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Charlie Baker Block saved, for now

Paladino demo’s last Deco

Developer Carl Paladino in a patented quickie demo, demolished the last Deco Restaurant in Buffalo, at 389 Washington Street, next to the landmark Hotel Lafayette. This act was enabled by the Buffalo Preservation Board, which failed to put the demolition request on its agenda. With no public notice, the demolition occurred in early February.

The building, an eclectic gem of 1930’s De Stijl and 1950’s “Coffee Shop Modern,” featured a vertical ashlar stone slab and four horizontal bands, two of which intersected the slab. The principal horizontal was stainless steel, with the word “restaurant” spelled out in attenuated, sans serif stainless steel letters. The main body of the restaurant was fronted in glass, recessed under the horizontal bands. The tiny lot is vacant and for sale.

The chain got its start in 1918 with an 18-year-old Cold Spring boy, Gregory Deck, who was casting about for ways to pay tuition to Canisius College. He threw an old table and his family’s charcoal grill onto a wagon, bought some hotdogs, condiments, and rolls, and walked uptown 2 1/2 miles to Main and Lisbon, where he fired up the grill and waited for train and trolley passengers. It was a new neighborhood with little competition. Deco, though artful, actually does not refer to the architectural style. It is an amalgam of Deck’s last name and his “co-” workers, according to the Buffalo History Works. The business grew like topsy, with full-fledged restaurants across the state and in Toronto. The city of Buffalo alone had 50.

Deco’s were highly dependent on the urban lifestyle of crowded sidewalks and quick turnover. The chain was bought by Sportservice (now Delaware North) in 1961. The Washington Street location was the last Deco to close, in 1979. It was last occupied by the Sugar and Spice restaurant. For a detailed look at all things Deco, go to www.BuffaloHistoryWorks.com.