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Pre-Civil War property becomes a Buffalo landmark

Two of the remaining pre-Civil War buildings in Buffalo are now local landmarks.

And much of the thanks goes to the owner of the property located at 224 Plymouth.

“This is a landmarking that basically was started by the owner, Nels Johnson,” said Paul McDonnell, chairman of the city’s Preservation Board. “Here’s someone being proactive about it, and it’s the owner. This person is going to be able to perpetuate the integrity of this home long after they’re gone. He’s doing it proactively, and we love to see it.”

The Buffalo Common Council approved Tuesday the landmark designation for 224 Plymouth, which includes a two-story, red brick apartment building and a two-story rear barn that is being used for storage. Both buildings are in use.

“It’s wonderfully intact. What’s cool and unique is it harkens back to its original use. Some of these (pre-Civil War) houses still survived, but how many survive with a working barn?” McDonnell said.

Constructed around 1850, 224 Plymouth is one of the oldest remaining properties in the North Prospect Hill neighborhood, local preservationists say. It is in the Greek Revival architectural style — a rare style in Buffalo — and is one of a remaining residential brick houses in a neighborhood where most houses are frame, according to Christiana Limniatis, director of Preservation Services at Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

Last month, the city’s Preservation Board unanimously recommended the landmark designation for the two buildings, which met three of the nine criteria. For one, the property has “character, interest and value as part of the development heritage and cultural characteristics of” the neighborhood, according to the documents from Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

Second, the property exemplifies the “historic aesthetic, architectural and cultural heritage” of the city. And the property “embodies distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style valuable for the study of a period, type and method of construction.”

An application for local landmarking only needs to meet one of the criteria for listing, according to McDonnell.

After recommending landmark designation, the city’s Preservation Board then urged the Common Council to approve the board’s recommendation. The Council did just that on Tuesday.

Prior to that, over the summer the State Historic Preservation Office deemed the property eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Johnson intends to pursue that designation, as well, McDonnell said. To actually place the property on the National Register, additional research and consultation with the state would be needed.

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