Popular historic Allentown home getting structural facelift

Jun 2, 2017

One of the most distinctive homes in Allentown is getting a major rehab, approved Thursday by the Buffalo Preservation Board.

Built in 1894, the house at 467 Virginia is well known for its two towers with what are known as witches hat roofs. David DePasquale reported to the board the work will cost $155,000. That includes the roof, walls and structure.

However, architect Kathleen Kinan said it might be twice that. Repairing and replacing 87 windows alone is estimated at $47,000.

"It's is the most unusual house I've seen and I've been doing this for 35 years and it's my privilege to go into existing old houses," Kinan said.

The owner says this is his fifth home rehab. DePasquale said he recognizes the difficulty of living in a house with major problems like wind and water leaks, but said he wants to own and fix up the structure.

"It's a house I always loved, a building I always loved," said DePasquale. "I'm living in the house as well. We've been living kind of in a mess for a couple of years - ceilings leaking and everything else, windows missing. It's not a fun thing, but, yes, I'm in love with the house. Probably from an investment side, it's probably foolish to be in love with it, but I do. I'm passionate for the building."

The building was the photo studio home of several photographers over the decades and there was a sign on the door and on the large tower for Beach Studios. DePasquale said Buffalo State College and the Buffalo History Museum bought 65,000 glass photography plates stored in its attic and basement.

He estimated the renovation work will take a year and then he may tackle the water-damaged interior, known for its intricate hand painting.

"The bell view turret roof is literally falling apart. It's decayed," DePasquale said. "The metal ribs are all rotting apart. It's just falling apart. So we're going to tear that right down to the sheathing, replace sheathing if we have to, and then we're going to put on some velvet, like a cloth on it, and then we're going to put back the original tile."