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Bringing Back Utilitarian Beauty

When Buffalonian4Life (that’s his real name, but he also goes by The Rake), posted on a 700-block construction watch back in June, people got a good taste as to what The City can do to beautify our streetscapes (the right way). There appeared to be more room for trees to grow within street islands, there were bike lanes, and more mature trees were added (in the islands) instead of the saplings that never make it through a winter. Finally a street looked like it should… or at least it was a great start.

After that post was published, Buffalo Place added to the streetscape momentum in the form of a historic-looking clock at the corner of Main Street and Goodell. The clock looks great at that highly visible spot and adds a different perspective to that block – from what I understand, it replaced a clock that once stood in the same place). It’s effective too, because it makes people stop to look up at the architecture around them. Not long ago, this corner was a real mess. Unfortunately an historic building was recently lost nearby, and many of the mature trees were cut down in the wake of progress, but as the 700-block of Main Street continues to recover from its losses, there are some thoughtful additions being added to create a walkable commercial district.

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Other objects-of-interest on the 700-block are the shiny gold Buffalo medallions that have been placed in front of the businesses. Like Elmwood Avenue’s stained glass numbered address markers, the medallions create a sense of pride for the district and are helpful to passersby who may be looking for a specific destination. Some people may think that these additions are insignificant (I remember the discussions from the Elmwood days), whereas others may look at the functional ornamentation and think, “This is a district that cares about the businesses and the people who frequent them.”

When Buffalo was experiencing a heyday, many of the utilitarian objects around the city were designed with ornate features. Lamp standards, sidewalk stamps… even manhole covers. It might have cost more than simply adding non-descript objects, though the end result was something that people, to this day, still revere (mostly through photos of the era).

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