Monday, April 10, 2017

Live and Outdoors its NHL Hockey!!

Well.... Last night was certainly depressing. After tying the game late it looked like the Sabres MIGHT give us a few more minutes of hockey to enjoy as we try to forget this season of misery. Instead, Tampa scored with a minute twenty-four to go and added an empty netter to salt the wounds. 

The Sabres managed to somehow do worse this year than they did last year and expectations were pretty brutally dashed by the way March and April played out. Still, there is always next year, and 2018 offers Sabres fans something especially fantastic in the form of a second Winter Classic game, this time against the New York Rangers. 

The first Winter Classic was a major spectacle and came as the Sabres were performing like the most dominant team in the NHL. Buffalo was flying high with players like Danny Briere, Chris Drury, and Ryan Miller and collectively we were all sensing the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately the President's Trophy winning season would be Buffalo's last taste of playoff glory and the team has struggled mightily in the last decade to gain any sort of traction. 

Regardless of how the Sabres do next season I'm excited for another Winter Classic game. The prospect of Buffalo playing in another Winter Classic got me interested in the history of outdoor hockey and I did a little research to find out a bit more on the history of outdoor hockey games. 

Originally hockey was played outdoors as there was no way to cool ice inside a building. Games were played on rivers, lakes, or in my case in a swamp by the train tracks. In 1875 the first indoor hockey game was held in Montreal at the Victoria Skating Rink. The game was a novelty act, more of an exhibition of the ice freezing technology. The game's announcement in the newspapers is particularly memorable. It reads:

A game of Hockey will be played at the Victoria Skating Rink this evening, between two nines chosen from among the members. Good fun may be expected, as some of the players are reputed to be exceedingly expert at the game. Some fears have been expressed on the part of intending spectators that accidents were likely to occur through the ball flying about in too lively a manner, to the imminent danger of lookers on, but we understand that the game will be played with a flat circular piece of wood, thus preventing all danger of its leaving the surface of the ice. Subscribers will be admitted on presentation of their tickets. 

Painting of the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal. Image taken from Wikipedia.

Right away I have to wonder which hurts more a wooden puck or a rubber puck? Obviously a Shea Weber shot is going to make any wood puck disintegrate into splinters, but even if the puck wasn't atomized by a one-timer how bad would a wooden puck to the leg feel? 

Following the first exhibition at the Victoria Skating Rink indoor hockey grew in popularity until it was the most common method of playing the game. Outdoor hockey made a revival in 1924 at the Olympic Games in Chamonix, France where the Canadians unsurprisingly dominated the competition. Surprisingly, while America took the silver it was Great Britain that won the bronze medal beating Sweden of all countries. Even stranger the 1936 Winter Olympics saw the British take gold in hockey. 

The next major outdoor hockey game directly involved the NHL and occurred between 1953 and 1954. Late in 1953 Jack Adams, coach of the Detroit Red Wings, took some of his players into Michigan's Upper Peninsula on a goodwill tour. One of the stops the Wings made was at the Marquette Branch Prison. Dubbed the Alcatraz of the North, Marquette was an isolated and harsh prison, reserved for Michigan's most dangerous criminals. During the visit Emery Jaques the prison warden propositioned Jack Adams, asking if the coach would bring the Red Wings north to play an exhibition game at the prison. Initially Adams scoffed and told Jaques that if he could foot the bill for air-fare and accommodations that the Wings would come. To his surprise the warden came up with the money and on February 2nd, 1954 the Detroit Red Wings lined up against the Marquette Prison Pirates. 

With legends like Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Terry Sawchuk playing the their prime the Wings quickly ran away with the game, establishing an 18-0 lead at the end of the first period. After that, several Red Wings, including Sawchuk were traded to the Pirates and an inmate centered the line of Howe and Lindsay. For the rest of the game nobody kept score and the players had fun with each other. Many of the prisoners were awed by the Red Wings as they'd only ever listened to the radio announcers describe the players and their abilities. To see them in the flesh was a spectacle most of the inmates likely carried until their deaths. 

Hopefully in 2018 fans of Buffalo Sabres hockey can see something spectacular when the Sabres play the Rangers. Hopefully the team has a breakthrough and makes the playoffs next year. Regardless of how things play out, the Sabres are certain to put on a show when hockey goes outdoors and the puck drops in New York City. 

