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kimmelKimmel Avenue is a short street, running two blocks between Abbott Road and Cazenovia Creek in South Buffalo.  The street is named after Christian Kimmel, an inventor.

Christian Kimmel was born in Hennigen, Wurttemberg, Germany in 1842.  At age 20, he came to America with his brother, George, and they settled in Cleveland.  He began working with the Big Four railroad.  While he was in that job, he realized there was a large amount of waste in the oil refinement process.  The brothers would experiment to try to find a way to change the process and reclaim the sulfuric acid.  They worked in a barn with kettles and spoons.  After four years of experiments, they were successful in 1876 and patented their process.

With a patent in hand, they arrived in Buffalo to open a large reclaiming plant on Seneca Street near the Erie Railroad tracks.  By 1892, Standard Oil bought their patent and the brothers were able to retire.  Christian was 50 at the time.

After retirement, he became active in Republican politics in the Fifth Ward (what we’d consider South Buffalo today)  He served as a Committeeman and was considered to be a man of influence in his neighborhood.  His main concern was the floods that happened every spring when the Buffalo River overflowed its banks.  He was instrumental in the enlargement of sewers and outlets from the Buffalo River to the lake.  He also worked hard to get the Stevenson Street bridge built.

Mr. Kimmel married Christiana Kress of Cleveland.  The Kimmels had three daughters and three sons. They lived at 256 Babcock Street.  The rear section of the house was built by the Native Americans in the late 1700s.  Mr. Kimmel’s daughter moved into the house, and the rest of the Kimmels moved into a new home, built at 1869 Seneca Street.

kimmel graveMr. Kimmel owned much of the real estate on the street that now bears his name.  In addition to real estate and politics, he enjoyed working in his yard and garden and was proud of his horses, which he’d drive around town on their carriage.

Mr. Kimmel died in March 1903.  He is buried in Forest Lawn.

 

To learn about other streets:  check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Courier Express Jan 26, 1941, sec 5 p 4
  2. Kimmel Family genealogy.  Found online at:  http://www.kimmelfamily.net/1800.htm

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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.

ex-post

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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rileystRiley Street is a street in the Masten Neighborhood of the East Side of Buffalo, running from Main Street to Fillmore Avenue.  The street is named after Major General Bennet Riley.  Note 1:  sometimes his first name is spelled Bennett, but his gravestone says Bennet, so I’m using that spelling.  Note 2:  There was another famous General Riley in Western New York, General Aaron Riley, whose house still stands in East Aurora.  As far as I can tell, the two men are not related.  Riley street in East Aurora is named after Aaron Riley and Riley Street in Buffalo is named after Bennet Riley.

19547819_122948017206Bennet Riley was born in St. Mary’s, Maryland in 1787.  He served as an apprentice in a cobbler shop as a young man, later serving as a foreman in a shoe factory.

Riley volunteered for service in the War of 1812.  In January 1813, he was appointed Ensign of Rifles.  He saw action at Sackets Harbor, New York, in the second of two battles to control the shipyards on Lake Ontario.  He was promoted to first lieutenant in March 1817.  He later advanced to captain in the 5th US Infantry and in 1821, he was transferred to the 6th US infantry.  He was promoted to brevet major in 1828 and lead the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail in 1829.

Mr. Riley married Arabella Israel of Philadelphia in 1834.  They had eight children, including  twins William and Samuel who died in Fort King, Florida in 1841 and Bennet, Jr. who served in the Navy and died aboard the war-sloop USS Albany which disappeared with all hands in 1854. In Buffalo, the Riley Family lived in a frame house at Main and Barker Streets (1238 Main Street – where Delta Sonic is now located).  The house was later known as the Cobb Mansion, was home to St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in 1897 before they moved to Kenmore Avenue, and the site was then the location of Bishop Fallon High School.  It is said that Riley enjoyed purchasing second-hand furniture to furnish his house, and he purchased so much that while he was away, Mrs. Riley would send it downtown to be sold at auction.  One story survives that says that General Riley returned home and attended a sale, and ended up buying back many of his items, without an inkling that he was actually purchasing items that he had previously owned!

