Several months ago, a family member was in Buffalo General Hospital over on High Street in the Medical Campus. For about the one hundredth time, I admired Kevin Guest House as I drove by. But this time I noticed all the other homes around it. I thought, what the heck? How have they survived? I mean, in this little corner of Buffalo, smack dab in the middle of the medical corridor, there are not a lot of homes left. It’s all hospitals, medical labs, the medical school, parking lots and more like it. Buffalo General Hospital, Oishei Children’s Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute are all within view of these homes.
This little block intrigues me. Several houses still stand in the middle of all of this development. It’s time I learned a bit more about them. Come hike with me.
Let’s Get Startedwith Kevin Guest House
Through the years I’ve wondered about the origins of this house. Who built it? Who’s lived here? What were they like? You know, my usual thoughts as I hike around the city looking at different homes and buildings. So I bought a book about it through the Kevin Guest House website. Very interesting and easy read.
The home was built in 1869 for Jacob B. Fisher, who was a brewer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my reading about Buffalo, it’s that back in the day brewers did very well here. And I think they are again. Just sayin’.
In 1904, the home was purchased by Theophil Speyser, a cabinetmaker, for himself and his family. Speyser and his wife, Ernestine, had three children, Louis, Clara and Mathilda, who all lived in the home. Theophil opened a coffin and furniture making company and also purchased a coffin factory. He incorporated in 1906 under the name Buffalo Trunk Manufacturing. The factory building at 127-130 Cherry Street (now Evergreen Lofts) is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Cool.
Mathilda married Louis Beer and the home stayed in the Speyser/Beer family until 1971. Interior photos of the home are available at the Kevin Guest House website.
Who Was Kevin?
Kevin Garvey was born in 1958 in Sharon, PA, to Cyril and Claudia Garvey. Kevin was one of eight children, and his family gave him the nickname Heart. Just after his sixth grade year, in July 1970, Kevin arrived at Roswell Park for treatment of Leukemia. Kevin was, by all accounts (in the book), an example and model to everyone who knew him. He never lost his faith in God throughout the 18 months he lived with the disease.
On January 14, 1972, Kevin passed away.
His family soon after founded the Kevin Guest House, a hospitality house for patients and their families who have to travel long distances for medical treatment in one of Buffalo’s hospitals and treatment centers. Through the years, it has grown to a campus of four houses. The family remains somewhat involved in Kevin Guest House today.
A Source of Inspiration
In my humble opinion, Kevin’s family were (and still are) models and examples to everyone as well. The good work they have done across the country and right here in Buffalo is a testament to the love they have for their son and brother.
Incidentally, Kevin Guest House was the inspiration for the first Ronald McDonald House, which was in Philadelphia, and has served as a model for many others across the country as well. Another Buffalo first – by guests of ours back in 1972. Amazing people if you ask me. To take a loss so great, and turn it into something that has helped countless people through the years. Simply incredible.
766 Ellicott Street
This home too, is part of the Kevin Guest House campus. It is called the Russel J. Salvatore Hospitality House on Kevin Campus. Schroeder, Joseph & Associates sold the property to Kevin Guest House in order that they may expand their services to more families in need.
As of 2016, Kevin Guest House was serving roughly 1200 families every year, but 400 more were being turned away. This home is already going a long way toward helping these families. To date, in 2020, 2,000 families have been sheltered during their time of need.
Being a history nerd, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the history of this home. This beautiful Second Empire home was built for Albert Ziegler, who was also a brewer.
Zeigler’s story is well known in Buffalo brewing circles. When his brewery on Genesee Street burned to the ground, it was resurrected on Washington Street as the Phoenix Brewery. Ziegler named it for the Egyptian mythological figure that rose from the ashes. That second building has now been redeveloped by Sinatra & Company as residential units.
The home was eventually owned by August Feine, who was a talented craftsman working with iron. He embellished the home in several places with his hand forged ironwork. This home is magnificent!
Moving Right Along
As I move down the block and turn onto High Street I see this building.
I wonder what’s going on inside, looks like construction. So I called Ciminelli Real Estate and spoke to Denise Juron-Borgese, Vice-President of Development & Planning, who tells me that the building was aquired by Ciminelli during their work on the Conventus Building across the street and adjacent to Oishei Children’s Hospital. It was used as a sort of headquarters during construction.
Ciminelli has no immediate plans for 33 High Street at this time. I’m no expert, but I would guess there’s a lot of potential here.
Denise and I also had a very interesting discussion about the Conventus Building. Look for a post about it in the new year. Thank you, Denise.
The Homes Along Washington Street
As I turn left on Washington Street, I see the UB Jacobs School of Medicine on the right. But what I’m interested in are the homes on the left. They appear to be from the 1850’s and are beautiful to my eye, with lots of little details that you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you were just driving by. And they’ve got quite a bit of wrought iron, which makes me wonder if August Feine did some iron work for his neighbors back in the day. This is not your run of the mill ironwork. Some of it is exquisite.
The homes are owned by the Medical Campus (927-937 Washington Street LLC). Word on the street has it that there are asbestos issues that will need to be taken care of, but when I was there the other day, new roofs were being put on all of them, so that’s a good sign. Nice to know we won’t be losing them.
The St. Jude Center
As I continue east on Carlton Street, I come upon the St. Jude Center.
I have never heard of it. I have, however, passed it many times though, on the northwest corner of Carlton and Ellicott Streets.
So, here’s what I’ve learned since then.
The St. Jude Center was started by Msgr. Edward J. Ulaszeski in 1969, in response to the need for better pastoral care for people experiencing the pain and suffering of illnesses, by either themselves or a family member. It is easy to see why the center is located where it is, in the heart of Buffalo’s medical campus.
The director now, Fr. Richard Augustyn, tells me that when he came here to work as a chaplain at Buffalo General Hospital, in 1975, the neighborhood was so rough that they had police escorts for emergency visits to the hospital. One block away! He also tells me that the neighborhood has done a one-eighty. It’s now very safe. Patrolled regularly by police. I know I feel safe when I’m in the area.
The Center serves the community in several ways. Fr. Richard is a full time chaplain at Buff Gen. The center offers mass twice a day on weekdays, twice a day on the weekends. And mass every day at Buff Gen too. This is in addition to the regular chaplain duties of offering emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
There are several programs offered in the St. Jude Center as well, including bereavement programs, prosthetic support, and wellness support. They also train all chaplains who work at the hospitals in the medical corridor.
The home is an old Victorian era house with a carriage house behind. The City of Buffalo lists the house as being built in 1890, but Fr. Richard tells me it was built in 1856 for the Hock family, who lived in the home while running the Victoria Hotel Bed & Breakfast out of it. Interesting story.
The home sat abandoned for quite some time and was pretty rough when Msgr. Ulaszeski bought it in 1969 for the St. Jude Center. A lot of the interior details are still there, although most of the woodwork has been painted. Fr. Richard graciously invited me into his home for some photos.
Check out these chandeliers, which were there when Msgr. Ulaszeski purchased the home, although I’m pretty sure they don’t date to 1856. They are different from any other lighting fixtures I have ever seen! Note that the home is decorated for Christmas, so the ornaments are not normally on the one fixture.
And the living room. This archway and pocket doors are the only woodwork that is not currently painted. And this chandelier (below) was added by Fr. Richard. There are five marble fireplaces intact in the home.
The Carriage House
The day I went to see Fr. Richard was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I attended mass at the Shrine to St. Jude which is in the old carriage house, and we met immediately following the mass.
Now, I’ve been to mass in more churches and chapels than I can count, and literally all over the world. I wouldn’t say that I’ve traveled extensively, but I have traveled. And when I travel, I still attend mass. So I’ve been in some really different churches. Like the church in Puerto Rico that didn’t have any windows, just hurricane shutters which are almost always thrown open.
