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Shine on: Restored Old Erie County Hall once again lights up downtown

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Wed, Oct 7th 2015 03:05 pm
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (at podium) is joined by Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo (10th district, at right) and Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo applauded as the lights came on at Old Erie County Hall.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (at podium) is joined by Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo (10th district, at right) and Public Works Commissioner John Loffredo applauded as the lights came on at Old Erie County Hall.

$3.4 million restoration returns resplendent historical building to prominence

Poloncarz, officials celebrate extensive renovations to 140-year old structure

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined Tuesday by Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo (10th district), Commissioner of the Department of Public Works John Loffredo, and residents to officially "turn on the lights" and celebrate renovations at the restored Old Erie County Hall at 92 Franklin St., Buffalo.

Constructed at the corner of Franklin and Church streets from 1872-75, the historic edifice officially opened to the public in March 1876 and held offices for both Erie County and the City of Buffalo until 1932, when city offices moved to the recently completed City Hall. A three-year, $3.4 million restoration project was recently completed at Old County Hall and included masonry repointing, removal and replacement of copper gutters, refurbishment of the iconic clock tower and repairs to structural steel supports, among other improvements.

"The restoration of Old County Hall restores the glory to a public building that has been at the center of life in Erie County for nearly a century and a half. This hall is a proud testament to the vision and hard work of our forefathers, who understood the promise and potential of what Erie County and Buffalo could attain and constructed their city center to reflect that promise," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "This investment embraces their vision and returns this historical building to its rightful place of prominence in our community, a beautifully restored 140-year-old iconic architectural gem that is now stepping boldly into 2015 and beyond. I thank our partners for their cooperation in restoring this irreplaceable structure."

Begun in May 2012 and completed this fall, the restoration project encompassed the entire building and grounds. All existing masonry joints on the building were removed and repointed; caulk at all windows was removed and replaced with new sealant; all copper gutters were removed and replaced; and the copper standing roof seams and slate at all dormers on the building were removed and replaced. Additionally, the metal seam roof of the clock tower was removed and replaced along with repairs to structural steel supports in the tower; all existing wood windows in the building's upper level were removed and replaced with aluminum windows; existing flat metal roofs on the fourth floor of the tower were reroofed; a new concrete walkway was installed on the building's north side; existing exterior lighting was replaced with energy-efficient LED lights; and new landscaping was installed. The building also was power-washed to clean the granite exterior without damaging it, as sandblasting would have done. In addition, the clock tower has been completely refurbished and is now functional for the first time in years, with a lighted face and computer-assisted timekeeping mechanism.

Loffredo said, "The restoration of this historic building was a painstaking process that involved a lot of cooperation between our department and the contractors who helped make this project a success. Old County Hall now looks great and will be a beacon downtown for years to come."

The architect for the restoration project was Lauer Manguso and Associates. Masonry repair was completed by Lupini Construction. Roofing and sheet metal work was done by Weaver Metal and Roofing. Exterior lighting work was completed by Weydman Electric. The restoration project's landscape contractor was MER Services of WNY.

Architect Andrew J. Warner designed Old County Hall. The cornerstone was laid in the spring of 1872. Warner also served as the supervising architect during construction of the H.H. Richardson Complex at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in 1870. Old County Hall was the tallest local building constructed in the 1870s, and stood as the tallest building in Buffalo until the construction of the Electric Tower in 1912. The building's architecture is in the Victorian Romanesque style, widely seen in the Gilded Age, and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places; the clock tower also originally held an observatory.

Grover Cleveland began his political career here, serving as Erie County sheriff and ultimately ascending to the U.S. presidency, where he became the only president to ever serve two nonconsecutive terms in office. A public wake for assassinated President McKinley drew more than 90,000 people to the site in during the Pan-American exposition in 1901. The spot where McKinley's body laid in state is preserved inside the hall.

Old Erie County Hall is now home to the offices of the Erie County Legislature, as well as county court offices.

The Central Tower figures, representing justice, mechanical arts, agriculture and commerce, were sculpted by Italian immigrant Giovanni F. Sala.

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