Why Buffalo residents are leading efforts to renew and preserve the city's architectural heritage

For many of us living in Southern Ontario, the city of Buffalo has been a destination for bargain shopping or a place to watch an NHL game at reasonable prices.  But besides that, and with the possible exception of it being the birthplace of the popular Buffalo chicken wings, the city has often been maligned for not having sufficient points of interest and for being poor and rundown.  

Buffalo did have its heyday, however. Back at the turn of the century, it was an important American city that attracted architects from around the world. It hosted the 1901 Pan American Exposition, during which electric lighting for buildings was demonstrated for the first time on a large scale. People came to Buffalo because it was an important industrial centre and a key gateway to other, more westerly American cities like Chicago.

Later in the century, the city's economy slowly declined, especially after the opening of the St. Lawrence Canal system in 1959, which diverted much activity from the Erie Canal system that up to that point had been the main industrial artery.

Now the city is in renewal mode again.  As developers present innovative new projects, they are coming face-to-face with local residents and preservationists intent on saving Buffalo's most revered architectural landmarks. These include famous buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Daniel Burnham. This grassroots activity serves as a reminder that these buildings are interesting landmarks and worth seeing. It shows what a great city Buffalo was once and could become again.  I'm convinced that out of this tension and public debate, good things will develop for the city.

The New York Times recently published an article exploring the situation in Western New York's most important city.  Entitled  "Saving Buffalo's Untold Beauty," it's an interesting perspective for those of us who tend to simply pass through the city on our way to other destinations.  The Times has a photo essay that summarizes the article with photographs from some of Buffalo's landmarks. Click on this link for a virtual visit.


1. Photograph shows Hayes Hall of the University of Buffalo, courtesy of Kyle Mastalinski.
2. For more on Frank Lloyd Wright's home designs, see "Frank Lloyd Wright Tour in Oak Park, Illinois."
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