Postcard From Buffalo: Terrace Park, 1902, or What was there before the Skyway

 

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Postcard with colorized Terrace Park, 1902. North is to the left, south to the right. This is a detail from a 1902 panorama of the city. The original park extended four blocks farther south, but was abandoned by the city for tracks and a station built by the NY Central, seen in the middle of the illustration.

POSTCARD FROM BUFFALO: TERRACE PARK 1902. Buffalo's very first public park—going back to Joseph Ellicott's original 1803 survey and platting of New Amsterdam—was The Terrace Park. It ran from Seneca Street northwest to where Court and Jackson Street intersect today. Topography argued for it to become a public park and promenade: It was a steep slope, which Joseph Ellicott described as being up to 40 feet high. The top of the slope (which became Upper Terrace) offered views over the flats extending to Lake Erie several blocks away, while the slope itself was difficult to build on.

 

Until Olmsted's Park and Parkway system was laid out in the 1870's, Terrace Park was Buffalo's primary outdoor recreation and social space. You want a balloon ascension? The square at The Terrace and Church Street was the place. You want to build a market or raise a liberty pole? The square at The Terrace, Main & Lloyd was the spot. The implementation of the Olmsted plan ironically led to the piecemeal destruction of the Terrace.

In the early 1880's, the city allowed the New York Central to build tracks across Main Street (these would shortly be routed through a tunnel) in exchange for establishing a passenger service on a belt line. A trench was cut across the slope to create a gradient to Church Street, where the tracks turned to run along the Erie Canal. A station was built between Swan and Church streets. Several footbridges were built to cross the trench and keep the Canal District connected with downtown. A four-block stretch of Terrace Park was thus abandoned. Part of this became the site of a new and imposing Buffalo Police Headquarters in 1884. With the building frontages on lower Pearl and Lock Street, a de facto square was created. 

Another de facto square was created where The Terrace met Church Street. This was the closest open space to the civic heart of the city, the interface between the proto-industrial waterfront and emerging office and government precincts. This square was where perhaps the most famous aeronaut of the 19th century, Samuel Archer King, launched his hot-air balloon Buffalo, on September 16, 1873. The balloon was manufactured on an upper floor of the Aetna Building on Prime and Lloyd streets in the Canal District, and its ascension warranted a story in the New York Times. King called it the largest balloon in the world; it contained over 94,000 cubic feet, and the letters of Buffalo were seven feet high. King took the Buffalo all across the country. In 1877, it delivered the first airmail-stamped letters on a flight from Nashville to Gallatin, TN.

Ascension of balloon Buffalo from Terrace
Samuel Archer King's balloon Buffalo shortly before its maiden flight, Sept. 16, 1873. It was launched from Terrace Park near Church Street

The comparative illustration immediately below shows that the lands of the original Terrace are almost entirely free of buildings to this day. Removing the Skyway would be the first step in a process that could reconstruct the entire Terrace as the broad, long public promenade it was designed to be and a role it fulfilled from 1803 until the late 1960's. The only remnants are visible at Genesee Street west of WKBW-TV, and behind the Erie County Holding Center.

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1872 Hopkins Terrace and Niagara Square
Terrace Park, 1872. This shows Terrace Park at its original extent. Removing the Skyway would enable the reconstruction of the long-lost promenade
New Amsterdam proposed plan 1800Joseph Ellicott's sketch of proposed village of New Amsterdam, c. 1800, which shows the slopes of the terrace, and a broad belt of public right-of-way which informed his formal survey of 1803 and the platting of the city in 1804.

A Skywalk for Buffalo

 

Skywalk looking south
From Skyway to Skywalk: Campaign proposal coverts southern half of Skyway to elevated park

The Campaign for Greater Buffalo has, since its founding, supported removal of the Buffalo Skyway and its interchange with the Thruway. In 2007, it issued an illustrated concept called the Skywalk to mitigate the damage the bridge caused and allow reconstruction of the Canal District, Terrace Park, and the historic neighborhoods around them. The Campaign is working on refinements of its 2007 proposal, but it is timely to re-introduce the concept. 

