Buffalo: vintage real estate ads (a continuing series)

Dan

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I'm fascinated by vintage advertising for residential development. The ads not only reflect the zeitgeist of the era, but they also offer a history of development for a region, and provide an indicator about the prevailing economy. It seems like there's a corollary between the number of ads appearing for developments and subdivisions (in the case of Buffalo, the early 1910s, the 1920s, the 1950s, and the late 1960s and early 1970s), and the level of economic prosperity and sense of optimism.

Urbanists in Buffalo hold on tight to many myths regarding the rise and fall of Buffalo, one of which is that suburbanization first began in the 1950s as a reaction to the influx of blacks migrating to Buffalo at the end of the Great Northern Migration period. The belief that Buffalo's suburbs were born due to white flight is a myth; it played just a limited role in development beyond the city limits. Suburbanization in the Buffalo area has been around long before the Great Northern Migration and blockbusting, long before widespread automobile ownership, long before World War II, and long before the establishment of a large, dominant middle-class.

Here's an ad from the June 26, 1915 Buffalo Evening News demonstrating just how long suburbanization has been a part of Buffalo's development history.


Kenilworth Park is at the far southeastern portion of the Town of Tonawanda; it's about seven miles (11 km) from downtown Buffalo. Here's a page about the Kenilworth Park Racetrack, which is referenced in the ad. A local urban legend is that the streets in the development follows the path of the old racetracks.

Williamsdale is about 15 miles (24 km) from downtown Buffalo, east of the village of Williamsville.

Note the directions to the sites. Directions to a development by streetcar were common in most vintage real estate ads until the mid-1920s.
 

jsk1983

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Thanks for posting these. Never heard of "Williamsdale" before. East of the village so probably across from the high school? Richfield, Arlington, Melrose those streets...
 

Dan

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Here's one closer to town. July 26, 1915 Buffalo Evening News. It's a very boastful, high-pressure ad which includes, among other things, insults towards other neighborhoods. It's great prose.


Highgate Avenue between Main Street and Bailey Avenue is a rather nice residential street. 25 years ago, it was considered a very desirable street in the University Heights/Kensington area. A lot of UB professors once lived on Highgate. It's not a place where I would want to live now, though; the further east of Main, the worse the surrounding neighborhood gets. The whole area of University Heights east of Main Street is seen as iffy, and Kensington is struggling.

 

steel

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The list of negatives in the Highgate piece is interesting. I did not know that people wanted to get away form the cemetery on the west side which I assume is Forest Lawn.
 

Dan

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The list of negatives in the Highgate piece is interesting. I did not know that people wanted to get away form the cemetery on the west side which I assume is Forest Lawn.
Fear of ghosts? Creepiness? The open space provided by Forest Lawn might not have been considered a factor. Today, there's still some NIMBY sentiment towards funeral homes.

Anyhow, here's some old-school classifieds from the Buffalo Courier-Express sometime in the early 1970s; I neglected to note the exact date of the ad.


Yes, they're examples of the infamous parish ads, where listings included Catholic church parishes. Why? Buffalo is the nation's second most Catholic city, and Catholics in the area tend to be far more observant than those in other parts of the country; the parish where one lives really matters to some. More so in South Buffalo, which is a very Irish neighborhood.

Some say there's a dark side to the parish ads: to obscure the location of the property from blacks. African-American renters and homebuyers usually weren't Catholic, and were likely unfamiliar with church locations or parish boundaries. Thus, they'd be less likely to consider the house or apartment if they don't know where it is. St. Girard's, St. Jochim's, St. John Kanty and St. Luke's parishes were all located on the East Side, in ethnic neighborhoods that were either starting to experience an influx of black residents, or in the likely path of their future migration through Buffalo. I've read that some apartment rental ads were published in Polish or Italian to prevent others from understanding them, but I've never seen them.

Parish ads still appear from time to time, but they're far less common than they were in the 1960s through the early 1980s. Coincidentally, that was the time when tension over neighborhood racial transition was at its peak. I don't know if parish ads are considered legal under current fair housing laws.
 
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Interesting, the surnames of the realtors seem to be polish, italian or irish, all traditionally strong catholics. The sad thing is I am looking at how much the houses cost and they look in line at what very basic houses are going for in Detroit parishes these days!

Sort of interesting that you think catholics were anti-black. I know plenty of black catholics and half my sacamental milestones were performed by black priests. That could be a sign that things changed, but this was the late 1970's (not too far removed from the racial strife of the 1960's). I've always attended churches of mixed congregations and even Mayor Colemen A Young was a altar-boy when he was a youngster (I am guessing that would be in the late 1920's or 1930's).
 
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