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smithSmith Street is a 2 mile long road on the East Side of Buffalo running from the Buffalo River to Broadway. Smith Street is one of the interchanges from the I-190 Thruway, Exit 4.

Henry Kendall Smith was born on the island of Santa Cruz (now Saint Croix) on April 2, 1811. His parents were Jeremiah Smith and Jane Cooper Smith, who were of English origin. At the time of his birth, the island was in possession of the English during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1815, following the peace between Britain and France, the island was once again a Danish territory. Mr. Smith, Henry’s father, was an architect and builder. While the English had occupied the Island, there had been prosperity. When Denmark returned to power, property values depreciated greatly and many plantation owners were ruined. The change in government caused Mr. Smith to lose a great deal of money. However, his social standing allowed him to achieve the rank of major in the Danish provincial army, which allowed him an income as opposed to financial ruin. One day, while passing through a fort, some quicklime was accidentally throw into his face. Following the accident, he was confided to bed for weeks and blinded for life. At the time, the family consisted of Jeremiah and Jane, along with two sons and two daughters. The family struggled to make ends meet. Mrs. Smith, was not discouraged by the family’s misfortune, and helped her children to look towards the future. A long litigation took place revolving around the accident. Eventually, rather than continue the ligation to get his fair share due to him, Henry’s father accepted a settlement of $1,500 from the party responsible for his injuries, in order to be able to educate Henry.

At the age of 8, Henry was sent to Baltimore to study under Reverend Dr. Berry, a minister of the Church of England and a scholar. When Henry left for Baltimore, his father told him that he would now have to take care of himself and that it was his responsibility as to whether he would sink or swim. Henry reported replied that he would swim, and left behind his family forever.

For those who have seen the musical Hamilton, or know Alexander Hamilton’s history, Henry’s story will sound familiar. Alexander Hamilton was also from St. Croix, and was sent to America to receive an education after experiencing poverty early in life.

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Henry Smith’s Mayoral Portrait

At age 17, he became a clerk at a wholesale dry goods store in New York City. In his free time, he would continue his studies of the classics, believing that there was another occupation out there for him, and that he would not be a clerk forever. One day, his employer told Henry that he was acting like a woman or a “clumsy boor”. So Henry told his employer that he could do the work himself, and left the store. Shortly prior, he had met Daniel Cady of Johnstown, New York. who was engaged in a trial in New York. After listening to Cady’s arguments and the reply by Ogden Hoffman, Henry was inspired and decided he would become a lawyer.

Henry traveled to Johnstown, found Mr. Cady, and asked to enter his office as a law student. At the time, lawyers did not go to law school, but rather learned the trade in a law office. Mr. Cady welcomed Henry into his office. Henry was devoted to his books and continued his studies under Mr. Cady until he was ready for his examination. While he was studying, he earned an income by teaching at a school. Henry was admitted to the bar in May 1832 and continued to practice in Johnstown. In October of that year, the Young Men’s State Democratic Convention met in Utica, and Mr. Smith was one of the delegates from Montgomery County. During the convention, he delivered a speech regarding the nomination of a gubernatorial candidate which gave him the reputation of an accomplished and logical speaker. At the convention, Henry met Honorable Israel T. Hatch, from Buffalo, who invited Henry to come to Buffalo.

Henry moved to Buffalo in spring of 1837, to form a partnership with Mr. Hatch. After working with Mr. Hatch, Henry also worked with George W Clinton, Mr. Williams, Isaac Verplanck and others in Buffalo.

At the breakout of the Patriots War in 1837, Henry was made Captain of one of the five companies of volunteers formed by citizens for the protection of Buffalo. He continued in the militia service for some time, passing through the ranks until he attained the rank of Colonel. When he was made Colonel, he was given a gold watch that had the inscription, “The citizens of Buffalo to Hon. Henry K Smith, the eloquent and efficient advocate of the Erie Canal and the rights of the City.”

In 1838, Mr. Smith was appointed District Attorney for Erie County. He resigned after seven months, because he was being requested so often for other civil business as a lawyer.

In 1844, he accepted the office of Recorder of the City of Buffalo, an office he held for four years. Subsequently, in 1846, he was appointed postmaster of Buffalo and held the office for two and a half years. In 1850, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo. He was nominated for state assembly, state senate and congress. In 1840 he was a delegate to the national convention which re-nominated Martin Van Buren for president (Van Buren lost that election to William Henry Harrison).