In 1837, Riley served as major of the Fourth Infantry and was stationed at Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River.  From Fort Gibson, he was ordered to Florida, where he was an active part of the Seminole War.  In 1842, at the close of the war in Florida, he was ordered to Buffalo, where he served at the Buffalo Barracks.

1840 Map showing the Buffalo Barracks. Source: National Parks Service, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

1840 Map showing the Buffalo Barracks.
Source: National Parks Service, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

The Buffalo Barracks was built near what was then the northern edge of the city in the fall of 1839.  The federal government leased the land from Ebenezer Walden to use eighteen acres of land, bounded by Main, Allen, Delaware and North Streets.  Buildings were erected and were occupied during winter 1839.  The Barracks was built in response to the Patriot’s War with Canada in 1837.  At the time, Buffalonians still remembered the Burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812, which had occurred just 25 years earlier during the winter of 1813-1814.

The facility was also known as the Pointsett Barracks, named after the Secretary of War, Joel Pointsett.  The buildings formed a rectangle around the parade grounds on the northern end of the barracks.  Buildings included company quarters (enlisted men’s housing), officer’s quarters, storehouses, a guardhouse and stables.  The first regiment to occupy the barracks was Col. James Bankhead’s 2nd Artillery.  And was later occupied by Lt. Col. Crane’s 4th Artillery, and then by Bennet Riley’s 2nd Infantry.  The military post became a center of social life in Buffalo, who enjoyed watching military parades and listening to the military band.  Many of the officers became an important part of Buffalo social society and ended up marrying Buffalo women.

In December 1839, Riley is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Infantry.  His officers quarters are located near where Allen Street and North Pearl Street now meet.  In mid-1840, the officer’s quarters were likely moved to the Barracks property.  In 1841, Lt. Colonel Riley is promoted to full Colonel, becoming the 4th and final Commandant of the Buffalo Barracks.   In Mid 1845, Col. Riley and his 2nd infantry are ordered to the Mexican Border.  The government abandoned the post at the Buffalo Barracks shortly after, breaking its lease with the land.  Relations with Canada improved by the mid-1840s and Fort Porter opened in 1845, rendering the barracks redundant.  The property was sold for $2,250 and the buildings were demolished, except for the quarters that house the Commandant and the Post Surgeon.  This building is now the front portion of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.  The quarters made up the portion of the house that includes the present-day library and exhibit room and the second floor above.  The house was originally one of a row of three identical houses, each designed as duplexes to house two officers and their families, one on each side.  The house was renovated into a single family house by Judge Masten and his family.

californiaIn summer of 1846, Riley was ordered away to Mexico to join the army of General Taylor.  After the war with Mexico, Riley served at Fort Hamilton, New York in 1848.  He then commanded the Military Department in Upper California in 1849 and 1850.  He served as the provisional Governor of California.  At the time, congress was debating on the issue of California statehood, which made his role complicated.  The California Territory was transitioning from Mexican to American lawn and the Gold Rush at the time was violent.  Riley commanded eight companies of infantry, two artillery and two dragoons between San Diego and San Francisco.  The military had a hard time preventing the slaughter of California’s native population and was unable to suppress the violence in the often lawless gold camps.

riley grave forest lawnAfter the administrative service concluded in California, Riley was next sent to a regiment on the Rio Grande.  His declining health prevent his further military service, so he retired. He returned to his home in Buffalo, where he was greeted with a grand ovation.  The Mayor and a committee of citizens received him, along with a military escort and a procession of civil societies and citizens.  Of his return, it was recalled in 1892, “flags and banners flying, everything conspired to give a festal appearance to the city”.   There was some talk that he should be nominated to be President (a member of the Whig party).  He claimed that he “never got the presidential bee in his bonnet” and that he ” was far too sensible for that”.  He died of cancer on June 9, 1853.  He had a full military funeral, escorted by the 65th Regiment and the Independent Guard, commanded by Major Bidwell.  He is buried at Forest Lawn.  Riley Street was laid out in 1859 and dedicated in commemoration of his death.

Major General Riley is one of only three generals for whom military posts were named.  In June 1852, Camp Center (Kansas Territory) was renamed Fort Riley in Bennet Riley’s honor.  Riley County, Kansas is also named in his honor.

