What’s it Like in the City?

Main Street, Niagara Falls, that is….

I have lived here for twenty-five years. I really don’t work here even though I have a home business. All my business is outside the City. I have tried to give back to this community with various boards on which I had a seat and also with architectural studies on urban planning I did through the University.

Here is a view of Main Street that has historical heritage or visual interest.

The mayor lives on my street and has commissioned a lot of work to repair and clean City Hall. It looks so much better. City Hall is a Neo Classical Revival structure by local architects, Norton Kirkpatrick and Will A. Cannon, built in 1924. It is a local landmark and represented a period of progress and optimism.

The post office sits on a prominent corner in the City. It is a Beau Arts structure built in 1904 by James Knox Taylor and James A. Wetmore.

Beautiful old churches.

A realty office.

Two law offices.

Psychiatric and psychology offices.

The Police Station which is a new building.

The Library by famous architect, Paul Rudolf.

The Armory by architect Isaac G. Perry. Now…

and then.

Not bad, huh…

So let’s keep walking…

Now we start looking a little worse for wear. I am not leaving Main Street.

Not so nice…

Not a plumb sign…

Used to be a highly renowned, classy restaurant when I first moved here…

And this is where I do not walk farther. In fact I have not walked here in years since all the stores closed. Many are boarded up. The store below was a very upper class department store. They sold many fine brands. I really miss them.

Back to my area and the corner where an old building, an auto dealership originally, was burned down… my street can be seen behind the empty lot.

Across the street from my street on Main Street. These businesses still are in operation and are very well kept. I have been a customer of three of the four shown.

Looking down my street.

What is your town or city like? I will be going to the town I am working on the garden festival soon to show you their town. Their main street is called Center Street.

Update: I am entering this post in A Tidewater Gardener’s contest Winter Walk Off Challenge. Thank you Les for having my post be part of your contest.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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39 Responses to What’s it Like in the City?

  1. Christine says:

    Oh I love this post and I love the way you’ve shown us your town. My favourite shot is the very last photo looking at your street and I love the statue (the second photo). What a beautiful statue it is! Will have to do a similar thing soon to show you my suburb and City.

  2. debsgarden says:

    Thank you for the tour of the city of Niagara Falls! There are some beautiful old buildings. It is sad to see empty shops and buildings in disrepair in areas that were once beautiful. It is a sign of our times. The street you live on is very charming, even with all the snow! I live in Helena, a small city that was established well over 100 years ago. It went through years of decline and just hanging on, then in the past thirty years the population has exploded. Many new housing developments have been built and Old Town has been renovated. Recently helena was listed by Money magazine in the top 100 places to live in America among cities its size. It is a safe and family friendly community.

    • We do have wonderful architecture here in Western New York. Many famous architects designed buildings here. It was great place to use as a laboratory in architecture school, both the good and the bad.

  3. Les says:

    Thank you for the tour. My favorite is the armory, but it’s a shame about that turret. We had a handsome armory in the same style here in Norfolk. It was bulldozed in the 60’s to make way for an ugly parking garage/JC Penny, which was subsequently bulldozed for a mall. Norfolk has the dubious distinction of being the very first US city to receive an Urban Renewal Grant and that kept the city busy for decades clearing out the old architecture in an effort to change its image from a place for sailors to get a drink, see a burlesque show or have a tattoo. Unfortunately many gems were lost.

    • The armory is a wonderful old structure still standing. So many adaptive reuse options have been proposed. I would love to see it converted into a use celebrating the area’s history and past. Like an interpretive center for instance. Or to even house a history museum. Both would generate tax dollars and income if done with that in mind, plus be a learning center for visitors with children. I bet the University used this building in a design class or urban planning class once. I should check that out.

  4. wiseacre says:

    The not so nice photos reminded me of my childhood – only nicer. I grew up on the north side of Buffalo a couple blocks away from the Chevy plant. Houses were a driveway width apart and vacant lots a block deep separated the residential and industrial areas. I still hear the foundry’s ‘thumping’ in my head when something brings me back to those times.

    Now I don’t have a neighbor in sight.

