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Archive for the ‘Black Rock’ Category

austinstAustin Street is a street in the Black Rock neighborhood of Buffalo, running between the Niagara River and Military Road.  The road is about one mile long because the land it originally ran through was the State Reservation, which was a one mile strip of land from the river inland.  When the Village of Black Rock was incorporated in 1813, Austin Street was the northern boundary of the Village.   The part of Black Rock north of the Scajaquada was often referred to as “Lower Black Rock”, as opposed to Upper Black Rock which Peter Porter originally laid out.  Austin Street is named after S.G. Austin, an early Buffalo lawyer.

lyjGdRx6Stephen Goodwin Austin was born in West Suffield, Connecticut to Joseph Austin, a farmer, and Sarah Goodwin, a sea captain’s daughter, in October 1791.  He studied at the academy in Westfield, Massachusetts.  In 1811, he began his studies at Yale College and graduated with honor in 1815.

After graduation, he began his study of law in the office of Daniel W. Lewis in Geneva.  In 1819, he received a license to practice in the State of New York.  He then left Geneva and came to Buffalo at the end of 1819.

When he came to Buffalo, the project of creating the harbor for the port was the biggest issue of the day.  Mr. Austin saw the future happening here in Buffalo and decided to make the city his home, despite it being a small town of only about 2,000 residents at the time.  He boarded at the Eagle Tavern with Millard Fillmore and Joseph Doat.  The Eagle Tavern was located at Main and Court Street, the current location of the Liberty Building.

He was often considered as someone who possessed the knowledge, ability, integrity and qualifications for public service, but Mr. Austin never wanted political or other public office.  He declined it over the years, time and again.  The only office he held was Justice of the Peace for one year, in 1821.

While serving as Justice of the Peace, an important trail came under his jurisdiction.   Tommy Jimmy, also known by Tommy Jemmy or his Native American name of So-on-on-gise, was accused of murder.  The woman killed, Chaughquawtaugh (or Kauquatau),  was a Seneca woman who was accused of bringing about the death of a man using witchcraft.  She had fled to Canada.  Tommy Jimmy, at the Chief’s request, brought her back home.  Once they crossed back into Indian Territory, he killed her.  Chief Red Jacket and other Native Americans testified that the act was in accordance with tribal law.  Since the land was sovereign land, Justice Austin’s Erie County Court of Oyer and Terminer could not reach a decision in the case.  The jury found that the woman was executed in accordance with tribal law.  The case was moved up to the Supreme Court.  The Court did not render a decision, as the Native Americans had sovereignty over their land.

In the legal field, Mr. Austin was considered a man of clear insight, thorough knowledge and careful judgement.  He was perceptive and intellectual. He was sought after as a legal representative and was able to grow a lucrative business.   As his business grew, he accumulated a large estate.  He had invested much of his savings in real estate from the time he first arrived in Buffalo.  Buffalo’s growth rewarded him, as he was able to retire from legal practice at age 52 with a large fortune.

Stephen purchased land on the southeast side of Niagara Square in 1828.  Mr. Austin Married Lavinia Hurd in October 1829.  They had four daughters, two of which, Adeline and Frances, died in childhood.  A third daughter, Lavinia Hurd Austin was born in 1833 and married George P. Russell of Philadelphia.  Lavinia Russell died in 1874.  The final daughter, Mrs. Truman Avery, aka Delia was born in 1842. (Note from Angela:  how annoying is it when women in history books are only listed as “Mrs. Husband’s Name”?  Sometimes it’s so hard to find out their first name!!  Delia is almost always referred to as “Mrs. Truman Avery” in history books and newspaper articles.  I will refer to her Delia from here on out!) 

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Niagara Square in the days of the Austin Family.  Their home is shown to the right of the monument.  Erie County Hall can be seen behind the home.

The Austin family lived at 11 Niagara Square, where the Buffalo Athletic Club (also known as the Athletic Club Building) is now.  The house was built by Benjamin Rathbun.  Mr. Rathbun was one of the early builders of Buffalo and was especially prominent during the 1830s.  In 1835 alone, Rathbun built 99 buildings.  The Austin house was completed in 1836.  The house was the site of lots of entertaining.  At the time, Niagara Square was home to homes of many prominent Buffalonians.  The square itself was composed of eight triangular fenced in parks and was the most fashionable part of town.  The postcard view here would be from after 1914, because the Telephone Building can be seen just beyond Old County Hall.  Newspapers report that Mrs. Austin and her daughters were “most accomplished” and they “presided with grace, dignity and charm” over entertainment at the Austin House.  After the Austin family left the house in the 1890s, the house was converted for business purposes.

In 1851, a meeting of some of the leading citizens of Buffalo took place at the Austin House.  This meeting was the start of the Buffalo Female Academy (now Buffalo Seminary).  Both of the Austin daughters attended the Academy.

The Niagara Square house was demolished in 1922 to become the new clubhouse for the Ellicott Club.  The Ellicott Club was founded in 1895 and its first home was the top floor of the Ellicott Square Building.  On May 22, 1922, the members of the Ellicott Club held a ceremony to celebrate the underwriting of and groundbreaking for their new building.  They had a band and marched from Ellicott Square to Niagara Square.   The new clubhouse was to be called “The Buffalo Athletic Club” and a new organization was created.  The Ellicott Club officially disbanded on March 31, 1923.  By 1938, the Buffalo Athletic Club had more than 2,700 members.

