Preservation Buffalo Niagara is recognizing outstanding preservation projects and those contributing to preservation efforts at its annual awards ceremony May 30, 11:30 AM in the Statler's Golden Ballroom. Award categories were established to acknowledge distinguished contributions to our community through preservation activity. Recipients will be recognized in several areas including: preservation craft; rehabilitation/adaptive use; stewardship; neighborhood conservation; planning/reconstruction; and preservation journalism. Buffalo Rising will profile this year's winners leading up to the May event.
The Linwood Preservation District is being recognized in the Neighborhood Conservation category.
The architecturally significant Linwood Historic Preservation District has, due to the efforts and private financial investment of new owners since the mid-1990s, witnessed the beginning of a renaissance after decades of decline. This ongoing process has been accelerated by the emergence of Linwood Preservation District & Friends (LPD&F), a grassroots neighborhood association revitalized in 2002 from the remnants of the earlier Linwood-Oxford Association. Its mission is to "preserve, protect, and enhance the Linwood Historic District" in order to appreciate the historic ambience of the neighborhood and to create a sense of community where residents know one another.
Platted in 1850, Linwood (then Miller Street) was one of the first streets to extend the City of Buffalo beyond its northern boundary of North Street. As Linwood developed between 1850 and 1930, it became a treasure trove of grand homes built in the evolving architectural styles of each era by successful industrialists and entrepreneurs, creating a unique, living architectural museum. And elm-shaded Linwood became a grand promenade where residents strolled "to see and be seen."
The declining fortunes of the city from the 1950s through the 1970s, exacerbated by the earlier deprivations of the Great Depression and the austerity of World War II, resulted in a visible decline in Linwood's fortunes and the loss of a number of its mansions. Linwood was, in 1978, designated a local preservation district to protect the historic architectural fabric from further loss. But renaissance was more than a decade away.
New owners have undertaken expensive rehabilitations and restorations of interiors and exteriors- most without the benefit of tax credits- that have returned numerous properties to single-family dwellings from the mid-20th century multi-family units, apartments, and medical offices into which they had been converted.
In tandem with the efforts of individual property owners, the Linwood Preservation District & Friends neighborhood association, in the decade of its existence, has become an active force for improvement of the historic district. One of its first campaigns was to educate residents and the public about the historic nature of Linwood, enhancing appreciation of the district and underscoring the need to protect its historic fabric. The biennial Linwood Tour of Homes has welcomed more than two thousand visitors to the neighborhood over four tours beginning in 2005. Funds raised by the tours, supplemented by occasional grants, have enabled the association to plant more than 250 trees, create four floral gardens in parkway lawns, and subsidize the cost and installation of historic house markers for nearly two dozen property owners. The association has encouraged spirit d'corps by arranging neighborhood social gatherings that include porch parties, children play dates, and annual summer and holiday parties.
The association's monthly general meetings provide a forum for discussion of issues impacting the neighborhood. Between meetings, its website and list-serve keep residents informed of developments and opportunities. Eleven volunteer block captains from the length of Linwood Avenue maintain communication with residents, monitor code violations and other problems, provide clean-up resources, and fulfill other self-assigned responsibilities for the neighborhood.
The LPD&F has accumulated a strong record of advocacy on behalf of the district and built relationships with city officials, the police department, housing court, and neighboring institutions and businesses. A police liaison attends our district police captain's monthly meeting; one or more members attend the Buffalo Preservation Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Housing Court sessions whenever a Linwood or an immediate- neighboring property is involved; and a Linwood liaison has been appointed to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus advisory panel.
Through its advocacy, the association has influenced changes to councilmanic redistricting and improvements in the development or expansion plans of several district institutions including the Jewish Community Center, the Elizabeth Olmsted and Ira Ross Eye centers, Delta Sonic, Canisius High School, and Housing Opportunities Made Equal. The result has been less asphalt pavement, the loss of fewer trees, less light pollution, the rerouting of traffic, landscape improvements, and other changes to improve the neighborhood's quality of life. It has been acknowledged for contributions to plans for the Kaleida Gates Circle complex and the Buffalo Green Code, all with the aim of preserving the historic nature of the neighborhood.
One of the association's most important and visible accomplishments has been the completion in 2011 of the $600,000, City-funded Linwood Avenue/North Street reconfiguration first proposed to the City by the LPD&F in 2005. Five years of advocacy and prodding resulted in an intersection that improved pedestrian and auto safety. In addition, elimination of the sweeping "S" curve from Franklin to Linwood in favor of the "teeing" of both streets at North, has returned the intersection to its historic configuration. Other long-term goals include creation of a distinctive gateway to Linwood Avenue, development of a community garden, and installation of public art to enhance the streetscape.
The ongoing activities of the Linwood Preservation District & Friends, supported by district residents, have not only preserved this historic district, but improved in aesthetically. Perhaps even more importantly, working relationships and social interaction have been fostered among neighbors that help to enhance their quality of life. Friendships have blossomed, including among the children who are now part of the neighborhood family. The result is a revitalized "real neighborhood" in our "City of Good Neighbors," in which neighbors work and play together, and care about one another and their environment.