This study examines patterns of growth and development on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Surveying major portions of the Boulevard and documenting trends, students engaged with maps, city directories, and other sources to locate areas with extant structures and analyze precedents that dealt with similar circumstances.
URP 581/582, Fall 2018
MUP – Historic Preservation
The mass appeal of the automobile in the years following World War II marked a major transition for Buffalo, NY, as what was once considered a luxury exclusive to the upper class became an option for middle-income citizens. As part of a greater trend sweeping the nation, the Buffalo region experienced unprecedented growth in the mid-20th century as enhanced transportation routes and modernization introduced development in formerly rural settings. This process subsequently spurred the first suburbanization and retail development outside the city, in towns such as Tonawanda and Amherst. The family car vacation became popular, leading to the construction of businesses catering to tourists. The built environment that came out of this period has not only had a profound economic, social, and cultural impact on the area, but additionally remains a template for current developmental patterns.
– Gregory Pinto, MUP
Are We There Yet?, a study by the Graduate Preservation Studio, works towards understanding the role Niagara Falls Boulevard (Boulevard) had in this narrative, and how its meaning has changed throughout history. The Boulevard is presently considered one of the region’s busiest commercial strips. Stretching 17.8 miles, it contains a range of property types and architectural styles spanning multiple decades of history.
This study examines patterns of growth and development on the Boulevard. Surveying major portions of the Boulevard and documenting trends, students engaged with maps, city directories, and other sources to locate areas with extant structures and analyze precedents that dealt with similar circumstances. The studio then developed proposals that incorporated these elements into a planning and preservation framework for future design along the entire Boulevard.
These guidelines make the most out of existing structures, and implement strategies which allow them to exist in a modern context through the techniques of planning and historic preservation. As a regional conversation around the future use for these structures wages on, the studio focused on locating areas of high historic value, and determining ways to establish stronger connections between them.
Although there have been instances of eliminating valuable history for strip malls and subdivisions, it is impossible for preservationists to change the past. Rather, it is their job to evaluate the events that have occurred and the role they have played in our history. Criticisms of midcentury architecture’s design and longevity that are rooted in aesthetic value do not consider the structures’ historic context, which is an equally valid reason for seeking their preservation.
The preservation field’s growing interestin mid-century resources offers an opportunity for the Buffalo-Niagara region to improve one of its most iconic facets. As Niagara Falls Boulevard continues to evolve, seemingly mundane structures from the recent past must not be overlooked.