Long, frustrating day today. I'll spare the details, but suffice it that we spent four hours wrangling over essentially a $1,500 difference of opinion. Voices were raised (clients'), and feelings were hurt (mine), but in the end we got it done and everyone headed home, more or less equally miserable. This is what the court system considers an effective settlement.
Since I can't and won't go into many of the details, I'll instead note where it all happened. I first moved here not quite 32 years ago and have lived here for all but about 10 of the years since, still making regular visits here for work and play even during that inteRochesteregnum. In all that time, I had never been to the once industrial neighborhood on the edge of the south of downtown, known most recently as the Larkin District. Over the past few years, it's become a quirky annex to the established downtown core of professionals, courts and government offices- not much in the way of waterfront views, but plenty of loft and warehouse-style real estate to convert into funky offices and an amount of free parking not seen anywhere within ten square miles.
"Larkin" refers to several things- the building, once a warehouse, which was converted into the offices we worked from today; the whole neighborhood, with themed street and directional signs; and, perhaps most historically significant of all, the one building that isn't there, and to which no sign points (but GPS-style things do): The Remnant of the Larkin Administration Building.
No tour guide, no signage to direct traffic, just a remaining retaining wall and a snow-covered plaque. I took out my snowbrush and cleared it:
Can't read it? Try the wikilink that the Google map sort-of points you to:
The Larkin Building was designed in 1904 by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1906 for the Larkin Soap Company of Buffalo, New York. The five story dark red brick building used pink tinted mortar and utilized steel frame construction. It was noted for many innovations, including air conditioning, stained glass windows, built-in desk furniture, and suspended toilet bowls. Though this was an office building, it still caught the essence of Frank Lloyd Wright's type of architecture. Sculptor Richard Bock provided ornamentation for the building.
Located at 680 Seneca Street, the Larkin Building was demolished in 1950.
Well, 680 SWAN Street. But, the idea's the important thing. As is the insanity of a government ordering the destruction of such an architectural treasure:
Wright's Administration building was foreclosed upon for back taxes in 1945 by the city of Buffalo. The city tried to sell the building over the next five years and considered other reuses. In 1949 the building was sold to the Western Trading Corporation, who announced plans to demolish it for a truck stop. It did so in 1950 despite protests from the architectural community. No truck stop ever materialized. A single brick pier along a railroad embankment is all that remains from Wright's original building. The remainder of the site is now a parking lot with a marker and an illustrated educational panel.
Which you see above. In greater detail here, to show you where "you" are (or I, at least, was):
Yup, that little wall in the lower right corner is all that remains of this treasure- much reduced, and more insignificant, than it was 70-plus years before. A metaphor for this city as a whole? Perhaps. But we at least retain at least two Wright residences (both built for people connected to the Larkin Company) that are still extant and open to the public for tours and study. Rochester has at least one private residence of Wright's creation which I know well from my interregnum there.
Perhaps it's corporate guilt over this sin that leads local preservationists to protest whenever any building, however far gone or run-of-the-mill, is proposed for demolition or alteration. But damn it's still a pretty mortal sin to overcome. I looked over that block, with nothing but the one wall anchoring nothing but snow-
- and could hear, ever so faintly, the bustle of the office workers, the 1930s and 40s employees visiting the 2010-ish food truck parked on Hydraulic Street, and could only say, wow. That's a damn amazing brick wall.
And that, maybe, is the real metaphor for Buffalo 2013.
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