BUFFALO, N.Y. — Less than a day after a judge cleared the way for it to happen, and without any prior public announcement, demolition of the 125-year-old Great Northern Grain Elevator began on Thursday.
Heavily damaged in a December wind storm when a large section of wall collapsed the owner of the structure, Archer Daniels Midland, sought and received an emergency demolition permit for the the building, which has not functioned as a grain elevator for 40 years.
Preservationists launched a long but unsuccessful legal battle to prevent the demolition, but say they are not giving up their effort to seek further court intervention to halt the demolition process now underway, which is expected to take several months to complete.
So far the wrecking has primarily been performed by a single piece of equipment with a large mechanical arm with a pinching claw on the end of it.
Reaching through the gaping hole left as the result of the wind storm, it tore off sections of welded steel from the former grain silos inside.
It sounded almost like firecrackers or bursts of gunfire as the rivets gave way
Across the street, preservationists decried what Tim Tielman of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture referred to as "cultural vandalism."
"We hope we can bring a halt to the demolition," said Tielman, who added that on Friday afternoon an attorney for the agency submitted necessary documents to the Appellate Division of the Fourth Judicial Department of New York State Supreme Court seeking a Temporary Restraining Order.
"Despite the cultural vandalism you see going on right now this can be stopped and the Great Northern can be stabilized and hopefully be restored and remain art of our future," he said.
Archer Daniels Midland has rejected overtures from one developer to possibly buy and repurpose the building, and another by preservationists to take over the maintenance and upkeep of the structure in order to save it.
In a statement the company told WGRZ-TV, "The fact is that the elevator constitutes a safety hazard and is beyond repair, a reality that has been clear to us, the City of Buffalo, and a court in its rulings upholding the city’s demolition permit. As a result of these rulings, the City’s Emergency Demolition Order is in full effect, and we are continuing to move forward with safely dismantling the facility."