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September 2019

Treasure-trove documenting Atomic Age suburbia, saved by Campaign, made accessible by History Museum

265 Yorkshire  plymouth  Ev JanishThe staggering archives of house builders Pearce & Pearce—including over 4,000 file folders stuffed architectural renderings, paint specifications, finishing options, costs, sale prices, and more, plus hundreds of blueprints–saved through the efforts of Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman in 2017, have now been digitally indexed by The Buffalo History Museum, where the invaluable collection resides.
 
Tielman first laid eyes on the files in 2003 while researching a bicycle tour that included Pearce & Pearce's Green Acres subdivision. The staff was just then preparing to dispose thousands of deteriorating blueprints, going back to the immediate post-war building boom. Tielman, agog at the blueprints and the 1950's office-as-time-capsule they were contained in, persuaded Bill Pearce, family scion, not to toss them.
 
Eight years later, Tielman was back, doing research for his paper, "How Green Were My Acres: Builders, Designers, and Buyers in an Atomic Age Suburb, 1946-1956." In 2016, Tielman got a call from Bill Pearce, notifying him that the company's real estate assets were being put up for sale and the office would have to be cleared out. Now was the time to find a permanent home. Not wanting the archives to end up outside the area, Tielman eventually was able to link up Pearce with the History Museum Director Melissa Brown and Library & Archives Director Cynthia Van Ness (a long-time Campaign member).
 
The History Museum accepted the archives in 2017; intern Alexander Morehouse (Syracuse University) did yeoman's work indexing the file drawers. 
 
There is no comparable archive anywhere. There are dozens of theses and books waiting to be written based on the material, which can keep historians busy for decades. Viewing the material itself requires a visit to the museum, but you can see what is there with the index: https://tinyurl.com/TBHM-Pearce
 

The Dream, at Last: Reconstruction of Canal District. Concept to Remove North Skyway Viaduct, Thruway Interchange Wins Contest

Skyway Gone  vertical 1

It only took 27 years, but the complete reconstruction of Buffalo's Canal District is within sight. Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated a contest last February to develop concepts for the future of the Skyway. The competition was overseen by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). On September 17, a winner was chosen that clears the path for the reconstruction not only of the Canal District, but other neighborhoods and streets as well.  The central idea was to remove the northern viaduct of the Skyway, the Thruway interchange, and the on/off ramps, freeing up acres of land to reconstruct neighborhoods and connections that were destroyed 65 years ago. It is a great victory for preservation in Buffalo; the bookend to the successful lawsuit and public campaign to save the Canal District from destruction 20 years ago.

It is a tectonic shift. We have gone from preservationists, led by Campaign Executive Director Tim Tielman, being forced to sue in federal court to stop an ESDC plan that would have destroyed all remnants of the Canal District, to ESDC sponsoring a plan that makes it possible to not only authetically reconstruct the Canal District, but to go further, and reconstruct the long lost, long forgotten Terrace, a park and promenade that goes back to Joseph Ellicott’s first rough sketch of the Village of New Amsterdam. And maybe reconstruct another stretch of the Erie Canalway, parts of Canal Street and the buildings that lined both.

The Campaign is working to update its 2007 proposal for a “Skywalk,” which, similar to the winning proposal, saves the main spans of the Skyway and the south viaduct, but goes further, saving the embankment as a continuous elevated bikeway and walkway to Tifft Farm and Buffalo Harbor State Park. Skyway vehicular traffic would be routed along Ganson and Ohio streets to and from downtown, or simply use the Thruway rather than Route 5. A September post shows our original 2007 proposal.

In the meantime, we can start dreaming about reconstructing downtown, and our image.