A road trip from Buffalo to KCMO and back!

Bernice speaking to the Historic Kansas City crew.

I had the extreme pleasure of keynoting the Historic Kansas City  Old Home Week Preservation Conference this past week!

Instead of flying, Drew and I drove my awesome new orange Subaru XV – spending six days on the road visiting all kinds of cities and friends along the way! We were fueled by random stops for biscuits, ice cream and coffee… we slept in the coolest places including a DIY style loft in downtown STL, in a tiny shotgun style brick house in Louisville, a historic inn in KCMO owned by two super sweet guys and a random airbnb with two cool cats… and we had the chance to meet up with preservationists across the rust belt including Sarah Marsom from Columbus, Michael Allen from STL and Kristine / Amanda / Julie and the rest of the KCMO crew.

About KCMO: With 20,000 people living downtown, a rich history of food and music and a brand new street car starter line rail system, KCMO is a pretty cool city! Kansas City is home to the sweet heat BBQ sauce that everyone loves. They also have shuttle cocks on the lawn of their art museum, an iconic historic plaza built by Nichols (who is also responsible for establishing red lining across America – ugh!), and a cornucopia of incredible parks and parkways laid out by Kessler – all which are extremely vast and well maintained. The KCMO architectural claim to fame may be the “shirt waist” style house that features local limestone on the porch and another 1.5 story above it (second floor and attic).

The KCMO preservation community was all up in arms about Nelle Peters, a grouping of historic tudor style apartment buildings right near the plaza. As you can guess, the owner was demolishing them without a plan. Everyone wanted them saved and I worked with the community to get a petition, heart bombs and Facebook group started… but I am extremely sad to report that I found out today that they have begun tearing them down. KCMO, I am very heartbroken for you tonight.

On a personal level, Drew and I had some great heart to heart conversations, listened to a ton of podcasts and some our favorite bands we listed to were Neon Indian, Tame Impala, Youth Lagoon, Mac Demarco and Tyco. Our trip cost less than two plane tickets, the lowest gas price we paid was $1.38 a gallon and Drew was going nuts over the mid western water towers. We want to badly go back to Louisville, too… it is like an older, slightly more hip Buffalo. I was thrilled to spend some quality time up with my Uncle Norman and Aunt Pauline in KCMO – they came to see me speak!! STL seemed to be our favorite stop – the arch was amazing and we had a delicious breakfast at the Mud House in the Cherokee Historic district! We had a ton of fun!

That wraps it all up!!

 

 

 

Must Attend Events – 1/28, 1/29 and 1/31

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Friends!

This is a very BUSY week. Join me in celebrating and helping to make positive change!

Thursday – 1/28 : Preservation Board Meeting at 3pm – City Hall RM. 901. This is a public hearing to voice your support for Crosby, the Bachelor and North Park Library. All three of these buildings are VERY important and historic. More info can be found here.

Friday – 1/29 : Join me in celebrating my latest preservation rehab! 351 Massachusetts Ave from 5-7pm. Get a sneak peak tour and drink beer with me.

Sunday 1/31 : HEART BOMBS!!!! Join BYP at 351 Massachusetts Ave to make some serious hearts and help do a fun preservation project that is very effective!

Love, B

Teaser: 351 Massachusetts House Rehab #buffalove 

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Warning… this single family house on the west side that I rescued from the wrecking ball is nearly finished and is BEAUTIFUL. I just had to tease you with this photo! 

Stay tuned for more info on the entire rehab… Including before and after side by side pics!  

One Wildly Ambitious Bernice. 

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Given it’s a new year, I wanted to start with something personal.

Here are the four books currently in rotation as of January 2016… all focused on life, love, style and building courage… and commercial real estate. I know they’re pretty random but each of them adds confidence and creativity to my world. If you didn’t know this, I love new years because I am extremely reflective and am always working on my personal self.

I share this photo because a year ago I told that my “wildly ambitious” attitude was my major flaw. For a moment, I really believed it! I believed I should stop making connections, reaching out, stop asking questions, stop demanding more and instead, calm down and outline realistic expectations. I questioned my entire world. I questioned myself and my actions. I promised to calm down and promised to change. But by that time, my window of opportunity was gone. The worst part of it all was that if I could have changed, I probably would have tried! However I knew that my ambition and extremely positive nature comes from deep within and cannot be bottled up. I knew I couldn’t change and therefore, I knew it wasn’t meant to be.

I struggled hard in 2015 but at the same time, I gained so much unbelievable wisdom, found so much love and practiced forgiveness. So with that mushy/ self confidence stuff said, I am closing the door on 2015 and opening 2016 with my whole “wildly ambitious” heart.

To start the year off, I’ll spare you the real estate calculations but I will quote the 10 steps on how to create your own success from Garance Doré… which can apply to everyone looking to excel in their worlds.

