Street Signs on Building Corners
One thing I've come to appreciate through my experience with photography is how the camera has enabled me to continue learning about Buffalo. For being a relatively small city by today's standards, we have a lot of great pieces of history packed into Buffalo. We have an incredible portfolio of architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright, E.B. Green to name a few), a vast amount of grandeur churches (St. Louis R.C Church, St. Paul's, and many more) and a strong industrial past (Silo City, Pierce Arrow Complex).
But to be honest, what excites me the most are the not so obvious details in our city's fabric. Since I started this blog, one of my favorite photo blog posts was from 2017 about the Clocks of Buffalo. It was really fun driving around the city looking up at all the church steeples trying to find clocks in the towers. Then after finding a new clock in one of the steeples or on the side of building, I'd research the history and just read for hours. The process of finding more and reading more about it overcame the photography piece of the project, and that was extremely fun. It's been a while since I've had that, but I'm happy to say it's back with this post!
I've spent a few weeks researching permanent street signs on the corner of buildings around Buffalo without too much luck. New York City has a ton of these, and to be honest the idea came to me after reading some random NYC blog post about a guy asking the question "why did they put these street signs on the corner of buildings?" A hundred years ago, before the streets were littered with flimsy aluminum posts with green street signs, there were corner stones and bricks with the street names chiseled into them in densely populated cities. NYC, being the largest, had hundreds of these. They were commonly found on the second stories of building corners along trolley lines, helping passengers identify where they were. From recent research, they appear to still have at least 100 of these permanent corner street signs on buildings still existing throughout the city. Surprisingly, not many other cities have an abundance of these upon looking. Chicago has a few, and I'm sure others do as well, but they're not well documented. One thought is that this practice of carving/etching street names into the corner of the building was popular during the 1850's to early 1900's on corner lots and many buildings that old simply don't exist today. Corner lots in cities are prime real estate, so they were often re-developed.
It's popular in Europe to still make these corner signs today, even with new builds, but I'm more interested in the US history of these. Then I remembered a few pictures I took a while ago, primarily one from Roosevelt Square, and recall the Main & Genesee sign (lead image) that's clearly visible today. My mind started to race... I wondered "how many more of these are within the city that I just never noticed?" I'm not going to lie, I spent about 4 hours straight on Google Maps trying to find more. I found 18 in total, and here are my results (details in captions). It's fun to imagine what times were like back when these were made on each of these buildings, and how densely populated these areas of Buffalo must have been to justify the expense (especially Larkinville, with 7 of these). Next time you're in the city and have some walking to do, look up - you just might find something new!