Masters of Recasting the Past

SOURCE: The Buffalo News
BY: Mark Sommer
DATE: October 17, 2011
See the original article at The Buffalo News (expired link)

Masters of Recasting the Past

Boston Valley Terra Cotta in Orchard Park has had restoration projects at hundreds of historic sites, including Carnegie Hall in New York, The Breakers mansion in Newport, R. I., and Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

Buffalo Plastering and Architectural Casting has played a key role in helping to restore the Statler Towers, the former Lafayette Hotel and Shea’s Performing Arts Center.

Both are examples of local companies that specialize in historic restoration.

“It definitely enables us to survive and stay in business. If we weren’t fixing old buildings, we wouldn’t even be here in Buffalo,” said John Krouse, a ceramic engineer who is president and part-owner of Boston Valley.

The family-owned company employs 150 people and does between $14 million and $16 million in business each year. Krouse estimated 65 percent of the work involved historic preservation.

The company began in 1889 and started manufacturing terra cotta 30 years ago. It is one of only three companies in the country to do so.

The company’s maiden job was to restore Adler and Sullivan’s internationally celebrated Guaranty Building in downtown Buffalo.

“In general, people have a real appreciation for the quality of the older buildings, and if you can fix them up and turn them into adaptive reuse, and get another 100 years out of them, it’s a lot greener for the environment than abandoning them and tearing them down to build a cheaper substitute out in the suburbs,” Krouse said.

The company also manufactures a lighter, panelized and mortarless cladding system, as demand for the sustainable and green material grows, Krouse said.

Buffalo Plastering and Architectural Casting’s experience in historic restoration includes replicating the original upper pediment at Shea’s out of clay using old photographs as a guide. The company also has replicated or resculpted plaster ornaments at the downtown theater.

At the Statler, the company is creating a lion’s head located at the back of a cast travertine koi pond. In the Lafayette, workers are recasting ornamental pieces in the ballrooms and foyer.

Owner Gary Bolles said the company also manufactures ornamental fireplace mantles, and is in demand by homeowners living in new estates who want “the Old World look” in new architecture.