  1. Start where you are,
  2. get lost and find yourself,
  3. follow be signs,
  4. risk failure,
  5. use what you’ve got,
  6. fall in love,
  7. seize the moment,
  8. question your beliefs,
  9. make your own rules and…
  10. follow the energy.

2016 will be approached with a new level of sophistication and you guessed it… one wildly ambitious Bernice.

xo,

Bernice

 

How Buffalo Get a Warhol? Reflections on a Postmodern City… By Craig Reynolds

Warning: I did not write this. The author passed away last year but I wanted to share a piece of Buffalo history that is worth reading, worth thinking about and something you’ll never find in print. It is the beautiful, haunting and gritty description of the “old” Buffalo that many of us fell in love with (or hated). Read it… it’s worth every second.

How Buffalo Get a Warhol? Reflections on a Postmodern City

By Craig Reynolds ,  from Basta! v1n1 (spring 1997)

THE ARGUMENT: Buffalo provides a challenge, not a legacy; it taunts the uninspired until they flee to a city where legacy’s flow will carry them along, like New York, San Francisco or Seattle. Buffalo requires a substantial commitment, like that of a drowning man to his condition. In Buffalo, we wrestle with God, Job’s God, and the fact of being is enough.

I begin to understand this after asking my 2 friends visiting from Seattle how they like the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the first stop in my weekend tour of Buffalo’s monuments to greatness. Pointing at Andy Warhol’s 100 Cans, they ask, “how Buffalo get a Warhol?” making me realize: 1) my friends aren’t exactly Peggy Guggenheims, but that’s perfectly a–okay; and 2) even after enjoying firsthand some of the greatest paintings anywhere, the misconception that Buffalo couldn’t possibly be significant remains even still.

It is a Saturday morning late in the football season and the museum is relatively empty, so one guest poses the inevitable question, “where is everybody?”––but rather than waste energy answering it, we who are not somewhere else do what we always do when queries like that arise: lean forward as far as we can without stubbing our noses on cold marble or bronze or drooling all over the paintings we risque absurdity to love, muttering under our breaths: “my God . . .”

“NOT MUCH HAPPENING HERE!”

A few hours later, after a quick architectural tour beginning on the gallery’s rear steps and ending downtown, we wind up at the waterfront, where we enjoy the cacophony of winds whistling through the car’s window casings. Naturally, being downtown, there’s no–one around . . .

Except a pack of wild dogs . . .

Wrestling savagely beside an over–turned garbage can on the corner of Erie and Lakefront Boulevards.

I go absolutely nuts to myself realizing I live in a city where wild dogs roam the streets, where the only activity is the impossible action of postmodern comic strips and outlandish science–fiction fantasies. I explode with delight realizing just how primal things have become, how ugly, how real.

Society has no claim on Buffalo anymore. We’re alone and that’s happy. We’re all gonna die and that’s happy. The empty storefronts that line Main Street dot sentences that ceased being written in earnest decades ago (anybody who writes them still invites the cancer that threatens to devour America). Buffalo is a grand Dadaist joke played on the American dream. What to do now is anybody’s guess––

My friends and I drive off wildly into the tangled maze of industrial nothing and bliss. “Not much happening here!” I shout and take a robust pride in its being true.

1.3 million people live in the greater–Buffalo area and all I see is not much happening here. I see empty factories overlooking empty lakes and rivers. I see empty streets leading nowhere but to other empty streets, empty parking lots in the shadows of empty churches.

Buffalo is the most spiritually evolved city in America. Like Christ, we have sacrificed everything for a better line on the suffering we always sensed was the only truth. In Buffalo, it’s man against God. Leaving your house mid–January is a Grecian odyssey all in itself––.

PURE SURREALIST MONUMENTS TO NOTHING

Soon enough, my friends begin to enjoy the sense of release our inevitable expiration arouses––

We drive on, past half–full warehouses and factories pumping loose, disjointed rhythms into the vast, inhuman night.

We drive on, through the staggering corpses of unused grain elevators, pure surrealist monuments to nothing.

We drive on, past windowless bars where solitary patrons try to trap oblivion in the bottoms of their beer glasses, but never succeed (oblivion).

We drive on, alongside vestigial railroad lines but tonsils were always my favorite body part so who am I to complain?

We drive on, past the leftover remains of Bethlehem Steel’s old headquarters, a creepy mansion on the hills only it’s all alone on the banks of Lake Erie and the dirt is deep like on the buildings in Paris.

We drive on, past the dilapidated cruise ship imported extra–special from Cleveland to collect spiders and rats on the polluted shores of eastern Lake Erie, also creepy.

We drive on––

We drive on––

Until we reach Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica and the trumpets begin to sound. And the angels on its rooftops sing: “everything you ever thought was true is wrong!”

Five minutes later we are standing dumbstruck in the center of the cathedral’s magnificent atrium, where the walls and ceiling exude the strange inner light the images painted on them ache to depict. Everybody in our group is amazed, silently gaping with eyes large like the black hole that is Buffalo.

