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Resurrecting our heritage

As a teen en route to high school, Rock Doyle would pass Delaware Avenue's mansions, enthralled by Millionaires Row.

"Some day, I'll live in one of those mansions," he recalls proming himself.

Doyle is doing just that today, and helping to restore Buffalo's architectural heritage.

He's transforming the historic Silverthorne Mansion, which had been chopped up for apartments, into its original state. Doyle calls it part of "the city's revitalization movement." And he will get an assist, as the mansion has been picked as the 2007 Decorators' Show House.

There was a time when Doyle doubted that the city would be his home.

"Like many young Buffalonians, I desperately wanted to leave the region," admits Doyle, Buffalo State College's assistant director of health services. "The weather, economics and the people seemed to be better in any other city. I struggled as many people do, finding a job after college. As they say, 'The grass always looks greener somewhere else.' "

"But I realized this isn't the case. Buffalo's provided me with opportunities that may not have been available to me in another city. The Buffalo I viewed as a 'dying' city has left a field rich with the potential for new growth. Once I used to say 'never in Buffalo,' now I say 'only in Buffalo can you do this.' "

As a mansion co-owner, Doyle already opened the grounds for an auction fundraiser in the fight against Cystic Fibrosis.

The most glittering treasure, however, is the Silverthorne, named for lumber company owner Asa Silverthorne, who made and lost two fortunes, and by his early 50s died at the start of Buffalo's Roaring Twenties.

Steel and wire-cloth trail-blazers, the Wickwires took up residence after that. They owned steel companies through the northeastern United States, including a River Road facility in the Town of Tonawanda.

Yet the nearly 9,000-square-foot home, with no less than seven fireplaces, fell into disrepair after that -- and became a rooming house after the Great Depression. The eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom home was then turned into offices and apartments. However, in the 2 1/2 -story Silverthorne, Doyle found more silver than thorn.

Doyle is no novice when it comes to renovation. His first home in the area was an 1880s Victorian in the Elmwood village area.

"I wouldn't live any where else," Doyle said.

Doyle's now within walking distance from his old high school, Canisius. "My love of city life and architecture started as a young teenager," he says. ""We need to be mindful of our treasures, and at the same time, not be fearful of progress."

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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