But I have to say that this chapel is different from anything I’ve ever seen. I first walked through the brand new, modern vestibule, which, I admit seems out of place here. But immediately, I saw these doors, and forgot all about that. Note the carriage kicks at the bottom on either side of the door frame. These would prevent carriages from losing wheels if they bumped the door frames. I love it that they’re still there.
And one from the inside.
When I walked into the chapel I immediately felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. If you read my blog, it was akin to the feeling I get at Corpus Christi Church. There were more people there than I expected (don’t worry they’re following all the Covid rules), one of them said hello to me from her pew and another smiled at me through her mask. I felt comfortable immediately. I don’t know if it’s the lighting in there, or the immediate acceptance of the people when I walked in, but I got a good feeling in this chapel.
Take a look. Note the openings in the upper wall, covered now with wrought iron, this was the hay loft. The brick work on the walls here has been repaired over and over. But it’s beautiful. Through the wrought iron doors is where the Sanctuary Lamp and the Tabernacle are kept. It is where the horses were stabled. I absolutely love the humbleness of this chapel. It’s very real.
More Wrought Iron!
And the wrought iron. It’s everywhere on this property. It is so beautiful and so appropriate here. It just works.
A Quick Story
While I perused the St. Jude Center website I noticed they have a Hungarian mass on Sundays. When I asked Fr. Richard about it, he told me a little story.
A woman he knows through his work at Buffalo General seemed a little down in the dumps, and when Fr. Richard asked her about it, she told him that her home parish church was closing. She is a first generation Hungarian immigrant, and would miss her Hungarian language mass every Sunday. Fr. Richard told the woman to invite her priest in to St. Jude’s on Sunday for mass. As he says, he “squeezed them in” between the 8:45am and the 11:15am masses. And so, the 10am Hungarian mass was born at St. Jude’s.
When, sadly, the Hungarian speaking priest passed away, Fr. Richard learned to say the mass in Hungarian so the congregation could continue with their Hungarian masses. When I expressed amazement that he would do this, Fr. Richard downplayed it. He explained that he doesn’t say his homilies in Hungarian, and that he cannot speak Hungarian. He merely learned to say the mass in that language. Still. It was an awesome thing for him to do.
I have a feeling a lot of things like this Hungarian Mass story goes on here at St. Jude’s.
First of all, I don’t think I have ever seen so much incredible wrought iron within one city block! So beautiful! I still wonder about the August Feine thing. Whether he did wrought iron for his neighbors…I guess we’ll never know.
The homes are gorgeous and historic. Wish I could have seen this block a hundred years ago, when there were more homes just like these. And wish I could meet the people who lived in them. To hear their stories.
But I remain grateful that these few still stand, for a glimpse of the past in our midst.
Secondly, I want to convey to you how blown away I was by both the Kevin Guest House story, and the story of the St. Jude Center. Here are two awe-inspiring entities, sitting quietly in an unlikely, but very fitting, setting. As the medical corridor grows up around them, they remain. Continuing their quiet, but oh so important work. Forever tied to the medical community, and the people they both serve.
Humble is the word that comes to mind. And when people are humble, they often achieve great things for their fellow human beings. This is happening here in Buffalo, on this little block in the middle of the Medical Corridor.
Next time you’re in the area, take a closer look.
And if you can, and you’re looking for a way to give back, or pay it forward this holiday season, I bet they’d both appreciate a donation. 😉
*Special thanks to Fr. Richard Augustyn, The St. Jude Center; Denise Juron-Borgese, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.; and Betsy Stone, Kevin Guest House.
p.s. Somebody at the St. Jude Center is a Bill’s fan! Go Bills!
A year ago, I wrote a post about Holiday Traditions. Here I am a year later writing about how to celebrate the holidays in 2020. What a difference a year makes. 2020 has been challenging to say the least. It’s been downright awful for some people, and that can make the looming holidays seem like they’re going to be another challenge to ‘get through’ this year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can face another ‘zoom’ holiday.
So, in preparation for today’s post I went back and re-read last year’s post. Some of my ideas back then still apply in this pandemic year of social distancing. Some, obviously, do not. Take, for instance, the idea to invite friends over for weeknight parties. Who would have thought that something as simple as that would be considered taboo just one year later? Are people still doing it? Sure they are. Should they? Hmmmmm….not so much.
And just one year ago, I encouraged everyone to invite family and friends over to cook and/or bake together. This year, I’ve got other ideas about that. And inviting a casual friend that might otherwise be alone for the holidays? Not a good idea.
So what is there to do? Lots. There are a lot of great ideas for ‘social distance’ celebrating with just the people in your “bubble”, or your close circle. Some are my ideas, some I’ve heard about from other people. Some of these ideas are Buffalo specific, but most you can do from anywhere. Let’s take a look.
The Holiday Baking/Cooking Thing
The other day on social media, I saw a post by an acquaintance of mine saying that she had made 242 perogies, and that the first 16 people to comment would get a bag of perogies delivered to their door the next day, with the stipulation that they would then pay it forward. The timing was right, so sure enough, the next day, she showed up at my house, with a bag of perogies, and the request to ‘pay it forward’. Which I will do.
That got me thinking about this holiday season, and how we cannot get together with family and friends to cook and/or bake this year. But why does that have to stop us? I mean, would it be more fun to do it with loved ones? Yes, of course. But, my plan is to bake alone this year, but for other people. I’m going to put on some Christmas music, fire up the oven, and go to town, baking some of my Mother’s best cookie recipes. Mom’s cookies are legendary in my family. Recently one of my sons was asked what his favorite holiday cookie is. His answer? “Anything baked by Grandma Mika.” Good answer.
Mom baked with recipes, but she also made up her own. I remember her showing up at my house one day saying she had an idea for a new cookie and had brought some over for us to test taste. When I tried the cookie, it practically melted in my mouth. She had a gift, my mother.
Paying It Forward
And now, I’m sad to say I have my Mother’s handwritten recipe book. When considering what to do to ‘pay it forward’ for the perogies I received, I will be consulting the book. I don’t share my mother’s gift for baking, but using her recipes gives me the best possible chance to show love to the people I pay it forward to.
Here’s my idea for you. You don’t need to receive perogies from someone to be able to pay it forward. We all have something to be thankful for. No matter how insignificant it may seem. Without all the parties, gift exchanges and running around shopping for extended family and friends, we have time this year to do stuff like this. Do it alone, or with the few people in your “bubble”. Whatever works.
And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be homemade baked goods, or enough for 16 people! Could be two people. Could be bakery bought cookies. Make a pot roast or a spaghetti dinner for a neighbor. Or bake a cake. Or anything your heart desires. Pay it forward your way! You decide.
Come to think of it. This doesn’t have to be a cooking/baking thing. If you knit or crochet, and can make scarves or hats, do that! Deliver them to the city mission. Contact your church, synagogue or mosque and ask if they know a family in need, (they usually do) and send them some anonymous gift certificates, or gently used clothing. Whatever you can do. Just pay it forward.
Thank you Ann, for the perogies, and for the inspiration.
Doing something like this, that takes a little planning and effort on your part, will get you into the holiday spirit!
Send Out Cards This Year
Since we have so much time at home during Covid, why not send out holiday cards this year? No matter what you’re celebrating: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice…wouldn’t it be a great idea to spread some cheer?
Sending out cards for the holidays has fallen out of fashion. I myself sent out cards much longer than a lot of my friends and family. But even I stopped quite a few years ago. What better year to pick it back up again? At a time when we cannot easily go see friends and family, to me it makes sense to spread some holiday cheer by sending greeting cards.
I know the postal service sometimes gets a bad rap, but look at it this way, what other delivery service will pick up right from your home, and send an envelope clear across the country for you, for 55 cents? It might not be what we used to pay, but it’s still a good deal. And it’s a small price to pay to make someone happy.
