My brother had a house about a mile west of there on W. Cavalier. It might have been this one, but I can't remember the exact address. And of course it was high class French.... that whole neighborhood is off French Road.And this, I believe, is my Dad's first cousin's house in Chickuhtavaga.
Suzette Drive...so high class French.
Sobieski Street! In the heart of the former "Polonia". Shout outs to the Happy Swallow and Dick's Eastside Inn. This part of Buffalo reminds me allot of Detroit.I'm one generation removed from Buffalo nativism.
Here's the house my Dad was raised/lived in until he left in 1964 for grad school.
And this, I believe, is my Dad's first cousin's house in Chickuhtavaga.
Suzette Drive...so high class French.
Mainly due to almost exactly the same migration/immigration patterns and periods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.This part of Buffalo reminds me allot of Detroit.
One thing I love about Buffalo is that it feels like an NYS version of Detroit.
I consider it a hybrid between Northeastern/Midwestern, although culturally more midwest than not.This is true. Buffalo is really a midwest city.
Sobieski Street is now the heart of Muslim Buffalo! The former Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral on Sobieski is now the Masjid Zakaria mosque, crescents adorning the two 160-foot steeples. The Darul Uloom Al-Madania school and seminary is also located on Sobieski.Sobieski Street! In the heart of the former "Polonia". Shout outs to the Happy Swallow and Dick's Eastside Inn. This part of Buffalo reminds me allot of Detroit.
One thing I love about Buffalo is that it feels like an NYS version of Detroit. I feel like Western NY has more in common with SE Michigan than Downstate, the Great Lakes effect. From the accents, "pop" instead of "soda", Hockey and Football being more popular than Baseball, the Polish connection, both cities had riots in 1967 and plowed highways through their industrial neighborhoods in the 50s. Both cities had controversial Jerkoff mayors in the 80s (Coleman Young in Detroit, and Jimmy Griffin in Buffalo who was in many ways, like a White version of Young). Buffalo's street grid system of radials and diagonal avenues eminating from Niagara Square evokes Cadillac Square. Both cities have underutilized public transit (although Buffalo's metrorail is allot longer and more useful than the People Mover).
Although changes and gentrification are happening in Buffalo, I feel like its happening allot faster in Detroit, with more investment and influx of out of state artsy and young professional types. The area around Eastern Market is like Bushwick now, all of the ghost skyscrapers in Downtown Detroit have been reoccupied. Gentrification in Buffalo is most definitely happening, but allot more limited to certain areas of the West Side along Grant St and the former Bethlehem Steel valley thats been rebranded as "Larkinville". I don't see it being taken over by NYC Expats anytime soon, although anything is possible and many Buffalonians do fear that. KEEP BUFFALO A SECRET
I aspire to live in Black Rock off of Amherst, west of Military Road. Thats a neighborhood that's rough around the edges but not East Side level dangerous, livable homes can be bought in the 65k range, property taxes arent too insane and you can bike to Wegmans in 10 minutes. Id love to have a Telescope home, with an adjoining vacant lot where I can store junk Volvo's. One can dream.....
I am always shocked how few subdivisions in Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse suburbs were required to put in street trees - older neighborhoods have them but the ones from the 50's onward did not - I am sure there are exceptions but overall I think it's a trend
Sobieski Street is now the heart of Muslim Buffalo! The former Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral on Sobieski is now the Masjid Zakaria mosque, crescents adorning the two 160-foot steeples. The Darul Uloom Al-Madania school and seminary is also located on Sobieski.
Another data set....Wow, a 140 year history of Buffalo's residential development pattern consolidated into one post!
An aside: my wife is an honest-to-goodness Southern California Valley Girl. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley -- Tarzana, on the "good side of the Boulevard" -- and hung out at the Sherman Oaks Galleria as a teenager in the 1980s..An interesting piece of Polonia cultural history - my dad's (and his extended family's) house was across the street from the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral.
