467 Virginia Street is one of buffalo’s most spectacular but still relatively unknown architectural gems and it is for sale. This sale offers a rare opportunity to own something very special and unique. It is designed in a romantic French chateau style with 2 towers flanking a large sloping roof . The front entry is through one of the towers. Each tower has its original tile roof with the east tower sporting a dormer adorned with a wonderful filigree carving. The building was constructed in 1894 as a live/work studio for E.F. Halls Photography. It is likely that Mr. Halls catered to the nearby wealthy families of Delaware Avenue. The long sloping roof once had a massive skylight (the edges of which can still be seen in a slight bumped up line in the modern asphalt shingles). Skylights such as this were common elements of photo studios the early days of photography when film lacked a high sensitivity and artificial lighting sources were less reliable. They typically faced these skylights north to scoop up precious daylight. There is an intact example of such a skylight on Genesee Street between Oak and Ellicott.
As amazing as this building is from the outside, it is the interior that will blow you away. From your first step into the rotunda entry with its hand painting and gilded trim you realize this is not some ordinary old timey building. Upon entering the first floor you are greeted with a beautiful but restrained paneled stair which contrasts to the opulent first floor rooms to your right at the front of the house. The main room is separated from a slightly raised inglenook like space by a spectacular 3 arched moorish screen wall. The portions of the walls and vaulted ceiling are hand painted with intricate tracery. The floors are covered with carpet but I am sure there is a wood or stone floor with spectacular inlay designs waiting to be uncovered. The pictures do not and cannot do justice to this place.
Past and current owners have not destroyed the precious charms of this building but they have never done much to keep it in top-notch shape either. I have watched this building since I first found it in high school (1970s) and none of its owners have taken full advantage of its potential. It needs a very good new owner who will bring it back to what it should be. My fear is that it falls into the wrong hands. While the regulations that come with the Allentown Historic District may give it some protection from drastic and inappropriate changes they will not protect the building interior from being stripped. Nor will they protect the building from an abusive owner who neglects the property. There are several dozen Allentown properties that I can point to as proof of this kind of danger.
The 6,73 sf building is listed for $374,900. This is a paltry sum for such a magnificent building in Allentown. Even with an extra $200K investment in upgrades you will have a substantial and unique building in a good neighborhood for the price of your average Clarence McMansion. (The taxes, at $2,750, is paltry as well. I thought WNY taxes were supposed to be too high.)
Images are from the realtor’s listing page