Also, be thoughtful about it. Along with your family, be sure to send cards to people you think might be surprised to receive one from you. Or someone you know who has lost a loved one this year. Or someone who lives alone, or is lonely (not necessarily the same person). If you have the time, personalize it by writing a note inside.
You get what I mean here. Send out some holiday cheer in the form of greeting cards. It’ll get you in the holiday spirit. And you might just make someone’s day!
This is one that still applies from last year. If you can, get outside into the fresh (cold!) air. Take a walk, or an urban hike. If you have kids, take them with you! Bundle up, of course, and stay out only as long as it’s safe. But do it. And do it often. You’ll feel better, less stressed, and you’ll sleep better at night.
Where to go? Just about anywhere you want. Not sure? Here are a few suggestions.
Right in Your Own Neighborhood
Walk out your front door, make a left (or a right) at the sidewalk and follow it all the way around the block until you’re back to your house. Sounds crazy, but it could be that simple! The point is, that it doesn’t have to be complicated. I have several different walks in my neighborhood that I take regularly. Which one I take depends on how much time I have, which way the wind is blowing (some routes are more windy than others) and how much snow is on the ground!
Be sure to head out occasionally in the early evening when everyone’s lights are on. People have really gone all out this year with their displays. It’ll lift your spirits to see what some people have done! You’ll be amazed!
Or Someone Else’s Neighborhood
Do like I sometimes do. Drive to a neighborhood that interests you, and take an urban hike. Pick one of Olmsted’s parkways, Lincoln, Chapin, Bidwell, Richmond or Porter. Or check out the Parkside neighborhood. The Darwin Martin House is not the only impressive home in that area. There are lots more! Check out Tillinghast Place (one of my favorites!).
Or explore any street in the Elmwood Village too! While you’re there, do some holiday shopping at one of our locally owned shops. Or try one of the residential parks over in Allentown and beyond. Arlington Park, Days Park or Johnson Park.
The point is to get out and do a little urban exploration. You’ll fall in love with our city!
Or for a change of scenery, head over to the waterfront. I do this all the time. Park near the Swannie House and walk past the Edward M. Cotter, and make your way along the Buffalo River all the way to the lookout at the Erie Basin Marina. Climb the lookout – the views are gorgeous – even in the winter! Head back and get some wings to-go at Swannie House. Yum! (Support our local businesses!) Or if you prefer, head home for some hot cocoa and cookies. Either will hit the spot after a winter walk. During the holidays though, plan for the after party, especially if you’ve got kids. It’ll extend the adventure and make it more memorable.
Hit A Park During the Holidays
Live near a park? Even if you don’t, head out to one of Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks, and walk. Park behind the Art Gallery at Delaware Park for instance, and walk around Hoyt Lake. You won’t get lost. There’s a paved path for some of it and a well trodden path for some of it, but if you keep the lake in view, you can’t get lost. This is one of my go to walks during summer and winter alike. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there. And you’ll see plenty of other folks out too! Don’t forget the after party!
A couple of years ago, my sister and I headed over to Delaware Park the morning after getting about 14 inches of snow overnight. It was early, it hadn’t yet been plowed and was it ever gorgeous! The sun wasn’t even shining, but the snow! It looked so beautiful, and peaceful! If you can time one of these walks just after a snowfall, or during a calm snowfall, the whole world will feel different. Quieter, more insulated…peaceful. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.
Plan Ahead for Your Holiday Walks
Plan ahead for a few walks during the holidays, and get creative with the after parties. Get the crock pot going before you go out, and come home to the wonderful smells and tastes that await! Got kids? Finish off the day with one of your family’s favorite board games! Make the game an event! Talk it up to the kids, and they’ll get excited!
Get Creativethis Holiday Season
Go Christmas caroling. Seriously. Get the people in your “bubble” to do it with you. You don’t have to get very close to the homes you visit. Get creative by traveling to people’s homes that you know could use a pick me up! Maybe they’ve lost a loved one this year, or have been sick. Maybe you happen to know they’re feeling lonely. Super easy to do, and you could bring some of those cookies to drop off while you’re there! Again, you might just make someone’s day!
Watch some Christmas movies! Now, this sounds like something that we’ve always done to get in the spirit. But this year, make it an event. Cook a special meal to eat while watching. Maybe homemade pizzas with everyone helping and using their favorite toppings. Or make cookies to eat, and cocoa to drink during the movie. Watch the classics, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. And ‘new’ classics too! Elf, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, This Christmas and A Christmas Story. Or whatever your favorites are! Your choice!
Check this Out!
I know a family who, during quarantine last spring, started their own family Olympics! They got really creative and made up silly events and competed with each other! I believe there were upwards of 30 events in all! They did it over several weeks. I, along with many others, followed their progress on social media, including closing ceremonies etc. It was fun to watch, and must have been a blast for them!
The video below is from the Telesco Family Quarantine Olympics – The following quote is the intro to this particular event from facebook.
“Event #2 – Whipped Cream Flip Challenge. The rules: Spray whipped cream on your hand. Flip it up and catch it in your mouth. Top two move on to finals. In the finals, you must flip it up, do a 360 and then catch it. After 4 attempts, if there is a tie, it goes to sudden death in a regular (non-spinning) flip.” I love it.
See how much fun we all could be having with this?! Haha! Now, you don’t have to video your own Olympics and share to social media. But why not plan your own? I thought this was a really creative way to break up the monotony of quarantine. Add a holiday theme, and you might just have fun with it!
Wrap it Up!
Now, I could continue with ideas like getting all of your neighbors to go out on their front steps at 6pm on Christmas Eve to ring bells together to celebrate separately-together this year. Or having a family board game night tournament style (this is not just for kids – keep it to your “bubble” though) with prizes for the winners etc. But I think you get the idea!
Any one of these would surely get you into the holiday spirit.
Sometimes, getting creative can mean stepping back and relaxing a bit. Staying away from the hustle and bustle of the season. Keeping it simple.
The other day I saw someone on TV make an old fashioned paper chain to decorate for Christmas. Always looking for things to do with my grandkids, the next time one of them was over, I pulled out the construction paper, some scissors, and a glue stick. My granddaughter Aoife, my daughter-in-law Kristen and I cut and glued for an hour. Okay, Kristen did almost all of it (thank you!). But Aoife is only three.
But even at three, we were able to convey to her that we were doing something important to get ready for Christmas! When our tree goes up mid-month, as is our tradition, that chain will go on it. And I’ll make it a big deal that Aoife made it, and that it makes our tree perfect this year. I can picture her now, bursting with pride!
That’s what it’s all about if you have kids. YOU have the power to make or break this holiday season for them. Kids will pick up on whatever attitude you project. You will too. If you keep positive with the simple things, this year could turn out to make some of the best holiday memories ever!
It’s The Simple Things
Take some walks in some of Buffalo’s parks. Give to others in a simple way. Have family fun nights. Send greeting cards. Drive around to see the Christmas lights (Buffalo has really gone above and beyond this year!). You get the idea, and most of you are more creative than I am, so have fun with it!
Focus on the positive, even if you have to keep re-focusing on it (I know sometimes I do!). We are all human, and need interaction with others. Perhaps in Buffalo, we have a little more of this than in other cities, in keeping with our ‘Friendliest City in America’ status. But we are creative and can figure out ways to be social while maintaining social distance and staying safe through these unprecedented times. We got this, Buffalo.
Do us all a favor and share your creative holiday ideas in the comments below!
*Special thanks to the Telesco family for allowing me to share that super fun video!
Every year in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I get thinking about all that I am grateful for. This year is no different. I know, I know. It’s 2020. What is there to be thankful for this year?
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a grateful person. I tend to put my energy towards positive things, and I think being grateful is one of them. It works for me. And studies are starting to show that it works for most. Even people who seek counseling for mental issues. Regularly listing the things you are grateful for, writing thank you letters, or writing in a gratitude journal is becoming more and more common these days. And it’s working.
