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Archive for June, 2020

This week marks 9 years of writing this blog.  Where has the time gone?  In those nine years, I got rid of my car, moved twice, and have had four different jobs!  In June of 2011, I decided I needed to find out how Keppel Street got it’s name.  So I started doing research.  Funny how such a little question I had turned into all of this!  So far, we have covered information about 183 streets.  Can you believe it?

89846546_1781223202012043_4603468453204983808_oIn the past year, I’ve had some great opportunities – I gave a bunch of University Express presentations which has been great fun!  In the fall, we covered “Which Side of the Skyway Are You On?”  It was really fun to discuss the history of the Skyway and differing opinions on it.  This spring, we switched to online classes, and I’ve done “Discovering Buffalo One Street at a Time” Parts 1, 2 and 3 so far!  You can find them on Erie County’s website here.  Stay tuned, we may be doing a Part 4 at some point.  Last summer/fall, I tested out some ideas for tours.  I’m definitely planning on doing more once it’s safe to congregate in groups again!  In March, I spoke at the Library as part of the Imagine Greater Buffalo series.  Since it was Women’s History Month, I spoke about streets named after women.  WBFO got wind of it and I was then interviewed for a story about streets named after women.

I hope you all have been enjoying my current series about streets named after African Americans.  I intend to continue those pieces through the summer at least.  I have several more in the works that will be coming very soon – including Mary Talbert, who is one of my all time favorite Buffalonians.  When I was in Arkansas in March (just before pandemic hit), I was able to visit some of the places associated with her when she lived there before she moved to Buffalo.  It was very special to me.  I’m actually ashamed I haven’t written about her on here yet!

As most of you know, this is truly a passion project for me.  I love sharing stories about our city and regional history.  I’m so thankful for all of you who have followed along over the last nine years.  When I started writing this, I thought I’d only have like 12 followers….boy was I wrong about that!

Just for fun, here are some some things that were also happening in Buffalo in June 2011:

  1. Terry Pegula had just purchased the Sabres a few months earlier.   The Sabres had just played in the playoffs for the last time since that year.  Lindy Ruff was still coach.  Thomas Vanek was our best player.
  2. Chris Collins was still our County Executive.  Mark Poloncarz was still just our trusty County Comptroller, but was about to be elected County Executive in the fall
  3. Byron Brown was in his second term as Mayor.  Andrew Cuomo was six months into his first term as Governor.
  4. Thursdays in the Square moved from Lafayette Square down to the Central Wharf and became Thursdays at Canalside.  The first concert at Canalside was June 30th, 2011 and was Lowest of the Low and Ron Hawkins and the Do Good Assassins.
  5. Canalside was just the property south of Marine Drive and west of Main Street.  The portion near Main Street wasn’t even grass yet (Pegula donated the sod to fill in the grass there).  There were no restaurants or buildings yet.  The New Naval Park Museum and Liberty Hound would open in 2012.  One Canalside was still the State-owned Donovan Building; HarborCenter was just a city-owned parking lot, and the Aud Block was just a giant pit.
  6. The Construction was just wrapping up at the old Dulski Federal Building – now the The Avant/Embassy Suites.
  7. Larkin Square and Larkinville were still just a twinkle in the eye of Howard and Leslie Zemsky.  Larkin Square and the Filling Station would open in 2012.  Food Truck Tuesday wasn’t really a concept we knew about yet. Our first food truck, Lloyd, had just started serving burritos a year before and food trucks were new on the scene!
  8. The tower at the end of Main Street was still known as HSBC Tower and it was still used by bank employees for another two years.
  9. The Hotel Lafayette was still vacant.  We still had to drive to Rochester for Dinosaur BBQ.  Toutant, Big Ditch, Tappo, Thin Man….none of them existed.
  10. Buffalo was preparing to be the location of the National Trust Preservation Conference in the fall.  During that conference, the Richardson Building was open to the public for the first time.  It would still be two years before construction began on Hotel Henry.

