The last of the favorite photos
of a certain city


by Susan
My turn! My turn! Oh, come on, readers.  Just one more?  I promise it won’t really be about Garden Walk so in caseVictorian375 you’re
GardenWalked out, don’t go away.  It’s Buffalo and Buffaloans that I
want to talk about.  Besides, I already reviewed the Walk itself.

Elizabeth gave me the mega-tour of city architecture
and it was awesome.  Most of the city was built when Buffalo was the second richest
city in the U.S., thanks to the Erie Canal, so we’re talking Frank Lloyd Wright and all the other greats of that era.  I know just enough about architecture to recognize that this city’s civic, religious, and housing stock is amazing.  And their parks were designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted. 

I learned that cities CAN have a sense of community, and maybe it helps if the city’s not too big and if its hoMartin375using is cheap, so that lots of cool, creative and activist types can afford to live there.  Take this 4,000-square foot Victoriain on Elizabeth’s block.  It’ll kill many of you to learn that a mere two years ago the current owner bought it for something in the mid-40s.  (Think that’s cheap?  In Detroit you can snap up a house for under $2,000 – just bring your Visa card!)

And another discovery.  The people out there gardening like mad and greening their communities are the artists, the videographers, the curators, the performance artists and musicians.  Oh, and most definitely the magazine editors.  (Now how can we get those folks together here in DC?) There are more and more "repats" who’ve moved back to be part of the rebirthing of their home town as a center for the arts and high-tech companies.

Now I know that city gardens are different from suburban ones, having taken those Georgetown tours and seen all that hardscape.  But in Buffalo the gardens are jam-packed with seating, shade structures, water features and art. The walls of the houses themselves create that all-important sense of enclosure.  It’s clear that Buffaloans really use their gardens, much more than we do here in the hotter, buggier Mid-Atlantic and southward.  And why not?  With their wonderful summers you can hang out and entertain outdoors without the whole mosquito assault or oppressive heat and mugginess.  Shorter summers make for summers that rock!  (I wonder if it’s the same in Chicago, in Minneapolis, in Madison, all those cool cities with cold winters.)

I really did have this conversation with myself:  If I sold my house and bought something comparable in Buffalo I’d invest the difference and never have to work again.  And I’d just adopt Elizabeth and Allen and all their friends (after conditioning my body to their much hipper hours and "lifestyle").  Then I reminded myself of the horrors of moving.  And yes, there’s that winter, which not everyone is bothered by and isn’t as bad as is often reported, but I conducted my own four-year experiment in living on Lake Erie and high-tailed it southward immediately upon graduation.  Hey, maybe I’ll just summer in Buffalo.  You know, entertain my artsy friends in the garden, maybe even buy a boat and party on that great lake of theirs.  Sounds like a plan.


  1. Susan, my thoughts exactly. I’ve been thinking recently about cities–and how much I’ve enjoyed the relatively poor ones lately–Detroit, Buffalo, Naples–over the rich ones–NYC, Boston, Rome.

    The poor ones draw artists. And repel corporate dollars. (Excuse me, Buffalo boosters–this may not be true of you.) Prada is not interested in opening stores in them. So they tend to have a much more compelling local flavor.

  2. “Lifestyle.” Yeah, that’s one word for it.

    Beautiful essay, Susan.I’m sending it to some friends here who don’t read gardening blogs. You have Buffalo down. Perfectly.

    I think both you and Amy could have pied a terres (no time to look this up, sorry) here. Closer to NYC for Amy. Michele, I know, longs to be a country girl, but she’s close anyway.

  3. Summer in Buffalo and winter in Tennessee. Both pretty cheap. I lived in Buffalo 24 years, and the winters are brutal, unless you’re a skier. And I truly do not see how they get those beautiful gardens to grow in the land of nearly perpetual winter. But there really is no better place to be June-September. After that, get out of town; I’ve driven in blizzards more than once on Halloween, a frozen my toes in snow on Easter. I miss it, though. It’s a great, beautiful city.

  4. Oh, please, Ann, more like May-Oct. Welcome to global warming. And I’ve ridden my bike in 60 degree temps in December here. Let’s not exaggerate!

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