Mr. Smith married Miss Vorhees in spring of 1834. She was the daughter of a wealthy merchant of Johnstown. Unfortunately, she passed away shortly after their marriage. In 1838, he married Miss Sally Ann Thompson, the daughter of Shelton Thompson of Buffalo. After 18 months, she too passed away, leaving behind a son, Sheldon Thompson Smith. Henry suffered greatly after the death of both of his wives. To deal with his grief, he focused on the care and education of his son, on his professional duties and politics.

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Mr. Smith had considerable musical talents. He taught himself to play the violin. He would often be found singing with his family and would sing the Star Spangled Banner, God Save the King, and other patriot songs on festive occasions such as the Fourth of July or St. Patrick’s Day. He was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal, during the time of Rev. Shelton, for whom Shelton Square was named.

Mr. Smith died on September 23, 1854, at age 43. He is buried in Forest Lawn.

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a Proposed East Side Expressway that went through several iterations. The Expressway was originally planned to start at the Kensington Expressway at an interchange at Best Street, run along the south side of Humboldt Park, now MLK Park, and to continue along Walden Avenue. They then decided to shift the expressway south of Walden in order to preserve the Walden Business Corridor. The Expressway was going to run 2.6 miles and end at Walden Avenue near the City Line. The Expressway was included in New York State Highway Law 1957. In 1958, they decided that it would be better if they were also able to connect the Thruway I-190 to the Expressway with an additional route. This highway was thought to be beneficial to the planned opening of the Thruway Industrial Park and to help bring people into the struggling Broadway-Fillmore shopping district. At the time, Broadway-Fillmore was the 2nd most dense area, second only to Downtown in both size and value.

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One of the plans for the East Side Expressway and Smith Street Spur

The Proposed Smith Street spur would start at the East Side Expressway with an interchange at Miller Avenue, and continue southwest along Memorial Drive to Fillmore Avenue, then would follow Fillmore to Smith to the Smith Street interchange of the I-190. Reports at the time said that this spur of highway was “essential to the lifeblood of the East Side”. More than 300 houses were planned to be demolished as part of this Smith Street Spur proposal. The plan was debated for many years, with various alignments discussed and fought over. Elmer Youngmann, the District Engineer for the New York State Department of Public Works (for whom the Youngmann Expressway – I 290- was named) was against putting the spur down Memorial Avenue due to the high costs of the road due to the private properties along the route. Neither the East Side Expressway in this alignment nor the Smith Street Spur were ever built.

Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index!

Sources:

1. Proctor, L.B. “Sketches of the Buffalo Bar: Henry K. Smith”. Published in Buffalo Courier & Republic, 1869.

2. Viele, Henry K. “Sketch of the Life of Hon. Henry K. Smith”. Published in Buffalo Courier & Republic, May 25, 1867.

3. Rizzo, Michael. Through the Mayor’s Eyes. Lulu Enterprises, Inc. 2005.

4. The Proposed East Side Expressway and Proposed New Arterial Route. Buffalo: 1961.

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wasmuthWasmuth Avenue runs between Genesee Street and Walden Avenue near Martin Luther King Jr Park on the East Side of Buffalo.  The street is named after one of the first female developers in Buffalo, Caroline Wasmuth.  Ms. Wasmuth was one of Buffalo’s pioneer business women.

Caroline Geyer arrived in America alone in 1845 at the age of 16.  The trip from Germany by boat took three months.  She got a job working for the Lautz (sometimes also spelled Lauts) family.   The Lautz family were an early Buffalo German family who manufactured candles and soaps as Lautz Brothers & Co.  She wasn’t able to continue her formal education in America, but learned to speak, read and write English. She enjoyed reading and educated herself through her books.  

Her first business experience began at her husband’s grocery store at Carlton Street and Michigan Avenue.  Ms. Wasmuth invested all of their savings into a savings and loan company.  During the 1880s, there was a land boom in Buffalo and she was asked to become a partner in the Buffalo Land Association.  The company developed the land in the Genesee-Walden district.  They later formed the Ontario Land Company to develop land in Cheektowaga.

