Wildroot complex passes next step to become Buffalo landmark

Jan 31, 2018

The one-time Wildroot complex on Bailey Avenue in Buffalo is getting closer to being an official city landmark. The plan was approved Tuesday in the Common Council's Legislation Committee and sent to the full Council.

"Get Wildroot Creme Oil, Charlie. It keeps your hair in place...."

Remember that jingle? In the 1940s, the Wildroot Company grew to become the largest hair tonic manufacturer in the world.

Unfortunately, the Buffalo building where Wildroot was manufactured has been empty and deteriorating for years. Wildroot was sold to Colgate-Palmolive in 1959, then Colgate closed the plant two years later.

It was used for a number of purposes since, wearing down until it went for tax foreclosure, facing an expensive demolition. Neighbors and preservationists fought back and did their best to keep the mix of structures from falling down.

Supporter Mark Paradowski said they did the paperwork for landmark status and the hard work of protecting the structure.

"We've had a half dozen neighborhood cleanups to keep it safer and to board it up. I've even gotten up on the roof and tarred it to try to keep the bricks from falling - just kind of doing anything we can to promote it," Paradowski said. "I've done a lot of the research that Paul mentioned. The historic significance is incredible, as you dig it into it. It was actually the largest manufacturing facility in two different industries. It was a bakery first."

Lawyer Mary Chan said the owner of the building is aware of the problems and expects to do some serious work on the roof and deteriorating exterior brick once winter eases. He approves of landmark status and is looking at putting his own businesses in the structures at 1740 Bailey, between Walden and Broadway, and possibly looking at other mixed uses of the complex.

Lovejoy Councilmember Richard Fontana said he wants to work with the owner.

"We're looking forward to working with the new owner," said Fontana. "I reached out, that they were contacted about today's hearing, because I didn't want landmark a building and have them not understand what that meant and I wanted them to be in compliance with that or in agreement with that, because I didn't want to put something in the way. I think the landmark status could help their cause and help the renovations of the building. I guess they see that as well."