  5. Holley says:

    What a great post! Loved the tour, and your street looks so inviting.

  6. Donna says:

    A bit bigger Syracuse, the architecture is superb with incredible old buildings but many of the same sore sights….although there is now an artists community reviving the near west side which was all boarded up and not a good place to go…

  7. Masha says:

    I enjoyed this post a lot. Most of the travel I have been doing recently has been vicarious and how great to have an opportunity to see another place! I loved the Armory, before and after, a very imposing and unusual building, and even the worse for wear part of Main Street looked attractive to me (maybe it’s your skilled photography). Your wide-angle shots are beautifully done.
    Funny that I just did a post on my neighborhood on my blog too.

  8. fer says:

    Your city is very beautiful! it would be great to be able to visit it someday

  9. Michelle says:

    You passed my building, The Kellick Building, newly rehabbed. You should stop in. Have fun in Lewiston. Main Street Business and Professional Association Board member. We believe in Main Street, ALL of it.

    • Hello Michelle. I too believe in a better Niagara and Main Street. When I moved here in 1984 from a town in Pennsylvania, so much more existed on Main Street. I wore the rose colored glasses proudly because how could this City not grow and prosper? In fact, I have been promoting Niagara Falls Parks here on my blog since I started. I want people to visit. I want them to see the beauty and not just flock to Canada. I think our side has more to offer, at least from a natural perspective.

      But my profession gave me the knowledge and understanding to look for solutions and also look at the city itself more objectively. I have never felt like any committee on which I sat that I could make a contribution here in the Falls. I will not get into the reasons why I believe this here.

      I have found it much easier to use my skills in Buffalo and elsewhere. Yes, it is because I worked for an architectural firm there and had many connections through the firm and the University. The administration (just touched on in my previous post, comments section) had vision along with the huge issues facing them and were willing to address and change them. They too have a very long road ahead, but actually getting so much community involvement was a great start. It was a mechanism to learn what the people wanted and have the people offer suggestions how to address the topics proposed. So much better than having the ‘experts’ always talking and not doing. Or just deciding for them. Someday I will post about these Town Hall meetings in Buffalo. It was a great experience and I learned a lot.

      I do realize that this administration here is having Town meetings too. That is a good direction. The mayor nights also is a good idea. I don’t ever remember a mayor doing this before our current mayor.

      But back to the state of affairs on Main Street. Just look at the end of my block to the South. Two buildings gone from fire, one probably will be shortly for safety and code issues and we only went one block away. And is the building that had the radio station still open, I never see activity? I used to walk the whole City, but no more. I believe all four structures above were occupied when I moved here. We have so many missing teeth in this city, and I do not see this being addressed fast enough. The city is much faster to demo. This was an issue on the Historic Preservation Commission, with us asking to have something in place before removing these old homes. Even just an idea of something that could be instituted was better than nothing.

      I do admire all the work for this community that you and your organizations are doing and hope you have much luck instituting change. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, like the new police station in an area of town so in need of development. I am glad there are individuals willing to take on this very important assignment.

      I thank you for stopping in on my blog, and if you see somewhere that you think I could help, let me know. I know the new historical garden walk seems like it would have been a great fit, but I am not a member of the Main Street Business Association.

      One thing about me so different from many others, I do not want or seek any recognition or self gain in any way. No political aspirations, no need to have my name out there being heralded in print. I join a cause because I truly care and hope that I can make a positive difference in some way working as a member of a like-minded team. Got any organizations like that available?

  10. p3chandan says:

    Im sure its a lovely city to live. Great photos, interesting buildings to look at. Thank you for sharing with us Donna.

  11. Laurrie says:

    This was really interesting… you show the beauty of an old northeastern town and the missing teeth in it too. Your passion and commitment to wanting a more vibrant place is compelling. If any town should prosper Niagara Falls should, but it takes such effort.

    My own town in Connecticut is old and semi rural and beautiful, but it has no center. Just a strip mall, a brick town hall and a police station with giant radio and cell towers decorating it. The local architecture students used it as a design project to come up with a redesign to make a center… great ideas, wonderful possibilities, no money.

