Somewhere in Masten...

While cruising this post - I've been Waiting for Tomorrow (all of my life) - over at Roam Buffalo the other day I found this vintage postcard of the Rockpile - aka War Memorial Stadium and Civic Stadium - which was located just a few blocks away down Masten Avenue.
In the same post, I checked out The Ol' Rockpile for the first time. Really amazing social history and pics from back in the day.
Ask anybody from Western New York old enough to remember the Nixon Administration, the war in Viet Nam, Republic Steel in South Buffalo or Woodstock (the first one) and I'm sure they'll have some kind of a story about War Memorial Stadium, or as it was commonly known, "The Rockpile." Originally named Civic Stadium, the Rockpile was built as a WPA project, a federally funded make work program administered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the depression. Construction started in 1935 - read the rest.
I vaguely remember hanging out here once during the summer of 1987 for a Bisons game. A couple years ago I found a book about Buffalo's Catholic heritage with a number of pics from Civic Stadium during the Fall of 1948 - right here.

Over at Historic Aerials, I've pinpointed the Rockpile in a 1959 moment - right here. There's an interesting feature embedded in this map that allows you to use a slider, fading between two different years. Click on the 'compare two years' button when you follow that link. Try picking 1959 and 2006...crazy, right?

There are times when I walk the neighborhood at night, especially the seven blocks along Masten, between the Rockpile and where Offermann Stadium once stood, and I wonder and ask myself...how did it all disappear so fast?
ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood


MJ said...

I'd say poor regional planning and policies.

I love historic aerials.com what used to be to the east of the staduim?

fix buffalo said...


Long conversation last night with urban planning friends about some of these issues - you're right. There was seems to have been a 20 year period 1955-1975 where most of the damage happened - highways and 'urban removal'.

Sean from TO introduced me to Historical Aerials a few months back when I first started to loop out to Bethlehem Steel and only recently have they added the 1958/1959 views.

Seems like there were a series of warehouse buildings - have no idea.

Crisa said...

When the stadium was the Civic Stadium, it was used for midget auto and stock car racing, parades, fireworks, etc., there were a few functioning red brick factories directly east across Jefferson Ave. Those were torn down and that huge lot was used for rough gravel parking for the "rock pile" War Memorial Stadium and baseball games.

After that, the current Thomas B. Wiley Stadium was built, football was played and that track was built.

That entire area wasn't poor regional planning when it was the Civic. It was neglected as the War Memorial and allowed to deteriorate for a while before becoming the Wiley.

Now, that former factories/parking area is Makowski School number 99.

City Honors is a long block west.

(Today,that entire area of City Honors, the play fields and school #99 should be closed off to traffic and designated for the use of Buffalo school kids.)

Whenever something reminds me of the Civic Stadium, I can smell those engine smells and visualize the mechanics' pit under the stadium all over again--our Dad had a race car there--there are pics around here somewhere--we kids felt privileged that we could go into the Pit.

When I was a little kid, sounds of race cars and fireworks and music came from the Civic that could be heard on many summer nights all the way east to Cheektowaga when it still was farm country and actually had crabapple trees!

You show a pic of a driveway leading down into the stadium pit. I remember my parents telling us kids that we couldn't run down that driveway--too dangerous--we kids might fall down!

After those years, that entire area got too dangerous, but now it is coming around.

George Thomas Apfel said...

In the 1950's I lived two long blocks west of Civic on Ellicott, I remember hearing the sounds of the crowds cheering and bands playing at the statium. Nice to see 1959 now included in historic aerials, I just looked at my old house...moving the slider it became a parking lot for Osmose by 1966.

Crisa said...

GT Apfel. Nice Web site.

Clark said...

I remember watching a Buffalo Stallions game with my grandfather when a 10'x20' chunk of concrete fell from the upper deck onto the seats below. We were about 8 rows in front of that and was hit with a few pieces of wood from the seats. The ushers just asked us to move to other seats while they cordoned off the area.

I miss the Rockpile as much as anyone who grew up in Buffalo, but I also know that the stadium was badly out of date and required far too much maintenance to remain a public stadium. I am not saying that it couldn't be done, but at the time Buffalo was trying to attract a major league baseball team which more than likely required a new stadium.

I am really thankful that saner minds prevailed when they decided to keep All High stadium instead of tearing it down and building a replacement.

Maybe we can build a new stadium on this site under the new administration. We should expect some CCC type projects in the next four years as we try to put Americans back to work.