‘Much of our time and energy is spent pursuing things we currently don’t have. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and the things we do have.’ * – Joshua Brown, Joel Long
The idea here is that if we spend more time thinking about things we are grateful for, we’ll spend less time on negative thoughts, thereby improving our general outlook on life. Makes sense. It’s a practice though. It takes time to reverse your way of thinking. But over time you get better at looking for the good, or the silver lining as it were, eventually changing your way of thinking to a much more positive thought process.
So, let’s give it a whirl. Let’s be positive in this pandemic year that’s been fraught with problems for everyone. Here’s my list of things we, as Buffalonians, can be thankful for.
Number Five – Location, Location, Location
I know I’ve said this before and I’m probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but I can’t leave this off the list! We take it for granted, but not that many people can walk out their doors and see what we have the ability to see within just a few minutes. Okay, twenty. Haha. We’re the twenty minute city, remember? We can get just about anywhere we need to go within a twenty minute drive. But really, it would probably take less than that for any of us to get to some sort of water in Buffalo and the surrounding areas. It doesn’t have to be Lake Erie, or the Niagara River. There are a lot of other smaller lakes, creeks etc. to see.
And the views are spectacular!
Being near the water, even in winter (bundle up!), calms us. It’s been studied over and over again. If you haven’t taken the time to go and be near the water in or around Buffalo, whether it be Lake Erie or Ontario, the Buffalo River, the Niagara River or any one of our smaller lakes, streams, or creeks, please make the time to go. You don’t even need to get out of your car and make it an active thing. Just spend time there. Look at it. And breathe. I think you’ll agree, it’s something to be grateful for.
Number Four – Our Parks & Parkways
I’ve talked about our parkways quite a bit in my posts. Great urban hiking spots! And I did write a post about Delaware Park quite a while ago. Our parks are magnificent! They really are! And there are more than our Olmsted Parks, not that we would need more, because the Olmsted Parks are enviable to be sure!
They are Delaware Park, MLK Park, Front Park, Riverside Park, Cazenovia Park and South Park. All amazing in their own way! If you get to any of these on a regular basis, then you know that they are all something to be grateful for! And they’re something that we do tend to take for granted. They’re just always there.
But imagine Buffalo without them. If those city leaders back in the day had passed on building a park and parkway system, we’d have just the one park. Probably Delaware Park. And while it’s pretty spectacular, I like it that there are more than one. It gives more of us the chance to get to them regularly.
And the parkways! How glorious to have these to walk through in all four seasons! They are beautiful. It’s as simple as that! I am grateful for our parks and parkway system.
Number Three – Architecture
Seriously, our architecture is second to none! Okay, maybe not the best in the world, but Buffalo has truly become an architecture destination! We’ve got examples of the best and the brightest architects in the country. H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Minoru Yamasaki. We’ve even got an incredible hotel designed by the first woman architect in the country, Louise Blanchard Bethune! She was a Buffalonian!
Take a look at these.
We’ve also got incredible homes! We’ve got numerous examples of incredible architects who designed some pretty amazing homes here in the Queen City! Frank Lloyd Wright, Green & Wicks, Essenwein & Johnson, and more! Take a look at some of them.
I am grateful to have all the beautiful architecture that we regularly enjoy here in Buffalo! Without all that to look at on my urban hikes, what would I do with my time?
Number Two – Food
Yes, food. Buffalonians know how good the food is here. We’ve always known. Just ask our ex-pats. When people leave Buffalo, they miss the food! And the world is taking notice! Not for the first time, (2015 was the first) Buffalo was put on National Geographics list of best city’s to eat in, specifically for our chicken wings. We are ranked third in the world. As a side note, the second place city, Chennai, India, was named for it’s equivalent of the Buffalo wing! In my opinion, that means we get the number two spot as well! Ha!
But we are much, much more than chicken wings. We have amazing ethnic food as well. About a year ago, I toured some people from Indianapolis around Buffalo and one of them was from the Dominican Republic. They asked if they could find authentic Dominican food in Buffalo. I did a quick google search, and found La Casa de Sabores, on Letchworth Street over on the West Side. They went after the tour and texted me later to tell me that it was some of the most authentic Dominican food they’ve eaten in the country! Not surprised.
Buffalo has to be on some list somewhere, for authentic ethnic food. We’ve got the West Side Bazaar, the Broadway Market and many Mom & Pop restaurants serving up authentic food from all over the world! Greek, Soul Food, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Chinese, Polish, Italian, French. The list goes on and on.
And we are not just all about the meat anymore either! Several vegan and plant-based restaurants have opened up in the past few years, and they are thriving! Even meat eaters go there, because the creative chefs are killing it!
And our pizza? Forget about it! Buffalo’s pizza isthe best! I’ve had pizza all over this country, and none can even compare to Buffalo pizza. The pepperoni cups…just sayin.
Let’s suffice it to say that that the variety of amazing food available in Buffalo is truly something to be grateful for!
And…Number One – the People!
The number one reason to be thankful in Buffalo, in 2020, is….drumroll please! (Picture Clark Griswold on the front lawn about to plug in the Christmas lights!)
Us! Yep! That’s right. Us.
We were voted America’s Friendliest City by Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2018. Why? Because we smile at each other and say “hello” when passing on the street. It’s sound hokey, but it’s true. I can attest to it. I always say hello, every time I pass someone. Here in Buffalo, most smile and say hello back. Not all, but most. Some even strike up a conversation. Some of those conversations result in making friends. I am not kidding. To me, that’s a small-town, friendly kind of thing. But that’s Buffalo. Friendly.
But we are also resilient. Strong. Tough. We are loyal, steadfast and true. To the end.
Just look at our history. (You know I couldn’t do a post without history!) The village of Buffalo was burned to the ground in 1813 and only four structures survived. The people rebuilt. We came back stronger than ever, and grew to be the eighth largest city in the country by 1900.
We suffered after World War II. Businesses left the area. We became a major part of the Rust Belt cities who lost their steel industries, which were major employers here in Buffalo.
But the people. Brilliant, innovative, inventive, creative, steadfast people stayed and helped see us through the tough times. Buffalo is now emerging stronger and more community-minded than ever. Because of the people. Us. And that’s right, we say ‘hello’ to each other on the streets.
For us, I am grateful!
Whether it be massive job losses, a crippling blizzard, or the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of Buffalo support each other. That’s what we do, when someone in Buffalo needs something, we step up and take care of them. And we will prevail this time too, throughout the Covid crisis. Because of us. The people of Buffalo.
Look, we have so much to be thankful for, living here in Buffalo. So much more than I have mentioned here. The arts. Our galleries. Our theaters. Outdoor concerts. The Bills. The Sabres. The list could go on and on.
But the only thing that really matters is people. Human beings helping each other to thrive. That’s what really matters in the end. Like in 1813, if we lost everything tomorrow, we, in Buffalo would rebuild. And come back better than ever. We are Buffalo strong. We got this.
That’s what I am grateful for in Buffalo, in 2020.
A few weeks back when I wrote about Lincoln Parkway, I started extending my walks to include Chapin Parkway. It’s not a route I would normally take, but I somehow knew I’d be writing this post eventually. I’m glad I made myself more familiar with it. The other day, I was out for a walk and was so blown away by the beauty of fall on the parkway, that I decided it was time. Is it just me, or does that happen to everyone? Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the beauty of something that I’ve seen a hundred times before. This time it was the gorgeous yellow leaves that brought it on.
So, here I am, writing the post.
As Usual, I’ll Begin with the History of Chapin Parkway
Buffalo’s Parks and Parkway System was put in during the late 1800’s, after some of Buffalo’s most wealthy citizens decided that Buffalo needed a ‘central park’ like New York City’s Central Park. So, naturally, Frederick Law Olmsted (the man who designed Central Park) was brought to Buffalo.
