevator was built in 1897 along the Buffalo waterfront, known at the time as "Elevator Alley" due to the mass influx of business the Great Northern Elevator and others brought to Buffalo at the time.

Upon its construction, it was the largest operating elevator in the world, and the first to be operated with the use of electricity. In fact, the front cover of the Scientific American newsletter that year featured at rendition of the featured the Great Northern elevator as it was being built. It spoke of the elevator as a technological marvel, due to its sheer size, and that it was the first to run AC power from the Niagara Falls-based Tesla-designed facility.

The facility holds 48 bins - each that can hold 74,000 bushels of grain. In the entire building, there could be a total of approximately 3 million bushels at one time, and unheard of number for the period. Previous grain elevators typically held only about 5,000 bushels per drum.

Over the years, the facility was owned and operated by a number of businesses, and in fact, was in danger of being brought down numerous times. Here's a look at the elevator over the years:

  • 1897-1903: Great Northern Railroad Company
  • 1903-1921: Mutual Elevator
    • 1907 - complete wall collapse, building restructured.
  • 1921-1935: Island Warehouse Corporation
  • 1935-1981: Pillsbury Company
    • Late 80's, Pillsbury Company designated building for demolition. Request was blocked, culminating in the elevators "landmark" status.
  • 1981-1990: Unoccupied
  • 1990-2022: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), current owners
    • 1996, 2003, 2022: ADM designates building for demolition. On first two accounts, public safety is not strong enough of an issue to bypass historic status.