Torn-Down Tuesday: The ‘visual pollution’ on Buffalo’s Main Street

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Last week’s Torn-Down Tuesday looked at SUNY Buffalo State art professor D.K. Winebrenner’s uppity takedown of fast food architecture.

This week, we look back at the time Winebrenner — who was also the Courier-Express art critic — talked about “visual pollution” hurting Buffalo’s image and postulated that the city’s too many billboards and signs were creating psychological illness in people.

A 1964 photo showing Eagle Street, looking toward Main Street (with AM&A’s visible) from Pearl Street. This part of Eagle Street is now covered by the Main Place Mall.

“While no practical inquest can establish the causes for a diseased spirit with the same objectivity as physicians can pinpoint the reasons for a damaged lung (or a dead fish), what happens to us aesthetically can neutralize or even destroy our visual sensitivities,” wrote Winebrenner.

The story was accompanied by the two photos on this page, both showing signs and buildings that gave way for the Main Place Mall and tower.

“Any given sign may be harmless in itself, and may even be well designed, but the clutter and confusion of crowded, screaming advertisements, each seeking to be heard above all others — results in no one being heard effectively,” wrote Winebrenner, who was excited for future development without signs.

This photo was taken standing at the corner of Niagara and Main– two streets which once intersected across Main from M&T Plaza. What was then “Niagara Street between Main and Pearl” is now covered by the Main Place Mall.

“As we greet the dawn of a new day in downtown Buffalo, let us take one last, quick look at the overhead jungle as it appeared in August 1964, being replaced by the new buildings in Main Place. May this long be remembered as the spot where a greater, more beautiful Buffalo was born.”

Winebrenner couldn’t have known that the new development was ushering in an era spanning several generations where 150 years of life and vitality were stripped from Main Street, signs and all.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.