The family were members of First Presbyterian Church when it was located on Main Street at Church Street.  The Austin Family also gave to many other organizations, but their donations tended to be off the radar because, as a friend was reported saying after Stephen’s death “Little is known of his gifts because of his conviction that charity should not be seen or talked about.”

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Lavinia Hurd Austin

Lavinia Austin was a founder of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum.  Organizational meetings for the development of the asylum were often held at the Austin house on Niagara Square.  Stephen Austin served as the 2nd president of the Orphan Asylum.  Lavinia also donated $10,000 to the organization, which allowed for Infant ward addition to be built in 1877.  She also left $9,000 to Ingleside Home (a home for unwed mothers and wayward girls) and $5,000 to the YMCA in her will after her death in 1884.

Stephen Austin had significant land holdings in Buffalo.  He owned the land northwest of Niagara Square, where several prominent Buffalonians lived, such as Henry Sizer, Darrow Noyes, and Stephen Parrish.  The houses were demolished in the 1950s for the Federal Reserve Bank (now New Era Cap) Building.

In 1868, when the National Savings Bank organized, Stephen was voted President.  He worked full time at the bank until his death, a position for which he refused to take any salary.  He also served as President of the Buffalo Scale Works and owner of the Bennett Elevator, the elevator which replaced Joseph Dart’s original grain elevator in 1863 after the Dart Elevator suffered a fire.  It was said after he died that it was rare to see Mr. Austin on the street, because he spent so much time in his work pursuits.

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The Austin Family monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

Stephen Austin died in 1872 and is buried in the Austin family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.   At the time of his death, his estate was estimated at $2 Million (about $42 Million today).  After Mr. Austin’s death, the Niagara Square house was occupied by his wife, along with Delia and her husband, Truman G. Avery.  The family lived there until the 1890s.

Lavinia Austin purchased the Universalist Church building at 110 Franklin Street in 1880.  Like their home on Niagara Square, the church was built by Benjamin Rathbun.  The former church was expanded it and significantly altered. The remodeled building was referred to Austin Building or the Austin Block over the years.  This remodel is often credited to her husband in modern local history sources, however it occurred well after Mr. Austin’s death.  Newspapers of the time indicate that the purchase and construction/remodeling of the Austin Building was completed by Mrs. S.G. Austin.  After its conversion to offices, the building was said to be one of the finest in the city.  The offices were elegantly styled and decorated and were occupied by F.W. Caulkins (the architect who designed the remodel), the Buffalo Cement Company, Lee & Zink (a real estate firm), Green & Wicks Architects and other companies over the years.  The upper floor consisted of a grand hall, which was occupied by the Academy of Fine Arts (now the Albright Knox).  The Academy, as it was known in those days, occupied the entire third floor, one room in the second story and one room in the basement.   The hall was lit by skylights from the ceiling to allow as much light into the hall as possible (this was before electricity).  The Academy was located here for five years, after which they moved into the Young Men’s Associations new building on Lafayette Square (the old Buffalo Library).   Stephen G. Austin, Delia Austin Avery, Truman G. Avery, as well as Delia & Truman’s daughter Lavinia Austin Avery were all life members of the Academy of Fine Arts.  The building is currently owned by Erie County.

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Delia Austin Avery’s building at 77 Pearl Street  Source:  Preservation Ready Sites

Stephen Austin owned 204-206 Main Street (often called the Granite Block).  Delia took over management of the building after her father’s death.  The Granite Block was taken down in 1905 for the Merchant’s Exchange/Chamber of Commerce building.  Mr. Austin also owned the building at 302-304 Main Street (now 300 Main Street).  The family is shown as owning the 300 Main Street building until at least 1891, so it was likely managed by his wife and daughter after his death.  Delia continued in her father’s real estate pursuits, purchasing several properties in her own name.  Delia also built a building in 1891 at 77 Pearl Street, adjoining the Merchant’s Exchange building.  The Heacock Homestead, home of Reuben Heacock was demolished to build the building.  The Austins had purchased the former house in 1876.  The last tenant in the home before it was demolished was the Union Veteran Legion.  Over the years, Delia’s building on Pearl Street was home to William H. Walker wholesale shoes, Rugby Knitting Mills, the Board of Trade Cafe, and other businesses.

Delia Stewart Austin married Truman Gardner Avery, in 1868.  Truman Avery was a lawyer who came to Buffalo from eastern New York State in the 1860s.  When he came to Buffalo, he gave up law to work as a grain merchant.  Delia had a hard year in 1872, she lost both her father and her first child, Jessie, at 10 months old.  Two years later, her sister died.  The Austin family owned much of the land where Symphony Circle is located.  In 1887, Delia Avery donated the parcel of land at the Circle for First Presbyterian Church in honor of her parents.  The church was then able to sell their downtown property for the construction of Erie County Savings Bank and build their current building on the Circle.

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The Avery Mansion on Symphony Circle

After leaving Niagara Square, Delia and her family lived on The Circle (now Symphony Circle) in a large mansion.  The mansion was constructed in 1892.  Delia served on the board of the Ladies’ Hospital Association at Buffalo General Hospital, the 20th Century Club, and the Home for the Friendless.  She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Delia died in 1922 and is buried in the family plot.  Delia followed in her parents charitable footsteps.  After her death, it was said that “no worthy cause ever appealed to her in vain”.

Delia’s daughter, Lavinia Austin Avery, was born in 1876 when the family still lived at Niagara Square.  Lavinia attended Buffalo Female Academy and the University of Buffalo Teacher’s College and married James McCormick Mitchell in 1907.  James Mitchell was the son of Reverend Samuel Mitchell, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church.  James worked as a lawyer at the firm of Kenefick, Cooke, Michell and Bass.

