In the summer of 2018, while I was living in Amherst, I discovered something wonderful in East Buffalo – The Wonder Bread Factory. Actually, I discovered two great places this summer; the other one is in the background of the image above and is the subject matter of a couple other posts on this website.
I stopped in the office of Dr. Hess in Hayes Hall for a quick chat and he handed me a book of still images from a film that someone affiliated with UB had made; in that book was a photograph, taken with a drone, over the belt line (railroad tracks), facing south, looking toward the Wonder Bread Factory and the Milkbone factory. After that moment, I was hooked and knew that I had to see the building in person.
I visited the building, both inside and out, many times over the course of the summer, and even became a bit obsessed with learning about the history of the Ward Baking company, Wonder Bread, and East Buffalo in general. I was so fascinated, that I was convinced I would use the abandoned factory building as the site of my thesis project this year so I could learn more and possibly impact the revitalization of the Genesee-Moselle neighborhood or maybe even East Buffalo. Then I didn’t.
The choice between studying the Wonder Bread factory in Buffalo and the Phoenix Center in Pontiac was the hardest choice of my academic career. I was set on the factory until I was reminded how rare an opportunity it is to have a congressional aid (Community Outreach Coordinator) be on a thesis advisory committee.
One of the biggest challenges with studying the Wonder Bread factory as a thesis project was always finding a professional adviser who had potential influence over the building after my project was done. I never found that person, but I did have someone who lived in Pontiac his whole life and had the political influence or connections to help make my idea public, if I researched the Phoenix Center. My reason for pursuing the Wonder Bread factory wasn’t that strong; I liked the building, it used to employ many people but is now vacant, and the neighborhood is poor.
I still love the Wonder Bread factory in Buffalo and I still love the city of Buffalo, but I have made my decision, so the factory will have to wait a little longer before it gets the attention that it deserves. Buffalo Rising actually gave the building some attention with an article covering the local landmark status application for the building (read here: Landmarking: Wonder Bread Factory)
I am confident that this building has new glory days ahead of it, not as luxury condos like many other former industrial buildings and even some other former Ward’s Bread bakeries have become, but as something that fits the needs and culture of the community that surrounds it.