Tuesday, June 30, 2009

So long, farewell

Today at 1:30 is the closing ceremony for the days of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The time capsule will be opened, photo contest winners announced.

The crowd will slowly disperse, looking back at a hole in the ground where the Aud once stood, its physical presence long gone, reduced to dust in the wind.

So long, farewell...

(speaking of the photo contest, there are some really nice pictures over on ShutterBugStroll by many photographers)

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Brisbane: Updating an Update

All I had to do was wait a day, but who knew the work on the Brisbane Building entryway would move so quickly?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brisbane Building Update

Last month I had posted pictures showing a restoration in progress at the Brisbane Building adjacent to Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo. Yesterday I noticed that the left corner of the entranceway has been uncovered completely:

Two men were up on a scaffold, gently at work on the other corner. One man taps away with a small mallet of some sort while the other holds his hands underneath to catch the chips of concrete, then deposits them in a bucket. Painstaking work. It doesn't appear to be a daily thing, although I did notice that the columns have become a bit more prominent somewhere along the line.

A bit of history originally published by Buffalo Place says that the building was designed by Milton E. Beebe and Son. A postcard found on Buffalo as a Historic Museum shows that there is an ornate side entrance buried too. Curious how most of the pictures feature the side facing Lafayette Square. Two architectural treasures in one, with the Hotel Lafayette in the left corner background, all facing the Soldiers and Sailors monument.

I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how much of the Brisbane Building is eventually restored.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Down on Main Street - Part 2

In today's Buffalo News there's an article about redeveloping the former AM&A's. In it there is a reference to the area largely pictured in yesterdays post:
"(Termini) said the AM&A’s project, the Statler Towers and the 500 block of Main Street should be priorities for redevelopment efforts downtown."
The 500 block and upper 400 is where I was roaming with my trusty camera. Later yesterday I added more pictures to the Down on Main Street post (go look), but I still have a few left.

Fast food tried to establish a presence on Main, but their business model - long hours at high volume- is at odds with the reality of downtown as it now exists. To their credit, McDonald's and Arby's (pictured below) built on the ground floor of established buildings, although it didn't work out in the long run.

Burger King had to have it their way and built new but with similar results. Built right across the side street from McDonald's, and a block away from Arby's, no one whined about competition then, crowding being the norm among this type of business.

McDonalds has been cleaned up and now houses an architectural firm I believe. Couldn't get a picture due to a crew digging up the sidewalk, but right next to it is a closed Christian Science Reading Room. Looks like a nice building. Perhaps there are plans in the work for it also.

Back to AM&A's...I'm assuming that that the "Bridge to Nowhere" will come down. After all, it wouldn't be cost effective to maintain it, as well as a security nightmare, so that higher end (as opposed to low income) apartment dwellers could shop at a dollar store in Main Place Mall.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Down on Main Street

Back when the story of James the Ice Creamcycle Dude first hit the news, a person from Buffalo Place claimed that mobile vendors (or at least this particular one) didn't fit into their vision. This drew a lot of raised eyebrows as in "they have a vision?" which Buffalo Pundit pictured accurately, at least as far as the area around Main Place goes.

After I took pictures in Main Place, I had set out to cover a few surrounding blocks. Nostalgia is everywhere, but much bears little resemblance to the glory years. For every success story there is a neglected disaster or two. Everyone is familiar with the buildings that were AM&A's and its warehouse on Washington.

In front of Coca-Cola Field (aka "the baseball stadium, whatever it's called now") on Main sits an abandoned cigar stand. But, all in all, that area didn't yield much decay.

Over on Pearl Street behind what used to be the Courtyard Mall (now home to a mental health facility), there is what used to be the back door of Ulbrich's. The art supplies area was right inside at one time. It's a bit eerie there, right next to the Convention Center. I quickly moved on.

Main Street itself is a mix of splendor and squalor, and not just the people. Baker Shoes still has a presence, although not one they should be proud of. Underneath the deteriorated awning sits a cultist hawking his wares.

Over by the Hyatt there's old fashioned street signage along with the Electric Tower (!) and the Gold Dome (!) that is now a different bank. There are also rows along both Main & Genesee of what were long time stores, abandoned now, even by the newer merchants that tried to make a go of it.

This should be a hot area, so what's the problem? Is it greedy landlords? Over officious city regulations and permits? Apathy? I'm not advocating demolition, but rather re-use. A ready market would seem to be there if the atmosphere improved a bit.

It's good to have a vision, because the reality isn't so pretty sometimes. Maybe Buffalo Place could work on that before cars are allowed on that part of Main. As things stand now they'll get to see what visitors that stay at the Hyatt glimpse as soon as they walk out the front door.

Wait! There's more...

Unused restaurant space that used to be called Ruby Tuesday, Ruby Reds...Ruby something:

Need to get away?

