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Black Rock murals celebrate neighborhood's past, present

The resurgence of Black Rock is as plain as the community and historic murals covering the 300-foot-long aqueduct at Amherst and Tonawanda streets.

And it could be seen in the pride showing on the faces of more than 100 neighbors who gathered Sunday to check out the work by local artists.

"It was a wonderful neighborhood early on. It's deteriorated. We have a wonderful Dearborn Street Block Club that's really working to bring everything back," said lifelong resident Clare Hans. "We work hard to bring the neighborhood back. I'm very encouraged, very encouraged."

The six historic murals and two depicting present-day community scenes are one part of a four-part project funded by a grant from the Buffalo and Erie County Greenway Commission. The murals are sponsored by the Historic Preservation Committee of the Black Rock/Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance. Other initiatives include the heritage trail, website (blackrockhistoricalsociety.com) and mobile museum.

"This is just the beginning," said Mary Ann Kedron, a founding member of the Black Rock Historical Society.

One of the murals depicts recreation along the waterfront, with a jogger, fishermen and a couple pushing a stroller.

"The jogger represents energy coming into the area, and the couple pushing the stroller represent new life being pushed into the area," said artist Doreen DeBoth, who also is the project coordinator for the Black Rock Heritage Trail War of 1812 mural project.

Cynthia Van Ens drew the Black Rock Peace Garden and Sunset Along the Niagara.

"This signifies hope and restoration for me for the community because I've only been here 2 1/2 years," she said. "When I first came, that lot where the garden is was an empty lot. I've seen the people in the neighborhood build this garden."

Artists J. Tim Raymond, Russell Mott, Jerome A. Mach and Joe Tempski also drew murals depicting Native Americans and Black Rock, the War of 1812, Erie Canal in 1825, Railroads and Industry and Historical Architecture in Black Rock.

The murals will be used as an educational tool for bus and walking tours, and will be shown in a documentary being made about the War of 1812 in Black Rock.

Sunday's dedication also served as an introduction to the Market Square Historic District, which includes an array of architectural styles from the early 19th to early 20th centuries. It was recommended for the state and national registers of historic places.

The murals, which replace some murals that were painted in 1970, have prompted some neighbors to make improvements to their homes and have attracted lots of attention.

"People are starting to see what they have in this neighborhood," said Judi Stanley. "Everybody is helping each other more."

email: bobrien@buffnews.com