The Last of the Art Decos: Grant Street and Potomac Avenue

Grant-Potomac 4

Here we have possibly the most significant intersection in Buffalo, NY, at least when it comes to traffic signals.  The signal in the center is a Crouse-Hinds Model DT “Art Deco” fixed 4-way signal.  Though these were still a common sight 10 years ago, their numbers have declined sharply.  With the recent loss of the signal at S. Elmwood and W. Chippewa, this is now the last remaining Art Deco fixed 4-way signal in regular service.  What do I mean by regular service? It turns green, yellow and red at regular intervals, and fully controls the intersection, rather than just serving as a flashing signal or staying green until someone presses a button.

The fact that this signal even exists here is both miraculous and puzzling.  In the 1980s, Grant Street received all new Winko-Matic traffic signals mounted on mast-arms, from Amherst Street all the way down to West Ferry Street.  Yes, that just about includes the entire street, except for this intersection.  We may never know why this corner was overlooked, but I have always been grateful. Even as a child, I looked at these signals as an oasis in a sea of the same, boring traffic signals.  In this application, the Art Deco is paired up with a Crouse-Hinds Model R 2-way cluster facing both Grant (Southbound) and Potomac (Eastbound), and a single-face Marbelite facing Grant (Northbound).   Sometime during the 2000s, the signals were retrofitted with LEDs, as is the case with most signals in Buffalo.

One thing that is certain is that this old Art Deco signal has seen many changes in its Grant Street neighborhood during its lifespan.  It has observed many funeral processions pulling into the funeral home that is now an African Market.  It saw the building that formerly housed “Exclusively Neon and Signs” go from a typical business, to a billboard for political rants, to a boarded up derelict structure, to a newly revitalized building with a bright future.  It witnessed the clientele of the corner bar change from old Italian guys, to hungry Puerto Ricans, to BBQ-loving sports fans, to hipster gypsies dressed as Pocahontas.  And all the while, it watched handy West Side homeowners pick up floor sanders and wallpaper steamers from Chi-Chi’s Hardware.  Let’s hope that it continues to see what is in store for this up-and-coming neighborhood.

Aside from this intersection, there is one other Crouse-Hinds Art Deco 4-way within the city limits, at the corner of Louisiana Street and O’Connell Avenue in the Old First Ward. That one serves as a flashing warning signal only.

This is a beacon, in case you were wondering.  They can be either one or two sections high, and exclusively flash.

Example of a beacon

There is also an Art Deco beacon, flashing red, at the corner of Englewood Avenue and Mildred Street in University Heights.  Beacons, in case you were wondering, are signals that are only one or two sections high, and exclusively flash red or yellow, never actually turning red or green. Outside of the city limits, there is one 4-way Art Deco on South Park Avenue in Lackawanna, recently downgraded to a flashing warning signal, as well as one Art Deco beacon, outside of “Father Baker’s.”  All of these will be featured in later posts.

More photos of Grant and Potomac:

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One Response to The Last of the Art Decos: Grant Street and Potomac Avenue

  1. bettybarcode says:

    Completely enchanting blog, Ryan!

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