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Off the Beaten
Unexpected Buffalo Websites
Surfing for obscure local sites is one of my favorite ways to waste large chunks of time. And you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my ongoing treasure hunt. To keep this mild obsession from becoming totally tedious, I reserve the right to poke a little fun here and there.
I'm not a native, having moved here in 1992 from Rochester. Being a transplant has its advantages; I didn't experience Buffalo's glory days first-hand, so its current state of economic shock doesn't continually shock me. This is a wounded city, no pretending otherwise. A wise person (I wish I knew who) once said, "Religion is for those who fear hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there." If this is true, then Buffalo ought to rank as one of the most spiritual places in the nation.
Demolish Stereotypes, Not Buildings
|Best-Kept Secrets||Useless Information||Local Heroes|
|Pix||The Inexplicable||Going in Style|
|Law & Disorder||Famous But Dead||A Solitary Poem|
|Laughs||A Sense of Place||Your Turn|
|The Fine Print|
The Buffalonian--an ambitious new website with full-text articles about a variety of major and minor events from Buffalo's past, along with a photo gallery, forum, upcoming events, and more
City of Buffalo Neighborhoods Map, a superb collection of 30 distinct neighborhood histories and profiles with a huge--slow-loading--clickable map. This wonderful site was created by the fine librarians at the bleak and remote suburban campus of SUNY/Buffalo.
Mark Twain Room--Twain lived in Buffalo for two years, long enough to lose money on his investment in the Buffalo Express and to donate the original manuscript of Huck Finn to what is now the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.
Kenmore-Tonawanda Historical Society is starting to scan artifacts from its collection and make them searchable from this screen. Don't be put off by their suburban location; they have material on Buffalo, the Erie Canal, and more.
Doing the Pan--has articles from 1901, a self-guided tour of the major exposition buildings, this day in 1901, and more
Historical Buffalo-Related Literature--an illustrated bibliography compiled by the law firm of Sacks & Kolken. Nicely done, you lawyers, you. Consider this a cyberhug from the librarian.
Buffalo Folklore Etc.--A website by the late, sorely missed Nancy Piatkowski, with a description of the little-known Niagara Frontier Folklore Archives, plus advice on collecting family stories and saving family papers
Meet Up Buffalo--find out who's meeting where to discuss what
Buffalo Full Text--a list compiled by yours truly. Gives links for over 125 full text, online books about Buffalo, most from before 1927.
Political Money Line--what a hoot. Enter your zip code and see who your neighbors give campaign contributions to.
Historic Buffalo Screensaver--ever looked for a free Buffalo screensaver? If you like the Bills or buffalo the animal, you'll find some. This is the first-ever Buffalo screensaver to feature vintage photographs. Yours for a mere $5 donation to the Preservation Coalition of Erie County.
Lake Erie-Niagara River Ice Boom--this site has current time lapse videos, for those of you with fast connections. Almost as fun as watching ice melt. For those of you who have no idea what we Buffalonians mean by "ice boom," I can tell you that it has nothing to do with weather-related acoustics.
Victorian Buffalo postcards--free online postcards, brought to you by yours truly and her publisher
ePodunk.com--also has vintage e-postcards, plus a selection of Buffalo quotes
Small Town America, a digital collection of stereoviews in the New York Public Library, has a few dozen vintage images of Buffalo. Use the drop-down menu provided here.
Aerial Photographs of Erie County brought to you by the Erie County Department of Public Works, Division of Highways. Presently has black & white pix from the 1920s and 1951. Cool, very cool.
Palmer's Views--the Kenmore-Tonawanda Historical Society is gradually scanning all of the pictures from Palmer's Views, a souvenir book about Buffalo published in 1910. Lots of period harbor views here.
Panoramic Maps of Buffalo, 1880 and 1902--at this page are links to two Buffalo maps. These are pretty amazing, because you can zoom in on your own neighborhood. Credit goes to the Library of Congress for putting these online.
About 175 photographs of Buffalo, taken by the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920, can be seen by entering Buffalo at the search screen provided here by the Library of Congress.
American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920, another collection from the Library of Congress, has 12 images from Buffalo
Shadows and Reflections: Pictorial Photography by Wilbur H. Porterfield--Porterfield worked for the Buffalo Courier-Express for years, and was a noted Pictorialist photographer
Against the Grain--photographs of Buffalo's last remaining grain scoopers by Mark Maio
Vintage Views, NY--scroll down to see several classic Buffalo postcards
Olde Buffalo--has 33 vintage photos
New Deal/WPA photographs of Buffalo, including: A Nursery School, Civic Stadium, the Buffalo Zoo, the Art Institute of Buffalo, the Handicraft Institute, the South Park Water Tower, and the Tonawanda Indian Reservation.
