Delaware & West Huron Northwest Corner
Part 2: From Normandy Restaurant to Avant


Slide show of the corner over time.


The Cary house as it appeared in its last incarnation as the Normandy Restaurant. Image source: Library of Congress (BECHS)

After the death of Maria Love, the Cary mansion became vacant within the year.The carved stone fireplace in the drawing room was removed to George Cary's country home in the Boston hills. The Cary family leased the mansion to a number of entities over the next thirty years, including Charley's Imperial Club and the Castle Webb. In 1955, the Normandy Restaurant opened in the structure, operated by Peter and Jack Fundaro. Considerable remodeling was done, including lowering of the 18-foot ceilings. When interior doors were removed, they proved so heavy that three men were required to lift one.

In April, 1964, the restaurant closed because the Cary family was preparing to sell the property to the federal government which was negotiating for the purchase of twelve properties occupying the block surrounded by Delaware, West Huron, South Elmwood, and Cary Street. The Cary site was eventually sold for $128,500, less than the asking price of owners Allithea C. Lango, Charles Cary, and Maria Love Bissell.

Just before the start of demolition, a fire was set inside the building on July 10, 1965. By the time firefighters arrived at 9 a.m., the fire set on the first floor had a good start, and needed two alarms to put down. Three firefighters were injured.

The Cary family had donated to the Historical Society the family documents stored in the basement of the mansion, some 30 cartons and 6 bales of family correspondence and architectural drawings of George Cary. They were to be picked up on July 13th, and so were unfortunately soaked with water from the firefighting efforts. The Sunday Courier-Express featured a photo of the Society staff spreading documents on the steps of the portico to dry.


The Dulski building as it appeared in 2007 after being sold

The new federal building was designed by the Buffalo architectural firm of Pfohl, Roberts, & Biggie; the General Services Administration accepted the design in 1965. The structure was to be 354,000 square feet, 16 stories tall, finished in aggregate, cast stone, and precast concrete. It was to be deep-windowed and surrounded by a rough-textured stone wall. The offices scheduled to move in were the Departments of the Treasury, Defense, Agriculture, Health, Education & Welfare, The Veterans Administration, and the National Labor Relations Board. The tall shaft at the building side provided the main entrance, elevators, stairways, lobbies, and rest rooms. The interior was a modular plan, and included underground parking and an indoor firing range. Construction was scheduled to begin in 1967 and expected to take two years. The total cost was to be $12.9 million dollars.


View over time of the block. Cary mansion site at lower right corner.

The construction contract was awarded to J.W. Bateson Co, of Dallas. They began construction in the fall of 1968. The local 210 union, which was responsible for much of the construction, was controlled by the organized crime boss, Stefano Maggadino and, as a result, very slow progress was made. Often, supervisors looking for the dozens of workers whose time cards showed they were on the job could find no one at all at the site. By August, 1971, the contractor was facing $500,000 in losses to date, the project was a year behind schedule, with at least two more months to completion. With daily fines from the federal government, the contractors tried to speed up the work force. The result was a fire started on the second floor which caused $100,000 damage and more delay. And then an organized crime operative, John Cammillieri, was put on the payroll as "job coordinator," and work began to be completed in an orderly fashion. The building finally opened later that year. The final cost was $13.5 million dollars. After Congressman Thaddeus J. Dulski died in 1988, the building was named for him.

Note: John Cammillieri's role in policing the Local 210 workers and other activies he engaged in related to the union, made him a marked man. He was shot and killed outside the Roseland restaurant in 1974.

 


2008 view of the building ready for conversion.

At its height, the Dulski building housed 50 federal agencies and 1,200 people worked there. By the 1990s, the building required updating to meet modern office needs, but remodeling would have required disturbing asbestos. The federal government determined that it would be less expensive to move the tenants to leased space in the city and demolish the building. The site was put up for an online auction in September 2006 and the winning bid of $6.1 million dollars was by Uniland and Acquest Development companies.

In January, 2007, the nameplate of the building was presented to the Dulski family, and the George Segal sculpture from the front of the building was removed and conserved, to be reinstalled at the new federal courthouse in Niagara Square.

The new owners determined that the building would be reused as a combination of residence, office, and hotel use. Michael Montante, vice president of Uniland said, "We found a building that the private sector couldn't afford to do, even if they wanted to." They estimated that the project would cost $60 million dollars. Construction began in summer 2007 with the removal of the precast window units. By mid-April, 2008, the building, seen above, was stripped clean of all but the structural elements.


The Avant, 2009.

Conversion costs would eventually be set at $85 million. First called "200 Delaware," the final name for the building was to be "Avant." The exterior is sheathed in tinted, sky-blue glass. Floors 1-7 house an Embassy Suites Hotel, floors 8-12 offer 125,000 square feet of Class A office space, and floors 13-15 feature 40 units of condomiums, priced from $300,000 - $1,000,000.


 

See the southwest corner of Delaware & West Huron here.

To Part I of this pictorial.

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