Why We Need Municipal Sidewalk Plowing

This essay originally appeared as a My View column in The Buffalo News on Feb. 5, 2013 and has since been edited, updated, and expanded. Image shows elderly couple walking in street due to unplowed sidewalks. One of them is pushing the other in a wheelchair. Photo taken by author on Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY, January 2020, all rights reserved.


When I moved to Buffalo 30 years ago, I was shocked to discover that the city does not plow sidewalks. How could that be, in a place that gets so much snow?

I grew up in Rochester, where sidewalks were and still are plowed at public expense. Rochester has 37 square miles; Buffalo has 42. Its population is 210,855; ours is 261,025 (as per 2010 census). Rochester’s population and economy have declined as much as Buffalo’s, yet its government continues to provide sidewalk plowing while ours pleads poverty.

In Buffalo, property owners are required by law to clear sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses. We are expected get out and shovel to show the world that we are truly the City of Good Neighbors. If we don’t, it must be because we are antisocial lazybones who deserve their annual scolding from The Buffalo News. This popular sentiment reflects idealism about who we wish we were more than realism about how to maintain essential public infrastructure. This law is a failure.

When I walk my 1.5 mile route to work, let us say for the sake of argument that I pass 250 houses and businesses. For me to have a fully cleared path, all 250 must shovel, sweep, snowblow and/or salt to the same standard after each and every snowfall. What level of compliance constitutes success? Eighty percent? Meaning that for every five addresses, four are shoveled, so I have to detour into the street for only 20 percent of my route? How about frequency of shoveling? If owners shovel their sidewalk after four out of five fresh snowfalls, is that satisfactory?

Let’s say that Buffalo’s 15 percent vacancy rate, the highest in the state, is reflected in my route and 15 percent of the addresses I pass are vacant or demolished. Who shall we ticket for impassable sidewalks in front of abandoned lots and buildings? Who is responsible for clearing the sidewalks fronting city-owned parking lots? These are purposely situated near commercial corridors that depend on foot traffic. The city, which is now our single largest land owner, does not obey its own shoveling laws.

Next, let us factor in everything that interferes with adjacent-owner sidewalk clearance: physical limitations, out-of-town travel, lack of awareness, absentee landlords, too many other responsibilities and, most egregiously, snowplow operators who clear streets, parking lots, and driveways by dumping snow onto sidewalks.

Nevertheless, since we’ve decided that owner shoveling is the ideal way to clear sidewalks, then why don’t we sell our street plows and lay off snowplow drivers to save on taxes, and require car owners to shovel out their own streets, with a hefty dose of editorial page shaming if they do not?

Why don’t we sell our street plows and lay off snowplow drivers to save on taxes, and require car owners to clear out their own streets?

We do not burden individuals in this way because one household failing to shovel would impede all drivers and all vehicles. We plow our streets at public expense to provide safe, consistent, and equitable access. We also recognize that streets are public, not private property, and must be maintained at public expense.

Here’s the kicker: so are sidewalks. “My” sidewalk does not belong to me at all. Pedestrians deserve the same safe, consistent, and equitable access to public right-of-ways as vehicles. Automobiles spend over 90% of the time parked, meaning that 90% of the time, we are pedestrians instead of drivers. Thirty percent of Buffalo households do not own cars. Street budgets should reflect these realities.

The present situation is an equal protection violation: Buffalo taxpayers inside of motor vehicles are entitled to right-of-ways cleared at public expense, while Buffalo taxpayers outside of motor vehicles are not. Even worse, they are subject to penalties if they fail to maintain public property.

So tax me. Please! Then tax me some more to pay for sidewalk plowing in low-income neighborhoods.

#PlowSidewalksToo


Sign the petition for sidewalk plowing in Buffalo

Related: Top Twenty Reasons for Municipal Sidewalk Plowing in Buffalo

Build the Larkin Rowhouses

Originally published in Buffalo Spree, July-August 2006, p. 150

Most architecturally-aware Buffalonians know how the Darwin Martin-Frank Lloyd Wright friendship led to commissions for the now-demolished Larkin Administration building and homes for the top Larkin Company officers. Demolished portions of the Martin House complex are being rebuilt as the site undergoes a complete restoration. Martin also commissioned Wright’s only cemetery monument, the Blue Sky Mausoleum, which was constructed in Forest Lawn in 2004, decades after the passing of the Martins.

