Bethune: Former classrooms to become lofts
Hopes have been falsely raised a few times for this former factory turned academic facility that has been empty ever since the University at Buffalo stopped using it in 1993. It was purchased from New York State by a private owner in 2005, but was then put back on the market in 2006. In the nearly twenty years that it has stood empty, the former Buffalo Meter Company has been stripped of some copper and other elements and has deteriorated in other ways—which an empty structure subject to Buffalo winters is apt to do. But now local company Ciminelli Development has announced plans for transforming the building into a residential complex filled with as many as eighty-five loft-style apartments.
The architectural significance of Bethune Hall goes well beyond its name, the same name as distinguished Buffalo architect Louise Blanchard Bethune. It was built in 1915 by distinguished industrial architects Lockwood, Greene, and Co. as a “daylight factory,” a rectangular, exposed concrete structure almost entirely filled in by glass. Built for Buffalo Meter, it was purchased by American Meter in 1958, and then purchased by the state for use by UB’s architecture and design department in 1971. It was subsequently used by the UB art department after architecture moved to Hayes Hall, and became vacant when the art department moved to the Amherst campus. Many graduates of both programs remember the building fondly; in fact, it was his year working as a UB professor in this building that inspired architectural historian Reyner Banham to write Concrete Atlantis.
The clean industrial line that Banham so admired—though he noted some disconcerting decorative elements—is also what makes this building perfect for loft apartments. In its revitalized state, the structure will be a glorious addition to the University District, and provide a type of residential living that so far has been lacking in this part of Buffalo.