Buffalo’s Mystically Magic Resurgence

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With twin Romanesque columns towering over either side like two rooks joined at the hip, Henry Hobson Richardson’s 19th century creation looms like full scale Gotham City prop. Traveling along a long-abandoned side road that circles the vast complex, one sees up close the details from the decades of decay. Unattended since 1994, New York State left what remained of the old Buffalo State Asylum to the elements.

The wind-swept snows of Lake Erie would take its toll on the buildings as well as the 200 acres of once elegant grounds laid out by none other than Frederick Law Olmstead. Western New York’s famous winters have only enhanced the eerie feel of the place. Built in oversized fashion from garnet-colored Medina Sandstone and industrial-red brick, the institution carries the burden of its initial purpose.

Elisabeth Stevens once wrote of the building (The Baltimore Sun, Saturday, August 11, 1979, page 7), “…one can conveniently imagine the character such as Mr. Rochester’s wife (in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte) screaming wildly at one of the uppermost windows of the twin, medievalizing towers of the central Romaneque-style building.”

Yet, for all this creepy sensation, Richardson’s realized vision remains alluring. “It’s haunted. There’s a history here that you have to experience,” says Kelly Reitnour of Continue Reading “Buffalo’s Mystically Magic Resurgence”

The Wild West Rides Again

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In the heart of downtown Jamestown on a June night in 2002, despite the dim light of the late hours, the construction workers hired to take down the deteriorating brick façade of the ancient hotel on Pine Street thought they were seeing faces, until they came to the word “Buffalo.”1 They stopped all work. They didn’t know what they had just uncovered, but their collective instinct told them it was something historic. It turns out they were right.

Beneath the decaying bricks of Continue Reading “The Wild West Rides Again”

The Magician Reveals His Real Trick

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One by one the hockey heroes skate up towards the camera from the far blue line, stop with a spray of ice just missing the lens, then announce their name and team. Finally, the last professional pumps his legs forward with the smooth motion of the others and stops in the same controlled fashion. But when he announces his name, I’m shocked to discover he’s no hockey player.

“Bill Shatner. Loblaws,” states the confident former Captain Kirk.

For those not familiar, Loblaws is a Canadian grocery chain. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s they had stores in Buffalo (primarily) and Rochester (maybe just one, but I lived next to it). It was an era before Wegmans went on supermarket steroids and totally dominated the market. Loblaws was Canada’s pride but eventually sold out to Bells Markets.

In 1975 Loblaws was a player – at least in my neighborhood – and no more so because Continue Reading “The Magician Reveals His Real Trick”

Western New York Media Market: Whole Greater than Sum?

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A decade ago, before the financial crisis that opened the first decade of the new millennium, Adelphia Communications, in addition to a cable channel called the Empire Sports Network, owned a radio station with the call letters WNSA. The two worked in tandem and, at least until the falling stock market exposed the Regis family, this modest media juggernaut gained a respectful audience.

Western_New_York_Microphone_300On the cusp of a content driven era, the small cable company had, together with the Buffalo Bills, successfully begun to build connections within a broader Western New York Region. This bigger footprint would include not only Buffalo and Niagara Falls, but also Rochester, Jamestown and several other cities within the roughly seventeen western-most counties of New York State. With a growing national market, Adelphia offered the allure of becoming the new century’s CNN (or at least ESPN). And with its intention to build an impressive headquarters in the state’s Queen City, Buffalo finally had a new hope – one that might bring it to rival Atlanta in cable communications.

But, as it seems to have happened to our region ever since Canada left us no choice but to build the Saint Lawrence Seaway, fate once again dealt a bad hand. Continue Reading “Western New York Media Market: Whole Greater than Sum?”