Additional executions of unbuilt Wright designs are underway in Buffalo. James and Mary Ann Sandoro of the Buffalo Transportation-Pierce Arrow Museum are constructing Wright’s Tydol gas station, originally designed for Buffalo in the 1920s, on Michigan Avenue. Fundraising is underway to put up Wright’s ca. 1905 Yahara boathouse, originally designed for Madison, WI, on the Niagara River near Porter Avenue.

Some scholars argue that these new constructions should not be considered genuine Wright creations because the architect is not present to make the many major and minor adjustments necessary to transform two-dimensional intentions into three-dimensional structures. New sites, new building codes, new construction materials, and new techniques present challenges to authenticity. So let’s concede the point, call these projects Re-Wrights, and lead the world in posthumous Re-Wrighting.

Here is the next candidate for Re-Wrighting Buffalo. In 1904, the Larkin Company, known for a corporate culture of benevolent paternalism, commissioned Wright to design rowhouses for its workers. This was a progressive response to overcrowding and slum conditions in industrial Buffalo, decades before the advent of public housing. The rowhouses were probably planned for the vicinity of the Larkin factory complex on Seneca Street. Further research is needed to determine how and why Larkin decided to provide company housing, if a site was ever selected, why they were never built, and what materials Wright had in mind.

Wright designed little with which to compare them. Apparently the only Wright rowhouses ever to be built are the Roloson apartments in Chicago, which date to 1894 and have a Tudor-style steeply-pitched gable facades and Louis Sullivan-inspired ornament above the windows.

The Larkin Rowhouse design was first published in 1910 in Germany in the famous Wasmuth Portfolio, the publication that established Wright’s reputation in Europe. At that time, the client was identified as Mr. E.C. Waller of Chicago. In 1942, Henry-Russell Hitchcock determined that the client was actually the Larkin Company and praised the design as an early prototype for European worker housing and US defense housing. Hitchcock’s attribution appears to be uncontested, probably because the design shows such strong affinities with the Larkin building and the Buffalo prairie houses, most notably in the prominent vertical piers segmenting the façade, the low-pitched roof with deep overhangs, and horizontal bands of windows.

The Larkin Rowhouse plans survive today in the archives of Taliesin West, awaiting a licensing agreement with a visionary builder. Buffalo has all too many “shovel ready” sites and a growing downtown housing market. Let’s build the rowhouses for everyone who wasn’t lucky enough to be a Larkin company executive.

Buffalo Hotels and the Niagara Movement: New Evidence Refutes an Old Legend

The widely-accepted story of W.E.B. DuBois’ venue choice for the inaugural meeting of the Niagara Movement cites racial discrimination as the cause. Recent research by local scholars, however, suggests that this was not the case after all.

Originally published in Western New York Heritage Magazine, vol. 13, no. 4, Winter 2011.

If All of Buffalo Read About the Klan

In 1923-1924, the Ku Klux Klan set up shop in Buffalo. The Klan was not just an organization, it was an ideology of racism, anti-semitism, anti-Catholicism, and nativism. Buffalo rejected that ideology. Buffalo fought back, Buffalo fought dirty, and Buffalo won. This was the one of our finest moments as a city.

The Buffalo KKK membership list is online here.

We defeated this ideology once. We can and must do so again. Hooded Knights on the Niagara is the book that all of Buffalo needs to read right now.

At BuffaloResearch.com, local history matters and #BlackLivesMatter.

Hooded Knights on the Niagara is the best book about Buffalo that no one has read

The Truth About Snow in Buffalo

The first iteration of this page went online in 1999. I knew it had changed the discourse around snow in Buffalo when I started hearing elected officials using arguments that I first presented here.

Some Top Ten US Weather Facts

10 Snowiest Cities
1. Blue Canyon, CA
2. Marquette, MI
3. Sault Ste. Marie, MI
4. Syracuse, NY
5. Caribou, ME
6. Mount Shasta, CA
7. Lander, WY
8. Flagstaff, AZ
9. Sexton Summit, OR
10. Muskegon, MI
10 Coldest Cities
1. International Falls, MN
2. Duluth, MN
3. Caribou, ME
4. Marquette, MI
5. Sault Ste. Marie, MI
6. Fargo, ND
7. Williston, ND
8. Alamosa, CO
9. Bismarck, ND
10. St. Cloud, MN
10 Windiest Cities
1. Blue Hill, MA
2. Dodge City, KA
3. Amarillo, TX
4. Rochester, MN
5. Casper, WY and 6. Cheyenne, WY [tie]
7. Great Falls, MT
8. Goodland, KA
9. Boston, MA
10. Lubbock, MA
Source: Williams, Jack. The USA Today Weather Almanac. New York: Vintage Books, c1994, p.125

Okay, Listen Up, Class

What supposedly synonymous-with-Siberia city is entirely absent from these lists? Did anyone notice that the only place in New York (Syracuse) to make a Top Ten is almost 200 miles east of Buffalo? We used to get a lake-effect blizzard every year, but winters in the new century have failed to live up to reputation. The annual  Winterfest  in February has been canceled more than once due to lack of snow.