In the end, not all is doom and gloom (despite these photos of some low lights), but everything isn't coming up roses either. That vision thing still needs some work. That, and some more investors serious about the task in front of them, and the potential that awaits. Vision and action...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Inside the Aud and more

A while back I saw this interesting letter from the days of former Buffalo Sabre Alexander Molgilny on the blog of Roadwolf (click on the photo to enlarge):

That brings back some memories. Just a guess, but maybe this incident goes a long way in explaining Lindy Ruff's apparent negative mindset regarding Afinogenov and Russians in general. Maybe.

Anyway, Roadwolf has a lot of excellent pictures from inside the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium after deterioration had set in. This set at the link has old basketball hoops, old ticket booths, you name it. He has more at other links too, so make sure you check out the entire blog.

As an extra added attraction, he's also been to caves in Akron NY and documented it for all to see!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Forest Lawn Encounter

It was a nice day yesterday so I decided to go to Forest Lawn, since my previous visits had been in the dead of winter last year. When over near the area where some relatives are buried I found that I was not alone.

A deer seems to have taken up residence in one section. It was not afraid. In fact, if I'd had a treat it probably would have walked right up to me. As it was, it staked a claim to it's "spot" and wasn't leaving. I didn't challenge it either. However, it did listen to me chatter away at it without the slightest bit of interest, sort of like some humans.

As it turned out, I was a section over from where I intended to be, so we parted ways for the time being. Next time I'll have fresh batteries in my camera.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fixin' a hole where the rain gets in

Supposedly Rich Products is going to fix the hole in the roof of the historic Breckenridge Street Church (also known as the Union Meeting House) built in 1827. Covering it with a tacky blue tarp would have been a nice touch, but perhaps that falls under the "who are we kidding about preventing weather damage" school of thought.

Looking at the church from Niagara Street, it certainly doesn't look like anything special, but looks can be misleading.

The church may well have been part of the Underground Railroad, since it sets near the river, a block away from Broderick Park at the foot of Ferry where Harriet Tubman allegedly passed through. It would need to be documented in order to receive federal funding however. Then again, maybe they weren't abolitionists. At any rate, it has an interesting history. Besides being a house of worship that attracted President Grover Cleveland and others, it was also used for a variety of other purposes, including as a detention center for Chinese trying to sneak over the border this way.

Historic preservation seems to matter most to the company/family when it can be written off as a business expense, like converting space for a bakery or offices. Makes sense from a financial point of view. Since the church is now listed as a warehouse, it is low priority. After all, they demolished the restaurant on the corner when it no longer fit the business plan. At least they rescued the "man on the corner" but in the process moved him inside in order to prevent vandalism. The corner looks barren.

At any rate, it would be nice to see the church spiffed up a bit and possibly open for tours. Yeah, keep dreaming...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Clarence Teacher: In Memory of Edward Schmidt

Clarence High School teacher Edward Schmidt passed away Thursday evening. He enriched young minds through social studies while his wife taught English down the hallway. Many of us can count as friends one of the Schmidt children, Eddie, Marilynn, Gregory, and Brian, all Clarence alumni. From the Buffalo News:

Edward A. Schmidt, a longtime teacher, arbitrator and mediator, died Thursday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a brief illness. He was 85.

Born in Lackawanna, Mr. Schmidt grew up in Bethlehem Park and South Buffalo and later served as a chief gunner's mate in the Navy during World War II. He was a graduate of Canisius College and a social studies teacher and coordinator at Clarence Central High School from 1953 to 1979.

Mr. Schmidt created the first black studies course for high school American Studies in New York State during the 1960s. In 1979, he was the first nonmusician at Clarence High School to be awarded the John Phillip Sousa Award for his role as "guess conductor" in conducting the school orchestra in the "William Tell Overture."

While teaching, he also ran the Edward A. Schmidt Insurance Agency. After retiring from teaching, he took on his third career as a labor relations arbitrator and mediator, and was active in that field at the time of his death.

He was on the arbitration rosters of the American Arbitration Association, New York State Public Employment Relations Board, New York State Employment Relations Board, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation, and belonged to various professional associations, including the Labor and Employment relations Association, serving as president in 1996-97. He was named the organization's Citizen of Year in 2005.

Mr. Schmidt was also a member of the board of directors and Executive Committee of the Better Business Bureau. He headed the Personnel Committee and served in several other capacities for more than 30 years. Mr. Schmidt enjoyed boating with his wife Claire and was a member of the Sandy Beach Yacht Club and served on the board of directors and as secretary.

He was an active parishioner of St. Amelia's Catholic Church in the Town of Tonawanda.

