SLICE OF WNY
Connecticut Street and Columbus Park West
By Lisa Kane, photos by kc kratt

A walk along Connecticut Street starts and ends at two appealing residential sections—Richmond Avenue at the east end and, at the west, Columbus Park West, which doesn’t cross Connecticut but is rather a two-block extension of it. The Richmond/Connecticut neighborhood is going to be around for awhile, but, as planning for the Peace Bridge plaza expansion goes on and on, the future of Columbus Park West and the surrounding environs is far less certain. Risking its loss is a shame—this strong, stable neighborhood has long been an anchor for Buffalo’s Far West Side. (On the bright side, the neighborhood is now one of the Preservation League of New York State’s Seven to Save, which gives its advocates access to legal service, media relations experts, and potential grants.)

Seen along Connecticut and Columbus

The starting point of our walk, at the corner of Columbus Park West and Busti Avenue, offers a quintessential West Side view. There you’ll see, looking southwest, the red-roofed Colonel Ward Pumping Station, completed in 1916; looking northwest, the Peace Bridge; and, of course, the mighty Niagara River and the Canadian shoreline. Now turn east and start walking.

Although much of the life of Connecticut Street is tied to D’Youville College, whose campus spills across and around Connecticut, it may be even more tied to the modest businesses and homes along this former business hub. (The first Italian Heritage Festival, now held on Hertel, was presented here in 1976.) But by far the most physically dominant presence in the area is the massive Connecticut Street Armory.

Covering an entire block at the northeast corner of Niagara and Connecticut, the armory was designed by Lansing and Beierl and built in 1898-1900 for the 74th Regiment of the New York National Guard. With a beautiful, dramatic interior featuring lovely ornamental woodwork and a massive skylight, it has a second life as a popular spot for large fundraising events and other gatherings.

The D’Youville campus dominates the Prospect/Fargo/Plymouth area. At the corner of Plymouth is the Armory Restaurant, a neighborhood meeting place that serves traditional Italian-American favorites and is known for its super-friendly wait staff and its traditional St. Joseph’s Day table. After Plymouth, the colorful (but sadly, largely vacant) commercial section starts.

Other than a few of the inevitable Rite-Aid-type chains on several corners, this is a strip mainly of mom and pops—coin-op laundries, insurance brokers, and hair and nail salons. Phu Thai Asian Market, on the northeast corner at Normal, is a stand-out and in itself worth a trip, as are the iconic Horsefeathers Architectural Antiques/Hollywood Hank’s Memorabilia (also at Normal) and Mineo & Sapio, which sells Italian sausage and other meat products direct to consumers from its storefront at the corner of 14th Street. As of this writing, Bella Tootsie Shoes promises it is coming soon.

Your walk can continue on to end at Richmond, passing mostly residences for the next few blocks, or you can join me back at Normal, where I’ll end mine paying homage to the only remaining graffiti mural by the late Mark Freeland. On the east side of Horsefeathers, it has itself been the victim of graffiti (it’s been there for two decades), but its dolphins, turtles, Ferrises, and Small Queens still beam Freeland Love over Connecticut Street.

Lisa Kane is a freelance writer who walks around the city. A lot.


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