 

Sources:

  1. “Souvenirs of Major General Bennet Riley.”Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume 25.
  2. https://www.nps.gov/thri/buffalobarracks.htm
  3. “Streets Have Historical Link”.  Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday December 7, 1952.  p 7.
  4. “An Old Buffalonians Recollections of Gen. Bennett Riley”.  Buffalo Evening News.  April 16, 1892.  p4.

 

 

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This week marks five years since I started Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  I started this blog in part because some of my friends were sick of me constantly telling them about the history of Buffalo.  I needed an outlet to share the stories, so the blog was born.  My little hobby has grown and I love the community we have built.

Here are some stats from the last five years:

  • The blog has covered 144 streets.
  • There are 5,627 people who follow the blog.
  • The blog has had 181,839 views.  That is an average of about 100 views a day!
  • I was able to purchase the buffalostreets.com domain.
  • Early in 2014, I started giving presentations of the streets research.  I have presented at Forest Lawn, to church groups, at Senior Centers (via Erie County University Express), on Winging It on WIVB-TV, on the Penny Wolfgang show on the radio, and to other various groups.

I appreciate all of you so much!  Thanks to everyone who sends me comments and emails, and everyone who shares their stories with me.  I hope you all know how much I appreciate hearing your ideas and memories of things just as much as I love giving you the facts.  One of the highlights of my life as a history blogger was when I was recognized as the streets girl by a former congressman!

I may not have time to reply to every single comment – but I do read and appreciate them all.  I notice when you share blog posts on facebook or twitter, and I appreciate that as well.  Sometimes, if I don’t reply, it’s because you piqued my interest and I’m trying to do some research for you before I reply.  Buffalo’s history is a rich fabric and it’s likely we’ll never completely know everything.  But I’m happy to be a part of it all and sharing what I can.  I wish I had time to post more often, but this is still just a hobby for me.  A wonderful, rewarding, satisfying hobby that I will keep up for a long time.

A question I often get is “will you write a book?”  This is on my long range plan.  It may be a long, long, long range plan, but hopefully eventually I will find a way to make it happen.  Until then, I’ll keep plugging away, and discovering Buffalo, one street at a time.

Lots of Buffalove,

Angela Keppel

PS.  Sneak Peak:  The story of Maj. General Riley and what was at the Teddy Roosevelt site before it was the Teddy Roosevelt site will be coming soon!

 

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scatcherdScatcherd Place is a short road off of Peabody Street.  The street has never been more than just a short road leading to a driveway. Historically, this road led into Scatcherd and Son lumberyard, which later became Atlantic Lumber Company and is now owned by Battaglia Demolition.  While the street might not be on many people’s radars, it is legal city-owned right-of-way, and was named after a prominent father-son team who may have been forgotten.

James Newton Scatcherd was born in Wyton, Ontario in 1824.  He grew up on his father’s farm in London, Ontario.  James’ father, John, was a prominent Canadian citizen and a member of the Canadian Parliament for many years.  James’ brothers Thomas and Robert both also served as members of the Canadian House of Commons.

Scatcherd and Son Lumber Yard, 1900.  (Scatcherd Place is the lot between 136 and 142 Peabody Street)

Scatcherd and Son Lumber Yard, 1900. (Scatcherd Place is the lot between 136 and 142 Peabody Street)

James Scatcherd was taught about lumbering from an early age, as it was an important industry in his neighborhood.  Mr. Scatcherd moved to Buffalo in 1852 as an agent of Famer, de Blaquiere & Deeds, lumber manufacturers, dealers and shippers.  James took over the lumber firm in 1857 and became one of the principal lumber dealers in the United States.  In 1879, James’ son, John Scatcherd, joined the firm and the firm was renamed Scatcherd & Son.  The firm’s specialty was expensive hard woods.

James Scatcherd made two important contributions to the welfare of Buffalonians:  First, when he became chairman of the Buffalo Water Commission, he found the water supply was controlled by favoritism and political influence.  Politicians and friends obtained water for a small fee, while other consumers were charged more.  He served for 4 years as chairman of the Water Commission and established equal rates for all consumers, and established efficient management of the water system.  Secondly, Mr. Scatcherd served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo General Hospital.  At the time, the institution was burdened with large amounts of debt, and was cutting services due to budget constraints.  Within ten years of James’ leadership, the hospital was completely out of debt.

