Erie County investment of over $3 million produces results in houses 2 and 3
Poloncarz, Swarts, officials celebrate restoration with event at 116-year-old National Historic Site
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joined Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens President and CEO David Swarts, members of the Botanical Gardens board of directors, members of the Erie County Department of Public Works, elected officials, and gardens enthusiasts Thursday to celebrate a lengthy list of extensive upgrades and improvements to historic houses 2 and 3 with a ribbon-cutting at the site.
An Erie County investment of approximately $3.5 million in these houses, home to the waterfall and koi pond - visitor favorites for generations - included steel refurbishment and replacement, foundation and masonry repair, wood restoration and replacement, and complete glass replacement, along with other significant improvements.
"Erie County is blessed to have the Botanical Gardens, and the investment we have made in them will help this institution grow far into the future," Poloncarz said. "Houses 2 and 3 now look better than they ever have and will provide an outstanding gardens experience for future generations as well as for visitors today. These buildings, along with the collections they house, are a unique and irreplaceable asset for all of Erie County and will be here long after we are gone.
"I thank gardens President Swarts and his dedicated staff of employees and volunteers for their vision and hard work in guiding this process forward."
Houses 2 and 3 are sparkling once again following the replacement of all glass panes in each structure. Other improvements to the site included electrical and heating system upgrades, repairs to and expanded installation of the gardens' misting system, and ventilation system repairs. The extensive project also encompassed the repair and restoration of gutters at the site, refurbishing of steel support frames, refurbishing and replacement of wood trim, removal and restoration of doors and windows for reinstallation, lead remediation where necessary, and plaster repair.
Swarts said, "The Botanical Gardens Society is grateful to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and the Erie County Legislature for investing in restoring one of our community's most impressive historic and architectural treasures. Their action ensures the Botanical Gardens will remain an important part of our cultural landscape for decades to come."
Houses 2 and 3 also received extra attention to correct structural flaws that hindered the restoration process. The structural frame of house 3 was stiffened to prevent glass from falling out, which had occasionally happened in the past when the structure moved in high winds. Furthermore, structural framing for the entire north and east vestibules of house 3 was completely replaced along with framing in several other sections of the main house.
In addition, a major structural flaw in the 116-year-old house 2 was discovered and rectified during the restoration project. The entire west side of the house had shifted several inches off the west side of the masonry retaining wall, and the corresponding drop in structural framing had twisted the building's central ridge beam in the process. Straightening out house 2 involved a sequenced operation of shoring and pulling the steel frame back into position, accomplished through careful upfront planning and monitoring.
These repairs were successfully completed without breaking any of the cast iron couplers that hold the entire system together.
Improvements at the site also necessitated the moving of several plantings, including a 500-year-old prickly cycad (the oldest plant in the collection) that was gifted to the gardens by the Albright Knox family from their private collection over 70 years ago.
Contractors for the restoration project included Telco Construction (general construction), Foit-Albert & Associates (architectural), Petrelli Engineering (structural), Buffalo Engineering P.C. (HVAC, mechanical and electrical), Stohl Environmental (air monitoring), Quackenbush (mechanical construction), and Goodwin Electric (electrical construction).
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society Inc. will immediately begin work to install two new exhibits in the renovated greenhouses. The aquatic garden will include a new water feature, refurbished koi pond, a new bridge over the koi pond, and many plants native to Asia. The Asian rainforest will feature a decorative teahouse, a moon gate, a redesigned waterfall, orchids, bamboo, a bonsai collection and more.
The society has raised $205,000 of the $275,000 needed to complete these exhibits, but, to ensure the best possible visitor experience, must reach their fundraising goal by the end of 2016 to complete the work. The society's board, staff and administration are committed to making this happen.
Visit www.buffalogardens.com for more information.
A rendering of new exhibits planned for the renovated greenhouses. The aquatic garden will include a new water feature, refurbished koi pond, a new bridge over the koi pond, and many plants native to Asia. The Asian rainforest will feature a decorative teahouse, a moon gate, a redesigned waterfall, orchids, bamboo and a bonsai collection.