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Preservation push focuses on Michigan Street corridor

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Two aging buildings at Sycamore and Michigan are coming before the city Preservation Board. Supporters seek landmark status for the structures as they work to expand on the connection to the city's African-American heritage.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara is seeking to add two buildings right at the intersection to the existing Michigan Sycamore Historic District, along with two other designated landmarks. That would provide some coverage against demolition and provide tax credits for a purchaser who wants to buy and renovate the buildings. They lie along the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.

Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director Jessie Fisher says there are too many vacant lots along the corridor and these buildings are needed as a sign of what was there. According to Fisher, only eight percent of historic sites in the United States are associated with African Americans.

"So, we want to make sure that in Buffalo, while we have a city that is a really highly diverse city, that our historic stories are not only telling one story. We want to make sure that we are telling the story of our entire city, of our entire city's development," Fisher said.

Fisher says African American icon Mary Burnett Talbert was an early preservationist but the city allowed her home along Michigan to be demolished.

"She is given credit in the national sphere for saving Frederick Douglass' house in Anacostia in Washington, D.C.," Fisher said.

The latest landmarking application asks the city Preservation Board to expand the Michigan Sycamore Historic District to include 82 Sycamore and 608 Michigan.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.