Mr Scatcherd married Annie Belton of Fairfield, Canada.  Mr. Scatcherd was a founder and trustee of the Delaware Avenue M.E. Church (built by Selkirk, now known as Babeville).    James and Annie had one son, John, and a daughter, Mrs. Seward Cary.  James died in 1885 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

John Scatcherd

John Scatcherd

John Scatcherd was also a prominent member of Buffalo society.  He was a leader in the lumber industry and served as president of The National Wholesale Lumber Association and the Buffalo Lumber Exchange.  John had a part in business interests including the Batavia and New York Wood Working Company, the Bank of Buffalo, and the Ellicott Square Corporation, all of which he was President.  He was a director in the Buffalo Railway Company (which became the I.R.C), the Market Bank, the Third National Bank, and the Buffalo Loan, Trust and Safety Deposit Company.

Teddy Roosevelt (on left) in Buffalo in 1901

Teddy Roosevelt (on left) in Buffalo in 1901

From 1900-1901, Mr. Scatcherd spent most of his time working as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pan-American exposition.  When President McKinley was shot at the Exposition, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was summoned to Buffalo.  Due to President McKinley’s seemingly improving health, Mr. Roosevelt left Buffalo.  When the President died, the scramble to get Mr. Roosevelt to Buffalo for the Oath of Office left him without a suitable hat.  John Scatcherd loaned Theodore his hat and Mr. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 26th President. (You can learn more about Roosevelt’s inauguration by visiting the TR Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue)

John Scatcherd married Mary Eunice Wood in 1879.  They had two children, a daughter Madeline Steele Scatcherd and a son, James Newton Scatcherd.  John Scatcherd died in 1917 and is buried near his father in Forest Lawn.

Scatcherd Grave

Scatcherd Grave

Be sure to check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

Sources:

  1. Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York.  The Genealogical Publishing Company:  New York-Buffalo, 1906.
  2. “Scatcherd Street Honors Memory of Civic Leaders, Father and Son”.  Courier Express, April 9, 1939, sec. 5, p.10.

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Happy New Year Update

Hello to all my new blog readers!    The blog has gotten a lot of press in the last few weeks!  I’d like to welcome all the new subscribers.  And Happy New Year to all the subscribers who have been here since the beginning.  I love you all.

I was on WKBW Channel 7 news on Monday night, discussing the 200th anniversary of the Burning of Buffalo.   I can’t seem to find the story online, but let me know if you happened to see it.

If you want to hear about some of Buffalo’s streets in person, I will be speaking next month at Forest Lawn Cemetery.  I have been attending their Sunday afternoon lectures for several years now, and I am thrilled to be working them.  For more information, or to buy tickets, please visit the Forest Lawn website here:   http://www.forest-lawn.com/page/calendar/title/buried-in-forest-lawn-alive-on-our-city-streets/

I am working on a few neat posts coming up in the next few months.  I’m hoping to stick to my two posts a month schedule for the new year.

Do you have any neat Buffalo related New Year’s resolutions?  I’d love to hear them.

I hope everyone is staying warm and bundled up like buffaloes today!!

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Through my research, I have learned that street names often change over time.  Street name changes often come for a variety of reasons.   Some of Buffalo’s street names changed as early as 1825 after Joseph Ellicott left town. Other streets change as neighborhoods change.  For example, Lovejoy Street was named after a family of early Buffalo settlers during the War of 1812.   The neighborhood centered around Broadway and Fillmore was settled mostly by German and Polish immigrants.  When Central Terminal opened in 1929, it cut Lovejoy Street in two pieces.  The piece located in the polish neighborhood was named Paderewski Drive, after a Polish pianist and activist for Polish national freedom.

Over time, the neighborhood by the Central Terminal has changed again.  During the 40s and 50s, many of the German and Polish families moved away from the East Side of Buffalo towards suburbs, such as Cheektowaga.  Some of this move was financial – due to new Federal Programs making it easier for people to chase the “American Dream” of a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence.  Other reasons for leaving was the growing African-American presence in the city, which is referred to as “white flight”.   Perhaps now that the neighborhood has changed, we should think about changing the name of Paderewski Drive again?

clybourneRoad Less Traveled Productions will be putting on the play Clybourne Park from November 8th – December 1st.   Clybourne Park is a commentary  on the history of a house in an evolving neighborhood.   The play deals with segregation, white flight and cultural insecurities.

