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smithSmith Street is a 2 mile long road on the East Side of Buffalo running from the Buffalo River to Broadway. Smith Street is one of the interchanges from the I-190 Thruway, Exit 4.

Henry Kendall Smith was born on the island of Santa Cruz (now Saint Croix) on April 2, 1811. His parents were Jeremiah Smith and Jane Cooper Smith, who were of English origin. At the time of his birth, the island was in possession of the English during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1815, following the peace between Britain and France, the island was once again a Danish territory. Mr. Smith, Henry’s father, was an architect and builder. While the English had occupied the Island, there had been prosperity. When Denmark returned to power, property values depreciated greatly and many plantation owners were ruined. The change in government caused Mr. Smith to lose a great deal of money. However, his social standing allowed him to achieve the rank of major in the Danish provincial army, which allowed him an income as opposed to financial ruin. One day, while passing through a fort, some quicklime was accidentally throw into his face. Following the accident, he was confided to bed for weeks and blinded for life. At the time, the family consisted of Jeremiah and Jane, along with two sons and two daughters. The family struggled to make ends meet. Mrs. Smith, was not discouraged by the family’s misfortune, and helped her children to look towards the future. A long litigation took place revolving around the accident. Eventually, rather than continue the ligation to get his fair share due to him, Henry’s father accepted a settlement of $1,500 from the party responsible for his injuries, in order to be able to educate Henry.

At the age of 8, Henry was sent to Baltimore to study under Reverend Dr. Berry, a minister of the Church of England and a scholar. When Henry left for Baltimore, his father told him that he would now have to take care of himself and that it was his responsibility as to whether he would sink or swim. Henry reported replied that he would swim, and left behind his family forever.

For those who have seen the musical Hamilton, or know Alexander Hamilton’s history, Henry’s story will sound familiar. Alexander Hamilton was also from St. Croix, and was sent to America to receive an education after experiencing poverty early in life.

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Henry Smith’s Mayoral Portrait

At age 17, he became a clerk at a wholesale dry goods store in New York City. In his free time, he would continue his studies of the classics, believing that there was another occupation out there for him, and that he would not be a clerk forever. One day, his employer told Henry that he was acting like a woman or a “clumsy boor”. So Henry told his employer that he could do the work himself, and left the store. Shortly prior, he had met Daniel Cady of Johnstown, New York. who was engaged in a trial in New York. After listening to Cady’s arguments and the reply by Ogden Hoffman, Henry was inspired and decided he would become a lawyer.

Henry traveled to Johnstown, found Mr. Cady, and asked to enter his office as a law student. At the time, lawyers did not go to law school, but rather learned the trade in a law office. Mr. Cady welcomed Henry into his office. Henry was devoted to his books and continued his studies under Mr. Cady until he was ready for his examination. While he was studying, he earned an income by teaching at a school. Henry was admitted to the bar in May 1832 and continued to practice in Johnstown. In October of that year, the Young Men’s State Democratic Convention met in Utica, and Mr. Smith was one of the delegates from Montgomery County. During the convention, he delivered a speech regarding the nomination of a gubernatorial candidate which gave him the reputation of an accomplished and logical speaker. At the convention, Henry met Honorable Israel T. Hatch, from Buffalo, who invited Henry to come to Buffalo.

Henry moved to Buffalo in spring of 1837, to form a partnership with Mr. Hatch. After working with Mr. Hatch, Henry also worked with George W Clinton, Mr. Williams, Isaac Verplanck and others in Buffalo.

At the breakout of the Patriots War in 1837, Henry was made Captain of one of the five companies of volunteers formed by citizens for the protection of Buffalo. He continued in the militia service for some time, passing through the ranks until he attained the rank of Colonel. When he was made Colonel, he was given a gold watch that had the inscription, “The citizens of Buffalo to Hon. Henry K Smith, the eloquent and efficient advocate of the Erie Canal and the rights of the City.”

In 1838, Mr. Smith was appointed District Attorney for Erie County. He resigned after seven months, because he was being requested so often for other civil business as a lawyer.

In 1844, he accepted the office of Recorder of the City of Buffalo, an office he held for four years. Subsequently, in 1846, he was appointed postmaster of Buffalo and held the office for two and a half years. In 1850, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo. He was nominated for state assembly, state senate and congress. In 1840 he was a delegate to the national convention which re-nominated Martin Van Buren for president (Van Buren lost that election to William Henry Harrison).

Mr. Smith married Miss Vorhees in spring of 1834. She was the daughter of a wealthy merchant of Johnstown. Unfortunately, she passed away shortly after their marriage. In 1838, he married Miss Sally Ann Thompson, the daughter of Shelton Thompson of Buffalo. After 18 months, she too passed away, leaving behind a son, Sheldon Thompson Smith. Henry suffered greatly after the death of both of his wives. To deal with his grief, he focused on the care and education of his son, on his professional duties and politics.

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Mr. Smith had considerable musical talents. He taught himself to play the violin. He would often be found singing with his family and would sing the Star Spangled Banner, God Save the King, and other patriot songs on festive occasions such as the Fourth of July or St. Patrick’s Day. He was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal, during the time of Rev. Shelton, for whom Shelton Square was named.

Mr. Smith died on September 23, 1854, at age 43. He is buried in Forest Lawn.