 

The Skyway was directly responsible for the demolition of the remaining two blocks of Canal Street in the Canal District in the 1950's, the demolition of an entire block the occupation of the lower three blocks of what had been Buffalo's first public park, Terrace Park, and was indirectly responsible, through its visual and noise bight, for the weakening of adjacent blocks of historic buildings that were scraped clean during Urban Renewal. 

The Skyway-Thruway interchange has been for 65 years the greatest source of noise pollution in downtown Buffalo. This is beyond the obvious air pollution emitted by cars and trucks accelerating and de-accelerating 40,000 times per day at that spot. To be near it for a day's work would be to physically endanger not only your hearing, but risk other physiological damage. Below dangerous levels farther away, the noise is an ever present nuisance. This will hamper reconstruction of the Canal District, especially the North Aud Block, currently under study for redevelopment. 

The Skywalk would remove the physical and psychological barrier of the Skyway, eliminate  threats to public health, and allow full reconstruction of not only the Canal District, but also Terrace Park and the north side of Canal Street, as well as a further stretch of the historic canalway between Pearl and Erie streets. Let's hope Governor Cuomo makes the right decision in the upcoming days: The Skyway and its interchange must come down, and we must begin reconstructing the historic neighborhoods that tied the city and its waterfront together.

Skywalk from canal (original)
Removing the northern half of the Skyway and its iThruway interchange would allow historic reconstruction of Canal District and Terrace Park, among other neighborhoods

 

 

Skywalk stair
Stair tower and elevators would be built at the north shore of the Buffalo River at the foot of Main Street and Central Wharf, and also on the west shore of the City Ship Canal, giving access to the north end of Fuhrman Blvd. and Outer Harbor
 

 


Postcard from Buffalo: William St.

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POSTCARD FROM BUFFALO: WILLIAM STREET NEAR KRETTNER C. 1910. The subject of this postcard is probably the newly constructed Savoy Theatre, which, in 2019, stands in a long-derelict state. Of special interest is the classic commercial-residential wooden structures and the continuous strip of display window along the sidewalk. There are two display cases projecting onto the public sidewalk, one housing a mannequin in a fancy dress at the Slotkin clothing store—much like a cigar store indian—and one in front of a retail space in the Savoy building. Streets such as this provided a person walking along with a new display every seven seconds or so (with storefronts 20 to 25 feet wide). There was plenty of room to window shop, with recessed entries greatly expanding frontage, and prismatic transom glass above the main windows refracting light deeply into the store. The south side of the street (right) was always shaded during the warmest part of the day on the east-west running William Street, obviating the need for awnings. Conversely, the south-facing side of the street has very deep awnings, which were extended to moderate solar gain inside the store during summer afternoons.—Collection of Tim Tielman


Campaign fighting to Save Fruit Belt Landmark

The Campaign is fighting together with neighbors to save the Meidenbauer House at 204 High Street in the Fruit Belt, just as we successfully fought to create the High Street Historic District, of which the Meidenbauer House is an integral part. The house has been owned by the city for 14 years, during which it has done nothing to maintain the building, now it wants to demo it. Councilmember Darius Pridgen also wants it demolished. City reaction thus far has been to issue another Request For Proposals (RFP), and effort it would seem destined—if not designed—to fail. It is unclear why the City insists on blocking, for 14 years, a conventional sale of the property, similar to the process it uses at the annual auction of city properties. Instead, it throws up the very high barrier of the onerous RFP, which, practically speaking, narrows the universe of possible new owners to a handful of developers.

Pictures below were taken in 2003, two years before the City seized the property for back taxes. Top: View from High and Maple street corner; the Meidenbauer House is unusual in that it is two conjoined houses, one facing High Street, the other Maple Street. Middle: The High Street frontage, before garage and adjacent cottage were demolished. Bottom: Maple Street frontage.