She had a stand at the Elk Street market for 47 years, specializing in berries and fresh vegetables.   The Elk Street market was located on what is now South Park Avenue (you can read more about the change in street name here) You can also learn more about the Elk Street Market at this link, where Steve Cichon notes that it was the largest fruit and garden truck market in the United States.  During Ms. Wasmuth’s time, farmers were prohibited from bringing their produce into Buffalo.  She would walk to the City line to meet them and make her selection.  She could carry as many as five 30-quart trays of berries on her head from the City Line to the Elk Street market, likely about 4 miles!  She was known for having a kind heart towards anyone not being able to have food and a reputation for giving a meal to anyone who came to her door.  She was well known for her generous nature, particularly towards people who were struggling.

Ms. Wasmuth enjoyed singing and was a member of the Saengerbund, a well known German singing society, and the choir of St. Peters Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at the corner of Genesee and Hickory.  She was a member of the Women’s Society of that church.  She was also a member of the Seven Stars Rebekah Lodge No. 136, which was the women’s branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows who met at 145 High Street.  She was also a member of the Gertrude Lodge No 47, Daughters of Herman, which was a German aid society located at 260 Genesee Street. 

Ms. Wasmuth was noted for being unusual among early businesswomen because she did not try to dress like a man.  She loved her pretty clothes and jewelry.

She was known for adopting new inventions that could be useful to her.  Her husband, George Peter Wasmuth, was the first Buffalonian to  bottle horseradish.   She convinced her husband to buy one of the first foot-power machines for grinding horseradish, relieving the family of grinding horseradish for hours.  They used to buy from twenty to thirty tons of horseradish at a time.  Her nine children helped around the house.

During an interview during the 1940s, her son Fredrick said that many of the family members were still living on land originally purchased by Ms. Wasmuth.  However, he lamented that they would have been happier if they owned a piece of land she had passed on the purchase of – she could have bought the property where Buffalo Savings Bank stands downtown for $0.50 a foot.   The passed on the purchase, and bank was built.  We typically refer to the building today as the Gold Dome; the property would certainly be worth more than that today!

wasmuthMs. Wasmuth was married twice and had four sons and five daughters:  Frank, George, Maggie, Lillian, Anna, Caroline, John, Fredrick, and Charles.  The family lived on Michigan Street (now Ave) near Carlton Street, on what is now the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.  She was also one of the investors in the Pan American Exposition, having bought a subscription in 1899.  She died in 1904 at the age of 75.  She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

 

Sources:

  1. “Wasmuth Avenue Honors Business Woman” Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday January 28, 1940.  
  2. “Pan-American Subscriptions” Buffalo Evening News, Saturday January 28, 1899.
  3. 1880 United States Federal Census.  Accessed via Ancestry.com 

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vangorderVan Gorder Street is a short street located off of Fillmore Avenue in the Fillmore-Leroy neighborhood of Buffalo.   The street runs one block east of Fillmore Ave where it dead-ends at Burgard High School (PS #301).

greenleaf van gorderThe street is named after Greenleaf S. Van Gorder, a politician and banker.

Members of the Van Gorder family have lived in New York State for a long time.  In 1650, Gysbert Albert Van Gorder, one of the Greenleaf Van Gorder’s ancestors, came from Holland as a pioneer settler in Ulster County and his ancestors were prominent in the early affairs around Fort Orange (Albany).  Greenleaf was born in York, in Livingston County, New York, in 1855.  He attended Temple Hill Academy in Geneseo and Alfred University.   After graduating from college, he studied law in the office of Sanford & Bowen of Angelica, New York.  In 1877, at the age of 22, he was admitted to the bar.  For the first two decades of his career, he practiced law in Pike, a small town in Wyoming County, NY.  During that period, he was elected Town Clerk, County Supervisor, and State Assemblyman.  He then spent four years representing Wyoming, Genesee, Livingston and Niagara Counties in the State Senate.

