Wildroot Building


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July 2017

1989 news photo (possibly of 1950s)


WildrootBuffalo, Mark Paradowski, TBN, Mike Puma ViewsOfBuffalo, BYP


1740 Bailey Avenue Buffalo, NY 14211
Google Bird's Eye View
Lovejoy Council District
SBL: 101.72-4-22
Erie County Property Info
County Tax Map (loads GIS page)
City of Buffalo Parcel Viewer

Across from: Empire State Bottling Warehouse
Near: National Grid 036
Across the tracks: American Brake Shoe & Foundry Co., NY Central West Shore Roundhouse, Pullman Co. Roundhouse, Wagner Palace / Pulman Car Complex, Pristach's Tavern


Physical Description

  • 100k sq.ft three story facility with brick facade.
81,384 sq.ft. reinforced concrete warehouse (1929)
17,655 sq.ft. steel post and beam office building with concrete floors (1946)

Current Condition

  • The building is empty. The first floor entrances have been secured via volunteer and EPA efforts. Some upper windows are covered, others remain open. The City did some facade brick removal in one corner of the original warehouse in 2011. There is still some railroad track on the property from a former train spur. Stairways are steel and in great shape. The roof is in fair condition, but water has entered from uncapped vent piping and ruined the wood flooring that sat atop the thick concrete floors. Parking lot is paved and fenced but overgrown. Bailey entrance was partially modified with construction of a new Bailey bridge in the 1980s, which is higher than the original one. EPA performed interior and exterior clean-up of some industrial contaminants in October 2014.


  • Mid-1800s - Joseph Doll's family ran a general store and saloon out of their farmhouse at 535 Walden Avenue.
  • 1882 - Doll sold the southern portion of his farm to West Shore Railroad. He then subdivided the remaining farm for housing - Fay, May, and St. Joseph's streets (the name of his daughter, granddaughter, and patron saint).
  • 1909 - The Wildroot company began in the Iroquois Hotel by two barbers mixing dandruff shampoo for their customers.
  • 1911-1918 - The company went from just a home kitchen, to operating from the Caxton Building and the Sidway Building
  • 1919 - The company expands to a production facility at 1490 Jefferson Avenue
  • 1929 - J.W. Hines convinced his national bakery company, Grennan, to build the largest cake kitchen in the world on the east side of Buffalo. The warehouse on Fay street cost more than $1 million to construct and equip by 1930.
  • 1940s - The Wildroot Company grew to become the largest hair tonic manufacturer in the world.
  • 1946 - Wildroot took over the former bakery and connected two warehouses on Fay with a second story bridge. Wildroot also constructed a three story administration building that connected the original warehouse to Bailey Avenue.
  • 1957 - Wildroot expands third floor and adds another production line in light of overwhelming sales.
  • 1959 - Wildroot CEO Harry Lehman, an initial investor and president since 1914, retired and died in the same year. The Wildroot business was sold to Colgate-Palmolive.
  • 1961 - Colgate Palmolive closes the plant and moves production out of town, despite being highly profitable in Buffalo.
  • 1962-1982 - The building was used by Transparent Bag Company (1st floor) and Truly Magic Products (TMP, 2-3rd floors)
  • 1983-1989 - Ownership of the building bounces around between various owners (Russell Cali, Awesome Abe's Auto Paint) and the tax auction process
  • 1989 - SCI Development purchased the complex for redevelopment into office and warehouse space. They performed some small interior and exterior work, and arranged for the city to remove the 2nd floor bridge between the two warehouses on Fay.
  • 1993 - SCI Development apparently abandons its redevelopment effort and transfers ownership to the owner's friend, John Uban. It remains empty and mostly abandoned from this point on.
  • 1995 - The Wildroot brand was sold to Stephan Co. of Florida, who continues to produce hair products under the Wildroot name.

