I was able to spend a day and a half in Buffalo, New York on my return from Pinecroft. I was born in the 2nd ward in South Buffalo and grew up amidst the working class families, mainly Irish and Catholic, who supplied the labor for the steel mills and chemical plants that stood like a wall between us and Lake Erie.
Buffalo was one of the richest cities in America 100 years ago…timber and agriculture made people rich and when the Erie Canal was built many more fortunes were made as the city’s lakefront filled with grain elevators and warehouses to accommodate all the goods being shipped from the midwest headed for NYC. The city benefited from the strong ethnic communities that arrived. Along with the Irish, German and Italian and Polish neighborhoods all developed and brought old world skills to this boom town.
Buffalo was the first illuminated city thanks to the power harnessed on the Niagra River by The Falls. The Pan-American Exposition was held there, a precursor to the World’s Fair. President William McKinley was assassinated there while shaking hands with members of the public. He died on the site of my high school and Teddy Roosevelt was sworn in just down the street.
While my memories are primarily of life in the more modest neighborhoods, Buffalo is a city of fabulous architecture and it there that you can see it’s former grandeur. Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and Joseph Ellicott were among the many noted architects that designed there. I drove around in wonder as house after house, building after building showed the glory of a bygone age when craftmanship and material mattered. It seems to me that there is a renewal of sorts going on…that would be a very good thing.My high school was a former Masonic Temple and a private residence before then. It is quite grand.