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Archive for October 7th, 2022

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Accepting the award

I was awarded the Owen B. Augspurger award from the Buffalo History Museum!  The award was established in 1974 in honor of Mr. Augspurger, who was a former History Museum president.  The award is presented to an individual for outstanding service to the cause of local history.  The award is given out annually at the Museum’s Red Jackets Awards Ceremony, which was held last night.  I am honored to be among the distinguished list of past recipients.

Here are the remarks I gave during the ceremony:

I’m so honored to be receiving this award.  My streets project started because I went to the library to find out how Keppel street got its name.  I know it’s not named after my family, as my dad is an immigrant and all of our Keppel family is still in the Netherlands.  All these years later, and I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of the Keppel street name, but I’ve learned about so many streets along the way.  I was boring my friends telling them the stories I was uncovering, so I started to write the stories to share them on a blog, and Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time was born.  I never really thought it was something that other people would really care about.  But I think my blog works because streets are something that are personal to us all.  Everyone comes from a street – whether it’s the street where dad lived when he first moved to town,  the streets where grandma and grandpa lived, they’re all full of memories.  And so there’s a connection, even if the person the street was named after had little to do with the actual street.  It’s a way to connect with our history in a hyper local way.  When I started, I thought I’d maybe have 12 followers.  And now there’s more than 9,000 of us!

As a professional urban planner, I get to live part time in the future, looking forward to new development projects, looking at how to build a better community for our future.  Because of my work in history, I get to live in the fabulous juxtaposition between the past and the future.  I cannot help but look at projects like the new Ralph Wilson Park they’re building at Lasalle Park and be really excited for what’s coming, but in my mind, I also see the canal slips and heavy industry that 1932 Buffalo decided to turn into a park to celebrate the city’s centennial. I live in the Hotel Lafayette, a grand historic hotel, and sometimes, if I squint my eyes, I can see those who came before walking down the hallways.  I get to live our history every single day, living and working in the heart of downtown which our city grew, radiating out from Niagara Square like spokes on a wagon wheel.

I think Mr. Augspurger and I would have gotten along, both because of our interest in local history and also Mr. Augspurger’s work on downtown development projects like the Main Place Mall and the parking ramps.  One of the things I do for my job is to track parking, so I can tell you that the Augspurger Ramp is about 74% occupied.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along, to Debra for nominating me, to the History Museum, and to everyone who has shared my posts, or come to hear me speak.  My favorite thing is when people share their stories with me, which adds to the rich tapestry of the city that lives in my brain.  I hope to keep learning and keep sharing for a long time to come!

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Owen B. Augspurger Parking Ramp

Those of you who came to my University Express Talks last fall will know that I have been researching urban renewal plans of the 1950s and 60s and how they impacted Downtown and the neighborhoods around it.  The creation of Main Place Mall, which Mr. Augspurger helped make happen, was Buffalo’s first private urban redevelopment plan.  Previous urban redevelopment projects had been to create government owned housing projects.  I know that Main Place Mall gets a bum rap, but it was a successful mall for many decades after opening and holds a special place in the retail history of downtown.  I have fond memories of going to the food court for lunch on school field trips and sneaking off to grab a book at Walden Books while every else ate lunch.  Mr. Augspurger also helped to create the off street parking program for downtown, hence the parking ramp was named for him.  Mr. Augspurger was also involved in helping to save the Ainsley Wilcox mansion and create the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural Site, which long time readers of my blog will know was also the house of Judge Masten!

I really truly appreciate all of you have been along for this journey!  I have some new posts coming soon!   I’m working on rewriting the very first post I ever wrote, now that I have some new research.  Also coming up will be posts about when the corner of Walden and Bailey was “way out in the country”, some info about the Erie County Penitentiary, and a story about a man who had too many handkerchiefs!

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House of Lewis Falley Allen on what is now Niagara Street.

I have also began working on trying to little deeper into some of the people I’m researching.  One of the things I want to do is talk about “the help”.  I think it’s important to remember that these men who “built” Buffalo, they built it with lots of help.  I’ve been working to dig into my research to try to find info about live-in help that lived with some of the families I write about.  I want to try to give a glimpse into what early Buffalo life was like for the influential, and give a name to those who have been forgotten to history.  For example, I have learned that Lewis Falley Allen had a staff of five to run his household.  The staff in 1880 included housekeeper, Elizabeth Ryan, a 50 year old woman from Ireland and her 20 year old daughter Agnes who served as a servant; servants Rosa Bronson, a 16 year old girl, from New York; Emma Hudson, 27 year old woman from Canada; and John Hogan, a 24 year old man from Ireland.  Look forward to more info like this in future posts.

Lastly, I will be giving my last walking tour of the season on Sunday, October 9th at 1pm, Discovering Lower Main Street.  Click here for more about the tour.  The tour ends right next to Southern Tier Brewery if anyone wants to watch the end of the Bills game after the tour.  Hope to see some of you there!

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