The Engel House - Burned

Some fixBuffalo readers may remember this post - Saying Goodbye? - and a series of posts from 2006 which helped place 194 East Utica on the local radar. These posts caught the attention of Rod and Meagan McCallum. They bought and rehabbed a City-owned house on Glenwood, directly behind 194 East Utica. Meagan's parents moved 1000 miles and bought and rehabbed a house around the corner to be closer to their grandchildren. Her parents knew what others in the neighborhood began to understand. Rod's plan, transforming a series of vacant lots and houses in a neighborhood that most people had written off, was as real and practical as it was visionary. Deciding to live and and farm a place that is so off the radar - a place that so many people have abandoned and fled - requires the existential patience of Job.
The Engel House - 194 East Utica
exterior view - 194 East Utica - The Engel House
After numerous fundraisers and work days the center piece of this initiative is now gone. An arsonist set 194 East Utica on fire early this morning. In a widely circulated email this morning Rod pointed to the changed funding climate that's held up rehab plans on this part of the Queen City Farm project.
The Engel House - 194 East Utica
interior view - 194 East Utica - The Engel House
In a New York Times article - Vacant Properties: Scourge of a Beaten Down Buffalo, September 2007 - I suggested a new system of triage, a way of prioritizing the architecturally and historically significant structures, as everything can not be saved. This would be a first step and certainly help mitigate what's clearly a pattern of loss moving forward. After the identification of cool City-owned property is completed, mothballing is the second.

The alternative - current plan?! - remains ad hoc at best and consists of expensive emergency demolitions. Planning and strategic thinking about these places by preservation organizations and City Hall is non-strategic, ad hoc and sadly reactionary. According to City Hall, late this morning, an emergency demolition order has not been signed. It will be ordered in the next few days as this fire ravaged hulk sits directly across the street from the temporary home of City Honors High School. The demolition of 194 East Utica, planned by the City in 2006, would have cost $22k. Emergency demolitions always cost more.

The more sensible alternative, systematic and strategic identification and mothballing, could easily take advantage of these systems - Vacant Property Security - that may prevent the arsonist from entering the structure. A plan that requires everyone pushing and pulling in the same direction would preserve these sensitive structures for future use. Some very cool City-owned places such as the Woodlawn Row Houses and the Wollenberg Grain Elevator once burned are gone forever.

See - Queen City Farm video and the QCF archive for additional pics and posts.
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Anonymous said...

This just sickens me..I believed someday QCF would happen and this one was ok to take off the radar..nothing is safe,especially on the east side.I would love to know the issues that kept this from coming to fruition as now not only have we lost another piece of our history but also another 25k bill to pay for the demo.
Michele J

STEEL said...

I can't wait to see the plastic replacement. Looks like there is a new model already up next door.

Betty Barcode said...

I blame the city. After over two years of effort on Rod's part to get title, they clutched it in a death grip. Literally.

Charger said...

Much has actually changed for the better in the last 10 years in Buffalo.

How can it possibly be that the way in which the City deals with surplus property remains so completely irrational, counterproductive, counterintuitive and generally ridiculous?

Chris Hawley said...

I blame the arsonist.

olcott_beach said...

In all honesty, and as bad as this may look, the building is still restorable provided some form of action is taken immediately and the remaining building is not allowed to be further subjected to the elements.

This would be a perfect time for Mayor Brown to step-up to the plate and show he actually cares about Queen City Farm and support the couple who wish to make this happen.

Also, I was under the impression that this building had already been secured which leads me to believe that the arsonist specifically targeted this building by gaining access by force in order to start the fire on the second floor.

Too bad they don’t put that much effort into helping their community or perhaps in some sick-ass way they think they are helping?

John Higgins Hannan said...

What is the NY State municipal responsibility for disposition of property that it owns?