Looking Backward: Times Beach, 1954

by / Oct. 13, 2015 11pm EST

In 1954, Wilbur H. Porterfield, whose weekly feature for the Buffalo Courier-Express frequently focused on the intersection of urbanism and nature, snapped this photograph of the last remaining house along Times Beach, before 1931 known simply as “The Beach” or “The Seawall Strip.”

It is easy to forget, in a space now used for a highway bridge, dry storage marinas, sailing schools, a Coast Guard station, and a nature preserve, that much of Times Beach was historically a neighborhood with dozens of cottages, taverns, seafood restaurants, and the original location of the Bison City Rod and Gun Club. Most of this neighborhood, built on a city-owned seawall, was razed in a slum clearance campaign in 1917. Homes dating back to 1844 were leveled, and hundreds of longtime residents—known as the “Beachers,” many making a living as fishers, grain scoopers, and tavern keepers—were forcibly evicted.

Here, near the corner of Fuhrmann Boulevard and South Michigan Avenue, Porterfield records the last vestige of this once complex waterfront neighborhood. The Skyway opened to traffic on October 19, 1955—its 60th birthday will be on Monday—and the Beach neighborhood was forgotten. If history will be any factor in future planning along Fuhrmann Bouelvard, such cottages and restaurants could be built again—with sufficient distance from Times Beach Nature Preserve—along the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal, in the shadow of the Skyway piers.


Image courtesy of The Buffalo History Museum. Used by permission.