Click on the photo if you’d like to enlarge it.
With All Due Respect,
I lack the verbal dexterity needed to adequately describe the beauty and peacefulness I experienced at Buffalo’s Erie Basin Marina on the afternoon of November 10, 2020.
The results of the 2020 Presidential election announced a few days earlier had already brought a sense of relief to my political- and pandemic-pummeled psyche. The string of 70-plus degree November days was forecast to come to an end, so a final “summery” visit to the lakeshore seemed like the perfect outing. But the pervasive quiet that awaited me – the result, apparently, of a windless day, and the absence of the cacophony of sounds normally accompanying boating activities on a warm, sunny day – brought a palpable calm I hadn’t been expecting.
I’ll let the following images recapture some of what I experienced.
With All Due Respect,
Many things have changed in Buffalo, NY since 1905. The Queen City was the eighth largest city in the USA at that time, with a population exceeding 350,000. We’re now ranked 87th among our nation’s cities, with nearly 100,000 fewer residents.
There was no such thing as a zoning ordinance at the beginning of the 20th century, and 70 years would pass before SEQRA (the State Environmental Quality Review Act) was enacted to help protect not only the physical environment, but also the character of existing neighborhoods.
What hasn’t changed is the curiosity that existed then and continues today regarding a certain residence in the City of Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood.
It was 1905 when the man who would later become our nation’s best known architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, completed his “prairie style” masterpiece for a Buffalo industrialist, Darwin D. Martin. [Click here if you are interested in learning about the bond that was created between Mr. Wright and Mr. Martin.]
Martin House, Aug. 2020
Situated at the northwest corner of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue, Darwin Martin’s residential complex sits in the heart of the Parkside neighborhood. Development of this historic district – which hugs the eastern boundary of the Olmsted-designed Delaware Park– started in the 1880s and 1890s, primarily attracting upper-middle-class and professional folk desiring a less-congested form of urban living.
While the nearby residences in existence at the turn of the century varied in size and style, nothing was comparable to the original five buildings and grounds of the Martin House estate.
Directly across Jewett Parkway from the site was a formidable dwelling – half-timber and half-brick – the residence of the prominent architect, William Wicks. Boxy and dominated by vertical lines (reflecting late-18th century aesthetics), its nearly 6,000 square feet of living area – one of the largest in the neighborhood – paled when compared to the Martin’s 14,978-square-foot residence. More significantly, the Wicks house contrasted mightily with rectilinear, horizontally-oriented lines, low hip-roofs and broadly cantilevered eaves of the “prairie style” home built for Darwin and Isabelle Martin and their two children:
Wicks House, 124 Jewett Parkway, Aug. 2020
The house next door to the Martin House, 143 Jewett Parkway, was a 3-story Victorian residence constructed at the end of the 19th century on less than a third of an acre of land. Although that structure was altered substantially over the years, it has been reconstructed to reflect its original appearance, and is now serves as the administrative office for the Martin House complex:
143 Jewett Parkway, Aug. 2020
My first awareness of the Martin House complex came in 1982. I had just purchased my first house, a modest “North Buffalo double” on Florence Avenue in what is now the Parkside East Historic District. According to official records, my two-family was built in 1910.
106 Florence Avenue, Aug. 2020
Wanting a closer look at my new neighborhood, I took a walk up Parkside Avenue. On my left and across the busy street was Delaware Park – with a “tot lot” where youngsters squealed and parents (in this pre-cellphone age) actually interacted with their children, a stretch of trees, and a fully-utilized basketball court. On my side of the street were sturdy, traditional one- and two-family residences, including an arts-and-crafts charmer that I ended up calling home several years later.
121 Parkside Avenue, Aug 2020
On reaching Jewett Parkway (with the entrance to the Buffalo zoo on my left), I hung a right. My stroll and passing familiarity with Parkside had not prepared me for what I observed a block-and-a-half down the street. There stood the Martin House, run-down and clearly in need of attention, but magnificent. And, clearly, a striking contrast to the neighborhood surrounding it.
