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a view from recently demolished 669 Genesee Street

The City of Good Neighbors?

Not according to Perrysburg residents. A short history lesson…

At the turn of the 20th century consumption and other infectious illnesses literally plagued cities. Today we have other plagues. “Vacant Houses” are the single most defining characteristic of the urban landscape today.

Buffalo’s answer was to acquire some land and build a tuberculosis hospital in Perrysburg, NY. During the third annual address to the common council in 1908, Mayor James Noble Adam stated,” "Citizens...have brought to my attention a proposal that there be legislation at Albany and that the city appoint a commission and that a city hospital for consumption (tuberculosis) be built in the hills adjacent to Buffalo.” (Michael Rizzo, 1996)

This coincided with various national campaigns at the time to help rid cities of tuberculosis. The voluntary control movement of TB launched its “Christmas Seal Drive” in 1908. This was an idea that Emily Bissell, a fund raiser for the Red Cross borrowed from Jacob Riis. Riis had seen it successfully used in Denmark to raise funds for TB treatment and research. TB sanatoriums were isolated and dealt with what had become known as the “White Plague.” By 1938 there were 738 sanatoriums across the country. The American Lung Association is the direct descendent of this campaign.

Earlier at Saranac Lake, Dr Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915) pioneered the “open-air” method of treating TB patients at the Trudeau Sanatorium which opened in 1884. He was also Saranac Lake’s first mayor. His lab closed in 1954. The building that housed the lab was given to Paul Smith’s College in 1966. Today there is an active campaign underway to place this building on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is some additional information this preservation campaign, along with a picture of Trudeau’s lab. Phillip Gallos has written, Cure Cottages of Saranac Lake: Architecture and History of a Pioneer Health Resort. Additional information on the importance of Dr. Trudeau’s work on the future development is available here, including a journal account of his meeting with Robert Louis Stevenson who arrived seeking treatment.

Back to Buffalo…..

Mayor James N. Adam started a business which is located in this building on Main Street. The building still stands. Charles Hendler from the Preservation Coalition has started a petition to save it from demolition. You can read and sign the petition.

So where is this post headed, you might be asking…. it has to do with how the city of Buffalo is dealing with the tuburculosis hospital it built 95 years ago. It has to do with the opportunity it had last Tuesday to act responsibly towards our neighbors 40 miles away in Perrysburg. It has to do with acting in a responsible way with all available resources towards residents who are struggling to deal with the 21st century scourge of “vacant houses” in our neighborhoods.

We are actively looking into the legal trail of paper work which according to some people in Perrysburg, NY suggest that the city of Buffalo is the legal owner of this sprawling complex. I’ve ranted here about it already. You’ll get more in the coming days.

I’m headed to Perrysburg with a few other concerned Buffalo residents this weekend. Our digital camera batteries are charged. We have consulted with area librarians and architectural researchers and just uncovered these pictures from 1912. Current pictures to follow....

Perhaps a close re-reading of the Jacob Riis autobiography, The Making of an American is in order for Common Council President David Franczyk who has just coordinated an effort to prohibit the sale of the vacant tuburculosis hospital in Perrysburg to the first bidder in eight years! By any metric Trathen would have been a responsible steward of the land. Yeah, it’s only $350,000. Let’s do the math...and at the approximate rate of 10K/demolition that’s how many houses here in the ‘hood.

Odd that Jacob Riis, social worker, photographer and tuburculosis fundraiser’s patron saint wrote How the Other Half Lives. It spurned New York City’s Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt into action and helped rid New York City of urban blight. This is not only important social history it is a critically important lesson that must be passed on to our elected and anointed officials. Has Council President David Franzyk forgotten How the Other Half Still Lives. It would seem so. Not only would that $350K have restored the Woodlawn Row Houses, it would have restored our faith in the Common Council. It’s a simple matter of priorities. It’s something Mayor Adam and Police Commissioner Roosevelt understood.

Mayor James N. Adam handled the citizen’s complaint in 1908 and improved the quality of life here in BuffaloPerrysburg, NY. by constructing a tuberculosis hospital in It’s time to sell the place to Tom Trachten and properly handle citizens complaints, today. Trathen is the first responsible party to emerge in eight years according to Perrysburg Supervisor Mryton Sprague. The proceeds of the sale could have been used to improve the quality of life once again. This time in Perrysburg by restoring a property to the tax rolls and here, the ‘hood.

Will someone make sure David has a copy of How the Other Half Lives.
It should be on his desk.

Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row HousesTour dé Neglect - 2006faq

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There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask
of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.
- Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) from The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961.

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