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.
***Special thanks to Katie, Ambrose, Emerson (Sonny) & Aoife. Thanks guys.
****All photos in this post are mine, unless otherwise noted.