Senator Van Gorder served as a member of the board of the Pike Seminary and President of the Bank of Pike. He was instrumental in establishing the Public Library of Pike.  He also worked hard to build a modern water system for Pike.  The town fathers kept postponing the installation of the water system.  During the 1880s there was a bad fire there and many businesses, churches and homes were destroyed.  The need for the water system was realized, as it could have been stopped easily with the right system.  Many of the maple trees along streets in the village were destroyed by the fire.  Senator Van Gorder worked to plant trees along the bare streets, calling for volunteers to assist him.  On the day they set aside for the planting, an early snowstorm hit, and only one man came to help in the efforts.  The Senator refused to let the man work in the snow, so Mr. Van Gorder planted the trees himself.  He also helped to transform a neglected cemetery by planting trees and shrubs.  He felt a strong connection to Pike, and even after moving to Buffalo, he kept a summer home there.  He also fought for many years to bring a railroad to Pike.  He worked with Frank Goodyear on the project, but Mr. Goodyear’s death stopped the progress and the railroad was never built.

Senator Van Gorder had a series of narrow escapes from death.  He owned a 300-acre dairy farm at Springdale, between Pike and Bliss.  One day on the farm, he almost died when a prize bull, who weighed nearly a ton, gored him.  During a storm near Cape Hatteras, his boat engine lost power and he drifted all night.  One night on Hodge Ave in Buffalo, he was held up by two men.  He threw the bag he was carrying at the men and was shot.  The bullet remained in his body the rest of his life, since it was so close to his heart and spine doctors did not want risk removal surgery.

Senator Van Gorder’s family also had some tough times.  His brother John Van Gorder and his half-sister, Anna Farnam were murdered at their home in Angelica, New York after a gristly struggle in 1904.  It was believed that they were killed by laborers working on the construction of the Pittsburgh, Shawmutt and Northern Railroad who had been at a campsite near the family’s farm.

He practiced law in Buffalo from 1895 to 1931.  He was a partner in the firm of Bartlett, Van Gorder, White and Holt.

Senator Van Gorder enjoyed travel and music, and was an avid piano player.  He was involved with the Fillmore Land Company, which developed the section of the City where his street is located.  The Fillmore Land Company was instrumental in getting the city to install the Fillmore Avenue sewer between Kensington and Dewey Avenues.   He was a member of the Republican party, the Presbyterian church, Triliminar Masonic Lodge No. 543, the Sons of the American Revolution, the Holland Society of New York and the Buffalo Historical Society.

Senator Van Gorder married Eve Lyon.  They had a daughter, Mary.  The family lived at 332 Ashland in the Elmwood Village.   Mary Van Gorder was secretary to the principal of School Number 54 at Main Street and Leroy Avenue.

Senator Van Gorder died in 1933.  He is buried in Pike Cemetery in Wyoming County.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Smith, H. Katherine.  “Van Gorder Street Memorial to Legislator-Educator-Lawyer”.  Buffalo Courier-Express, October 20, 1940 sec 6, p13.
  2. Douglass, Harry.  “Wyoming County’s Famous Sons and Daughters”.  The Wyoming County Times, Nov 7, 1935.
  3. “Brother and Sister are Stabbed to Death”.  The Culver Citizen, May 12, 1904, p3.

 

 

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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?

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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.

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“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.

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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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exchangeExchange Street has been an important street in Buffalo since the early days of settlement.  Exchange Street runs approximately 1.75 miles from Main Street in Downtown to Selkirk Street, near the Larkin District of the East Side of Buffalo.  Exchange Street was one of the first streets in Buffalo, originally a pathway that was traveled by Red Jacket and other members of the Seneca Nation as they came into Buffalo from the Buffalo Creek reservation. Joseph Ellicott incorporated the path when he laid out the original street plan for Buffalo.  The street was originally named Crow Street.  Exchange Street was particularly important during the railroad era of Buffalo’s history.

Map Showing the Inner Lots of Buffalo. Source

Map Showing the Inner Lots of Buffalo.  Source

John Crow arrived in Buffalo around 1801 or 1802, coming from Whitestone in Oneida County, New York.   Mr. Crow occupied a house on Inner Lot No. 1, the southwest corner of Washington and Crow Streets.  The log house had been built by Mr. Johnston, an Indian agent and interpreter who served for the British government and remained here until the Holland Land Company arrived.  Mr. Johnston had received land from the Native Americans in exchange for providing them with boards and planks from the timber on his land.  Legally, Mr. Johnston’s  land hold was not binding.  In negotiations with the Holland Land Company, Mr. Johnston gave up a portion of his land in exchange for keeping a portion along Buffalo Creek where he had his lumber mill separate from the Buffalo Creek Reservation.  Mr. Crow built an addition to the house with a tavern.