When Olmsted was taken on a tour of Buffalo’s streets he and his partner, Calvert Vaux, decided that what would suit this city best would be a park system instead of just one central park. City leaders agreed. They had the money to do it, and so began the largest landscape architectural project the country had seen to date. Our city was described by Olmsted as the best planned city in the world.
It’s easy to see why when you stroll down the center of one of our parkways.
Getting Back to Chapin Parkway
Chapin Parkway runs between Soldiers Circle and Gates Circle. It is, indeed, 200 feet wide and is stunning.
It was named for Edward Payson Chapin, born to Ephraim and Elizabeth Chapin in Waterloo, NY in 1831. He was a well known Buffalo attorney when the Civil War broke out. Chapin served at the rank of captain and was injured at Hanover Court House, Virginia on May 27, 1862. He convalesced here in Buffalo. In September of the same year he was made Colonel of Erie County’s 116th NY Volunteers. He was killed in action on May 27, exactly one year after he was first injured. He was posthumously made a Brigadier General on the day he died.
Chapin Parkway is as beautiful now as it was when it was first created. Of course, I haven’t had the pleasure of time traveling to the late 1800s yet. But the parkway is so beautiful now, I cannot imagine it could have been any better back in the day!
Most of the property on Chapin Parkway was originally owned by Civil War General John Graves, who built a home here in 1885. Bronson Rumsey purchased the property at some point, and demolished the Graves home in 1907. Rumsey built himself a relatively modest home (lost) on the property, and subdivided the rest of Chapin Parkway. He sold large lots at his leisure over a period of about twenty years. Which probably accounts for how many movers and shakers lived on Chapin. Rumsey, of course, would have been choosy about who he sold to.
I don’t know all of them, but you’ll definitely recognize some of the names I mention.
Let’s Start the Hike
I decided to begin at Gates Circle facing Soldiers Circle, on the right side of the parkway. It’s the opposite of what I usually do on my walks, but I like to shake things up a bit once in a while. Haha. Takin’ a walk on the wild side…
This first house I know a bit about. It was built in 1924 for Samuel Risman. And the only thing I know about him, is that he moved to Miami a year after building this home. He moved to take a job developing and managing a ten-story apartment building. His wife joined him a year later. Sadly, their story does not have a happy ending. Samuel passed away in 1927 after either falling or jumping to his death from that same apartment building.
The home itself is Colonial Revival in style, with Georgan influences. The slate roof extends to the sides of the dormers which is not uncommon. It’s got two sunrooms. The one on the front is original, the one on the north side was added at some point later on. There is also an upper patio on the Chapin Parkway side. And I love those quarter round windows on either side of the chimney.
It’s lovely. And ready for the holidays.
Next Up on the Parkway
Next up is this gem. It is a pretty good example of the Italian Renaissance style. It’s got rounded windows on the first floor, and rectangular windows above. And that recessed porch on the right, with the archways that are supported by columns. Fantastic! The brick pilasters topped with Corinthian capitals and the cornice is just lovely. It all comes together just right.
Very well done.
What really interests me about this home is the back yard. It splays out to the right behind the home next door (the first one in this post). It’s huge and private, despite the gas station on Delaware Ave just behind it. The gardens appear to be lovely too!
As a matter of fact, that same gas station backs up to all the homes on this block, but you would never know it. City living. Love it.
This is another Georgian Revival Style home. And is it ever beautiful!
I love everything about this house. The symmetry is perfect. Right down to those tall trees on either side of the front walk, and the chimneys on either side of the home. The side-by-side two-story pilasters on either side of the entryway with small, tasteful capitals. Perfection. The stone lintels and sills on the windows. Perfect for this house. The Flemish bonding on the brickwork with the same color mortar joints. Perfect. The classic stone surrounding the front door with a pediment above.
Finally, the icing on the cake. The wrought iron awning at the side entrance. It’s the perfect scale and design for this home. Did I say I love everything about this house? Because I do.
More Beautiful Homes
Another Colonial Revival
Next, I come upon this home. This is also a Georgian Colonial Revival style home. Note the first floor windows. You see how the top part of the window is smaller than the bottom section? These windows are referred to as 8/12 (there are eight sections on top, and twelve sections below). The windows on the second floor and dormers are 8/8s. The sidelights on either side of the door are 6/6. See? The reason I mention it is because this house is all windows! Must be a very bright home inside!
I love the stone sills and keystones on the windows and the slate roof that continues on the dormers. The Flemish brick is enhanced by the use of different colored bricks. The portico supported by Corinthian columns gives the design a slightly Georgian feel. Very well done.
Next, we come to my husband’s favorite. He loves this type of home. It’s a Queen Anne stick style home. It’s set on a triangular piece of property, with a small circular driveway inside and on the East Delevan side. There are so many little details on this home that I don’t know where to begin.
It was built in 1888 for John J. Crawford (of John J. Crawford Monument Company), who passed away in 1894. Mr. & Mrs. George Clinton (DeWitt Clinton’s grandson) moved in in the mid-1890s. Mrs. Lucia Shoellkopf Modet was living here in the late 1930s. So, it’s a star studded home. These were all names that built Buffalo.
How about the wrap around porch with the unusual columned posts? Fantastic. The upper patio above the side sunroom with the arched windows. Love that. The paint job is classic. Take a look at the photos below to note some of the details. That black pyramidal roof, (I can’t tell what it’s made of) the carved wood designs in the pediments and dormers are all just what most people look for in a Victorian era home. I even like the poured concrete fence posts.
A Craftsman on Chapin
If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know I’m a fan of the Craftsman style of architecture. So, naturally, I love this amazing home. I love the wide chimney, the tri-colored tile roof, the windows, 6/6s most of them, appear to be original. The trim color on the house matches the wrought iron fencing, which is spectacular with all those gold tips. Note the fencing that surrounds the side porch also has the same tips. I love it when a home has a very wide, covered porch. Makes the porch seem open, but somehow private. Extra points for the canvas awning. (I’ll have to go back and take photos next summer when the awning is back up.)
To get a good nap, the hammock is a little close to the sidewalk for me, but I love that they have it. What you can’t see is the pool in the back, side yard. This house is all I’ll ever need or want.
Except This One
Oh, but this one. I might need this one. It reminds me of one I love over on Tillinghast Place. Has the same lines, but with a more Spanish influence. I could be comfortable here.
Another Georgian Revival
Georgian Colonial Revival seems to be the style of choice here on Chapin. Must have been what was popular at the time. This one is beautifully symmetric (you know I love symmetry).
The windows are five across on the second floor, with the first floor two and twos directly below. Very typical of a Colonial style. The Georgian features are the columned front portico with ionic style capitals (at the top of the columns) at the main entry, and the stone sills and keystones. Flemish bonding brickwork was pretty popular on this street as well. This house is especially beautiful with a carpet of orange and gold leaves.
And Now, For Something Completely Different
This home (below) is different from any other on the street. This is an English Manor style home, designed by Essenwein & Johnson in 1912. Genevieve Schoellkopf Vom Berge moved into the home that same year. Genevieve was the granddaughter of Jacob Schoellkopf, one of the most successful German immigrants in Western New York. Having lost her first husband, Henry Vom Berge in 1911, she and their only son Henry Schoellkopf Vom Berge moved into this home together.
Genevieve remarried and had another child while living in this home, but sadly passed away in 1919 at the age of 35. The cause of her death is not known.
James and Harriet McNulty moved into the home in the 1920s. James was the president of Pratt & Lambert. The McNultys were very active in their community, both socially and philanthropically. When James passed away in 1926, Harriet, along with their three daughters, made several large donations in memory of him. After his death, Harriet took over for James on the board of directors of Pratt & Lambert, which lasted 23 years. Good for her – definitely not the norm in those days. Harriet stayed on in the house until her death in 1956.