Although it would be another eight years before I began to represent residents concerned about threats to the environment and the character of their communities. I couldn’t help but wonder: How did the folks who lived here in the early 20th century respond to this sight/site?
I don’t have an answer to this question (sorry), but I do ask anyone reading this post who does to please share the information with me at AJGiacalone@twc.com. [I’ll gladly update this post.]
[UPDATE, 08/22/2020: A friend and former academic librarian and librarian science professor (who wishes to remain anonymous) provided me with the following excerpt from a 2017 issue of American Bungalow Magazine:
By Douglas J Forsyth
From Issue 78 (2017 American Bungalow Magazine)
Contemporaries were struck by how alien Wright’s buildings were to the existing cityscape. The Illustrated Buffalo Express wrote on 9 October 1904, about the Martin House, then under construction: “Jules Verne might well be the designer of a house that is being built at the northwestern corner of Jewett and Summit avenues in this city. It may be destined to be termed the freak house of Buffalo when it is finished.”vi There is no doubt that Wright intended his buildings as a provocation. The structures in the Martin House Complex are all on rigid axes, oriented to the cardinal points, ignoring Olmsted’s curving streets. (The Church of the Good Shepherd, across Jewett Parkway, is oriented to the curve on Summit Avenue, in contrast, as are the nearby houses.) Wright built the back end of the Barton House so close to the neighboring structure as to inconvenience its owners. When Wright published a version of the Gardener’s Cottage he designed for Darwin Martin in the Ladies Home Journal, in April 1907, he took what Buffalonians would have recognized as a swipe at a similarly sized cottage designed in 1900 by the Green and Wicks partnership, directly across the street from the Martin House Complex, by describing his own design as: “the result of a process of elimination… what remains seems sufficiently complete and the ensemble an improvement over the usual cut-up, overtrimmed boxes doing duty in this class, wherein architecture is a matter of ‘millwork’ and the ‘features’ are apt to peel.”vii
vi. Quoted in Quinan, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, p. 107.
vii. . Frank Lloyd Wright, “A Fireproof House for $5000: Estimated to Cost That Amount in Chicago, and Designed Especially for the Journal,” Ladies Home Journal, 24 (1907) no. 5, p. 24.]
What I do have to offer are photographs of my walk this past week around the exterior of the Darwin Martin House State Historic Site, described as follows by State park officials:
Today, the Martin House, a National Historic Landmark, has been restored to its glorious zenith of 1907. The museum consists of six buildings, grounds and gardens, and guest amenities including an interpretive visitor center, museum store, and cafe.
As you view the photos that follow, keep the following in mind:
The Barton House (118 Summit Ave.)
The Darwin Martin House (125 Jewett Pkwy.)
The Gardener’s Cottage (285 Woodward Ave.)
The Greatbatch Pavilion – Visitor Center
The Carriage House/Stable
The Conservatory & The Nike of Samothrace statue (replica)
Hope you enjoyed the tour.
With All Due Respect,
P.S. Frank Lloyd Wright, role model:
From 1996 through 2015, my family lived on Knox Road in the Village of East Aurora. Our modest home was only a few hundred feet from the wooded, eastern boundary of the 600-acre country estate of the Knox family. The expanse of meadows, pastures, woodlands, wetlands and ponds, which had served for generations as both an active farm and a place where the wealthy rode horses, played polo, and conducted fox hunts, is now the Knox Farm State Park.
The treed rear of our acre-and-a-half lot – which I affectionately called “the hard Knox estate” – was, ecologically, an extension of the nearby estate. It’s wildlife – including deer, wild turkey, and an occasional red fox – casually shared our backyard.
For nearly two decades, on foot or a bicycle, I traversed or circumnavigated the expansive Knox property. The red barns were a striking part of the landscape, and pleasantly contrasted with the rolling meadows and tree-lined paths. To this city-boy, the weather-worn and peeling facades of the farm buildings added to their charm and authenticity.
