Death at 830 Fillmore

While driving down Fillmore Avenue last weekend a friend and I noticed the boarded and crumbling facades of so many houses and buildings. We never noticed 830 Fillmore, yet a few days later 830 Fillmore made the news. We'd driven down Fillmore dozens of times over the past year and for the first time really took note of how it's been sliding from bad to something beyond our imagination.
830 Fillmore Avenue - Buffalo, NY
830 Fillmore Avenue
It's hard not to become numb to the whole experience of driving or walking by boarded-up or fire ravished and abandonded houses here on the City's east side. There are simply so many. It's hard to keep track as every week a few more houses are added to the list. Buildings crumble, houses are demolished and once thriving businesses and entire industries are literally cut up for scrap and shipped off on the slow boat to China or to a landfill in Ohio. Yet it's hard not to imagine that every house still standing tells a story - about the people who lived in the neighborhood, built and took care of the house and in so many cases just left. I've met dozens of people - mostlly through blogging and walking the neighborhoods - that tell a similar story, they couldn't take the daily threats and level of crime and in most cases simply left. Long wrenching stories about leaving and loss. I mean where in the trajectory of the 'American dream' did we ever imagine or learn how to leave behind the family home? Now, in the country's second poorest city this is becoming part of our narrative. It's a script that is running constantly and one that is increasingly mediated by the foreclosure crisis.

On Wednesday morning last week I received an email from Dick Kern, the patron saint of so many housing activists here in Buffalo, about the recent news - another woman's body had been found in an abandoned house. Just a few days after driving by 830 Fillmore, presumably the woman's body may have already been there, the news arrives.
The body of a woman was found inside an abandoned house at 830 Fillmore Ave. this morning, authorities said. A Rural Metro Ambulance crew arrived at the structure at about 9:30 am after a call was placed from a pay phone at 880 Fillmore alerting officials of the situation. Police were summoned by Rural Metro after the body was found at the house. Officers are investigating the circumstances of the death.

Yes, the house made the news. A scan of Lexis/Nexis this evening, a full week after the woman's body was found, nothing more - absent is the woman's name and the cause of death. This block of Fillmore Avenue, between Sycamore and Broadway, is by any available metric - which isn't saying much - the avenue's most stable block. On Wednesday afternoon when another friend accompanied me to the scene we noticed that the sidewalks and steps at 830 Fillmore had just been shoveled and black plastic trash bag curtains had been hung in the living room windows. There was no crime tape, just a sun faded building permit tacked to the inside window frame was all we could see. After snapping the pic, we quickly left.

Common Council President/Fillmore District Councilman David Franzcyk lives a few doors away at 858 Fillmore. There remains no solace for the surviving family of the woman who's body was found next door or any news about how she died.

This isn't the first time that a woman's body was found in an abandoned house in the immediate neighborhood. Back in July 2006 the body of Yvonne Peterson was found just around the corner at 830 Sycamore Street - see: Buffalo's Death Row. Earlier that summer the partially decomposed body of Shawn Luchey was found two blocks from Artspace - here - in another abandoned house.

While walking my Cold Springs neighborhood on a snowy night I now pass a successful rehab on Glenwood Avenue where new residents have installed a wood burning stove (and another soon to follow on East Utica, story in the works). The sweet and pungent smell of burning hardwood on a cold snowy night always triggers a Vermont moment for me and takes me to a place - as certain smells always do - where I always thought everything was going to be ok and that things in the end would always work out. Yet, factor in a couple dozen abandonded and boarded up houses in the neighborhood, we - those of us who stayed or have decided to reclaim an abandoned house in the neighborhood - know differently. How many crimes linger behind the boards? Literally, how many bodies?

While City Hall pretends to have a plan - There is No Plan - neighborhood residents know better.
ArtspaceBAVPAWoodlawn Row HousesfixBuffalo flickr
Creative ClassShrinking CitiesSaturdays in the neighborhood


Anonymous said...

"...it's hard not to imagine that every house still standing tells a story..."

I have been looking for words to describe how I feel about all the "red mark of death" (and the like) homes.
I see these homes and imagine babies growing up on the wood floors, conversations on the porches, family dinners...

Growing up in Riverside and "flighting" to Hamburg, I often found myself thinking about my childhood home and the memories forged there.

While it does tug at my heartstrings to see these homes in such disrepair, I feel it's better to have them down instead of acting as makeshift morgues.

BlackRocker said...

Very well said. As a 5th generation resident of Black Rock I have seen my neighborhood slowly decline and can remember when it was a solid working and middle class community. All these neglected old homes and buildings were once a source of great pride for the extended families that for generations lived in these old neighborhoods.
As for the issue of crime, it is sad to see the lack of concern for the safety of the poor and minority communities. Why are the residents of the city expected to tolerate crimes that our suburban neighbors are protected from? Why aren't the region's resources used to give all citizens equal protection and all neighborhoods the chance to thrive once again.

Anonymous said...

Blackrocker, I could not have said your comments better. You know what this is called. Total disregard and disrespect. The lack of compassion for the residents of these poor and minority communities.

I once read that the greatness of America, is the right to protest for right! This is again the time for oppertunity in America. To help bridge the gap of the half and half not's.

The question is what will Buffalo and America do?

This is from all of the counrty's citizens not being included in a rebith! And until this is done you will have cities like Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland. America is still running using race as a divide!!!


Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about this same thing since my brother and I have been visiting the houses of old relatives. Most are empty lots and this one I just photographed a few days ago was were great grandmother died and had lived with her daughter. They even had the wake/funeral services there in 1934. I stood in front of the empty, broken windowed house and tried to image what had happened there, the family that grew up and died, the holidays, etc. I attached a link, hopefully it works. I also wish the people who originally lived in these houses could see them today, imagine their reactions.


Anonymous said...

Stephanie and Meagan:

It is often difficult to tell if a comment is from a woman--as in reading a woman's point of view.

You two sound like (young) women because you use terminology that is from the heart.

I am sure you two understand that the blight you see today doesn't respect boundaries (boundaries as a transitive verb), therefore,,,

Do you two see a need for a plan to prevent blight from bounding (bounding as an intransitive verb) your way?

Anonymous said...

The hardest thing to do in some of Buffalo's forgotten neighborhoods is to get people to care about what is happening and what is being lost.

David often blogs about "no plan" and how the city or region for that matter attacks the issue of blight, vacant houses, etc...he is right...there needs to be a comprehensive plan in place to handle such issues...what we have seen and continue to see is scatter shot remedies that have little or no impact of the larger problems and are often not the right answer.

Anonymous said...

I have responded to your inquiry in the "Wither Suburbia" thread as I feel it is better suited there.