Recent Actions Taken

  • 2011 - Owner John Uban dies with no next of kin or plan for the building
  • 2012 - City of Buffalo website lists endangered industrial sites, including Wildroot
  • July 2012 - City Hall Permit and Inspections office confirms that no demolition contract is out for the structure
  • August 2012 - City Hall contacted for ownership contact info
  • Oct 2012 - Facebook page created to catalog history of the company/building and search for additional information
  • Jan 2013 - Large graffiti marks made on exterior walls of West Shore courtyard.
  • March 2013 - Local landmark application prepared
  • May 2013 - Building profiled in Buffalo Spree magazine
  • July 2013 - Replacement fence gate constructed from donated parts to prevent additional illegal dumping
  • August 2013 - Volunteer clean-up efforts begin with clearing Fay Street sidewalk
  • September 2013 - Fundraiser for mothballing process profiled on Buffalo Rising
  • October 9, 2013 - Views of Buffalo announces board-up project
  • October 12, 2013 - Buffalo Young Preservationists (BYP) host first Board-up/Clean-up event to help secure/weatherize the building.
  • October 2013 - Wildroot Building pulled from City Tax Auction list, preventing any interested buyers from seeing it as available or making a purchase.
  • November 19, 2013 - Councilman Rich Fontana confirms that the building is known to be structurally sound, although it does have some facade/appearance concerns for the City
  • December 29, 2013 - The Buffalo News profiles efforts to save the building
  • April 2014 - Buffalo Spree profiles this year's BYP Heart Bomb initiative with a photo of activists in front of Wildroot
  • July 2014 - Photos and historic research submitted to SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) to consider the building for National Register Eligibility
  • August 7, 2014 - A city inspector called the DEC, which called the EPA down to Wildroot. The EPA is performing a study of the site to identify any industrial contamination and evaluate a possible clean-up.
    • Other industrial sites, such as Houdaille, have recently been cleaned by the EPA and re-marketed by the city. The intentions of the City in this case are not clear.
  • September 2, 2014 - 'Final Notice. Notice to Remove Personal Property due to imminent demolition of said building' sign placed on building by Commissioner
  • October 13, 2014 - EPA clean-up scheduled to begin
  • January 2015 - New York State Historic Preservation Office (S.H.P.O.) determines that the building is eligible for inclusion on the historic register. A developer can apply for its listing, which would lead to a 40% historic tax credit on renovations.
  • August 1, 2015 - BYP-scheduled community clean up event 10am-2pm. Clean-up and board-up efforts continue work started in 2013.
  • October 2015 - NY SHPO has found the building to be eligible for inclusion in the federal and state Registers of Historic Places.
    From their letter: "We have received your "Request for Evaluation of State and National Registers Eligibility" for the Wildroot Building in Buffalo. Based on the documentation provided and our preliminary analysis, the building appears to be eligible for the State/National Registers of Historic Places in the areas of industry and commerce. The attached Resource Evaluation by Jennifer Walkowski provides a statement of significance for the building. It is my understanding that you have made your best effort to try to find the current owner of the property as the owner indicated on the tax records, John Urban, passed away in 2011. For now, we are sending a copy of our letter and Resource Evaluation to the Estate of John Urban."
    "This is an evaluation of eligibility only. Properties cannot be listed without the consent of the owner. Eligibility or listing on the Registers offers a measure of protection under federal and New York State historic preservation laws. It does not prohibit a property owner from making changes, selling, or even demolishing a property with private funds. The New York State Division for Historic Preservation provides consultation when public money or permitting is associated with a historic property. The purposes of the Register program are to document and recognize sites of cultural significance in communities; and to quality properties for potential grant programming and tax credit incentives for rehabilitation."
  • April 2016 - Wildroot has been selected to the Preservation League of NY's Seven to Save list. This exclusive list selects only 7 buildings statewide once every two years. Wildroot was the only industrial property picked, as well as the only building from Western New York. Its unique character and heritage is now receiving a state-wide audience.
  • October 2016 - Reportedly purchased at auction by an out of town owner who may just be squatting on the property.
  • January 2017 - The out of town bidder at tax auction has not completed the purchase, meaning it reverts back to its current (deceased) owner. This will also allow BYP, PBN, and the NYS Pres League to resume their efforts in obtaining grant money for a reuse study.
  • July 2017 - Common Council passes resolution to fund the Preservation League of NYS's application for $20,000 in financial assistance through the 2017 Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) under the New York Main Street Technical Assistance Grant for a feasibility study of the building
  • September 3, 2017 - Third bi-annual BYP clean-up event clears courtyard, sidewalks, and secures courtyard area.
  • September 18, 2017 - Preservation League of NYS sponsored block party on West Shore to highlight efforts to save the building and gather community feedback.
  • October 2017 - The building was sold at the City's in rem auction for just $1,000, rather than the $40k+ the councilman hoped for in order to discourage unqualified bidders.
  • November 16, 2017 - The Preservation Board votes unanimously to nominate the Wildroot Building for Local Landmark consideration, citing that it meets 4 of the 9 criteria for inclusion when only 1 is required.
  • January 2018 - Omar Siam completes purchase of building with intention of moving his electrical contractor business in. He requests from City Hall that the building be removed from the demolition list and applies for a permit to restore electricity to the building.
  • February 6, 2018 - The Buffalo Common Council voted unanimously to designate the Wildroot Building a Local Landmark
  • 2019 - Building is under contract by a company looking to renovate it into apartments
  • 2020 - Apartment deal falls through as the City doesn't support it as a development area of interest.
  • October 2021 - Remaining large granite slabs surrounding Bailey bridge entrance removed

Other Pertinent Facts

  • Eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the NYS Historic Preservation Office
  • The inventor of Wildroot Cream Oil, Emmanuel Gundlach, had his son Robert working at the Wildroot plant before Robert went on to invent the modern Xerox copy process
  • In 1951, a part owner of Wildroot created the Wildroot Foundation with a portion of his company stock.
    • per WNY Foundation:
    • Through astute subsequent investment of these Foundation's assets, the renamed Western New York Foundation began 50 plus years of support for the entire WNY non-profit community. Over the last half century, the Foundation has made thousands of grants totaling about $11 million.
    • Grants have been given to a wide range of educational, cultural, social service and other compelling community institutions and initiatives. In addition, the WNY Foundation has, over the years and when circumstance appeared to dictate, attempted to be pro-active and convene fellow foundations in support of compelling community challenges and solutions.


Landmark Application, October 2017 (large PDF files)

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Added 2013-01-02 • Last changed 2021-10-07