When Erastus Granger arrived in Buffalo to serve as postmaster, he set up shop in Mr. Crow’s tavern.  The tavern was also the first place of lodging for Samuel Pratt when he arrived in Buffalo.   You can visit a replica of the Crow Tavern and Mr. Granger’s post office in the Pioneer Gallery at the Buffalo History Museum.  At the time, Exchange Street only ran from Main to Washington, as no streets at the time had been laid out beyond those early streets.   In 1806, Buffalo had 16 houses (8 on Main Street, 3 on the Terrace, 3 on Seneca Street, and 2 on Cayuga-now Pearl Street), two stores – a contractor’s store and a drug store, two taverns, and two blacksmiths.  Mr. Crow stayed in Buffalo until 1806, when he moved to Hamburg and later Pennsylvania. Mr. Crow died in Waterford, PA in 1830.

In 1809, Crow’s Tavern became Landon’s, which burned down in 1813 during the Burning of Buffalo. It was rebuilt by Mr. Landon after the war, and was operated by him until 1824.  In 1825, Phineas Baron took over and renamed it the Mansion House.  Mansion House was in business until 1929!

Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo

Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo

The street was named Crow until many “gentleman” of the city felt that Crow was a vulgar name, since crows were considered to be vulgar, dirty birds, so the street was changed to Exchange Street in 1836.  By 1839, there were several unsuccessful petitions to try to change the name back to Crow.

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Exchange Street Terminal – NY Central

Many train stations were located along the Exchange Street corridor as early as the 1850s.  The New York Central Exchange Street Terminal was built in 1870, with expansions in 1885, 1900, 1901, 1906 and 1907.  The station was the starting point from where most people entering the City of Buffalo.  For 58 years, the station was the arrival point of most people coming to Buffalo.  Exchange Street was the first thing most people saw when they arrived.

In 1929, New York Central transferred its base of operations to the Curtiss Street Terminal (what we refer to today as Central Terminal) in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood of Buffalo.   They all closed their doors after the new terminal was built.  The Exchange Street station was still used by some commuters but they did not provide the neighborhood with enough spending to support businesses, as they rushed from their train to their office for work. The majority of the station was boarded up and only the western entrance was open.  The station restaurant and newsstand closed, and only one door was opened for coming and going.  Only two ticket windows remained open.  The offices over the station closed because most of the personnel went to Curtiss Street.

Central Terminal Under Construction

Curtiss Street Terminal (Central Terminal) Under Construction

Before the station closed, the Exchange Street corridor was one of the most important thoroughfares.  The street was busy with manufacturing, railroad terminals, hotels, and stores.  The Courier-Express said of the street’s heyday, “Exchange Street took off its hat to none of its rivals.”  There were shops for souvenirs and postcards, neighborhood restaurants and lunch counters, and cafes.  Trains arrived at all times of the day and night, so there was a constant flurry of mail trucks, express trucks, delivery vehicles, and people.  One hundred trains a day stopped at the old station.  A story goes that while Grover Cleveland was President, he was on a train heading to a funeral and a friend was staying at the European Hotel at the northwest corner of Washington and Exchange.  President Cleveland asked the train to stop so he could visit with his friend.  The hotel was then renamed the Washington Hotel in order to capitalize on its presidential connection.  The Exchange Street depot was the starting point of the Buffalo Belt Line railroad in 1883, which circled the city and allowed development of the City of Buffalo outside of the downtown core.

Once the NY Central train station closed, Exchange Street was left “looking something like Goldsmith’s deserted village.”  The popular Mansion House hotel, with its roots stretching back to Crow’s original tavern, closed after the train station left.  Between Michigan Avenue and Main Street, there had been a dozen barber shops which all closed.

eriedepot.jpg

Erie Railroad Depot

In addition to the NY Central station, there was also the Erie Station at Michigan and Exchange Street, and the Lehigh Valley Station was nearby on Washington Street.  In 1935, the NY Central Exchange Street Depot was torn down.  Also that year, the Erie Railroad Station was abandoned, when they moved their facilities into the DL&W Terminal on the Waterfront.   This was considered by some to be the end of Exchange Street as a bustling corridor.