Yes, we had a truly spectacular storm in 1977, although it wasn’t fierce enough to make the Top Ten Storms of the Century. The famous Blizzard of 1977 didn’t begin in Buffalo and end at the city line, it crippled the entire northeastern US and southeastern Ontario, Canada.

Here’s the big secret: blizzards are kind of fun.

Here’s the big secret: blizzards are kind of fun. We go home and relax. We shovel each other out. We make cookies and hot cocoa. Heavy snow is the only weather extreme that is so benign it can be used for recreation. I refer, of course, to skiing, ice skating, hockey, and snow sculpture.

But, hey, if these aren’t your cup of tea, then by all means kick back, pop open your beverage of choice, and enjoy your tidal waves, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, heat waves, volcanic eruptions, acid rain, droughts, floods, and insect plagues.

Okay, you’re thinking, blizzards still tie up a city, don’t they?

Okay, you’re thinking, blizzards still tie up a city, don’t they?

They didn’t used to. I am indebted to the late George Kunz for the following insight. In his posthumously published Buffalo Memories, Kunz wrote about the streetcar era and the heavy-duty trolley plows used to clear routes in the winter:

“I do not remember any protracted urban paralysis following those storms of half a century ago. The reason lies partially in the fact that transit ridership was high, and streets were free of disabled cars. [Trolley] plows were unhampered. Today most workers rely on motor cars for commuting to jobs. Many live outside the reach of mass transit in the country or in the suburbs. Many others shun public transit, seized by a jejune reliance on the personal car. Given these facts, modern storm paralysis is understandable. Workers drive cars, cars get stuck and are abandoned, snow plows cannot get through to do their job. Result: traffic bans, closing of businesses and ultimately loss of future commercial contracts. The city bleeds.” (p.52)

This is quite logical. If you have to clear only two dozen streetcar routes, your chances of success are much greater than if you have to clear every one of an estimated 800 miles of streets (in the City of Buffalo alone) for, say, 300,000 vehicles. In other words, snowstorms don’t necessarily paralyze cities, but automobile dependence certainly does.  

Metro Rail, our short light-rail line, works fine in any weather. Service has been curtailed or canceled due to snow only three times since Metro Rail opened in 1985.

Consider Johnstown, PA, which once had a spectacular flood. Buffalo has something in common with Johnstown, in that we do not spend our winter under six feet of drifts any more than Johnstown residents spend their summer under six feet of water. Thus it is that the atypical event stands out, attracting widespread notice, thereby obscuring the fact that it is, in fact, not typical. There must be a name for this well-understood media distortion effect.

In 1901, before the advent of down parkas, Polarfleece, snowproof boots, central heat, warm vehicles with snow tires, mechanized snow plows, home insulation, weather sealing, and snowblowers, this outsider thought that our climate was “delightful.”  Other 19th century sources chide us not for snow but for high winds.

“The climate of Buffalo, with the exception of high winds during certain portions of the winter, is probably as delightful as that enjoyed by any city on the globe. In summer, the temperature is nearly always moderate, and when other cities suffer from extreme heat, the people of Buffalo are blessed with the conditions common to late summer in other regions.”
–Powell, Lyman, ed. Historic Towns of the Middle States. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1901, p. 387.  [Emphasis added.]

My favorite weather proverb, of unknown Scandinavian origin, is, There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.