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a Proposed East Side Expressway that went through several iterations. The Expressway was originally planned to start at the Kensington Expressway at an interchange at Best Street, run along the south side of Humboldt Park, now MLK Park, and to continue along Walden Avenue. They then decided to shift the expressway south of Walden in order to preserve the Walden Business Corridor. The Expressway was going to run 2.6 miles and end at Walden Avenue near the City Line. The Expressway was included in New York State Highway Law 1957. In 1958, they decided that it would be better if they were also able to connect the Thruway I-190 to the Expressway with an additional route. This highway was thought to be beneficial to the planned opening of the Thruway Industrial Park and to help bring people into the struggling Broadway-Fillmore shopping district. At the time, Broadway-Fillmore was the 2nd most dense area, second only to Downtown in both size and value.

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One of the plans for the East Side Expressway and Smith Street Spur

The Proposed Smith Street spur would start at the East Side Expressway with an interchange at Miller Avenue, and continue southwest along Memorial Drive to Fillmore Avenue, then would follow Fillmore to Smith to the Smith Street interchange of the I-190. Reports at the time said that this spur of highway was “essential to the lifeblood of the East Side”. More than 300 houses were planned to be demolished as part of this Smith Street Spur proposal. The plan was debated for many years, with various alignments discussed and fought over. Elmer Youngmann, the District Engineer for the New York State Department of Public Works (for whom the Youngmann Expressway – I 290- was named) was against putting the spur down Memorial Avenue due to the high costs of the road due to the private properties along the route. Neither the East Side Expressway in this alignment nor the Smith Street Spur were ever built.

Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index!

Sources:

1. Proctor, L.B. “Sketches of the Buffalo Bar: Henry K. Smith”. Published in Buffalo Courier & Republic, 1869.

2. Viele, Henry K. “Sketch of the Life of Hon. Henry K. Smith”. Published in Buffalo Courier & Republic, May 25, 1867.

3. Rizzo, Michael. Through the Mayor’s Eyes. Lulu Enterprises, Inc. 2005.

4. The Proposed East Side Expressway and Proposed New Arterial Route. Buffalo: 1961.

chandlerstreetChandler Street runs between Military Road and what used to be NY Central Railroad tracks.  Historically, this area was home to factories and industrial buildings.  The street’s access to the rails made it a prime place for these types of businesses.  The buildings along the street were home to the Jewett Refrigerator Company, the Double Truss Cornice Brake Company, the Acme Steel and Malleable Iron Works, Barcalo Manufacturing, Buffalo Weaving & Belting Company, Linde Air Products, Loblaw Groceteria, and others.

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The iconic Linde tower at the Former Linde Complex on Chandler Street source: buffaloah.com

In the last few years, Chandler Street has become a hip new place.  Signature Development’s Rocco Termini has created a new district with redevelopments along both Chandler and Grote Street.  Some are calling this area “Chandlerville” the way that the Larkin District has developed into Larkinville. Several buildings along the street have now been redeveloped and are home to new businesses.  The former Linde complex is now home to Utilant, Barrel & Brine, Blackbid Cider, an accounting business and a call center.  The former Loblaw/Barcalo space is home to Thin Man Brewery and Tappo Pizza.  The land here was originally owned by Henry Chandler and the street was named for him.

Henry Chandler was born in Springfield Massachusetts in 1830.  He was a descendant of William Chandler, one of the earliest settlers in Andover, who arrived in America from England in 1637.  As a boy, Henry moved to Seneca County, New York with his family after his father lost his fortune during the Panic of 1837.  At age 15, Henry got a job teaching in the village school.  Henry was said to have had keen artistic sense from a young age.  While teaching, he supplemented his income by painting signs and decorating wagons and sleighs.

In 1850, Henry came to Buffalo and got a job as a typesetter at the Commercial-Advertiser.  While working there, he figured out a process for engraving that made it available to the general public, by using a wax process that allowed it to be done at a much lower cost.  The first job using the process was in 1853, which was a cover of a writing book published by Phinney & Co, who owned a bookshop on Main Street near Seneca Street.  The second job was a set of calendar frames.  Henry was having such great success, he asked his brother Frank to join him in his business venture in 1856.  The brothers worked together for most of their lives.  Their first year in business together, the brothers printed maps of the Great Western Railway of Canada and the Illinois Central Railroad.  In 1858-1859, Henry developed a process for photographing on wax which allows for engraving without needing to redraw.

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Example of a map done by Jewett & Chandler.

In 1859, Elam Jewett, owner of the Commercial Advertiser used Henry’s process to win the bid for engraving from the US Patent Office.  In 1862, Henry joined Mr. Jewett’s firm, which eventually became Jewett & Chandler.  They established an engraving house at 178 Washington Street.  In 1874, Matthews & Northrup joined the business.  The business was known by several names, including “J.N. Matthews Co” and “Matthews-Northrup Works”.  For many years, all illustrations of the US patent office used Chandler’s process.  The process was also used extensively for map engraving and the company was world renowned.  Many maps and atlases across the Country were completed using the Chandler process, including those used by General Pershing to guide the troops into Mexico and by President Wilson in his talks in Versailles.

Henry Chandler married Frances Long.  They had two sons, Henry Long and Frank Darwin, and a daughter who died as infants.  One son, Albert Hotchkiss Chandler, survived to adulthood.  Mr. Chandler owned property throughout the city, including where Chandler Street is located, property on Delaware Avenue and his home on Niagara Square.  The Chandlers lived at 89 Niagara Street.  At the time, Niagara Square was a residential neighborhood.  The Chandlers neighbors included the Bancrofts of Bancroft, Barnes & Co( which became the William Hengerer Company), and the parents of Dr. James King, a prominent doctor.

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Henry Chandler House, 89 Niagara Street. Source: John H Conlin, WNY Heritage, Winter 2004.