Sounds very, very familiar. My (second generation Polish-American) parents were married in 1956 and at first lived above my paternal granparents' tavern on Broadway (it was called Kay-Ton grill; their names were Catherine and Anthony, or Kay and Tony). The bar was actually just on the Sloan side of the border. Shortly after they bought one of those little ranches on South Colby Street in the extreme southwest corner of Cheektowaga, a stone's throw from both Sloan and Buffalo. After selling the tavern, my grandparents bought a home in the U-Crest neighborhood in the heart of Cheektowaga, a pretty nice (at the time) brick bungalow, a block off of George Urban Blvd. My parents eventually moved in with them and bought them out and they lived there as an extended family. (Note: sidewalks, no curbs. When I lived there we had a street tree.) True to form, they raised the roof in the back and added two bedrooms and a half bath in the attic in the 1960s, then remodeled the basement with faux walnut paneling and faux red paving brick flooring tiles in the 1970s.Developers responded by building thousands of starter and lower-middle end homes in Cheektowaga, Depew, and Sloan. Low prices, along with low interest VA mortgages, made these new houses irresistible for young households. For a second generation Polish-American family, given the choice of a 60-year old Bork cottage with a shotgun layout and no off-street parking, or a new brick ranch house off of George Urban Boulevard, both of which they could easily afford, their decision seems obvious.
There's actually a very understated mosque at the end of our block here in Fort Worth. They're pretty quiet, keep to themselves. There's another mosque less than a mile south of us. I've never seen anything out of either of them to make me associate them with the unrest in the Middle East. And the Kabob restaurant some local Muslims run has the best gyros. <3Sobieski Street is now the heart of Muslim Buffalo!
My great-great-grandparents lived a block over from Sobieski, at 470 Sweet Ave., when they moved from Pittsburgh to Buffalo prior to the 1910 census. They both died before my dad was born. They were parents to my great-grandmother, and also raised my great-grandfather, who was an orphan. They grew up together and then got married. Their oldest of their 10 children was my paternal grandfather (the guy who owned the bar in my previous post).Sobieski Street is now the heart of Muslim Buffalo!
The 470 Sweet Avenue link shows exactly that. On that block there are 11 houses still standing, and 29 vacant lots. According to Historic Aerials, every lot had a house at one time. As recently as 1995 the were mostly still there, but by 2002 most of them were torn down.The newcomers often don’t have the means to maintain housing that was at the end of its structural life. Absentee landlords didn’t want to sink a lot of money into houses that were falling apart faster than they could fix them. “Paint up clean up” and insulation programs weren’t enough to address larger structural or safety issues.
The Pool @ Chandler Pool Club seems a wee bit too small to me, like the size of something a Mansion Dweller in Williamsville could have in their backyard. Seeing the area called "Chandlerville" gives me douche chills....eek! If I were Mayor of Buffalo, I would eminent domane that entire area and dedicate it to community use. Perhaps stewarded by a reinvigorated public parks department l, as I support abolishing the Olmstead Commission and bringing that system back into full public ownership, which is a whole other subject!The Chandler pool club is pretty much done now, just waiting for the weather to warm up.
Buffalo Rising: Visit to Chandler Street Pool Club
I don't think one can compare a city like Buffalo with NYC when it comes to gentrification, as this city has a lot of filling-in to complete before wholesale neighborhood displacements occur. There is also not a lot of turnover occurring, and a lot of competition for homes is driving up prices 24% year over year in the city.
The closest I currently see to actual gentrification is the huge turnaround of much of the West Side, where the 20k homes of 5 or 10 years ago are now being sold as-is for 150k as fixer-uppers, and finished homes are now going for over 400k on some streets. The poorer sections are now being hemmed in on 3 sides by overflow from the Elmwood Village, Allentown, and now a rapidly transitioning Niagara Street strip. In the poorer areas, there is a still large presence of poor quality crowded immigrant housing, along with ongoing improvement and infill by organizations catering to these communities, so there will be limits as far as gentrification can continue. But when traveling down many of the side streets in the area, even near or on the "wrong" side of Grants Street, it is amazing (to me) seeing the number of homes that have been improved or are undergoing renovations.