After her parents died, Lavinia Mitchell no longer wanted the Avery mansion on The Circle, and offered the 4 acres of land to the Buffalo committee that was working to build a new music hall.  Money had been left in the wills of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Kleinhans to create a Buffalo Foundation to be used to build a new music hall.   Several locations were looked at for the music hall, including Humboldt Park near the science museum and Delaware Park near the Rose Garden.  Architect E. B. Green had even designed plans for an addition to the science museum that would function as a music hall.  Residents near Delaware Park opposed the Rose Garden site because they did not want to use park lands for this purpose.   The Buffalo Foundation upheld that public parks should be preserved for its natural beauty for recreation and not further encroached upon by public buildings.  This stance followed the lead of State Parks Commissioner, Robert Moses, who had also resisted numerous proposals to erect additional buildings in Central Park in New York City.  The Buffalo City Planning Board also took a stance to oppose further use of parks for such buildings.  The land at The Circle was offered for $50,000 by Lavinia Mitchell, less than half of it’s assessed value.  The site offered the spaciousness and beauty of a park location, while allowing for parking but also was bordered by magnificent elm trees, and direct access into the park system via the circle and parkways.  It also was on both east-west and north-south bus lines, and had easy access to tourist traffic from the Peace Bridge.  The property was officially sold on July 19, 1938 after a large public hearing, at which the public were overwhelmingly in support of the location.  The mansion was demolished in 1938 and Kleinhans Music Hall was built. The Circle was renamed Symphony Circle.

1901

Pomeroy House on Oakland Place

Lavinia and her family first lived on Summer Street, on a house where the Richmond-Summer Recreation Center is now located.  In 1911, Lavinia Mitchell purchased the home at 70 Oakland Place (often referred to as the Pomeroy house) from the Pomeroys.  Mr. Mitchell died in the 1940s.  Lavinia sold the Oakland Place house in 1967 to a developer who subdivided it into three units.  Lavinia had been a president of the Garret Club and was on the board of directors of the Twentieth Century Club.  She died in 1968 and is buried in Forest Lawn in the family plot.

Want to learn about more streets?  Check out the Street Index.  Coming in the new year will be a multi-part series about the Fruit Belt on which I have been working hard.  Stay tuned!  You can subscribe on the home page and new articles will be emailed to you directly.

Sources:

  1. H.B. Hall & Sons, “Stephen G. Austin,” Digital Collections – University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed November 17, 2019, https://digital.lib.buffalo.edu/items/show/80993.
  2. Smith, Katherine.  “Austin Street Honors Justice Who Presided at Indian Trial”.  Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday May 26, 1940, p W8
  3. Meeting Notices.  Daily Courier, April 29, 1851.
  4. Myszka, Dawn.  “Kleinhans Music Hall and its Polish Connection”.  Am-Pol Eagle.  http://ampoleagle.com/
  5. “Kleinhans Music Hall:  Before the Music”.   http://archives.bpo.org/kmh-letc.htm (accessed November 2019)
  6. Wachadlo, Martin.  “Oakland Place:  Gracious Living in Buffalo.  2006.  https://buffaloah.com/a/oakland/70/wach.html (accessed November 2019)
  7. H. Perry Smith, editor.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Co Publishers, Syracuse NY.  1884.
  8. “The Old Church:  No Longer in God’s Service, but Used for Business Purposes”.  Buffalo Evening News.
  9. “The Groton Avery Clan”.  North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000.  Provo, UT:  Ancestry.com, 2016.
  10. “The Art Gallery”.  Buffalo Express.  June 11, 1881.
  11.  Brown, Christopher.  Historic Plymouth Avenue in the Kleinhans Neighborhood.  Kleinhans Community Association, 2006.
  12. “A Seven-Story Fire-Proof Is to be on Pearl Street and Will Be a Credit to Buffalo”.  Buffalo Evening News.  June 4, 1891.
  13. “Buffalo Orphan Asylum.”  Buffalo Express.  August 2, 1924.
  14. “To Break Ground Monday for New B.A.C. Clubhouse”.  Buffalo Courier.  May 21, 1922.
  15. Burr, Kate.  “Picturing Some Buffalonians as They Were”.  Buffalo Times.  July 1, 1928.
  16. “Ellicott Club to Observe Demise with Celebration”.  Buffalo Courier.  March 31, 1923. p. 14.
  17.  “Death of Stephen G. Austin”.  Buffalo Courier.  June 20, 1872.  p.1.
  18.  Ball, Charles.  “History of Niagara Square”.  Buffalo News.  May 17, 1921.
  19. Reports of the President and Secretary, submitted at the Annual Meeting.  Buffalo Historical Society.  January 9, 1923.
  20. Chapin, Willis.  The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy:  A Historical Sketch.  Published by the Academy, January 1899.

 

 

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chandlerstreetChandler Street runs between Military Road and what used to be NY Central Railroad tracks.  Historically, this area was home to factories and industrial buildings.  The street’s access to the rails made it a prime place for these types of businesses.  The buildings along the street were home to the Jewett Refrigerator Company, the Double Truss Cornice Brake Company, the Acme Steel and Malleable Iron Works, Barcalo Manufacturing, Buffalo Weaving & Belting Company, Linde Air Products, Loblaw Groceteria, and others.

linde

The iconic Linde tower at the Former Linde Complex on Chandler Street source: buffaloah.com

In the last few years, Chandler Street has become a hip new place.  Signature Development’s Rocco Termini has created a new district with redevelopments along both Chandler and Grote Street.  Some are calling this area “Chandlerville” the way that the Larkin District has developed into Larkinville. Several buildings along the street have now been redeveloped and are home to new businesses.  The former Linde complex is now home to Utilant, Barrel & Brine, Blackbid Cider, an accounting business and a call center.  The former Loblaw/Barcalo space is home to Thin Man Brewery and Tappo Pizza.  The land here was originally owned by Henry Chandler and the street was named for him.

