South Buffalo - YES!
South Buffalo gets no respect. It is separated from the main bulk of the city by major industrial areas, a river, and an expressway. This divide is not only a city divide; it is an area wide divide. If you are a south-towner you stay south-town and vice versa with the northerners.
BRO has been accused of being Elmwood centric. To an extent this is true, not due to any plan but, because people tend to report on what they know, and most of us just don't know South Buffalo too well - with this nasty "divide" and all. Every once in a while we venture past that divide to report on this somewhat sleepily comfortable part of the city. Hopefully this is something we can do with more frequency in the future. Often, after reporting on a certain place or event we get correspondence from people offering more information or suggestions. A recent piece on South Buffalo Bungalows elicited a response from a BRO reader stating the following:
I would like you to be aware of some changes I am seeing. I am noticing a lot of younger career families move into the area. Their comments are always, "the homes are so beautiful, but forgotten". Each day I walk during my daily exercise, I watch a young homeowner who purchased a hideous home on Cazenovia Street, restoring this to to its originality. This house is turning out to be absolutely stunning. The original arts and craft design for a two family is what this area is about. What I am saying is... it is people like that we need to bring into the area. I walk to the "caz coffee shop" on the side of Cazenovia park, and admire all the homes. Please do this homeowner a favor and do a small piece on the restortation he is doing. ...My neighbors and I comment on the progress and beauty of this home. It may not be historically significant, or even architecturally important, but it is a step forward.
The reader put us in touch with the owner Mr. Keith Fronczak. The house is a wonderful craftsman style, two flat, looking out onto the lush green expanse of Cazenovia Park. Mr. Fronczak grew up in Hamburg but has long been interested in the quality, value, and history, available in city houses and neighborhoods. When looking at houses in the city he focused on South Buffalo because of his south-towns roots (there is that divide again) and because of the tremendous value that could be had in this part of town. He saw this house as a dusty treasure that just needed some love. Researching its history, he found that a neighboring building was used to store boats that used to float on the old park lake. He points out that it is this kind of history that adds richness to a neighborhood experience. Here are some of his own words about the house and its restoration:
"There isn't any historical importance, but I will tell you what I have done and you decide. I have always admired South Buffalo for its "diamond in the rough" aspect. Buying a house here, gave me the same style and quality home as North Buffalo and other areas without the price tag. I thought that Cazenovia Park and the Olmstead history was something really cool and sometimes overlooked. I was hoping someday to live along the park.
"In March of 2007, my agent told me about a house on Cazenovia Street that was on the market for quite awhile and that it had "potential" When I saw it, I saw this massive asbestos and aluminum covered home that has a bad 1960's yellow paint. But, when I walked through the door and saw the beautiful woodwork and stained glass, and leaded windows. I was sold. It was obvious the tenants didn't see the same beauty in this house because of the condition and over all lack of well being of the interior. ( Oh, and about 50 pigeons lived in the attic. No windows and busted aluminum eaves.) I was hoping, from the interior, that the exterior must have had some craftsman quality to it. When I closed on the house, my friends and family liked the view of the park, but not the house. They all thought I was nuts.
"After working on the interior, I was happy to learn all the exterior was still intact under that nasty siding, which also had the original tiling company sign under it. Except for holes from blown in insulation, everything was there and in great shape. All the woodwork was covered under dull, white aluminum. The house appeared to have the original paint on it also. And stained cedar shingles. It was a beautiful 1914 two family arts and craft home. I tried to find colors that matched the time period. Between the historic park setting view out my front window, and the beautiful home, I feel this was a great move. The house took a lot of work, and time... oh and money (by the way, its still not done)."
Mr Fronczack also noted his impression that many young career oriented families were moving into the area. He pointed out that living near the park was like having the city and the country in one place. He recognized this as a great neighborhood and a house that had tremendous untapped potential. Without his wisdom this beautiful simple house may have traveled the downwardly spiraling path of so many poorly managed absentee city properties, dragging its neighbors down along the way.
Congratulations to Keith Fronczack for his wonderful restoration and for his ability to recognize the hidden treasures available in all parts of the city.