Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Back from Buffalo, New York

As mentioned recently, we went to Buffalo NY for the combined American and Canadian African Violets Societies convention.

This was only my second visit there, I went thru quickly back in 1979 while I was attending AF trade training nearby in Ontario.

A dramatic re-enactment of my first visit there :-)
Don't think they had my beer back then...

Due to its geographic location near the famed Niagara falls, which prevented ship traffic across, Buffalo quickly established itself as a large and prosperous trade center. For example: All grain shipments from the west by ships  had to be stored in Buffalo for trans shipment into barges via the Erie canal in order to go around the falls. By the turn of the 20th century (1900) there was more millionaires in Buffalo than anywhere else in the USA. They mostly built their mansions along the same road which was nicknamed Millionaires row.
Buffalo fortunes would declined rapidly after the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway  in 1959  along the coasts of Ontario Canada and the US, allowing large ships to access the Great lakes from the Atlantic via the new canals (Seaway). This will render the Erie canal essentially obsolete and numerous American cities along that canal would see a decline in their economic activities.

Today Buffalo is making an economic comeback and they are revitalizing the downtown areas, including along the harbour sides and the Erie canal.
For a city of its size and its long economic center status, I was surprised that there was not much woodworking related around. All I found in my googling was a Rockler woodworking store

The Rockler store in Buffalo.
Bought a few things...

When woodworking related shopping in the US, I mostly will look for unique products not available back home at LV for example. Prices wise, I don't see big difference (after currency exchange) so unless on sale or unique, I'll pass.... (usually :-)
The only other woodworking supplies store which shows up in my search, besides a few wood and veneers suppliers, was  the Woodworker Club house, which bill itself as a community woodshop , but has for sale some of the regular shop supplies and a selection of woods

Love the signage at the door.
Our tools... Your shop

They have a large selection of woods

and a small assortments of shop supplies, glue, screws, biscuit, clamps etc

A very large and well equipped wood shop

Handling large man made sheet goods? No problems

They have a Saw stop and a good old Delta Unisaw

Laguna bandsaws

And of course the ubiquitous owner's shop dog :-)

Quite an impressive operation. Spacious, well equipped with good machinery, most of the small supplies to keep you going. Proper orientation and safety introduction to the machinery is carried out by an obligatory course before granting access to the shop. Similar to what we do at my woodworking club.  Yes mostly a power tools shop, but there are a few hand tools guy working in there, including one who seems to possess one of every tools ever made by Lie-Nielsen :-)
If you live near by, you ought it to yourself to check it out!

Not far from the infamous Millionaire row, was a sprawling house complex known as the Darwin  Martin house.  That house is remarkable in two ways.  It is the only house on the street not lining up with the street curb, rather it is aligned properly on the sun cardinal points, and perhaps more obvious, it is markedly different from every houses around.  Surrounded in a sea of Tudor and Queen Anne houses this one is screaming, look at me, I'm different.

If you haven't guessed it yet, it is a house which the American architect who built it, called his Opus.
His name? NO less than Frank Lloyd Wright....

We took the one hour tour, which was part of a tour packages we did from the convention.
Quite the interesting tour. Only whishes we had the two hour tour and explored the house more.

See how the house is skewed from the sidewalks?
It is aligned perfectly to play with the sun position throughout the day and the seasons.

Frank was a very peculiar man, he did not just designed you a house, he designed everything: The landscape and how the house interact with it, the furniture inside (often built in so the occupants would not move it and lose "his vision".  He did not like square box, so every room seems to flow into the next one, and the walls are non - bearing, some of the outside walls are topped with glass. The trick he used is from his knowledge of building of sky scraper. A steel structure is holding the building up, the outside walls can be sheeted with glass, they bear no load.

This house was the first residential house he built and he never had a fixed budget on it. Construction was from 1903 to 1905, in pure Frank form, nothing was left unintentional. The feel of the room, how the sun light change the projections thru the light screen (the term used by Frank instead of window)
The tree of life pattern on the top part of the glass, change its projection with the day and season as the sun hit at a lower angle. Would love to see that.  The overhang from the roof shield your eyes from the direct sun and protect from rain, you can leave the "light screen" upstairs open in a rain fall.

