What do Buckingham Palace and Buffalo, NY have in common?

 

There is a rock solid connection between Buckingham Palace, the Brooklyn Bridge, the NYS Capitol Building’s grand (and I do mean grand!) staircase, and Buffalo’s Richardson Olmsted Complex.

 

So what exactly is Medina Sandstone?

 

Medina is a village roughly 40 miles northeast of Buffalo. Sandstone is sedimentary rock made up of sand, usually quartz, cemented together by various substances, such as silica. The color can range from light grey or white to a dark reddish brown.

The sandstone was discovered when the Erie Canal was being dug in Medina in 1824. A man by the name of John Ryan opened the first quarry in 1837. And the rest so to speak, is history.

You see, for the next hundred years or so, sandstone became the ‘go to’ building material, being utilized in everything from parts of Buckingham Palace to curbs. That’s right, I said curbs. Take a look at the curbs in some of the older, or more historic communities here in Buffalo. They are a lovely shade of pinkish red. Medina. Sandstone.

Sandstone also feels somewhat gritty to the touch, and never really wears smooth, making it perfect for cobblestone streets (horses hooves wouldn’t slip) and sidewalks. It is also much easier to work with than limestone, although sandstone is a much harder, more durable material. Add that the sandstone was relatively inexpensive to move along the Erie Canal into Buffalo, which was building like mad through most of the 19th and well into the 20th centuries, and you have a perfect storm.

Sandstone is strong, fireproof, and durable making it perfect for building everything from homes to bridges to, well, palaces. In Buffalo it was used to build the now infamous Richardson Olmsted Complex, many churches, multiple buildings, and private homes, including that of William Wicks of Green & Wicks, one of Buffalo’s most prolific architectural firms.

Sandstone also built a huge economy in Orleans County, where Medina is located. At one point the Orleans County quarries employed upwards of 2,000 workers.

By 1920, however, cement became a more popular, more economical substitute for sandstone and the quarries began to shut down. Today, there is still plenty of sandstone out there, but only one quarry remains in Orleans County. It’s just become too expensive when compared with the alternatives.

So, you could say that Medina Sandstone has played a significant role in Buffalo architecture. And the next time you’re out and about in Buffalo, look around. You’ll be noticing it everywhere now.

 

What is Urban Hiking Anyway?

A lot of people ask me that! What is Urban Hiking? I realized that as an urban hiker (and biker) I needed to have a real answer for this question. In my head I think of it as walking around the city looking at cool stuff, or exploring if you will. There you go, urban exploring. A lot of my urban hiking is in Buffalo, so I try to find places within the city to go where I might have been before, but haven’t really ‘seen’ it. Or have heard of it, but aren’t really sure what the place is all about. So I go explore it, and see what I can see. When I see something interesting, I research it, and bring it to you.

Here is some of the criteria I use when choosing a place to urban hike:

1. I like to find green spaces and nature where you wouldn’t expect to see them.

It’s so cool to walk into a tiny pocket park, where there are tall buildings all around and the action of the city is right there, but you’ve entered into a virtual sanctuary in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city. I love that feeling! Sometimes, though, it’s a big park in the middle of the city too. It’s when it hits you that it feels like you’ve just driven an hour to get to the incredible spot you’re in…but you haven’t. You’re still there, in the city, and can be back to work or home in a couple of minutes if need be!

2. Urban hiking has to be in an urban environment.

In a city, or at least not out in the country. Regular hiking would take place in a rural setting, in the woods or on trails in the mountains etc. Urban hiking is city. The two are alike in some ways. Both are walking. A lot. And the views you may encounter in both can be spectacular! Only on an urban hike, the view might be large buildings, or rusty bridges in the background! It can be a gritty, city look, but yet still a beautiful sight! It can be really cool to see a little bunch of flowers growing up out of the gritty-ness of the city! Sounds crazy, but that can be beautiful too! I actually like to think of Buffalo as that flower, growing beautiful through the grit and rust. And I’m loving every minute of it!

3. There has to be a spirit or a feeling of discovery involved. 

Allentown Buffalo

Just about every time I do one of my planned hikes, I notice something I hadn’t previously noticed. Or I see the changing seasons and how it affects the views etc. I like my urban hikes to be exploration and learning! And fun! If I see something on a hike that I’ve never noticed before I’ll go home and research it, and find out something new! That, for me, keeps it interesting!

4. Urban hiking is meant to be exercise too.

Not like running a marathon, or climbing a mountain. When you finish, you feel like you’ve exercised, but you didn’t really notice that you were exercising during the actual hike itself! Let’s face it people, no truer words were ever spoken than ‘move it or lose it’! Urban hiking is a great way to ‘keep it’! It covers some distance…miles in fact. It has to be more than just a ‘walk’. On an urban hike, both the body & mind are engaged with your surroundings.

So I guess Urban Hiking is a lot like walking and hiking, but each has its own unique qualities. And those qualities are in the perspective. You’re own perspective, that is. Whatever kind of hiking you like to do, get out there and do it! You’ll be glad you did!

Four Reasons to Hike & Bike in Buffalo

Whether you’re a lifelong resident or a visitor, there’s a few great reasons to get out and see all that Buffalo has to offer. In this post, we go over our four favorite reasons to get out and join one of our Hikes & Bikes!

Our fantastic waterfront!

From the beaches in Angola and beyond, all the way to Niagara Falls, Buffalo’s got some of the most incredible waterfront in the country!

All of this is in addition to the everyday ways we enjoy our waterfront, with hiking, biking, boating, kayaking, canoeing, fantastic views etc. We are also one of the very few inland cities in the country that enjoys sunsets over water! And our sunsets are spectacular!

Buffalo’s Parks and Park System

When our city leaders brought Frederick Law Olmsted to Buffalo to design our own central park, Olmsted took a look at our radial streets design (laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804) and decided that Buffalo was perfectly laid out for a parks & parkway system. Lucky for us, our city leaders had the vision (and the money) to allow him to do just that!

We should all get out there and enjoy it! Speaking of that…

Get Out In Nature

We were meant to be in the great outdoors! We spend so much time inside. Most of us work inside all day & then when we go home we get caught up in working to keep our homes going, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and the list goes on… When you take the time to get out in nature, it always makes you feel better!

Even in the winter in Buffalo! It’s hard to describe the peaceful feeling you get when you’re hiking through a freshly fallen snow. It’s like the snow insulates the sound and makes everything seem quiet and peaceful! Or when you’re hiking in the woods, and come upon a group of deer relaxing in the brush. So great! (This actually happens in the city – come hike with us and see!) Even if you just get outside and breathe the fresh air, it’s good for both your body and mind!

Engage with your community!

Hiking and biking is so different from driving through an area. You see so much more on foot or on a bike. You pass people at close range, smile, say hello. May seem like a little thing, but just the simple act of saying hello to a stranger has the potential to change someone’s day for the better.

When people are engaged with each other, a strong bond is formed, creating a community that understands that diversity is a strength. It can naturally breed tolerance. Tolerance of different races, religions, viewpoints etc. When you Hike & Bike you get to know people you wouldn’t normally engage with, and that’s a good thing. Buffalo is a very diverse community. Get to know your city Buffalo!