The house at 89 Niagara Street had been built around 1852 by Philo Balcom.  Mr. Balcom was a trustee of the Baptist church that was located next to the house, and owned a brick business.  The house was a 2.5 story brick Italianate house with a four story tower built in the Second Empire style.  The house was sold in 1855 to Fidelia and Alden Barker, a land and insurance agent.  The Barker’s sold the house to Henry Chandler on August 29, 1864.  While the Chandlers owned the house, the tower was likely built.  Henry had a reversal of fortune in the 1870s, which forced him to leave the property at 89 Niagara Street and move to York Street.  The house was then sold at auction by Erie County Savings Bank.  Henry Chandler’s nieces remarked that what they remembered most about their uncle’s house on Niagara was that they had a first floor bathroom, which was an unusual feature during the 1870s.

With the building of City Hall, the US Courthouse, the State Office Building, the Buffalo Athletic Club and the Statler Hotel in the 1920s-1930s, Niagara Square shifted from residential towards being a civic center.  At some point, the house at 89 Niagara Street became a restaurant.  The restaurant had different names over the years.  It was known as Valentine’s for many years.  In the early 1990s, it was known as Grille 91, a restaurant that was described as “comfortable” and offered “well-prepared classic food”. In 1998, the restaurant became Carlos O’Ryan’s, which served casual Mexican and Southwestern food. The house was sold by the Valentines to “157 West Mohawk Realty Corp” in 2000 for $50,000.  At the time, there was a proposal for a new Courthouse to be built on the site.  The house was the last remaining house on Niagara Square and was demolished in 2007 to build the new courthouse.

The only house that still remains from this area of Downtown as a residential neighborhood is The Old House Downtown, (formerly known as Big Blue due to it having been painted blue) at 153 Delaware.   You can learn more about that house by checking them on facebook as The Old House Downtown or stop by on Tuesdays when they serve donuts on the lawn as the City of Buffalo Office of Coffee and Donuts.

chandler graveHenry Chandler owned sorrel horses which he rode along Delaware Avenue. Mr. Chandler also donated money to First Baptist Church, Buffalo Historical Society, the Young Men’s Association (which became the Buffalo Public Library).  He was also a member of the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Beaver Island Club and the Buffalo Field Club.  He was an accomplished poet, and his poetry was published in several magazines.  He died December 21, 1896.  He is buried in Forest Lawn.

Mr. Chandler’s son, Albert, worked as an electrician in the US Navy during the Spanish-American war.  At age 26, he enrolled to study civil engineering at Cornell University.  He was the city engineer of the City of New York.  In that role, he worked on the first section of the New York City city-owned and operated subway.  The lines are now part of the modern subway’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G and M service.  Additionally, N, Q, and R trains run partly on the tracks from the original lines.  He was also responsible for many of the grade crossing improvements in the Greater NYC area and drew all preliminary plans for bridge and tunnel approaches to Manhattan.  Albert died in 1932, leaving behind two young children, Henry (Harry) and Emily.  Albert is buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Albert’s family lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. After his father’s death, when Harry was 13, Harry received a scholarship to Adelphi Academy and another to attend Lehigh University. After graduation in 1941, Harry got a job working for Proctor and Gamble Defense Corporation, in Mississippi.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor that year, Harry immediately went to the local air base and enlisted in the Air Force.  On March 15, 1945, Harry was flying a mission north of Berlin.  His plane was hit by a shell, taking out the controls.  His co-pilot was nonresponsive, and Harry was ejected from the plane as it spiraled.  Harry landed in a field and was captured by German police.  Harry spent two months as a prisoner of war.  It was only later that Harry learned that his mission had been important to history, the factory they had been assigned to destroy had been working to create an atomic weapon for Nazi Germany.    Harry returned to his job at P&G, retiring in 1981.  Harry is still alive today.  His sister Emily passed away in 2018 at age 103!

So the next time you’re hanging out on Chandler Street, think of the Chandler family and all they accomplished.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the street index.

Sources:

  • Smith, Katherine.  Chandler Street Perpetuates Name of Engraver-Inventor.  Buffalo Courier-Express, December 10, 1939, p W5.
  • Sukiennik, Greg.  A crucial mission; story of survival.  Manchester Journal.  November 12, 2017.  https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/a-crucial-mission-story-of-survival,524408? (online August 2019)
  • Public Notice – Superior Court of Buffalo.  Buffalo Courier.  January 25, 1878.
  • Buffalo News Real Estate Transactions.
  • Buffalo News Restaurant Listings.
  • The Magazine of Poetry:  A Monthly Review. Moulton, Charles Wells, publisher. January 1894.
  • The American Stationer.  Vol. XL – No.1.  New York, July 2, 1896.

 

 

 

Note from Angela:  This week marks eight years since I started researching and writing this blog.  In honor of the anniversary, I decided to have someone else write a post for me.  Today’s post is written by Natasha Davrados.  Natasha is a recent Masters in Urban Planning graduate from the University at Buffalo who has an interest in history and historic preservation.

Niagara Falls Boulevard was conceived, in the late 1880s, as a scenic connector between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. There was a need, largely due to increasing tourism, for a continuous, paved route to the Falls. Prior to the Boulevard there were travelling guides and digests that included confusing, quickly outdated written directions with zigzagging paths. Want for the route to include panoramic views posed some issues in the fast developing region causing the alignment of Niagara Falls Boulevard to change several times before settling where we know it today.