An August 7, 2020 headline in the Buffalo News, “Iconic barns at Knox Farm State Park will get makeover,” caught my eye. As reported by Jane Kwiatkowski, a $100,000 barn rehabilitation project – intended to return the barns “to their former glory” and “make a great first impression of the park for people coming in” – has been approved by the state. But there is a hitch. The Friends of Knox Park, a not-for-profit group whose 300 members work to preserve and protect the park, needs $25,000 matching funds before the rehabilitation can proceed.
The idea of reversing decades of neglect and stemming further deterioration makes sense. Priming and painting seven aging barns, and replacing and repairing the siding, windows and foundation of a particularly weathered building – the heifer barn – are worthwhile tasks.
But, I do have a suggestion. If, as noted in the August 7th article, a major purpose for spending $100K is to make “a great first impression” on people coming to the park, beautifying and enhancing the park’s primary entrance on Buffalo Road (Routes 16 and 20A) might be more effective.
Here is a picture of the state park’s rather generic entrance (meant for use by the general public), followed by the gracious gateway to the Knox mansion several hundred yards down the road (restricted for use by guests attending events at the mansion):
Back to the barns. Thankfully, for those of us who did not grow up immersed in 4-H Club activities, the various barns and farm buildings at the Knox Farm State Park come with nameplates: Dairy Barn, Bull Shed, Heifer Barn, Milk House, Ice House, Sheep Barn and Show Barn. Here they are:
And, here’s the view from the passenger side of the Park’s department pickup truck pictured above:
And, the field you pass as you head to the “stable” mentioned in the title of this posting:
THE STABLE (rear, front)
If you have the sense that time stands still at the old Knox estate – and swear you hear a voice shouting “tally-ho” across the meadow – you could be right.
With All Due Respect,
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about the barn rehabilitation project, you may want to contact Friends of Knox Farm State Park.
Well, at least that’s what the Village of Lewiston claims. But, it’s not my purpose to prove or disprove such municipal boasting.
I traveled north from South Buffalo on the I-190 to Lewiston, on a perfect summer’s day, to experience a two or three hour “vacation” in a tourist town (as you can tell, my demands these days are quite modest). And, I succeeded.
Here are some photos from that “historic square mile.” I’ll insert a few informative signs in the P.S., for the historically curious readers, so as not to disrupt the flow of the images.
I started my leisurely stroll on the village’s main thoroughfare, Center Street, in what is aptly named the “opera hall district”:
If I hadn’t just begun my walk, I might have sat down on an inviting bench near an attractive outdoor eatery:
But I continued a short distance and noticed a spot – apparently created in 2012 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 – that I had never noticed before, the Bicentennial Peace Garden:
I got the impression that the pensive (confused?) figure above is wondering how the powers-that-be allowed the following “work of art” to be visible from the quietude of the peace garden:
The Peace Garden is tucked behind one of the oldest structures in Lewiston, the Little Yellow House, standing proud(ly) since 1816:
While the next picture breaks my promise to keep photos of informative signs until the end of this array, I must say that nothing says more about a chamber-of-commerce campaign to resonate “historic” than adding an unnecessary consonant to the end of a word:
Here’s the controversial Frontier House, once, shockingly, the home of a McDonald’s restaurant, and now vacant:
I took a detour off the main street to get a glimpse of the Lewiston Village Hall (and, somehow, never thought about taking a photo or two). I then headed away from the “urban” setting and walked down a steep hill to get a glimpse of the Niagara River and water’s edge:
I wasn’t certain whether these stairs were meant for the public, so I just took a couple photos from above:
Of course, no touristy waterfront would be complete without a popular eatery, The Silo, and a caboose-turned-ice-cream-stand (note: I was “bearly” able to control my urge for an ice cream cone):
Geography being what it is, my return to the historic village entailed a walk back up a steep hill. By the time I reached the summit, I was no longer in a mood for dawdling. I am feeling in a similar frame of mind as I find myself running out of steam composing this post, so here are several photos left to speak for themselves:
[Please, you feline lovers out there, don’t hate me for proclaiming: I will never, voluntarily, have coffee and dessert at an establishment with the above name.]