Years ago (maybe in 2011) there was a Sabres blog I used to follow that would do a summary of things people search for to find your blog.  I always enjoyed reading those updates.  Many people search for generic things like “streets of Buffalo History”, “buffalo streets blog” or “Angela Keppel”.  It’s weird to see that people search my name so often, but also kind of cool.

Here’s the top ten things people searched for to find my blog this past year.  If you click the link, it will take you to the associated articles:

  1. Canal District -including things like “central wharf”, “dante place”, and “end of erie canal in buffalo history”.  I have been doing some research about the Canalside area lately for a project we’re doing at work, so hopefully I’ll have some more coming about this in the future!
  2. Church Street – people are really interested in the downtown churches of Buffalo (and there used to be many more before they moved out of Downtown), and they search for the three churches on Church Street often, for the location of Old First Presbyterian Church…perhaps those are people who went on a tour of First Pres and are curious about where they used to be?
  3. Rumsey– people are continually interested in the Rumsey Family and learning about Rumsey Park….many of the Rumsey Park contemporaries probably were curious too – those who didn’t get invites to parties there surely gawked at the properties as they walked by or rode by in their carriages.
  4. Kelly Island – I don’t even have a post about this yet and it’s consistently in the top list! There was an announcement in the news a few months ago regarding a property on Kelly Island…and my blog was one of the few places that mention the Island….although it’s just an offhand mention because Ganson Street is located on Kelly Island.  I have more research to come about the Island (which is where General Mills and Riverworks are today).  I hope to learn more about the name soon.
  5. Lovejoy– Sarah Lovejoy and her son Henry are something people search for often.  I’m glad her story continues to be told.  Her bravery protecting her home inspires me.
  6. Ellicott– people are often searching for more about Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company.  Joseph is the reason for Buffalo’s existence as we know it, so I’m glad people are still looking for more information about him.
  7. Tifft– people have been coming across the blog from searching for “Tifft House”, which was a great building on Main Street, as well as searching for George Washington Tifft himself and “Tifft Farm”.  Sometimes, I wonder if a few of the Tifft searches are looking for directions or info about operations at Tifft Farm Nature Preserve….if so, I’m sorry you got to my blog, but I hope you enjoyed learning the history of the site!
  8. Exchange– people searched for “what businesses were on exchange street in the 1800s”, “New York Central station on Exchange Street”, as well as searching for the other stations that were on or near Exchange Street historically.  I think people have a renewed interest due to the new Amtrak Station that is under construction now.
  9. Scajaquada– this is of course a common search item for people in Buffalo.  There’s been lots of news and lots of debates about if we should change the expressway to a parkway, etc.  I also like that some people have found my blog by searching for “Kenjockety” or some of the other spelling of his name.
  10. Central Park – when this first started showing up in my search terms, I was convinced that people were trying to find Central Park in New York and were probably super confused when they found an article about Lewis Bennett.  But lately, there have been more searches for things like “former stores in central park plaza” and “history of central park plaza” so I think it’s Buffalo related.  The Central Park neighborhood and the Central Park Plaza are an interesting part of Buffalo’s history and it seems like more and more people are interested in it!

So, how did you find my blog?  Do you have a favorite street history you’ve learned about?  Let me know in the comments!  My favorite fact that I’ve learned is still about how handsome Bishop John Timon was in his youth!

I hope you are enjoying what is going to be a very different summer for us all.  We’ll have to have a big party next year to celebrate 10 years.  New posts coming soon!

Love,

Angela “9 Years & I still don’t know how Keppel St got its name” Keppel

 

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kingpetersonrd

Ellicott Mall properties shown in red. King Peterson Road shown in orange.

