This is the first part of a new monthly series focusing on heritage properties that the City of Buffalo owns and has abandoned. Every month a new property will be featured, hard questions will be asked and regular monthly updates will present an on-going status report.
16 Harwood Place is cool. There are only two residential structures in the Hamlin Park Historic District that incorporate structural and ornamental materials that were manufactured by the J. Lyth & Sons Tile Company, with production facilities located across the street - here. The first is the Lyth family home - and the second is this lovely brick and terra-cotta cottage which stands directly behind the family's house.
The City acquired Lyth Cottage in 1997. This map shows its proximity to Mayor Brown's residence and Canisius College, a few blocks away.
In late 2007 the City's three major preservation organizations, in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, commissioned a study - Buffalo Historic Preservation Issues and Opportunities Assessment (.pdf) - by Elizabeth Waters. The ten page document was widely circulated and read in the local preservation community when it was released two years ago. Her findings are presented along four lines: strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities. The following passage was identified as a major challenge in Buffalo:
An embarrassment of riches. Like a number of other historic cities in the northeast and mid-west that have lost substantial population, Buffalo has a very large stock of historic resources relative to its population. The number of historic structures exceeds the number the population and economy will be able to rehabilitate and reuse in the foreseeable future. This places great pressure on the preservation community and the city to determine what it is most important to preserve and how to do it.
In the context of some staggering recent losses - the City-owned Wollenberg Grain Elevator (2006) and the Woodlawn Row Houses (2009) - and in light of the fact that the National Trust's annual conference will be held in Buffalo next year - the obvious question is: where's the plan? While emerging community-wide support for the landmarking of the Statler Hotel is developing (and should) what is currently being done to protect the heritage properties that have already been designated as landmarks? If the City's major preservation organizations agree with Elizabeth Waters and the findings presented in her February 2008 report, certainly Lyth Cottage deserves additional attention and protection.
click image to enlarge
Preservationists should be demanding that the City showcase this property. At a minimum, the online catalog of City-owned property available for sale should include Lyth Cottage. It doesn't. Why? Architecturally and historically Lyth Cottage is the most unique residential structure the City of Buffalo owns. With the exception of its local landmark status it is physically unprotected and as of yesterday, it remains unsecured.
Over the past few years Lyth Cottage has been shown to a number of qualified prospective buyers. Estimates begin at $50-75K to stabilize the shell - new roof, windows, doors, etc... - another $15-20K for new electrical and plumbing with a range of interior finishes waiting for you and your check book. Preservation standards aren't as restrictive as you might expect and allow for significant design flexibility if you can imagine a more modern addition to this place. If you're looking for a renovation project that intersects with the City's industrial and residential heritage, Lyth Cottage might be your place.
New locks have been installed on the back door, if you're interested in taking a closer look, please get in touch.
See the Lyth Cottage archive for more additional posts and pics.