Eddie (sp) and the Art Deco

Every so often I enjoy visiting Buffalo, NY. After being born in Greensboro, NC, my grandfather George Tompkins, Jr and his brother Harry were raised in the border city by their mother Clara, née Moore, after their dad passed away in 1918. Grandpa was only seven at the time. The family had been living in Wilberforce, OH, where the siblings’ father was teaching mechanical engineering at Wilberforce University. George, Sr and Clara, who was a social worker and dressmaker, had both been born in NY State. My great grandmother returned to her home state, and the family took up residence next door to Clara’s parents on Matsen Street.

Buffalo is special for a litany of reasons. For me, one more is an architectural catalogue spanning several styles and eras, in some cases preserved and/or functioning. On this trip, after visiting the mailbox we keep in Niagara Falls, NY to partially overcome Canada’s exorbitant and irrational shipping charges, my partner Susan and I worked our way south through the chemical wastelands typically associated with the historic Love Canal spill until we reached the city’s Upper West Side and a unique garage named Cosuma Auto.



Cosuma’s proprietor is Eddie (sp), where the mechanic works on all makes and models of vehicles. Eddie the Dominican, now sixty years old with a son in his twenties, has been operating this business for the last thirty.



Eddie’s garage is representative of the Art Deco period, a style erected in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s when my Grandfather was in his teens and twenties. You won’t go far before encountering Art Deco, short for Arts Décoratifs, in Buffalo, NY, if you’re familiar with what you’re looking at.

Susan and I were on our way to visit the Buffalo Religious Art Center. The museum, which was unfortunately closed, “was established in 2008 to collect and preserve fine art from the many houses of worship that were forced to close their doors.” Still, we were able to take in other worthwhile local art on display nonetheless.



Close to the Center on the same East Street block, at Amherst St, was the since replaced Fire House Engine No 15 in its Arts and Crafts mode, one of three of an almost identical style. The Black Rock community fire house, completed by architect Thomas W. Harris in 1912, has been restored.



In addition to the main structure, there is a peaceful courtyard to its side. Susan commented on the irony of there being a fire escape leading from the fire house down into the courtyard.



All of this was viewed on the Upper West Side of Buffalo, a neighbourhood beside the Niagara River that is clearly on the mend with opportunistic vendors launching entertainment and delicious multicultural dining chances and adding to the city’s vibrancy. Susan and I enjoyed the loaded Mexican Fajitas at Taqueria Ranchos La Delicias.

And then there’s the Art Deco. Not every example is going to be stunning, like Buffalo City Hall and others. But it is frequently present, like accents of the Dr. Antonia Pantoja Community School of Excellence.



School 18 is elementary, offering a bilingual (English and Spanish) education to approximately 500 students in Kindergarten to grade eight.

Should you feel the urge to suffer the QEW traffic all the way to Ontario and Canada’s most southern crossing into New York State, you’re bound to encounter Art Deco and other exciting forms of industrial and residential architecture in Buffalo. The Upper West Side, welcoming drivers crossing on the Peace Bridge, is a fine starting place.