The Real Story: The Best Summers in the Northeast

Percent of Sunshine
June through August

1. Buffalo: 67
2. Boston: 65
3. New York City: 64
4. Baltimore: 63
5. Washington, DC: 63
6. Philadelphia: 62
7. Albany: 61
8. Pittsburgh: 58
Average Rainfall, Inches
June through August

1. Buffalo: 8.69
2. Albany: 8.99
3. Boston: 9.39
4. Pittsburgh: 10.47
5. New York City, 10.65
6. Philadelphia: 11.90
7. Baltimore: 12.05
8. Washington, DC: 12.27
Average Temperature
July afternoon

1. Buffalo: 80F
2. Boston: 81F
3. Pittsburgh: 83F
4. Albany: 84F
5. New York City: 85F
6. Philadelphia: 87F
7. Baltimore: 87F
8. Washington, DC: 88F
Source: Vogel, Mike. “Buffalo is Sunshine Capital of Northeast.” Buffalo News, May 18, 1989, p.A-1

The Bottom Line

Buffalo has more days per year in which the temperature is above 60F than days with snow on the ground. Now, will smug out-of-towners please start aiming your climatological condescension at other targets?


Weather map at top courtesy of: Wood, Jefferson. “Creating a Climatological Snowfall Map for the National Weather Service Buffalo County Warning Area Using an Ordinary Least Squares Regression of PRISM Data with Residual Correction Scheme. Eastern Region Technical Attachment No. 2018-01, January 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop: McDonnell and Sons Monument Company

Parks officials were mortified at the malfeasance. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Lafayette Square was cracking and crumbling only six years after its erection in 1882 during the city’s semi-centennial year. A structural review was undertaken, revealing careless workmanship throughout the foundation of the monument. The core of rubble and mortar was inadequate to the task of supporting the granite shaft and statuary, which topped out at 85′. A copper box meant to serve as a time capsule was not found in its intended chamber, but three feet lower, embedded like just another foundation stone. It had been cracked under the pressure and its contents destroyed by water seepage.

The Parks Department annual report for 1890 was candid:

The plans, the specifications, the superintendence, and the masonry — all exhibit, or imply, gross ignorance or carelessness. It is really a disgrace to our civilization that so prominent a structure, designed to stand as a memento of our patriotism to all generations, should be built so insecurely that it must be taken down within six years of its erection.

The monument was designed by George Keller, a Hartford, Connecticut architect. It was erected by the Mount Waldo Granite Company of Bangor, Maine.

McDonnell and Sons

When a contract was let to repair the foundation, however, it went to a local mortuary monument company, McDonnell & Sons. In rebuilding the foundation, McDonnell & Sons altered the open stepped base of the monument, creating a tight walkway around the shaft by eliminating some of the base and walling in what remained, forming stairs at each point of the compass, an arrangement which survives today.

In 1889, when McDonnell and Sons rescued the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, it was a relative newcomer to the Buffalo scene, having opened their Buffalo office only five years earlier.

McDonnell & Sons was founded in 1857 in granite-rich Quincy, Massachusetts by Patrick McDonnell, an Irish immigrant once employed as a stonecutter in the local quarries. Patrick retired in 1881, handing the reins to his son John Quincy McDonnell. In 1884 John moved with his wife and seven children to Buffalo in order to open a branch office, which came to be located at 858 Main Street, between Allen and Virginia streets Another son stayed in Quincy to manage the family’s business there.

The old McDonnell office still stands. The structure’s elaborate granite facade served as a promotion for the company’s products. An arched pediment is surmounted by finials in the shape of funerary urns. Supporting it are polished pilasters with rough-faced florets. An early company advertisement describes the façade as being “the handsomest in the United States — a recognized work of art that attracts the attention of every passer-by and excites admiring comment from all.”

As originally built only 16′ on a side and one-story tall, the showroom quickly proved inadequate for the growing company. A second story was added, and the building was extended in stages to fill the entire length of the 100′ deep lot, assuming its final elongated form by World War I. Window openings puncture the north wall at frequent intervals, washing the interior with shadowless, even light.

Significantly, the later expansion of the building — and the company as a whole — was overseen by John McDonnell’s widow Emily, John having died prematurely in 1894. After her husband’s death, Emily did something bold for a middle class, middle-aged Victorian widow with dependent children: She bought out her brother-in-law Thomas’s interest in the company.

By 1900, McDonnell & Sons had two additional local branches, another two in central New York, one in Connecticut, and one in Indianapolis. Emily served as company president until her death in 1926. In a circa 1926 company brochure, McDonnell & Sons claimed to be the largest granite firm, by sales, in the country. Emily’s obituary in the Courier-Express described her as a nationally-known businesswoman.

While tiny as a building, when read as a grave marker — itself a sign — the granite façade must have struck many as grand indeed. (In simultaneously serving as shelter and sign, McDonnell & Sons predated Robert Venturi’s building-as-sign, “Decorated Shed” coinage by 80 years).

