Located in the heart of Buffalo’s Theater District, Babeville is a multi-use facility devoted to the arts—but it almost didn’t exist at all. The 19th century Gothic Revival-style church was rescued from the wrecking ball and renovated by singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco and her longtime manager Scot Fisher in a process that took more than 10 years and cost more than $10 million of private and public funds. The end result is a building that has been praised by music fans, preservationists, and art lovers alike.
Babeville is not just one venue but many. Asbury Hall (1200 capacity) is an open-floor hall with 45-foot-high ceilings, state-of-the-art sound, and balcony seating; the space can be configured in any number of ways to accommodate a wide range of events from weddings and bar mitzvahs to fundraisers to full-on rock shows. Upon its opening, the Buffalo News proclaimed it “one of the most graceful and intimate concert venues in Buffalo.” The Ninth Ward (150 capacity) is a subterranean bar that makes a great listening room and is ideal for smaller concerts and performances. The building also houses Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, itself encompassing an art gallery and 80-seat screening room, and the offices of Righteous Babe Records. Behind the scenes, there are two dressing rooms, a production office, a lounge area, a loading dock, and separate bathrooms and showers for crews. On any given night, Babeville can play host to multiple events—and multiple audiences—simultaneously.
Those events have thus far included; Gay & Lesbian Youth Services of WNY’s Annual Gayla, the Annual “Sweet Charity” benefit for the Food Bank of WNY, Brian Moorman PUNT Foundation’s Annual Wine Paring Dinner, and a live taping of Lou Dobbs Tonight for CNN, among many others. In each case, the participants are a part of the ongoing preservation of the building. Rental fees go directly toward ensuring that this classic former church never again finds itself on the chopping block, but continues to thrive as a premier model of how historic preservation can and does work in Buffalo.
Early on, Ani described her goal with Babeville as “to create a dynamic place that will have a momentum of its own once all the creative people are in there, and there is music happening at night, and art hanging on the walls and crazy cinema in the basement.” That’s all taking place now on a nightly basis, and the corner of Delaware Avenue and Tupper Street in downtown Buffalo is full of energy, creativity, and the spirit of independence.