Mon & Wed: 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Tue & Thu: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Fri & Sat: 11:00am - 3:00pm
1902 Niagara Street
Buffalo, New York 14207
by Bill Parke
Booming cannons, uncorked champagne, and hearty cheers signaled a new era for Black Rock on Sunday afternoon, October 23rd, with a dedication ceremony of the new Historic Black Rock Murals covering the 300-foot-long wall at the aqueduct at Tonawanda and Amherst Streets, replacing murals painted in the 1970s.
The celebration featured more than 100 neighbors, mural artists, dignitaries, community leaders, and even War of 1812 reenactors! The 2nd Lincoln Artillery shot 34” cannons capable of launching 2 lb. balls, and a mother with children in period dress accompanied the soldiers. Funded by a grant from the Buffalo & Erie County Greenway Commission and sponsored by the Historic Preservation Committee of the Black Rock-Riverside Good Neighbors Planning Alliance, the murals will be used as a teaching/educational tool for bus and walking tours, and will be shown in a documentary on the War of 1812 in Black Rock.
The hired-artist murals are arranged in a historical timeline and read from left to right. J. Tim Raymond was the artist for a depiction of the Black Rock and Native Americans before the 1700s, when the Black Rock was known as “Kistangoi” in the Iroquois language. The rock was 200' long and 300' wide, made of chert and limestone, and offered a safe harbor for villagers. Also shown are corn, squash and beans, referred to as the “Three Sisters.” They are the physical and spiritual sustainers of life, comprising the main food supply for the Iroquois, and are painted in the lower left of the mural. Also shown is a profile apparition of Philip Conjockety, for whom the Scajaquada Creek is named.
Next is a War of 1812 mural painted by Russell Mott. Here the British have landed in a bateaux at the foot of Amherst Street, to torch the area of Black Rock and Buffalo on December 30, 1813 and January 1, 1814. The American officer in the foreground on the right is ready to call in his troops to defend the area. Mott brilliantly included General Peter Porter’s house to add more meaning to the mural and to create historical dialogue.
The third mural, The Erie Canal, was designed by Doreen DeBoth and painted by Jerome A. Mach. Activities along the Towpath are recreated with buildings and mules pulling packet boats. A portrait of DeWitt Clinton, who as Governor of New York presided over the canal’s construction and opening in October of 1825, is included.
To the right of the stairs Joe Tempski has portrayed Railroads and Industry in the 1800s in Black Rock with a steam locomotive crossing the International Bridge during the evening hours. Industrial buildings represent the thriving manufacturing era of Black Rock’s history and railroads are an important part of that growth.
The theme of the fifth mural is Historical Architecture in Black Rock, designed and painted by Russell Mott. Prominent buildings in Black Rock are featured, prompting viewers to playfully ask themselves, “Can I recognize them all?”
The last mural’s theme is Peace Garden, painted by Cynthia Van Ens. The artist, after living in Black Rock for two years, celebrates the growth of Black Rock she has seen, particularly the Black Rock Heritage Garden located at Dearborn and Hamilton Streets. Where once was an empty lot is now a flourishing flower and vegetable garden sponsored by the Dearborn Street Community Association for residents and visitors to enjoy. The garden was recognized last year as the first Bicentennial Art of Peace Garden in the United States. Peace gardens celebrating 200 years of peace between U.S. and Canada since the War of 1812. The Peace Tree in the mural signifies hope for the future, to create a peaceful community of all ethnicities living and working together. The man making repairs on the roof represent the rebuilding of a neighborhood that was beginning to crumble.
Finally, visual chronicles of our past and present bookend the assemblage. On the left is a map of 1812 fortifications in Black Rock and Buffalo, each which had significant roles in the war, followed by the title “Black Rock Heritage Mural” and an honor roll listing the project sponsors and muralists, and then a scene of happy waterfront visitors depicting joggers, young families, and relaxing elders. On the right is a contemporary scene highlighting our community’s waterfront location and its amazingly colorful sunsets.
Mary Ann Kedron of the Black Rock-Riverside Good Neighbors Planning Alliance emceed the ceremonies as the person who has shepherded the mural project forward, it being just one attraction of four projects funded by a Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Commission grant that will bring lasting attention to the historic character of Black Rock. Warren Glover of the GNPA’s Historic Preservation Committee declared the mural duly dedicated, while Doreen DeBoth recognized the work of the artists. Dearborn Street Community Association President Beverly Eagen and North District Councilman Joseph Golombek, Jr. hoisted signage into the air that will accompany the new Market Square Historic District in Black Rock. After congratulatory speeches from elected leaders and additional cannon bursts, the assembled multitude retreated to the Buffalo Religious Arts Center for refreshments and socializing, where certificates listed contributors to the mural project.
1902 Niagara St, Buffalo, New York 14207, United States
Fridays: 10am - 4pm
Saturdays: 11am - 3pm
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