Archive for August, 2011

Sorry for the last of posts this week (and probably next week).   I’m in the process of moving; once I get settled, I’ll get back into my Tuesdays-Saturdays posting routine.

Let’s have an interactive entry.  The Skyway was named such because the City of Buffalo had a contest to name it.  There was a cash prize, as well as the bragging rights to say that  you named the road that one day Infrastructurist would call one of the top seven highways to tear down.

So, if you had the power to rename any street (including the skyway) in Buffalo, what would it be and why?  Would you name a street after yourself?  After Justin Beiber?  Let me know in the comments…I want to hear your ideas!


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Putnam Street runs about 0.3 miles on the West Side of Buffalo, west of Richmond Avenue, between Lafayette Avenue and West Ferry Street.    The street was named for James O Putnam.

James Osborne Putnam was  a friend of Lincoln before he became president and worked on Lincoln’s election campaigns.  He was also appointed by President Garfield to represent the US as minister to Belguim.

Putnam’s relatives arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in the early 1600s.  James was related to the Revolutionary War general, Israel Putnam.  The Putnam family arrived in Western New York in 1817 and built a log cabin.  James O. Putnam was born a year later.  James studied law at Yale and came back to Buffalo to practice.  While waiting on clients, he spent his time writing a book of essays and biographical sketches of Buffalonians.  His book can be found  here.

The Putnams lived on Swan Street, but later moved into a brick house at 756 Washington Street (The Putnam House was used as a kindergarten and nursery school for years after his death).  James O Putnam owned a farm that covered most of the land west of Richmond Avenue including Putnam Street.  He bought the land as an investment, and subdivided it into building lots and sold them.   The trees on the east side of Richmond Ave from Colonial Circle to Breckinridge were planted by James O Putnam.  He was a perfectionist, and inspected the trees year after year.  The weakling trees would be uprooted and replaced throughout the years.   At the age of 80, Mr. Putnam was selected to present the flags to the Buffalo soldiers and sailors leaving for the Spanish American War.    He also served as Chancellor of the University of Buffalo.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Source:  “Named for James O Putnam”.  Courier Express Aug 28, 1938, Located in ECBPL Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, Vol 2.

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Hodge Avenue runs approximately a half-mile between Delaware Avenue and Ashland Avenue.  Like many of the streets in the Elmwood Village, Hodge Street is lined with beautiful homes and large stately trees.  It’s hard to imagine the City of Buffalo without it’s street trees.  Although, the trees might not even be there if it wasn’t for the Hodge family….


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Selkirk Street is a street running approximately 1/4th of a mile south of Exchange Street, near the railroad corridor.   The land around Selkirk Street was originally owned by Henry Box.  Box was a lawyer in Buffalo, and when his land was subdivided for development, he decided to name one of the streets after his brother-in-law, John Harley Selkirk, an architect.

Erie County Savings Bank

John Henry Selkirk was born in Connecticut in 1808.   He studied architecture and moved to Buffalo in the early 1830s.  When he arrived, the Village of Buffalo had not been fully restored after the burning by the British during the War of 1812.  Therefore, it was a good time to be an architect.   Many of his buildings were built in the Romanesque Revival style, which is most famously represented in Buffalo by the Richardson Complex near Buffalo State College (designed by Henry Hobson Richardson).

Delaware Asbury Church in the 1950s

Selkirk designed and built the Asbury Delaware Methodist Church (aka Ani DiFranco’s Church) at Delaware and Tupper, the Calvary Presbyterian Church on Delaware and Tracy Street (demolished), old Central Presbyterian Church at Pearl and Genesee (at the time the largest protestant church in town).  In addition to the churches, he designed the Buffalo Gas Works Building (now the facade of the Health Now Building on Church Street), Western Savings Bank and the Erie County Saving Bank.  He also built many homesteads including the Rumsey Homestead at Delaware and Tracy, the Rich home at Main near Dodge, and the Sheldon Thompson mansion at Niagara Street and Porter Avenue.   He also built twin houses on Niagara Street between Huron and Georgia Streets for himself and his son.  At the time, that portion of Niagara Street was one of Buffalo’s better neighborhoods.

John Henry Selkirk died in 1879.  The only remaining buildings designed by him are the Church at Delware & Tupper and the facade of the Gas Works on Chruch Street.

Buffalo Gas Works

Source:  “Named for John Selkirk”.  Courier Express Aug 21, 1939, sec 5 p2.

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Numbered Streets in Buffalo

One thing many people don’t understand is Buffalo’s numbered streets.  Sure, we don’t have a perfect numbered grid like New York City, but our radial street pattern and unique street names are important to the City of Buffalo’s identity.  (Also, it gives me a reason to blog).

While Buffalo does have some numbered streets, the numbered streets  seem not to make any sense at all.  They are scattered throughout the west side of Buffalo in a seemingly random fashion.  We have the following numbered streets:

  • 4th
  • 7th
  • 10th
  • 14th
  • 15th
  • 16th
  • 17th
  • 18th
  • 19th

Why do they start with number 4?  Why do they skip numbers?  Why don’t they make any sense?


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Ganson Street is an industrial street running about a mile across Kelly Island from South Michigan Avenue to Ohio Street.  Ganson Street was named for Congressman John Ganson.  Ganson  was in Congress during one of the most critical periods of America’s history – the Civil War.  He supported every war measure proposed by President Lincoln, including Slave emancipation.

Ganson was born in 1819 in LeRoy NY, son of one of WNY’s pioneers.  He graduated from Harvard at the age of 19 and studied law in the office of Sibley and Worden in Canandaigua.   In 1846, he moved to Buffalo.  The Ganson mansion was at 262 Delaware Avenue, at the corner of Delaware and Chippewa.  His home was later the location of the Buffalo Club for 17 years, before they settled into the Watson mansion, its current location.

His first law partnership in Buffalo was with E.G. Spaulding.  Prior to his election to Congress, he served a full term in the state senate.  He was relected to the state senate in 1873, but his term was cut short by his death a year later, at the age of 54.   He is buried at Forest Lawn.

Source:  “Named for Congressmen”.  Courier Express Sept 11, 1938, sec 5 p 2.

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Did you go to the concert tonight on Bidwell Parkway?  Do you shop at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s market on Saturday mornings?   Bidwell Parkway is one of the Olmsted Parkways, designed as an entranceway into Delaware Park.  The Parkway serves as a meeting ground for the community in the vibrant Elmwood Village.

But do you know who Bidwell was?


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Hidden Waters blog

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