Genealogy & Local History in Buffalo, NY

Buffalo's Bunnywalk

finished wall
Finished wall, 1993
When I first saw the name "Bunnytown" (referring to the high rabbit population around the Cobblestone District) in an article on Buffalo Rising Online, I was delighted to see a neighborhood rename itself, often a signal of regeneration. I was also annoyed that I had not thought of it myself, because my first three years in Buffalo were in the original Bunnytown- Waterfront Village, Buffalo's western-most suburb, the mistake-by-the-lake. Rabbits abounded along the railroad tracks behind the brick rowhouse where we lived. They nested in the tall grass around the houses. They chewed our crocuses down to the ground.

My Buffalo story began at a contra dance in Rochester, New Year's Eve, 1991. A couple of guys drove over from Buffalo to dance and I hit it off with both of them. By spring 1992 it was clear who I had a future with. Vince and I spent the summer of 1992 falling madly in love, traveling between Buffalo and Rochester on weekends, and figuring out how to have a life together. I decided to move to Buffalo and go to library school, having worked in Rochester libraries in a clerical and paraprofessional capacity before, during, and after college.

During one of those summer weekends in 1992, I looked out of Vince's kitchen window at the retaining wall under the Niagara section of the Thruway and said, "That wall needs a rainbow on it." Suddenly we were figuring out the logistics. We bought Krylon and Vince dragged out a ladder and laid out the arching stripes. We finished it in two weekends.

A year later I lived in Buffalo full time and was enrolled at the School of Information and Library Science, as it was then called, at UB. It was the summer that "Women Who Run with the Wolves" was a bestseller. Vince declared himself "Man Who Walks with the Bunnies."

We decided that the wall needed an addition honoring the rabbit population. Using a colorful hand-painted wood Christmas tree ornament as a model, we went to Hyatt's and bought cans of Bulls Eye One Shot enamel in the closest possible colors. It took three or four weekends to lay out and paint.

Not long after finishing the bunny, one of our neighbors stalked over to us looking very grim. "Oh, no," I thought. "Here it comes." We never consulted the neighbors who shared our view of the Thruway wall and we expected complaints. Our neighbor demanded, "Did you paint that rabbit?" We promptly confessed. "Then I want to know what you did to my favorite bunny's nose!" Turns out he preferred the white primer to the final orange nose color.

During the remaining three years we lived on the waterfront, we enjoyed watching Thruway work crews stop, lean over the railing, and show their coworkers the art below them. When they did concrete repairs, I think they made efforts to minimize damage to the rainbow.

In 1996 we sold the waterfront house and moved into the city, which is when my life in Buffalo began in earnest. We loved everything about our new old neighborhood, missing only the ample bunny life. Until this spring, when we spotted a rabbit in our backyard for the first time. I managed to get a picture of it through the kitchen window.

Last night we saw a rabbit in a frozen crouch on Allen Street in the vacant lot next to the Quaker meeting house, another first. Rabbits don't usually linger on exposed, bustling commercial streets. Today BRO ran the Guerilla Gardeners story with a photo of our faded bunny and rainbow. All these signs were telling us to share the story of our guerilla art project.

The painted Thruway wall is visible from the Bunnywalk (excuse me, the Riverwalk) just south of the point where it crosses Lakefront Blvd. into LaSalle Park. In later summer, knotweed along the trail blocks the view and you have to hike down to the tracks to see it.

Updated 18 March 2010