Signs of the times – And it's Garden Walk time!

This is cool. One of the streets in Buffalo that has benefited greatly from the enthusiasm, encouragement, PR and traffic of Garden Walk Buffalo, is unquestionably Sixteenth Street, in the Cottage District.

To celebrate the fact, and to brighten up the street even more, they have installed these banners of past Garden Walk poster artworks. If you're in Buffalo, and you like these banners, let me know and I can connect you to the Sixteenth Street folks. They can fill you in on where you can get these banners for your street too. They (and Garden Walk) would love to see these repeated on other streets throughout the city.

This was their idea, their block club money, their coordination to get them produced, and their work to install them. They contacted each of the artists that created the artwork first, to get their permission & blessing. Then I created the files to send off to their printer. I designed most of the posters on which the artwork was used. This was my donation to the Sixteenth Street efforts. Then, they spent a bit of time on a weekend on ladders adding the curly-cue supports & hanging the banners.

Sixteenth Street, as little as ten years ago, was what you might call a "transitional" street. Transitioning to what, I don't think anyone knew. An area of the city originally populated by Buffalo's Italian community, it had seen better days. Older housing stock in need of repair; absentee landlords; aging owners that were unable, or lacked the initiative to take care of their front yards; nefarious renters; and shady-goings-on happening at the end of the street and on neighboring blocks. I feel safe in saying this, as I owned a home on Sixteenth Street from 1991-2001.

As with most streets like this, there were bright spots–a few nice neighbors and VERY reasonably-priced homes. We owned a double. After we took out from the mortgage what the tenent contributed, the mortgage was LESS than what we were paying in rent previously.

After having gone on Garden Walk, visiting gardens its first few years, I looked at my garden and said, "Hey, my yard is as good as half of these!" and put our Sixteenth Street house on the Walk. Even though literally thousands of people were visiting the Cottage District's Little Summer Street, just a half block away, our house, the only house on on Sixteenth Street on the Walk, wouldn't even get two dozen visitors. The street had that kind of "reputation."

After we had our daughter, we sold the house to moved, ostensibly, to a better school district. We made the couple that bought our Sixteenth Street house promise to be on the Garden Walk. They were not previously gardeners (and still claim not to be). But they not only have been on the Walk, they encouraged neighbors to get involved, and helped start a block club. Each year they, along with the block club (and a particularly generous avid gardener on the block) help to "redo" one front yard garden for an elderly neighbor. They've applied for (and gotten) multiple Garden Walk Beatification Grants–installing street side planters, hanging baskets and these banners. Two Sixteenth Street representatives are on the Garden Walk committee.

This is a completely different block than when I lived there. Housing values have gone up. People are working on the houses–interiors and exteriors. People are spending more time on their porches (they used to just drag the living room furniture out to them to watch a bills game). Everyone knows everyone else and looks out for each other. I was visiting there over the weekend and every one greets each other with a smile and wave. This did not happen ten years ago. There are 11 house on Sixteenth Street on Garden Walk this year!

Is all this because of Garden Walk? No. It's because of the people. These banners are in honor of their pride in Garden Walk and are a punctuation for a revitalized block. And this is spreading. There are now more and more streets "deep" on the West Side of Buffalo that are getting on the Garden Walk bandwagon–caring more for the aesthetics of their neighborhoods and homes, getting involved on Garden Walk, taking advantage of our Beautification Grants and reveling in Garden Walk's own version of "Urban Greenewal."

This is what I'm most proud about as president of Garden Walk Buffalo–helping foster neighborhood pride, increasing home values and increasing a sense of community in neighborhoods that might not otherwise have had something to band together for. And then showing it off to a regional (and now national) audience.

And, by my moving off Sixteenth Street, I think I helped make it a much better street.


  1. Those banners look awesome and I'm sure they get people's attention.

  2. What an excellent, inspiring story! I hope to get there this year from Ithaca. Sixteenth Street will be at the top of my list.

  3. How nice those flags are...they make the streets look so quaint, I'm sure! Your garden walks sound so wonderful and fun. I remember reading about the one in your garden last year. What a nice community activity!

  4. Phillip,
    Thank you. And for a low discounted price, I'm sure I can get the same ones for your street in Alabama.

    Please visit! Elizabeth from and I are going to keep a list of the bloggers that will be around Saturday evening for a small soiree. Will you be around on Saturday evening?

    It's a great community activity on many fronts, gardens being almost the least of them all. Camaraderie among neighbors, great PR for the city and more people taking pride in their properties being chief among them.

  5. Our first apartment was on 16th st.
    We had a back cottage, upper. We refinished the floors ourselves, painted, decorated a little baconey, with window boxes, and bamboo shades, over looking the blacktop below. We were the the only block that couldn't get renters insurance.

  6. Yes, the banners are great.
    Oh, i want to come to Buffalo !!

  7. Claudia,
    Seriously? When did you live there?

    And we want you to visit! Have you been to the states yet?

  8. Let me just say this,we lived on 16 St. before cell phones, remotes, dvds,and only owned one car.

  9. What a great post! It goes to show that garden tours can be so much more than a chance to show off some attractive landscaping. Yours has clearly impacted the community in many meaningful ways. They are fortunate to have such dedicated volunteers.

    FYI, I read Elizabeth's post about voting on next year's blogger spring fling. I can see the buttons, but no writing after them - may be my computer but you might want to check your site.

  10. Can you move to our street in Madison and help with the end of it that is "in transition"? It wasn't the gardens, per se, that caused the beneficial changes on your street, but they do indicate pride and interest which are critical factors in any neighborhood's survival and growth.

  11. As the "new" owners of Jim's old house, I must say that it was the garden that sold us on the house. "Gee, I hope there's a nice house attached to this garden," was my first reaction. We have put our own touches on the garden but, having seen a picture of the yard pre-garden, I can assure you that we would not have had the vision to build the flowing two-level deck and multiple planting areas. Thanks Jim! We are so delighted to be a part of this block revitalization.

  12. Interesting post. Love Cindy's comment about hoping there was a nice house attached to the garden. BTW, the Bills will be here in August to play the Packers in a preseason game, but I don't have plans to haul furniture onto the front porch to watch the game. That made me laugh.

  13. Claudia,
    Before cell phones? There was a time before them?

    The type in the Fling blogging poll is dark on my dark background. I cannot figure out how to adjust the poll colors. Just leave a comment with your preference and it'll be counted, though it's looking heavily in favor of NOT being during Garden Walk next year.

    I miss that old deck. I liked the layout of it. I should have been a deck designer.

    Made you laugh. Made me want to cringe.

  14. I am so throughly in awe of the Garden walk. I live in England and got to know about Buffalo from my friend who introduced me to all this.How i wish we had something as good as this here.Keep up the good work, you will be amazed how you are admired from across "the pond".
    and yes,the banners are lovely.


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