Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On the Road: A Big Moment for Roosevelt, and Buffalo


Dan Cappellazzo for The New York Times
The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, where Roosevelt took the oath in 1901 following the assassination of William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition.
On the Road

The City Room bureau chief, Sewell Chan, will be filing dispatches from some of New York State’s other cities this week.
Buffalo’s Lower West Side

BUFFALO — He was only 42, and while his previous jobs — state assemblyman, United States civil service commissioner, New York City police commissioner, assistant secretary of the Navy and governor of New York — represented a steady upward ascent, he was stunned by the circumstances that brought him to this room, a wood-paneled library in a stately home that was once part of an Army base here.

Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office in Buffalo on the afternoon of Sept. 14, 1901, after President William McKinley died, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.

McKinley had been shot eight days earlier, on Sept. 6, by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, while attending the Pan-American Exposition — a six-month-long international fair that represented not only America’s rising industrial might, but also Buffalo’s. Then the nation’s eighth-largest city and fourth-biggest port, Buffalo was at the center of a dense transportation system of ships and rails, and its fortunes seemed to be on the upswing.

The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, the house where Roosevelt took the oath, reopened in June after a year and a half of extensive renovations that included the reconstruction of a carriage house, which now serves as a visitor center. The site, at 641 Delaware Avenue in the Allentown section of Buffalo, now includes numerous interactive displays that present Roosevelt’s expansive use of the presidency in proper context.

The renovated exhibition is so new that one large wall text — juxtaposing Roosevelt with President Obama — catches viewers quite by surprise. The pairing is all the more remarkable given that Roosevelt, early in his presidency, invited Booker T. Washington as the first African-American guest officially entertained at the White House.

The staff at the historic site, which is run by Molly Quackenbush, the executive director, and administered by an independent foundation under an agreement with the National Park Service, happily tells visitors about the tense week between the shooting of McKinley and his death.

Immediately after the shooting, Roosevelt, who had been on a speaking tour in Vermont, and members of the cabinet were summoned to Buffalo. There, Roosevelt happened upon Ansley Wilcox, a prosperous businessman who had acquired, through marriage, the house on Delaware Avenue, originally officers’ quarters within the Buffalo Barracks, a giant military installation built between 1838 and 1840.

At first, McKinley appeared to recover, so much so that Roosevelt left Buffalo on Sept. 10, joining his family on a vacation in the Adirondacks. Three days later, while hiking on Mount Marcy, Roosevelt was directed to go to Buffalo a second time; the president had taken a turn for the worse. He arrived in North Creek, the train station nearest to Mount Marcy, just before dawn on Sept. 14, and there learned that McKinley had died. He promptly boarded a train to Albany, then Buffalo.

The room where Roosevelt took the oath from a federal district judge, John R. Hazel — news reporters were allowed, but photographers were not permitted to record the moment — is now equipped with an audio recording that helpfully seeks to recreate the somber chatter of the moments before the oath.

The historic site is not the only federal property dedicated to Roosevelt’s memory. Many New York City residents are familiar with the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, at 28 East 20th Street. Sagamore Hill, where Roosevelt and his second wife, Edith, made their home, in Oyster Bay on Long Island, is also a national historic site.

Sewell Chan, the bureau chief of the City Room blog and a native of New York City, is on the road this week, filing dispatches from some of New York





Monday, December 14, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

3,400 NY soldiers heading to Afghanistan

3,400 NY soldiers heading to Afghanistan
Fort Drum soldiers will go in first wave

Updated: Monday, 07 Dec 2009, 6:31 PM EST
Published : Monday, 07 Dec 2009, 6:31 PM EST

WASHINGTON D.C. - The first wave of President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan surge will add about 16,000 U.S. troops who got their orders over the past few days, the Pentagon announced Monday.

About 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will leave for Afghanistan later this month, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. He would not be precise about when those troops arrive, but military sources have said the first forces are expected on the ground by Christmas.

After the first of the year, the Marines begin sending another 6,200 from Lejeune, Whitman said, and 800 from Camp Pendleton in California.

The Army will also begin sending in the first of its forces - a training brigade from Fort Drum with about 3,400 members. Whitman said about 4,100 support forces from various places will also deploy early next year.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the deployment orders last week. They cover a little more than half the 30,000 additional troops approved by Obama as part of an overhauled war plan announced last week.

The overhaul followed three months of deliberations about whether and how much to expand on an already record U.S. fighting force of about 70,000.

Not covered in Monday's announcement are the expected deployments of two Army brigades from Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Those and additional training or support units are expected to be announced in a second wave of orders in the coming weeks.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was visiting Fort Campbell and Camp Lejeune on Monday to speak to troops expected to deploy as part of the new strategy.

The Christmas Sessions

This is a lovely Christmas song with a slide show of paintings of angels and the Nativity. Bill Ward and the Doerfels perform one of Bill's compositions, The Angels Said It True. This is a cut from the CD ,The Christmas Sessions, which is already on sale on CD Baby. Proceeds from each purchase will help benefit Project Chacocente, an organization which exists to help the extremely poor in Nicaragua. Buy this CD:

The Christmas Sessions, a recording released last year by Bill Ward and the Doerfels, will be featured as a live performance at a series of specials throughout WNY this holiday season. The project features all original Christmas songs written by Ward, and was recorded by him and the popular touring family band last winter. The specials will performed live this season by Ward, a veteran Western New York singer/song-writer, and two other well-known area performers.

