While it is encouraging to see that the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor finally obtained its artistic archway under which people can enter the historic district, we hope that it also signals the activation of cultural tourism in the area.
It will have been a long time coming and well deserving of the rich heritage that embodies the African American community and its critical place in history, from the Michigan Street Baptist Church, a stop on the Underground Railroad before escaping slaves crossed into Canada, to the Nash House Museum’s exhibits depicting the abolitionist and civil rights movements.
So, it is with that heart and spirit that all who call Buffalo home should want the corridor to succeed. Progress over these past several years has been slow and, for some, frustrating as all the pieces get aligned and coordinated. But perhaps we’re finally getting there.
The archway spans Michigan Avenue between Broadway and William Street. It is intended to be its own destination point, illuminated at night to serve as a beacon. It is the only full archway in the city.
The corridor also features the Colored Musicians Club, a union hall for black musicians when unions were segregated, and WUFO, the city’s first black-owned radio station.
The archway is the welcome sign for those living in and around the City of Buffalo, inviting them to learn more about its history. Those traveling along the Kensington Expressway might find the time to take a detour on the way to Canalside, KeyBank Center or Sahlen Field.
Buffalo Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District where the archway was installed, said the project took longer – he thought it would be up seven years ago – and cost more money than originally anticipated – $322,000, instead of the guesstimate of $200,000.
The project’s “bumps in the road” included working on the bond document and clerical mistakes. But it’s here now and that’s good news. What is important now is to ensure that those who pass under it come away the understanding that they have been somewhere special.