Given what is going on these days, we are featuring streets named after our Black brothers and sisters this month here on Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  Specifically, this is Part 4 in a series of  four streets built in the 1990s in the Ellicott Neighborhood.  To read more about how the Ellicott Mall urban renewal project changed this neighborhood and to learn about Minnie Gillette, please read Part 1.  Part 2 is about Delmar Mitchell and can be found here.  Part 3 looks at Ora Wrighter and can be found here.  Part 4 is about King Peterson Road.

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King Peterson’s portrait on the Freedom Wall.  Source:  Albright Knox

King W. Peterson was born in July 1915 in Pelham, Georgia to Samuel and Aurilla Carter Peterson.  The family moved to buffalo and King attended Buffalo Public Schools.  Following his graduation from Hutchinson Technical High School, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia.  Morehouse is a historically black men’s college that was founded in 1867, right after the Civil War.  At Morehouse, Mr. Peterson was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.  He founded the Buffalo Alumni Chapter for the fraternity.

 

Mr. Peterson worked at the Buffalo Assembly Plant of Ford Motor Company.  He was elected to the Union Bargaining Committee.  He was also appointed International Representative of the United Auto Workers (UAW).

He began his public service when he was elected to the Erie County Board of Supervisors, representing the old Fifth Ward in the City of Buffalo. He served two terms on the Board and was then elected to the Buffalo Common Council as the Ellicott District Councilmen.  While on Council, he served as Chairman of the Legislation Committee and was President Pro Tem.  In 1956, he served as Acting Mayor for 10 days while Mayor Pankow and Common Council President William Law Jr. were attending the Democratic National Convention.  Under Council rules, when the Mayor and Council President were out of town, the President Pro Tem serves as Acting Mayor. While temporary, he was the first African American to serve in the capacity of Mayor of Buffalo.  There was some opposition to the idea of having an African American mayor, even for just a few days.  A public meeting was held to discuss the issue.  Only one person attended the public meeting – Rufus Frasier – who was black himself and attended to support Mr. Peterson.  Acting Mayor Peterson’s term as Acting Mayor of the second largest city in New York State was significant enough that it was reported in national newspapers of the time.

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Acting Mayor Peterson with Luke Easter (on the left), Dick Fisher and Joe Caffie. Source: Buffalo Courier

While serving as Acting Mayor, Mr. Peterson issued a proclamation to designate August 24, 1956 as “Luke Easter – Joe Caffie Night” in Buffalo.  Luke Easter and Joe Caffie were two black baseball players on the Buffalo Bisons.  A special celebration was held that night during the game at Offerman Stadium.

In 1967, Mr. Peterson was elected as a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, representing the 55th Senate District.  He also served as Assistant Project Manager for the City of Buffalo where he executed the Hamlin Park Neighborhood Improvement Program.  The Hamlin Park program was one of the more successful of the City’s Urban Renewal Programs, as large scale demolition didn’t occur in Hamlin Park the way it did in the Ellicott neighborhood.  If you’re interested in a more in depth look at Urban Renewal and how it shaped the Hamlin Park neighborhood, I recommend this series by Mike Puma that can be found on Buffalo Rising. 

Mr. Peterson was a member of First Shiloh Baptist Church from the age of ten.  He served on the Board of Trustees for the church, and was named Trustee Emeritus.  He helped to establish the food pantry at First Shiloh, which still serves the community by providing food and clothing for those in need.  Mr. Peterson also served as a member of the building committee for the congregation when they built a new sanctuary and educational facility in 1965.

Mr. Peterson retired from public service in 1979, but was still involved with the community.  He served as President of the Buffalo Central Home Finders, Director of the United Way, Director of the Food Back of WNY, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Towne Garden Housing Development, Director of Shiloh Housing Development Corporation.  He was also a member of Buffalo Urban League and NAACP.