While the Doerfels won't be there in person, Ward has enlisted the help of Amanda Barton and Matt Homan to present at least three performances prior to Christmas. The CD is already on sale, and proceeds from each purchase will help benefit Project Chacocente, an organization which exists to help the extremely poor in Nicaragua. The recording will also be available at the concerts.

Ward is a respected Chautauqua artist, having performed throughout the country for nearly four decades. A community developer and promoter, he founded and organizes the Mayville Bluegrass Festival, and was recognized by the Chautauqua County Music Hall of Fame as Promoter of the Year in 2007. It was that same year that he was inducted in the Hall.

Homan is a relative newcomer to the WNY music scene, but has made an impact. Forming the Haybalers in 2006, he quickly became a mover and shaker in the local acoustic music scene. He is now the leader of the Bluegrass Disciples, a virtual 'who's who' of WNY bluegrass musicians.

Barton is, at her young age, the reigning queen of Southern Tier acoustic music. Her sweet, smoky vocals and touch-perfect fiddle playing with groups like Big Leg Emma, the Steve Johnson Band, and now her own band, Zamira, have long been a favorite of many, many fans.

The Christmas Sessions performances will be held at the following locations:

Nov. 29 - Busti Federated Church, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 - Hurlbut Memorial Community Church Vespers, Chautauqua, 6 p.m.

Dec. 6 - Christ First Church, Jamestown, 6:30 p.m.

For more information on the recording or performance locations, visit billwardband.com or call 753-2800. To learn about Project Chacocente, visit outofthedump.org.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Frozen Assets’ reveals Queen City's wintry charms

By Mark Sommer / News Staff Reporter
Updated: December 03

Buffalo is not in the Top Ten snowiest cities in the continental United States. (It's No. 11.)

It has been relegated to the sidelines for 14 of the 16 worst blizzards in U.S. history. (OK, 81 inches did fall during the Blizzard of 2001.)

Buffalo is even an also-ran in the friendly Golden Snowball Award competition between Upstate New York cities, which Syracuse has swept with the most snowfall every year since the 2002-03 winter.

As Western New Yorkers know, we have our share of the white stuff — and bragging rights to back it up — but our inflated and misleading reputation is about as off-course as lake-effect snow or the Bills' wide-right fortunes. Melting away the myths, and showing off how wonderful this snow-laden region can look in white, are what propel the new, whimsically written and ably photographed "Frozen Assets: The Beautiful Truth About Western New York's Fourth Season."

Author-photographer Mark D. Donnelly attempts to set the record straight, even as he admits to being an imperfect messenger.

"I'm probably the least-likely Buffalo winter hero you could probably create," said the Town of Tonawanda resident and father of four. His 2008 book, "The Fine Art of Capturing Buffalo," was also published by the local Buffalo Heritage Unlimited.

Donnelly doesn't like being cold. He doesn't do winter sports. And having to shovel the sidewalk and scrape his windshield are almost enough to make him yearn for the few years he lived in Tokyo, when crystal flakes were something to gaze upon in snow globes.

"People say, 'I like Buffalo because it has four seasons,' but what they really mean is spring, summer, fall and a white Christmas. But, winter is the most beautiful time of the year," Donnelly said, and his photos build a case.

Donnelly captures the season's beauty in landscapes and structures, such as the faded outline of the bow bridge and Skyway at Erie Canal Harbor in a blustery snowstorm. There is the Buffalo lighthouse caught in a lake-effect storm; a snow-covered, partially submerged planter in Allentown; and the desolation of the snowy City Ship Canal and Great Northern grain elevator; and of the mist-shrouded Scajaquada Expressway and Niagara Section of the Thruway.

Donnelly also wanted to "poke fun" at Buffalo winters, and has quite a bit of fun doing it.

Under "Snow Belt," he writes: "In Western New York, we not only look great in white, we also know how to accessorize."

He adds, "If you routinely use a yardstick instead of a ruler to measure your snow, you probably live in a snow belt."

Under the section, "Western New York Winter Survival Strategies," there is "Retail Therapy," where Donnelly points out, "They don't throw winter white sales in the summer."

Another is "Cast Fashion to the Wind": "Come December, both style and Elvis leave the building ... Stripes suddenly look fine with plaids, and no color combination is out of bounds."

One of the 14 survival strategies is titled "Stare at Stuff," opposite a picture of Burchfield Penney Art Center.

There are also poems, celebrations of cool things to do in winter and a few testaments along the way to the character-building properties of snow in Western New York, like this one, about the Blizzard of '77:

"More impressive than the tons of snow were the thousands of acts of random kindness that instantly brought the entire community together. These can never be shoveled away."

The book is already being enlisted to present outsiders with a more accurate view of Buffalo winters.

Kathie Hall, a recruitment administrator at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, received a shipment of books Tuesday to use in luring physicians, scientists and executives to Buffalo.

"So many people are just misled into thinking Buffalo is such a horrendous weather town. I thought this book would be a great recruitment tool to inform our new recruits that we do not live up to our reputation," Hall said.

“Frozen Assets” and a companion calendar can be obtained at Talking Leaves, Barnes & Noble, museum gift shops and online at www.buffaloheritage.com