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Architecture In a pandemic, Buffalo's defining double porches offer quick escape

Dan

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From the Buffalo News:


“The prevalence of porch life,” said Chris Hawley, a local planner, “is a character-defining feature of the city.”

Kowsky agrees, based on warm experience. When he and his wife, Helene, arrived in Buffalo in the early 1970s, they rented the upper floor of a double flat on Lisbon Avenue. Every spring, a crew from Kohler Awning would arrive to set up an awning above their front porch that would always be removed in late October, a process that served as an annual gateway to the change in seasons.


The structure was among thousands of "double flats" that started going up in Buffalo in the 1880s, Kowsky said, when streetcars finally allowed everyday laborers to put some distance between themselves and the places where they worked. The idea of putting units on top of each other, as fellow historian Martin Wachadlo said, was "a way of getting more bang for the buck" within residential lots in a fast-growing city.

While Kowsky also lived in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, he agreed that the sheer prevalence of those homes with double porches is something he especially associates with Buffalo.

On Lisbon Avenue, Kowsky’s landlord lived downstairs, a common arrangement. He allowed the couple to move an old and rusting glider from the backyard onto their porch. The Kowskys spent countless hours enjoying the breeze and watching the quiet rhythm of life along the street – which, by being on the porch, made them a part of it.

A half-century later, Kowsky said:

“I still miss it.”
Have some two-flat porches.

Elmwood Village.

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Allentown

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North Buffalo

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South Buffalo

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Kaisertown

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Delavan-Bailey income bungalows

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Kensington

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Kensington income bungalows

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Pine Hill

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Pine Hill income bungalows

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Kenmore: a rare example that's mostly architecturally intact. No picture windows, no vinyl siding, no metal railings, no shutters.

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My (late) Dad looking at the two-flat where he grew up, in the Hamlin Park neighborhood on the East Side.

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Dan

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More on Buffalo-style two-flats. From http://www.buffaloah.com/a/archsty/indver/stein/index.html :

The double houses in Buffalo, New York, are fine examples of what is termed Industrial Vernacular housing.
...

The attraction of the double house, evident in even the earliest advertising, was that it was a house, and made the owner a property owner. The second flat's rent revenue could be applied to the payment of the mortgage. This arrangement also allowed family generations to live in convenient proximity. As owner occupied houses, tenants could be more selectively chosen for compatibility or friendship. Some families bought doubles together, gathering equity to move on.

Before 1890, Buffalo existed well within its 1854 city limits; the built up area comprised the 1832 city, and stretched out along the Niagara River north and northwest on the Erie Canal, the former Village of Black Rock, and along railway and road routes east and northeast from the center, extensions of Ellicott's 1804 radial street pattern and of Iroquois trails.

Not unlike Chicago, Buffalo on the eastern end of the navigable Great Lakes was also at the time a lumbering center. The Goodyear Lumber Company, a local firm, exploited the forest resources of northern and western Pennsylvania. Their Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad from Galeton, Pennsylvania, terminated in the alluvial meanders of South Buffalo. Down the canal to the north, the new city of North Tonawanda became the "Lumber City" because of the canal-based lumber mills lining the Niagara River there.

Buffalo never had a fire to provoke a fireproof brick building code, unlike nearby Toronto.

...

The double house is the modal house in Buffalo, providing one third of the housing structures in this city, and an even greater percentage of housing units. The two floor/two flat houses in Buffalo were built during the economic and industrial heyday of the city, from about 1890 to 1929.

Double housing represented a step up from the inadequate and "tenement" housing occupied by certain older immigrant groups near the city center, e.g., the Irish in "Canal town," and the Jewish in the near east side (whose place was later taken by the newer Italian immigrants and African Americans respectively, who followed the move out after World War II.)

In Buffalo, double houses rather than apartment buildings were constructed by real estate developers such as the following:

  • William Fitzpatrick, credited posthumously with "building" South Buffalo
  • Speculators such as those who built the comfortable doubles of the Hamlin Park neighborhood in Buffalo's east side
  • Jewish builders and realtors of North Buffalo
...

The double house was institutionalized by the zoning of large areas of the city into R-2 (residential, two-unit) areas, revealed in the present Buffalo city zoning maps. These areas were never one hundred percent doubles; recent city planning encourages the conversion of doubles into single homes as part of gentrification.

Owners have also left the city with a supply of double rental units which have provided income to support their moves to the still more desirable single house. Absentee landlords and the lack of care by renters has led to widespread destruction and abandonment of these buildings, especially in the older inner areas of Buffalo. Yet to be evaluated is the surprising persistence of these doubles, depending on location.
 

Dan

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What's an income bungalow? It's a small Buffalo-sryle bungalow, with an even smaller (and often cramped) apartment on the second floor. They're most common in the Kensington, Delavan-Bailey, and Schiller Park neighborhoods in northeast Buffalo, and parts of Cheektowaga near the Buffalo city line, where developers built them by the hundreds through the 1920s. In the 1930s, many owners of single family bungalows added apartments on the second floor, to help pay the mortgage during uncertain times. My grandparents converted their Kensington bungalow to an income bungalow, and they had the same tenant -- a little old lady -- from the 1950s to 1992.

Ad for a new income bungalow in Kaisertown.

Buffalo Courier Express 1928 - 2587 clinton terrace income bungalow 1.jpg

Buffalo Courier Express 1928 - 2587 clinton terrace income bungalow 2.jpg

Ad for a new income bungalow in Kensington.

Buffalo Courier Express 1928 - 6727.jpg
 

mendelman

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Those house forms are prevalent throughout Cleveland too. Same time period and probably the same pattern books, too.

The Chicago equivalent were typically brick exteriors and double open porches were uncommon.
 

luckless pedestrian

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When I lived in a 2 family in Brighton, MA and again in Belmont, MA, we had a full porch on the front and the back which was great!
 

DVD

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I wish we could get housing like this in the Phoenix metro. It just doesn't happen. Front porches close to the road just aren't a thing.
 
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