The Lehigh Valley station and the right-of-way was purchased in 1954 by New York State to build the Niagara Section of the New York State Thruway.  In 1955, the Buffalo News purchased some of the surplus lands from the State to build their current building (1 News Plaza). The Thruway was built through this section of Downtown Buffalo and opened in 1960.  The six-mile-long Downtown Buffalo part of the Niagara Section was the last portion to be completed of the 559 miles of the New York State Thruway System.

The Exchange Street Terminal continues to serve trains today.  A new, significantly smaller Exchange Street station was built on Exchange Street in 1952.  This station served 21 trains a day and the station used two platforms that were connected via a walkway.  Passenger railroad traffic continued to decline and the station closed in 1962 when service to Niagara Falls was suspended.  Buffalo Central Terminal closed on October 28, 1979 and Amtrak service switched that morning back to Exchange Street where a new station was being built, which opened in 1980.  The Amtrak station currently serves eight trains a day at Exchange Street.

For more than 150 years, railroads were a huge part of the life of the Exchange Street corridor.  There is current talk (2016) about building a new train station in Buffalo.  The One Seneca Tower, with its one million square feet of vacant commercial space, sits ready for redevelopment at the end of Exchange Street at Main Street.  At the other end of Exchange Street, recent developments in the Larkin District are rejuvenating that area.  What’s next for Exchange Street?  It’s yet to be seen.  What would you like to see there?

To learn about other streets, check out the Street Index!

Sources:

  1. “Rebirth Awaited”. Buffalo Courier Express.  August 6, 1935
  2. Ketchum, William.  An Authentic and Comprehensive History of Buffalo, Vol. II.Rockwell, Baker & Hill, Printers, Buffalo NY, 1865.
  3. “Old Railroad Station Once City’s Busiest Spot”.  Buffalo Times, October 25, 1931.
  4. New York State Thruway Authority Records
  5. “As Silence Reigns in Old Exchange Street” Frank L. Blake.  Buffalo Times, Sept 1, 1929
  6. “Terrace Program Revives Memories of Exchange Street’s Famous Days” Buffalo News. Feb 25, 1950.  Streets Scrapbook Vol 1 pg 43

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Grosvenor Street

Grosvenor Street

Grosvenor Street is a street on the near East Side of Buffalo.  The street currently runs two blocks, between South Division Street and Eagle Street.  Historically, the street continued south to Seymour Street, and changed name to Heacock after crossing the railroad tracks.  When at-grade rail crossings were removed, the street was shortened, and Heacock Street was later changed to Larkin Street.  The street is named after Seth Grosvenor, who only was in Buffalo for a short while, but left an important impact on the City.  Heacock Street was named after family friend, business partner, and brother-in-law of Mr. Grosvenor, Reuben Heacock (we’ll learn more about him later).    The name is pronounced Grove-nor, with a silent s.  There is also a Grosvenor Road in the Town of Tonawanda.  The name also lives on in the Grosvenor Room at the Buffalo Library, which happens to be where I do most of my research for this blog!

Seth Grosvenor Source: New York Historical Society

Seth Grosvenor
Source: New York Historical Society

Seth Grosvenor was born on Christmas Day, December 25, 1786, in Pomfret, Connecticut.  Seth’s family consisted of sixteen children – Abigail, Lucia, Roswell, Marcia, Godfrey, Martha, Mary, Polly, Betsey, Eliza, Thomas, Abel, Peggy, George, Seth, Stephen.   The family moved to Columbia County, New York around 1800. Little is known about when Seth Grosvenor arrived in Buffalo, as reports from the times tell conflicting stories.  It is believed that Seth Grosvenor arrived in Buffalo in late 1812/early 1813 to settle his brother Abel’s estate and run his store following Abel’s death.  Abel had been attacked by a mob of volunteer troops from Baltimore who mistook Abel for Mr. Ralph Pomeroy, the keeper of the hotel at Main and Seneca Streets.  The story goes that Mr. Pomeroy offended the folks from Baltimore by stating he was a friend of the British, and a mob set out to kill Mr. Pomeroy.  They saw Abel and mistook him for Mr. Pomeroy and attacked him instead.  Abel Grosvenor left Buffalo with his family but died from his injuries a short time later.  It is believed that Seth came to town shortly thereafter, but some reports indicate that Seth had arrived earlier to help his brother at the store.

