They blew up the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas last month. The end came with fireworks, a celebration and thousands of people watching in person and on TV. Growing up in Las Vegas, I was in the Stardust many times and had friends who worked there. Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis all stayed there. And yet, with all that history, they still blew it up. Right now the oldest building on the strip is a mere 55 years old. Las Vegas is a city that doesn't care about its past, especially if it gets in the way of a billion-dollar mega-resort.
Pano Georgiadis tore down the Atwater House next to his restaurant to expand his parking lot. We clearly have no regard for history here in Buffalo, either.
Actually, just the opposite is true. Buffalo lives through its history, revels in it and insists that nothing about the glorious past may ever be changed. If there are more than 100 people in Western New York who can tell me exactly who the Atwater House is named after and, more importantly, why that matters -- no going to Google -- I will eat breakfast off the parking lot next to Pano's. Chicken souvlaki please, with eggs and a side of pita bread.
When exactly did Buffalo reach such a state of perfection that nothing should be allowed to change? It seems as if we are daring the world to like us just the way we are because we aren't going to change a thing, no sir. No condominiums behind the Park Lane, no hotel on Elmwood, don't move the zoo.
But here's the catch: If everything is history, there won't be any future.
Can you picture what Buffalo would look like if the same state of mind had been in place when the Atwater House and other architectural "treasures" were being built? I imagine a conversation like this: "I'm sorry, but the terra-cotta look you are planning to use here doesn't blend with the neighborhood. Besides, your building is far too tall and clashes with the Civil War era shacks that are an integral part of the fabric of the community."
Yes, there is much in Buffalo's past that must be saved. And, yes, there is money to be made in cultural tourism. But there is no way on God's green earth that it will be the center of our economy. It doesn't take a huge staff to run a museum, after all.
Believe me, I am not for laying waste to this city, but just because something is old doesn't make it worth keeping. I say good riddance to the ugly red building that used to be next to Pano's.
What chance do we have of making something new if the citizens of this area are so dead-set against development that nothing can be torn down? Nobody wants to go through the kind of delays involved in building something if every house that might get demolished is given a name -- a lame trick generally used by politicians to personalize legislation -- and fought over like Jerusalem. Or is tearing down empty houses something we save for the East Side?
This area is special not because of the buildings but because of the people inside them. Las Vegas understands that. Vegas knows that a city is renewed by remaking itself to face the future. Buffalo merely looks back at the past with adoration and longing for a glory that once was.
What happens in Vegas should happen here. Take down more of the old and bring in the new. It's what keeps a city vital. I'm sure Atwater would understand.
Kevin Stevens, who lives in Buffalo, wishes citizens would not fight to preserve every old building in the city.