With All Due Respect (for the most historic square mile in America),
P.S. Here are a few of those informative signs I promised the curious among you:
I wasn’t certain where I was headed as I drove away from my South Buffalo home today. But I’m pleased that I ended up at the Erie Basin Marina (alongside The Hatch). Here’s why:
With All Due Respect,
My Sunday morning, May 31, 2020, started with the following headline in the Buffalo News: “Downtown protest turns violent – State of Emergency Declared – Vandalism reported after peaceful start.”
I am having a difficult time sorting through and verbalizing my many and varied emotions and thoughts in response to both the brutal, thoughtless death of George Floyd, and the nights of turmoil rocking many of our nation’s cities following his murder at the hands (knee) of a white Minneapolis police officer and his three “law enforcement” accomplices. At this point, the best I can do is note my agreement with the sentiments expressed by Buffalo News commentator Rod Watson in his June 1, 2020 column, “Violence was wrong, but don’t feign ignorance.”
I drove to Niagara Square late Sunday afternoon. I noticed a couple of police cars parked near the side of City Hall, a family of 5 or 6 chatting under the McKinley monument, and a handful of peaceful protestors. What most struck me, however, was the assemblage of clouds that encircled Niagara Square. So that’s the experience I’d like to share with you:
With All Due Respect,
P.S. Here’s one photo reflecting activity from the night before.
I need a vacation (certainly not a stay-cation)! And, I miss my children. I’m probably not alone.
It wasn’t all that many years ago – my children are 19 and 22 – when options (in a good year) might include the Giacalone/Clarke family spending a week in a modest cottage or apartment at Chautauqua Institution. Although CI’s 800-acre campus and cultural and educational community in Mayville is only 70 miles or so down the I-90 from Buffalo, it always felt like a whole new world to this “working class” parent.
But, not surprisingly, even as magical a place as Chautauqua Institution can’t escape the tentacles of Covid-19. Early in May, its board of trustees announced that CI would “suspend any in-person programs” this summer, convening its arts, education, interfaith and recreational programming online. It’s not clear whether the public will be given an opportunity to don a face covering, purchase a day pass [or, take advantage of the free “Sunday Pass”], and stroll the grounds (maintaining social distancing, of course).
Given these realities, I’m stuck reliving favorite family memories through photos I’ve taken over the past two decades. I’m sharing the assembled pictures with you in hopes of either refreshing your own pleasant recollections, or creating some new images for you to enjoy.
But I would be remiss if I didn’t first share two fairly recent occurrences that have tarnished my image of CI a bit: First, harmful blue-green algae blooms have forced closings of Chautauqua’s “little beach” [as my kids called it], and curtailed other water activities.
And, the CI board of trustees made the controversial decision in 2014 to demolish a structure, built in 1893, which the State’s Historic Preservation Office characterized as the “physical, functional, and spiritual heart of the Chautauqua Institution” – the Chautauqua Amphitheater. When plans to demolish the Amp first went public, the National Historic Trust, a privately funded nonprofit organization that works to save America’s historic places, named the Chautauqua Amphitheater a “National Treasure,” and placed the Amp on its 2015 list of “Most Endangered Places,” expressing the following:
“The Chautauqua Amphitheater is the heart of a National Historic Landmark District located 70 miles southwest of Buffalo, NY. Internationally recognized as a forum for American culture and history, the Amp has hosted a wide range of leaders, activists, and artists over its 122-year history. FDR delivered his “I Hate War” speech there in August of 1936. William Jennings Bryan, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, and Bobby Kennedy all walked its boards, as did Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Marian Anderson, Susan B. Anthony, Van Cliburn, Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Sandra Day O’Connor, to name a few.”
Demolition of this beloved piece of America’s cultural history occurred in 2016. [For the record, I represented a group of CI property owners and residents in State Supreme Court in a zealous-but-futile effort to stop the demolition. If interested, please read this post,and this one.]
