As the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus continues to grow, preservationists want to create a “mini historic district” nearby in the city’s Fruit Belt that would likely save a Civil War-era house threatened with demolition.
Instead of moving to just designate the dilapidated brick house at 204 High St. a landmark, the Historic Preservation Board wants the city to create a “thematic district” that would include three buildings in close proximity to each other.
Those buildings are the 204 High St. house, a delicatessen building across the street at 195 High St. and the nearby Promiseland Missionary Baptist Church at 225 High St., which already has landmark preservation status.
“It would be a mini district,” said Preservation Board President Paul McDonnell. “We want to support the neighborhood.”
The proposal is endorsed by the delicatessen owners, whose building at 195 High may be the oldest continuously operating market in the city, according to preservation board member Tim Tielman, who is also executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture, which also supports the thematic designation.
The 195 High St. building was constructed in 1875, just a few years after the Civil War-era house was constructed at 204 High St., according to Tielman.
“It’s a beautiful building with so much history to it,” said owner Leemah Kaaid, whose family has owned 195 High and operated a delicatessen in it since 1984.
Kaaid said she envisions the three buildings as a historic entrance way from the medical campus to the Fruit Belt, perhaps one day having the atmosphere of a historic village like East Aurora.
But the sticking point could be the property across the street, at 204 High, which is owned by the city and set aside for St. John Baptist Church’s Fruit Belt Community Development Corp.
The Rev. Michael Chapman, pastor of the church, has plans to demolish the house and build a grocery store and parking lot on that site as well as on property the church corporation already owns at 190 High.
The planned grocery, just over the eastern border of the Medical Campus, would serve the Fruit Belt and Medical Campus community, Chapman has said.
He has said that the long-vacant Civil War-era building on the site is dilapidated and that renovation would be cost-prohibitive.
But at least one developer, John Gulick, has expressed interest in purchasing and renovating the property, which historic preservationists believe can and should be saved.
The building is listed in city records as being constructed in 1865, but Tielman said his research found it was built in 1871.
Chapman said he is not familiar with the proposed thematic district and referred questions to a spokesman, who did not respond to a request to comment.
Landmark status would create additional hurdles to demolition and set up additional standards for renovation while also making additional grant money available.
The Preservation Board has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed thematic district for 3 p.m. April 24 in City Hall. The hearing is required before the proposal can be sent to the Common Council for its decision on whether the district should be created.
There is also a community meeting on the proposed district at 6 p.m. today in the Moot Center, 292 High St.