Wealthy shoe merchant John Blocher went to McDonnell & Sons with his plans for an extravagant memorial to his son Nelson, who died shortly after the Main Street showroom opened. Other notable Forest Lawn commissions include the Philip Becker monument, the Volunteer Firemen’s monument, and the imposing Main Street entrance arch.

Other area projects include the Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry monument in Front Park, soldiers’ monuments in Springville and LeRoy, Hamburg’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, the Father Hennepin Memorial in Niagara Falls, NY, and the Laura Secord Memorial in Queenston. Company brochures also boasted of commissions for public memorials throughout the U.S. and Canada.


At some point in the 1940s, with Emily’s son James in charge, McDonnell & Sons moved out of 858 Main and into a comparatively plain brick building further north on Main Street. James died in 1951, the last family member to head the operation. In 1968, after 84 years in Buffalo and 111 years after its founding in Quincy, McDonnell & Sons vanished from the Buffalo Polk Directory, the annual “City Directory” of households and businesses.

The old headquarters building was continuously occupied until 1978. It is now vacant. The city acquired the building last year in a tax forfeiture. The building is structurally sound, but needs new mechanical systems, roof work, and windows to bring it up to current city codes — work estimated at $150,000.

This monument of a building — some neighbors call it the Mausoleum Building — is more than a pretty face, as finely cut and polished as the day it opened 112 years ago. It represents a telling slice of Buffalo’s architectural, social, and women’s history.


©Cynthia Van Ness. Originally published in the Buffalo Preservation Report, June 1996.  Advertisement courtesy of 1891 Buffalo city directoy. The building has since been remodeled as The Granite Works.  A sales brochure from the company is online at Archive.org.

In Search of Buffalo’s First Professional African-American Architect

Some Preliminary Findings by Cynthia Van Ness, ©2001-2013

In the New York State census of 1925, John E. Brent reported his age as 33, making his year of birth around 1892. According to a biographical profile of him in the Buffalo American, which does not reveal his age, Brent was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He entered Tuskegee Institute in 1904, graduating with an architecture degree in 1907. After two years as a schoolteacher in Washington, he entered the School of Architecture at Drexel Institute and graduated in 1912 at the ripe age of 20. Brent then moved to Buffalo, NY. Further research is needed to confirm this apparent precocity.

The unsigned article in Buffalo American goes on to list the architectural firms which employed Brent between 1912 and 1926: Max G. Beierl; H. Osgood Holland; Waterbury & Mann; Julius E. Schultz; North Shelgren & Swift; Oakley & Schallmore. While in the employ of Holland, Brent worked on the Hutchinson High School plans. While in the employ of Waterbury & Mann, he worked on plans for the Wanakah Country Club.

Michigan Avenue YMCA

In 1926, John E. Brent became the second African-American to design a “colored” YMCA, Buffalo’s Michigan Avenue YMCA. It opened in April 1928 and became the cultural center of Buffalo’s African-American community. It cost $200,000 to build, half of which was donated by Buffalonian George Matthews. It boasted a cafeteria, gymnasium, swimming pool, barber shop, tailor shop, library; and classrooms, locker rooms, dormitory rooms, and billiard tables. It was demolished in April 1977.

Lillian Serece Williams wrote extensively about the significance of the Michigan Avenue YMCA in Buffalo’s African American community in her book, Strangers in the Land of Paradise  (1999).

Eva Noles, in Talking Proud: Buffalo’s Blacks  (1986), attributes another building to Brent: Dr. Myron McGuire’s dentist office. Post-war city directories for Buffalo show a Dr. Myron McGuire at 482 Jefferson Avenue.  This address is now the site of recently-built infill housing.

Upon winning the commission for the Michigan Avenue YMCA, Brent opened his own practice, and may have been self-employed from 1926 into the 1950s, when Buffalo City Directories list him as an architect with the Buffalo Parks Department. 

Brent remained involved with the Michigan Ave. YMCA, serving as a board member and fundraiser. He was also a founding member of the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP, serving as its first president. Later he served on the Local Council of the State Commission Against Discrimination.

Brent lived at 219 Glenwood Avenue with his wife Neeton, and was active in St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, earning the Bishop’s Medal for meritorious service. He died on October 27, 1962, and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Section 37, Lot 94.

