Buffalo Tales- Part 2: Ghosts and the Shrinking City

Ghosts, and there are many, abound in Buffalo. They are alternatingly beautiful and heartbreaking. This a brief tour of some of what I saw, with some thoughts on the future.

GRAIN ELEVATORS

The old waterfr0nt in Buffalo was the engine that got things rolling in the 19th century. Well into the 20th century, ships with cargo from Midwestern cities would travel the Great Lakes, unload in Buffalo, and then the cargo would be later shipped by train or canal to  East cities and beyond. The grain elevators, invented in Buffalo in the 1840’s, were basically large storage containers for grain  on its way to a final destination.

It must of been quite a site in its heyday. In the early 20th century, the French modernist architect Le Corbusier, who among other things, popularized those  glasses he’s wearing, came to the US and marveled at the industrial beauty before him, simple machine-like forms at a staggering scale. It had a profound influence on him.

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Buffalo Tales- Part 1: The Queen City of the Lakes

While the focus of my trip back East was my Dad’s birthday, I did manage to squeeze in a side trip to Buffalo. I went to college in Buffalo, and have a long-standing love affair with the place.  Buffalo’s unique history has resulted in an incredible collection of buildings and landscapes unrivaled by any other American city its size. Most date from the first half of the 20th century, Buffalo’s golden years. Like many rust-belt cities, the second half of the century was difficult; the city lost half its population;( in 1900 it was the 9th largest city in the US, today its 69th). So, like Detroit , Cleveland, and others in the area, Buffalo has much that has been abandoned. Its part economics, and part just numbers- imagine San Francisco suddenly having 400,000 fewer people living here. So, this duality; the glorious past that is lovingly maintained and thriving, and that which has been abandoned, at least for now, is the subject of these two posts.01_buffalo

PART 1- THE QUEEN CITY OF THE LAKES

Its 1901, Buffalo is at the height of its glory, and it shares its wealth and beauty to the world in the form of 1901 Pan-American Exposition, seen below. Buffalo is a center of industry, it is superbly located at a confluence of land, water, and rail, it had produced two presidents, and , not surprisingly, had become a place of great wealth. With this wealth, came the natural desire to create landmark buildings. And this desire called on the best architectural and planning minds of the day. These were great years in Buffalo, with the only pockmark (and perhaps a portent of things to come),  the assassination of President McKinley at the Exposition.

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