Interesting history in this home!
And More Homes Along Chapin Parkway!
The home below was completed in 2016. The home that was there before was built in 1950, and reportedly held no historical significance. In addition, the home was set too low on the property, causing chronic water issues in the basement. Major foundation issues followed. Read more about it at this link.
While I’m not usually a fan of tear downs, I must say that I am happy with its replacement. It’s the right style and scale for the street, and pretty nice to look at too. I love the porch, which I think ended up being larger than originally planned. All in all, it fits in very well with the neighborhood. I like it.
Look at the driveway at the house below. It draws me in, and makes me want to walk up it!
Let’s Cross the Street
Directly across the street, at Soldiers Circle is this building. We talked about it when I wrote about Soldiers Circle a few weeks ago. It was originally built as a hotel for the Pan American Exposition in 1901. It has since been turned into townhouses and apartments. Nice building in a fantastic location!
Next, I came upon another Georgian Revival (below). This one differs from the others in that it is brick and stucco, with brick window sills and lintels. It appears the front portico was enclosed at some point. Makes me wonder what the front entry looked like originally.
The home is decked out for the holidays already! Looking forward to seeing this in the snow. But not too soon.
I bet you can guess the style of this next home (below). So many interpretations of the Georgian Revival style, but really, they’re pretty similar. This one is so grand I wanted to include several photos. When you look at the side view of this home, it seems to go on forever. I love that every window, large and small have stone sills and splayed lintels, with the exception of the dormer windows, and that window on the side with the rounded fan window above it, including brick and stonework? I’ve never seen anything like it. But it works.
This next home (below) was designed by architect Edward Kent, a well known Buffalo architect who, strangely enough, lost his life aboard the Titanic. When I was walking by taking photos on this particular day, I heard children playing and laughing inside this home. Love that!
And this one. You know I love the wrought iron awnings! And I’m also partial to all of these side sunrooms!
The Homes Along Here Are Fabulous!
This next home (below) is great. It reminds me of an old church rectory or something. But at the same time, it’s cool. I love those two dormers. But my favorite part? That second-floor bay window on the side. Fantastically done.
Help me out here. Look at this next home (below). Now, I’m certainly no expert, but I don’t really understand the balustrade just hanging out there on the roof. Why? I’ve never seen anything like this either.
I will say though, I love the side entryway and the original sandstone driveway! Although I wouldn’t want to clear snow from it. But truthfully, I wouldn’t want to clear snow from any driveway!
These next few are all dazzling in their own way.
And this magnificence! Now, this paint job is on point! All the right colors in all the right places! To me anyway. I even love that someone has pitched a tent on the front porch!
And This Beauty!
So many Georgian Revivals on this street! On this home (above), I love the use of the different colored bricks in the Flemish bonding and the windows in the dormers. I also like that they have two different types of columns on the entryway. And that they are repeated, as both columns and pilasters in the sunrooms on the side of the home (below). Double decker sunrooms I might add. What a classic entryway this is too. Love it.
At this point you could tell me about all the details here. We’ve seen so many of this style today.
My Impressions of Chapin Parkway
Well, today was the Georgian Revival show! I have to say that when I walk, I look at homes and notice little things. But it wasn’t until I sat down to write today that I realized how many Georgian Revival homes were on this street. That style must have been really, really hot between 1905 and 1920. Seriously.
There was the one English Manor house (the Shoellkopf home), and a couple of other styles, but this street is pretty full up with the Georgian Revival Style. I like the style, the symmetry and all. And it’s still popular, because there are people living here and showing love to their homes. Every one is cared for impeccably. They’re beautiful to behold.
With winter and snow just around the corner, I found myself wondering during this walk, what it would be like to live here in the winter. I’ll come back for walks to see it of course. But to sip my morning tea in one of the sunrooms. Looking out over the mall, covered with a fresh blanket of snow. Sun shining on it like a million little diamonds. Yes. That’d be real nice.
But for now, I’ll stick to my walks, and be grateful that we have such beautiful, historic streets to wander, wondering about the people these beautiful homes have known and sheltered.
Get out there if you can and get to know your city, Buffalo. You’ll love it!
**Get the book! They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of suggestions for blog posts from readers. My schedule is booked well into January, 2021. But just a couple of weeks ago my brother made a suggestion that made me change the schedule in order to fit it in. He suggested I write about “the Cotter”. Good idea, brother.
I always thought that most Buffalonians knew what you meant when you said “the Cotter”. I mean, it’s as much a part of the fabric of our city as say, the Bills. Well, okay, maybe not that much, but it certainly plays an important role on Buffalo’s waterfront, and most Buffalonians have at least heard about it. When I told a friend I was writing this post, he didn’t know it. But when I showed him a photo, he said, “oh, that boat. I’ve seen that around forever!”
He’s right about one thing. The Edward M. Cotterhas been around forever. Well, practically.
Let’s talk about it.
A Little Bit of History
I’ve talked in other posts about Buffalo’s location at the convergence of the Buffalo River, Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Back in the day, most of Buffalo’s industry was built on the waterfront utilizing those natural resources. I’ve also talked about the fact that fires were all too common in cities throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s. Buffalo was no exception. Although we had two fireboats in service already (working out of Engines 23 & 29), they did not have ice breaking capabilities rendering them essentially useless in the winter. So, at the turn of the century, it was decided that Buffalo would benefit from a third fireboat.
The Edward M. Cotter was built in 1900, and was christened the William S. Grattan, named for the first paid fire commissioner in Buffalo. Thus, Engine 20 in the City of Buffalo was born. She is the oldest active fireboat in the world. That’s right, in the world! She is 118 feet long and originally had two steam engines and coal burning boilers. Her prow (or front of the hull) is 1-1/2 inch thick steel, making her perfect for ice breaking. Now, an inch and a half doesn’t seem like much but the current Captain of the Cotter, John Sixt, compared the thickness of the Cotter’s hull to that of the Little Rock, which is 1/8 of an inch thick. Woah. Okay, that puts it into perspective.
In July of 1928, while fighting an oil barge fire in the Buffalo River, the Grattan caught fire and was severely damaged. The firefighters on board were forced to abandon ship and swim to shore. The boat’s chief engineer was killed, and seven crew members were injured.
The boat then sat for eighteen months while the city decided what to do. They had two choices, replace the Grattan at a cost of $225,000, or completely rebuild her for $99,000 ($8,000 more than the original cost to build). All I can say is that sometimes these decisions go our way. This is one of those times.
The Grattan was rebuilt at the Buffalo Dry Dock Company in 1930. It was at this time her boilers were converted from coal to oil, foam fire retardant firefighting capabilities were added, and her engines were rebuilt.
Some of the Cotter’s Updates
In 1952, the William S. Grattan was sent to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for some much needed modernization. Her steam engines were replaced with two diesel engines, twin props replaced the single propeller, and the firefighting platform was outfitted with hydraulics. She was now capable of pumping 15,000 gallons of water per minute! I once read that this boat could fill an average backyard pool in roughly 40 seconds! Holy smokes, that’s a lot of water!
She was returned to Buffalo in 1953, and was given a new name, the Firefighter. In 1954 she was renamed again, and became the Edward M. Cotter. This time she was named for a Buffalo firefighter who was a very popular leader of the local firefighter’s union, and had recently passed away.
In the spring of 2019, the Edward M. Cotter was sent to Toronto for two months, to receive much needed repairs to her hull and the installation of two new propellers. These repairs were paid for with grants received through the Cotter Conservancy. And speaking of which…
The Fireboat E.M. Cotter Conservancy, Inc.
The Fireboat E.M. Cotter Conservancy, Inc. was formed in January of 2016 to raise money so that the Cotter will be with Buffalo for a long time to come. It’s a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, committed to raising $25,000 a year in order to continue keeping the Cotter in the water.
