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Thread: Some thoughts about South Buffalo, the WNY region's forgotten neighborhoood

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Some thoughts about South Buffalo, the WNY region's forgotten neighborhoood

    I'm typing this from a coffee house in the Quainte Ye Olde Newe Englande-style Village of Wiilliamsville, New York. It's one of the streetcar suburbs in north suburban Buffalo, close to my ancestral home. Most of my family are Northtowners, born and raised in the north end of the City of Buffalo or its northern suburbs.

    A couple of hours ago, I walked about 7,500 steps through the "Irish Heritage District" along Abbot Road and up and down its side streets in South Buffalo, wearing a burnt orange-colored henley, and made it out alive. South Buffalo is one of the most Irish neighborhoods one will find outside of Boston.

    Being a Northtowner, it's been a while since I've been to South Buffalo. It's really Buffalo's forgotten neighborhood; pedestrian-oriented, with a soling housing stock ranging from working class-oriented two-flats, to a type of middle-class bungalow that isn't seen elsewhere in the region, to jaw-dropping "Oh my God I had no idea this was here" pockets of affluence. South Buffalo has perhaps Buffalo's largest collection of parkway and remaining brick roads. Streets are laid out in connected blocks, with local streets perpendicular to radial arterials that sprout branches every mile or so This makes South Buffalo a very challenging place to navigate; roads change names frequently, intersect at odd angles, and create an environment with a very interesting fabric compared to the more rectangular and curvilinear blocks found elsewhere in the city.

    South Buffalo, despite being off the collective radar screen of the region, is also the heart of Buffalo's old Irish political machine. A disproportionately large percentage of high-ranking city officials, policemen, firemen, and patronage workers call South Buffalo home; it's the city's "blue ghetto".

    The main problem with South Buffalo is that it's remote; not geographically, but culturally. Buffalo's major cultural institutions, most colleges and universities, and its young professionals, yuppies and hipsters are north of downtown. A zone of half-abandoned Rust Belt industrial wasteland separates South Buffalo from downtown, creating a psychological barrier as well. The hipster blog scene in Buffalo largely ignores South Buffalo, except when St. Patrick's Day approaches. A Chicago equivalent might be ... oh, Beverly and the middle-class neighborhoods at the southwestern portion of the city. My 100% Irish-American grandfather grew up in South Buffalo, the man I was named after, told me stories about gangs of youths who would beat up anyone who didn't even look remotely Irish if they so much as stepped south of the Buffalo River. Those days are long gone, but there's still a strong "you need a passport to visit" vibe.

    Photos to follow next week in the Cities and Places forum.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    Maybe Dan, but what does Rumpy think????
    Skilled Adoxographer

  3. #3








    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=32169

    Lotta SB lovin in this thread.

    I don't think that the north side hipster bloggers so much ignore south Buffalo as that not much really happens there.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Living in Chicago I'm of course familiar with Beverly as that is where the South Side Irish parade was. The parade had gotten way too popular and the drunken revelry was just too much for the family oriented neighborhood to handle. Bars from the north side would charter buses and Trixies and Chads would all converge on the neighborhood. I went this year ( I guess it was my first and last time) and the funny thing was that the one side of the street was dry, no bars, no packaged liquor for sale yet that didn't stop anyone (and of course drinking isn't allowed in the public right of way). Metra officially bans drinking on it's trains during festivals and were actually checking bags (at least in a token sense) but I'm sure more alcohol was consumed on the train that weekend than just about any other...

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel View post


    Looks like we just passed each other at the corner of Como and Abbott. That stretch of Como is a really neat block; well-maintained South Buffalo-style bungalows (a bit different than the semi-bungalows that dominate northeast and northwest Buffalo) and a lovely tree canopy. Your photo captured one that is little altered from the time it was built; it even has the original garage and "Hollywood driveway". Among Buffalo's 1920s-era housing stock, it's very difficult to find smaller houses that haven't been affected by insensitive alterations such as vinyl siding, inappropriately scaled aftermarket windows, enclosed porches, decorative metal railings, and /or the addition of Victorian-style kountry kitschy details.

    When you get south of the split of Abbott Road and Potters Road (again, the radial roads leading into South Buffalo and the southern suburbs have more forks and branches than the family tree of a big Irish-American family ), the area starts to resemble a middle- to upper-middle class inner ring suburb. It reminded me a lot of the West Park/Kamm's Corners area in west Cleveland, another predominantly Irish "blue ghetto" neighborhood at the far end of a city's incorporated area. Nest time I'm in Buffalo, I'll probably explore "south South Buffalo" a bit more.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    The shots shown in this story I took from a plane show the street pattern Dan is talking about

    http://www.buffalorising.com/2009/03/high-on-sb.html







  7. #7
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Sorry, but this terrifies me. Just not my style. I need private open space.


  8. #8
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Sorry, but this terrifies me. Just not my style. I need private open space.
    Be careful what you say on here RJ (the blueshirts are watching...)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    well.....

    Even with the row after row of nearly the same architecture, the homes are large enough and landscaping mature enough and paint variety wide enough to make it inviting.

    Is that power service from the front yard in that one picture??
    Skilled Adoxographer

  10. #10
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Is that power service from the front yard in that one picture??
    By that do you mean the utility pole? Those are commonplace in the Great Lakes in areas developed prior to the 1970's. Its a double edge sword, because of the freeze line, stuff needs to get buried deep here, making burying lines more risky as stuff needs to get ruppied up more. The other side of the sword is that since it does snow ice can make a big issue for snapping lines.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  11. #11
    Here is a link to great airial of South Buffalo prior to complete build out. Also of interest is that Caz park still has its ponds

    http://library.buffalo.edu/libraries...26-11-1927.jpg

    Sorry I did not link it directly but Dan gets pissed if you don't link images off your own server site. Check it out though. Very interesting.

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