Henry Chandler was born in Springfield Massachusetts in 1830.  He was a descendant of William Chandler, one of the earliest settlers in Andover, who arrived in America from England in 1637.  As a boy, Henry moved to Seneca County, New York with his family after his father lost his fortune during the Panic of 1837.  At age 15, Henry got a job teaching in the village school.  Henry was said to have had keen artistic sense from a young age.  While teaching, he supplemented his income by painting signs and decorating wagons and sleighs.

In 1850, Henry came to Buffalo and got a job as a typesetter at the Commercial-Advertiser.  While working there, he figured out a process for engraving that made it available to the general public, by using a wax process that allowed it to be done at a much lower cost.  The first job using the process was in 1853, which was a cover of a writing book published by Phinney & Co, who owned a bookshop on Main Street near Seneca Street.  The second job was a set of calendar frames.  Henry was having such great success, he asked his brother Frank to join him in his business venture in 1856.  The brothers worked together for most of their lives.  Their first year in business together, the brothers printed maps of the Great Western Railway of Canada and the Illinois Central Railroad.  In 1858-1859, Henry developed a process for photographing on wax which allows for engraving without needing to redraw.

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Example of a map done by Jewett & Chandler.

In 1859, Elam Jewett, owner of the Commercial Advertiser used Henry’s process to win the bid for engraving from the US Patent Office.  In 1862, Henry joined Mr. Jewett’s firm, which eventually became Jewett & Chandler.  They established an engraving house at 178 Washington Street.  In 1874, Matthews & Northrup joined the business.  The business was known by several names, including “J.N. Matthews Co” and “Matthews-Northrup Works”.  For many years, all illustrations of the US patent office used Chandler’s process.  The process was also used extensively for map engraving and the company was world renowned.  Many maps and atlases across the Country were completed using the Chandler process, including those used by General Pershing to guide the troops into Mexico and by President Wilson in his talks in Versailles.

Henry Chandler married Frances Long.  They had two sons, Henry Long and Frank Darwin, and a daughter who died as infants.  One son, Albert Hotchkiss Chandler, survived to adulthood.  Mr. Chandler owned property throughout the city, including where Chandler Street is located, property on Delaware Avenue and his home on Niagara Square.  The Chandlers lived at 89 Niagara Street.  At the time, Niagara Square was a residential neighborhood.  The Chandlers neighbors included the Bancrofts of Bancroft, Barnes & Co( which became the William Hengerer Company), and the parents of Dr. James King, a prominent doctor.

chandler house _ wny heritage

Henry Chandler House, 89 Niagara Street. Source: John H Conlin, WNY Heritage, Winter 2004.

The house at 89 Niagara Street had been built around 1852 by Philo Balcom.  Mr. Balcom was a trustee of the Baptist church that was located next to the house, and owned a brick business.  The house was a 2.5 story brick Italianate house with a four story tower built in the Second Empire style.  The house was sold in 1855 to Fidelia and Alden Barker, a land and insurance agent.  The Barker’s sold the house to Henry Chandler on August 29, 1864.  While the Chandlers owned the house, the tower was likely built.  Henry had a reversal of fortune in the 1870s, which forced him to leave the property at 89 Niagara Street and move to York Street.  The house was then sold at auction by Erie County Savings Bank.  Henry Chandler’s nieces remarked that what they remembered most about their uncle’s house on Niagara was that they had a first floor bathroom, which was an unusual feature during the 1870s.

With the building of City Hall, the US Courthouse, the State Office Building, the Buffalo Athletic Club and the Statler Hotel in the 1920s-1930s, Niagara Square shifted from residential towards being a civic center.  At some point, the house at 89 Niagara Street became a restaurant.  The restaurant had different names over the years.  It was known as Valentine’s for many years.  In the early 1990s, it was known as Grille 91, a restaurant that was described as “comfortable” and offered “well-prepared classic food”. In 1998, the restaurant became Carlos O’Ryan’s, which served casual Mexican and Southwestern food. The house was sold by the Valentines to “157 West Mohawk Realty Corp” in 2000 for $50,000.  At the time, there was a proposal for a new Courthouse to be built on the site.  The house was the last remaining house on Niagara Square and was demolished in 2007 to build the new courthouse.

The only house that still remains from this area of Downtown as a residential neighborhood is The Old House Downtown, (formerly known as Big Blue due to it having been painted blue) at 153 Delaware.   You can learn more about that house by checking them on facebook as The Old House Downtown or stop by on Tuesdays when they serve donuts on the lawn as the City of Buffalo Office of Coffee and Donuts.

chandler graveHenry Chandler owned sorrel horses which he rode along Delaware Avenue. Mr. Chandler also donated money to First Baptist Church, Buffalo Historical Society, the Young Men’s Association (which became the Buffalo Public Library).  He was also a member of the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Beaver Island Club and the Buffalo Field Club.  He was an accomplished poet, and his poetry was published in several magazines.  He died December 21, 1896.  He is buried in Forest Lawn.

