The Story of Buffalo’s LGBT Roots as Told Through Our Historic Architecture!

It’s Pride Week and as the rainbow flags of the LGBT community go up, we’ve found most of the early remnants of this movement have come down.

Initially centered around Washington and Chippewa Streets, Buffalo’s gay pride community started much earlier than most cities, some say as early as the 1930’s. Many of the Buffalo locations were social clubs or bars. In the 1950’s, Buffalo had one of the first gay centers in the country at Main & Utica, a building which has since been demolished. Here are some other locations that shine a light on the LGBT community’s history in Buffalo and shape our neighborhoods even today.

The oldest of the bars was Ralph Martin’s at 58 Ellicott Street. It opened in 1934 and closed after Ralph died in 1951. It was located on what is now the pitchers mound of Coca-Cola Field (see below photo). Another early gay- friendly bar, Downs’ at 684-86 Michigan at Genesee, operated from 1935 until 1938. The building was demolished in the 60’s to make way for the Kensington Expressway.

Block of current Coca- Cola Field (Old Statler), Courtesy: wikipedia

Some of the oldest commercial buildings in the City of Buffalo are located on the blocks bordering Genesee, Chippewa, Washington and Ellicott Streets. Due in part to the Washington Market (pictured below), these mixed-use buildings housed small shops, commercial markets, boarding houses and saloons and thrived in the late 1800 and early 1900’s. By the time the highways were built and the Washington Market was razed in the 1960’s, the neighborhood had fallen out of favor and business suffered due to population decline. This meant cheaper rents for businesses and bars that catered to a “less favorable” clientele. Three clubs were located in what is now a parking lot just east of the old Gold Dome Bank. Carousel 1 at 33 E. Chippewa operated from 1950-55, The Oasis at 60 E. Genesee from 1957-60 and Johnny’s Club 68 at 68 E. Genesee from 1953-60. Carousel moved to 457 Ellicott Street and was there until 1965 when it was closed by the vice squad and liquor authority. The building was demolished soon after and there is a vacant front lot with a machine shop located in the rear of the property now. Closures and demolitions in this part of the City eventually led to the counter-culture moving into the Allentown neighborhood.

Washington Market, Courtesy: ForgottenBuffalo

The first gay and lesbian civil rights organization in Western New York started in Buffalo in 1950. The Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier, formed after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, had their headquarters in The Avenue in Townsend Hall, below. The bar closed when the building was demolished in 1972, and it is the current site of the City Court Building. It is rumored that the power was shut off in the building and early meetings were conducted by candlelight.

Townsend Hall, Courtesy: Western New York Heritage Press

Eight eighty four (884) Main Street has been home to many different bars catering to the LGBT community starting in 1986 and most recently Roxys, but was originally a brick Italianate mansion built for Edwin Gilbert, a maltster and commercial merchant, in 1880. The property was is now being turned into a mixed-use residential and commercial building.

884 Main St., Courtesy: bar-history.org

There are many more examples of early LGBT hangouts, seen in historic neighborhoods and buildings. Since most were not so welcoming of this specific community, older homes, businesses and neighborhoods were all these business owners could afford in a time when many residents were fleeing to the suburbs. Because of that, this early subculture is the reason a lot of our historic resources exist and thrive today.

Excerpts from the Preservation Buffalo Niagara May 30, 2014 Newsletter.

“[Buffalo’s] under-played Allentown and Elmwood neighborhoods… offer great cafes, shops and very reasonably priced bars, not to mention cool buildings with awesome murals. I was shocked at how urban and funky it was.”
Shocked and awed by the rebirth of Buffalo - a travel blogger from Toronto!  This gets me even more excited for my first Allentown summer :) 

Happy Belated Dyngus Day, since I was too busy singing “Sto lat" all day yesterday! 


This year’s Earth Day theme is Green Cities, so Happy Earth Day from the 6th Greenest City in America!  

