Buffalo's Telescope Houses
Buffalo is well known for it's architectural portfolio with many beautiful examples from Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright and other leading architects from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This post is about a different kind of building, a type of building that genuinely represents Buffalo's booming past and cultural diversity.
Telescope houses are standard cottage-like homes that were built on skinny lots within the city, primarily inhabited by the large Polish and German immigrants that came to the city for work. The original homes were often small, less that one-thousand square feet and very standardized across the neighborhood with identical layouts throughout. As working families grew, there was a common need to build additions onto the homes. Homeowners only had one choice - the back of the home - due to the commonly narrow (but deep) lots. These additions onto the rear of the home would be incrementally smaller that the original home, and often times homeowners would add on more than once, thus creating a telescoping effect. 100 years ago, a common joke would be that when a family was expecting another child, they'd also be adding another addition to the back of the house.
The most common examples of telescope homes can be found on Buffalo's East Side and the Old First Ward. Although these models can be found throughout numerous "Rust Belt" cities, Buffalo hosts an extremely high amount. Although Buffalo is experiencing a resurgence in many areas, the East Side is widely behind and many of these examples are seriously decrepit. The future preservation of these examples are in serious jeopardy.