Residents of the Fruit Belt are joining forces with Preservation Buffalo Niagara (PBN) to proactively address the threat to the historic fabric in the neighborhood. Volunteers and residents alike will lead a neighborhood-wide survey on May 3rd starting at 11am. Those interested in helping can meet at the Golden Cup Café at 883 Jefferson Avenue. The door-to-door survey will help evaluate the concerns of the neighbors and what historic buildings they feel are important and define their community.
Those properties that are identified by the community as worthy of being saved will be evaluated with existing conditions from the exterior and photos to document their current state. The results will be complied by PBN and make available to the community.
The idea of surveying the neighborhood and residents comes from vocal community members when the announcement was made that 204 High Street may be seeing the landfill. Fruit Belt community activist Veronica Hemphill-Nichols and others approached PBN seeking assistance. Terry Robinson a PBN board member and member of the Preservation Board is currently working on a individual local landmark application. However, the concerns of the community have prompted the larger issue of protecting what is important to the community beyond 204 High Street.
“During a recent public meeting, it was evident that the community is highly concerned about its built environment and the future of the neighborhood many of them have called home for decades,” explained PBN’s new director of operations, Christina Lincoln. “It was at that meeting that we proposed a survey to compile a list of structures that are important to the story of the Fruit Belt and could serve as a starting point for future activism if those structures ever were to be threatened,” continued Tom Yots, executive director. “Many residents have volunteered to lead us through the neighborhood and were eager to tell their stories of the homes many of them grew up in.”
The Campaign for Greater Buffalo headed by longtime preservationist Tim Tielman is also on the case. Taking a slightly different approach, the Campaign is proposing a small historic district that would include 204 High Street, the already-designated Promiseland Baptist Church, and the Schrimer Meat Market at 195 High Street. Tielman, also a member of the Preservation Board will be hosting a public meeting with the board on the matter, as early as April 9th, but further details are to follow for confirmation.
"These are very handsome brick buildings that are survivors of a proud neighborhood, and are emblematic of the houses, churches, and markets of the Fruit Belt and a model for future development,” said Tielman. “The grocery store, on the other hand, can go anywhere. The answer to saving the Fruit Belt is not to continue the 50-year war of demolition against it and its people, but to reinforce the qualities that make it special.” The buildings mark the current western edge of the Fruit Belt. Every remnant of the former residential neighborhood on High Street from Maple to Main Street has been demolished as a consequence of the North Oak Urban Renewal Project and hospital expansion.
195 High Street according to The Campaign is the oldest documented, continuously operating market in the city. It was built for butcher Henry Schirmer, and opened in 1876 as Schirmer’s Meat Market. In traditional fashion of the era, Henry lived upstairs and operated his business in the storefront below.
If you’re interested in assisting with the neighborhood survey be sure to sign up on the official event page on Facebook. For additional images of the Fruit Belt neighborhood, check out my album on ipernity here.