North and South Buffalo. The East and West Sides. But how many neighborhoods can you name that don’t fit any of those descriptions?
From the biggest geographical sections, to the dozens of micro-neighborhoods and hundreds of great intersections, each little bit of Buffalo has it’s own unique story, and many of those stories are right here.
Scroll to read more about Buffalo’s Neighborhoods or search for something specific…
Buffalo, NY – As Mayor, Jim Griffin raised over $20,000 for local charities by sponsoring a decades’ worth of annual runs in South Park. Fast forward 20 years, and the late mayor’s name is now once again in the spotlight in the running world as his family, the Buffalo Bisons and the Alzheimer’s Association of WNY organize the “Run Jimmy Run Charity 5k.”
The race takes runners on a tour of Griffin’s vision for Buffalo, starting the bronze likeness of the mayor outside Coca Cola Field, “The House That Jimmy Built.” The course then heads to City Hall, to the Griffin-imagined Erie Basin Marina, and then back to the ball park for the homeplate finish line, a beer and a ballgame.
An optional one mile walk takes participants from the Griffin statue to City Hall and back, and makes it a family friendly event, ending with a ticket to the afternoon’s Bisons game.
Aside from celebrating the memory of Buffalo’s longest serving top executive and the game he knew would help save downtown, the proceeds will benefit a charity with close ties to the late mayor.
When Griffin was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease in the months before he died in 2008, outside of Google, his family didn’t know where to turn to learn about Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. The Alzheimer’s Association of WNY became a support network for the Griffins, as it has thousands of other families suffering through memory loss and dementia.
The $30 cost of pre-registering for the Sunday, July, 21st race includes a ticket to the day’s 1:05 Bisons game, a commemorative baseball-sleeve t-shirt, a chip-timed bib, and a post-race party serving lunch, beer and pop.
While the Buffalo Olmsted Park Conservancy now exists to run and maintain Buffalo’s Parks, as first founded, The Friends of Olmsted were concerned not only with the parks and public spaces designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, but also with the streetscapes and other Olmsted designs which aren’t necessarily parks, but are a part of the master landscape architect’s “city within a park” idea.
The Parkside neighborhood was designed by Olmsted as a buffer between Main Street and the serenity of the park meadow. In the early 1980s, the Friends of Olmsted worked to have many of Olmsted’s landscape designs listed on the National Register. In 1986, with the help of the Parkside Community Association, “The Parkside Historic District” streetscape was recognized by state and national registers.
Part of the several year process in gaining that status involved identifying each structure within the streetscape footprint, and identifying the characteristics of those structures. In other words, some very smart people looked at every house in Olmsted designed portion Parkside and wrote a brief description along with research on when the structure was built.
The final report is several thousand pages long, and actually gives much greater detail on each of the 1109 “contributing principal buildings” of Parkside, but on this page are those brief descriptions of every house. The links below are hundreds of pages, painstakingly scanned, to provide information like this on every house:
This is an example of what you’ll find inside… The listing for my home. Sadly, that glass door on the side porch didn’t make it from the early ’80s to 1999 when we first walked into the house.
To find out about your house:
open the report by clicking this link. (While it’s a large file an takes some time to download, this method is probably easier that trying to use the reader below.)
clicking “Ctrl+F” once the PDF is open
type in the number of your house (there made be a few with your number, but this is the easiest way)
if that doesn’t work, for for your house number with spaces in between the numbers. (e.g., mine comes up as “1 1 7” instead of “117”)
if that doesn’t work, search for your street name then scroll a bit. (note that most streets are broken up odd/even.)
If your street or house isn’t listed, it was not a part of the survey done by the Friends of Olmsted in 1986. Sorry!
The report states Parkside has “an informal, curvilinear street pattern” largely reflective of Olmsted’s original 1876 and 1886 subdivision plans for the neighborhood. The neighborhood is “characterized by numerous, relatively narrow, 1/8 acre building lots and a preponderance of small, wood frame, single family residences” built between 1888 and 1936.
The application states, “The architectural character of the historic district is largely defined by repetitive, narrow, late Victorian period houses with front porches and gabled facades built between 1895 and 1915, as well as by standardized American four-square houses, with square floor plans, boxy massing, and hipped roofs with dormers built between 1900 and 1925.”
Steve Cichon is the author of “The Complete History of Parkside.”
Here’s an august Buffalo structure, a fine example of a turn of the century single family dwelling.
Nestled in a “Parkside” streetscape and neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the American Four Square was designed by renowned Buffalo architect E.B. Green and built in 1909 and 1910.
And sometimes, even a house like this, is just a house unless someone comes along to tell its story.