My neighborhood in North Buffalo has very few homes being sold, and most are sold within a couple of days after hitting the market. My in-laws family just relocated here from Texas (thanks to work from home due to COVID) and they had to bid about 20% over list against multiple other buyers to get a decent 2-family house. Over 300k on the North Side, where 5 years ago it wouldn't have sold for more than 150. Maybe expensive for Buffalo, but cheap enough to attract them from out of state (never having lived here before, they decided to follow us here). They looked at the West Side, but felt essentially priced-out of decent size and quality homes compared to North Buffalo.
I also noticed that in the last few years there have been fewer vacant flats in the neighborhood, very apparent when seeing the parking situation. My own house has had both floors occupied for almost 2 years now, which had last been fully occupied in the 1990s. As far as I can tell, only one of my neighbors is keeping a flat vacant, although they did have it occupied for awhile with family following the hurricane in Puerto Rico.
So, I wouldn't call it gentrification where I live, so much as filling in what was missing, and more or less right-sizing the community.
My grandparents all settled in Black Rock when they immigrated in the early 1900s, where my parents grew up and worked their whole lives. Although they moved to North Buffalo (where I grew up and now live) when they got married, we all kept our neighborhood ties to Black Rock and Riverside, shopped on Tonawanda and Amherst Streets, belonged to Polish Cadets, etc. All of the cousins loved my grandmother's house on East Street (where she raised 11 children) and we always talk about buying it back one day if it goes up for sale.The Pool @ Chandler Pool Club seems a wee bit too small to me, like the size of something a Mansion Dweller in Williamsville could have in their backyard. Seeing the area called "Chandlerville" gives me douche chills....eek! If I were Mayor of Buffalo, I would eminent domane that entire area and dedicate it to community use. Perhaps stewarded by a reinvigorated public parks department l, as I support abolishing the Olmstead Commission and bringing that system back into full public ownership, which is a whole other subject!
What are you're thoughts on Black Rock west of Military Road (Austin St vicinity) in terms of safety and livability? It seems like the revitalization of Black Rock has yet to expand that far West. I find it a highly desirable for what I seek in a neighborhood: accessible enough via NFTA Buses but with parking, racially diverse and undiscovered, rough around the edges but not East Side level, and close to, but not in, the West Side cool zone. Is random violent street crime and break ins a problem there? Black Rock has allot more polish cottages than the rest of North Buffalo and I find that quaint. Do people still pejoratively refer to these areas as "Crack Rock and Reeferside"? Ive heard it described before as "the other Lovejoy". I really like the area along Hertel east of Delaware too for its Italian heritage (Im descended from Neapolitains who arrived at Ellis Island) but it seems a little "too nice" for my dreams, which is to own a telescope home and adjoining vacant lot where I can store junk Volvos and host BBQs.
I agree with your thoughts on right sizing these neighborhoods, although I wish the "right sizers" would be similarly working class to the generations that came before them. I would welcome more Puerto Ricans, Bangladeshis, Central Americans, Eastern Europeans, Southeast Asians etc. (I.e. Working and Middle class people of all colors and creeds) over more affluent WeWork types who would patronize the Chandler pool club But this is also a highly idealistic vision informed by personal bias and I understand my idea of a Just City is a pipedream comprared to how things work in the real world. I think Buffalo could really be a testing ground for innovations in affordable housing, if there was the will do do so, with Community Land Trusts dotting the East and West Side's (again, pipedream I know). It seems like there are allot of "mom and pop" developers getting in on the action in the West Side for the time being, which is good but will inevitably lead to future speculation, but for the time being I too dont see Buffalo becoming the next Bushwick or Midtown Detroit for the reasons you stated above, Its like comparing apples to pomegranates. Talking to Buffalo punks though, allot of them seem to be afraid of waves of downstaters "discovering" the city in light of many of the recent changes. And while no, I dont want the city to remain vacant, impoverished and abandoned, it is the Catch-22 of revitalization that we see in cities across the continent.
