Tonawanda News

May 15, 2014

NT power station to get historic status

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda Historic Preservation Commission is pushing to protect a largely unused building with a link to the early days of hydroelectric power. 

The 1895 power station originally held transformers on Robinson Street at the corner of Twin Cities Memorial Highway. First called the Tonawanda Station, it has ties to the first significant power transmission in history from Niagara Falls to Buffalo. 

Rae Proefrock, chairwoman of the preservation commission, said the initiative to give the buildings historic status would effectively prevent it from being torn down. The commission, which Proefrock said is given authority by New York state, initially filed paperwork about a year ago on the pending status. A pubic hearing on the matter is set for Monday.

“Once the public hearing is held, unless there is a groundflow against it, we will just name it a historic landmark in the city,” she said. “That gives it a lot of protection. If any major changes take place to the exterior of the building they would have to be approved by the commission. We have a lot of say, just like the planning board has a lot of say in the city.” 

The structure, owned by National Grid, is valued at $407,000 and sits on nearly two acres of land, but has been left unoccupied since 2011. More than a decade ago, the company had sought to tear down the transfer station but was thwarted by a pushback from North Tonawanda City Engineer Dale Marshall who cited the building’s historic value related to the region and the early days of electrically powered lights. 

National Grid later retracted its efforts and briefly put it on the market for sale. But Steve Brady, the utility company’s spokesperson, said the company has recently considered bringing crews back to the location, adding that the company would attend Monday’s hearing and take a wait-and-see approach.  

“At one point we were thinking of selling or leasing and for the moment, at least, that’s off the table.” he said. “What we’re going to tell them on Monday is that if they decide to go forward on a designation that it won’t limit our ability to use this location to provide service. Our primary concern is that the designation doesn’t hinder our ability to do that. We’re kind of eager to hear what they have to say.” 

Marshall said it was in part the transfer station that helped form one of Buffalo’s many monikers, “The City of Light” and was also integral in shaping the Lumber City as an industrial hub with companies like Buffalo Bolt and American Steam. 

“The significance of the building cannot be overstated,” he said. 

The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the North Tonawanda Common Council chambers.