97918711_137864513074Mr. Peterson was married to the former Jannie McCarley.  They were married 72 years and had three children – Kenneth, Lawrence and Lorraine.  Jannie was the daughter of Reverend Burnie McCarley, the founder of St. John Baptist Church in Buffalo, and the namesake of the McCarley Gardens apartments.  Mr. Peterson died a few months after his wife, on September 23, 2012.  His portrait is represented on the Freedom Wall at Michigan and Ferry Streets.  Both King and Jannie are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Our next series of streets will continue to focus on the Ellicott Neighborhood and urban renewal, as we move on to the Frederick Douglass Towers.  Stay tuned!  To read about other streets in Buffalo, please check out the Street Index.  Follow the blog on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/buffalostreets.

Sources:

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orawrighter

Ellicott Mall property shown in red. Ora Wrighter Drive shown in yellow.

Given what is going on these days, we are featuring streets named after our Black brothers and sisters this month here on Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  Specifically, this is Part 3 in a series of  four streets built in the 1990s in the Ellicott Neighborhood.  To read more about how the Ellicott Mall urban renewal project changed this neighborhood and to learn about Minnie Gillette, please read Part 1.  Part 2 is about Delmar Mitchell and can be found here.  Today, in Part 3, we are focusing on Ora Wrighter.  Part 4 will be about King Peterson and will be posted this coming weekend.

2763f426e294e938308017588262ae2cOra Perry Wrighter was born in December 1920 in Birmingham Alabama, to Owen and Alberta Perry.  She came to Buffalo as a child with her family and graduated from the Buffalo Public Schools.  She attended Hartwick Seminary.  At the time of her death, she was a student at Medaille College.

Mrs. Wrighter began working at Community Action Organization in 1967 as a Community Aide. She was considered to be a fighter for the people.  She attended community meetings to fight for the poor.  She was involved in many grassroots organizations, and was often sought for her expertise by other organizations.  She served on the 7th District Planning Board, New York State Urban Development Corporation Community Advisory Committee for the Urban Development Corporation-Ellicott Neighborhood Advisory Committee Ellicott Housing; and the Steering Committee for Buffalo’s Model Cities Program. She served as the manager of the Ellicott center located in the County multipurpose center she fought to have built.

She was given a Distinguished Service Award from Mayor Joseph A. Sedita for her service to the Model Cities Program.  The Models Cities Program was a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms.  The programs emphasized social and anti-poverty programs as well as physical renewal.  As the country moved away from social programs in the late 60s-early 70s, the program shifted away from the social programs towards brick and mortar apartment building projects.  Buffalo was one of 75 cities awarded Model Cities program funding in the first round.  The program ended in 1974.

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Mrs. Wrighter hosting a Christmas Party in her apartment. Source: Buffalo Criterion, January 10, 1976.

Mrs. Wrighter lived in the AD Price Courts at William and Jefferson for 17 years.  The AD Price Courts, also known as the Willert Part Courts, was built in 1939.  Willert Park was the first housing project in New York State built exclusively for African Americans.  Mrs. Wrighter was involved in the construction of Ellicott Houses, a complex of 200 townhouses built near Hickory and Swan Street between 1970 and 1972.

She was Vice President of the Community Interaction Committee at Sheehan Memorial Hospital.  She was also a member of the Board at Jesse Nash Community Health Center.

Mrs. Wrighter died on August 23, 1977 of a heart attack.  After her death, the Ora L. Wrighter Memorial Fund was created at Sheehan.  Sheehan Hospital was a private hospital on Michigan Avenue that had been established as “Emergency Hospital” in 1894.  It was run by Sisters of Charity, who also ran Sisters Hospital.  The hospital closed in 2012.

Sources:

 

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delmarmitchell

Ellicott Mall Property shown in red. Delmar Mitchell Drive shown in orange.

Given what is going on these days, we are featuring streets named after our Black brothers and sisters this month here on Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  Specifically, this is Part 2 in a series of  four streets built in the 1990s in the Ellicott Neighborhood – Minnie Gillette Drive, Delmar Mitchell Drive, Ora Wrighter Drive and King Peterson Drive.   To read more about how the Ellicott Mall urban renewal project changed this neighborhood and to learn about Minnie Gillette, please read Part 1.  Today’s post is about Delmar Mitchell Drive.  Delmar Mitchell was the first African American elected to citywide office in Buffalo.  Parts 3 and 4 will be coming in the next week.