As part of promotion for the play, Road Less Traveled is encouraging Buffalonians to share their stories on neighborhoods they’ve lived in.   What was your neighborhood like?  Why did you move away?  Why did you stay?  You can visit the website and add your story to the map to help tell the story of Buffalo’s neighborhoods.  Click here to go to the website.  Many viewers of my blog have shared their wonderful stories with me; please share them on the website and let other people read about what life was like for you and your family in Buffalo.

The play is being performed at 710 Main Theatre (the old Studio Arena), from November 8th to December 1st.  You can buy tickets here.  Showtimes are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.   I encourage you to support Road Less Traveled’s tenth anniversary season and go see the play!   I also encourage you all to go to the Clybourne Park Buffalo website to share your stories, and talk with your friends and neighbors to share your stories.  Our stories are what make up our City.   While I focus mostly on this blog about telling the stories of people who may be long gone, those of us still here have stories to tell and our stories are important too!

We’ll be back to the regular streets posts with the next post!

 

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This week marks two years since I started my Buffalo Streets project.  It  started when I began researching how Keppel Street was named.  I started to uncover these stories, and I needed to share them with the world.  I am blown away by all of your love and support; I amazed that anyone reads what I write.  It makes me really proud of our city and our heritage that so many people are interested in learning more about it.   Our history is something to be proud of, and as we are redeveloping and revitalizing our City, I think it’s important to take note of where we have been.

I apologize that I don’t get to update more frequently.   I prefer to have well developed posts, rather than quick updates.  Life, work and exploring the city often gets in the way.   I hope to update more often this summer.  I’m making it my goal to write a post at least twice a month for the coming future.  I have lots of research on many streets that I have not published yet, so if you  ever have a question about a certain aspect of Buffalo history, feel free to email me (buffalostreets (at) gmail.com to ask.  

Also, I have been doing a few speaking gigs, presenting on Buffalo history and architecture.  Let me know if you’re interested in having me speak to your group.  

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog and shares it with their friends.  It’s been an adventure to really dig into our city’s history.  I have so much more to learn.  Thanks for coming around for the ride!

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I normally wouldn’t go into something this personal on the blog, but it ties into the City of Buffalo and the street I am going to discuss today.  I was recently attacked and robbed while waiting on the Subway platform at Allen Street.   I am alright, a little bruised and a little shook up, but otherwise alright.   This is my public service announcement to you all – Please be safe!!

Anyways, this event is your luck, because as I was soaking my sore muscles in some Epsom salts, I realized that I needed to write about Mineral Springs Road!

mineralsprings

Mineral Springs Road

Mineral Springs Road is located in the southeastern edge of the City of Buffalo, extending into West Seneca.  The street runs between Seneca Street in Buffalo to Union Road in West Seneca.  The Mineral Springs (also known as the Sulphur Springs) were located in a grove of trees near the corner of Mineral Springs and Harlem Road.  From my estimations of the old maps, it appears that they were located approximately where the I-90 crosses the Buffalo River, which is technically in the Town of West Seneca.

The springs were known to the Seneca as Dyos-hih, “the sulphur spring”.   On August 10, 1830, a notice was posted in local newspapers advertising that “a medicinal spring possessing the properties of the Spring at Avon has been discovered on the Indian Reservation about three miles from Buffalo Village near the junction of the Hydraulic Canal and Buffalo Creek”.  The waters in this area were reputed to have healing powers for the sick.

In 1848, a brochure was published by A.F. Lee to advertise the Springs.   Mineral springs were known as an ancient cure, going back to at least the time of the Greeks.  The waters didn’t have the medicinal properties when they were bottled, so people would drink them directly at the spring.  The sulphur springs contain sulphuretted hydrogen.

