Often a group of streets will be named after a theme. This is often seen when a developer may name a bunch of streets after his family members or friends. Many people know that Washington, DC has streets named after all 50 states to form the City’s grid (crossed by alphabetic and numbered streets). The City of Buffalo has streets named after 32 of the 50 states. Many of these state street names originated in one of Buffalo’s original street grids.
Many of the streets named after streets are located in what was the original development of the Village of Black Rock. The Black Rock streets were originally laid out two years before Joseph Ellicott came to Buffalo! New York State purchased a one mile strip of land along the Niagara River known as the New York State Reservation in 1802. The State laid out the streets of the Village of Black Rock. For 20 years, Black Rock would serve as Buffalo’s rival. In 1825, Buffalo won its fight to be the terminus of the Erie Canal, became a booming city, and annexed the Village of Black Rock in 1854.
State named streets in Black Rock include Georgia, Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Jersey, York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hampshire. All of the original 13 colonies are represented by these streets, other than Delaware, which was originally located where Hudson Street is today. When Buffalo and Black Rock merged, duplicate street names were changed to prevent confusion. These streets all lay parallel to each other in what is now the West Side of the City of Buffalo, but was originally known as the South Village of Black Rock or Upper Black Rock. When originally laid out, these streets formed a grid with numbered streets. The streets were laid out by Lemuel Forester, a Surveyor for New York State. You can read about the numbered streets in Buffalo by clicking here. These streets form what was known as Upper Black Rock. Peter Porter was an important person in the early days of Black Rock.
It is important to note that it is difficult to differentiate between states such as North and South Carolina or Virginia and West Virginia, as the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) are used in street naming conventions. Early maps of Black Rock show Jersey, York and Hampshire as New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire, but as time elapsed, the convention to name streets “New” to differentiate between different alignments of a street which changed over time, of which the alignment’s name may be “New _____ Street” or “Old ______ Street”.
The City also has streets named after the following states:
- North and South Dakota (as Dakota Street)
There are several streets named after states that used to be located in Buffalo. These streets names have been removed for various reasons:
Idaho Street and Arizona Streets– were located in North Buffalo off Military Road, north of Sayre Street. The Buffalo Foundry was located here, and industrial facilities eventually absorbed the streets.
Indiana Street was located near the foot of Main Street. The street was eliminated when Crossroads Arena (aka Marine Midland, aka HSBC, aka First Niagara Center) was built. The street is currently buried under First Niagara Center.
Alaska Alley – was closed on February 24, 1960. This was a small alley off of Chippewa near Genesee and Washington. The block where Alaska and Seward Alleys were located is now parking for the Electric Tower building.
Iowa – used to be the part of LaSalle Avenue from Bailey to Eggert (near Minnesota Avenue). However, they changed the name when they wanted to rename Perry Street to Iowa Street. They then decided that Perry was too important to change the name of the street. At this time, they also tried to change the name of Fulton Street to Oklahoma, but also decided that Fulton was too important of a person to change the name of the street.
In 1901, the City wanted to rename Indian Church, Hudson or South Division Street to Missouri. Residents complained because it sounded like “Misery” to them, and they did not want to live on “Misery Street”.
There is no Maine Street, because it would be confusing because it sounds like Main Street.
I was unable to find evidence of streets in Buffalo named after the following five states:
- New Mexico
Buffalo Ex-Pats living in the Washington, DC area will be happy to know that Columbia Street, in the Cobblestone District near the arena, is named after the District of Columbia.
To answer the “which street named after a state is your favorite?” question – mine is York Street. My dad moved to Buffalo (from Central New York….and after time spent in the Navy) in 1978 and his first apartment here was on York Street. My parents lived there when the first got married. This is where my branch of the Keppel family started in Buffalo. 🙂
To read about other streets, click the Street Index.
- “Many Changes Made in Names of Streets Here” Courier Express, August 26, 1928
- “New Names for Streets” Buffalo Express Oct 7, 1901
- “Council Closes Alaska Alley” Buffalo Courier Express, February 24, 1960.