Perry Street was originally named Beaver Street by Joseph Ellicott in the original 1804 Plan of New Amsterdam/Buffalo. In 1907, Alderman Hendrick Callahan suggested new names for a bunch of streets. The streets that he renamed were Liberty, Erie, Columbia, and Perry. He also suggested renaming Main Street to Iroquois Avenue; however, this was not approved. Liberty Street was later renamed Baltimore Street. Perry also lends his name to the Commodore Perry projects, located near Perry Street.
Additionally, Perry Boulevard used to be located along the former route of the Erie Canal where the I-190 Thruway is currently located. The road led from Main Street up to Porter Avenue, and was constructed when the canal was filled in during the construction of the Lakeview Housing Project. At the time, the unused canal bed was considered a health hazard, so it was filled in to protect the residents of the public housing. A short portion of the roadway under the Thruway is still called Perry Boulevard.
Oliver Hazard Perry was born in 1785 in Rhode Island. His younger brother Matthew Calbraith Perry was involved in the opening of Japan. Matthew Perry also served under his brother during the Battle of Lake Erie.
Perry served in the West Indies, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean, but he is best known as the “Hero of Lake Erie” for his role during the War of 1812. At the start of the War of 1812, the British Navy controlled the Great Lakes, except for Lake Huron. The American Navy controlled Lake Champlain. The American Navy had only a small force, which allowed the British to make advances on the Great Lakes and northern New York waterways.
Perry was named Chief Naval Officer in Erie, P.A., and built a fleet on Presque Isle Bay. On September 10, 1813, Perry fought a successful action during the Battle of Lake Erie. During the battle, Perry’s ship, the USS Lawrence, was severely disabled. the British Commander, Robert Barclay, thought Perry would surrender. Commander Barclay sent over a small boat to request that the Americans pull down the flag.
Perry remained faithful to the phrase “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP”, which were paraphrased from the dying words of Captain Lawrence, Perry’s friend and the ship’s namesake. The men rowed through heavy gunfire to transfer to the USS Niagara. Perry’s forces continued until Barclay’s ships surrendered. Although Perry was aboard the Niagara during the fighting of the battle, he had the British surrender on the deck of the Lawrence to allow the British to see the price his men had paid. Perry’s report following the battle was brief but became famous: “We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop”. This was the first time in history that an entire British naval squadron had surrendered.
He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal and for his role during the Battle of Buffalo. He also helped completed successful outcomes at all nine Lake Erie military campaigns, which was a turning point during the War of 1812.
The Perry statue in Front Park was erected by the State of New York Perry Victory Centennial Committee. The statue was dedicated at the 100th annual reunion of the New York Veterans Association. The statue has recently been restored and returned to the park, along with cannons that were originally located in the park due to the park’s connection to Fort Porter, which was located near where the Peace Bridge plaza is currently located.
Commodore Perry did not live to old age. He died in 1819, on his 34th birthday, of yellow fever while at sea. He was buried at Port of Spain, Trinidad with full military honors. In 1826, his remains were moved to Newport, Rhode Island.
Learn about the origins of other street names by checking out the Street Index.
- “What Think You Of These Names” Buffalo Express May 31, 1907
- News May 6 1937 (clipping in local street scrapbook vol 2)