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Here is What to Look for in Crucial Canal District Area

 


As you know, The Campaign for Greater Buffalo and its members were instrumental in saving Buffalo's Canal District in an epic effort that culminated in a March 2000 federal court decision and order that opened the way to saving, rather than destroying and burying, the Commercial Slip, Central Wharf, and the surrounding streets. We've led that effort ever since. In 2016, we unveiled our own plan for development of The Canal District (please don't call it Canalside, a fakey-commercial name decided upon by a former publisher of the Buffalo News). To refresh your memory, or to make first acquaintance, here are some illustrations of that plan, which is meant to represent a middle stage in a phased developement. We'll compare it in a future post to the masterplan general ideas just unveiled by Empire State Development. Stay tuned!


Campaign's 2019 LearnAboutBuffalo trips on the Open-Air Autobus off and running!

  2019 Autobus Cover

There is no better way to learn about Buffalo than to travel around and about Buffalo with the experts of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture. They have the Open-Air Autobus, a mobile classroom and part of The Campaign’s Learn About Buffalo outreach— the best way to see, hear, and smell Buffalo (toasted oats, chicken wings, charcoal-grilled hot dogs!).

The Campaign is Buffalo’s most dynamic preservation organization. Our trips reflect our character: Passionate, lively, and knowledgeable, led by experts who love exploring the world around them.Our trips are built on 30 years’ worth of architectural and historical research and help raise funds for our wide-ranging preservation work.

By doing a trip, you are doing good: The Campaign is a charitable organization chartered by the New York State Dept. of Education, and revenues are plowed directly back into local historic preservation.
The Campaign’s trips are popular, informative, well-done. Book yours or schedule a charter today! 

Reserve online by clicking on a highlighted date on the calendar, or the button below the individual tour descriptions. You can call us for reservations at 716-854-3749 as well. You'll need a charge card handy. Buffalo Whirlwind tour

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The Buffalo Whirlwind

• 10:00am, June 23, 29; July 6, 14, 20, 27; Aug. 3, 11, 17, 24; Sept. 1

• Meet at Main & Huron streets. 90 minutes, $25. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

There are few places you can see buildings by America’s Big Three architects— Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and H.H. Richardson— plus a park system by Frederick Law Olmsted. Buffalo is one of them.

On this trip, besides the master works by the Masters, you’ll see scores of other beautiful buildings and houses by prominent national and international architects and the streets and neighborhoods where Buffalonians carry on their everyday lives. The tours are led by Tim Tielman, Executive Director of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo and recent Buffalo News Citizen of the Year, and Paul McDonnell, an award-winning architect and Chairman of The Campaign.

We start with Peak Buffalo, downtown buildings at the dawn of the Skyscraper Age (including Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building and City Hall),  proceed to the Canal District, and then out to the broad Victorian-Era residential districts and the foundation of American Architecture, H.H. Richardson's Buffalo State Hospital, conceived in 1870. 

In between, you’ll see world-altering industrial architecture, the preening mansions of Delaware Avenue, and the prototype for the skyscraper, Sullivan’s Guaranty Building. We’ll put it all in context for you, as we point out dozens of buildings as markers of Buffalo’s progress through the years.

You’ll see:

• Kleinhans Music Hall • First Presbyterian Church • Ellicott Square by Daniel Burnham & Co. • St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral by Richard Upjohn • The Canal District • Niagara & Lafayette squares • Millionaires’ Row • Allentown Historic District • Delaware Historic District • City Hall and Old County Hall • Theater Historic District • Bidwell, Chapin, Lincoln parkways

The Whirlwind is an compelling 90-minute session with the passionate experts of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture.

Buffalo Whirlwind tour


Grand Tour 2019 poster 4The Grand Tour

• 10:00am, June 22, 30; July 13, 21; Aug. 4, 10, 18, 25, 31

• Meet at Main and Huron streets. $40. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

Some people just want more: More buildings, more neighborhoods, more stories, more impressions, and more understanding of The City of Buffalo. To meet that demand, we have a special 3-hour Grand Tour session that covers all the sites of our 90-minute Whirlwind session, but adds all the places we wish we could’ve shown you before with our mobile classroom the Open-Air Autobus.