182x250-8c80b44abf53355884ecd0e80497c5f1Delmar Mitchell was born to Lee and Tobitha Mitchell in February 1918 in Providence, Kentucky.  He was raised in Glen Cove, Illinois, outside of Chicago.  He attended DuSable High School, the University of Illinois  in Champaign and DePaul University.  He served in the US Army during WWII, rising to the rank of captain and serving in both the Pacific and European fronts.  He earned a Purple Heart for his service.  He later worked for the US Department of Justice, in the Intelligence Section.

Mr. Mitchell moved to Buffalo in 1949.  He worked in the hotel business for 8 years, operating Mitchell’s Corner hotel and bar.  Mitchell’s Corner was located at 527 Genesee Street, at Camp Street (near Jefferson).  The building no longer exists.

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Campaign Ad for Mr. Mitchell in the Buffalo Criterion, 1963

He was first elected in 1957, when he was elected to represent the old 13th Ward in the Erie County Legislature.  He was named Masten District Councilman in 1961 after the death of Cora P. Maloney, the first African-American woman on the Council.   He was re-elected twice in the Masten District before winning election as Council Member at Large in 1965, the first African American to hold citywide office.  He became Council Majority Leader in 1970 and Council President in 1974, a position he held until 1983.  He was considered to be a skilled councilmen as well as a gifted consensus builder.  He was also known to take people into the back conference room of his Council Office, a room he called the woodshed.  At his last Council meeting in 1983, he is reported to have said “Lay your petty differences aside. Buffalo is greater than any individual. You tell me your dreams, and I’ll tell you mine.”

He was a supporter of many of the City’s efforts during the 1970s and 1980s.  He helped to bring about the Metro Rail, the Buffalo Hilton (later the Adam’s Mark, now the Buffalo Grand) and the Buffalo Convention Center.  He was also an important part of establishing an elected Board of Education for the city and the City’s school desegregation plan.  He was credited with ensuring that the Board would have a representative number of blacks on the School Board, and that the school board would be free of politics.

He was honored often throughout his career.  He was the Buffalo News Citizen of the Year in 1974.  He was awarded the Medgar Evers Civil Rights Award in 1983 by the NAACP.  He received an honorary degree from Canisius College in 1971.  He was honored by the 100 Black Men of Buffalo Club in 1994.

Mr. Mitchell was well respected by many of his fellow councilmen, and served as a mentor for many as they served both with him and after his retirement.  The Hamlin Park Community and Taxpayers Association installed a bust of Mr. Mitchell in the Delavan-College train station in 1994.    In 2018, the Common Council passed a resolution, sponsored by all nine councilmen, to name the new facility at 612 Northland in the Northland Corridor Redevelopment Project as the “Delmar Mitchell Entrepreneurial Center”.  The resolution states:  “Delmar Mitchell was a trailblazing leader for his community whose legacy can inspire people in Buffalo to emulate his enterprising spirit, commitment to community service, and zeal for personal professional development.”

Mr. Mitchell retired to Hinsdale/Olean, New York.  It’s reported that he joked with his friends that he was moving there to integrate the countryside.  He had four sons – Delmar Jr, Joseph, Gregory and Darryl.  Mr.  Mitchell died on December 16, 1996 at the age of 77.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  After his death, the Buffalo News reported, “He was a man seeking racial harmony in a community that didn’t always want it. Perhaps if he could have taken Buffalo area citizens one-by-one to the back-back office for a talk about dreams, it might have worked out better.”

So, think of Mr. Mitchell as we continue to work to build a better community today.  Stay tune for parts 3 and 4 of this series coming next week.  To learn about other streets, check out the street index.

