Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Buffalo Central Terminal

Slime City Massacre was filming today at the Grand Central Terminal in Buffalo, New York, a truly amazing building in the heart of the Broadway district of the city. It was designed by Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner in 1927 and opened in 1929. It was the main train station in Buffalo, and I believe it served the Empire State Railway, Canadian Railway, The New York Central, and a train between Toronto, Hamilton, and Buffalo, which would be nice to have now.

As you can see from these pictures I took, the art deco architecture is something amazing. I have no idea if there are people who can still replicate these details, when they get around to restoring the building, but I`d like to see them preserve the original look. Buffalo is a great city for architecture anyway. I walk around downtown with my mouth hanging open every time I visit the city.

The Grand Central station was always too big. It started with 200 daily trains in 1929, but you'll notice it was built as the Depression was reaching full pitch, and it quickly went into decline. However, business picked up and the station reached a peak capacity during WWII, serving 152 daily trains from all sorts of different lines by 1944.

After the war, it went into decline again. New York Central tried to sell it in 1956, but there were no serious buyers and they demolished a few buildings in 1966. In 1968, New York Central merged into Penn Central, which became Consolidated Rail in 1976. The next year, Amtrak restored service to Toronto and Niagara Falls on the Maple Leaf line. It was too little too late- besides, Amtrak was in no condition to prop anyone else up at this point- and they switched to a different station in 1979, the same year that all passenger travel from Grand Central ended.

In 1979, the site was sold to Anthony Fedele & Galesi Realty for $75,000. They held galas, hockey games, and other events in the space for a while, but defaulted on their taxes in 1986, effectively abandoning the site. Tomas Telesco bought it and started selling off the artifacts inside, and it was then bought by Bernie Tuchman and his Uncle Samuel, who allowed it to fall prey to looting and vandalism, as had Telesco. The beloved bison statue inside was even smashed by a truck removing light fixtures, there were arson attempts- it was essentially treated like many old buildings in the rust belt are today.

Preservationists complained that nothing was happening with the building, and the owners responded, "If you think you can do better, I'll sell it to you for a dollar." Scott Field and the Preservation Coalition of Erie County knew a bargain when they heard one and bought the entire site for $1 plus $70,000 in back taxes in 1997.

The building is currently owned by a non-profit, the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. They have restored much of the main concourse and host about twenty events here every year, as well as tours. There have been a handful of low budget horror films shot in the site, as well as an episode of Ghost Hunters. As far as I know, they hope to eventually restore passenger and light rail service to the Terminal, as well as retail shopping, restaurants, and so forth. The amazing thing is that trains pass by the terminal on a track that runs about forty feet away from the old platform!

It would be easy to make something out of the station, but it`s also hard to know how much business it would get- that part of Buffalo is a long way from thriving. I do plan on going on the tour, though.
I'm surprised there haven't been more large scale movies shot here. The inside of the building is even more beautiful than the outside- check out this picture- and it's possible to shoot there for a song. I could imagine Batman hanging out there and feeling right at home. If anyone from Hollywood is reading this, give the CTRC a call.


Mike Miller said...

Rufus, thanks for your nice comments. There were 2 big Hollywood movies shot in the terminal in the 1980's - The Natural with Robert Redford and Robert Duval and Best Friends with Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn. You can see clips from both on our website

Mike Miller
Executive Director
Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Central Terminal Restoration Corp.

Anonymous said...

Actually,good post. thx

Anonymous said...

Money is so intangible, its almost like a promise and a piece of paper.

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