Mr. Chandler’s son, Albert, worked as an electrician in the US Navy during the Spanish-American war.  At age 26, he enrolled to study civil engineering at Cornell University.  He was the city engineer of the City of New York.  In that role, he worked on the first section of the New York City city-owned and operated subway.  The lines are now part of the modern subway’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G and M service.  Additionally, N, Q, and R trains run partly on the tracks from the original lines.  He was also responsible for many of the grade crossing improvements in the Greater NYC area and drew all preliminary plans for bridge and tunnel approaches to Manhattan.  Albert died in 1932, leaving behind two young children, Henry (Harry) and Emily.  Albert is buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

Albert’s family lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. After his father’s death, when Harry was 13, Harry received a scholarship to Adelphi Academy and another to attend Lehigh University. After graduation in 1941, Harry got a job working for Proctor and Gamble Defense Corporation, in Mississippi.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor that year, Harry immediately went to the local air base and enlisted in the Air Force.  On March 15, 1945, Harry was flying a mission north of Berlin.  His plane was hit by a shell, taking out the controls.  His co-pilot was nonresponsive, and Harry was ejected from the plane as it spiraled.  Harry landed in a field and was captured by German police.  Harry spent two months as a prisoner of war.  It was only later that Harry learned that his mission had been important to history, the factory they had been assigned to destroy had been working to create an atomic weapon for Nazi Germany.    Harry returned to his job at P&G, retiring in 1981.  Harry is still alive today.  His sister Emily passed away in 2018 at age 103!

So the next time you’re hanging out on Chandler Street, think of the Chandler family and all they accomplished.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the street index.

Sources:

  • Smith, Katherine.  Chandler Street Perpetuates Name of Engraver-Inventor.  Buffalo Courier-Express, December 10, 1939, p W5.
  • Sukiennik, Greg.  A crucial mission; story of survival.  Manchester Journal.  November 12, 2017.  https://www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/a-crucial-mission-story-of-survival,524408? (online August 2019)
  • Public Notice – Superior Court of Buffalo.  Buffalo Courier.  January 25, 1878.
  • Buffalo News Real Estate Transactions.
  • Buffalo News Restaurant Listings.
  • The Magazine of Poetry:  A Monthly Review. Moulton, Charles Wells, publisher. January 1894.
  • The American Stationer.  Vol. XL – No.1.  New York, July 2, 1896.

 

 

 

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military road

Military Road’s modern alignment through the City of Buffalo and Town of Tonawanda

Military Road is a part of NYS Route 265, a 19.75 mile long state road that runs between Niagara Falls and Buffalo.  The portions called Military Road are located in the City of Buffalo/Town of Tonawanda and then again in Niagara Falls, NY.  The road dates back to 1801, when it was laid out as a road to connect Black Rock with Fort Niagara, near Lake Ontario.  The route begins at the intersection of Niagara Street and the Scajaquada Expressway.  It runs along Tonawanda Street through Black Rock, Amherst Street, then turns into Military Road where it runs for 4.3 miles until the City of Tonawanda border.  In the City of Tonawanda it is Main Street, in North Tonawanda it is River Road, in Niagara Falls it is Buffalo Ave before it turns back into Military Road through most of Niagara Falls where it ends at a junction with NY 104 (Lewiston Road) in Lewiston.  From Lewiston to Youngstown, the River Road that ran up to the Fort was already built, so that was used to connect the Military built road to Fort Niagara.

map of military road - from buffalo history gazette

Historic Map showing the route of Military Road Source: Buffalo History Gazette

Military Road was one of the first roads in the country planned for military purposes.  Roads for defense have been around for a long time and are still around in modern times – much of the United States Highway System was built as the “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”, designed for defense and modeled partly after the German Autobahn network that Eisenhower saw in Germany during WWII.  After the Revolutionary War, the federal government realized they needed a highway extending from the town of the Lewiston Escarpment to the bluff at Black Rock.  At the time, they were planning a large fort on the Black Rock bluff to guard the entrance to the Niagara River.  Most of WNY’s roads at the time were based on Native American trails and the trails of the earliest settlers.  These trails typically took the path of least resistance, to avoid things like creeks, marshes, or heavily wooded areas.  The highway would replace the old Portage Road, which was too winding, as it followed closely to the course of the river, rather than in a more direct line.  The Historic Map shows both the routes of the Military Road, which has a smoother path than the Portage route, which curves further to the west towards the Falls.

After the Revolutionary War, there were boundary disputes between New York and Massachusetts.  An agreement signed in Hartford, Connecticut in 1786 deeded the land once occupied by the Haudenosaunee to New York State, but Massachusetts maintained that they had a right to the area west of Seneca Lake once the Native American title was extinguished, except for a one-mile strip, which New York State reserved for itself.  The strip ran one mile inland along the Niagara River, from Buffalo to Stedman’s Farm (also known as Fort Schlosser, near where the water intakes are currently located along the Niagara Scenic Parkway/Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls). Despite the State’s reservation of the parcel, the Seneca maintained that they retained the title to the Mile Strip, which was affirmed in the 1794 Pickering Treaty.   Massachusetts sold the rights to the surveyed portion of the land to Robert Morris in 1791.  Keeping a portion of the land for his own purposes, Robert Morris sold the rest of the land (which the exception of Grand Island and the Mile Strip) to the Holland Land Company, the company which Joseph Ellicott was the land agent.  You can read more about Joseph Ellicott and the Holland Land Company by clicking these links for Part One, Part Two and Part Three.  In 1798, Seth Pease surveyed the Mile Line for the Holland Land Company.  In 1802, the Seneca claim to the Mile Strip was extinguished by a treaty signed in Albany.  There had been little settlement in the area by the Seneca, only two Seneca families lived there year-round.  The treaty was initiated because the government wanted to construct a fort at Black Rock (also known as Upper Black Rock).  In 1803, the Deputy State Surveyor, Joseph Annin began to survey the Mile Strip into lots.  Fort Niagara was given 716 acres which were set aside for the Federal government.  The Stedman’s Farm/Fort Schlosser farm lot was set aside at 680 acres.  The Jones and Parrish tracts, which were each 640 acres, were also set aside and were given to Mr. Jones and Mr. Parrish who had been Haudenosaunee captives during the war.  The Jones and Parrish lots were near the Scajaquada Creek.  A total of 111 lots were laid out within the remainder of the Mile Strip, the majority of which were 160 acres in size, but due to the curve of the river, many were slightly larger.  One square mile was set aside at the southern end for the Village of Black Rock.  For more on the laying out of Black Rock, you can read about Peter Porter, the streets named after states, and the numbered streets.