Women's Suffrage Convention, Buffalo, 1902--I wish I knew the names of these fine, fierce foremothers
Black Iron, 1935--a painting of some of our most fascinating scenery, our industrial waterfront, by Buffalo's own Charles Burchfield
Buffalo: Portrait of a City--brought to you by CEPA Gallery, which in 1998 took a bunch of city kids and taught them how to do photography. Here is the Buffalo they saw and documented.
Ordinances governing the conduct of public dances and dance halls, city of Buffalo, by city clerk Daniel Sweeney, 1914. Guess these places were hotbeds of vice.
Dear Mr. Hopkins--A 1934 memorandum to Harry Hopkins, who was (I think) a official in FDR's cabinet, describing Depression-era conditions in Buffalo
AmericanMafia.com tells us all about organized crime families in Buffalo
Buffalo, New York Noise Ordinance--amidst the trivia on this page, a genuinely useful link! Buffalonians: bookmark this for the next time your neighbors throw a raucous, all-night party.
The Location of Anomie--A culture case study of urbanization, Buffalo, New York 1810-1910
DeTocqueville in Buffalo--wherein the great chronicler of American democracy arrives in 1831, is appalled by the sight of drunken Indians, and leaves town on the next boat
Erie County Poorhouse History--includes some scanned-in reports of 19th century conditions
Turnleft.com: Places--is Buffalo a "liberal-friendly" town? Read the opinions posted here and add your own.Men in Skirts FAQ--if you think Buffalo is one of the last bastions of gender rigidity, think again. Here's a real Buffalo native in the real skirts that he really dances in.
You Know You're From Buffalo If...--a wickedly funny list compiled by Dan Tasman but not credited here
"President McKinley and Others in the Spirit World..." were striving to bring an end to World War I, according to this homepage. Thanks to a nutcase with a gun, McKinley entered the "Spirit World" here in Buffalo while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in September 1901.
Surapa, the Painting Elephant--only at the Buffalo Zoo
Niagara Frontier Follies--true news stories collected by someone in Lockport.
Bus Roster, Niagara Frontier Transportation Company, 1958-1969--whew. To think that bus manufacturers and model numbers are a subject of fascination to somebody, somewhere.
Interstate 190 Buffalo--maybe pointless is a better description. This page has blurry pictures of some of Buffalo's ugliest scenery, the Niagara section of the NY State Thruway, which severed the city from its waterfront.
Holy Cross Reports and Photos--is Holy Cross Cemetery haunted? Maybe only by gullible webmasters
UFO sightings from NY State--scroll down to see several from Buffalo
A Pilot Vanishes, 1977--An account of the mysterious disappearance of a plane passing over Buffalo
Mark Twain's Homes: New York--Twain lived in Buffalo long enough to lose money on his investment in the Buffalo Morning Express newspaper. If you can bear the pop-ups marring this site, scroll down for two Buffalo links.
Buffalonian Anna Katherine Green (1846-1935) invented the American detective novel. It ecame America's first best-seller
James Whitfield's America and Other Poems, 1853--Whitfield (1822-1871) was an African-American, an abolitionist, a Buffalonian, a barber, and a poet. His only book is online in full text.
The AIA Accepts Its First Woman Member--Buffalo's pioneering female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1913), the designer of the Lafayette Square Hotel and the first woman member of the American Institute of Architects.
Emma Goldman Chronology, 1901-1919. Wonder what the famous radical socialist thought of our capitalist extravaganza, the Pan-American Exposition?
Mary Talbert (1866-1923), a civil rights activist, was once considered the country's "best-known Colored woman" and she lived here in Buffalo. There is next to nothing online by her, though I did find this essay she published in The Crisis, August 1915.
Grover Cleveland--Oh, this is too funny. Burke's Peerage uses Buffalo's own Grover Cleveland as a sample entry to promote their guides to nobility and royalty
Millard Fillmore Wax Head by an unidentified artist. You gotta see it to believe it. If you ever wanted to see Fillmore's head on a platter for signing the Fugitive Slave Act into law, here's a bloodless approximation.
McKinley Assassination Ink--a huge collection of articles from then and now
Elvis Presley, April 5, 1972--his Buffalo concert photographed and dissected
Herman Hollerith invented one of the first computers and was born in Buffalo
The manufacture of iron in Buffalo--a paper read before the Buffalo Historical Society, January 25, 1864, by John Wilkeson, brought to you in full text by the Making of Americn Project, included here because our steel industry was famous but is now almost dead.
