The First Ward in Buffalo NY includes the docks along the Buffalo River and was once a thriving industrial area. Old grain elevators still dominate the area. The first residents were Irish who came to help dig the Erie Canal (completed in 1825) and who stayed. A second wave of Irish immigrants arrived in the 1840’s as refugees from the famine. They settled here and found work in the port.
Two large murals have been painted on Republic Street, both facing the railway tracks. The first is ‘The Worker’ on the old Brock’s building/warehouse between Tennessee and Kentucky streets. It was completed just over a year ago.
The project was headed by ELAB (Emerging Leaders in the Arts Buffalo).
below: Molten metal and flying sparks by Nicole Cherry
below: Nick Miller’s painting, “Brakemen” a tribute to those who worked on the railways fills the word THE.
below: W O R K E R with its images
below: A harbour scene.
below: Honouring the police and firemen. The boat is the “Edward M. Cotter”. This fireboat was built in 1900 as the “William S. Grattan” – named after the first paid fire commissioner in Buffalo. After a 1953 rebuild she was given her present name in honour of a recently deceased Buffalo firefighter and leader of the local firefighters union. She is the oldest active fireboat in the world and is a National Historic landmark. She also acts as an ice breaker during the winter months.
below: Scoopers with grain in the hold of a lake freighter.
The second mural was painted by Vinnie Alejandro and a team of artists. It is a 5000 square foot painting contrasting the past and present of the Old First Ward.
It is just up the street from ‘The Workers’ mural – on the side of the Community Steel building at Alabama and Republic.
The area has many railway lines. The ones that run parallel to Republic Street were in 1903 the City of Buffalo granted private railroad rights to the Quaker City Cooperage Company (they made barrels). These tracks connected to the Erie Railroad.
From what I could find, other artists include Tom O’Brien, Amanda Gala Roney, Suzie Molnar Goad, Ed ‘Sparky’ Lawton, Jake Wiles, and Chris Kameck. Like all community mural projects, many people and organizations were involved. For a short history of the mural, and a list of groups who gave supplies and/or time, see an article in ‘Buffalo Rising‘ (an excellent resource if you’re interested in the city of Buffalo).
Photos were taken January 3, 2017