Buffalo, NY – Though talk of this has been around for months now, recent reports have finally confirmed it: The Park Lane is closing, and I disapprove - strongly. Here's why: the loss of the restaurant isn't the only bad news. To make matters worse, the purchaser, Uniland Development, may build high rise condominiums where The Park Lane now stands, and the possibility of such a complete loss just sickens me.
I know my sentiments sound like a song that's frequently sung in the Buffalo area. Local preservationists are a hardy, purposeful group, and when historic buildings are slated for razing, they unabashedly make the case for why such places should be saved. Luckily, their efforts have often been successful. After all, in an area replete with glorious old structures, it is easy to understand why they should be saved, restored and enjoyed. Historic or architectural value justifies their keeping. While I would regret the impending loss of many buildings in Buffalo, the thought of The Park Lane being cast into the realm of memory grates most particularly, especially since this wonderful landmark seems to have been so blithely slated for removal.
Perhaps it's a bit of a stretch to refer to The Park Lane as a landmark. Yes, it's a well known, successful restaurant founded in the 1920s, but its current structure has existed only since the early 1970s. In a city filled with many notable gems, this can hardly be considered old. But where else in Buffalo is there a structure quite like it? The Tudor style mansion, faithfully modeled after one in England, sits comfortably at Gates Circle as if it has always been part of the landscape, an original edifice built by adventurous settlers as a tribute to their native land. Rather than a few decades old, it seems five hundred years old, a grand estate with elegant rooms housing nobly refined ghosts who would be loath to leave such a splendid space.
If my praise of this particular building sounds personal, I must admit that it is. In October 2004, my wedding reception was held at The Park Lane, and it was perfect. My fianc Tom and I chose the location for a variety of reasons. Actually, we chose it for one reason; the other locations were booked. This is not a mark against The Park Lane but an admission of my own naivet . I had often wondered why couples took so long to actually marry after announcing their engagement. Then I began seeking a reception hall and quickly discovered the answer. They all book at least a year in advance.
Startled but undaunted by this revelation, I doggedly searched on until a representative of a venue that I wanted but couldn't have said to me, Why not have your reception at The Park Lane? They don't just cater, you know. They host weddings as well. No, I didn't know, but I was delighted to find this out. When Tom and I stopped by to select a room for the reception and plan the meal, we realized immediately how lucky we were. The interior is as elegant as the exterior, and on our wedding day, I felt like the queen of the manor as I feasted with family and friends in this refined setting.
Because our reception was so lovely, Tom and I quickly decided to mark each anniversary at The Park Lane. What better way to celebrate our union than by revisiting the place where we had our first meal as a married couple? This past October, as we dined in The Park Lane's Grille 33, we congratulated ourselves on coming up with such a good idea. Well, it was a good idea
But now the deal is done, the paperwork signed, the ink dry, and a uniquely beautiful landmark is scheduled to close at year's end. I know there are bigger issues out there, but I cannot deny my profound disappointment over the impending loss. Most likely, this short missive of mine won't cause the powers at Uniland to keep The Park Lane's structure intact much less maintain its status as a fine restaurant, but oh, how I wish they would.
Listener-Commentator Kristen Downey is an English teacher in the Orchard Park Central School District.