Tim Tielman has been called an obstructionist, and he'll no doubt be called one again.
But it can be argued that no one has done more than him in Western New York to save Buffalo's history from the wrecking ball.
Tielman has played critical roles in preserving the Richardson Olmsted Campus, the Webb Building, Squire Mansion, the Metzger Building and the Great Northern Grain Elevator. He helped lead the fight that forced Gov. George E. Pataki to reverse direction and resurrect the terminus of the Erie Canal, including the Commercial Slip, Central Wharf and the original street network.
Tielman's actions occurred long before Buffalo's historic buildings were being displayed in Visit Buffalo Niagara's magazines as the city's calling card for tourism.
"If you had to name one single person in Western New York who has been the catalyst for the generational shift in how architecture and historical preservation are perceived, it's Tim Tielman," said Ed Healy, Visit Buffalo Niagara's vice president of communications.
"Because of the efforts of him and others, people in positions of authority and decision-making have embraced preservation, and understand how critical our past is to our future."
Tielman believes successful cities and towns create places that combine a deep sense of history with human needs for shelter, sustenance and sociability.
He spent his adolescence in the Netherlands, where he saw old buildings co-existing with modern economies and wealthy societies. That began a fascination with how cities were built.
Tielman is founder and executive director of Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture. Until recently, he served on the Buffalo Preservation Board. For decades, he educated Buffalonians, tourists and university students on historic bus tours, motoring through the city in a converted school bus.
Informed by a background in urban geography, Tielman also designed Larkin Square.
"From the beginning, we tried to advance an alternative viewpoint that said we should strengthen and enhance our built inheritance rather than destroy it in the hopes that some new developer-driven thing would save us," he said.
Buffalo has experienced a sea change in the importance now placed on preserving the past. Has Tielman made a difference? Look around.
Story topics: Outstanding Citizens