Archive for February 20th, 2023

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Streets Named After Presidents

Happy President’s Day!  Buffalo has a fairly rich presidential history!  I thought today we could talk about streets named after Presidents.

A Buffalonian is actually part of the reason there’s a President’s Day as a national holiday.  In 1874, Buffalonian Julius Francis took up the cause of preserving and promoting the memory of President Lincoln.  He petitioned the state and federal governments to establish Lincoln’s birthday as a holiday and spent the rest of his life fighting to accomplish his dream.  He collected Civil War artifacts and memorabilia to house in a museum.  Mr. Francis owned several drug stores and was a bachelor.  He declared his cause to memorialize Lincoln as “my wife and my life.”  He held the first seven observances of Lincoln’s Birthday at his own cost, renting a hall, arranging speakers and allowed the public to attend free of charge.  He succeeded in persuading New York to create a State Holiday, but failed to get the US Government to follow, despite many petitions.  He founded the Buffalo Lincoln’s Birthday Association.  He left his house at 145 Eagle Street as well as six $1,000 bonds to the association when he died in 1881.  The funds were used to hire New York sculptor Charles E. Niehaus to make the statue of Lincoln which now sits on the Buffalo History Museum portico, looking out over the Gala Waters/Hoyt Lake.  Although Lincoln’s Birthday has never been designated as a National Holiday, Mr. Francis did succeed in getting several states to designate Lincoln’s Birthday as a legal holiday.  While we refer to today as President’s Day, and it is a day where we honor the legacies of all of our presidents, the official Federal Holiday is actually Washington’s Birthday.  Thanks to Julius Francis, Buffalo has celebrated Lincoln’s Birthday every year since 1874, which is the longest continual celebration of Lincoln’s birthday – longer even then the places where Lincoln lived!  The celebration is now held annually at the Buffalo History Museum.


Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration, February 12, 2023. Photo by author.

There have been 45 men who have been president (serving 46 presidencies – Grover Cleveland had nonconsecutive terms).  Of those men, there are streets in Buffalo named after 17 presidents.

There are 10 streets which have presidential names, but I don’t have documentation that they were named after the President, as I am unsure of the name’s origin at this time.  There are 3 more streets which have presidential names, but are named after someone else with the same name!  There are 15 Presidents who do not have streets in Buffalo named after them.  These are mostly the modern era presidents, because Buffalo was already built out and new streets weren’t being built.

Here’s the breakdown of which presidents have street’s named for them.

Streets Named After Presidents:

  • Washington Street – “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen” is the famous quote from George Washington’s eulogy….we can also add, first President to get a street name in Buffalo to his list!  In 1825, North and South Onondaga Streets merged to become Washington Street.  There’s also a short street named Mount Vernon Ave in South Buffalo, which was the name of Washington’s plantation in Virginia.
  • Adams – There are several streets in the Pratt-Willert neighborhood of the near East Side which bear the names of many of the early presidents.  These streets were originally developed around the same time, so perhaps the developer was a presidential fan!  In addition to Adams, the following other streets are located in the neighborhood:
    • Madison
    • Monroe
    • Johnson – which is not to be confused with Johnson Park, which is named for Buffalo’s first Mayor, Ebenezer Johnson. 
  • Jefferson  – Of course, Jefferson Avenue is one of the major north-south corridors on the East Side of Buffalo.  It is named for President Jefferson.  There’s also a Monticello Place, not far from the intersection of Jefferson and Main Streets, named for Jefferson’s Virginia plantation.
  • 20200225_130032

    Statue of Millard Fillmore outside of City Hall. Photo by Author.

    Fillmore – Millard Fillmore lends his name to Fillmore Avenue, another major north-south street on the East Side.  Was originally an Olmsted Parkway.   Millard Fillmore brought us many of our institutions here in Buffalo.  While he was president, he also signed the Compromise of 1850 into law.  While he was the first chancellor of University of Buffalo, UB has recently removed his name from the campus.  

  • 20230212_120316

    Wreaths at the Lincoln Statue at the Buffalo History Museum celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday, Feb 12, 2023. Photo by author.

    Lincoln – Lincoln Parkway is an Olmsted Parkway.  Olmsted named these parkways after civil war heroes – Bidwell and Chapin, and Lincoln.  Thanks to Julius Francis, Buffalo is home to the longest running celebration of President Lincoln’s Birthday, which has been held ever year since 1874!  The Lincoln Statue at the Buffalo History Museum was commissioned by the Buffalo Lincoln Birthday Association to be placed in the new building that was constructed in 1901.  A Lincoln life mask is also on display now in the Museum’s Continuum Exhibit on the second floor.  There’s a second Lincoln Statue on Lincoln Parkway in the rose garden at Delaware Park. It was sculpted in 1935 and presented to the City of Buffalo in memory of Louis Spitzmiller and Julia Spitzmiller.  Mrs. Spitzmiller left a $250,000 bequest in her will for the statue to be built.  