    • Architecture schools often use towns as a laboratory for students to learn. Then they present their ideas to the local government. I worked on projects in both Niagara Falls and Buffalo.

      I do have the commitment, you just need a group willing to have the same direction and need to see ideas through. And I heartily agree, Niagara Falls is a place that should have priority, even at the national level. It is sad to see any disrepair here in a place so abound in natural beauty. And the old architecture is wonderful too. Of course in my humble opinion.

  12. dona says:

    Niagara Falls is a nice, little city. Altough, I agree with you , it should need some renovation.

    I live in a small island called Lido (about 20.000 inhabitants), located between the Venice lagoon and the Adriatic sea. It’s very close to Venice (10 min. far by public boat), but quite different. I.E. we have roads and cars, a lot of green and a long sandy beach. A regular ferry line connect us to mainland.
    Lido of Venice is a heaven of peace with the wonderful (and crowded) Venice close at hand. I’e been living here since I was born, and I absolutely love it.

    • Niagara Falls is a nice little city, just experiencing much of what industrial cities all over the country have. I hope to live long enough for it to return to its former glory. Just look at the architecture, it was built for permanence and to showcase prosperity. The founders were very cognizant of the areas worth.

  13. TufaGirl says:

    Thank you for the tour. You really do not want to get me started on my town. Being new here and since my camera lives in my pocket, I have hundreds of photos in these few months. I need to put them all in an album… that would be very organized of me.

  14. Karen says:

    Donna, what a wonderful tour of your current hometown. The old buildings are glorious, the stonework, the attention to detail. So much character as opposed to the strip malls. It is so sad to see things of beauty torn down because of lack of funds and/or lack of caring about history.

    Comeidan Eddie Izzard had it right:
    “I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from. Oh, yes. You tear your history down, man.
    “It’s one hundred years old, let’s smash it and put a car park here.”
    I have seen it in stories. I saw a program on something in Miami.
    “We’ve redecorated this building to how it looked over fifty years ago.”
    People are going, “No, surely not! No!”

    “No one was alive then.”

    • Thanks for the reply Karen. The quote is right on. It is so true we get nostalgic, but with a faux sense of history. Once a building is gone, the memories are quick to follow. And to rebuild in the character of the original in just not quite authentic. As architects, we try, but what is missing is all the craftsmanship that was part of the original, due to cost, time, codes, or many other factors. Not to say it can not be done, because it has been, but there is just something of importance missing besides the original structure.

  15. Edith Hope says:

    Dear Donna, I have found this tour of your city most intriguing. As I have never been to the USA I have images in my head of what certain towns and cities may look like but it is so interesting to have a personal, illustrated tour. I am struck by several things from the images that you show. First, the wealth of ‘historic’ buildings and the way in which bold, modern architecture has been incorporated. I do applaud it when town planners are brave enough to commission truly modern buildings rather than simply have a pastiche of the past. Secondly, I am saddened that there are so many signs of once thriving businesses that have fallen into decay with no apparent plan for renewal or regeneration.

    • Often only modern buildings are built. But as an architect, the job is to address the character of the neighborhood, and often that gets ignored in the name of art alone. Or go the other route, and a modern structures get built in the name of economics, with no redeeming qualities and visual value.

  16. What a great tour we’ve had. I particularly like the Armoury, which looks like a fantastic place, and well maintained over the years. So many cities and towns don’t put enough value on their historic structures.

  17. What a lovely idea Donna! It is great to see your town. I love the old armory . . . Northampton has one too. Maybe you have inspired a spark of interest in sharing our towns.

  18. You showed some really beautiful buildings. I love the armory. Did Wallmart move in and close down all the downtown businesses. What happened?

  19. Joy says:

    Donna it is great to see the cities or towns other gardeners live in .. I should do that for Kingston some time .. there are great historical buildings here besides Fort Henry !
    That was a nice clear day to take the pictures .. great post girl !
    Joy : )

  20. Hanni says:

    Thanks for sharing your city! I really enjoyed “walking” along with you!

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