BY C.B. MILLER
The former Republican candidate for Governor and Buffalo area developer Carl Paladino is asking the City’s planning board to demolish a landmark building that the local gay community likens to New York’s Stonewall Inn, in terms of historical significance. He is looking to build a 12-story hotel and parking garage on the site.
The Bachelor, at 329 Franklin Street, was an apartment house built in 1886. William Paladino, the current CEO of Ellicott Development, argues that the building functioned as a gay brothel at a time when polite society would not speak of it. It was built by one of the city’s most celebrated architectural firms, Green & Wicks.
Activists who advocate for the building’s preservation note a long list of prominent men who once resided there. Former residents include James Parker Hall, the first dean of the University of Chicago Law School; William Bennet Colburn, secretary and treasurer of the Pierce Cycle Company; Henry Hale Seymour, an attorney who argued before the US Supreme Court; and the architect Claude Bragdon.
The building was all male until the 1930s. That the building is located in the heart of Allentown, historically a bastion of counter culture and 1800s era architecture, is making the battle between preservationists and the wealthy developer all the more impassioned.
Preservationists are calling Paladino’s dismissive attitude towards the landmark as callous and homophobic. In a two page letter written to Common Council President Darius Pridgen, William Paladino, Carl’s son and the current Chief Executive of Ellicott Development, writes:
Original sales literature refers to the building as an “apartment-house for gentlemen” with “regulations for the control of the building framed with the idea of giving tenants the utmost liberty” in keeping with the Bachelor name. In other words it can be assumed it was a brothel or place for other types of laude of indecent at time behavior by the prominent men that the preservation board referred to that have either lived at or visited the building. One can also draw the conclusion this is why the building has not made the national register in the past and that prominent men who visited this building in the past maybe would not want to be remembered for visiting or living at this property.
In some circles, that last sentence is being interpreted as a veiled threat to Councilman Pridgen. Observers have only begun to speculate about what Paladino has on Pridgen. Threatening to out a politician is nothing new for Paladino, who made the similarly distasteful and petulant threats in 2012 against former Senator George Maziarz, which never materialized.
“In the same way that the Stonewall riots represent a moment in history that informs us of who we are as a body politic, The Bachelor informs us of a period of history from 1886 to the 1930s and later during which the sexual liberation movement has been less studied,” explains an Allentown preservationist.
The Stonewall Inn is a gay tavern in Greenwich Village and in 1969 was the site of riots against police raids, a moment that is widely considered to be the single most pivotal event leading to the gay rights movement. The building is part of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Greenwich Village Historic District, designated in 1969, and the Inn was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000. In June 2015, the Stonewall Inn received official landmark status from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for its role as the catalyst of the gay rights movement.
Buffalo area activists are seeking similar designations for The Bachelor.