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1917 Map of Niagara Falls Blvd (Source: Automobile Journal Vol. 63 )

One of the first attempts was on the Niagara River waterfront along River Road. Conceivably, it would provide idyllic views of the river and the green shores of Canada and Grand Island but steam engines and streetcars had gotten there first. Not only did the fast-moving vehicles spoil the view and experience but they were dangerous too. One man, upset at the 20 mph speed of the streetcars, said “What good is the scenery going to do you if one of those cars hits you? You won’t even have time to sneak a glance at the river while they keep whizzing by.” Next, an inland option was proposed using Colvin Street, now Colvin Avenue, but with residential development quickly closing in, the Boulevard changed paths again. Moving further inland to the more bucolic Town Line Road, today Niagara Falls Boulevard, the third route would follow Ellicott, Sawyer’s, and Cayuga Creeks. This would continue to Pine Street in Niagara Falls as the permanent route. Almost. The Boulevard would make two more minor adjustments on Sawyer’s Creek and near Bergholtz.

 

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Visiting the spring on Goat Island (circa 1901)
(Source: Niagara Falls Public Library)

Thanks to the romanticism movement, which produced art and literature glorifying the American landscape, the northeast saw the rise of tourism in the 1820s. Travelling to escape the city, most well-to-do travelers sought out natural settings like mountain villages, hot springs, lakes, and beaches. They followed itineraries from fashionable guides and periodicals that outlined grand tours of the northeast that took weeks or even months. They included scenic views of the Hudson River and the Catskills with layovers in places like Saratoga Springs. Niagara Falls quickly became one of the most famous destinations of the nineteenth century. Shortly thereafter, the Falls became a popular destination for honeymooners earning it the moniker “honeymoon capital of the world.”

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Example of family auto camping (circa 1915-1923)
(Source: Library of Congress)

By the 1920s, leisure travel and the Sunday drive were taking the place of grand tours. Private automobile ownership was on the rise making travel accessible to more people. As car ownership increased, the route to Niagara Falls developed roadside attractions. Among them were tourist camps and the establishment of public campgrounds that could accommodate auto-camping. The “tourist-” or “motor-court” was the transition from camping to something more hotel-like featuring cabins with winterizing and running water. By the 1940s, the Boulevard was home to around 88 tourist camps and courts. After World War II, the family vacation became accessible to the middle class. The motel, a term coined around 1924, came to play their part with the colorful neon signage and pools or playgrounds prominently placed to entice motorists and their children. The Boulevard once boasted at least 27 motels of varying sizes and styles catering to all types of travelers.

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Castle Courts Motel postcard
(Source: The Cardboard America Archives)

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Former Castle Courts Motel is now the Rodeway Inn & Suites.
(Source:  https://www.booking.com/hotel/us/castle-motor-inn.html

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Example of a taxpayer strip (circa 1924)
(Source: University of New Mexico Library)

Commercial development on the Boulevard likely started as what was called the “taxpayer strip.” Much like the stripmalls that would come after them, taxpayer strips were made up of buildings constructed with cheap and efficient materials, going up quickly in order to begin making a profit as soon as possible. They were largely meant to be temporary but their presence influenced residential development and many became permanent fixtures with the first stripmalls, as we know them, appearing around the 1920s. The indoor shopping mall wouldn’t come to be until around 1956. The Boulevard gained its own shopping mall with the opening of the Boulevard Mall in 1963. The Buffalo Evening News explained that the mall would “not only provide Western New Yorkers with a new concept in shopping, but will launch a year-long program of community activities in the concourse of the spacious mall.”

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McDonalds on the Blvd, Amherst

Along with the rise of car culture came fast food restaurants which began to flourish on the Boulevard in the 1950s following the increasing suburban population. The afternoon or weekend drive to a fast food joint increased in popularity becoming a staple in many suburban households. The Boulevard was such a staple of car culture that the first McDonald’s in New York State opened on the Boulevard in 1958. This McDonald’s, though renovated, has maintained its signature double golden arch building design. There is also an Arby’s, opened a few years later, that still uses its original hat-shaped sign.

Niagara Falls Boulevard doesn’t seem like much of a tourist destination at the moment but it does present unique opportunities for both preservation and future development. It is very car oriented, somewhat to its detriment, but there are currently talks of part of the Boulevard being included in the light rail expansion. It will be exciting to see what the future has in store for the next chapter of development on the Boulevard.

Bibliography:

  1. Chiang and Shaffer, “See America First: Tourism And National Identity, 1880-1940.”
  2. “For A Boulevard To Niagara Falls”. Automobile Topics, 1908. 107-108.
  3. Jakle, John A. The Tourist: Travel In Twentieth-Century North America. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.
  4. “Niagara And The Great Lakes Country”. The Automobile Journal, 1917. 42-43.
  5. Ott, Bill, “Band to Play, Trans-Oceanic Phone Will Ring at Opening of the Boulevard Mall Wednesday,” Buffalo Evening News, March 12, 1963.
  6. Sullivan, T. John. “The Proposed Buffalo Niagara Falls Boulevard”. Good Roads Magazine, 1908. 219-221.

Tillinghast Place is a one-block long street in the Parkside Neighborhood of Buffalo.  Tillinghast runs between Parkside Avenue and Colvin Avenue.  The street was laid out in in a curvilinear fashion, which is a common street pattern in Olmsted-designed neighborhoods such as Parkside.  Tillinghast Place is also home to the Walter Davidson house, which is one of several homes in Buffalo designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

tillinghastTillinghast street is named after James Tillinghast, a railroad executive.  Mr. Tillinghast’s father, Gideon, built one of New York State’s first cotton mills.  James was born in Cooperstown in 1822.  He learned about mill machinery while growing up around his father’s mills, gaining practical knowledge as a mechanic without the typical process of being an apprentice.  He decided he wanted to learn a different business as well.  At age 15, he began working as a clerk at a country store.  By the time he was 20, he was part owner of the Cotton Manufacturing Company’s store in Brownsville.  He became interested in transportation from selling to Great Lakes vessels.  He got involved in the lake trade, and operated a machine shop and foundry in Little Falls, New York with his father.  In 1850, he gave the business to his father to enter the railroad business.

