Niagara Gazette

August 8, 2010

Leading the way locally on preservation

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS —  A Western New York preservation group has honored a trio of Niagara County projects.

 Preservation Buffalo Niagara, a member organization devoted to identifying, protecting and revitalizing historically and architecturally significant structures, neighborhoods and districts in the Buffalo and Niagara Falls area, honored the Niagara Falls Historic Preservation Commission and Park Place neighborhood residents, the Rolland Development Corp. as and the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda.

 “This is the first time Niagara Falls has won historic preservation awards from a preservation organization of that caliber,” said City Historian Tom Yots.

 Preservation Buffalo Niagara formed in October 2008 following a merger between the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier and the Preservation Coalition of Erie County. The group includes more than 850 members, including corporate and foundation supporters.

During the group’s second annual awards luncheon in May, the Niagara Falls Park Place Historc District was honored in the Neighborhood Conservation category for the two-year effort that resulted in local designation of the Park Place Historic District, the first historic neighborhood district in downtown Niagara Falls. Located between Main Street and the Niagara Gorge, the Park Place/Fourth Street neighborhood was one of three districts recommended for designation as a result of the city’s 2005 historic survey.

 Rolland Development Corp., a company operated by local preservationist Mary Ann Rolland and her late husband, Bill, was honored in the category of Preservation Spirit for its work in the Echota neighborhood. The Rollands saved a home at 21 Hyde Park Blvd. from the wrecking ball. The home, designed by renowned architect Stanford White, was rehabilitated by the Rollands and dubbed a “neighborhood jewel” by Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

 Finally, the owners and volunteers at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda received the organization’s Stewardship award for their dedication to the repair and rehabilitation of the circa 1926 theater building. According to Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the theater, at the time of its purchase by owner Neil Lange in 1989, was a “dark, dirty, dingy” movie house that had fallen into disrepair. The preservation group noted that by year’s end, community volunteers completed stripped, re-painted and re-upholstered all 1,152 seats in the building and years later continued to repair fallen plaster, replace floor tiles, re-paint the marquee and the auditorium walls. Preservation Buffalo Niagara recognized the theater owners and volunteers for re-opening the building for movies and live performances and congratulated them on celebrating a 20th anniversary with “renewed and continuing” impact on the community.