Escape the Urban: Preservation Edition

23 Oct

This week I’ll bend my own self-imposed “rules” on profiling urban venues to let you in on a preservation-related little known fact of the outdoor variety: you can walk out to the Buffalo Lighthouse again.

This is a secret few are seeking to keep; the opening was timed with the arrival of this week’s historic preservation conference, and stories ran in local news outlets. But based purely on my own experience, the word doesn’t seem to have g0tten out yet. I and my out-of-school sons were the only visitors over the lunch hour on Friday, and when I posted pictures on Twitter, several responded back in surprise that I was granted access. No special VIP pass here – just an open gate and a newly laid brick path.

Much works remains to transform public access into public destination. Grass seed covers chewed up mud fields, a consequence of the construction of new old tyme lamp posts and wrought iron-esque fences that separate the Coast Guard Station from the waterside right of way. Interpretive signage that hasn’t been scrutinized by curious eyes in a decade requires a bit of polish and repair. But these are garnishes that don’t distract from the main course: a view of Buffalo and Lake Erie that we’ve missed for a long time.

The term “windswept” barely begins to describe this spit of land and its 179 year old crown jutting out into the lake. The breeze makes itself known far up the mouth of the Inner Harbor, while pedestrians are still sheltered by ancient maples and a hardscrabble cluster of low coast guard structures. The wind builds along the narrow walkway out to the lighthouse landing, white crests forming on wave tops only a couple feet away.

A full gale is in effect by the time you arrive at the limestone spire, a howl that cuts through clutched clothing even on a relatively mild autumn day. The combined wind and water of all of Lake Erie is funneled and blown horizontally onto the very spot you stand, a low mound of dirt and rock reinforced with sheet metal retaining walls, a flimsy bulwark against the ceaseless assault. We didn’t stay long admiring the view, and I can only imagine life for those of the former lighthouse service, spending years or decades in such conditions, tending the lamp that separated storm from shelter.

2 Responses to “Escape the Urban: Preservation Edition”

  1. RaChaCha October 23, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Cool! I wonder how long it will be before the TeeVee news does a weather standup there…if they can find the Outer Harbor…

  2. Buck Turgidson October 23, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Very nice. Never thought I’d see the day where you’d be able to walk right up to Chinaman’s Light. Looking forward to doing so very soon.

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