In 1801, General Moses Porter, commander at Fort Niagara, was ordered by the War Department to use his troops to build the road.  I was unable to find out if General Porter was related to Mr. Porter of Black Rock during my research.  They called the road Military Road because it was built by the soldiers.  Between 1802 and 1805, the right of way for the road was cleared.  At the time, road building typically consisted of cutting trees and brush wide enough  to bring an oxcart.  Military Road was built in a strip 100-feet wide.  Marshy areas were made passable by laying logs down, which was often referred to as a “corduroy road”.  It was a tough task, as the road was built through forests and over swamp lands to cut a straight path.  Bridges were built in Tonawanda, but work was stopped and the road surface was not finished for seven years, due to disagreements between the State and the Federal Governments. In 1808-1809, New York State gave $1,500 (about $30,000 in 2018 dollars) to the project and the road was complete.

fort tompkins signThe large fort planned for Black Rock was never built, but a smaller one was built in 1807 and became Fort Tompkins in August 1812.  Fort Tompkins was also known as Fort Adams.  The fort was actually large mounds which were mounting points for seven guns.  It was technically a battery, which is a cluster of cannons in action as a group put into position during a battle of a fort or city.  Fort Tompkins was the largest of eight batteries that were built during the war.  It was located at the top of the bluff at the bend in Niagara Street.  The escarpment here allowed them to overlook the river, giving advantages over the attacks from the water.   The location was later the sight of railway barns.  A plaque was hung on the railway barn and still hangs on the building located at 1010 Niagara Street.  The more famous Fort Tompkins was located on Staten Island and was built in 1663.  They were both likely named for Governor Daniel Tompkins, Governor of New York from 1807 to 1817.  Fun fact for if you’re ever on Jeopardy:  Daniel Tompkins was later President Monroe’s Vice President and the only VP in the 19th century to serve two full terms.

Military Road Marker

Historic Marker near Amherst Street and Military Road

One of the only military uses of the road was during the War of 1812.  American General McClure lost Fort George after a significant battle.  General McClure then gave the notice to burn Fort George and the Village of Newark (now Niagara on the Lake) to deny shelter to the British.  The Americans then retreated to Fort Niagara.  The British reoccupied Fort George and planned an assault on Fort Niagara in retaliation for the burning of Newark.  General McClure claimed he had acted on Secretary of War’s order in the burning of Newark.  He had been told earlier in the year to destroy Newark if necessary but to give the residents several days notice to ensure they were not left destitute.  McClure had only given two hours notice, leaving residents without shelter or possessions during a heavy snowstorm.  This was against war conventions at the time.  McClure’s superiors disavowed his orders and McClure never again held command.

On December 19th, 1813, more than 500 soldiers crossed the Niagara River at a location known as Five Mile Meadows. They turned towards Youngstown and the Americans were taken by surprise and the story goes that they obtained the password to get into the fort by using a fake southern accent.  The British gained control of Fort Niagara and the British and their Native American allies marched upriver.  With the American Army gone, there were only civilian militias left to defend their land.  The British marched south, destroying farms and villages between Youngstown and Manchester (now Niagara Falls, NY).  The second British raid happened a few weeks later, December 31, 1813, which burned as far south as Black Rock and Buffalo.  General McClure retreated from Fort Niagara to Buffalo via Military Road after losing Fort Niagara.

The road fell into disuse and became overgrown, partly due to a debate between the state and federal governments as to who was supposed to maintain it.  Sections of it were used by local farmers.  Niagara County took over the road in 1820 and reconditioned it (at the time present day Erie County was part of Niagara County).  By 1832, it was cleared and repaired and became a state highway.

The idea behind the road was to facilitate travel of troops and munitions of war from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.  Though the road was built for military function, it also helped to allow for commercial development of the area, with settlements occurring all along the Military Road.

In 1891, trolley service was extended along Military Road into the fledgling Village of Kenmore, allowing residents of Kenmore to arrive at the Military Road Station of the Belt Line, which would take them downtown for work.

miliatry marker sheridan drive

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Installation of the Boulder on Sheridan Drive, 1926. Source: Buffalo Courier Express

A boulder with a plaque honoring the Military Road was placed in Sheridan Drive by the Buffalo Chapter of the DAR in 1936.  It was part of a celebration of the centennial of the Town of Tonawanda.  The Centennial was held on exhibition grounds at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Sheridan Drive.  The dedication occurred on what was referred to as “Pioneer Day”.   New York State Historian, Dr. Alexander Flick, was on hand to give a speech and celebrate some of the oldest residents of Tonawanda.  Between 1906 and 1936, the Town had grown from 2,000 residents to 30,000.  Prizes were given to some of the residents including  the oldest married couple present, the oldest school teacher present, and the oldest male and female present.  Mrs. John Walters was unable to be present at the awards ceremony, but she had been a resident of Tonawanda for 93 years!

