Curtiss Street is runs along the railroad tracks near the Central Terminal. The street follows the curves of the railroad, which has been there since at least the 1880s. The streets in the vicinity of the Terminal have changed a bit in the last 100 years. More information about other streets will be coming in other blog posts. Since the construction of the Central Terminal, Curtiss Street has run underneath the Terminal at the curve. (click photos to enlarge for easier reading)
People often believe the street is named after Glenn Curtiss, known for Curtiss Aeroplane Company. However, Glenn Curtiss wasn’t born until 1878, and the street was named by at least 1889. While it would have been very interesting if the street had been named in honor of an 11-year-old who ended up being as remarkable as Glenn Curtiss, this was not the case. I was unable to find any concrete evidence linking Glenn Curtiss to the other Buffalo Curtiss family. If anyone has any information of their linkage, please let me know in the comments. But no, Curtiss Street is NOT named for Curtiss-Wright airplanes.
Curtiss Street is named for Charles Gould Curtiss. Mr. Curtiss was an officer of the Lancaster and Depew Land Company, which developed Curtiss Street and several other streets in its vicinity.
Mr. Charles Gould Curtiss was born in 1827 and grew up in Utica, New York. He ran the news stand at the Utica Rail Station while he was a boy, and eventually became a produce salesman. At the age of 23, he formed a connection with a wholesale grocer, which brought him to New York City. He made many connections while in New York. For a short time, he became an executive of Breckinridge County Coal Oil Company in Louisville Kentucky. He worked to substitute coal oil for sperm oil. The discovery of petroleum caused the business to fail, as the coal oil was no longer necessary.
In 1857, Mr. Curtiss came to Buffalo to join Levi Willard in the insurance business. In 1873, he organized a barley and malt firm that continued to operate for nearly half a century. Charles and his wife Amelia lived in a large stone house at 63 West Huron Street. He kept his horses at Efner’s Livery Stable at Franklin and Chippewa, and it is said that he rode his horses through Delaware Park on a daily basis. At the time, the roads were only paved as far as North Street, so riding to the park was a ride out to the country.
In 1882, Charles was a delegate to the Democratic Convention where his friend Grover Cleveland was nominated for Governor. After his election, Cleveland appointed Mr. Curtiss to the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo State Hospital for the Insane. The Curtiss family also kept a farm at Delavan and Main Street where he raised chickens and kept a cow. He felt that “the country was the best place for growing boys”, so he spent a great deal of time on the farm with his sons Harlow and Alexander. Although his own schooling was limited, Charles felt an education was important, so he sent both sons to college.
Alexander studied medicine at the University of Rochester after coursework at Cornell. Dr. Curtiss (Alexander) was in charge of the first hospital established in Denver, Colorado. Following the birth of his first son, Colman, Dr. Curtiss returned to Buffalo and became a surgeon for Buffalo State Hospital. Colman eventually ran his grandfather Charles’ barley and malt firm. Colman was president of the company when it went under due to prohibition. Following the closure of the malt firm, Colman worked in insurance for John Hancock Life Insurance Company. Colman married Sally Cary, daughter of Trumbull Cary (another prominent Buffalonian). Alexander and his family lived at 780 West Ferry, the house which is better known today as the Ronald McDonald House.
Harlow was a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and studied law under Grover Cleveland. Harlow became a lawyer and became an extensive real estate owner throughout the City. Harlow and his wife Ethel were prominent in Buffalo during the early 1900s. Ethel was originally Ethel Mann, the daughter of Matthew Mann, the doctor who operated on President William McKinley after he was shot on the Pan-Am grounds in 1901. Harlow was influential in the development of the Curtiss Building at the corner of Franklin and Huron. Ethel was considered a community leader as well, she worked with the Buffalo Council of Campfire Girls and conducted programs to develop leadership skills for women. Ethel and Harlow lived at 100 Lincoln Parkway.
The Curtiss Building at Franklin and Huron Streets was designed by Harlow’s brother-in-law, Paul Mann, and was built in 1912. The building is also known as the King & Eisele Building due to a jewelry firm which located in it during the 20s and 30s. It was later known as the Hoelscher Building after the Hoelscher Building Corporation which was located there from the 1940s until the 1990s. Mark Croce currently owns the building and had plans for a boutique hotel about 5 years ago. However, the project appears to be at a standstill.
COMING SOON: I became intrigued by the old maps when I saw the land where the Central Terminal now sits was once a park. Coming later this week: What was Polonia Park?