True Green Cities/Celebrating Nine Years: Making a New Historic District

It’s been nine years since I launched Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and while many things have changed, my goal to work on “greening what’s already here” continues to be met, often in places I never expected. Given I never expected to be celebrating nine years on lockdown (week 6) due to the novel corona virus global health crisis.  But I still plan to present 5 positive stories from the past year this week to celebrate nine years in business.

Making a New Certified Historic District in Larkinville

The Larkin Historic District is composed of six industrial and commercial buildings located over four blocks between Hamburg and Hydraulic Streets within The Hydraulics/Larkin Neighborhood in Buffalo, NY. It is a local historic district and was documented within a National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF) in 2010 which identified two historic contexts – The Hydraulics Neighborhood and The Larkin Company. BAC/A+P prepared a Certified Historic District nomination to the National Park Service to provide the six buildings within the district the opportunity to apply for state and federal historic tax credits.

The Hydraulics neighborhood was a section of Buffalo in the neighborhood of the old Hydraulic Canal, which formerly extended from the eastern end of the Hamburg Canal to the line of the present Hydraulics Street. Today this area is located within the larger East Side section of Buffalo, centered around the intersection of Swan and Seneca Streets. 

The Hydraulics neighborhood is significant as one of Buffalo’s earliest, distinct neighborhoods, and Buffalo’s first manufacturing district. The type of manufacturing and industrial growth which Buffalo is generally associated with originated in the Hydraulics neighborhood.  At the zenith of its success during this age, the Hydraulics neighborhood, which contained one of the nation’s largest and most successful industrial endeavors, the Larkin Company, was a microcosm of the prominence of the City of Buffalo as a whole.  The entire neighborhood is therefore sometimes referred to as the Larkin District due to the neighborhood’s association with its most prominent industrial giant. The four-block Larkin Historic District is embedded within the larger Hydraulics district.

The Larkin complex is a good example of an early twentieth-century factory, which used a utilitarian industrial design as the architectural aesthetic to define the buildings’ functions and encapsulated the three major technical features that revolutionized manufacturing and industrial design for the twentieth century – electricity, the powered crane and the steel frame. The interrelationship between the factory and the powering of its machinery led to a streamlined functional or utilitarian design. 

The district is significant for its contributions to the evolution of the American mail order retail business.  The Larkin Company was one of the great industrial concerns of the United States. At the company’s peak around 1919, its factory complex occupied 65 acres of floor area and employed about 2,000 people in the manufacture of hundreds of household products, sold by mail order to customers across North America.  The complex embodies distinguishing characteristics of state-of-the-art industrial buildings at the time of their construction ranging from brick-pier to post and beam and reinforced concrete construction in industrial applications. The buildings also contain large amounts of locally quarried stone and elements produced in the Buffalo area.  The buildings and sites are identified with national and local figures such as Larkin Company executives John Larkin, Elbert Hubbard, and Darwin Martin and structural engineer Robert J. Reidpath.  The L&M Building, the Power House, and 701 Seneca Street constitute the largest collection of work by master engineer Robert J. Reidpath.   

Many people are finding new ways to integrate historic preservation and green building practices, which makes my nine-year old venture a delightful and intellectually inspiring one. One of the buildings in this new Certified Historic District is the former Larkin Men’s Club which will be adapted for housing and commercial uses.  We look forward to working on the rehabilitation once the pandemic settles us into a new normal. 

(I apologize for the wonky formatting; the website is under renovation and its updates are on hold during this global health crisis.)

© Copyright Barbara Campagna – True Green Cities - 2011-2013