The Cotter was named a National Historic Landmark in 1996, joining less than ten other National Historic Landmarks in Buffalo. This opened up the Cotter to much needed funds to maintain the aging boat. The conservancy takes the lead in securing these funds.
The Conservancy is run by volunteers, and is led by Sandford Beckman. The group is also supported by the Buffalo Fire Historical Museum, the Fire Bell Club of Buffalo, the Local Union 282, and WNY Retired Firefighters. See the conservancy’s website for more information regarding donating to the Fireboat E.M. Cotter Conservancy, Inc.
The Cotter and the Canadian Connection
About 15 years ago, my husband and I were in Port Colborne, Ontario which is located on Lake Erie at the Welland Canal. Every August, this port town celebrates a Canal Days festival. While there, walking along the canal, we suddenly came upon the Cotter. At first we questioned whether it was actually ‘our’ Cotter. But as we got closer we realized we were indeed correct. It was. We spoke to some of the crew, and were welcomed aboard for a tour.
While we were there, the crew told us a piece of Cotter history we weren’t familiar with at the time. On October 5, 1960 an explosion and a massive fire broke out at the Maple Leaf Mills on the Welland Canal in Port Colborne. Two days later the fire still burned out of control, and the town requested help from the Buffalo Fire Department. The Edward M. Cotter, escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, made the nighttime voyage and within four hours of her arrival, the fire was out.
In appreciation of this, the Cotter is invited to Port Colborne every year to help the town celebrate their Canal Days Festival. Pretty cool.
A Few Things
There are a few things that stand out for me in this Port Colborne story. The first is that the Cotter needed an escort for this trip because it was never outfitted with deep water navigational equipment, simply because it never needed it prior to this. Interesting. Captain Sixt assured me that an escort is no longer necessary!
The next is that the trip to Port Colborne, which on the lake is approximately 25 miles, took two hours. You see, the Cotter is not built for speed. As a matter of fact, the top speed of this vessel is 11.5 knots, which is just over 13 miles per hour. So two hours is just about right.
Lastly, this event is believed to be the first time a U.S. fireboat crossed an international border to assist with firefighting. Cool, Buffalo!
Through the years, the Cotter has assisted with numerous fires both on the shore and on the water. She is, however, limited to where she can go and what she can do in and around Buffalo. Captain Sixt explained that when a relatively small craft catches fire, the Cotter cannot get involved. Her fire pumps are just too powerful, and would sink smaller boats. Sure, the fire would be out, but…
And because of her size, the Cotter has to be in 11 feet of water to stay afloat. Drafts at 11 feet, 13 or 14 feet is even better to be safe. For this reason she cannot travel very far into the Erie Basin Marina, because the water is not deep enough. For the same reason, she cannot enter the small boat harbor. So she simply cannot fight fires from those locations.
She does, however, have the ability to assist with other types of emergencies. For instance, in 1977 the Cotter assisted the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Ojibwa. The cutter had lost her steering and was taking on water. The Edward M. Cotter helped by towing the Ojibwa to the base and kept her afloat while repairs were being made.
In 1978, the Cotter assisted the U.S.S. Little Rock (permanently docked at Canalside) when the ship began taking on water. The Cotter continuously pumped water from the Little Rock, keeping her afloat for five days during repairs.
There are more stories just like this. The Cotter towed a Polish tall ship (Zawisza Czarny) off a sandbar during a 1984 visit. She assisted an Army Corp of Engineers tugboat, the Nash, by pumping out water to stabilize the tug when it suddenly began to list to one side.
The list goes on and on.
A Typical Day in the Life of the Cotter
The Edward M. Cotter’s crew of two, Captain John D. Sixt, III, and Chief Engineer Jack Kelleher, work diligently to keep the Cotter in top shape. And it was clear they’re doing a fantastic job when we boarded the boat last week. Working aboard the Cotter is no small task. In addition to working a full daily schedule, the two are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you doubt the necessity of the Cotter, just think about all the changes on Buffalo’s waterfront. More and more people are living right on the waterfront, including the Buffalo River. In case of fire, it is as imperative now, as it always has been, that the fire department have access to these fires from the water.
Captain Sixt tells me that in summer, the Cotter is busy with various duties. There is constant maintenance on a boat like this. Daily maintenance. Weekly maintenance, and monthly maintenance. That is all year round.
In addition to that, and firefighting duties, the Edward Cotter is busy as an active museum. Pre-covid, the fireboat was open during regular business hours for tours of the boat itself. I would imagine those would typically last an hour or more each. In addition, also pre-pandemic, the Conservancy would set up tours of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie aboard the Cotter.
Every June, for a dozen or so years now, the Cotter travels to Dunkirk Harbor for their Spring Festival, where the Edward M. Cotter is a key attraction in the harbor helping to kick off Dunkirk’s summer season.
In August, it’s back to Port Colborne for a long weekend for their annual Canal Days Festival.
What About the Winter?
Remember earlier when I mentioned the thick prow of the boat? She was made that way in order to break through ice. Winters see the Cotter out daily breaking up ice in the Buffalo River, alleviating the chance of flooding both in the city and the neighboring suburbs. While also keeping the river open for any necessary winter traffic, whether it be for firefighting duties or ships coming in and out of port.
This is what the Cotter was built for, to cut through up to 2 feet of ice. It’s a slow, arduous process, but the Cotter is up to the task. I’m told six to eight inches is more common, but even that is not easy. It sometimes takes up to eight hours to travel the half mile from the Michigan Street Bridge to the Skyway while ice breaking! Eight hours!
Ice breaking is especially important when there is a chance of a thaw. That’s when the ice is likely to shift, move and then pile up in certain spots, causing flooding when the river can’t keep flowing. So, it’s incredibly important work. It’s a matter of watching the weather, and taking your time. And trusting that one and a half inch thick Swedish steel will get you through.
A Quick Personal Story
Here’s a quick personal story about the Edward M. Cotter. Remember The Pier restaurant/bar that was out in the outer harbor years ago? I was there with my husband, my in-laws, and a few other people for a party around St. Patrick’s Day. It was cold. And everything was covered with snow plus a thin layer of ice. My mother-in-law, Barb, saw the Cotter through the window, and decided to go take a closer look.
Well, we were all having a good old time, when someone asked where Barb was. We were suddenly alerted to the fact that we hadn’t seen her in quite a while. Someone mentioned that the Cotter had left. My husband and I bundled up and went out to look for her. We caught up to her just as the Cotter was pulling back in. Imagine our surprise when we found her getting off the boat, laughing away and thanking the crew for the ride!
Apparently, when she went out to look at the boat, she started talking with some of the crew. They were going out for a quick run and asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. She said, “Sure, but let me tell my family where I’ll be.” The crew stated that they had to go, and they’d be gone by the time she got back. This was pre cell phone days, so Barb made the quick decision to go for it. She had a ball cruising around the outer harbor with the crew of the Cotter!
I love telling this story, because that’s who my mother-in-law was, in a nutshell. She believed that if you have a chance to do something you want to do, you should do it.
The Edward M. Cotter is fascinating to me. The many crew members that have served with her. Who were they? What were they like? The small and the large disasters she has witnessed and assisted with, along with her crew of hardworking firemen.
And all that ice breaking! I’d like to go out on an ice breaking day, just to see what it’s like. I think I might love it. But maybe not in January. When the windchill is 30 below though.
Oh, who am I trying to kid? I’d go out on the Cotter in any weather. It’s a piece of Buffalo history. And, like my mother-in-law, I’d say why not? And climb aboard!
That’s one of the things that keeps me hiking around the city. Because I can. I recently heard from a reader who told me he can no longer walk for more than a couple of minutes at a time due to health reasons. And that he enjoys my posts so that he can see all the things he can no longer go out and see for himself. That’s enough to keep me going.
Be curious, Buffalo. And get to know your city, while you still can.
