Every time I pass by the site of the demolished Saint Mary’s on the Hill and Guild Hall (take a trip back) I can’t help but think how we could have saved at least part of the church. Unfortunately now all we have is a shovel ready site. Looking back at the mess that Buffalo politics (with its hands always “tied”) caused, and witnessing City officials who had no clue how to fix the telltale problems early on, we can only wonder what would have happened if we there had been an architecturally progressive administration in place to stop the madness.
Moments ago a friend of mine sent me a link to Cool Hunter, a website that explores all things “cool”. In the segment called Old and New Again, we see a series of historic buildings that have not only been rescued from the recking ball, they have also been retrofitted with modern additions in order to accomplish the goal of staying current and practical while respecting original architectural features. Some may say that these examples only bastardize the historic structures, but given the circumstance that many of Buffalo’s buildings face, this route is a hell of a lot better than total demolition.
Using the intact design elements of the former Saint Mary’s on the Hill and Guild Hall, we could have seen a project unfold that would have been inspirational to the community. Guild Hall should be standing to this day. So should the walls of the church. With the bones of the two, a forward-thinking architectural firm could have built something great. Instead we have a depressing shovel ready corner lot in a historic neighborhood that is on the brink of coming back.
The next time we contemplate destroying our heritage, let’s not line the pockets of the demolition crew. Rather, let’s take a lesson from our ancestors who built this city to be a world class destination. It’s not an impossible dream, as we can see from these images.
Image 1 – Refurbishment of west tower in Huesca City, Spain
Image 2 – Shoreham Street, Sheffield, UK