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Cracking the National Trust

How non-registrants can enjoy the preservation conference opening on Wednesday

A movie about Buffalo, featuring Buffalonians in the main roles (and also, for that matter, the secondary roles) will be premiered in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference here next week and weekend. The film, entitled Buffalo Unscripted, will be screened at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center next Friday (October 21), and will be free and open to the public.

The moviemakers asked Buffalonians questions like “Is Buffalo misunderstood?” and “What does ‘rust belt’ mean to you?” and “Do you have hope for your city?” and listened to their answers. The movie was shot in Buffalo last summer in anticipation of the preservation conference.

About 2,500 preservationists will be in town for the four-day event. What they will be doing principally is attending talks and discussions on a gamut of preservation-related topics, most of them at the Convention Center, and heading out from there on numerous and various bus tours focused on Buffalo and area historical heritage, and preservation success stories and current challenges.

Registration fees for the full conference or one-day participation are hefty. But if you don’t have a few hundred bucks to spare for official registration, there are a number of free events open to the public, and others you can attend for same nominal fee official registrants have to pay for the same event, in addition to their registration fee).

Also, you might be able to go on some of the tours, again for the nominal fee that everyone pays. That is, if there are unsold tickets for a tour. Individual tour fees are $20 and up, depending on such factors as bus travel distance. One tour goes all the way to Rochester. Some of the more spectacular-sounding tours, like a river boat tour to view the grain elevators, are already sold out. But many others aren’t.

Such as (as of this writing, anyway) an urban agriculture tour of four urban farms on the East Side and West Side of Buffalo; a “Sanctuary to Speakeasy” tour of African-American-related venues from the Michigan Street Baptist Church to the Colored Musicians Club; a Niagara Falls tour, centered on Frederick Law Olmsted’s Niagara Reservation around the falls, the first state park in the nation; a sacred spaces reborn tour about what to do with abandoned or threatened and endangered urban houses of worship; a West Side community development tour; a tour of the Green Acres subdivision in Tonawanda, with an eye to preservation challenges; and an Erie Canal Heritage Corridor tour that goes all the way to Lockport and Brockport. Among others. The complete schedule of tours and times (some tours are given more than once) is in the conference program, on the website:

How this would work—as an outsider, getting to go on a tour—is a little dicey. You’d have to show up at the Convention Center half an hour or so before the tour, and if the tour wasn’t sold out, purchase a ticket. (While waiting around at the Convention Center, there are other things you could do, like check out a special preservation-oriented art show that will be installed there, and the conference bookstore.)

The conference runs Wednesday to Saturday. The best day for free public events is Thursday, according to Henry McCartney, executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the local arm of the national group. The preservation project awards ceremony will be at Kleinhans Music Hall that evening, but prior to that event there’s a free “walk and gawk” starting from the Convention Center about 4:30 to 5pm and proceeding up Delaware Avenue, with stops into Babeville, Trinity Church, and the DAR house, then down side streets through Allentown, to a stop at the Quaker Bonnet for refreshments, then on to Symphony Circle and First Presbyterian Church, and finally Kleinhans. McCartney said anyone can then stay for the one-hour awards ceremony, which he spoke of—based on previous ones he’d attended—in surprisingly glowing terms. Each awarded project is briefly described in a slide or video presentation, and “they are very heartwarming stories,” he said. After the awards ceremony is a “Museums by Moonlight” event the public can join in on (for $30) that will include entrée to the Albright-Knox, the Burchfield Penney, the Historical Society, an open house at the art conservation facilities at Buffalo State College, and a tour of the Henry Hobson Richardson building.

Some of the more notable free events open to the public are a symposium “New York State Preservation 101: Understanding the Basics,” on Wednesday, October 19, 10am-3pm, in the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, main branch, auditorium, and a lecture on “Buffalo Architecture” by noted architectural historian Martin Wachadlo, Friday, October 21, 6pm, in the City Hall Council Chambers.

Free tours open to the public include (again, see the program, on the website, for the complete list, with dates and times and other information) a Black Rock Historic Village tour, and tours of the Louis Sullivan Guaranty Building, the Connecticut Street Armory, Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Buffalo City Hall, Temple Beth Zion, and Blessed Trinity Roman Catholic Church. And several free concerts are scheduled at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Some notable fee (not free) events open to the public include tours of the Richardson Building/Olmsted Complex ($15); Prospect Hill, around the Peace Bridge ($20); Buffalo breweries ($35); a grain elevators walking tour ($10, students $5), various Allentown walking tours ($10); downtown Buffalo tours ($10, students $5); Humboldt Parade ($10, students $5); the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House (various tours, various prices); and a tour and boat ride on the Edward M. Cotter fireboat ($35). Also, an authentic Polish polka party at St. Stanislaus Church ($10).

A “City of Light” talk by author Lauren Belfer is scheduled for Saturday, October 22, at Buffalo Seminary ($25). Reception at 5pm, talk at 7pm.

Art exhibits—all these are free and open to the public—with architectural and preservationist themes are now up or will be up during the conference at CEPA in the Market Arcade and at the Buffalo Niagara Visitor’s Center in the Market Arcade; at the M&T Center, Main and Huron Streets; at the Convention Center; in the Statler Hotel Lobby; at Studio Hart, 65 Allen Street; at Artsphere Studio and Gallery, 447 Amherst Street; and at the Carnegie Art Center, 240 Goundry Street, North Tonawanda.

And if you don’t get to any of the tours or talks, at least enjoy the red mums—the Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s way of “rolling out the red carpet” to welcome the preservationists to Buffalo, as well as to generally beautify the city—planted in various locations throughout the parks system. Paid for with a $50,000 grant from Erie County Executive Chris Collins, matched by $50,000 from the Conservancy budget.

An election coming up, right?

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