Mr. Schmidt will also be remembered for his integrity and compassion, commitment to his family and friends, his warm charismatic way, as well as his keen wit and sense of humor. Anyone who ever met him will never forget him.

Mr. Schmidt is survived by his wife of 19 years, the former Claire Tonge; three sons,Edward, Gregory and Brian; and a daughter, Marilynn.

A Mass of Christian Burial with military honors will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday June 9, 2009 in St. Amelia's Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda.

SCHMIDT - Edward A. June 4, 2009. Beloved husband of Claire (Tonge) Schmidt; dearest father of Edward C. Schmidt (Karen Johnson), Marilynn Schmidt, Gregory (Elizabeth) Schmidt and Brian (Michele) Schmidt; loving grandfather of Michael (Kerri) Ward, Kimberly (Clifford III) Evans, Andrew and Anthony Schmidt, Jeffrey and Jonathan Schmidt, Halle Schmidt, and Joe Clark; loving great-grandfather of Clifford Evans IV. You are invited to attend Edward's Funeral Mass with military honors on Tuesday at 11:30 AM at St. Amelia's Church, 201 St. Amelia Dr. at Eggert Rd., Tonawanda, NY. Expressions of sympathy may be directed to the American Cancer Society . The MASON-SITTNEWSKI FUNERAL HOME is assisting Ed's family.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Mug

There have been numerous email warnings floating around, seemingly for years, about the dangers of plastics. The latest ones concentrate on plastic water bottles, especially endorsed by those that hate them. Before mindlessly sending them on a short Google search should be in order, but they still plant a seed of uncertainty.

Uncertainty - like looking at my travel mug (which only journeys from pot to work station) and wondering how safe it is. Heat and plastic are key buzzwords lately. I know there are different kinds of plastic but there's always some new rumors about the different numbers, and more to come, I'm sure.

Travel mugs have their own band of hysterical detractors that focus on the distraction aspect of it all. Best to stick to the traditional mug, like this Happy Gal one created by Clarence alumna '72 Catherine Massaro, available through Zazzle.

Like the way I merged a legitimate query with a plug for a friend? More on Cathy's art studio later...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Main Place

The original challenge, as discussed on the blog of Mary Kunz Goldman, was to take pictures inside Main Place Mall in downtown Buffalo. However that was soon replaced by an even bigger one - finding something, anything, to take a picture of, besides blank walls.

Before 8am it's pretty easy to walk through with an active camera since the security guards apparently haven't started yet. I purposely chose not to include those hustling through the building on the way to work elsewhere, but other than lunch time there isn't many more people there any other time either.

With so few stores there isn't much reason to make the Mall a destination. The site deadmalls.com gives Main Place a mention, although it's scarcely alone, even in WNY.

Main Place was built in 1968 and used to be busy, hard as that may be to believe. Of course Main Street still boasted AM&A's (which had a connecting walkway to the mall), Hengerers, Hens & Kellys, Woolworths (with a basement store too), Ulrichs Ulbrich's Stationary (with art supplies downstairs), and Bergers back then, with many more stores and restaurants in between.

I worked at Sattlers in the late 70's, which anchored one end of the mall while Erie County Savings Bank (the "Big E") was at the other. I was located right in the middle front of the Greenhouse food court. There used to be a Liberty Bank service window right next to the second floor entrance.

Sometimes as I'm passing through the mall I try to remember the names of businesses that used to be there and where they were situated. There were two main restaurants, both with outlets on each floor. The Milkie Way had the bar and full restaurant downstairs and a snack bar upstairs. JPease Pub was the opposite, although their version of casual dining downstairs still featured waitresses, I believe.

Shoe stores, including Bakers (which also had a store further up Main), Fathers and Sons, and Thom McCans, dominated the floor plan. Many trendy clothing stores were there also, like Gutmans, Casual Corner, The Limited. Rite Aid was there too, with an additional store a block up on Main that is still open, although they closed the lower portion down.

This version of "management" for Main Place Mall has seemed determined to empty it so that it can be used for telemarketing companies or other behind the scenes businesses. It has gone as far as to raise rents through the skylighted roof to drive tenants out that didn't fulfill their "vision", as empty as that is. Rumor had it that the main owners in NYC use it as a writeoff and have little incentive to attempt a return to vitality.

The "All About Buffalo" icon upstairs looks rather lonely, like "I stepped out of the nickel for this??"

The cars being removed from Main Street for the MetroRail did a lot to kill retail in downtown Buffalo, but the suburban malls were the original ones to rip the heart out. So even if cars return some day, there's still that. Then again, most of the grand old stores are gone, remaining only in memories.

Not all is dreary downtown. Many other blocks have something going on at various times. And when the weather is nice and the farmers market in progress and maybe a lunchtime concert in front of M&T, the sidewalks on Main get jammed. Where there's people there's hope.