Construction of Aix La Chapelle

Construction of Aix La Chapelle

Other famous sulphur springs include Aix-La-Chapelle which was built during the time of Charlemagne, the Sulphur Springs of Virginia, the waters of Harrowgate in Yorkshire, England, and the Avon Springs in Avon, New York.  The springs at Buffalo was believed to be superior to all of the other springs.   A chemical analysis of the springs was done by Dr. Chilton of New York City in 1844.  The water was found to contain sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, lime carbonate, soda carbonate, magnesia sulphate, and lime sulphate.  The springs contained 12 times more sulphuretted hydrogen than most springs and double that of the spring at Avon.

Different springs were cured different diseases.  The spring at Buffalo was good for the following diseases: obstinate cutaneous diseases, rheumatic and gouty affections, cases of neuralgia, indolent ulcers, dyspepsia, early stages of tuberculosis and consumption, and was also “useful in some complaints peculiar to females”.

The spring was endorsed by several doctors in Buffalo.  The following doctors wrote letters of support of the medicinal properties of the spring:  J. Trowbridge, Bryant Buruell, A.S. Sprague, M. Bristol, Austin Flint, Frank Hamilton, Erastus Wallis, J. Barnes, Jno. S. Trowbridge, and Chas. W. Harvey.

The springs were owned by Messieurs Burr and Waters of Buffalo.  A three-story frame structure with a large porch was built as a bathing house.  The springs were a resort for Buffalonians for a short while, but the roads were well not well maintained and the springs were eventually abandoned.

Postcard Showing St. John's Hom

Postcard Showing St. John’s Home

The bathing house from the resort became the  home for boys as part of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Orphan Home in 1874.  The church and the original orphanage was located on Hickory Street.  The home for girls stayed on Hickory Street while the boys moved out to the Springs.  The boys home was destroyed by fire in 1876 and a new building was erected.   In 1898, a new building was added to the Sulphur Springs property to transfer the girls from their original home in the city and consolidate the home to one site.

The orphanage was run by the church.  The children usually remained at the Home until the age of sixteen, when they were placed out into the families of the congregation.  The grounds were 105 acres, included a hospital and schoolhouse with a gymnasium.  The students had tennis courts, a baseball diamond, a two-run toboggan slide, an orchard, and a picnic grove with shelters and grills.  In 1956, a swimming pool was added to the grounds.  To help raise money for the pool, donations were collected at neighborhood taverns.

Operating costs rose steadily for the Home following WWII as state regulations became more stringent.  The Home suffered a fire on November 14, 1959.  The increased budget due to regulations and the fire damage forced the Home to close its doors in 1960.

st johns dining hall

St. John’s Dining Hall at LCLC

Although the Home was closed, the Board was still allowed to donate money to those in need.  In 1965, $50,000 was given to Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Camp for the construction of St. John’s Hall.  The Gustavus Adolphus Home for Children in Jamestown was also given a $275,000 grant in 1967.

A portion of the property actually still provides for youth, as it is now the location of the Renaissance House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for adolescents.

In 1891, the Buffalo Parks Commissioners had considered using a grove of trees near Mineral Springs as a location for a park.   A report was made describing several places as potential for parks in South Buffalo.  The grove at Mineral Springs was described as “wet, except in the driest months of the year”, and the grove had been known informally as “Old Red Jacket Park” and was used as a picnic resort.    The park was rejected for this location and the Cazenovia Park site was chosen as the site to build the new park.  This grove of trees was referred to as “Old Red Jacket Park” until at least the 1920s.  This grove of trees still exists along the north side of Mineral Springs Road.

So the next time you use some bath salts, be sure to think of the mineral springs in Buffalo!  Be sure to read up on other streets in the street index.

Sources:

  1. “Street Names Link South Buffalo to Its Indian Past” Buffalo Evening News 9-14-1960
  2. “The Indian Reservation Sulphur Springs, Near Buffalo NY with an Account of its Analysis, Medicinal Properties, and the Diseases for Which it is Applicable”.  A.F. Lee, Printer:  1848.
  3. http://buffalo-orphanage-studies.com/StJohns.html
  4. Thirteenth Annual Report of the Buffalo Park Commissioners, Buffalo:  Press of the Courier Company,  January 19, 1883.
  5.  Verlag and Druck Van Reinecke & Zesch, History of Germans In Buffalo and Erie County: Buffalo, 1898.  Part I, pgs 282-286.
  6. Alexander, W.P. “What Spring Means to the Lover of Flowers”, Hobbies Magazine,  Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, May 1920.

