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Oldest building in downtown Buffalo now a hub of modern medicine

Erie County used COVID funds to transform a 189 year old building, which once hosted John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Millard Fillmore, into its new health hub

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many people would say historic preservation has led to Buffalo's renaissance. Well, it is also helping out with preserving our health. A 189 year old landmark is now being used to battle very modern diseases.

What is now called the Lincoln Building was originally built as the home to the First Universalist Church. It is a building that has hosted three presidents. John Quincy Adams in 1843, and 18 years later, Abraham Lincoln attended services as guests of Millard Fillmore. 

It is arguably one of the most historic structures in Western New York that has now been retooled to battle very modern problems. What once served as the first school building for Buffalo and the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, which would grow into the Albright Knox, has found a new future thanks in large part to COVID.

"Ironically the silver lining is if COVID had not occurred, I'm not so certain that the structure would be is as premiere as it is today," says Erie County's Commissioner of Public Works William Geary Jr.

The building now houses the county's Department of Epidemiology and the Erie County Department of Health. 

"We had everybody everywhere and we really needed this nucleus to be integral so they could get up and do the job and keep us going with all the numbers and all the tracking that was taking place," Geary said.

It is now fitted with the latest technology, including a state-of-the-art air filtration system, but they had to figure out how to do that while still maintaining the historic integrity of the building. 

"This is in the Joseph Ellicott historic district so we wanted to maintain as much of the history of this building from 1833 as possible," Geary said.

That includes two former vaults, the elaborate staircase, and even a brick wall, which once served as the main entrance into the original church. This is a case of preserving history, while planning for the future, all under one roof. All of it paid for with nearly $7 million in Cares Act funding. 

"Being able to leverage COVID funds to restore this building and for us to maintain it now and for future generations to see in this important part of our district way across from Old County Hall, another historic gem, so it's amazing," Geary said.

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