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Fargo Estate Neighborhood Gardens

I’m very impressed with the ongoing renaissance that is taking place in the Fargo Estate Neighborhood. Just today I got to talking to a couple of neighbors, Pat Watson and Gail Graham, who were busy inspecting the lush five stage Community Garden at the corner of Jersey and Fargo (check out the gigantic house located next door). Pat told me that the 10-year old perennial garden sits on the site of a former drug infested apartment building.

Now the garden has become the anchor of the neighborhood, bringing people together for events ranging from Weenie Wednesdays to weddings. The garden acts as a refuge for plants scavenged from unwanted homes in other parts of the city. It also plays the part of a nursery for other community gardens on the West Side. Most importantly, this corner has acted as a catalyst for the kindling of relationships within the community.

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A few houses down from this corner sits Serenity Garden, a Grassroots Garden two years in the making. This plot of land was a neighborhood dumping ground before that. Now residents on the street come to tend the fertile land – and there’s even a back section that features a faux dry riverbed. Gail explained why perennials are the flowers of choice saying that even though they may be more colorful, annuals must be replanted each year thus creating too much work for caretakers. The perennials come and go in stages from spring to fall, creating ever-changing shows for visitors.

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From the Serenity Garden we walked across the street where Pat and Gail introduced me to Cathy, a sweet women who prides herself in maintaining an Italian garden situated around fig trees. Gail pointed out the heavily tread upon ring circling the figs. “You can see where she travels throughout her garden,” he said. “The low cut leaves are easy for her to maneuver under… we would have a much harder time in there.”

It suddenly occurred to me that these same people taking care of the community gardens were also the ones taking care of their own backyards. You could tell that Cathy was pleased as punch to have visitors in her garden… and she was also pleased that her street was finally on the map for all the right reasons. In this neighborhood, the Garden Walk takes place everyday. The community gardens have done more for these streets than anyone can possibly imagine. Pat told me that before the gardens were planted she didn’t meet many people and felt strangely out of place. Now the plants and flowers have become symbols of a neighborhood on the rebound. The gardens have given the residents a reason to walk the historic district, once home to the lavish Fargo Mansion. 

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Apparently there are now 80 Grassroots Gardens in the city. If you are not familiar with the organization, check out their website. Grassroots Gardens acts as a road map for neighborhoods in need of community gardens. Stay tuned for more BRO posts on how to cultivate a relationship with the group. The organization has become an indispensable resource for struggling neighborhoods looking to attract the investment of homeowners and caring renters. Community gardens have been known to minimize the presence of graffiti and tagging, while keeping crime down as well. Gail warned me that the most blatant crimes in the neighborhood involve green thumb criminals. He has been known to sit on his porch for hours at a time after new plantings just to make sure that nothing gets picked prematurely. “Now that we’re watching our gardens,” he laughed. “We’re also watching the crime go down.”

While you’re walking around taking in all of the lush greenery, be sure to bring your camera. The architecture found on the surrounding streets is jaw dropping. As a matter of fact, on the way home I was flagged down by a Brooklynite couple who had recently purchased on Fargo. They told me that their backyard came with a couple of surprises – peach and pear trees. They also joked that they were having a hard time telling their neighbor to stop mowing their front lawn. “It’s the only excercise I get these days,” Michael said. “How do you tell your neighbor to stop being so nice? So I told her that if she must cut it, to please raise the blade on the mower.” Welcome to Buffalo.

Now that the gardens have been planted, people are out painting their houses and sprucing up their properties. I spoke to one neighbor who told me that the houses that do come up for sale are going like crazy. Stay tuned for more from the Fargo Estate Neighborhood as there are exciting stories around every corner. Also stick around for more on Giles and his efforts to bring a cozy corner shop to the street (see story). And don’t forget about Prospero!

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Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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