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December 31, 2008


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Black Rocker

As a stationary engineer I can appreciate the simple dignity of these increasingly rare powerhouses. When coal was king these buildings supplied steam not just for heat but also to power machinery. The tall stack was needed to provide enough draft for the burning of coal and became unnecessary when the boilers were converted to natural gas.


Some thoughts:

Absolutely agree that they are industrial-era icons, and landmarks for formal industrial districts. Like farm silos, they have been under siege for demolition, because they are expensive to maintain and usually no longer needed for their original function. We lost some significant ones in My Fair City recently when the Beebee Station powerplant at High Falls was taken off line. There was no discussion or public outcry about their removal - no one seemed to know about it until they were down. A missed opportunity, in my view, because I think the stacks - with recognition of their value, creativity, and some funding assistance - could be maintained. They could be reused, for example, by being repainted or lighted to "brand" or add attraction to the former industrial districts they are part of.

One of my favorite Buffalo smokestacks - unfortunately, not extant - can be glimpsed in the background of the Charles Burchfield painting "Street Scene" (http://archives.buffalorising.com/story/charles_burchfield_painting_of).

The alley space between the powerhouse and Sam's army/navy store is incredibly cool. I saw it on a tour with Tim Tielman and everyone ooh'd and ahh'd at the space and Tim said it would be a good space to film a scene for a Spiderman movie. I agree! Adaptive reuse of that space would add great value to an adaptive reuse project for the powerhouse.

Interesting to read that 50,000 tourists used to visit the district per year. Couldn't we re-establish the district's draw as a tourist attraction--? On the tour with Tim Tielman during the Larkin Expo in 2006, we walked through the monumental innards of several of the buildings. In 2007, I took a mostly outdoor tour of the Hydraulics area with Marla of Buffalo Tours. Both tours were great, and left me thinking the area is one of the coolest "undiscovered" treasures in Buffalo. Aside from being cool, the district is a "must see" destination for anyone interested in industrial architecture. Also, the site of the former Larkin Administration Building is another "must" stop for anyone making a pilgrimage of FLW sites.

I would think that a volunteer-organized and staffed tours initiative could re-establish regular heritage tourism in the district. That would give a boost to redevelopment/revitalization activity in the district, as well as to Buffalo's ongoing efforts to promote heritage tourism.


The Burchfield painting link above didn't post right. Try this:


I took a tour of Larkin @ Exchange a few years ago. We also went into the massive warehouse next door. We saw the huge openings for the soap vats that ran up a few floors. It was mentioned on the tour that the 12th generator that Thomas Edison ever built is still in the basemnet of that building. Is that true?

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