SALAMANCA — Not too long ago, the city of Salamanca was known for its bustling Main Street, downtown shops and vibrant community life, offering plenty of merchandise from fine dining to heritage goods.
Now with a potential contest, Salamanca is making plans to renovate the historic downtown area that will not only anchor it again as a retail center but also potentially return the city as the social and cultural epicenter of the region.
The Salamanca community, including city, school and business leaders and the Seneca Nation of Indians, recently submitted their nomination to the HGTV series Home Town Takeover, seeking to have the show’s hosts come to Salamanca to significantly spruce up the city.
The nomination included a three-minute video, which features individuals from throughout the community talking about Salamanca’s history, unique standing as the only city in America located on Native American territory, its architecture, its character and its people.
Those appearing in the video include Mayor Michael “Smitty” Smith, John Sheehan from the Seneca Salamanca Chamber of Commerce, local students and others.
“Among Allegany State Park, Seneca Allegany Casino and the Holiday Valley Ski Resort, millions of visitors come to experience Salamanca,” Sheehan said. “Each year the city plays host to the Marvin ‘Joe’ Curry Pow Wow, filled with native music, foods, crafts and outstanding dancing. We have a lot to offer international tourism. We just need that final, helpful push to spark to the city’s renewal.”
In January, HGTV launched a nationwide call for nominations for Home Town Takeover from residents of towns with 40,000 people or fewer. The show will feature the rehab of multiple individual family homes, as well as the revitalization of parks and other public spaces.
Applicants can request funding for “brick and mortar” renovation projects in a community or a specific aspect of their city’s architecture heirloom. Salamanca filed to win the contest to renovate the historical staples such as the Ray Evans Seneca Theater to Queen Anne Towers.
“Since this program is not state or federal funding, there are not as many strings attached,” said Aaron Straus, Salamanca City School District’s Coordinator, who also wrote the application for the successful SEMI program for the district’s new STEAM wing.
A collaborative partnership team of the Seneca Nation, Salamanca City Central School District, chamber of commerce and city officials crafted the video and submitted the application.
“It’s nice to finally be able to show the public the beautiful, natural environments that many people overlook,” said Maurice John Jr., Seneca Media and Communications Sr. Content Producer. “Salamanca has a lot to offer, and I hope this video will provide an opportunity to show the rest of the world where we come from.”
“Our Main Street area has had paving and sidewalk upgrades that make it more aesthetically pleasing, walkable and drivable,” said Sandi Brundage, city grant writer. “The final piece of the puzzle is regaining momentum to bring Salamanca back to its former self, and renew positive energy for commerce in the downtown area.”
A number of recent projects were pitched and vetted by the community, and the application was written around the one already in progress.
“We have striven to restore pride in our city,” said Mayor Smith. “I feel that this project is one of our crowning glories of that promise.”
The project is a comprehensive restoration of the Main Street, which Salamanca may know as the site of historical features like The Dowd house at 44 South Main St. and The Queen Anne Towers at 50 South Main St. Community leaders wants to revitalize the area for commercial use and turn-top its architectural aspects into cultural hubs.
“The positive response to the video was a clear indicator that the people of Salamanca want and deserve more from their city,” commented Patrick Redeye, Seneca Nation media specialist. “Everyone involved helped make this a success. Win or lose, I hope we can keep the momentum and teamwork towards this common goal moving forward.”
Much of the buildings are in a state of neglect. Some of the builds are not up to code. Much of the interiors will need to refurbish, and the exteriors will be redone.
“Salamanca deserves a new Main Street,” said Dr. Mark Beehler, assistant superintendent of the school district.
Nominations closed on Feb. 4. One town will be chosen to be featured on the six-episode special series, airing in 2021. Officials expect the award to be announced by late April or early May.
"It was an honor to collaborate with the Seneca Nation, City of Salamanca and the Salamanca School to produce this video,” Sheehan said.
“It truly is amazing what we can accomplish working together,” added Gary Quattrone, the chamber’s events coordinator.
If you are interested in learning more about the effort, please contact John Sheehan at the chamber of commerce at 251-648-4883 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.