Thursday, November 20, 2008

How much do you _really_ know about your home?

I grew up just outside of Buffalo, N.Y. in a northern suburb called Amherst. Recently, I've read two stories that taught me a ton about the region I grew up. First was this story about the history of Buffalo architecture. I knew the basics: Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House is in Buffalo, Frederick Law Olmstead designed the urban park system, etc., but this NYTimes story taught me so much more.

By the end of the 19th century the city’s grain silos and steel mills had become architectural pilgrimage sites for European Modernists like Erich Mendelsohn and Bruno Taut, who saw them as the great cathedrals of Modernity. In their vast scale and technological efficiency, they reflected a triumphant America and sent a warning signal to Europe that it was fast becoming less relevant.

Yet it is the parade of celebrated architects who worked here as much as the city’s industrial achievements that makes Buffalo a living history lesson. Daniel Burnham’s 1896 Ellicott Square Building, with its mighty Italian Renaissance facade, towers over the corner of Main and Church Streets. Just a block away is Louis Sullivan’s 1895 Guaranty Building, a classic of early skyscraper design decorated in intricate floral terra-cotta tiles.


But it was Wright who made the decisive leap from an architecture that drew mainly on European stylistic precedents to one that was rooted in a growing cultural self-confidence. Wright built two of those great pillars of American architecture here, the 1904 Larkin Building and the 1905 Darwin D. Martin House.

Holy scheit!!! After reading this story I suddenly regretted how much of a high-school-age jackass I was during a field trip we took downtown to admire and learn about Buffalo's architectural history. A field trip that only honors students took and subsequently squandered. Of course some of that was because our principal, who didn't garner much respect cloistered in his papered-windows office, led said trip.

Secondly, I read this story about the University of Buffalo's only bowl team and the moment they said that bowl games don't mean a thing compared to integrity, honor, fellowship, justice and love. Invited to the Tangerine Bowl in 1958, the team voted unanimously not to attend because the Orlando High School Athletic Association, the game's leaseholder, wouldn't allow blacks and whites to play on the same field.

How could I never have heard of this story? The University of Buffalo's north campus was almost literally in my backyard. I could walk to my high school in 17 minutes and another 10 minute walk would have me on campus at UB. I read the Buffalo News every day. I've read it almost every day since I was in high school (at least the sports page and this is a sports story).

I can often be heard saying how moving back would be a step backward and I refuse to do that. But at the same time, going backward in time allows one a chance to correct mistakes and oversights.

1 comment:

Jaimie said...

I came across your blog tonight while looking for diabetic blogs under dlife LOL but ... found it to be very interesting especially your post on Buffalo history...

I grew up in Barker/Lyndonville area...You KNOW in the middle of an apple orchard right? next to the cows LOL

anywhoo...your last paragraph on that post just hit me... I appreciate that area so much more now that I'm older...I wish I knew more history too...I think about how different my kids are growing up comparing rural western NY to Los find someone who can relate to that is rare! It would be a step backwards to move home but I still think about it almost daily and I also think of how peaceful it might be to take my family to live there...ahh but then I wake up to sunshine everyday here and I've made so many cool connections out here in family all calls me Miss Hollywood because I seem to end up rubbing elbows with people sometimes but I'll always be a small town girl at heart and I thank god for that daily...keeps me grounded I like to think! HA!

Take care~

P.S. What do you do in LA?