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:
Why do they start with number 4? Why do they skip numbers? Why don’t they make any sense?
One thing that I knew about this area of the City is that it had seen a lot of changes. The land was originally part of the Upper Village of Black Rock, which was originally owned by New York State. Black Rock was a separate village that was annexed by the City of Buffalo when it was incorporated in 1832. The Erie Canal cut through Black Rock in 1825 on its way to Buffalo. When the canal heyday ended, the canal bed was converted to a railroad corridor, and which eventually gave way to the Thruway (I-190). The configuration of streets in this area also changed several times due to the Peace Bridge configuration.
In my quest to learn more about the numbered streets, I decided to take a look at some historic maps of Buffalo from the 1830s. I realized that other streets used to have numbers!
- Lakeview Avenue was 5th Street
- Busti Avenue was 6th Street
- Columbus Street was an extension of 7th Street
- Niagara Street runs along where 8th Street should be
- Prospect Avenue was 9th Street
- Fargo Avenue was 10th Street
- West Avenue was 11th Street
- Plymouth Avenue was 12th Street
- Normal Avenue was 13th Street
Here’s a map showing the locations of these street. The current name of the street is shown in parentheses.
As the map shows, once you add back the streets formerly numbered, the historic street grid of Black Rock begins to make sense. Additionally, I found an 1834 Erie Canal survey and learned that 2nd and 3rd Street used to run on either side of the canal. These streets are buried under the Thruway now. Additionally, running along the waterfront in this area was Main Street. It was a common practice back then for Main Street to represent 1st Street and street numbers would start with 2nd.
So, these numbered streets which remain, essentially they’re remnants of streets that haven’t been renamed yet. Maybe we should change that. Who would you like to see a street named after?