On December 31, 1813, during the Battle of Buffalo, Seth Grosvenor organized a group of 20 to 30 men to defend the village against the British and Native American Troops, by taking a stand at the corner of Main and Niagara Streets.  During the Battle of Buffalo, the Grosvenor store and all its merchandise were burned to the ground on December 31, 1813.  Four days later, on January 4th, Seth advertised that he was back in the dry goods business, selling out of the Harris Tavern in Clarence.  One of the amazing things about Buffalo’s resilience following the burning of Buffalo is the quickness with which people and businesses returned to the fledgling village.  On April 5th, the Gazette read:  “Buffalo village which once adorned the shores of Erie and was prostrated by the enemy, is now rising again; several buildings are already raised and made habitable; contracts for twenty or thirty more are made and many of them are in considerable forwardness.  A brick company has been organized by an association of most enterprising and public-spirited citizens, with sufficient capital for the purpose of rendering the price of brick so reasonable that the principal streets may be built up of that article”.  Mr. Grosvenor was a member of the brick company.  By May 24th, the Gazette reported the following completed structures:  “23 houses occupied by families, 3 taverns, 4 dry goods and grocery stores, 12 grocery and other shops, 3 offices, 39 or 40 huts (or shanties).”  Mr. Grosvenor had also returned to Buffalo from Clarence by April 24th advertising that he can be called upon “at the new house situate where the Printing Office of Salisburys’ stood, will find him opening an assortment of dry goods, groceries, hardware, cigars and tobacco.”  His shop was located at the northwest corner of Pearl and Seneca Streets, which is where the Pearl Street Brewery is now located.  Later that year, Mr. Grosvenor went into business with his youngest brother, Stephen.

It is said that Mr. Grosvenor remained a bachelor all his life due to a bad romance between himself and Mary Merrill of Buffalo.  Before the Battle of Buffalo, Mary was said to be engaged to Mr. Grosvenor.  Following the Battle, many Buffalonians sought shelter and safety at Harris Tavern in Clarence.  Miss Merrill was said to have been affected by the charm and heroics of Captain Harris.  Two months later, in February 1814, Mary Merrill became Mrs. Harris.  Their breakup is also said to be one of the reasons Mr. Grosvenor left Buffalo for New York City in 1815, after teaching his brother Stephen the ins and outs of business and leaving Stephen in charge of the business.  Stephen Keyes Grosvenor was an active member of the Whig Party, and later served as Justice of the Peace in Buffalo.   Despite Seth only spending two years here, he had established many close ties during those years, and he kept close to Buffalo even after he left.  Mr. Grosvenor lived at 39 White Street in Manhattan.  Following his death, his estate expanded the home and later built a new building, which still stands on White Street.

Seth Grosvenor Grave

Seth Grosvenor Grave

Mr. Grosvenor died in October 1857 and was originally interred in Manhattan at New York Marble Cemetery.  His remains were later removed and re-interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in 1862.  He is buried next to his sister Eliza.

Mr. Grosvenor is often referred to as the “City’s greatest benefactor”.  He donated money to build the Grosvenor Library in Buffalo (as well as money for the New York Historical Society and Library in NYC).  In 1857, while living in New York City,  he announced that he was leaving $40,000 to the City of Buffalo, to be paid two years after his death.  The first $10,000 was to be used to purchase a lot and build a building for a public library.  The remaining $30,000 was given, to be invested forever, and its income to be used for the purchase of books, to be kept open for the use of the public, and the books not to be lent out nor rented, only used for reading within the building.

Grosvenor Library Source: A History of the City of Buffalo: It's Men and Institutions

Grosvenor Library
Source: A History of the City of Buffalo: It’s Men and Institutions

The City accepted the bequest in 1865.  The library first used in space within the Buffalo Savings Bank Building at Broadway and Washington Street, and the library was opened to the public in 1870.   The City set aside $4,000 a year to operate the library.  Over time, a building fund was put together, and in 1891, the trustees erected the Grosvenor Library at the corner of Franklin and Edward Streets.  In 1897, the library was passed into the control of the City of Buffalo and by 1908, the library contained more than 75,000 books and 7,000 pamphlets for reference use.  The library operated for free use for citizens of Buffalo, temporary residents and strangers alike.  By 1920, the collection had grown to 162,000 volumes and the library was open from 9 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and 2pm to 6pm on Sundays.

