WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: On Friday, May 31st - in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans Music Hall - five Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 Retirees will receive the Distinguished 2013 Preservation Award during the 5th Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony and Luncheon. The Retired Union Sheet Metal Workers will be honored for donating their time to help restore Buffalo’s Central Terminal by building from scratch several Light Sconce Replicas. Pictured from Left to Right are: Retirees Henry Forman, Roger Korsh and Andy Adam, Local 71 Business Manager John Helak, and Retirees Larry Fuchs and Robert Stetzko. (Photo Courtesy of Sheet Metal Workers Local 71)
(BUFFALO) – Many times the good things so many Labor Unions, their Members and their Retirees do go unnoticed across the Western New York Region, but not this time.
On Friday, May 31st - in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans Music Hall - five Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 Retirees will receive the Distinguished 2013 Preservation Award during the 5th Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony and Luncheon. The Retired Union Sheet Metal Workers will be honored for donating their time to help restore Buffalo’s Central Terminal by building from scratch several Light Sconce Replicas.
“The Lanterns have come home,” joked Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 Business Manager John Helak, who told WNYLaborToday.com that he is extremely proud of his group of Union Retirees for “being acknowledged for something they enjoyed doing.”
“I’m very excited for them,” Helak told Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper. “They focused on something they’d done for their entire lives and this was a different challenge. This is a High Honor for them, but there was never any (original) intent to enhance their or our Union’s Reputation – it was just a project that they were asked for their help on.”
On another front, Helak made it a point to single out and Thank Union Glaziers represented by the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (IUPAT)/District Council 4 in Buffalo, who provided the Cut Glass that was used in the Replica Light Sconces.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: In January 2012, Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper published the following Labor News Story on Local 71’s Retirees and what they were doing for the Central Terminal, which can be directly accessed at: http://www.wnylabortoday.com/index.php?src=news&refno=2450&category=Buffalo. In addition, their work was profiled on the January Edition of Western New York Labor News… NOW!, which can be directly accessed at: http://www.wnylabortoday.com/videos/tv-show-archive/western-new-york-labor-news-now-january-2012-edition-segment-ii/?query=category.eq.TV%20Show%20Archive&back=Videos
Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 Retirees Help ‘Breathe Light’ Back Into Buffalo’s Central Terminal Restoration Project/Without Benefit Of Original Plans, Retirees Build Sconce Replicas Based On Provided Photos & Dimensions From Originals In Hong Kong
An Appreciative Central Terminal Restoration President Mark Lewandowski Thanks Local 71 Retirees For Donating Their Time & Providing Quality Craftsmanship To Help Restore Grandeur Of The Old Railroad Passenger Terminal On Buffalo’s East Side
(BUFFALO) – Much has been written and reported over the years on the grandeur of Buffalo’s once-bustling Central Terminal, where 10,000 passengers and 200 trains came and went on a daily basis in its heyday. Once inside the now quiet building, it’s not hard to conjure up images of a packed concourse if one chooses to close their eyes and think about its glorious past.
But today, as the Central Terminal Restoration Corp. continues to move forward and make inroads on its massive effort to restore the Art Deco masterpiece and its unmistakable Tower in order to attract new business and tenants to the East Side site, there’s a small group of Union Retirees from Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 in Buffalo who are lending their skills and craftsmanship from behind-the-scenes to literally help breathe light and life back into one of the City’s most treasured buildings.
Local 71 Retirees Larry Fuchs, a 40-year Union Member from Buffalo who retired in 2000; Roger Korsh, a 50-year Member from Buffalo who retired in 2002; and Robert Stetzko, a 30-year Member who retired in 2008, meet religiously each Wednesday at the Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall and Training Facility on Liberty Avenue for a couple of hours to continue to build – from scratch – sconce lamps that once helped light up the Terminal’s Passenger Concourse.
The ornate 27-inch-tall, 22-inch-wide, eight-sided octagon sconces are being constructed by the trio of Union Retirees without the benefit of having their original plans or materials. They’re doing so from photos and dimensions that were taken of the original lanterns that are now displayed in a Hong Kong restaurant, which purchased the sconces sometime during the 80s and 90s when a salvage company marketed much of what was salvageable from the old building that opened in June 1929 and stopped serving passengers in October 1979.