You are HANDS DOWN the best new member on Cyburbia. Please stick around! Absolutely Iove your flickr, especially this picture that features a 1986-89 Volvo 244:My grandparents all settled in Black Rock when they immigrated in the early 1900s, where my parents grew up and worked their whole lives. Although they moved to North Buffalo (where I grew up and now live) when they got married, we all kept our neighborhood ties to Black Rock and Riverside, shopped on Tonawanda and Amherst Streets, belonged to Polish Cadets, etc. All of the cousins loved my grandmother's house on East Street (where she raised 11 children) and we always talk about buying it back one day if it goes up for sale.
I've always loved that area around East Street between Amherst and Austin, and there are some gems among the homes there, although many have no basements and are similar to the old workers cottages on the East Side. Some of the homes are among the oldest in the city, a couple as early as the 1830s. I hear less about crappy tenants and landlords than I did in recent years, and for some reason Dearborn seemed to attract a lot of low-lifes. But, when riding around the neighborhood last summer on my bike things seemed to be in particularly good order overall on the residential streets. I also "discovered" a couple of what I believe are the narrowest residential blocks in Buffalo, which for some reason I never noticed before in previous decades. Hoffman Place is narrow, but busy and well maintained. Last year a multi-family home on the street sold for 200k, so you may not find cheap in the neighborhood much anymore, and probably not a lot big enough to store you Volvos. Some people have really begun investing in the area, with some wonderful Victorians on Dearborn, plus there has been some street front renovations along Niagara that are helping improve the look of the area. Hertel-Niagara can use a lot of help, but back in the day it was a buzzing corner with McVans Nightclub, Brennans Mens wear, and even the Showboat Restaurant, an old paddlewheel boat docked at the foot of Hertel.
FYI I have several neighborhood albums posted on Flickr, including Black Rock. Dan's neighborhood images from previous decades inspired me to create my own "updates" of the neighborhoods.
Thanks, and that's a lot of questions...You are HANDS DOWN the best new member on Cyburbia. Please stick around! Absolutely Iove your flickr, especially this picture that features a 1986-89 Volvo 244:
I'd be very interested in poking more around the West Side, particularly looking for any traces of the areas Italian-American heritage, although I get the impression that none of those blocks have had any plurality of Italians since the early 90s, as that population migrated to North Buffalo and Kenmore. It seems like the closest thing to a Little Italy in Buffalo City Limits these days is along Hertel east of Delaware, although not to the same degree as you will find in NYC neighborhoods like Morris Park in the Bronx or on Staten Island where you will find people with little Italia flags on their cars and older folks who's mother tongue is Italian and speak English with accents.
Have you lived consistently in Buffalo your whole life? If so:
Do you have any recollection of the 1967 East Side (Jefferson Ave) Riots?
What was your experience of the 1977 Blizzard?
Do you have any thoughts on the controversial tenure of Mayor Jimmy "Six Pack" Griffin?
Was was Allentown like before 1995? Was it "ghetto" or perhaps rougher, or has there been an artistic vibe there since the 60s?
Reading this brought a smile to my face!Thanks, and that's a lot of questions...
I actually was here under a different name 10+ years ago, and by now I actually forgot my old ID and screen name, although I still read the site periodically. I am not an urban planner, but I had liked to see what others have been saying about development and planning trends. I had followed Dan online for years since he first posted his Dan's Upper Flat website, and looked back at this site after I saw some of his postings on reddit.