At the age of 30, Mr. Tillinghast decided to enter the transportation field when the Utica-Schenectady railroad needed an extra fireman and he offered to take the job.  Quickly, he rose to the rank of a railroad executive.   Ten years later, in 1862, Mr. Tillinghast came to Buffalo to organize a line of steam propeller ships on the Great Lakes.  At this time, he was a part of the Michigan, Southern, Buffalo & Erie and the New York Central railroads.  At this time, he decided to make his eventual home in Buffalo.   He was a close friend of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who often spoke of Mr. Tillinghast’s railroad knowledge and his trust in his judgement.  When Vanderbilt first became in charge of New York Central, his first act was to name Mr. Tillinghast its superintendent.   He arrived back in Buffalo in 1865, when he was made superintendent of the Western Division of the Buffalo &Erie and New York Central Railroad.   By 1881, Mr. Tillinghast was appointed President of the New York Central Railroad.  In addition to his duties with New York Central, he was also president and acting manager of the Canada Southern railroad.  Over the years, Mr Tillinghast was involved in many different railroad companies.

Mr. Tillinghast was also Vice President of the Niagara River Bridge Company, which built the cantilever bridge in Niagara Falls, which opened in 1883.   The bridge was replaced by the Michigan Central Railway Steel Arch Bridge in 1925.

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Niagara Falls Cantilever bridge

Mr. Tillinghast was married twice.  His first wife was Mary Williams of Limerick, New York.  Mary passed away in 1859, leaving three children – a son, James W. Tillinghast, and two daughters, Mrs. Kate Burtis and Mrs. Annie Stow.  Mr. Tillinghast married his second wife, Susan, the window of his first wife’s brother in 1882.  The Tillinghasts lived at 138 Swan Street.  The house had been previously owned by George B Gates; Gates Circle was named in honor of Mr. Gates and his wife by their daughter.   Mr. Tillinghast later moved to 685 Delaware Avenue.  The sites of both Tillinghast houses are now parking lots.  After the family had moved out of the house on Swan Street, the house was the site of an unrelated murder-suicide.  A year later, Mr. Tillinghast’s grandson, Kent Tillinghast Stow, shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself, killing them both at their house on Richmond Avenue.

145796811_1430359753Mr. Tillinghast mostly retired around age 70, but he was still involved with the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.  He died at age 77 in 1898 and is buried in Forest Lawn. One of Mr. Tillinghast’s life rules was “to try and do his whole duty to whatever interests were placed in his charge, and he has never yet asked that his compensation be made any particular sum; invariably leaving that to the person tendering him a position”.  People must have seen value in him and compensated him well enough.  When he passed away, his estate was valued at more than $1.5 Million (about $42 Million in current dollars).

Think about Mr. Tillinghast next time you’re out and about around the Parkside neighborhood, when visiting the Buffalo Zoo or on one of the Parkside Community Association’s Tour of Homes or when visiting the Darwin Martin House.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.

 

Sources:

  1. Smith, Katherine.  “Two Streets Here Honor Railway Executive, Jurist”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  March 29, 1942, p 12.
  2. “Richmond Ave Murder and Suicide.”  Buffalo Courier.  August 11, 1903.  p5.
  3. “Million and a Half”.  Buffalo Courier.  Buffalo Evening News.  April 29, 1899. P7.
  4. H.B. Hall & Sons, “James Tillinghast,” Digital Collections – University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed September 15, 2017, http://crystal.lib.buffalo.edu/items/show/81035.
  5. Smith, H. Perry, editor.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County. Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1884

 

 

 

wasmuthWasmuth Avenue runs between Genesee Street and Walden Avenue near Martin Luther King Jr Park on the East Side of Buffalo.  The street is named after one of the first female developers in Buffalo, Caroline Wasmuth.  Ms. Wasmuth was one of Buffalo’s pioneer business women.

Caroline Geyer arrived in America alone in 1845 at the age of 16.  The trip from Germany by boat took three months.  She got a job working for the Lautz (sometimes also spelled Lauts) family.   The Lautz family were an early Buffalo German family who manufactured candles and soaps as Lautz Brothers & Co.  She wasn’t able to continue her formal education in America, but learned to speak, read and write English. She enjoyed reading and educated herself through her books.  

Her first business experience began at her husband’s grocery store at Carlton Street and Michigan Avenue.  Ms. Wasmuth invested all of their savings into a savings and loan company.  During the 1880s, there was a land boom in Buffalo and she was asked to become a partner in the Buffalo Land Association.  The company developed the land in the Genesee-Walden district.  They later formed the Ontario Land Company to develop land in Cheektowaga.

She had a stand at the Elk Street market for 47 years, specializing in berries and fresh vegetables.   The Elk Street market was located on what is now South Park Avenue (you can read more about the change in street name here) You can also learn more about the Elk Street Market at this link, where Steve Cichon notes that it was the largest fruit and garden truck market in the United States.  During Ms. Wasmuth’s time, farmers were prohibited from bringing their produce into Buffalo.  She would walk to the City line to meet them and make her selection.  She could carry as many as five 30-quart trays of berries on her head from the City Line to the Elk Street market, likely about 4 miles!  She was known for having a kind heart towards anyone not being able to have food and a reputation for giving a meal to anyone who came to her door.  She was well known for her generous nature, particularly towards people who were struggling.

