Tour guide Christopher Gurnett has been enamored by the Buffalo Central Terminal since he was a 13-year-old.
He was at the Broadway Market and asked his father about the nearby train station building on the city’s East Side.
A few weeks later, Gurnett went inside and was “blown away by the place, by the beauty of it,” he said.
Soon after, Gurnett joined the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation and started volunteering at the national historic landmark. He even did his Eagle Scout project there by cleaning up the fourth floor of the building along with other scouts.
So when Gurnett, now 26, saw on a Facebook page Sunday that five light fixtures from the grand old train station were scheduled to be auctioned off in New Jersey, he started a GoFundMe.com fundraiser that afternoon to collect $21,000 in donations to pay for the light fixtures and get them shipped back to the Central Terminal.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Gurnett said.
Ragoarts.com, the website for the auction company Rago Arts and Auction Center, says upfront that the items were taken out of the building in the late 1980s/early 1990s. But even without the description, Gurnett says he knew right away.
“It’s like my second home,” Gurnett said of the Central Terminal. “Just seeing hundreds of historical photos of the place over the years, I knew right away those light fixtures were legit.”
Gurnett hopes to bring back the five light fixtures waiting to be auctioned off to their original home.
The GoFundMe campaign he set up – "Bring Back Buffalo Terminal's Light Fixtures" – will collect donations up to the Jan. 20 date of the auction, Gurnett said. Funds collected beyond the $21,000 will be donated to Central Terminal restoration.
"We're just trying to go to the end," he said. “I just kind of threw it out there just to see what we can do."
Gurnett also sent an email to the auction company, letting it know he’s a volunteer at the Central Terminal and that the GoFundMe page has been started. He had not heard back, because the office was closed Sunday, he said.
Built in 1929, the final passenger train departed the Central Terminal in October 1979, according to its website.
An owner who won the building at a city auction in 1986 had “good intentions” for the building, but later “ran into some problems and proceeded to strip some artifacts and sell them to dealers,” Gurnett said.
“Light fixtures, railings, clocks and different artifacts wound up around the world,” he said. “Some light fixtures made it to Cafe Deco in Hong Kong. We have a mailbox in Florida.”
The train station property was transferred to the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation in August 1997.
GoFundMe contributions were recorded at $260 as of 8 p.m. Sunday.