So the next time you drive along Military Road, think about the military history of WNY and remember the war fought right in our backyard, and the people who were determined enough to stay after their villages were burned to the ground.

Source:

  1. “Town Pioneers honor Guests and Centennial”.  Buffalo Courier Express, July 3 1936. p8.
  2. “Military Highway Will be Scene of Ceremonies” Buffalo Courier Express.  June 13, 1936, p13.
  3. Clinton Brown Architecture, pc.  Reconnaissance Level Historic Resources Survey:  Black Rock Planning Neighborhood.  November 2010.
  4. History of Old Fort Niagara.  https://www.oldfortniagara.org
  5. Lewis, Clarence.  “Evolution of Roadways in County Linked with Important Historical Happenings”.  Niagara Falls Gazette, July 29, 1954.
  6. Malloy, Jerry.  “Why is it Called Military Road?”  Buffalo History Gazette.  August 8, 2010.  http://www.buffalohistorygazette.net
  7. Percy, John & Graham Miller.  Images of America: Kenmore, New York.  Arcadia Publishing:  Charleston, South Carolina, 1998.

 

 

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expressway

Scajaquada Expressway (NYS 198)

The Scajaquada Express (aka NYS 198) has been in the news a lot in the last few years.  Everyone has a lot of opinions on the road and what it should look like – whether to remain an expressway, be downgraded to a parkway, etc.  Of course, the expressway takes its name from the creek along who’s route it follows.  Did you know that in addition to the creek, there is also a second Scajaquada Street in Buffalo?

scajaquada street

Scajaquada Street

Scajaquada Street runs between Bailey Avenue and Grider Street on the east side of Buffalo, cut into two pieces by railroad tracks.  Scajaquada is the type of word that Buffalonians know, but the kind of word that immediately stumps out-of-towners, a relic of our Native American roots here in Western New York.  Both the street and the expressway get their names from Scajaquada Creek.  Did you know that Scajaquada Creek was named after a person?

The creek is named after Philip Conjockety.  His name was also spelled Kenjockety.  He was also known as Ska-dyoh-gwa-deh (meaning “Beyond the Multitude”), which was also spelled Skandauchguaty or Conjaquady.  There are estimated to be as many as 90 different spellings of the word.  No wonder we still have trouble spelling the word today!  (One of my favorite Buffalo jokes:  How do you spell Scajaquada?  “198”)  The Seneca name was commonly Ga-noh-gwaht-geh, meaning “after a peculiar kind of wild grass that grew near its borders”.  The grass was important to early settlers, because it was used to create woven baskets, fishing nets, and supplies.

1850 Portrait of Philip Conjockety by Lars Gustaf Sellstedt

Philip had come to Buffalo with the Senecas shortly after the Revolutionary War, when they were driven away from the Genesee Valley.  Philip’s great grandfather was a member of the Kah-kwahs, who once lived in the Western New York area.  The Kah-kwahs were overtaken by the more powerful Senecas around 1651, and the survivors were adopted into the Seneca nation.  Philip’s father, John, became Chief of the Seneca, and was part of the influence which brought the Seneca Nation to the banks of the Niagara River near what became Scajaquada Creek when they left the Genesee Valley.

Philip was born near the Tonawanda Reservation and lived in Fort George during the Revolutionary War, when he fought with the Senecas against the Americans.

Philip died April 1, 1866, at Newtown, on the Cattaraugus Reservation.  When he died, the Courier reported at the time that he was the oldest resident of the region.  Some accounts listed him as 120 to 130 years old, but it was generally believed that he was nearly 100 when he died.  His mind was clear in his old age, so much of the early history of Buffalo was gathered from Philip’s stories.

During the War of 1812, the navy yard at the mouth of Scajaquada Creek was where five of Commodore Perry’s ships were reconditioned during 1813.  A plaque commemorating this location of this navy yard is on the Niagara Street Bridge, north of Forest Ave.   On South Side of the creek near its mouth was Sailor’s Battery – the last in a line of 8 batteries stretching from the Terrace to the Creek that helped defend during the War of 1812.   The Sailor’s Battery was the first to be overtaken during the night of December 29, 1813 during the Battle of Black Rock which led to the Burning of Buffalo.

Doreen-DeBoth-Buffalo-NY

“Battle of Scajaquada Creek Bridge” Artist: Doreen Boyer DeBoth

The Battle of Scajaquada Bridge was fought August 3, 1814.  British forces were attacked by American forces at the bridge, west of where Niagara Street crosses the creek.  The American forces were entrenched on the south side of the creek and began to dismantle the bridge to prevent the British from crossing.  The British attempted to rebuild the bridge, but failed and ended up retreating to Canada.  The outnumbered American men were able to stand up to the British men in what was the last act of British aggression towards Buffalo during the war.  The victory is described as a decisive engagement and a triumph for the United States.

By 1902, the area around the mouth of Scajaquada Creek had become a city dump.  The area was a popular place for “mouchers” to rifle through the discarded waste of the city to resell things.  Of the Scajaquada Creek dump, it was written:  ” Once it was a picturesque stream, but here its glory is departed.  It has banks of ashes six or eight feet high and between them flows the noble stream in a sluggish, dirty current.  Its channel obstructed by peach baskets, bottomless coffee pots, kerosene cans, bed springs, tin cans and other materials which the moucher rejects.”