Ms. Wasmuth enjoyed singing and was a member of the Saengerbund, a well known German singing society, and the choir of St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at the corner of Genesee and Hickory.  She was a member of the Women’s Society of that church.  She was also a member of the Seven Stars Rebekah Lodge No. 136, which was the women’s branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows who met at 145 High Street.  She was also a member of the Gertrude Lodge No 47, Daughters of Herman, which was a German aid society located at 260 Genesee Street. 

Ms. Wasmuth was noted for being unusual among early businesswomen because she did not try to dress like a man.  She loved her pretty clothes and jewelry.

She was known for adopting new inventions that could be useful to her.  Her husband, George Peter Wasmuth, was the first Buffalonian to  bottle horseradish.   She convinced her husband to buy one of the first foot-power machines for grinding horseradish, relieving the family of grinding horseradish for hours.  They used to buy from twenty to thirty tons of horseradish at a time.  Her nine children helped around the house.

During an interview during the 1940s, her son Fredrick said that many of the family members were still living on land originally purchased by Ms. Wasmuth.  However, he lamented that they would have been happier if they owned a piece of land she had passed on the purchase of – she could have bought the property where Buffalo Savings Bank stands downtown for $0.50 a foot.   The passed on the purchase, and bank was built.  We typically refer to the building today as the Gold Dome; the property would certainly be worth more than that today!

wasmuthMs. Wasmuth was married twice and had four sons and five daughters:  Frank, George, Maggie, Lillian, Anna, Caroline, John, Fredrick, and Charles.  The family lived on Michigan Street (now Ave) near Carlton Street, on what is now the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  She was also one of the investors in the Pan American Exposition, having bought a subscription in 1899.  She died in 1904 at the age of 75.  She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

 

Sources:

  1. “Wasmuth Avenue Honors Business Woman” Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday January 28, 1940.  
  2. “Pan-American Subscriptions” Buffalo Evening News, Saturday January 28, 1899.
  3. 1880 United States Federal Census.  Accessed via Ancestry.com 

vangorderVan Gorder Street is a short street located off of Fillmore Avenue in the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood of Buffalo.   The street runs one block east of Fillmore Ave where it dead-ends at Burgard High School (PS #301).

greenleaf van gorderThe street is named after Greenleaf S. Van Gorder, a politician and banker.

Members of the Van Gorder family have lived in New York State for a long time.  In 1650, Gysbert Albert Van Gorder, one of the Greenleaf Van Gorder’s ancestors, came from Holland as a pioneer settler in Ulster County and his ancestors were prominent in the early affairs around Fort Orange (Albany).  Greenleaf was born in York, in Livingston County, New York, in 1855.  He attended Temple Hill Academy in Geneseo and Alfred University.   After graduating from college, he studied law in the office of Sanford & Bowen of Angelica, New York.  In 1877, at the age of 22, he was admitted to the bar.  For the first two decades of his career, he practiced law in Pike, a small town in Wyoming County, NY.  During that period, he was elected Town Clerk, County Supervisor, and State Assemblyman.  He then spent four years representing Wyoming, Genesee, Livingston and Niagara Counties in the State Senate.

Senator Van Gorder served as a member of the board of the Pike Seminary and President of the Bank of Pike. He was instrumental in establishing the Public Library of Pike.  He also worked hard to build a modern water system for Pike.  The town fathers kept postponing the installation of the water system.  During the 1880s there was a bad fire there and many businesses, churches and homes were destroyed.  The need for the water system was realized, as it could have been stopped easily with the right system.  Many of the maple trees along streets in the village were destroyed by the fire.  Senator Van Gorder worked to plant trees along the bare streets, calling for volunteers to assist him.  On the day they set aside for the planting, an early snowstorm hit, and only one man came to help in the efforts.  The Senator refused to let the man work in the snow, so Mr. Van Gorder planted the trees himself.  He also helped to transform a neglected cemetery by planting trees and shrubs.  He felt a strong connection to Pike, and even after moving to Buffalo, he kept a summer home there.  He also fought for many years to bring a railroad to Pike.  He worked with Frank Goodyear on the project, but Mr. Goodyear’s death stopped the progress and the railroad was never built.

Senator Van Gorder had a series of narrow escapes from death.  He owned a 300-acre dairy farm at Springdale, between Pike and Bliss.  One day on the farm, he almost died when a prize bull, who weighed nearly a ton, gored him.  During a storm near Cape Hatteras, his boat engine lost power and he drifted all night.  One night on Hodge Ave in Buffalo, he was held up by two men.  He threw the bag he was carrying at the men and was shot.  The bullet remained in his body the rest of his life, since it was so close to his heart and spine doctors did not want risk removal surgery.

Senator Van Gorder’s family also had some tough times.  His brother John Van Gorder and his half-sister, Anna Farnam were murdered at their home in Angelica, New York after a gristly struggle in 1904.  It was believed that they were killed by laborers working on the construction of the Pittsburgh, Shawmutt and Northern Railroad who had been at a campsite near the family’s farm.

He practiced law in Buffalo from 1895 to 1931.  He was a partner in the firm of Bartlett, Van Gorder, White and Holt.

Senator Van Gorder enjoyed travel and music, and was an avid piano player.  He was involved with the Fillmore Land Company, which developed the section of the City where his street is located.  The Fillmore Land Company was instrumental in getting the city to install the Fillmore Avenue sewer between Kensington and Dewey Avenues.   He was a member of the Republican party, the Presbyterian church, Triliminar Masonic Lodge No. 543, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Holland Society of New York and the Buffalo Historical Society.