The Red Wings at Marquette. Image from

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Architect Spotlight: Charles Day Swan

Charles Day Swan taken from
Its been awhile since our last Architect Spotlight post and I felt now was a good time to dive back in and look at another one of Buffalo's unheralded architects. This time we'll be focusing on Charles Day Swan

Architect Charles Day Swan was born in Buffalo in 1855 the son of ship captain Augustus Swan. Swan lived at 290 Jersey Street near Allentown and from this residence he commuted to the office of architect Richard Waite. Between 1873 and 1881 Swan worked as a draftsman for Waite, following the traditional path of most architects in the nineteenth century.

The Zink Block

After leaving Waite's office Swan enjoyed a long and successful career, contributing a number of beautiful buildings to Buffalo, several of which have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Swan primarily built private homes, but he also was responsible for building the Zink Block on Connecticut Street and Public School 24 near Martin Luther King Park. These two buildings represent Swan's most impressive extant contributions to the architecture of Buffalo. The Zink Block is a beautiful Renaissance Revival commercial building composed of sandstone and brick and highlighted by a series of arched windows that give the building a really unique look. Public School 24 is a bit less showy than the Zink Block, however certain features are carried over from the Zink Block such as the heavy sandstone windowsills and projecting brick columns that divide the window bays. Like the Zink Block, Public School 24 was executed in the Renaissance  Revival Style. The application of this architectural style to an educational building makes School 24 one of the more interesting historic school buildings in Buffalo.

While the Zink Block and Public School 24 remain two of Swan's most attractive extant buildings his finest building was likely the United Presbyterian Church at the corner of Richmond and Summer Streets. Built in 1889 the beautiful church has sadly been demolished. The lot has since been repurposed as a senior citizen home.

Taken from

Charles Day Swan was most active in the 1880s and 1890s and saw is career taper off after 1900. In 1911 Swan moved to Cambridge Massachusetts with his family where he died in 1914 at the age of fifty-nine.


Monday, March 20, 2017

The Case for a Museum Dedicated to Francis Folsom

A couple weeks ago one of my friends from Washington D.C. came up to visit and tour Buffalo. On the last day of his visit we were on our way to Founding Fathers when we passed the house where First Lady Francis Folsom grew up. Like me, he's a history buff so we stopped to read the plaque outside the house at which point he remarked that cities like Buffalo needed more museums, little educational centers capable of highlighting the connections our towns and cities have to the broad tapestry of American history. I gave his words some thought as we walked around the rest of Allentown and my mind was continually drawn back to Francis Folsom who I see as one of our more interesting and significant First Ladies our country has ever had. In the annals of American presidential history she is wholly unique. She is the youngest woman to become First Lady doing so at 21(For comparison Jackie Kennedy was 31 and Michelle Obama 45 when they became First Lady). She is also the only woman to be married in the White House, as well as the only woman to give birth while First Lady. However, all these facts, while interesting, amount to little more than trivia. Francis Folsom's significance lies in her portrayal through the newspapers. She was a sensational figure whose actions were heavily scrutinized and whose image was monetized by fashion magazines and hundreds of other strange outlets such as playing cards and smoking pipes. In many ways Francis Folsom was the first celebrity First Lady, a woman whose actions carried intrigue and whose persona captivated much of America.

Francis Folsom was born on July 24th 1864 to Oscar and Emma Folsom. Oscar Folsom was a lawyer partnered with New Jersey born Grover Cleveland. Oscar Folsom was also a wild man who enjoyed racing his carriage, a hobby that cost him his life in 1873 when he crashed his carriage just before Francis's 11th birthday. Despite the loss of her father, Francis Folsom was well cared for by her mother's family and by Grover Cleveland who acted as a guardian for the young woman. In 1882 Cleveland helped Francis attend Wells College one of the first colleges for women in New York State. At Wells she took courses in an eclectic mix of the humanities and corresponded with Cleveland who was climbing the political ladder, moving from Mayor of Buffalo to Governor of New York with an eye on the presidency. In the 1884 election Grover Cleveland narrowly defeated James G. Blaine and by spring of 1885, the same year she graduated from Wells College, Cleveland asked Francis Folsom to marry him.

Cleveland was a private man who didn't want his young bride to be hounded by the newspapers and took precautions in order to keep the press away from Francis as she toured Europe and prepared for married life. The intrigue surrounding Cleveland and his bachelorhood was fodder for the tabloids and many suspected he intended to marry Francis's mother Emma. Thus, when it was revealed that Cleveland would marry Francis, a woman twenty years his junior the press went into a frenzy and she became an instant celebrity. This was only exacerbated by the private nature of the Cleveland-Folsom wedding which featured the couple's immediate family, a few friends, and members of Cleveland's cabinet to whom he hand wrote the invitations. The wedding was so anticipated that when it was announced that Francis and Grover Cleveland were officially wed the entire city of Washington D.C. erupted in a cacophony of church bells, ship horns, and cheers as people celebrated the marriage.

Because of her age, attractiveness, and improvements to camera technology, Francis Folsom became the most visibly recognizable First Lady ever. Women copied her style, and as a young woman she broke significantly from past styles of dress, exposing her shoulders and arms in photographs. With so many women paying attention to Francis Folsom her image became an incredible marketing tool and advertisers used her image to sell sewing machines, medicines, and eventually her husband attempt at reelection in 1888 a move that sparked the Republican party to use Caroline Harrison's image in their advertisements.

Taken from the National First Ladies Library

Poster Featuring President Cleveland and Francis Folsom prior to the Election of 1888 which Cleveland lost. Taken from the Washington Post.

Though Grover Cleveland lost the election of 1888 he and Francis Folsom were back in the White House following the 1892 presidential election. By this point Francis Folsom had given birth to two of the family's children and a third would be born in the White House making the children instant celebrities like their mother. Many speculate that the Baby Ruth candy bar was named after Folsom's first daughter Ruth. 

While Francis Folsom did not push the boundaries of a First Lady's role in society in the way we associate with modern First Ladies like Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, or Michelle Obama, her presence in the public eye and the obsessive coverage of her actions can be seen as a preview to the modern life of our First Ladies. Her use in the 1888 presidential election also marked a major shift in political gamesmanship as the wives of presidential candidates had never been scrutinized before. She was instrumental to transforming Grover Cleveland's image from that of a coarse Buffalo politician to that of a loving and gentle father.  

Outside of her role as First Lady, Francis Folsom was a strong proponent of women's education, though she was an anti-suffragette. She became a trustee of her alma mater Wells College and worked to give female artists, particularly female musicians opportunities that had historically been denied to them. Later in her life Francis Folsom became the president of the Needleworking Guild and became active in university life at Princeton. She died in October 1947, 51 years after first entering the White House as a young woman. 

Whenever I walk by the Francis Folsom House I'm struck by how interesting yet overlooked the life of Francis Folsom is today. Folsom broke down so many barrier and changed so much about the role of First Lady that I feel like she deserves a museum. Her life in the White House offers a great deal of insight into the culture of journalism and celebrity that existed in the 1880s, as well as the evolution of the role of First Lady. As one of our most unique First Ladies Francis Folsom is a great treasure to Buffalo and deserves greater recognition from the city. Hopefully one day we can walk by her childhood home and take a tour of her life, legacy, and the artifacts and objects produced using her image. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Great Blizzards of Years Past

Remember how it was 65 degrees in February? That was nice wasn't it? I wore shorts and ate dinner on the porch while the cats across the street rolled around in the grass. Now.... not so much. 

Yes another storm has trapped us in Buffalo, a blast of northern ice to remind us winter is over when it decides it is over. How does this storm stack up to past storms? Clearly its not even close to Snowvember or the Blizzard of 77, events I thankfully missed. What about the other big storms the city has faced? How does Winter Storm Stella compare to storms of the more distant past?

The first major storm I found was the White Hurricane of 1913. Occurring between November 7th and November 11th 1913, this horrific storm took 250 lives and sank 12 ships on the Great Lakes. The storm was not a traditional snow storm and as the name implies it was a horrible mix of a blizzard and hurricane that spawned snow squalls, winds that gusted at over 80mph, and icy cold spray that made many ships founder. Waves 35 feet high broke across the Buffalo Harbor as Lake Erie attempted to swallow downtown. Though the White Hurricane caused significant damage to Buffalo, the brunt of the storm's violence was suffered by other Great Lakes cities like Chicago and Cleveland. Many of the foundered lake vessels washed up on the shores near these cities and the removal of bodies and wrecked ships was a difficult process.

The White Hurricane was a freakish and violent weather event and led to a tragic loss of life. Without a doubt it was one of the worst disasters to befall the Great Lakes region in the last 200 years. While no subsequent storms matched its destruction, there have been a number of major snowstorms in Buffalo that occurred after the White Hurricane.
Aftermath of the White Hurricane in Cleveland. Image from
The next major storm I discovered was the St. Patrick's Day storm of 1936 which dumped 19 inches of snow on Buffalo in a day and ruined whatever drinking plans people had made. A year later, just before Christmas, another big storm buried North Buffalo and Kenmore. The Christmas storm caused a minor fracas as lame duck city officials dragged their feet during the clean up. North Buffalo was still buried under several feet of snow by the time Kenmore had been totally dug out. Other storms followed in the 1940s and 1950s and memorable blizzards such as the Storm of 58 and the White January of 41 dumped foot after foot on Buffalo.
Kenmore after the streets had been dug out. Taken from

Image of the Street during the Blizzard of 1958, another giant storm. Taken from

So after looking at just a couple storms from Buffalo's past its pretty clear Winter Storm Stella doesn't stack up. This is a good thing though! Given the choice between a comfortable afternoon watching the snow float down and spending the day shoveling a tunnel out to Main Street I'll take the first option. So for the rest of you, enjoy the storm, and watch the sun set on this blustery and snowy day. Also enjoy this link! Its smooth jazz, a dog, and people wandering around Buffalo after a snowstorm circa 1945.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The original plan for the Central Terminal

Last time we took a short and somewhat somber look at the history of Buffalo's lost downtown terminals. Today we're continuing to look at railroads. However, instead of focusing on loss we'll be focusing on things that never came to be. Specifically we'll be looking at the original plan for the Central Terminal and how that building differed from the beautiful building that was built between 1926 and 1929.

By 1907 Buffalo was one of the largest metropolises in America and a major element of the city's success was its dense network of railroads. Freight and passengers rushed throughout the city and many of the major eastern railroads had tracks and stations in Buffalo. Much of the traffic in Buffalo centered around the East Side. Massive train yards, repair shops, depots, and passenger stations dotted the landscape and thousands of people found work in the Buffalo Stockyards. This long demolished complex of pens, slaughterhouses, and meatpacking plants was one of the largest slaughtering points in America and millions of farm animals were shipped by rail to Buffalo each year. With so much activity on the East Side people began to clamor for a grand union station, similar to what was being built in New York City around the same time. Union stations combined the freight and passenger traffic of multiple railroads in one central location cutting down on rail congestion, and smog. In 1907 the New York Central Railroad unveiled their planned station, a $12,000,000 giant that was designed by the firm of Reed & Stern, the architects who'd designed New York City's Grand Central Station. The station was to be built at the junction of Fillmore Avenue and Curtis Street and connected to the city with park approaches and street cars. The proposed station would have alleviated the congestion and freight delays that were plaguing the East Side and the New York Central Railroad proposed consolidating all of its tracks, shops, and car yards within the proposed station.

The union station was intensely debated by the city's aldermen with many of the East Side aldermen heavily in favor of the station, while the aldermen in other parts of the city were concerned the proposed station would undermine the business interests of their neighborhood. Some aldermen attempted to nudge the railroad into building the union station closer to downtown, either at Exchange Street or Terrace Street, however both the East Side aldermen and railroad representatives countered, arguing that downtown was already too congested and lacked the available land necessary to build a massive station.

Ultimately, despite the support of East Side aldermen, the proposed union station was never built and it would be another twenty years before work on the Central Terminal began. As of now I am unaware why the original station was never built. Perhaps resistance came from the aldermen or maybe the railroad realized its proposed site wouldn't work. Regardless, I love this drawing of the proposed terminal and thought I should share it.

If you know why the original union station was never built feel free to message us on Facebook!

Image taken from the Buffalo Courier June 16, 1907.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Trains in Buffalo

Trains and the freight they carried once crisscrossed Buffalo like blood vessels circulating from the heart. In the early 1900s Buffalo had more railroad tracks than anywhere else in America with the exception of Chicago and the city was an important stopping point for major railroads like the New York Central. Most people living in Buffalo are aware of this history as it is embodied in the Buffalo Central Terminal however Buffalo had dozens of other major terminals and freight stations throughout the city. In fact, many of the city's passenger and freight terminals were located near the downtown waterfront, well away from the Central Terminal. Since it has been far too long since the last Preservation Studios blog post lets take a trip through some of Buffalo's lost train architecture.

Taken from
The majority of Buffalo's train stations and railroad tracks were located downtown in a rough wedge between Front Park and KeyBank Arena with Exchange Street serving as the major axis of downtown railroad traffic. The stations built along Exchange Street and around downtown Buffalo started out as simple and utilitarian structures, however as railroad companies grew more powerful they began to invest in more expensive and ornate train stations. These stations have unfortunately been lost as have most of Buffalo's railroads. Currently the downtown streetscape that was once filled with railroads and stations is now full of big entertainment venues like KeyBank Arena and the HARBORCENTER. These venues, along with the innumerable pay to park lots that surround them, have completely transformed both the look and utility of downtown Buffalo. Formerly a buzzing center of railroad activity, the area is now a major entertainment venue with more focus on music and Stanley Cups (Next year we've got it) than timetables and train schedules.

It is lamentable what happened to the beautiful stations that once graced downtown Buffalo, but unfortunately their demise was largely inevitable. Once the highway system was developed and Americans were connected to each other by asphalt and automobiles rather than railroads the major rail companies were sunk. Freight, formerly hauled in boxcars was handled by long haul truckers and the railroad companies began to desperately consolidate, trying to stay afloat. The giant terminals of the early 19th century were no longer sustainable as the railroads lacked the customer base to pay for the upkeep of such large buildings. Sadly, the size and grandeur of these buildings, features that would make them highly sought by real estate developers today, made them liabilities in the 1960s and 1970s. With preservation still largely in its infancy there was nobody to stand up for these old terminals. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century Buffalo's terminals were demolished leaving buildings like the Central Terminal as sad reminders of the gorgeous terminals once dominated the city.

The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Terminal at South Park and Michigan (Demolished) from Forgotten

The Lehigh Valley Railroad Passenger Terminal on Main Street (Demolished) from

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Buffalo Germans

Buffalo sports teams have a maligned past. The Bills reached four straight Super Bowls and lost each time, while the Sabres have been victimized by events like Brett Hull's "Game winning Goal." The city's only bright spot seems to be the Bandits who are four time champions in the NLL. For eight years the city had its own basketball team, the Buffalo Braves who are now the Los Angeles Clippers, another franchise without a title.

Despite the city's bleak track record, it has been the home of great champions besides the Bandits. In 1895 a YMCA on the East Side formed a basketball team of the neighborhood's most talented players. This team would have a run in the Amateur Athletics Association, a precursor to the NBA, where they would win 111 games in a row, a streak that lasted from 1908-1910 and the teams final record before disbanding in 1925 was 792-86. In 1961 the entire team was inducted in the the Basketball Hall of Fame and is one of ten teams to have been inducted as a unit. Some of the other teams inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame include the Harlem Globetrotters, 1960 Mens Olympic Basketball Team and the 1992 Mens Olympic Basketball Team. In addition to their accolades in league play, the Buffalo Germans won two major tournaments, the second of which brought a world championship to Buffalo.

Image from
The first tournament won by the Buffalo Germans was held as part of the Pan-American Exposition, six years after the team's inception. At least seven teams from across the Northeast competed at the event and the Buffalo Germans emerged victorious after going undefeated in the tournament. In 1904 the Buffalo Germans again took part in a major tournament, this time in St. Louis Missouri as part of the 1904 Olympics. The basketball tournament in these Olympic games was held from July 11-12 and featured six teams. They were The Buffalo Germans, The Westside and Central YMCA of Chicago, Turner's Tigers from San Francisco, The Missouri Athletic Club, The Central YMCA of St. Louis, and The Xavier Athletic Club of New York. Though only six teams competed, the tournament was doubtlessly a grueling affair. Using a round robin format each team played five games over two days. Again the Buffalo Germans went undefeated and following their victory in the tournament they proclaimed themselves World Champions, a title they doubtlessly deserved.
The Buffalo Germans with their trophies Image taken from Wikipedia.