Once nicknamed the “City of Trees,” Buffalo is home to more than 180 parks and recreational facilities, most of which fall under the Olmstead Park System, the staple of the city’s green space. Buffalo’s land use and zoning policies are in the midst of a historic revision under a process called the “Green Code,” which will guide the city’s development over the next 20 years and aims to improve the environment and create a more sustainable community.”

Photo Credit: Joe Cascio

Thank you to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz for pardoning a butter lamb this Easter… it doesn’t get much more Buffalo than this, folks! 

Thank you to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz for pardoning a butter lamb this Easter… it doesn’t get much more Buffalo than this, folks! 

I second guess myself every time I do this, wondering if it is “normal.” I guess in Buffalo, it is! 

I second guess myself every time I do this, wondering if it is “normal.” I guess in Buffalo, it is! 

Another happy story from the City of Good Neighbors :)

From 
West Side Stories:

"I walked in this morning to find this note and $10. So a few things about this… A) We accidentally left the door unlocked and nothing went missing (go West Side!) B) if anyone knows this person, please let them know they are my hero AND I owe them change C) how great are our customers?!"



What this photo about a break in at a local bike shop doesn’t say is that bar employees from across the street chased the burglar down and got the stolen bike back!  

Here’s the shop owner’s take on the whole ordeal:

"Nobody wants to wake up at two in the morning to see their store broken into, but to know that there are people out in the community looking out for you, you just can’t beat it. It’s why I love Buffalo." - See more at: http://buffalo.twcnews.com/content/news/722668/bar-employees-chase-down-man-stealing-bike-from-elmwood-avenue-store/#sthash.MsJjOegx.dpuf

Airbnb is a DIY bed and breakfast service where anyone can rent their space to travelers, and is now expanding to do more to create shareable, livable cities with the Shared City initiative.

Portland, Oregon is the first Shared City - here are some of my favorite things that Airbnb is doing to help Portland’s civic leaders and community:

  • Supporting Portland hosts in donating the money they earn from Airbnb to a local cause, and matching those donations as a percentage of their fees.
  • Providing free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available to hosts in Portland to make their homes safer.
  • Helping to cut red tape and to collect and remit taxes to the city of Portland on behalf of our hosts. 
  • Working with the city to help ensure corporate property managers do not abuse the Airbnb platform.
  • Working with Travel Portland on joint campaigns to promote the city as a destination to our global community, highlighting its unique characteristics and diverse neighborhoods; and sending visitors to local small businesses throughout the city.

Why should Buffalo be the next Shared City?  

Leave your thoughts and I’ll send Airbnb founder Brian Chesky our case!

clubhaus:

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(Photo: Douglas Levere)

Airbnb CEO and Co-founder, Brian Chesky just circulated an email highlighting the company’s new initiative and vision, Shared City. He’s asking for ideas from engaged locals to help Airbnb highlight their city to its global community. Buffalo needs to be…

I took this picture almost a year ago of the HSBC tower “fading away.”  It is now 95% vacant and I had little hope for it until this news story!

http://www.buffalonews.com/business/real-estate/hunts-high-end-vision-is-to-revive-citys-tallest-tower-20140303

It makes me so happy that so many people thought of me when they read this article — basically, Buffalo is the new Taj Mahal for hipsters!

Back in December, the Washington Post published a completely arbitrary list of what was in for 2014 and out for 2013. In addition to ridiculously passé things such as Russia and food stamps, Austin was also considered “out” for 2013. In its place? Buffalo, Mother-f’ing New York.”

Help make this kick-ass idea reality!

An initiative to bring handmade ceramic mugs to the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market via a handmade tandem bike towing a handmade canoe.

Proceeds benefit youth and environmental programs in the Buffalo area, AND you get a free cup of coffee from a local cafe!  

Looking for the photographer who captured this amazing view of the city!

"[Besides being a tourist attraction that connects parts of the city in rengeration], the path could be used as a commuter trolley line, connecting offices in Larkinville and downtown Buffalo… There is even a “beautiful cobblestone street” that is somewhat hidden by undergrowth but runs next to the track and could accommodate a trolley…"