From Buffalo Rising
By Mike Puma
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Rehabilitation of the Hotel Graystone at 24 Johnson Park is well underway and should be wrapped up and ready for residents this summer. The inside of the Graystone is buzzing with activity as workers create the 42 market-rate apartments, restoring original features, including over 320 original windows. In addition to the apartments, commercial space will be available in the basement.
The Graystone was built between 1894 and 1897 and was originally planned to extend all the way to Delaware Avenue. Unfortunately, the plans never materialized because the owner ran into financial problems leaving the building only partially completed. A new owner took over in 1896 and quickly completed the building. The western two thirds of the building are reinforced concrete, while the eastern one-third is steel and brick construction, done to expedite construction when the new owner took over.
Ellicott Development Company purchased the property in 2002 and work has been on and off since due to a number of complications, like the partial roof collapse several years ago. The Graystone was vacated over 20 years ago; at its height it served visitors of the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 and once housed 63 apartment units.
The rehabilitation proved challenging because all the walls in the reinforced concrete portion of the building are load bearing and could not be significantly altered. The brick and steel section of the building offered more leeway as walls could be more easily moved and modified.
A centered classic entrance provides access to the building and the interior corridor has terrazzo floors and remnants of scaglioa on the walls in a similar fashion to the Hotel Lafayette. Two light alleys do a great job at bringing natural down to the darkest parts of the building. Units that have walls abutting the light alley feature the original windows that will continue to provide natural light into new bedrooms. The apartments will be a mix of one and two bedroom units with unique design features in each.
Terrazzo floors continue from the corridor into some of the units and will be restored. Additionally, many units feature original hardwood flooring that will also be refinished and exposed. As previously mentioned, there was a need to get creative with the unit layout due to the load bearing construction. Six of the units are two floors with the living space and kitchen on the first floor and bedrooms on the floor above, accessed via a new spiral staircase. Other features being retained and restored include the detailed metal staircases, ceiling windows in the first floor corridor, and the mosaic tile floor in what is believed to be a former lounge area.
The Graystone is on the National Register of Historic Places and the rehabilitation is utilizing historic tax credits. Recently, the ECIDA also granted Ellicott Development $212,900 in sales and mortgage tax abatements. For additional photos of the rehabilitation work in progress, check out my Flickr page by clicking here.