Anyway, here are some happier images that I hope you’ll enjoy.
My son turned one at CI:
And my daughter mustered the courage to ride a tortoise (bunny in hand):
The Miller Bell Tower could be heard (and, often seen) throughout the grounds.
The “little beach” was a frequent lure.
But we all felt a bit tired after too much sun and sand.
The “cottages” and accommodations along the shoreline range from grand old Victorians to modern summer getaways, to the classic Atheneaum Hotel. [Some folk certainly know how to “rough it.”]
Our lodgings were always centrally located, and a bit more rustic, but brotherly and sisterly love abound.
The CI campus includes many places to learn and expand your perspective. In addition to the Amphitheater (the historic old, and its expanded replacement), daily lectures by national and international scholars and leaders also take place at the Hall of Philosophy.
[Above: PBS’ Jim Lehrer with Mark Shields and Michael Gerson at the Amp, 07-08-2012]
To no one’s surprise, my children preferred a place in the woods called The Nature Classroom, as well as playground activities.
Works of art and places for quiet contemplation appear around many corners.
And you can find some slightly less high-brow artistry.
I don’t want to forget the physical center of the campus, Bestor Plaza, and a sampling of the wonderful century-old residences that hug the shady, brick walkways traversing the grounds.
Here’s hoping that the in-person opportunity to stroll the paths, and take advantage of the cultural, educational, and recreational programming at Chautauqua Institution, are available to everyone in the foreseeable future.
With All Due Respect,
Here we are. Mid-May, longing to spend time outdoors, and dealing with snowflakes and overnight temperatures at or below freezing.
Perhaps our situation wouldn’t feel quite so uninspiring if we had experienced a more interesting winter. But WINTER – the season that helped put Buffalo on the national map back in 1977 with the infamous Blizzard of ’77 and record annual snowfall of 199.4 inches – has been overwhelmingly dull this past season (with a few exceptions along the Queen City’s waterfront). So I thought I would dig down (shovel?) into my photographic archives and share to two rather extreme and eerily beautiful winter experiences in our not too distant past.
January 2018 Cazenovia Creek ice floes
The casually serene elements of Cazenovia Park – reflected, I hope, in last week’s posting and photos – were transformed into a wintry moonscape in late January 2018. A prolonged period of frigid temperatures and snow falls created thick, extensive sheets of ice on Cazenovia Creek (and, elsewhere). The ice floes eventually were pushed over the creek’s banks, leaving behind an intense scene (which fascinated the winter walkers, such as myself, and must have confounded the park’s leashed canines). Here’s a sampling:
Snovember 2014 – East Aurora endures 90″ of snow in three days
Between the late evening of November 17th and the early morning of November 20, 2014, life for the Giacalone/Clarke family on Knox Road in the Village of East Aurora revolved around one activity: shoveling and moving approximately seven-and-a-half feet of snow from our 80-foot long driveway. Although there were Western New York naysayers who refused to believe the figures, a Syracuse-area publication, supported (I hope) by the pictures that follow, reported that the village of 6,000 people southeast of Buffalo indeed received 90.5 inches of snow (that’s 7.5 feet!) that week. Not that we could venture off our property. Traveling was banned. Even huge snow-removal trucks had difficulty driving down Knox Road. But we knew that failure to keep up with the snowy onslaught would make vehicular liberation nearly impossible once life started to return to normal.
The entire family joined in the task. I was not quite 65 at the time, youthful enough to handle the hard work, yet old enough to understand the wisdom of pacing myself. My slender-but-game 14-year-old son James, my seventeen-year-old daughter Lissa (who sat out the first two days of snow removal after suffering a mild concussion in gym class on November 17), and their long-suffering mother, all did their part.
Here are images from my former residence that memorable week of self-isolation, physical exertion, and wonder:
OK. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’m ready for a refreshing spring and mild summer.
Be well. Be safe. Be productive.
With All Due Respect,