Update, June 3, 2013: Brent’s gates for the Buffalo Zoo have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Sources Consulted

  • Online Sources, Which Turned Up Nothing

Brief Biographies of American Architects
http://www.sah.org/aame/bioint.html

Buffalo News Archives, 1989 to present
http://www.buffalonews.com

Circle Association’s African-American History of Western New York State
http://www.math.edu/~sww/0history/1900-1935.html

Cyburbia.org
http://www.cyburbia.org

Digital Schomburg
http://www.schomburg.org

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
http://www.naacp.org

National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections
http://www.lcweb.loc.gov/

New Deal Network
http://www.newdeal.feri.org/

U.S. Social Security Death Index
http://ssdi.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi

Western New York Index, 1983-1996
http://www.wnyindex.com/

World Biographical Index
http://www.biblio.tu-bs.de/

  • Proprietary Databases

Dialog@Carl Architecture Database

Ethnic Newswatch

Galenet Biography Resource Center

  • Monographs & Pamphlets

Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Boston, MA : G.K. Hall, 1963.

Avery Obituary Index to Architects & Artists. Boston, MA : G.K. Hall, 1963.

Hasauer, Kenneth. The Second Fifty Years: A History of the Young Men’s Christian Association of Buffalo and Erie County, 1902-1952. Buffalo, NY: YMCA, [1952].

Noles, Eva. Buffalo’s Blacks: Talking Proud. Buffalo, NY: Eva M. Noles, 1986.

Twenty Years in the Service of Youth: The Michigan Avenue YMCA. Buffalo, NY: Young Men’s Christian Association, 1943

Who’s Who in Colored America. New York: [various publishers], 1927-1944, 1950.

Who’s Who of the Colored Race. Chicago, IL: Frank Lincoln Mather, 1915.

Williams, Lillian Serece. Strangers in the Land of Paradise: The Creation of an African-American Community, Buffalo, New York 1900-1940. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, ©1999.

  • Articles & Serials

Buffalo City Directories. Buffalo, NY: [various publishers], 1926-1965.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index. Detroit, MI: Gale [various years].

“John E. Brent, Second Negro Architect of the United States to Have Charge of Building ‘Y’ for Colored Men.” Buffalo American, May 4, 1926: page unknown. Preserved in Local Biographies scrapbook,” v.4, p. 165, Grosvenor Room in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (BECPL).

Locke, Henry. “Blacks Should Mourn Michigan Ave. ‘Y’ Loss. Buffalo Courier-Express, April 17, 1977: F-9.

“Michigan Ave. ‘Y’ Has Vital Role in City.” Buffalo Courier-Express, July 19, 1953: 20-A.

Young Men’s Christian Association. Annual Report. Buffalo, NY: Young Men’s Christian Association, 1920-1930.

  • Unpublished Sources

Local History File, a card file to periodicals &  newspapers in Buffalo, compiled 1930 to present

BECPL Prominent Black Buffalonians File [card file compiled 1980s]

New York State Population Census, 1925, Ward 17, City of Buffalo, Erie County, New York State

  • Picture Credits

Brent portrait:
Twenty Years in the Service of Youth. Buffalo, NY : Young Men’s Christian Association, ©1943: 5

Michigan Avenue Branch:
Hausauer, Kenneth C. The Second Fifty Years … 1902-1952. Buffalo, NY : Artcraft Printers, [1952?]: 29

Special thanks to Sharon Holley for supplying Brent’s date of death and burial place.


This article is fully protected by copyright and may not be copied and pasted anywhere without written permission.  Last updated  3 June 2013.

Top Ten Urban Legends in Buffalo

In the old David Letterman format, these are the ten most bogus urban legends about Buffalo & its history:

10.  Buffalo has the longest, coldest, snowiest, harshest, worst winters in America.

9.   Every house in Buffalo was photographed during the Pan-American Exposition and the Buffalo History Museum has the pictures.

8.  The “Historical Society” or the “Preservation Society” won’t let me demolish/remodel/alter my building.

7.   The stone farmhouse at 60 Hedley Place was built as slave quarters.

6.   My title abstract dates back to 1804, so that is when my house was built.

5.  The City of Buffalo Property database says my house was built in 1900 so that is how old it is.

4.  The towers at the Richardson Complex (Buffalo State Hospital) were used to chain up mental patients.

3.  Grover Cleveland lived at 51 Johnson Park.

2.  The Niagara Movement (1905) met in Fort Erie because of racial discrimination at Buffalo hotels.

1. My house was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  [Alternate version: my house was a speakeasy during Prohibition.]

New addition: City Hall had a fire and all of the records were lost.

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