Spend three hours with an expert and see:
• Lake Erie and Buffalo’s harbor defenses
• The Old First Ward
•The Grain Elevators (Hey, Tim Tielman, one of our tour leaders, wrote the book: “Buffalo’s Waterfront: A Guidebook.”).
• The revitalized Larkinville (um, in another life, Tim designed Larkin Square),
• The Linwood Historic District

The Grand Tour is also available as a charter, with lunch and a rest stop—it makes a great afternoon outing! Contact us for special pricing at 716-854-3749, or [email protected] c4gb.org.

The Grand Tour is led by Tim Tielman, Executive Director of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo and recent Buffalo News Citizen of the Year, and Paul McDonnell, an award-winning architect and Chairman of The Campaign.

Buffalo Grand Tour

 

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The Buffalo Snapshot 

• 12:00 noon, June 23, 29; July 6, 14, 20; Aug. 3, 11, 17, 24; Sept. 1

• Meet at Main & Huron streets. 60 minutes, $20. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

This is designed to be a quick look at essential Buffalo, all within the original bounds of the city in 1832.

The tour features Chris Hawley, a planner for the City of Buffalo, whose work has been recognized by The Congress for New Urbanism.

You’ll see:

• Louis Sullivan's Guaranty Building, the prototype skyscraper • Ellicott Square by Daniel Burnham & Co. • St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral by Richard Upjohn • The Canal District • Niagara & Lafayette squares  • Allentown Historic District  • City Hall • Theater Historic District

The Snapshot is a 60-minute ride with an engaging expert you won't forget!

Buffalo Snapshot

 

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A Waterfront Expedition

• 10:00am Sunday July 28 & Sunday August 25

• Meet at Main and Huron streets. $70 includes a shore lunch. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations required: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

The Erie Canal, the great engineering wonder that made Buffalo and much of America, was underway 200 years ago. As part of that celebration, The Campaign for Greater Buffalo—whose members gave us our canal back through a decade-long battle to save the Canal District— has a special 5-hour expedition of Buffalo and its waterways: the Buffalo and Niagara rivers, the Erie Canal, and the Lake Erie shore.

Join Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman, author of "Buffalo's Waterfront," 2018 Buffalo News Citizen of the Year, and 2019 Visit Buffalo-Niagara Ambassador of Year, on a very special tour of the Buffalo waterfront, from Lackawanna to Tonawanda, and up the Buffalo River. Discover scenic beauty, industrial heritage, forgotten historic sites, iconic Buffalo landmarks, and discuss future plans with someone who has shaped much of the public discussion over the last 30 years. Up close, personal, and unforgettable. Includes a shore lunch!

A Grand Waterfront Expedition

 

Atomic Age poster 2019 8The Atomic Age on the Niagara Frontier

• 1:00pm Saturday September 21

• Meet at Colvin and Amherst streets. $40. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations required: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

Is it a bird? A plane? A UFAO (Unidentified Freakish Architectural Object)? You’ll find it on this intriguing tour that explores the nooks and curbless crannies of the post-war suburban frontier, Tonawanda’s Green Acres subdivision. In the mid-1950’s Howard Pearce and his Pearce & Pearce Company built thousands of ranch houses in Green Acres. He warmed up by building the nation’s very first split-level houses in Amherst, Clarence, and Tonawanda, perfecting mass-production techniques and space-age options and built-ins. Pearce would become head of the National Association of Homebuilders, helping to shape the environment of millions of baby-booming nuclear families.

We’ll look at the surrounding commercial architecture and signage, early Pearce & Pearce rental housing, its office building, the First Trinity Lutheran Church (A bird? A plane?), and some custom projects, including a mind-blowing cream-brick-and-stone Ranch-L with shed-roofed garage and carport at —where else?—the intersection of Glenalby and Glenhurst. Led by Tim Tielman, author of How Green Were My Acres, Builders, Designers, and Buyers in an Atomic Age Suburb. 

