Archive for November, 2012

Central Park Neighborhood shown in Red
Former Buffalo Cement Company land shown in Blue

Central Park is the name of a street, a plaza and a neighborhood in Buffalo.  The red outline on the map to the right depicts the Central Park Neighborhood, on the west side of Main Street.  On the east side of Main Street, the blue outline depicts the boundaries of the former Buffalo Cement Company.  A portion of the quarry still exists along East Amherst Street, adjacent to McCarthy Park.

Central Park Avenue is located along the south side of Central  Park Plaza, which is along the southern border of the blue line on the map.  Central Park Plaza was developed in the 1950s to provide an urban shopping destination.  At its peak, Central Park Plaza contained 45 stores including several major grocery stores, a day care facility, a charter school, Radio Shack, and various other stores.  During the 1980s, the plaza decline due to shifting populations and the rise of suburban shopping malls.   This past May, Central Park Plaza got a new owner and there is hope for the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhood.

Central Park neighborhood was named by Lewis Jackson Bennett the Founder of the Buffalo Cement Company.  Mr. Bennett was born in Schenectady County NY in July 1833.  He began his life as a clerk in a grocery store in Fultonville, NY.   He was a collector of tolls on the Erie Canal at Fultonville for a  short while.  Bennett moved to Buffalo in 1866 after he obtained a contract to do repair work along the canal here.  He used the money he earned doing this work to buy land in North Buffalo to extract the limestone for use in a cement factory. He was responsible for all slips and basins in Buffalo and the area 17 miles east of the City.  Along with his father-in-law, Andrew Spaulding, he formed an independent contracting business for dredging.  They were given city, state and federal contracts throughout Western New York.  They supervised the building of the first iron bridges in the area.  Mr. Bennett than became interested in the manufacture of hydraulic cement.

In 1875, Mr. Bennet began to acquire land on the east and west sides of Main Street where the cement deposits were located.   (more…)


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The Courier Express called Rich Street “a little street named for a big man”. The street runs between Genesee Street and Best Street near Martin Luther King Junior Park on the East Side of Buffalo.

Rich Street gets its name from Gaius Barrett Rich, who was nicknamed “Great Big” because he weighed more than 300 pounds.  Mr. Rich was a prominent bank during the early years of Buffalo’s development.  He was born in 1790 and opened a store in Clapp’s Mill (in Wyoming County) in 1827.   Mr. Rich then founded the Bank of Attica and in 1840, expanded his banking into Buffalo.  His bank was located in the Spaulding Exchange, at Main Street and The Terrace.  The bank kept the Bank of Attica name until 1892, when it was renamed Buffalo Commercial Bank.  Ten years later, Buffalo Commercial Bank merged with the Marine Trust Company.  He also founded Western Savings Bank of Buffalo, and was president of the bank from its founding in 1851 until his death in 1861.  Western Savings Bank became Western New York Savings Bank, then Niagara County Savings and Loan, then Buffalo Savings Bank, then Goldome.  The bank was liquidated nearly 150 years after its founding in 1991 and assets were sold to Key Bank, M&T, and East New York Savings Bank.  [side note:  someone should write a blog just on Buffalo Banking History, it is fascinating stuff!]

Mr. Rich’s home was located at Main Street and Barker Avenue, which was Buffalo countryside at the time.  He had greenhouses on his property, and was the first Buffalonian to raise “hothouse grapes”.  He owned real estate throughout the City and was one of the founders of North Presbyterian Church.

Gaius  and his wife Aphia had 7 children.  One of Gaius’ sons, named his son Gaius Barrett Rich II.

Gaius Barrett Rich II was the owner of the G. Barrett Rich house, built in 1890.   The house is still located on Main Street near Riley.  G. Barrett sold his home in 1921 after his wife died.  It was part of St. Vincent’s Orphanage, and was used as housing for the nuns who ran the orphanage.  Later, it was used as part of ECC City Campus prior to ECC moving in to the Old Post Office (its current location).  It was vacated by ECC in 1984.  Most recently, the building is used for Little Portion Friary, which is a temporary shelter for the homeless.

Many members of the Rich family are buried in Forest Lawn, including Gaius and his wife Aphia and Gaius II and his wife Cordelia.   So the next time you are driving past Rich Street, think of Gaius and his family, and know that more than 100 years ago, people thought of a banker, not whipped topping when they thought of the Rich family!

Don’t forget to check out the Street Index to learn about how other streets got their names!

Source:  “Rich Street Honors Memory of Banker” Courier Express, September 25 1938, p2.

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