Buffalo is, in my truly objective opinion (remember, I'm a transplant), an outdoor museum of great architecture. If you say "Victorian Streetscape," most people think "San Francisco." But Buffalo, which suffered no earthquakes, has ten times the sheer acreage of 19th century homes, commercial blocks, churches, factories, carriages houses, mansions, fire houses, office buildings, and storefronts as does San Francisco. America's four most influential architects (Wright, Sullivan, Olmsted, and Richardson) all had significant Buffalo commissions. See also my Bonus Section on Buffalo's Best-Loved Building.
Where A Sense of Place is Still Cast in Stone, by R.W. Apple, originally published in the New York Times on August 28, 1998. This appreciation of Buffalo from the nation's newspaper of record (reproduced here minus the photographs) inspired the name for this part of my homepage.
Virtual Tourist: zChris's Buffalo--scroll past the commercials links for a compact, well-written essay on Buffalo, with recommendations on what to see and do if you visit. Chris even quotes the R.W. Apple article above.
Buffalo Builds on its Architectural History--the New York Times is a hard act to follow, but here's my short article on Buffalo's architectural history
The Larkin Building--a description of the late, lamented Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. This site includes a downloadable 3-D virtual tour. Well, the Larkin was demolished in 1950, but Buffalo still has 6 Frank Lloyd Wright houses, more than any other place in the world except Oak Park, IL. As you'll see below, two have their own websites; the rest are private residences.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House--undergoing a massive restoration and open to the public for tours.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff--built as the summer retreat of Darwin and Isabel Martin, this rediscovered house is the focus of a restoration campaign.
Aerial View of Our Lady of Victory--amidst the generica of Lackawanna, New York, a gleaming, Baroque marble basilica, sort of like a Tiffany window in a trailer park.
uglybuilding.com--the only city with submissions is Buffalo, and nearly all of them are our beloved grain elevators. Brought to you by some chucklehead who apparently thinks the whole world should resemble the Galleria Mall. Now look at James Cavanaugh's grain elevator photographs. Feel better?
Cyclorama Building--what's a Cyclorama, you may be wondering? Click here to find out. Buffalo has one of the last ones left.
Michigan Street Baptist Church--by Dr. Monroe Fordham. Legend has it that this Black church was hand-built c. 1845 by its first pastor, and was a center of abolitionist and Underground Railroad activity.
Buffalo's Faith Elevators--this webmaster seems to have discovered what I always say about Buffalo: that there was either a church or a tavern on every corner. Here are some pictures of surviving Buffalo churches.
Built in Buffalo: How to Research Local Architecture--an in-depth page on researching houses, churches, factories, or commercial buildings in Buffalo, by yours truly
Historic American Buildings Survey--scroll down and you will see links for over 50 Buffalo and Erie County buildings that have been carefully documented since 1933, many prior to demolition (arrrgh!)
Olmsted Parks in Buffalo--everything you ever wanted to know about our parks, with lots of period photographs and postcards. This one even has a suggested reading list, which warms this librarian's heart.
Brick and Cobblestone Streets, Buffalo, New York--consider a city that inspires so much devotion that its residents will document its few brick and cobblestone streets
Pavement Markers--And what do we see when we walk down Buffalo sidewalks? Miniature bronze plaques advertising the concrete contractors of a century ago. I have not seen these in any other city.
Buffalo's East Side Working Group--has pictures and descriptions or sometimes just lists of East Buffalo landmarks sorted into categories such as schools, churches, saloons, and more
East Buffalo, 1846-1976--focuses on the stockyards and meat-packing companies
"I Choose the City"--William Graebner's letter to the editor in 1997 really hit a nerve. It is reproduced here with his permission. Fair warning: this manifesto is likely to p*ss off the average suburbanite.
The Preservation Coalition of Erie County--Tired of here-today-gone-tomorrow landmarks? Join the Coalition. These folks really kick butt to save our architectural heritage. Maybe they belong in my Local Heroes category.
Or join the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier.
City of Light was the literary event of 1999. This novel, by Buffalo native Lauren Belfer, is set in Buffalo in the summer of 1901, when the Pan American Exposition was in full force, and is written with a powerful sense of place. Here is an Author Essay by Lauren Belfer.
