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What will happen to the Old First Ward's historic Grain Elevator?

The Mayor's office tells 7 Eyewitness News a decision on demolition will come no later than Thursday, December 16th.
Posted at 11:41 PM, Dec 14, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — One of Buffalo and Western New York's most notable landmarks, tragically devastated by the high winds the area experienced over the weekend.

The "Great Northern Elevator," one of the city's last remaining grain elevators, lost nearly an entire side of the building's brick exterior wall.

"It was tragic - but its something we can't let go of just yet," said Tim Tielman, the Executive Director for the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture.

Tielman and his group have spent years dedicating their lives to preserve Buffalo's oldest and most historic buildings, and making them local landmarks - making them much more challenging to demolish.

"When we establish something as a landmark it gives us protection. The grain elevator is a landmark - so that means that the only way it can get demolished is if it is deemed an emergency demolition. We hope and will do what we can to make that not the case," Tielman added.

An emergency demolition is one where the government deems the site to be a public safety hazard.

"We completed a drone assessment of the building this morning, to see what the damage is at all angles, and it is extensive. Safety for all those near the building is our number one priority," said Jim Comerford, the Commissioner of Permits & Inspections for the City of Buffalo.

Despite the possible risks, The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture is among those including Old First Ward residents who believe the building is a physical representation of the rich culture of the area.

"Its my history, our history. I don't want it to fall apart and become some empty lot that no one wants to look at. We can work together and fix this building," said Peg Overdorf, who runs the Valley Community Center & Buffalo River Fest Park, which overlooks the elevator. Overdorf has also lived in the Old First Ward since she was born.

"Its a slice of life we don't want to watch disappear," she added.

Congressman Brian Higgins joined the fight to save the building on Monday, in an open letter to the grain conglomerate Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADA), the owners of the property:

"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.”

Brian Higgins (D-26)

A spokesperson for ADM Milling Co., issued this statement on Wednesday:

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.