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Downtown pedestrians treated to curbside history lessons

Waverly Colville

History lessons don’t always come from a page in a textbook. If you’re in downtown Buffalo, a walk along a stretch of Main Street provides an enlightening look at the city’s past.

The Buffalo History Museum and Buffalo Place, which manages and markets the downtown business district, partnered to create and install 10 signs that showcase the city’s rich heritage.

Debra Chernoff, Buffalo Place’s manager of planning, says the signs tap into the community’s curiosity.

“Western New York is full of history lovers and we’re always talking about what used to be in a particular location,” Chernoff told WBFO during an interview in the Theater District. “When the city looked at Main Street -- whether it needed to change after automobile traffic was taken out -- people said you need to look at how Main Street has functioned through history. It’s kind of a fun thing for people who work downtown and visitors.”

The History Museum will sponsor monthly tours along Main Street. There are also QR codes on each sign so people can get more information online.

The signs are a part of the city’s Cars Sharing Main Street Project. The historical component of the massive overhaul was funded through a state grant.

Credit Waverly Colville

“The signs are great because it’s an outdoor history exhibit,” Chernoff said. “All the employees that work downtown and the residents, they’re walking down the block. Maybe they’ll read a little part today and next week they’ll have a chance to read another part. It can have a long life.”

The signs were actually installed late last year throughout the Theater District and at Fountain Plaza, but marketers wanted to wait for the arrival of warmer weather before launching an awareness campaign.

Chernoff said she especially likes the sign at Mohawk Street which showcases the only building that survived the Burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812.

History buffs can learn more about Main Street's storied past by visiting the Buffalo Place web site.