Buffalo Fiction Beyond City of Light: 150 Years of Novels & Short Stories--Lauren Belfer is just one of many to write novels set in Buffalo. Here's a list from yours truly.
Made in Buffalo: How to Research Local Companies--an in-depth page on how to research a defunct business, by yours truly
Judging by the amount of webmaster energy devoted to this neglected 1929 Art Deco masterpiece, it would seem that the Central Terminal is the most beloved building in town--at least amongst technoweenies--and is one of the last great buildings to be erected here. Like most American cities, the uglification of Buffalo began in earnest only after World War II.
Central Terminal Restoration Corporation--the official website
Buffalo Central Terminal from 1929 to the Present--includes history and pictures.
Central Terminal--color pictures of several portions of the complex; some date back to the 1980s
The Station Too Late, Too Far--by John C. Dahl. An in-depth article with period illustrations
In Arms of Undertow--handsome black and white photos of the Terminal from the 1970s
Infiltration--the website with a cult following sneaks into the Terminal. Now that the Terminal is in the hands of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, security is improved and repairs are underway. Please don't undermine the restoration with break-ins and trespassing, folks. Please??
The Decay of Western Civilization as Epitomized by the Central Terminal--Oh, please. It's facile and grandiose to suggest that Buffalo and its threatened terminal somehow represent the demise of Western civilization. I have seen what's destroying American cities and it isn't abandoned buildings, it is this and this.
Existing Railroad Stations in Erie County--a table with addresses and some photos (that teeny camera icon in the "city" column). The Central Terminal isn't the only train station in town.
The Colored Musicians Club is one of the oldest African-American trade unions in the country, featured in a new online photo essay
Uncrowned Queens--African American women community builders of Western New York
Righteous Babe Records--I have to include Buffalo's gift to the pop music world. What's not to like about Ani DiFranco? She owns her own label and runs it in downtown Buffalo; she has the most exquisite tattoos in the world of skin art; and she has an equal-opportunity love life. Having seen her new video, Render, I'm starting to like the music as much as the musician.
Milton Rogovin, Social Documentary Photographer, Buffalo's greatest living artist
Nickel City Coop--further proof of the Jane Jacobs dictum, "New ideas need old buildings," this adventurous group of students tooks on a long-abandoned mansion and rescued it for their housing cooperative
Sam Hoyt, 144th Assembly District, one of the good guys
Slips and Other Adjuncts of the Erie Canal at Buffalo, the full text of chapter 13 of History of the Canal System of the State of New York by Nobel E. Whitford, 1906
Buffalo's Waterfront: A Guidebook--excerpts from the 1990 book by Tim Tielman
Maritime History of the Great Lakes has some Buffalo material
The Buffalo Shipping Page--our port is not longer as active as it was, but it isn't a 100% recreational harbor yet
Western New York Railroad Archive is not a real-world archive, because the webmaster does not possess employment or other corporate records, but he's posting vintage newspaper articles about the many rail lines criscrossing this area. Sure wish he'd turn more attention to the city of Buffalo.
Trainwatching Reports from Western New York. This guy buys tickets for short rides in the Buffalo area, and takes pictures of Conrail (now CSX/NS) trains along the way.
Pierce-Arrow Society--the mighty Pierce-Arrow automobile was manufactured in Buffalo
The Great Auto Race--the only American entry and winner of the 1908 New York-Paris race, which made headlines around the world, was the mighty Thomas Flyer and it was made in Buffalo. There has never been another around-the world automobile race.
Introduction to Buffalo and Buffalo Transit--a guide to living car-free in our fair city. Also generously includes some suburbs. Beware of multiple pop-ups.
Inside the Metro Rail Tunnels--according to the author, the NFTA tried to censor this fascinating site. Thought it would scare away riders. Heck, I think tour tunnels would promote ridership!
Citizens Rapid Transit Corporation--maybe you think the Peace Bridge is the most burning transportation issue in Buffalo, that our future and economy will collapse without that trite cable-stay bridge. Wrong. Expanding Metro Rail would bring more benefit to Buffalo than a dozen "signature bridges." These folks will tell you why.
Ugly Today, Beautiful Tomorrow--why I think the "signature bridge" is trite, why it is premature to declare the Peace Bridge ugly, and why I'll never be invited to speak before the New Millennium Group
It's fitting to end this page with a poem about Niagara Square, the heart of this powerfully poetic and soulful city. Now that you've visited my version of virtual Buffalo, I hope those of you from far away someday see the real thing, so you'll know why people like me are passionate about this fine place.
Slants at Buffalo, New York by Carl Sandburg, 1918
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