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?
Our city was first laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804. Ellicott worked for the Holland Land Company and laid out our radial street pattern. I think it’s safe to say that Ellicott Street was named after the surveyor who is responsible for our beloved Niagara Square. He named the streets with native american tribes (Chippewa, Mohawk, Huron, Seneca), animals (Beaver, Swan, Eagle, Elk) and dutch names (Vollenhaven, Stadnitzki, Willink, Vanstaphorst). Some of the names have endured, some have not.
So, these days, we have streets named after animals, native american tribes, the states (Michigan, Delaware, etc), fruits (Grape, Lemon, etc), and the founding fathers (Washington, Franklin, etc). Some of the major players in Buffalo history had streets named after them – Grover Cleveland, Millard Fillmore, Ebenezer Walden. But who/what was Tupper? Why is there a Keppel Street?
I decided to challenge myself to learn about the streets. Come along with me as I share the stories of long forgotten people and things that shaped the Queen City during the last two hundred years. I figure in each post, I’ll share another story about one of the streets and what the meaning behind their names are. It’s going to take some research, and I hope we learn a lot along the way. Feel free to share any stories you have, or request for me to research a particular street you’re interested in!