This was supposed to be a road trip to Florida, and while I could likely spend a week exploring Buffalo I'll find warmer weather in St. Augustine. In any case, I'm supposed to be meeting Leslie in Jacksonville. (One of the reasons that I'm driving is that I hate flying, and the main reason that Leslie is flying is that she hates my driving... particularly when I'm stalking photographs, which is almost always. Panic stops, sudden U-turns, parking in ditches and standing in the middle of highways to get just the right angle... She would rather not know. So I head for Highway 5 and Lackawanna, passing what was once the world's largest steel mill, stretching for 3 km along the shore of Lake Erie. Employing 20,000 workers at the peak of production in the 1940s, in 1982 the plant would be closed by its owner, Bethlehem Steel. This was perhaps the tipping point for American heavy industry, and the beginning of America's rust belt.
Like Buffalo's City Hall the New York Central's Art Deco Central Terminal reflects the unconstrained optimism of the late 1920's. The terminal opened in 1929 and at its peak saw 200 trains per day, however by 1956 (a year after the opening of the New York Thruway) rail traffic had declined to the extent that the railroad attempted to sell the terminal. By the time Amtrak took over passenger rail service in the USA the terminal was in need of a rehab and Amtrak opted to use a smaller Buffalo station instead. Eventually it was sold in a tax auction (for $100,000) to a would-be developer who stripped the building of any artifacts of value. (One Art Deco lamp was advertised by a high-end Toronto antique dealer at an asking price of $9,000). Today the building is owned by a nonprofit and there are hopes that it will yet be restored, and indeed Toronto's Harry Stintson will reportedly be taking on the task. In the meantime visitors are asked to stay away in order that the Peregrine Falcons which have made the terminal their home will not be disturbed.
Having crossed into the USA the first stop on my road trip will be the Anchor Bar on Buffalo's Main Street, where the restaurant's matriarch Theresa Bellissimo "invented" chicken wings back in 1964. The problem is that I'm planning to take a nostalgia trip on the two-lane roads, as we might have done in 1961, before there were Interstate highways. And while the Anchor Bar would have been in existence for 26 years it will be another three years before Theresa will invent those wings. (And another ten years before she could serve me a beer, given that I would have been eleven in 1961). So I cheat. The wings were amazing... as was the Yuengling lager.
Driving south, a road trip to Florida. Now that I'm retired and in no hurry to get anywhere, I can take the slow roads. In truth it's a bit of a nostalgia trip, inasmuch as I have fond memories of a family road trip to Florida in about 1961... before the Interstates or the internet. I cross the border at Buffalo, where City Hall dominates the skyline, as it has since 1930. Ominously, construction of one of the largest and most expensive municipal buildings in the USA began just six weeks before the "Black Tuesday" stock market crash of October 29, 1929. But as the shovels hit the ground in September of '29 Buffalo was America's 13th largest city and the Art Deco city hall reflect the optimism of its citizenry. The city's population would continue to grow... albeit by less than 2%... into the 1950's. Today the city's population has declined by more than half since ground was broken for their City Hall, and Buffalo is now the 78th largest city in the U.S.A. Thankfully they have not turned out the lights yet.