Gratz Grant - Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center
In 2016, the Preservation League of New York State made an $8,600 grant to Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center in Buffalo, part of the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission includes preserving Ukrainian language, culture and history.
The grant is the fifth made from the Donald Stephen Gratz Preservation Services Fund of the Preservation League of New York State. Previous recipients include CiviCure in Hoosick Falls; Friends of Fort Plain in Montgomery County; Adirondack Architectural Heritage in Keeseville, Clinton and Essex Counties; and GARNER Arts Center in Rockland County.
Following World War II and through the early 1950’s, the East Side of Buffalo saw a surge of immigrants from Ukraine who had been displaced by the war. Many of these new arrivals had fought during the war or worse, been captured and held prisoner.
Dnipro is named after the largest river in Ukraine, the Dneiper, which flows past the capital of Kiev south to Odessa and empties into the Black Sea. Most of the founding members were Ukrainian immigrants displaced by World War II. They sought to establish a community center to express their cultural identity, share their heritage and celebrate important events. The founders worked in local factories by day and repaired and restored the building on evenings and weekends. The building houses classrooms, a credit union bank branch, library, a lounge with a vaulted ceiling, and upstairs theater.
Constructed in 1914, with a three story terracotta facade, the building had seen cycles of deterioration and investment. It is still heavily used and contains a credit union, an actively used event space, and a Ukrainian school, among other things. The stewards of this important building, members of the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center of Buffalo, knew they needed a conditions assessment and code analysis of the building as a first step in developing a master plan for rehabilitation and an expansion of community uses.
Located at 562 Genesee Street, the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center is a fixture in Buffalo’s Downtown East neighborhood. It is a vibrant part of the rich cultural, ethic and architectural landscape of Western New York. Dnipro is both a repository of Ukrainian culture for the region and part of the thriving Buffalo arts scene as a venue for the Torn Space Theater and Squeaky Wheel. It is a site for many large-scale events for a wide range of organizations including Sister Cities and more.
The sprawling three story, 44,000 square foot structure was purchased by the Ukrainian-American community from the City of Buffalo in 1955. Constructed in 1914 for a German fraternal organization, it changed ownership several times, fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned before being purchased in 1955 for the Ukrainian Cultural Center.
The Ukrainian Cultural Center sought funding for a conditions assessment and code analysis of the building. This is the first step in developing a master plan for the building and expanding uses to the larger Buffalo community. The $8,600 grant has allowed them to retain HHL Architects to complete a condition assessment of the exterior and interior, a mechanical systems analysis, an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) code assessment, and gather information on underutilized sections of the building. The Ukrainian Cultural Center provided a $500 retainer for HHL Architects.
“The League is New York’s only statewide organization providing comprehensive – and predominantly pro bono – services to New Yorkers seeking to identify, preserve, protect, reuse, and promote historic resources as community assets,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League. “The mission of the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, with its focus on the arts, history and heritage as a fulcrum for community revitalization, is a perfect match for our Donald Stephen Gratz Preservation Services Fund. We’re so pleased to be able to help them realize their goals.”