Lives spared after building collapses

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Residents living across from the vacant Duffy Silk Mill in Buffalo escaped with their lives when part of the old plant collapsed Christmas morning.

Wind gusts approaching 60 miles an hour had sent bricks flying. The plant, built in the early 1900’s, had been deteriorating.

Demetrius Kilgore, a 60 year old grandfather, had been watching a movie on TV when he was taken by surprise.

“It sounded like a sonic boom, like it was an earthquake,” he said. He was one of five tenants in the apartment house the time.

“They had to break down my door to get everybody out of the apartments,” he said.

Another resident who house was in the path of the bricks ran to her brother’s home nearby. The brother, Chuck Culhane, said, “She was shaking. She said it sounded like the end of the world.”

Emergency demolition crews from Metro Environmental out of Niagara Falls spent Christmas day making the area safe in this Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

Back at the turn of the 20h century, the silk mill was staffed by women. Buffalo was at its peak on the national stage.

“The economy was booming and these people could get jobs,” said preservationist Tim Tielman. “That’s why they came here and I think all of this history is encapsulated in Duffy Silk.”

The old mill almost had made history again. There had been some interest in the property, according to Fillmore District Council Member David Franczyk.

“Ironically just a few months ago I was out here with some developers who wanted to put apartment buildings in this building,” said Franczyk. “So this is just a tremendous blow.”

Tielman said, “This is God’s way of saying get out there and save these other buildings.”

But on Christmas day, lives were spared as bricks came raining down in a howling wind. That alone, at least for Demetrius Kilgore, is reason to give thanks.

“Thank God everybody’s safe and nobody got hurt,” he said, as a giant demolition shovel hauled away a piece of the mill’s outer wall. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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