Sources:

  • McNeil, Harold.  “Delmar Mitchell, First Black To Win Citywide Office, Dies.  Buffalo News.  December 16, 1996.
  • “Delmar Mitchell”  Uncrowned Community Builders.  https://www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com/person/delmar-mitchell.  Accessed June 2020.
  • Buffao Common Council Minutes.  Oct. 4, 2018.  Agenda Item 18-1661
  • Tyler, Steven.  Desegregation in Boston and Buffalo:  the Influence of Local Leaders.  State University of New York Press, Albany:  1998.
  • Gates, George. “Remembering Delmar Mitchell:  Too Bad He Couldn’t Have Taken All of Buffalo to his Back-Back Room for a Dose of His Famous Persuasion and a Lesson that ‘Epidermis’ Doesn’t Matter”.  Buffalo News.  December 21, 1996.

 

 

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Note from Angela:  Given what is happening right now in Buffalo and across the country, it doesn’t feel right to write about another “important” white man. I realize my platform isn’t as large as some, but I know I must use my voice to lift those who are suffering and fighting for justice. I know that most of you are here for the history and not the politics, but for the next two months, I am going to only write about streets named after African-Americans.  I am remiss for not doing this sooner.  Our black brothers and sisters have been here since the beginnings of Buffalo, and they deserve more recognition. For more information and resources, please check out the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable website. If you are looking for a list of Black Owned Businesses to support, you can find that at this link.

gillette

Ellicott Mall Property outlined in red. Minnie Gillette Drive shown in yellow.

The first series I’ll be writing about will be a series of four streets in the Ellicott Neighborhood – Minnie Gillette Drive, Delmar Mitchell Drive, Ora Wrighter Drive, and King Peterson Drive.  These four streets were created as part of the same project in the 1990s.  Today, Part 1 will be on Minnie Gillette Drive.  Stay tuned for Parts 2 through 4 which will posted over the next two weeks. 

The Ellicott Neighborhood is a neighborhood on the near East Side of Buffalo.  Up through the first half of the 20th Century, the neighborhood was a diverse neighborhood consisting of Italians and Jews, along with most of Buffalo’s African American residents.  My Italian grandfather was born (on the kitchen table) in this neighborhood in 1928 at the corner of Hickory and Division Streets.  The following map shows the area as it looked in 1950. 

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1950 Map of Ellicott Neighborhood

 

In 1958, much of the Ellicott Neighborhood was completely cleared and demolished in the name of “Urban Renewal”.  In this portion of the neighborhood, the Ellicott Mall public housing project was built.  The Ellicott Mall was run by Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and consisted of eight residential towers that contained 590 apartments.  The JFK Community Center and associated park/playing fields were constructed east of the Ellicott Mall.  Here is an aerial photo of the area in 1966.

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1966 Aerial Photo of Ellicott Neighborhood

By the mid-1960s, the project had begun to deteriorate and the apartments closed in 1981.  There is still an active group of Ellicott Mall residents who lived in the neighborhood and still meet up for Ellicott Mall Reunions to celebrate the bonds of those who lived in the neighborhood.  During the 1990s, the City began planning to redevelop the area.  Norstar, along with First Shiloh Baptist Church, created a mix of housing that is now known as the Ellicott Town Center.  Here is what the area looked like in 1995.

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Aerial Photo of Ellicott Neighborhood from 1995

The project consisted of demolition of four of the towers and replacement with new housing, and renovation of the remaining towers.  The Ellicott Town Center consists of 281 apartments, 48 private townhomes and 24 senior garden apartments.  The project was completed in 1997.  Minnie Gillette Drive is one of the new streets that runs through the Ellicott Town Center. 

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Painting of Minnie Gillette on the Freedom Wall Source: Albright Knox

Minnie Gillette was born in Alabama in 1930, but was raised in Buffalo.  She attended Buffalo State College, where she received a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. She worked at Columbus Hospital on Niagara Street as a dietary supervisor.

