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…
Lewis Falley Allen arrived in Buffalo in 1827 with his wife, Margaret Cleveland. When they arrived, Buffalo wasn’t even a city yet. When the City of Buffalo incorporated in 1832, North Street was the northern limits of the City, but much of the outskirts of what we now think of as Downtown, was undeveloped and/or farmland. Margaret Cleveland was the aunt of future Erie County Sheriff/Mayor of Buffalo/Governor of New York/ President of the United States Grover Cleveland. The Allens bought the Porter mansion when Peter Porter left Black Rock in 1837 (Peter moved to Niagara Falls, but we’ll talk more about the Porters another day). The Porter house was on Niagara Street between Breckinridge and Ferry. The Allens lived in the home for more than 50 years. When a young Grover Cleveland decided to become a lawyer, he stayed with his Aunt and Uncle. Uncle Lewis pursued Grover, who was headed to Cleveland, that he didn’t need to go any further than Buffalo.
Lewis Allen owned 29 acres of land between Williamsville Road (now Main Street) and Hudson Street. As Buffalo’s industrial boom following development of the canal, the value of his land increased. Mr. Allen, being a smart man, sold off the parcels along Main Street. However, he had a herd of cows, which could no longer graze in the area. He began driving his herd from the rear portion of his estate for to pasture. The path became Allen Street, which was named after him in 1888.
Allen was also a horticulturalist was responsible for many of the trees in Buffalo. He promoted the planting of Elm Trees that many of Buffalo’s streets were known for, before dutch elm disease. Allen wrote a book on Rural Architecture in 1852, which you can view here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19998
Allen also acquired a 600-acre farm on Grand Island he named Allenton. He raised pigs and cows and maintained orchards of apple, pear and cherry trees. He worked with fellow citizens to form the Erie County Agricultural Society, which is the group responsible for the Erie County Fair. In 1841, the Fair was held in what is present-day Lafayette Square.
So think of Mr. Allen the next time you’re in Allentown, or even better, think of his cows!