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The Belt Line: Hiding in Plain Sight

Can you imagine what this city would be like if we had an operating rail system surrounding it and connecting disparate locales? Although we don’t have an operational train system to hop on, we do have the tracks upon which to build, some of which are functional. The dream of resurrecting a rail loop that would be accessible to the public is not a dream. It’s actually quite doable. In fact, the rail line is called The Belt Line (the New York Central Belt Line) and there are people pushing for it to be put to use in order to help the population to get around the city (literally).

On Friday, January 1, 2016, from 5:30pm – 10:00pm, a photography show will be held at Sugar City – 1239 Niagara Street. The show will revolve around the lands and the communities that fall along The Belt Line tracks. What would it take to reawaken this sleeping beauty? We can see just how viable The Belt Line is, when we examine the districts that it connects. By bringing back The Belt Line, Buffalo would experience a major score in transportation alternatives that we are desperately lacking at this moment.

The photography show is merely intended as artistic statements from the photographers that are familiar properties that encompass The Belt Line. Hopefully the photos will spur conversations around this treasure that is Hiding in Plain Sight.

Those interested in attending the show can visit this Facebook event page. A detailed description of the event is as follows:

It is one of the most conspicuous, least known features of Buffalo. Each day, trains go by along it and people drive underneath and over it. It is the New York Central Belt Line, the “third strand” in Buffalo’s DNA, as important to the city’s physical and economic geography as Ellicott’s radial and grid plan and Olmsted’s park and parkway system; as consequential to the city’s development as the Erie Canal and Interstate Highway System.

The Belt Line was opened in 1883, with segments dating back to 1836. The rail line is 15 miles long, forming a continuous loop through Buffalo’s downtown as well as the prominent industrial loft clusters that it helped to create. It was established as both a freight and commuter rail route, with 19 commuter stations that connected neighborhoods such as the Hydraulics, Broadway/Fillmore, Parkside, North Park, Black Rock, and the West Side.

To the industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th century, the Belt Line was an elite address. To locate a factory on the Belt Line was the equivalent of locating a mansion on Lincoln Parkway, department store on Main Street, or civic building on Niagara Square. The Belt Line was a powerful brand, a place where consequential people made consequential things. Pierce Arrow, Ford, F.N. Burt, Larkin, Curtiss, American Radiator, and others along the Belt Line helped make America.

Commuter service on the Belt Line continued until the end of World War I. While freight service continued, the Belt Line’s influence on the city’s development declined—that is, until recently. Today, the Belt Line’s 12 million square feet of largely vacant or underutilized industrial space is the city’s next frontier for sustainable development. Factory buildings—from the Larkin District to Northland Avenue and here at Upper Rock—are being recycled as mixed-use developments. These former industrial areas are becoming walkable centers again.

This rapidly changing frontier is the subject of this show. Photographers Brendan Bannon, Max Collins, Molly Jarboe, Christina Laing, and David Torke turn their lenses toward and along the Belt Line, revealing a hide-in-plain-sight secret to new eyes. Here, where the past and future collide, some of Buffalo’s most talented chroniclers capture a moment of transition.

A photography exhibit will also be displayed at the event. An Instagram call for entry can be viewed on the Facebook event page. The lead image will be part of the show.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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