Anyway, I was born, raised, and educated in Buffalo. But, I left in the early 80s for Texas to find work in the oil patch, but unfortunately just in time for the start of the Oil Bust. One thing led to another, and circumstances with jobs and the economy kept me in Texas, married and had a family, until a couple of years ago when we were finally able to move back. I spent a lot of time in Buffalo even when I lived in Texas, as much of my family (including parents) were here. A few years ago, after my mother passed, my wife and I took ownership of her house (payed off my brothers and sisters shares). We realized that we could actually afford an early retirement living in Buffalo, so we have been upgrading our double, and finally moved back full-time a couple of years ago. One of my brothers also moved back from out of state and also lives here now - but I have the upper flat!
I did get to spend a bunch of time on the West Side as a kid as my older sister married a Sicilian guy (arrived here as a teenager) and lived right off Grant Street, near Guercios. Later, I also worked on Bird Island for a couple of summers, so I always grabbed some lunch over at Grant and Ferry. All of my Italian friends in North Buffalo had family and connections on the West Side, one friend's "uncle" had a store on Grant for awhile, and we would hang out there sometimes. Grant Street had a different vibe than the rest of the city, more people out and hanging out on street corners. West Side had a different accent and different culture, always easy to pick out a West Sider by the way they looked and talked. Had gang culture longer than other parts of the city. Hard to describe, my thoughts go to that Godfather scene when Sonny chases his brother in law and beats him up with a garbage can, for whatever reason. I went to the last couple of Italian Festivals held on Connecticut Street, and I recall that nearly every person there wore black leather. Not exaggerating. It was just a different kind of place.
Quick answers to your questions, as I could go on quite a bit about some of them.
- Riot: I was little in 1967, and I recall being downtown with my mother when all the businesses and stores were being closed early in the afternoon because a riot was occurring nearby, and they were essentially evacuating downtown. I recall huge lines and crowds to board the metro buses, and having to wait for a bus empty enough to let us on. Thats it for me.
- '77: High school. Not much to say, basically a snowy winter even before the blizzard, and along with the natural gas shortages meant lots of days off school. Snow piled up to 2nd floor porch.
- Jimmy: He played favorites, took care of his friends, and punished others. He had some type of grudge against the East Side, as I don't think he got along with the former mayor Makowski. My father knew him as a young man and didn't like him - called him a south side punk. When he was mayor, during some type of banquet at Polish Cadets, my father had to physically hold Jimmy back because he wanted to punch some cop who was drunk and had some beef with him.
- I never recall Allentown as ever being "ghetto" at least since the late 1960s. It was described as Buffalo's "Greenwich Village" even then. It was also a hot bar spot in the 70s (and probably for decades) - Brick Bar was one of my hangouts for awhile - crazy mix of customers. I do remember a couple of women working the corners on Allen late at night, but the neighborhood hasn't changed much. Now, further downtown, Chippewa was straight-up the red light district. As teenager driving down Chippewa was one of the first places you went to check out when you first got your license. In the winter the prostitutes would stand in the windows of the bars waving in customers. They also used to hang out at Johnson Park near Hutch Tech, and work out of the seedy hotels and apartments there. I recall in the late 70s or early 80s seeing pimps dressed up in furs (like you see in old movies) dropping off women on Chippewa. It didn't seem real, but I saw it with my own eyes. I also remember being amused that nearly every car parked on Chippewa had Ontario or Ohio plates.
Maybe I will write a book some day.
My direct knowledge of gangs only covers late 60s thru 70s north side, so I can only speak about that time, although I do remember hearing about the "Black T's" that wore black t-shirts in the early 60s. In the mid 60s the frats (some neighborhood gangs went by fraternity symbols) did wear frat jackets with their frat letters stitched or embroidered on it, but stopped as they were easy targets by the police and not allowed to wear them at school. TKB (tau kappa beta) was big on the north side and Riverside, and I remember KB as a west side frat. One of my older brothers was TKB, which gave me a little cachet among the grade school crowd (he was drafted before getting into any real problems, thankfully). I know that some of the MT Pockets guys that caused trouble on Hertel last year were old frat guys (now real old).Reading this brought a smile to my face!