  • Grant – The street was laid out and the name was decided in March of 1864.  At that time, Ulysses S Grant would have been Commander General of the US Army.  I believe the street was named in his honor, but I am not 100% sure.
  • Garfield – Garfield Street in Riverside is named for President Garfield.  The streets were built on land that had been owned by William Bird.  The executors of his will gave land for two parallel streets – one to be named Garfield and the other to be named Arthur, after Vice President at the time, Chester Arthur.
  • Arthur – see Garfield.
  • 2012-05-13 14.56.55

    Statue of Grover Cleveland outside Buffalo City Hall. Photo by Author.

    Cleveland – Grover Cleveland is one of Buffalo’s presidential connections.  Cleveland Avenue bears his name today.  Become Sheriff, Mayor, Governor, President…Get a Street Named After You.  

  • McKinley – After President McKinley died here, there was almost immediate calls to name a street for him.  One of the suggestions was to rename Lincoln Parkway for him (since he was shot not far from the parkway) and then rename Bidwell and Chapin to Lincoln and Garfield.  In this way, the three streets which form Soldiers Circle would have represented the three martyred presidents at the time.  Seems a little ominous, so thankfully they named the new parkway in South Buffalo after President McKinley instead. 
  • 5ef2acf0bc503

    Theodore Roosevelt statue outside the TR Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue. Source: Buffalo News.

    Roosevelt Ave – named for Theodore Roosevelt.  There’s also Theodore Roosevelt Plaza in Downtown and the Roosevelt Apartments, a senior housing building on Main Street.  And of course, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site Museum, the location where Teddy’s presidency started in 1901.

  • Taft – Taft Place is located in the Central Park neighborhood.  It is nearby to Sagamore Terrace, which is named for Sagamore Hill, President Roosevelt’s home. 
  • Coolidge – Coolidge Road in South Buffalo was built in 1926, right when President Coolidge was becoming president.
  • Kennedy – There is a Kennedy Road in Cheektowaga, and JFK High School in Cheektowaga was named for Kennedy.  It is reportedly the first high school in the Country to be named after him!

Streets with Presidential Names, but are Not named for the Presidents:

These are streets have the name of a President but are named after someone else.

  • Hayes – Hayes Place is not named for President Hayes, but rather after engineer Edmund B. Hayes, who also gives his name to Hayes Hall at UB.
  • Wilson – Wilson Ave often gets listed as a street named after a president since it’s close by some of the streets named for other presidents.  It’s named for Guilford Reed Wilson
  • Clinton – Sorry, Bill, our Clinton Street is named for either Dewitt Clinton, Governor of New York from 1817 to 1823 or his son, George William Clinton, an early Mayor of Buffalo.  Governor Clinton is often best known for “Clinton’s Ditch” a name that was used to describe the construction of the Erie Canal, which ended up being much more successful than expected!  Governor Clinton first visited Buffalo in 1810.  During that trip, he wrote in his diary, “the Village has a population of 500.  It has 5 lawyers and no churches”.  Bill Clinton visited several times while he was President, and most recently while campaigning with Hillary Clinton.  We’ll have to ask him what he wrote in his diary about his visits!

Possible Presidential Streets:

These are streets which have a Presidential name, but I do not yet have documentation as to the origin of the name.

  • John Quincy Adams  – There is a Quincy Street off of Broadway.
  • Jackson – There is a Jackson Ave in Sloan.
  • William Henry and Benjamin Harrison – There is a Harrison Street in the Seneca Babcock Neighborhood.
  • Tyler – There is a Tyler Street in University Heights.
  • Polk – There is a Polk Place in North Buffalo
  • Taylor – There is a Taylor Place in South Buffalo.
  • Pierce – There is a Pierce Street in Kaisertown.
  • Harding – There is a Harding Ave in South Buffalo.
  • Hoover – There is a Hoover Ave in the Village of Kenmore.  I am unsure if it is named for President Hoover, though it likely is as Hoover Elementary School elsewhere in the village was named for him.

No Streets:

There is no Van Buren Street or  Buchanan Street.  Most of the Presidents after President Hoover don’t have streets named after them.  This is because Buffalo has been fully built out since Hoover was president, so very few new streets were being built.  This is likely why Hoover is in Kenmore and Kennedy is in Cheektowaga.  The suburban areas were still building new streets whereas the city was built out.  There is a Johnson Street, but it is named after Andrew Johnson and not Lyndon Johnson.  Perhaps someday they were rename a street after one of the more modern presidents.  

Did you know that Lincoln’s birthday is one of the reasons we also celebrate Black History Month?  Check back next week for more on that and a list of streets named after Black Buffalonians!  Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.


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