Senator Van Gorder married Eve Lyon.  They had a daughter, Mary.  The family lived at 332 Ashland in the Elmwood Village.   Mary Van Gorder was secretary to the principal of School Number 54 at Main Street and Leroy Avenue.

Senator Van Gorder died in 1933.  He is buried in Pike Cemetery in Wyoming County.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Smith, H. Katherine.  “Van Gorder Street Memorial to Legislator-Educator-Lawyer”.  Buffalo Courier-Express, October 20, 1940 sec 6, p13.
  2. Douglass, Harry.  “Wyoming County’s Famous Sons and Daughters”.  The Wyoming County Times, Nov 7, 1935.
  3. “Brother and Sister are Stabbed to Death”.  The Culver Citizen, May 12, 1904, p3.

 

 

military road

Military Road’s modern alignment through the City of Buffalo and Town of Tonawanda

Military Road is a part of NYS Route 265, a 19.75 mile long state road that runs between Niagara Falls and Buffalo.  The portions called Military Road are located in the City of Buffalo/Town of Tonawanda and then again in Niagara Falls, NY.  The road dates back to 1801, when it was laid out as a road to connect Black Rock with Fort Niagara, near Lake Ontario.  The route begins at the intersection of Niagara Street and the Scajaquada Expressway.  It runs along Tonawanda Street through Black Rock, Amherst Street, then turns into Military Road where it runs for 4.3 miles until the City of Tonawanda border.  In the City of Tonawanda it is Main Street, in North Tonawanda it is River Road, in Niagara Falls it is Buffalo Ave before it turns back into Military Road through most of Niagara Falls where it ends at a junction with NY 104 (Lewiston Road) in Lewiston.  From Lewiston to Youngstown, the River Road that ran up to the Fort was already built, so that was used to connect the Military built road to Fort Niagara.

map of military road - from buffalo history gazette

Historic Map showing the route of Military Road Source: Buffalo History Gazette

Military Road was one of the first roads in the country planned for military purposes.  Roads for defense have been around for a long time and are still around in modern times – much of the United States Highway System was built as the “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”, designed for defense and modeled partly after the German Autobahn network that Eisenhower saw in Germany during WWII.  After the Revolutionary War, the federal government realized they needed a highway extending from the town of the Lewiston Escarpment to the bluff at Black Rock.  At the time, they were planning a large fort on the Black Rock bluff to guard the entrance to the Niagara River.  Most of WNY’s roads at the time were based on Native American trails and the trails of the earliest settlers.  These trails typically took the path of least resistance, to avoid things like creeks, marshes, or heavily wooded areas.  The highway would replace the old Portage Road, which was too winding, as it followed closely to the course of the river, rather than in a more direct line.  The Historic Map shows both the routes of the Military Road, which has a smoother path than the Portage route, which curves further to the west towards the Falls.

After the Revolutionary War, there were boundary disputes between New York and Massachusetts.  An agreement signed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1786 deeded the land once occupied by the Haudenosaunee to New York State, but Massachusetts maintained that they had a right to the area west of Seneca Lake once the Native American title was extinguished, except for a one-mile strip, which New York State reserved for itself.  The strip ran one mile inland along the Niagara River, from Buffalo to Stedman’s Farm (also known as Fort Schlosser, near where the water intakes are currently located along the Niagara Scenic Parkway/Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls). Despite the State’s reservation of the parcel, the Seneca maintained that they retained the title to the Mile Strip, which was affirmed in the 1794 Pickering Treaty.   Massachusetts sold the rights to the surveyed portion of the land to Robert Morris in 1791.  Keeping a portion of the land for his own purposes, Robert Morris sold the rest of the land (which the exception of Grand Island and the Mile Strip) to the Holland Land Company, the company which Joseph Ellicott was the land agent.  You can read more about Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company by clicking these links for Part One, Part Two and Part Three.  In 1798, Seth Pease surveyed the Mile Line for the Holland Land Company.  In 1802, the Seneca claim to the Mile Strip was extinguished by a treaty signed in Albany.  There had been little settlement in the area by the Seneca, only two Seneca families lived there year-round.  The treaty was initiated because the government wanted to construct a fort at Black Rock (also known as Upper Black Rock).  In 1803, the Deputy State Surveyor, Joseph Annin began to survey the Mile Strip into lots.  Fort Niagara was given 716 acres which were set aside for the Federal government.  The Stedman’s Farm/Fort Schlosser farm lot was set aside at 680 acres.  The Jones and Parrish tracts, which were each 640 acres, were also set aside and were given to Mr. Jones and Mr. Parrish who had been Haudenosaunee captives during the war.  The Jones and Parrish lots were near the Scajaquada Creek.  A total of 111 lots were laid out within the remainder of the Mile Strip, the majority of which were 160 acres in size, but due to the curve of the river, many were slightly larger.  One square mile was set aside at the southern end for the Village of Black Rock.  For more on the laying out of Black Rock, you can read about Peter Porter, the streets named after states, and the numbered streets.