The crew of the Edward M. Cotter hopes to be able to go back to a regular tour schedule once we return to pre-pandemic conditions. Once that happens, if you can, get out to see the fireboat. You’ll be glad you did.
*Special thanks to Captain John D. Sixt, III, for taking the time to give us a tour, and for willingly answering our many questions! I appreciate it more than you know.
**Get the book! They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
Ever spend any time in the Village of Hamburg? I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days roaming around.
The City of Buffalo has a lot of distinct neighborhoods, each with their own personalities, even though on paper they appear to be similar. There’s Allentown, with its shopping, nightlife and galleries. The Elmwood Village, with its shopping, restaurants, and galleries. Hertel Avenue with its shopping, restaurants and bars. And Parkside, with the zoo, Delaware Park and the art gallery. Just to name a few. All sound similar, but are vastly different.
But if you travel to a couple of Buffalo’s suburbs, you can experience much the same thing. You could easily imagine you were in the center of the city, in one of our iconic neighborhoods. The Village of Hamburg offers the enjoyment of city life, with a small town feel. And it’s just a short drive away.
Here’s what I mean.
A Quick History Lesson
The Village of Hamburgh was being settled during the same time frame as the City of Buffalo. As a matter of fact, when the Village of Buffalo was burned by the British in the War of 1812, many Buffalonians took refuge in the Village of Hamburgh.
The Holland Land Company owned most of Western New York and in 1806, the first lot was purchased in the Village of Hamburgh. John Cumming bought a piece of property along 18-mile Creek and opened a grist mill, supported by the creek. Many, many people farmed the rich land in the area. Thomas White ran a tannery and a general store near the intersection of Main and Buffalo Streets. The area became known as White’s Corners.
Other businesses to come in the village included breweries (go figure), Kronenberg’s Tin Shop (the Kronenberg name is still around in these parts), a planing mill, Kopp’s Hotel and later an opera house was added to it (Kopp is also a name that’s still around). Not to mention churches, schools and taverns. Remember that at this point in history, taverns were not only drinking establishments, but also acted as trading posts, sometimes inns, post offices, polling places and where town meetings were sometimes held.
The Village Incorporates
The Village of Hamburgh wasn’t incorporated until 1874, effectively making the Village and the Town two completely different entities. In 1877 the name was changed dropping the ‘h’, to the ‘Village of Hamburg’. It appears that around this time the Village made a decision to stay small. Boy, am I glad they did. And, I’m not alone.
The Village Today
Today the Village positively hums with energy. You only need to walk down Main Street to see all the activity going on there. It’s a place where used book stores thrive, and corner cafes and restaurants abound. Everywhere you look, someone has created a lovely little relaxation space, where you can sit and work, or visit with friends. Everywhere I saw people enjoying these spaces and whatever delectable offerings that particular locally owned business offers. Creativity during Covid? Some of it, but some were already there.
Where you see empty chairs in the photos below, it was very early on a Saturday morning. I was there just before the businesses started opening up.
This is one of the sweetest flower shops I’ve seen. Very welcoming!
And, as is always the case, the many storefronts are decked out for the current season. I love that shoppers feel comfortable leaving their strollers outside without fear of it being stolen.
I’m suddenly in the mood for ice cream.
The Village has a very active Economic Development Committee, busy with such projects as the conceptual design of 18-Mile Creek Greenway / Hamburg Outdoor Adventure Trail, to the development of fitness trails along Village streets, to the evaluation of historic structures in the Village, strategy for construction of alternative and affordable housing for seniors and young professionals, to a host of other concerns.
Hamburgh Holidays (spelled with the ‘h’) is a Village wide celebration of the holiday season with a collaboration between business owners and the Village. It includes a Santa Parade (sadly cancelled for 2020 due to Covid) that is usually a highlight for the Village children. The local business owners really go all out with decorations, sales and special events throughout the season. It’s well worth spending a day wandering in and out of the shops and restaurants during the shopping season. And I’m told that although the parade is cancelled, the decorating and sales will continue as usual, observing social distancing rules, of course.
In the spring, there is the Hamburg Music Festival. Here’s how that works. You purchase a ticket (wristband) for just $10, and then you spend the day going to see live music. Some indoors in bars, some outside in several parks which are scattered throughout the Village. Proceeds go to “individuals, schools and organizations doing real and actionable good in our community”* This event has been happening since 2009, save for 2020 due to Covid. Let’s hope they’re back in 2021. I’ve been to it, and it’s an amazing day for music lovers of all ages.
A Bright Spot During 2020
New to the Village this year is “StoryWalk Hamburg”. It’s a fun, engaging, literacy activity for families to enjoy reading together while strolling through the Village. And it’s naturally socially distant, without seeming so.
Here’s the gist: A children’s book is deconstructed, page by page and displayed in sequential order in different storefronts in the Village. You read the book as you stroll. At each storefront, you are able to go inside and have your ‘ticket’ punched and in the end redeemed for a ‘take and make’ craft. In between pages, you discuss what you just read and what the kids think will happen next, engaging young imaginations along the way. The pages are numbered for counting practice as well, and I hear that some families are counting in several different languages!
It’s always a win-win when literacy is spotlighted in a fun, family friendly way. Right now, the featured book is “Room on a Broom” by Julia Donaldson, and the sponsor is Ss. Peter & Paul School. There are several Village businesses involved as well. The last day for “Room on a Broom” is November 1st. Several more StoryWalk Hamburgs are planned for the near future. What a great community event. For more information, and where to start the book, follow their facebook page here.
More to See in the Village
Just walking through the Village with a few of my favorite kiddos made me fall in love with StoryWalk Hamburg and the Village itself. During the short walk, maybe a half mile total, the little ones saw so much! I mean, they really noticed things! We talked, laughed, and read our way through the morning. (And we exercised!) We also found and re-hid several painted rocks throughout the walk, much to the kids delight! And mine. The whole experience unlocked a curiousness in all of us. Excellent!
What About the Homes?
You know I love to look at homes. Wondering what the homes are like in the Village? There are all different shapes, sizes and styles. Some of the homes are close together, some have a bit more room. These are some of my favorites. Take a look…
Look at this sweet house tucked back behind some of the main street shops. The fact that the yard is still intact is interesting. I like it, and next time I’m there, I’m going to check it out a little bit closer. Never would have noticed this driving by in a car, just saying.
And these. They even look good on a rainy day!
Some Shots From Around the Village
I started this post because my sister (Katie Mika) started StoryWalk Hamburg. I thought it was a sweet idea, so I went along with her and her kids to check it out. I’ve spent time with her in the Village before, but this time I was moved to write about it.
This community is everything you want it to be. It’s walkable, the residents are engaged and involved. And friendly too. I spoke with several residents and shop owners, and all had nothing but good to say about it. They all seem to understand the importance of shopping locally, and the impact a good sense of community can have on the lives of their families and neighbors.
Within walking distance of Main and Buffalo Streets, I saw tons of shopping, restaurants, and bars. But I also saw dentists, doctors, insurance companies, real estate offices, and attorney’s offices. An old time movie theater, a bowling alley, salons, banks, at least one bridal shop, dollar stores, pharmacies, and a picture frame shop. And many more…too numerous to mention. Everything you could possibly want or need. It’s there.
And the people care. About each other, and the Village. Take a look at the photo below. I don’t even know who owns this building, but just look at that garden along the side where the parking is. Things like that are a good amount of work, but someone is willing to put in the time. And that makes a big difference. You see things like this all over the Village.
And the homes. I could have gone on for pages and pages of the incredible homes. They’ve got some amazing, historic buildings too.
You all know how much I love Buffalo, but sometimes it’s good to get out and enjoy other towns and villages as well. See what’s happening elsewhere, and support other local communities. Check out the Village of Hamburg on a sub-urban hike. You’ll love what you see!
*Get the book! They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase.