I explored various parts of Buffalo from 8am to 4pm – now I’m exhausted, sun burnt, thirsty, and looking forward to my next adventure. Today’s adventure began at the New York Central Terminal on the south side of Buffalo in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. The massive Art Deco structure was completed in the late 20s, just before the Great Depression, was used through the end of World War II, and declined after that into its current state of mostly abandoned, but partially restored (or at least enough to allow people to safely occupy the main vaulted terminal for special events). Due to security measures and a desire not to be arrested, I did not enter the main Station building or 17 story office tower that accompanies it, however; I was able to explore the former train platforms. That area was certainly dilapidated and becoming overgrown with vegetation (including a modest tree!). I also saw some wild life taking advantage of the ruins including a rabbit and a deer – it was almost surreal to see a deer standing on the platform among tall grass as if it was waiting for the train that was about to come by.
After leaving the train station, I decided to wander around the neighborhood which lives in the shadow of this brick behemoth. Broadway-Fillmore is a generally low income neighborhood with houses that aren’t well kept, at least half a dozen churches, garbage and broken glass littered around the streets, cracked and overgrown sidewalks, and empty lots that look like hay fields. The occasional business among houses suggested that the zoning was mostly mixed between residential and light commercial except for Broadway St, Sycamore St, and part of Fillmore St. This surprised me, and gave me hope for opportunity in this area which is otherwise cut of from the rest of Buffalo by the Kensington Expressway (33). Toward the end of my walk I was getting hot and tired, due to the lack of trees to shade the street and parks with benches to rest on, but stumbled across something fascinating – the Common Roots Urban Garden – a community effort to grow food in an empty lot on the corner of Peckham St and Coit St. I was amazed and happy to see a community putting their efforts toward food, the most fundamental human need (tied with water of course).
I was ready to be done yet (and could see/feel the sun burn coming on apparently), so my next stops were Red Jacket Park and Mutual Riverfront Park, both on the Buffalo river near “Silo City” – buffalos collection of Grain elevators and silos. I saw plenty of people kayaking in an environment that must be like no other in the world; where else can you paddle with 80 foot walls of concrete cylinders rising up out of the water next to you? Awesome.
Just when I was planning to go home, I made an unexpected delay on the 290 when I missed my exit and just kept driving to see where I ended up. The answer is Tonawanda. As soon as I saw the canal, I immediately found a parking space, grabbed the nearest bench in the shade and watched boats go by for probably 20 minutes when I decided it was time for ice cream. Google maps told me that “Canalside Creamery” was only a 10 minute away, so I went for it, but disappointed when I couldn’t find it. If you’ve ever walked on Webster St in Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, you know it’s that big, so I thought I was just blind, but sure enough, a pet grooming and care store replaced the ice cream. Feeling a little defeated, but still determined to get ice cream, I walked to the “Flavor Factory” and finally got my two scoops of strawberry in a waffle cone which I enjoyed in the shade of a pavilion as I watched people in boats cruise by and pedestrians walk along the water – it was just a perfect summer day activity, so why is there only only one place to get ice cream in town? (If you’re reading this, have a substantial sum of money laying around, and know a contractor that get work done quickly, open an ice cream stand along the canal in Tonawanda!)
Today was a lot of fun, but it made me think that I wished I had a partner/companion to things like this with. Not to mention that Kelly and Dad weren’t happy that I was exploring an abandoned building alone – I had all the safety precautions: boots, pants, long sleeves, gloves, a flashlight and safety glasses in my backpack – they should just be happy I remembered to text Kelly where I was in case something bad happened. To be honest, I was a little sketched out a couple times and really wish I had someone with me who could have told me, “That the crack in the concrete staircase is way too big” before I got halfway up and realized it was a bad idea (then safely made it back to the ground), or could have speculated what the series of candles going up another staircase were for, or who could have kept an eye out for other people, or who could simply have shared the joy of exploration with me.