Donny And The Great Concrete Elevator

Donn Esmonde just loves the grain elevators, and he loves people who love what he loves. Those crumbling concrete gravestones to a long-gone industrial time might be big and ugly, but by gosh they tell a story

waterfront wasteland

Something about it. Photo by Chris Smith via Flickr

These things matter. 

Esmonde skips through his paean to placemaking, extolling the wondrous things that nostalgia can bring – a buyer for a peeling behemoth on Lake Erie an outfit called FFZ Holdings bought at auction June 7th for just $475,000.

True, they are more beast than beauty, comparatively closer to mastodons than to mermaids. Yet to this Buffalo transplant, they always seemed like concrete dinosaurs, rising from the scrub brush along the Buffalo River plain like frozen-in-time fossils. Their inert mass stamped Buffalo’s broad-shouldered identity and shouted “sense of place” in an increasingly homogenized world. What was not to like?

For decades, [grain elevator aficionado Lorraine] Pierro has been their fiercest champion. “This is our history,” she said. “It seems like there is a new appreciation and recognition of them.”

FFZ Holdings is located at the same 26 Mississippi Avenue address as Savarino Companies, and it was named as a co-developer of some apartments on Ohio Street in the remnants of the “Erie Freight House”. Remember how receptive Esmonde’s friends in the preservation community were to the Savarino-proposed demolition of the freight house? I wonder how much taxpayers will be on the hook with various and sundry incentives and corporate welfare schemes to renovate Mr. Esmonde’s beloved concrete monstrosities. 

Is there a similar preservation movement in Europe to preserve Soviet-era concrete apartment blocks because “sense of place” and historical significance? 

Maybe more people could learn about the historic freight houses of the Erie Canal and the reasons why grain elevators are important if schools weren’t being starved into oblivion by alleged school reformer tea party hacks such as the ones Donn Esmonde now promotes

This is part of a new, ongoing AV Daily series, Donn Esmonde is an Ass.  Email us ways Donn Esmonde is an ass here


  • …save the Trico Building

  • God, is there anyone at the Buffalo News that is not horrifyingly arrogant? The first sentence of that article reeks of condescension:

    “She knew it all along. Everybody else finally is catching up.”

    Sure, we are all a bunch of cretins who can’t see what is important and we’re all just trying to keep up with geniuses like Esmonde.

  • Me thinks Alan that in this your reason, objectivity…and knowleged are being overshadowed by a “Paladino-like” hit on Esmonde. Putting him on your billboard, so-to-speak.
    Also, get off your arse, get out of Clarence and take a lil trip to Old Quebec City. Try to arrainge it so you’re there when one of their throng drawing shows are going on on their harbor grain elevators. Maybe you could actually learn something.
    Or…just go on with stuff like an AV series “Donn Esmonde is an Ass” Great journalism lil Carl.

    • I have no objectivity. I am a commentator, like Esmonde. And if my opinion is that Esmonde is an ass, I will follow that road. I’ve been to Quebec City, and I am not arguing the merits or demerits of renovating grain elevators. I am, instead, arguing the demerits of everything Esmonde writes.

      • “…everything Esmonde writes.” My, that is unobjective. I am about 50/50 on his column. Well, maybe 60/40 against but that’s not the issue here.
        My issue is that I expect, or at least feverently hope, that the more liberal among us will reject out of hand resorting to the tactics so commonly used today by the far right. Name calling, incivility, personal vendetta. That sort of thing.
        I have started to like your writing and reporting. This today is below you. Your better than that.
        In this case at least Esmonde presented another side to the “tear it all down” mentality. As someone who generally supports local preservation and restorlation over just tearing it down…only to replace it with nothing or some modern, artless structrure. There is room here, and plenty of it, for our local talent to be creative and think outside the box. So it came from Donne Esmond. So what? It wasn’t a bad piece.
        In fact it was a better piece than one local paper making a living and a headline ot of the other paper’s content.
        Consider taking a higher road Alan.

        • And while I’m at it: Why does Buffalo have to be compared to all the other cities? We do we have to take the same course as other cities, copy-cat style?
          Why can’t Buffalo’s developement and future be different? The first one on the block to do something gains the most. All the neighbors doing the same thing is diminishing return.
          Take an area around one of those old grain elevators, use it a a wind break. Put in a state-of-the-are RV camping center. Then be the first to allow 4-wheelers and smowmobiles on all secondary roads in Buffalo. Yes, even golf carts. Be the first city in the country to provide an urban camping, 4-wheeling, snowmobiling environment.
          The first, insted of just following what might have worked in Baltimore or Tampa or Huston.

  • “The grain elevators embody what it is to ‘be’ in Buffalo – they are our fountainhead, our history…our ‘Roman Forum,’ our ‘Colosseum,’ the iconography, age and period in history too close to be fully appreciated…yet.” – Kerry Traynor

    And some food for thought here:

    Here too:

    Personally, I don’t mind when people with or without money decide to make an attempt at turning this region’s decaying liabilities into reinvented assets…

    And to answer your question – or (i.e. significant ones are saved, others are demolished – but who decides?)

  • Those structures fates were sealed when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened, along with a host of other factors. Their unique, specialized construction severely limits options for adaptive reuse. In WNY, there’s only so much demand for brewpubs, artist’s lofts and structural historical artifacts of which there’s already a latent oversupply.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.