I normally wouldn’t go into something this personal on the blog, but it ties into the City of Buffalo and the street I am going to discuss today. I was recently attacked and robbed while waiting on the Subway platform at Allen Street. I am alright, a little bruised and a little shook up, but otherwise alright. This is my public service announcement to you all – Please be safe!!
Anyways, this event is your luck, because as I was soaking my sore muscles in some Epsom salts, I realized that I needed to write about Mineral Springs Road!
Mineral Springs Road is located in the southeastern edge of the City of Buffalo, extending into West Seneca. The street runs between Seneca Street in Buffalo to Union Road in West Seneca. The Mineral Springs (also known as the Sulphur Springs) were located in a grove of trees near the corner of Mineral Springs and Harlem Road. From my estimations of the old maps, it appears that they were located approximately where the I-90 crosses the Buffalo River, which is technically in the Town of West Seneca.
The springs were known to the Seneca as Dyos-hih, “the sulphur spring”. On August 10, 1830, a notice was posted in local newspapers advertising that “a medicinal spring possessing the properties of the Spring at Avon has been discovered on the Indian Reservation about three miles from Buffalo Village near the junction of the Hydraulic Canal and Buffalo Creek”. The waters in this area were reputed to have healing powers for the sick.
In 1848, a brochure was published by A.F. Lee to advertise the Springs. Mineral springs were known as an ancient cure, going back to at least the time of the Greeks. The waters didn’t have the medicinal properties when they were bottled, so people would drink them directly at the spring. The sulphur springs contain sulphuretted hydrogen.
Other famous sulphur springs include Aix-La-Chapelle which was built during the time of Charlemagne, the Sulphur Springs of Virginia, the waters of Harrowgate in Yorkshire, England, and the Avon Springs in Avon, New York. The springs at Buffalo was believed to be superior to all of the other springs. A chemical analysis of the springs was done by Dr. Chilton of New York City in 1844. The water was found to contain sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, lime carbonate, soda carbonate, magnesia sulphate, and lime sulphate. The springs contained 12 times more sulphuretted hydrogen than most springs and double that of the spring at Avon.
Different springs were cured different diseases. The spring at Buffalo was good for the following diseases: obstinate cutaneous diseases, rheumatic and gouty affections, cases of neuralgia, indolent ulcers, dyspepsia, early stages of tuberculosis and consumption, and was also “useful in some complaints peculiar to females”.
The spring was endorsed by several doctors in Buffalo. The following doctors wrote letters of support of the medicinal properties of the spring: J. Trowbridge, Bryant Buruell, A.S. Sprague, M. Bristol, Austin Flint, Frank Hamilton, Erastus Wallis, J. Barnes, Jno. S. Trowbridge, and Chas. W. Harvey.
The springs were owned by Messieurs Burr and Waters of Buffalo. A three-story frame structure with a large porch was built as a bathing house. The springs were a resort for Buffalonians for a short while, but the roads were well not well maintained and the springs were eventually abandoned.
The bathing house from the resort became the home for boys as part of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Orphan Home in 1874. The church and the original orphanage was located on Hickory Street. The home for girls stayed on Hickory Street while the boys moved out to the Springs. The boys home was destroyed by fire in 1876 and a new building was erected. In 1898, a new building was added to the Sulphur Springs property to transfer the girls from their original home in the city and consolidate the home to one site.
The orphanage was run by the church. The children usually remained at the Home until the age of sixteen, when they were placed out into the families of the congregation. The grounds were 105 acres, included a hospital and schoolhouse with a gymnasium. The students had tennis courts, a baseball diamond, a two-run toboggan slide, an orchard, and a picnic grove with shelters and grills. In 1956, a swimming pool was added to the grounds. To help raise money for the pool, donations were collected at neighborhood taverns.
Operating costs rose steadily for the Home following WWII as state regulations became more stringent. The Home suffered a fire on November 14, 1959. The increased budget due to regulations and the fire damage forced the Home to close its doors in 1960.
Although the Home was closed, the Board was still allowed to donate money to those in need. In 1965, $50,000 was given to Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Camp for the construction of St. John’s Hall. The Gustavus Adolphus Home for Children in Jamestown was also given a $275,000 grant in 1967.
A portion of the property actually still provides for youth, as it is now the location of the Renaissance House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for adolescents.
In 1891, the Buffalo Parks Commissioners had considered using a grove of trees near Mineral Springs as a location for a park. A report was made describing several places as potential for parks in South Buffalo. The grove at Mineral Springs was described as “wet, except in the driest months of the year”, and the grove had been known informally as “Old Red Jacket Park” and was used as a picnic resort. The park was rejected for this location and the Cazenovia Park site was chosen as the site to build the new park. This grove of trees was referred to as “Old Red Jacket Park” until at least the 1920s. This grove of trees still exists along the north side of Mineral Springs Road.
So the next time you use some bath salts, be sure to think of the mineral springs in Buffalo! Be sure to read up on other streets in the street index.
- “Street Names Link South Buffalo to Its Indian Past” Buffalo Evening News 9-14-1960
- “The Indian Reservation Sulphur Springs, Near Buffalo NY with an Account of its Analysis, Medicinal Properties, and the Diseases for Which it is Applicable”. A.F. Lee, Printer: 1848.
- Thirteenth Annual Report of the Buffalo Park Commissioners, Buffalo: Press of the Courier Company, January 19, 1883.
- Verlag and Druck Van Reinecke & Zesch, History of Germans In Buffalo and Erie County: Buffalo, 1898. Part I, pgs 282-286.
- Alexander, W.P. “What Spring Means to the Lover of Flowers”, Hobbies Magazine, Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, May 1920.