For decades it was a garage for garbage trucks and snowplows, but one of Buffalo’s oldest buildings has a much deeper history. Did you know that the Broadway DPW Barn, just a short walk from downtown, was once a military arsenal in the 1800s and then an auditorium for all manner of sports and events?
“If anything happened on a civic scale, it would have happened at the Broadway Auditorium,” said Tim Thielman, executive director of the Greater Buffalo History and Architecture Campaign, a conservation group. .
Thielmann knows the building’s story, which dates back to the 1850s, and strives to preserve it for future generations.
“After the Civil War, the state handed over to this National Guard, and they built the largest armory in upstate New York at the time,” he said.
After being used as an armory and training ground, the building was turned over to the city and turned into an auditorium. In the early 20th century, concerts, political competitions, circuses and boxing matches were held, and even once the great champion Joe Luis fought here.
It was the center of life for the neighborhood and the city as a whole.
“This is the oldest structure in the world where professional ice hockey was played,” Thielmann said.
Following its use in war operations during World War II and the construction of a memorial auditorium, the city was making new plans for the building.
“Then the city decided to turn it into a DPW dump truck and garbage truck garage,” Thielman said.
We are where we are today as a result of some of the historic buildings being lost in fires or covered up over the years. However, the city wanted to find a new home for his DPW equipment, and a group of developers were chosen to transform the site into a sports complex with new affordable housing.
“Let me tell you, this is a huge building,” said Arthur Hall of Hallmark Project Development.
Hall is the co-lead developer of the project, which he sees as a key element of the African American Heritage Corridor and a connection point with neighborhoods across the city.
“Having a place with indoor sports that people can come and use, as well as facilities, cultural facilities, and housing would make a lot of sense for the community,” Hall said.
His group will get feedback from the community on what’s best for the future of the old Broadway auditorium.
“It’s important to us to have a building like this online. It’s about taking the dark out and making it light. Bringing the dead back to life,” Hall said.
No timeline has been set for the project as developers wait for the city to find a new location for the DPW facility, but Hall said they will work to preserve some of the building’s original features. .
Meanwhile, there is a movement to give the auditorium status as a historic landmark. Rather than building anew for residential use, Thielmann plans to expose the original facade, which has been hidden for years, and create a public park at the south end of the site, while investing public money in a sports complex. I hope to restore it as a facility.
“The arsenal will again become a source of pride for our neighbors, a foundation to build upon rather than actually oppress them,” he said.