Mrs. Gillette was elected to the Erie County Legislature in 1977. She was the first African American woman elected to the Legislature. Her candidacy was backed by the Democratic, Republican and Conservative parties. Her obituary called her “a feisty political figure who strayed from party lines in the interest of her constituents”. She didn’t get involved in partisan politics, instead focused on serving her community.

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Minnie Gillette and Joan Bozer meeting with contractors as they convert the post office building into ECC. Source: Buffalo News

Mrs. Gillette worked with Legislator Joan Bozer to convert the former Post Office Building into the Erie Community College City Campus.  According to the Buffalo News, in 1969, in a letter from Erie County Democratic Chairman Peter Crotty, the building was called “a mongrel structure of no authentic period, dungeon-like in its aspect, repellent to the visitor and lacking in the convenience suitable for habitation”.  The building was considered “a monstrous pile of death-like stone”. 

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“A monstrous pile of death stone”? ECC City Campus

At the time, people did not always appreciate old buildings, and the idea of having an entire city block to redevelop was enticing to those who thought new was better.  Legislators Bozer and Gillette helped change that attitude, save the building, and bring ECC into the City.  At the time, ECC was only located at what is now their North Campus, in Amherst/Williamsville.  

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Buffalo Library’s Ram Van.  Source

Mrs. Gillette helped to establish the “Ram Van”, which was a traveling lending library. She also fought to ensure that minority contractors got a fair share of county contracts.  While in the Legislature, She was named the Buffalo News Outstanding Citizen for 1979. She received the University at Buffalo’s Outstanding Women of Western New York Government Award in 1980.

Mrs. Gillette served two terms as a legislator. After she left, she continued her work advocating for the homeless, the poor and the needy. She was appointed as the first director of the County’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program. She worked at a food pantry in the Towne Gardens Housing Project. She won a Martin Luther King Award in 1990 from the Erie County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Mrs. Gillete was very involved with many organizations. She served on the board of the William-Emslie YMCA and helped to establish the senior citizens center there. She was a chairwoman of the Seventh (Ellicott) District Planning Board, on the Advisory Board of the Equal Opportunity Center on Washington Street, president of the Association of Retarded Children and president of the New York State Community Action Agency. She was active in the Community Action Organization, the Western New York Health System Agency, the Paramount Chapter 57 of the Order of the Eastern Star, the Jesse E. Nash Health Center and the Buffalo Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mrs. Gillette died on January 7, 1992. She had been ill with cancer for a year before she died, but she continued to work on community projects up until about two weeks before she died. Mrs. Gillete had three children – Hasinah Ramadhan, Loretta Gillette, and Calvin Gillette.  Mrs. Gillette is featured on the Freedom Wall at Michigan and Ferry.  In addition to the street, the auditorium at ECC City Campus is named for her.

Stay tuned for the next streets in this series, which will be posted over the course of the next two weeks.  Part Two, about Delmar Mitchell, can be read at this link.  If you haven’t subscribed to the blog, you can do so on the upper right hand side of the screen when on a desktop computer.  You can also like the page on facebook at facebook.com/buffalostreets to follow along there.  To check out other streets that have been written about, check out the street index here.  If you grew up in or currently live in the Ellicott Neighborhood, please reach out – either by leaving a comment here or emailing me at buffalostreets@gmail.com –  I’d love to hear your stories. 

Sources:  

  • Allen, Carl and Dave Ernst.  “Minnie Gillette Dies at 62:  First Black Woman Legislator”.  Buffalo News.  January 7, 1992.
  • Kirst, Sean.  “In demolition-happy 1970s, the fight to save the old Post Office”.  Buffalo News.  November 30, 2018.
  • Sapong, Emma.  “Resurrected public housing project to be celebrated Sunday”.  Buffalo News.  July 9, 2014.
  • Kraus, Neil.  Race, Neighborhoods and Community Power:  Buffalo Politics 1934-1997.  State University of New York Press, Albany:  1997. 

 

 

 

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