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Humboldt Parkway

  Lost  


http://preservationready.org/Buildings/HumboldtParkway-Draft?action=download&upname=HumboldtTerminus.jpg
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Humboldt and Northland, 1953
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Humboldt and Ferry, Before/After
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Under construction, Science Museum upper right, downtown toward lower left
Photo Credit: Buffalo Rising, BuffaloAH, Courier Express

Location

Google Bird's Eye View
Humboldt Parkway runs from Agassiz Circle, at the southeast corner of Delaware Park (formerly The Park) and Parkside, to Martin Luther King Park (formerly Humboldt Park), near Fillmore Avenue and Best Street. It is currently intruded upon by significant sunken sections of NYS Routes 198 and 33.

Owner

City of Buffalo / State of New York.

Physical Description

Historically, before the late 1950's, Humboldt Parkway was a two-mile long, 200 foot wide parkway with a bridle path down the middle, flanked by rows of Maple and Elm trees. Access roads and additional trees lined both sides of the 150 foot wide center median.

Congress for the New Urbanism - CNU22 Buffalo: "Humboldt Parkway was once a beautiful Maple and Elm-lined street designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The parkway was an integral route along the City of Buffalo’s Paris-inspired parks and parkways system, the oldest of its kind in the U.S. However, in the 1960s, Robert Moses and his freeway-building colleagues denuded the parkway and sunk the Kensington Expressway in its place, erasing arguably the grandest street in Buffalo."

Current Condition

The parkway is now a six lane limited access high speed highway, mostly in a deep trench, that divides the neighborhood and diverts traffic from Buffalo's formerly thriving commercial radial streets. In addition, many homes were lost, and the National Register historic Hamlin Park district was divided.

Half of the parkway was replaced with the Scajaquada Expressway, Route 198 - an urban highway that destroyed Agassiz Circle and split Olmsted's famed Delaware Park in half.

The rest of the parkway was replaced with the Kensington Expressway, Route 33 - a connector from downtown to the suburbs that bypassed Buffalo's most important commercial centers to the east.

History

  • 1868-1896 - The father of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted, worked with Calvert Vaux to design the Nation Register Historic Delaware Park–Front Park System. Integrated into that design was Humboldt Parkway, a tree-lined canopy connecting The Park (Delaware Park) to The Parade (MLK Park). Once the widest, grandest street in Buffalo and an integral part of the Buffalo Parks and Parkway System.
  • 1958-1965 - Construction of two unneeded highways result in the destruction of the parkway
    • The "need" for such a highway, as presented by William Gallancy of NYS Public Works, was to relieve increasing traffic congestion, maintain property values, and keep the city from being a backyard to the suburbs. Instead, traffic volume remained the same for 50 years, but was diverted away from neighborhoods that then fell victim to diminished property values and increased flight to the suburbs, exacerbating the very problems it claimed to guard against.

Recent Events and Actions Taken

  • 2012 - Route 33: As it reaches the end of its life-cycle before requiring substantial re-investment, initial talks of its future have included capping the highway or filling it in to produce an at-grade boulevard. Neither plan properly restores the parkway, but an at grade boulevard would return people to bypassed neighborhoods, and do so at a lower cost as well. No replacement option has passed the planning stages or had any funding allocated.
  • 2013 - Route 198: Public meetings have begun regarding the right-sizing of the route with lower speeds and better access points, but none of the plans presented to the public have addressed proper restoration of the park or parkway. In addition, the DOT's initial plans constitute little more than a rebuilding of the existing highway.

Other Pertinent Facts

  • Olmsted also designed Central Park and Prospect Park in NYC, the Emerald Necklace in Boston, and the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC. Late in his life, he declared Buffalo to be “the best planned city, as to its streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not the world” due in large part to Joseph Ellicott's radial street grid and Buffalo's integrated system of parks and parkways.
  • David Steele, architect, discussing the notion that Rt. 33 aids in reaching businesses:
    • 'The jobs were in the city until the highways made it easy to ship them out... 10, 15, or 20 minutes extra time driving, if it is any extra time at all, is not the same thing as (being unable) to get to your job. On the contrary, the more car-oriented a city is made, the more difficult it is to get to your job. For some low-income people, a car-centric city quite possibly does make it impossible to get to a job. The final insult to the people of Buffalo is ... that many of the city's efficiently laid out diagonal streets go virtually unused at rush hour, as thousands of cars are concentrated into limited corridors where Buffalo parks are supposed to be. It is pure insanity.'

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Added 2013-08-12 • Last changed 2017-02-02