Hertel Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare in North Buffalo running from Main Street to the Niagara River. The street was previously known as Cornelius Creek Road, named after the creek, which ran near the street. Hertel Avenue was named for John Stephen Hertel, former County Supervisor.
Mr. Hertel was one of three owners of the land that is now Riverside Park and was a founder of the Black Rock Land Company, the first land development company in Buffalo. The Black Rock Land Company was founded in 1888 and consisted of John Hertel, John Esser, Frank Argus, Louis Roesch and Frederick Ullman. You’ll notice that several other streets in the Black Rock/Riverside neighborhoods are named after these men.
John Stephen Hertel came to Black Rock with his parents at the age of two, immigrating from Edesheim Germany. Mr. Hertel attended St. Francis School and learned the cooper trade, making barrels for brewers and distillers. He then became involved in the hotel business. He opened a hotel at the corner of what would become Hertel Avenue and Niagara Street. Before the 1890s, the Riverside area was primarily rural countryside. At the time, the street that would become Hertel Avenue only extended from Niagara Street to Military Road. When the Niagara Horse Car Line was extended to Hertel Avenue, the legend says that Mr. Hertel was so excited, he ran out of the hotel without a coat to be the first to ride on the first horse-car to pass the hotel.
Mr. Hertel was also the director of the Erie Fire Insurance Company and had extensive real estate holdings. The Black Rock Land Company was formed in 1888 and was one of the first development companyies in the City of Buffalo. The Land Company included Mr. Hertel, Mr. Esser, Mr. Argus, Mr. Roesch and Mr. Ullman. Mr. Hertel’s property included most of the land occupied by Peoria Street and Hartman Place. He subdivided the streets and named the latter for the family of his wife, the former Anna S. Hartman of Rochester. The hotel was successful for Mr. Hertel. He then went into business with John J. Esser and Frank Argus to purchase what was known as Germania Park, which at the time was a private picnic grounds with a boat launch. They built a hotel at Germania Park. The City of Buffalo offered to purchase their property. The City of Buffalo used this site to create Riverside Park.
At the time, there was great support for the City to buy Germania Park, to give the public a place to enjoy the river “where any resident of Buffalo could go with his whole family and be free from beer saloons and drunken men”. Riverside Park was the final park designed for Buffalo by the Olmsted Architecture Firm, following Frederick Law Olmsted’s retirement. The park was designed in 1898, at the time the Erie Canal traversed the park, separating the shoreline from the main part of the park. The original 22-acre park included a boat dock and canal overpass. The New York State Thruway I-190 currently runs along the Erie Canal alignment. The park was expanded in 1912 to include an additional 17 acres on the south side of the park. The original southern boundary was a line extending from Esser Avenue to the Niagara River.
After selling Germania Park, Mr. Hertel and Mr. Esser left the hotel business. They entered into the coal and wood business, establishing the business near the corner of Niagara and Farmer Streets. They also established the Tonawanda Street Planing Mill at Tonawanda and Arthur Streets.
John Hertel and his wife Anna lived with their family at 362 Dearborn Street. The Hertel family lived in the house for several generations, his son John Stephen Hertel II, his daughter Mrs. Franscis Healy and his grandson John Hertel Healy all lived in the Dearborn house.
John Stephen Hertel was a life long democrat and was active in local politics. He was unsuccessful in a campaign for congress. For 27 years, he was a lieutenant colonel of the Knights of St. John. He was a member of St. Mary’s Commandery and an organizer of the commendary at St. Francis Church. St. Francis Church is now the Buffalo Religious Arts Center. He was active in the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Men’s Benevolent Association, the Foresters of America and the Black Rock Businessmen’s Association. He died in 1917 and is buried at the United German and French Cemetery in Cheektowaga
To learn about other streets, check out the Street Index.
- “Hertel Avenue Honors Civic Leader’s Memory” Courier Express Feb 26, 1939, sec. 7 p 3
- Black Rock-Riverside Good Neighbors Planning Alliance Neighborhood Plan. January 2007.
- “Down at the Rock” The Buffalo Courier, Jan 22, 1894.