The Grosvenor Library was open until 1956.  Of note are the Grosvenor Library’s collection of music as well as one of the largest genealogy collections in the country~  At the time, there were three different libraries in the Buffalo area – the Grosvenor Library, the Erie County Public Library – which was founded in the 1940s and provided bookmobile services to rural towns and villages, and the Buffalo Public Library – which developed out of the Young Men’s Association as early as 1836.  In 1953, the three institutions were combined by an act of the New York State legislature, creating the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  In 1963, the collections of the Buffalo Public and the Grosvenor Library were integrated on the shelves in the new Central library, which opened at Lafayette Square in October of 1964.  The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library inherited the collections, which form the core of the Grosvenor Room at the Downtown Buffalo Library.    The Grosvenor Library Building was demolished in 1974.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Rooney, Paul M. 150 years, 1836-1986 : Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  [Buffalo, N.Y. : Grosvenor Society, 1986].
  2.  “Grosvenor Street Reminds City of Donor of Library”  Courier Express Jan 11, 1942, sec. 5 p 5
  3. “Seth Grosvenor and Buffalo” Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 4.  June 1921
  4. A History of the City of Buffalo:  It’s Men and Institutions.  Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo. 1908.
  5. Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Vol III.  September, 1920.
  6. “History of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library”.  Buffalo and Erie County Library.  175th Anniversary of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.
  7. “The Grosvenor Family in Connecticut”.  Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Volume 1.

 

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holland placeHolland Place is a one block long street in the Masten Park neighborhood on the east side of Buffalo, running between Riley Street and Northhampton Street.  The street is named after Nelson Holland.

Nelson Holland was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts in 1829.  The Holland family was a pioneer American family, John Holland had settled in Massachusetts in 1633.  Seven years after Nelson was born, his father brought the family to Western New York and bought a farm in Springville, New York.   Nelson attended rural schools and the Springville Academy (now the Griffith Institute).

nelson hollandIn 1850, Nelson Holland moved to Buffalo to work for his uncle, Selim Sears, who at the time was operating a mill in Michigan.  Nelson later purchased a portion of a saw mill, which stood where the Michigan Central Railroad station is (look this up).  He then purchased 4,000 acres of pine lands in Michigan.  In 1855, Mr. Holland purchased a mill in St. Clair, Michigan.

In 1864, Mr. Holland purchased 4,000 acres in Buffalo and came to Buffalo to look after his purchase, leaving his St. Clair mill in the hands of his brother Luther.  Mr. Nelson purchased interests in many mills and lands, stretching into Canada.  He owned lands stretching from Buffalo to Texas.

Mr. Holland’s holdings held firm through the ups and downs of the lumber industry, and survived the panics of 1857, 1873 and 1893.  He had controlling stakes in as many as 4 different lumber companies at the same time.  Even after 40 years in the business, Mr. Holland was said to “retain much of his old-time vigor, ambition and force with which to carry forth plans of future operations”.

In 1877, the Buffalo firm of Holland, Graves and Montgomery was organized.  They handled more than 500,000,000 feet of pine lumber.  Mr. Holland was considered to be a master in the art of manipulating pine forests to get product into marketable form.  It was also said that he had probably cut and consumed more pine lumber than any other man.

Mr. Holland was also prominent in lake transportation interests and was proprietor of the Buffalo Standard Radiator Company, which made radiators.

Holland Family Plot

Holland Family Plot

He was a member of North Presbyterian Church and served as President of its Board of Trustees, and then later became a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Holland married Susan Ann Clark of Silver Creek in June 1857.  They had four children – Jessie Clark, Helen Lee, Grace and Nelson Clark.  Their son Nelson II took over the lumber business from his father. The family lived in a large brick home with sandstone trimmings on the northwest corner of Delaware and Bryant. Mr. Holland died in 1896 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Our County and its people:  A descriptive work on Erie County, New York.  Edited by: Truman C. White.  The Boston History Company, Publishers: 1898.
  2. Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York.  The Genealogical Publishing Company:  Buffalo:  1906.
  3. Larned, J.N.  A History of Buffalo:  Delineating the Evolution of the City.  The Progress of the Empire State Company:  New York.  1911.

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