Archive for July, 2011

Letchworth is a small street, running about one-tenth of a mile between Grant and Dart Streets, behind Buffalo State College.  Most people know of Letchworth as a park in Genesee County, but did you who it’s name after?


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Bird Avenue runs approximately 1.5 miles between Delaware Avenue and Niagara Street, just south of Forest Avenue.

Buffalo has Eagle Street and Swan Street.  It’s natural to assume that Bird Street was named after the birds that make their home along the Niagara River.  Well, it’s not named after our fine feathered friends, but there were some Birds who made their home along the river…


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Gates Circle is a part of the Olmsted Parks and Parkways System that Buffalo is known for (so is Symphony Circle, which we’ve already talked about).  It’s one of two traffic circles on Delaware Avenue.  The Circle has beautiful light fictures, two water-spout fountains, and a granite bench which circles the larger center fountain.   It’s a neat design, because the fountain is sunken down, so from the inside of the circle, you can’t really see cars on the street, so you feel like you’re actually in a park, not surrounded by Delaware Avenue, which can get busy, traffic-wise.

It’s been hot in Buffalo this week.  Maybe you’ve driven, biked or walked down Delaware Avenue and thought, “I really want to hop in the fountain at Gates Circle.  But then, out of the corner of your eye, you notice the sign….NO WADING OR SWIMMING IN THE FOUNTAIN.


But swimming and wading wasn’t always forbidden….


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“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something….You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”   – JRR Tolkien, The Hobbitt

I decided to fill you all in on how I’ve been doing my research.  As most of you know, the internet is a vast, amazing source of knowledge. However, anyone can put forth a website and call it fact. I’ve decided to do the majority of my research through conventional means.  In short, I’m a bookworm.  And libraries are important.

In Buffalo, we’re lucky to have two wonderful resources involving Buffalo historical research, the Research Library at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (BECHS) and the Grovesnor Room at the Central Library.  If you’ve never been to either of these locations, I highly recommend stopping by.  You can get lost in the old books, discovering new things and diving into stacks and stacks of Buffalo history.   Amazing resources are available, right under our fingertips.

The Research Library at BECHS is located at what most people refer to as the History Museum.   The library documents the history of Buffalo and the region, and has several special collections.  If you haven’t been to the History Museum since your 4th grade field trip or to pose for wedding pics, you should definitely stop by, revisit the exhibits (the new Pioneer Room just opened this summer) and poke your head in the library.   Cynthia, the librarian at  BECHS, has  been extremely helpful in letting me know about the existence of articles about the history of Buffalo Streets, being supportive of my intent to start the blog, and reminding me to cite my sources!

The Grovesnor Room used to be its own library, which operated as a non-circulating reference library since 1871.   It provided library services until 1963 when it merged with the Buffalo Public Library when the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library was founded.  The room, located at the Central library contains a large collection of books about Buffalo, as well as a local history file, scrapbooks, microfilm of numerous newspapers, and maps.

My favorite things in the Grovesnor Room are the feasibility study that was done to decide where to locate the Bills stadium when they were moving from the Rockpile (Orchard Park wasn’t even on the list!).  And they have the original blueprints for Memorial Auditorium (RIP my beloved Aud).  The librarians in the Grovesnor Room are also wonderful, providing resources and encouragement while I sit and do research.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Local History File, and the Buffalo History Scrapbooks, full of newspaper clippings, some more than 100 years old!!

If anyone has any questions about my sources for any of the information, feel free to contact me and let me know.  And if you ever want to spend an afternoon getting lost in Buffalo history, let me know and I’ll meet you at the library!

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Typically, it seems as if streets are named in memorial after people have died.  Unless, of course, you’re one of the richest men in the city, or you use a street as your cow’s shortcut.   Sometimes, people are honored even before their deaths.  Copeland Place is a short, less than a tenth of a mile, road near the intersection of Ontario and Tonawanda Streets in the Riverside Neighborhood of Buffalo.  What an honor and surprise it must have been for Copeland Place’s namesake to be called into a real estate developer’s office and see his name place on a map!   (more…)

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I’ve been really busy doing research and have several really interesting posts planned, but I only have time for a quick entry today.

Symphony Circle was originally named The Circle.  The Circle was built in 1868, over the former Black Rock Cemetery.    A mansion was built in the 1890s on 3.5 acres adjacent to The Circle by Truman Avery.   The family offered their property in 1938 for the new music hall.   Also, in 1939, the center island we removed from The Circle because it was believed to be an impediment to traffic.  Because of the association with Kleinhans Music Hall and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, The Circle was renamed Symphony Circle in 1958.

In 1992, a committee was formed to look at options for restoring the center island to the circle.  By 2002, Symphony Circle was restored to as close to the Frederick Law Olmsted original plans.

Source:  Kleinhans Community Association  (http://kleinhansca.org/index.html)

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Allen Street is the backbone of the Allentown.  It runs approximately a half mile from Main Street to Wadsworth Street. Historically, Allentown formed around the area where the Village of Buffalo and the Village of Black Rock merged into each other.  Today, it’s a vibrant neighborhood. It wasn’t always that way… (more…)

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When I was in 5th grade, I was cast as Gracie Shinn, the Mayor’s daughter in The Music Man.  In my moment of theatrical glory, I got to run across the stage yelling “Daddy Daddy Daddy, the Wells Fargo Wagon is Coming”.  Talk of the Wells Fargo Wagon stirs up feelings of old-timey nostalgia for the days when you couldn’t just order things overnight delivery on amazon.com.  Waiting for the stagecoach must have been excruciating!    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a video from the 2003 movie.


Did you know that Wells Fargo has its roots in Buffalo? (more…)

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Here’s the deal, the City of Buffalo has approximately 1500 streets.  We drive, bike and walk over them every day.  Do you ever stop to think why Bird Street is called that?  (HINT:  It’s not because there were birds there)  Do you ever wonder why the Fruit Belt streets are named after Fruits?  I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a huge nerd when it comes to Buffalo history, and as an urban planner, I’m interested in discovering how cities grow and develop over time.  I take pride in knowing a lot about Buffalo’s heritage and history (I volunteer at the historical society, shameless plug).  I think it’s important to know where we came from in order to know where we’re going collectively as a city.    But sometimes I wonder, how did our streets get their names? (more…)

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