“What is a beautiful, amazing place like this doing in Lackawanna?” my one friend asks.

Our Lady of Victory is a typical Buffalo achievement in so far as there’s absolutely no reason why it should exist . . . but it does . . . just like Buffalo does . . . and the reason why is that Father Baker had a vision and committed himself wholeheartedly to its fulfillment. Buffalo is ripe with enigmas and why here?s––and the answer always comes back “because” (Buffalo precedes all rational explanations). There is a fine line between something and nothing and Buffalo manages to walk it straight despite the large quantities of alcohol it consumed in hopes of blurring that line just a little wider. Unlike other cities, where it’s easy to sink into the flow of everything’s fine, in Buffalo, you must be a prophet or drown in utter mediocrity. Buffalo demands existential authenticity, and the rock we push up the hill (only to have it roll back down over us time and time again) is our only salvation. Like Rimbaud in the gutters and back–alleys of Paris, in Buffalo, you have no choice but to remake life; there’s no bullshit left to buy, no palace gates to hide behind (I endure Siddhartha Gautama’s 4 passing sights whenever I walk out my front door). Buffalo is the most advanced city in America; we progressed beyond progress. Our truth is grounded on an intense understanding of everything that is false (or an intense understanding that everything is false). We don’t need to realize the ultimate insignificance of the world; our world realizes it for us. Not only does Buffalo’s faded, tattered industrial landscape prefigure a dawning, postmodern art and architecture, it augers a new way of being. I mark in every face I pass marks of weakness, marks of woe––the sane, saintly sufferings of Christ. In Buffalo, we have exhausted all the tired cliches of American culture, but who needs them anyway? I’d rather run with wild dogs through silent streets than jump from old mall to new mall hopelessly fleeing my own inevitable collapse.

It doesn’t vex me that the world has abandoned Buffalo to the cold, hard night of passing time, impermanence and irrelevance; it just means I have an art gallery of incalculable merit all to myself, a downtown whose jewels were left for me to reap, a lake like a vision and the wind that blows across it proves that I’m alive, a discarded history so rich I feel privileged to watch it unfold. In Buffalo, we have turned something inside out, revealing the paradoxical everything of nothing. Our insignificance is of such great consequence it weighs on me like death; next stop: illumination.

AND NOW, FOR THE FORCED FINALE THAT’S TRUE NEVERTHELESS: in the growls of wild dogs I hear the song of the new American frontier, where being and not–being fade into the fact of we’re here anyway so what are you gonna do about it?––where significance and insignificance meet on weekends for an illicit drink (before returning to their established corners in time for tenure–track office–hours on Monday). We are the still point at which all contradictions meet and become one. I don’t care if you don’t care. The past, present and future is Buffalo’s essence. Someday you’ll join me in eternity.

Perry, New York… A Dreamy “Brooklyn – esque” Town! 

On our way to Ithaca today, we stopped in Perry!

Chris calls Perry the “Brooklyn of Wyoming County” because it has a contiguous dense urban fabric and a fantastic group of do gooders / movers and shakers doing some cool stuff.

We arrived unannounced but Ann (owner of Burlingham Books!) gave us a tour of the neighborhood and we ran into Ryan Fitzsimmons, a local architect who I spoke with at a preservation conference a few years back in Rochester!

(note: every time we travel randomly this scenario seems to happen where we run into awesome people… It’s actually very strange but I’m not complaining!)

Running into Ann & Ryan was awesome. We got to see the inside of the new brewery (coming 2016!) called Silver Lake Brewing, did a small hike to see Perry’s secret waterfall and we were given a tour of an old Victorian house that Ryan is renovating! Ryan, Ann and the other civic leaders in Perry, NY are working hard to bring people downtown, excite the community  and build civic pride… and it is paying off, truly!

Here are a few photos Chris & I took. If you get a chance to check out Perry, it’s right outside of Letchworth and well worth a visit!

 

 

American Rehab Buffalo airs on HGTV – 11/23/15 at 8am! 

Hgtv will be airing the first two episodes of American Rehab Buffalo at 8am on 11/23/15! These two episodes are fantastic – it’s the kitchen, dining and living room. Watch to see us blend preservation and modern techniques to create a really special space that you’ll love!

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this happen including Room Buffalo, Wrafterbuilt, McSmith, Ace hardware / Bejamin Moore and more! It truly takes a village.

Oh, if you don’t have cable, you can get all 6 episodes on Amazon!

XO!

– B

Ps. Here are some photos of before, during and after!

Inspiration from Montreal… Day 1. 

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Drew and I are wandering Montreal for the next few days… I wanted to post some photos for you all in an effort to show you what’s inspiring me at the moment. It’s a combination of the simple Parisian style, great fonts, pops of color and fun “placemaking” things I’ve seen in just the last half day. 

I’ll post some more soon! 

   

    
 
  

Happy Monday! 

Make it an exceptionally awesome day. 

Set goals. Take risks. Shake shit up.