The Tree of life stain glass pattern is shown in this entrance porch picture.
Even the light fixtures are of Frank's design, no surface was left untouched by the master.

Shortly after the house was build, the enclosed portico / green house was added.
Of course Frank had to add some "architecture elements" to it.

Complete with a cast replica of a famous Greek sculpture.
Original was cast in plaster and suffered lots of damages.
This replica (using original molds) is cast in Fiberglass reinforced cement, should last longer

The lady of the house was a bit disappointed in the lack of room in her greenhouse addition, so she later added a "regular" greenhouse . Frank offered to put in some of his touches into it,
but she declined, citing they have enough of architecture elements around. 
The gardener house shown in the back has been renovated and will open soon, in front is were the original greenhouses are being rebuilt

I bet you would never guess the use of these posts in the yard, there are four.
They are... Clothesline post a la Frank... I kid you not.

And since Frank did not built basement in his houses, when the owner insisted he needed one, Frank compromised and build him an elaborate room called the Ball room (not a basement).  He must had unknowingly have started the Man cave obsession we have today :-)

Strongly recommend this tour if you are around.  Quite the house and contains a few woodworking surprises inside. Sadly you can only take pictures inside on a special tour, so I could not.

Before heading to the botanical garden as part of this tour, we stopped at the original place were the famous Buffalo wings came from.

Who knew? Buffalo wings came from Buffalo! :-)

There are two other Frank Lloyd Wright legacy in Buffalo.
The first one was the commercial building he build for the Larkin Soap company (Darwin D Martin worked and made his fortune at this company). Truly an innovative building way ahead of his time but unfortunately, fell behind in taxes dues, was abandoned for years, fell in disrepairs and was demolished. Only a small part of a wall remains to remind us of what was once a masterpiece.

The Larkin soap administrative building.
Built 1903 demolished 1950

In this short computer recreation you can walk around and see inside the building to give you a senses of its grandeur. What an awesome building it was...

The other legacy left in town was a complete set of blue prints for a gas station he designed but which was never built.

Inside the new Buffalo Transportation museum, part of the Pierce Arrow museum, you will find a complete reproduction built as per Frank design. It truly was and remain a "quite different" gas station.
Frank believed that you should refresh yourselves and feel at home in the lounge area while you car is being attended to.  Full service anyone?

My car parked in front of the Pierce Arrow museum

A picture of a bike from Ken's youth :-)

Frank's ideas of a gas station.
Just like the client thought at the time, it was not cheap to built...

and here is my car awaiting fueling,
looks like in 1940 (minus the bugs stuck in front :-)

Of course no visit in Buffalo can go without a cruise on the harbour side. That was the other tour package which we did.

It was an enjoyable 3 hours cruise with a good spread of food and cash bar.

The harbour difference between the once busy industrial harbour side on the right,
the downtown core to the left

Sun set on (or toward) lake Erie

The Peace bridge between the USA and Canada in the background

And back to dock a block or two from our hotel

Now if you'll excuse me Rudy is getting antsy about something...

Recognized him?

Ah Ha its not a Squirrel, its a Chipmunk

Bob, singing, Who let the dogs out, who, who :-)


  1. Hello Robert,
    I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Buffalo. Few people seem to realize what a rich history the city has.
    I commented a couple of days ago on your mitre box blog post, but I figured you may not see it so I thought I might comment here:

    "Hello Robert,
    I recently purchased a near-mint No. 60 MB mitre box with saw at a yard sale. However it is missing one depth stop and the spring on one of the posts. I've searched high and low but have not been able to find the parts I need. Would you have any ideas or suggestions as to where I might look?

  2. Hi John
    There is only one spring, and it goes on the front post. As for the depth stops you could try making them.
    There should be 2, one on each post. One set is used toprevent chewing the table board the other are only used for setting stop cut.

    Looking for parts? Good luck!