My then girlfriend and I stumbled into this house’s story when we were house hunting in Kenmore. If you can remember all the way back to 1999, there was mostly the Home Finder and the weekend drive to find a house. We’d spent the better part of a few months worth of weekends cruising the streets of the Village of Kenmore; with it’s character-rich homes, friendly tree-lined neighborhoods, and relatively affordable prices.
But we were at wits end. We were willing to do some work on a house, mostly because we couldn’t afford one move in ready in the places we wanted to live. Until one day when we were stopped at the light right before the 33.
We’d traveled through the Parkside neighborhood dozens of times on our trips between Monica’s parents house and the village of Kenmore, but this time, a great old house– like the ones we’d been looking at, caught my eye.
We’d become accustomed to what to look for: Exterior nice, but not too nice, you pay for that. This house had it. And we found out, at a price that we could afford.
The bones of the house, as they say, were perfect, but there was little else (if anything) that was.
Lots of bleach and elbow work; not a single wall or window that didn’t need attention. No problem, though. My grandfather bought an 1880s house with no heat aside from fireplaces and no electricity in the 1950s. He updated it himself. As my grandma famously said, “They had their bedroom in every room” of their house on Hayden Street in South Buffalo.
Despite a ridiculous amount of work that needed to be done, we bought the joint for a song, and I figured, with my 22 year old wisdom, that if I spent all my free time working on the house, we’d have a completed “This Old House” looking home 6 months later. 12 years later, we’re just getting to the upstairs.
The house was built for Laura C. Geib, who had inherited the land. Her sister had already built a house just across the way and Miss Geib, who was a German and Latin teacher at Fosdick-Masten High School, watched her home, one of the first on the block, be built.
In 1909, being a school teacher was not among the better paid professions. In fact, a teacher’s salary barely allowed one to rise to the burgeoning middle class. You can see Geib’s lack of funds in the very sparce decoration. The house is probably the least of any home designed by E.B. Green, and the original elements that remain, like leaded glass windows, the dining room chandelier and sconces and some door hardware, all give the mismatched feel of a Home Depot bargain bin. Our own lack of finances during the remodel continued this tradition.
It may have been finances, or just not wanting to live alone in such a big house. Either way, in 1914, Geib sold the home to Fred and Lucy Walter, who lived there for the next 46 years.
The didn’t have any children, but Uncle Fred and Aunt Lucy were remembered as a “wonderful, cute little old couple” by a niece I was able to track down.
They also had some strange habits. One time working in the attic, I found about a decades’ worth of tax returns and Sisters hospital bills jammed into the wall cavity. The fact that our deed lists “Lucy Walter, invalid” as the seller of the home in 1960, leads one to believe that she may have been suffering from some form of dementia.
The O’Day family bought the home in 1966, and spent the next 34 years raising a huge brood of kids, and always throwing open the doors to cousins or friends who needed a place to stay. The house wasn’t a museum piece or cold “don’t touch sort of place during those years, it was full of life and well lived-in. Mr. O’Day seemed to be a nice enough guy when we bought the house, but I’d be lying it I didn’t admit to cursing at him as I toiled in breathing life back into the house.
Wanting to know more about the house that once stood on the empty lot next door was really the beginning of my exploration of the neighborhood’s history that culminated with the publication of my 2009 book “The Complete History of Parkside, ” which was mostly written at the dining room table in this house.
The dining room was our first living room, while the living room acted as a workshop staging area.
The photos show the walls having been de-wallpapered and re-plastered, the 4 layers of paint stripped from the wainscotting before 7 or 8 layers of finish were applied. The ceiling, so cracked and marred, that we turned to a trick my uncle told me about: We wallpapered the ceiling using embossed wallpaper. It really gives the look of an old fashioned embossed tin ceiling, but it does come at a price. Wallpapering that ceiling is as close as Monica and I have ever come to divorce over the course of our 11 year marriage.
You really get to know a building when you are essentially rebuilding it from within, piece by piece. We’ve never been really sure of what we’re doing, but always have had an eye towards what a house like this “should” look like, whatever that means.
Our kitchen remodel started with a really leaky faucet which was so badly damaged that it couldn’t be fixed. But I couldn’t put a new faucet in such a grungy sink… Nor a new sink in such a low-grade cabinet. My poor wife came home to her kitchen torn down to the studs, and about 6 months of doing dishes in the bathtub.
But luckily, those studs, the bones, are good. That’s amazing, given the number of beer bottles we’ve found jammed in walls and in crawl spaces before the were sealed up. It’s like a tour of the breweries in business in Buffalo around 1910. The craftsmen who built the house may have had a beer buzz for some part of it, but there is also proof of the workers pride in what they were doing.
Throughout the house, the blue-crayon signatures of workmen adorn the backs of wood work.
In the years that I’ve been working in the house, I’ve kept up that tradition with untold numbers of Sharpie signatures and dates, so some future caretaker can know by name who to curse at as he takes down a gerry-rigged something or other.
