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NEW LOOKS AT THE OLD WATERFRONT TWO BOOKS, TWO APPROACHES TO THE WATER'S EDGE

TWO BOOKS that explore Buffalo's hottest stretch of property -- the waterfront -- have been published by local presses.

"Buffalo's Waterfront: A Guidebook" was edited by Timothy Tielman and issued by the Preservation Coalition of Erie County. In soft cover, it's a stick-in-your-back-pocket book meant for a day of exploring. Included in the 72-page book is a fold-out map and an index of interesting spots.

The other new book, "Maritime Buffalo" by Michael N. Vogel and Paul F. Redding, was published in a textbook format by Canisius College to acquaint readers with the city's rich waterfront legacy, neglected for so long.

The project, sponsored by the Western New York Heritage Institute, is a Canisius effort to advance awareness of local and regional history.

"We don't really intend this as a definitive work on waterfront history," said Vogel, president of the Buffalo Lighthouse Association and a Buffalo News reporter. "It's meant to be a readable review of some of the important themes and incidents in Buffalo's maritime history, and we hope it'll serve as a springboard to more scholarly work in the future.

"I think it's the kind of thing that's valuable right now. While we're building our new waterfront, we should remember what the old waterfront was like in its glory days as well as its years of decline. We can't risk losing something of value just because it isn't trendy or new."

Included in "Maritime Buffalo" are tales from Canal Street, a caldron of brawls, murders, drugs, liquor, child prostitution and gambling.

"A humanitarian group once claimed that seven of every 10 reported crimes in America were committed on the Buffalo waterfront and the Erie Canal, which met in the explosive environs of Canal Street," Vogel writes.

Other chapters deal with the commercial development of the harbor; the grain elevators; ships that plied area waters, including pleasure boats such as the Canadiana and the Americana, and the city's shipbuilding industry.

In "Buffalo's Waterfront," Tielman also explores the history of people, businesses and events in an informative and lighthearted way.

Describing a marine leg, an apparatus used on a grain elevator, he writes: "More often than not, it is called simply a leg. As in, 'My, that elevator has a nice pair of legs!' "

Tielman said he wrote for the intelligent layman who has always wondered about such things as the oddly tall, dark elevators.

"We seek to explain them in a way that's not going to put people to sleep," he said.

The book provides an overview of key dates, suggestions on sites to see along the Buffalo River, the Old First Ward, and information about Bethlehem Steel.

Tielman also editorializes about developers who have "an inordinate fondness for mediocre architecture" as well as providing waterfront facts.

For example:

The Buffalo Lighthouse, built in 1833, is the oldest building on the waterfront and one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes.

Advance Metals Recycling on the City Ship Canal devours 135,000 car bodies a year. An entire car, less tires and gas tank, can be shredded in 45 seconds.

A blacksmith -- Buffalo Blacksmith at 120 South Park Ave. -- still works in downtown Buffalo.

"This is living history," Tielman said. "It's not a museum kind of thing. The grittiness is still there. It's not like 'Ye Olde Blacksmith.' There's junk all over the place."

"Maritime Buffalo" sells for $21.95, and is available at the Alumni Office of Canisius College; or it may be ordered from the Western New York Heritage Institute, 2001 Main St., Buffalo, N.Y. 14208, for $2.40 additional.

"Buffalo's Waterfront: A Guidebook" sells for $5.95 and is available at area bookstores. It also can be ordered from the Preservation Coalition of Erie County, P.O. Box 768, Buffalo, N.Y. 14213; add $1.50 for postage.

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