Eerie neglect in Buffalo

I went on a road trip to Buffalo with Rob and Trent recently to check out a few abandoned buildings. Although we were excited to visit some of the city’s long lost treasures, driving through Buffalo proved to be an emotional trip. Once a leader in the steel, automotive manufacturing, and grain industries, the latter decades of the 20th century saw a major decline as plants and factories closed. Today nearly 30% of Buffalo residents live below the poverty line and in the neighbourhood of 10,000 homes sit abandoned and boarded up. Economic grief is ever present from the car window. We only saw a small handful of people out on the sidewalks in the late morning and couldn’t even count the number of derelict buildings and storefronts we passed by. Every turn we took we looked up and saw some marvelous buildings from Georgian to Edwardian, to Victorian and Art Deco architecture. Buffalo must have been a beautiul city at one time, but it seemed to us that the city and its people lacked civic pride. It’s no one’s fault really, but it’s such a shame to see such wonderful places of the past left to rot in a badly injuired metropolis.

Here are the three spots we visited:
Church of Transfiguration:
It’s hard for my photos to do this place justice. The chapel must have been breathtaking in its prime, but the massive amounts of decay has given the space a whole new layer of mystique and beauty. The acoustics have softened from moisture to the wood and plaster and all that you can hear are pigeons’ occasional murmurs. The church was built in 1896 to house Buffalo’s Polish Roman Catholic population in the East end and just three years short of their centennial, the church had to close due to a diminished congregation. The structure was to be demolished, but a grassroots movement prevented the city from doing so. Unfortunately an agreement to re-purpose the church was never made between the city and heritage groups. It seems as if saving it is a lost cause simply by looking at all the structural damage its suffered since its closure in 1993.

German Roman Catholic Orphanage:
The orphanage itself dates back to 1875, but since then the property has suffered two devastating fires. The first saw the buildings destroyed but completely rebuilt in 1919, and the second fire in 1956 closed the orphanage for good. The remaining buildings were used for a variety of functions such as a daycare and a retreat facility. I’m unsure when the complex was abandoned completely but judging by the amount of decay I might estimate sometime in the mid 80’s or perhaps some have been empty since the 50’s. There are plans to save the orphanage and convert the buildings into affordable housing units.

There was obviously something a bit troubling walking through an abandoned orphanage, especially moving through the dormitories and, what was labeled as, the quarantine building. Over the span of its existence, the orphanage was home to more than 15,000 children. Seeing the state of the complex can only be described as heartbreaking.

Sattler Theater:
Standing lonely on a corner on Broadway, the former Sattler Theater was built in 1914 that seated up to 928 people. Over the years the building changed hands and names and even was a few places of worship until it was abandoned in 1996. The theater has been bought by the community in the hopes of restoring it to be a multi-purpose community center. It seems as if preliminary work is beginning; we found a new generator in the lobby and cleaning appliances scattered about. We can only hope for the best.


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