Historic View of Scajaquada Creek Source: Buffalo News

In 1899, the National Motor Transit Company entered into a 1 year contract with the Park Board of Buffalo to operate an automobile transit service to travel along what would become, 60 years later, the route of the City’s first intra-urban highway, the Scajaquada Creek Expressway.  Four cars traveled from Lincoln Parkway past the zoo to Humboldt Parkway and Main Street every half hour.

Around 1946, New York State began planning for a system of highways throughout the City of Buffalo in a report titled Report on the New York State Thruway and Arterial Routes in the Buffalo Urban Area.  In 1951, the Buffalo Planning Commission adopted a Major Traffic Ways Plan that included the Scajaquada Expressway as a component of the system.  Traffic was quickly growing within the City and the highways were designed to find a place for the cars by channeling them onto expressways.  The Scajaquada Expressway was constructed during the 1950s and 1960s.   The route was designated by the Surface Transportation Act of 1982 as NYS Route 198.

Buffalo NY Courier Express 1958 a - 2435

Proposed plan for Delaware Park Shortway. Source: Courier Express, September 5, 1958

Other plans to create a second limited access highway was proposed for Delaware Park in 1958.  The “Delaware Park Shortway” would have run parallel to 198 across the north side of the Delaware Park meadow.  The City Planning board tabled the proposal in order to finish construction of the Scajaquada and Kensington Expressways to be completed before the Shortway was built, so plans never came to fruition.

Studies have been going on since the late 1990s regarding downgrading and/or removal of the Scajaquada Expressway, particularly the section through Delaware Park.

Historically, Scajaquada Creek was a shallow, wide, meandering creek.  Over time, the creek was channelized and portions were routed underground in three ares.  Residents would use the creek to dump their waste, creating a public health issue in the stagnant water.  Putting the creek underground would help resolve this issue, and created numerous pocket parks along the former length of the creek.  The largest tunnel was created as the Scajaquada Drain project in 1928.  This project buried 3.5 miles of the creek, from Pine Ridge Road to Forest Lawn Cemetery.  A portion of the buried creek runs under Scajaquada Street.

FotoJet

Top photo 1924.  Bottom photo modern image same site.  Corner Scajaquada Street and Kilhoffer during construction of Scajaquada Drain.  Source:  WNY Heritage.

During the 1930s, the sewer systems crossing the creek were disconnected, connected the creek into the city’s combined sewer overflow system.  The Delevan Drain was built to try to divert the combined sewage near Main Street, but it is designed to function during low flows, and during storm events or high flows, the water exits the Delevan tunnel and flows into the stream channel.  At Forest Lawn Cemetery, the creek is recharged by underground springs, and the Onondaga Escarpment creates Serenity Falls within the Cemetery.  When Delaware Park was originally designed, the 42 aces lake was formed by damming Scajaquada Creek.  As part of the Expressway construction, park, portions of the lake were filled.  The lake retains little of its original shoreline.  During the 1950s, the lake was declared by the Department of Health a health hazard and was closed to the public due to the sewage overflow issues.  The creek was rerouted to separate it from the lake in the early 1980s.  Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and other organizations are working to restore and provide environmental restoration to the creek.

So the next time you drive over the Scajaquada, think of Philip Konjockety, a highway that were never built, and a creek that’s been buried.  To learn about other streets, check out the street index.

Sources:
  1. Carstens, Patrick Richard and Timothy L. Sanford.  Searching for the Forgotten War – 1812.  Xlibris Corporation:  2012.
  2. “Death of Philip Kenjockety”.  Courier & Republic.  Wednesday Evening, April 4, 1866.
  3. OH Marshall. “The Niagara Frontier” Vol. II Buffalo Historical Society Publications
  4. Parke, Bill.  “Battle of Scajaquada Bridge”.  Black Rock Historical Society.  Online at http://www.blackrockhistoricalsociety.info/battle-of-scajaquada-creek-bridge.html
  5. Delaware Park Shortway. Courier Express. September 5, 1958.  Pg 6.
  6. Cichon, Steve.  The Buffalo You Should Know:  The Slow Death of Humboldt Parkway in Building the 33 & 198.  Buffalo News. May 8, 2016.
  7. NYSDOT.  NY Route 198 Scajaquada Corridor Study P.I.N. 5470.14.  June 2005
  8. WNY Heritage.  Scajaquada Drain Project.  Online at https://www.wnyheritage.org/content/scajaquada_drian_project_-_1920s/index.html
  9. Treasure at the Dump.   The Illustrated Buffalo Express.  1902.

 

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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.

Map of Village of Black Rock, 1816 Source:  New York State Archives

Map of Village of Black Rock, 1816
Source: New York State Archives

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”.

Streets in Buffalo Named After States

Streets in Buffalo Named After States  (click to view larger image)

The City also has streets named after the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • North and South Dakota (as Dakota Street)
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

There are several streets named after states that used to be located in Buffalo.  These streets names have been removed for various reasons:

Portion of 1900 Sanborn Map depicting locations of Idaho and Arizona Streets.

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.

1951 Sanborn Map showing the former location of Indiana Street

 

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.

1925 Sanborn Map Showing Alaska Alley

1925 Sanborn Map Showing Alaska Alley

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:

  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Hawaii

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.

Sources:

  1. “Many Changes Made in Names of Streets Here” Courier Express, August 26, 1928
  2. “New Names for Streets” Buffalo Express Oct 7, 1901
  3. “Council Closes Alaska Alley” Buffalo Courier Express, February 24, 1960.

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