Atomic Age on Niagara Frontier

 

Building Buffalo poster 2019 9Building Buffalo: Green & Wicks, Architects

• 1:00pm Saturday September 7

• Meet at Main & Huron streets. $40. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations required: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

The firm of Green & Wicks (1882-1917) coincided with Buffalo's Golden Age. W.S. Wicks (1854-1919) and E.B. Green (1855-1950) were Buffalo’s most distinguished architects of the period. The firm had dozens of major commissions, many of them superb examples of their type, whether office building, hotel, apartment building or grandiose mansion. The number and quality of his commissions is staggering: Buffalo Savings Bank, The  Market Arcade, half of “Millionaire’s Row,” the Twentieth Century Club,  the American Radiator factory, the Marine Bank, the Albright Art Gallery, department stores, and more. Fine structures of wood, brick, and stone, they are prominently sited or tucked away on side streets, radiating charm and poise. Join us as we hunt down dozens of the buildings and tell the tales of the people who lived, worked, worshiped, and socialized there.

Building Buffalo: Green & Wicks, Architects

 

This Old Mansion poster 2019 7This Old Mansion

• 1:00pm Saturday September 14

• Meet at Main & Huron streets. $40. Discounts for groups of 10 or more.

• Reservations required: Click on calendar at top, button below, or call 716-854-3749

The story of Buffalo's—and America's— rich and infamous unfolds on this fascinating tour of upper-crust strips and 'hoods. Delaware Avenue was the pioneer street of Buffalo’s titans from the Civil War to the Great Depression, but other precincts were established as the families grew in numbers and wealth, and sought stature. Learn of their feats and foibles, but most of all, their evolving taste in architecture.

Massive Italianate, Second Empire, Victorian Gothic, Queen Anne, and Shingle Style houses were built as displays of conspicuous consumption. They were bound by rigid codes of behavior that were fondly tweaked by Broadway playwright A. J. Gurney, who grew up in the cosseted confines of Buffalo's One Hundred. Some rebelled, most notably was Mabel Dodge Luhan, who, after a trailblazing and swath-cutting life on two continents, wrote a scandal-making memoir that dished the dirt on her youthful Buffalo neighbors. Devilish they may have been, but their taste in architecture was well-bred.

This Old Mansion tour

 

2019 Autobus Charter

Travel anywhere around Buffalo anytime you want by chartering the Open-Air Autobus. There is no better way to learn abot Buffalo than to see, hear, smell the city. We’ve done trips for students from grade 2 to graduate students, weddings, bar mitzvahs, reunions, and corporations. You get a ride like no other and expert commentary from the passionate pros of The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture & Culture. We know our stuff!
• 46-person capacity
• See-thru, roll-down rain fly
• $700 for up to two hours with expert commentary; longer tours available
• About $15 per person at capacity
• $400 for up to three hours for bus & driver only
• Take a walking tour with same top-notch experts: $200 for 2 hrs. for up to 20 people; $10 ea. add’l.

 Call now: 716-854-3749

 


Electric Scooters: Urban boost or danger?

Electric scooters: Urban boost or danger? Dedicated preservationists and urbanists are big supporters of mass mobility as a way to preserve and enhance pre-automobile neighborhoods and build vibrant new ones. Car-dependency can't do it. So, I was excited to follow the development of electric scooters and scooter-sharing systems. So excited, I shelled out $500 for my own scooter, made by the same company which supplies Bird. Big mistake. Find out why in the video.


City wants to take parkland for fieldhouse. Time to rehab Buffalo's oldest armory instead.

The Buffalo Public Schools, in collaboration with the City of Buffalo, are looking for a field house. Cannon Design has been hired to develop proposals. A public input session was held on December 11.

That's when it got complicated. Read about The Campaign for Greater Buffalo's response to building on parkland, and ignoring transit-oriented development, community revitalization, and historic preservation. Download Greater Buffalo #26.3Armory med-res

Or, click on the page images to read on-screen.