I 100% agree with your father about Jimmy G, he was indeed a South Buffalo punk, and not a Punk as in Punk Rocker! He is probably one of the least Punk Rock people to ever come out of Buffalo. I think his grudge against the East Side extended from both Old Ward political rivalries with Polish establishment (and figures like Stanley Makowski), as much as it came from his straight Racism. He is still revered as a saint in South Buffalo, Im not a big fan of the South Buffalo Irish, I greatly prefer the actual Irish from Ireland who don't like Trump either (har har, see what I did there!).
That is so true, the West Side accent is allot more nasally and a distinctive drawl compared to the South Buffalo accent which is more traditionally midwestern. I think it stems from the West Side developing more of its own "ethnolect" influenced by the speech patterns of Italian and Spanish speaking residents who would come to shape the area's culture, sounds kind of like this:
I can imagine Grant Street in the 1970s being full of straight Zips, Italian-American "cornermen" keeping an eye over the block, kids hanging out and yes teenage gangs, some just simple neighborhood crews, others farm teams for "The Arm" Did W. Side Italian gangs wear distinctive gang sweaters like they did in Chicago? If my ancestors had settled in Buffalo instead of The Bronx, I like to imagine they would have settled either somewhere in the Lower or in the Valley off of Seneca Street. I know exactly what you mean with the Godfather analogy, evokes a similar vibe to the South Bronx stories told to me my grandparents. One thing that I am afraid of, is that changes in development patterns and revitalization will erase the West Side's rich Latino/Puerto Rican heritage much like suburbanization has to its Italian heritage.
Was that the Saint Anthony Festival on Connecticut St? I think it was held there until sometime in the 80s, before relocating to Hertel, if im not mistaken. Your description of leather clad guidos sounds very period appropriate, which was the "look" before the Blowout hair, Ed Hardy shirt Jersey Shore style of my cousins took hold. It seems like there is more of a collective nostalgia among Polish Buffalonians for their old Broadway-Fillmore than there is among Buffitalians for the Old West Side. They still come to Broadway-Fillmore for Dyngus Day, whereas I don't know of any such lore among Italian's for their West Side. It would be cool if there still was some type of heritage ties to that area, a festival or a Columbus Day parade or something. I attribute it to the Polish community being simply larger and more rooted in the city and its culture.
Your description of Chippewa is hilarious and seems spot on, Im told "I saw your mother on Chippewa" was a schoolyard insult circa the 1950s!
@Dan Did you have any experience with the Italian West Side back in the day? Or was West of Main just a different world?
Unrelated to any discussion here, my 3rd cousin who recently friended me on Facebook posted this picture.
WOW! That looks like it must have been taken circa 1902.Unrelated to any discussion here, my 3rd cousin who recently friended me on Facebook posted this picture.
A picture of the house with my grandfather in it. They actually built that house!
People in the picture:
Michael = my great great grandfather
Maryann = his wife, my great great grandmother
Helen = their daughter, my great grandmother
Nick = Helen's husband, my great grandfather
Tony = their oldest son, my grandfather (who died shortly before I was born)
Stanley, Vince = Tony's brothers, my great uncles. I remember Uncle Vince and his wife Aunt Mae. She kept a candy jar that she got out when we came by for a visit. My father was clearly fond of Uncle Vince.
I found out that this isn't quite accurate. He was boarding with her parents in Pittsburgh and they got married as a result. I heard he went to live with them and I thought it was when he first came to the U.S. It was when he was 18.They grew up together and then got married.
They built the house in 1908. Uncle Vince was born in 1907 and is being carried as an infant, so this is when the house was pretty much brand new.