Local 71 Business Manager John Helak tells WNYLaborToday.com he approached his Union Retirees after receiving an inquiry for help: “I was told they had some photos and dimensions and was asked, ‘Can you make them?’ I said I couldn’t, but had a couple of fellas I could ask. They come in here to the Hall and on their own time and expense are hand-crafting the sconces.”
Local 71 Retiree Stetzko tells WNYLaborToday.com that Sheet Metal Workers “do more than just make ductwork.” “We can do anything,” he said during a recent interview after touring the Central Terminal with Your Regional, On-Line Labor Newspaper. “The impossible only takes a bit longer. It’s a challenge, but we enjoy doing it. It’s a good feeling to give something back. I’ve lived here all my life and I’m doing my bit to help support (the community). It takes me back to the day when I went with my Dad to pick up my Grandparents at the Central Terminal. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment.”
After its closure back in 1979, the Central Terminal fell victim to vandals and much of its glorious past was stripped away. Damage was done everywhere. Windows were shattered. Marble and concrete was broken. And over the years, Buffalo’s elements also helped further deteriorate the building to the point where its trademark shops, restaurants, soda foundation and passenger services in the concourse were hardly recognizable.
But with the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation taking the property over in the late 90s, slowly but surely, restoration and renovation on the original $15 million structure began.
Today, a number of major events are being held in the concourse area, which not only provides the not-for-profit operational revenue to keep the restoration campaign going – but reintroduces both young and old Western New Yorkers to part of Buffalo’s past.
“There were a lot of artifacts removed and they were icons,” Central Terminal Restoration Corp. President Mark Lewandowski tells WNYLaborToday.com. “By replacing these artifacts, (the Local 71 Retirees) are putting life back into a building that people remember. They’re donating so much of their time to this project. You know, when the Central Terminal was built, it was constructed in just twenty-four months with quality Labor and that’s why it’s still standing today. The quality craftsmanship (the Retirees) are providing is simply amazing.”
During those Wednesday get-togethers at Local 71, which they describe as “an Old Farts’ Club,” the trio of retirees used the photos that Lewandowski said were taken by an Western New Yorker on vacation in Hong Kong who not only snapped the pictures, but was allowed to take and write down the dimensions of the sconces, information that was eventually used to help guide the Sheet Metal Workers’ Union Retirees in the building of the new lanterns.
“We have not ‘duplicated’ the originals,’ notes Korsh, saying the originals - which appear to have been constructed out of brass - have been replaced with galvanized steel.
Each sconce project is broken down into pieces by the three, says Stetzko, so a reconstruction procedure could be put into place. Each piece of the eight-sided octagon sconce is clamped down (photo below/WNYLaborToday.com Photo) before it’s eventually soldered and/or spot-welded.
The crew is initially making six sconces as they continue to “get the bugs out,” Stetzko said.
“It’s a challenge,” adds Fuchs. “But it’s about quality control. If it fits, it’s a go, but it’s the kind of project that as it gets looking better, expectations get higher.”
On another front, Sheet Metal Workers Local 71 has also been involved in the Central Terminal Restoration Project. Business Manager Helak and Business Agents Paul Crist (pictured above inside the Central Terminal standing next to a section of the railings/WNYLaborToday.com Photo) and Joe DeCarlo have dedicated some of their time in helping recreating some ornate metal railing that’s also been installed within the Central Terminal’s Passenger Concourse. “We tried to replicate them as they were, but it wasn’t doable,” Helak said.
All the materials being used to construct the Central Terminal Passenger Concourse Sconces – as well as the railings - have been donated, including the electrical innards and glass frames, which are being cut by Union Glaziers represented by IUPAT/Painters District Council 4 in Buffalo.
“We take a lot of pride in what we’re doing,” Korsh told WNYLaborToday.com. “It’s a big nut to crack. But we’d like to make (the general public) aware of where these sconces are coming from so they think twice about saying anything negative or putting down Union People or our Union.”