Buffalo's Olmsted Parks: II


(This column was first published in the September 1, 2003 issue of The Buffalo News.)


Last week I wrote about beginning my early Sunday morning forty-mile scooter ride through Buffalo's Olmsted Parks. That column covered only the first mile of my expedition and left me at the corner of Nottingham Court and Elmwood Avenue.


From there I crossed the bridge over the Scajacuada Expressway and immediately turned back into the southwestern part of Delaware Park. Like its extension, the Humboldt Expressway, the Scajacuada was one of the Olmsted Parkways until those gods of urban reconstruction sent it into oblivion. Despite its isolation by the highway, however, this area of Delaware Park is very attractive. It is graced by both the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Hoyt Lake.


The Art Gallery even has a small fountain pool behind it. Noticing such things is one of the benefits of walking, biking or in my case scootering; it had never come to my attention before, although I had driven this road many times by car. I took the opportunity to park and walk along the shore of the lovely lake, its sole visitor at 7:00 a.m.


Here I also admired the statue of Lincoln as a boy, the one you see on Channel 17 so often. What the television misses are the perfect lines from James Russell Lowell cut into its base:


For him her old world moulds aside she threw

And choosing sweet clay from the breast

 of the unexhausted west

With stuff untainted shaped a hero new.


From Delaware Park I followed Lincoln Parkway south to the first of the seven perfectly-tended circles I would visit. We are especially rewarded at this time of year by the work of the teams of volunteer gardeners who care for each of them. Now the flowers they have planted and tended are at their peak, their colors bright and beautifully blended.


Located where Lincoln, Bidwell and Chapin Parkways meet is this Soldiers' Circle, the most central of them all. Dismounted and walking around it I could look down those remarkable divided avenues, each guarded by stately trees with leaves that seem to me an even deeper green this year.


Nearby is that strange but also strangely affecting statue of a circle of men and women, arms in the air, apparently reaching for the geese flying above them.


All though my ride I found myself drawn to these statues and memorials that are isolated today by automobile traffic and for that reason outside our attention. When these lovely parkways were first laid out, the city wasn't much smaller but the traffic was much slower. People walked, they rode horseback or they rode in horse-drawn carriages. They had more time to appreciate these monoliths.


At Colonial Circle is the equestrian statue of General Daniel Davidson Bidwell, who was killed in Virginia just six months before the Civil War ended. Many of the other circles have less imposing but very attractive candelabra at their centers.


I continued down Richmond Avenue, no longer a divided parkway, to Symphony Circle, which I found the most impressive of all of them. Here are the graceful memorials to Chopin and Virdi, their imposing presence contrasted by Catherine and Brian Spencer's jaunty Hubcap Pyramid.


On along Porter Avenue I rode past Columbus Park to Front Park, now reduced by the Niagara Thruway section and I'm sure unrecognized as another Olmsted Park by those driving through it to the Peace Bridge. I still found it a peaceful area and was suitably impressed with its statue to our War of 1812 naval hero, Oliver Hazard Perry.


Still to go: four parks, McKinley Parkway and the final two traffic circles.-- Gerry Rising