In 1801, General Moses Porter, commander at Fort Niagara, was ordered by the War Department to use his troops to build the road.  I was unable to find out if General Porter was related to Mr. Porter of Black Rock during my research.  They called the road Military Road because it was built by the soldiers.  Between 1802 and 1805, the right of way for the road was cleared.  At the time, road building typically consisted of cutting trees and brush wide enough  to bring an oxcart.  Military Road was built in a strip 100-feet wide.  Marshy areas were made passable by laying logs down, which was often referred to as a “corduroy road”.  It was a tough task, as the road was built through forests and over swamp lands to cut a straight path.  Bridges were built in Tonawanda, but work was stopped and the road surface was not finished for seven years, due to disagreements between the State and the Federal Governments. In 1808-1809, New York State gave $1,500 (about $30,000 in 2018 dollars) to the project and the road was complete.

fort tompkins signThe large fort planned for Black Rock was never built, but a smaller one was built in 1807 and became Fort Tompkins in August 1812.  Fort Tompkins was also known as Fort Adams.  The fort was actually large mounds which were mounting points for seven guns.  It was technically a battery, which is a cluster of cannons in action as a group put into position during a battle of a fort or city.  Fort Tompkins was the largest of eight batteries that were built during the war.  It was located at the top of the bluff at the bend in Niagara Street.  The escarpment here allowed them to overlook the river, giving advantages over the attacks from the water.   The location was later the sight of railway barns.  A plaque was hung on the railway barn and still hangs on the building located at 1010 Niagara Street.  The more famous Fort Tompkins was located on Staten Island and was built in 1663.  They were both likely named for Governor Daniel Tompkins, Governor of New York from 1807 to 1817.  Fun fact for if you’re ever on Jeopardy:  Daniel Tompkins was later President Monroe’s Vice President and the only VP in the 19th century to serve two full terms.

Military Road Marker

Historic Marker near Amherst Street and Military Road

One of the only military uses of the road was during the War of 1812.  American General McClure lost Fort George after a significant battle.  General McClure then gave the notice to burn Fort George and the Village of Newark (now Niagara on the Lake) to deny shelter to the British.  The Americans then retreated to Fort Niagara.  The British reoccupied Fort George and planned an assault on Fort Niagara in retaliation for the burning of Newark.  General McClure claimed he had acted on Secretary of War’s order in the burning of Newark.  He had been told earlier in the year to destroy Newark if necessary but to give the residents several days notice to ensure they were not left destitute.  McClure had only given two hours notice, leaving residents without shelter or possessions during a heavy snowstorm.  This was against war conventions at the time.  McClure’s superiors disavowed his orders and McClure never again held command.

On December 19th, 1813, more than 500 soldiers crossed the Niagara River at a location known as Five Mile Meadows. They turned towards Youngstown and the Americans were taken by surprise and the story goes that they obtained the password to get into the fort by using a fake southern accent.  The British gained control of Fort Niagara and the British and their Native American allies marched upriver.  With the American Army gone, there were only civilian militias left to defend their land.  The British marched south, destroying farms and villages between Youngstown and Manchester (now Niagara Falls, NY).  The second British raid happened a few weeks later, December 31, 1813, which burned as far south as Black Rock and Buffalo.  General McClure retreated from Fort Niagara to Buffalo via Military Road after losing Fort Niagara.

The road fell into disuse and became overgrown, partly due to a debate between the state and federal governments as to who was supposed to maintain it.  Sections of it were used by local farmers.  Niagara County took over the road in 1820 and reconditioned it (at the time present day Erie County was part of Niagara County).  By 1832, it was cleared and repaired and became a state highway.

The idea behind the road was to facilitate travel of troops and munitions of war from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.  Though the road was built for military function, it also helped to allow for commercial development of the area, with settlements occurring all along the Military Road.

In 1891, trolley service was extended along Military Road into the fledgling Village of Kenmore, allowing residents of Kenmore to arrive at the Military Road Station of the Belt Line, which would take them downtown for work.

miliatry marker sheridan drive

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Installation of the Boulder on Sheridan Drive, 1926. Source: Buffalo Courier Express

A boulder with a plaque honoring the Military Road was placed in Sheridan Drive by the Buffalo Chapter of the DAR in 1936.  It was part of a celebration of the centennial of the Town of Tonawanda.  The Centennial was held on exhibition grounds at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Sheridan Drive.  The dedication occurred on what was referred to as “Pioneer Day”.   New York State Historian, Dr. Alexander Flick, was on hand to give a speech and celebrate some of the oldest residents of Tonawanda.  Between 1906 and 1936, the Town had grown from 2,000 residents to 30,000.  Prizes were given to some of the residents including  the oldest married couple present, the oldest school teacher present, and the oldest male and female present.  Mrs. John Walters was unable to be present at the awards ceremony, but she had been a resident of Tonawanda for 93 years!

So the next time you drive along Military Road, think about the military history of WNY and remember the war fought right in our backyard, and the people who were determined enough to stay after their villages were burned to the ground.

Source:

  1. “Town Pioneers honor Guests and Centennial”.  Buffalo Courier Express, July 3 1936. p8.
  2. “Military Highway Will be Scene of Ceremonies” Buffalo Courier Express.  June 13, 1936, p13.
  3. Clinton Brown Architecture, pc.  Reconnaissance Level Historic Resources Survey:  Black Rock Planning Neighborhood.  November 2010.
  4. History of Old Fort Niagara.  https://www.oldfortniagara.org
  5. Lewis, Clarence.  “Evolution of Roadways in County Linked with Important Historical Happenings”.  Niagara Falls Gazette, July 29, 1954.
  6. Malloy, Jerry.  “Why is it Called Military Road?”  Buffalo History Gazette.  August 8, 2010.  http://www.buffalohistorygazette.net
  7. Percy, John & Graham Miller.  Images of America: Kenmore, New York.  Arcadia Publishing:  Charleston, South Carolina, 1998.

 

 

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