The last room of the downstairs portion of the house we completed just this past spring, working up to the moment our house was featured on the Parkside Tour of Homes.
One of the first things I did when we got the keys on Valentines Day 2000 was take all the doors down, and strip the paint off the cabinets in the original butlers pantry. Those doors sat in the basement for the next 11 years, again having just gone up this spring.
During our first spring clean up outside, we found a McDonald’s coffee cup that dated back to the 80s. It had been in the yard at least a decade, mixed in with the composted leaves and broken beer bottle bits.
We were slowly able to plant a few $5 plants, add a little each year, and watch it all grow. We were finally able to put a deck on this past spring, and now really enjoy another part of our home.
It’s a continuing story. It’s one we’re happy to be a part of.
BUFFALO, NY – At the time when these photos were taken, Buffalo needed the song “Talking Proud” to remind us to talk proudly about our city because everything seemed to be spiraling out of control.
Area industry was hemorrhaging the good paying blue collar jobs that were the back bone of “who Buffalo was;” so many plants were being left idle.
The city itself had seen better days, too. A once proud downtown was looking sad but hopeful for what the MetroRail might bring. Neighborhoods were slowly being abandoned… or worse, quickly being abandoned.
Bad things were happening all over, and even the calm, cool, and collected types were running out of fingers to plug the holes in the dyke.
That’s the scene in the Buffalo of these photos. Late 70s through the 80s. It wasn’t cool or hip or trendy or interesting to love this place for what it was. Many people focused their love on a single building, like Shea’s or the Darwin Martin House. Many people focused on their love of the people of this city.
But as a whole, the Buffalo that we loved was disappearing. The capital of glitz and glamour, the big city between Chicago and New York, the true Queen City of the Lakes was gone. It was hard to love the remnants of those days gone by, the city we have today. It took us some time to appreciate what we had and have, and we’re there now.
When someone makes a crack about snow or chicken wings, we’re ready to tell them what’s truly great about our city. We talk about our great history, and how we’re moulding that into our promising future.
But as you look at these photos, I hope you don’t simply curse the mistakes that were made. Many of these neat and interesting places no longer exist. But many were taken down in the hopes of replacing the old with something to be proud of tomorrow. No one knew how to do it. Boston made mistakes. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago. Each made choices now lamented about city planning, or lack of it.
Looking through these, quite a few times I said, “Damn.” Sometimes as in, damn, I wish that building was still here. But also, damn as in, look at how much better Chippewa looks. Damn, I’m glad there are no more porn shops on Main Street.
It’s a mixed bag for sure, but it is a mixed bag. If you through these photos, and see nothing but negative, you might be part of the problem with Buffalo today. You can’t change the past, and you can’t blame people who were trying, for the most part, to make our city a better place.
An early 80s billboard near City Hall asked the last person leaving Buffalo to turn out the light. Luckily, despite umpteen decisions that we wish we had back, it looks like that light will shine brightly for quite a while now.
About these photos:
A tremendous Buffalonian with a great eye for history rescued these amazing photos from certain peril. Yes, Derik Kane garbage picked them, scanned them, and put them up on Facebook.
The photos are popping up piecemeal all over Facebook, but I thought it was important to put them in a single, public place together on the web, so that they could be viewed as a single collection, and Derik was kind enough to oblige.
Personally, this is the earliest Buffalo I remember. Taking the Seneca bus downtown to Main Street with my mom or one of my grandmothers just before the MetroRail went in.
I’d like to gather as much info on these photos as possible. If you have any information or stories about any of the buildings, or neighborhoods, or times spent, or even the great array of vehicles, please note the number of the photo(s) and drop me an e-mail and we’ll update the page.
It’d also be great if anyone thinks to grab a “now” photo from a similar vantage point of any of these photos… Especially places that look drastically different.
BUFFALO BOOZE BUST… Wouldn’t it have been great if Irv Weinstein would have been around to write Prohibition stories? The papers were filled with them almost every day.
I like this one in particular– because it took place in a bar my ol’man would buy 55 years later.
The text is a bit hard to read:
The Buffalo Sunday Express Sunday December 27, 1925
Cleverly concealed caches of liquor were found hidden under the floor of the barroom in the saloon at no. 807 Elk street, owned by John Doty. A large copper tank, to which were attached two spigots and a siphon, was hiding places for two dozen quarts of rare old whisky.Under the floor and on the stairway were 100 quarts of alleged liquor. Doty will be arraigned on Monday.
In the late 1930s, the path of Elk Street changed as South Park Avenue was created out of several South Buffalo and First Ward streets. What was number 807 Elk –at the corner of Smith Street– in 1925, is now 207 Elk (sadly, a vacant lot.)