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prattPratt Street is located between Genesee Street and William Street on the near East Side.  Pratt Street was the location of the Iroquois Brewery.   Iroquois was the longest operating brewery in Buffalo, starting as the Jacob Roos Brewery and operating from 1830 until 1970.  According to Courier Express – “there have been so many prominent members of the Pratt family, even their descendants aren’t sure which one Pratt Street is named after”.   I am going to go into the lives of six of the Pratts today…but there were many members of the Pratt family that contributed to early Buffalo and beyond!

Buffalo History Museum Pioneer Gallery

Buffalo History Museum Pioneer Gallery

The first Pratt to settle in Buffalo was Captain Samuel Pratt.  Samuel Pratt was born in East Hartford, Connecticut.  His family moved to Vermont while he was a child.  During the Revolutionary War, he joined the 3rd Company, 8th Regiment, Huntington’s brigade.    In 1801, Captain Pratt went to Montreal and led an expedition through the forests from Montreal to Buffalo.  He was convinced that Buffalo had an opportunity for future greatness, went home to New England to bring his family to settle in Buffalo.  Samuel, his wife and eight of their children arrived  via a carriage followed by two wagons.  It was the first carriage ever seen in what would become Erie County.  They arrived in Buffalo in 1804, when there were only a dozen houses here.   To get an idea of what Buffalo looked like when they arrived, you can visit the Pioneer Gallery at the Buffalo History Museum.  The first lodging for the Pratt family was at Crow’s Tavern, a replica of which is set up in the museum’s exhibit.  Samuel Pratt established a store and took a leading role in matters of public improvements   He did a large share of trading between the whites and Native Americans, trading furs for flour, salt and other food.    He first built a log cabin for his family on the Terrace.  His store prospered and he built the first frame dwelling in Buffalo.  He hired a cabinet-maker from Vermont to build furniture for his home out of the black walnut that grew in the forests of Western New York at the time.  The Pratt family had the first carpet in Buffalo, shipped in from Boston.  The house was located at the corner of Main and Exchange Streets.   In addition to his store, Samuel was one of the first to introduce public worship to Buffalo and was a pioneer in the education of Buffalonians.  Captain Pratt died on August 31, 1812 and was survived by nine of his ten children.

Hiram Pratt

Hiram Pratt

Hiram Pratt, the fifth of Captain Pratt’s eight children, was Mayor of Buffalo between 1835-1836 and 1839-1840.   Hiram was born in Vermont in 1800 and came to Buffalo with his family as a child.   Hiram was close with Dr. Cyrenius Chapin, an early citizen of Buffalo due to Dr. Chapin having lost a son at an early age.  During the burning of Buffalo by the British, Hiram aided his neighbors to help flee the fire.  He helped Dr. Chapin’s  daughters to safety at a farm in Hamburg.   He was involved in Dr. Chapin’s general store and a partner in a warehouse business with Asa Meech.    He later founded Bank of Buffalo, which built some of the earliest Great Lakes steamers and contributed to much of the development of Black Rock.

Statue of Columbus in Prospect Park

Statue of Columbus in Prospect Park

Hiram was elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1835, on the Whig party, which was the party of many of the 15,000 Buffalonians in the 1830s.    Hiram owned a large area of land on Porter Avenue, bounded by Seventh and Connecticut Streets and Prospect Avenues.    He gifted the land that to the City of Buffalo.  He built a mansion on the property, but never lived in it.  The land is now Prospect Park.   Hiram and his family lived in the house on the corner of Swan and Center Streets.   Hiram died in 1840 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

Captain Samuel Pratt’s oldest son was Samuel Pratt, Junior.  Samuel Junior was born in Hartford Connecticut and did not accompany his parents to Buffalo at first.  He arrived in Buffalo in August 1807 to help his father’s business.  He quickly found other interests in Buffalo and became Sheriff of Niagara County in 1810.    At the time, Niagara County included the land that would become Erie County.  During the War of 1812, Samuel Junior joined the army.  He bravely defended the Village when Buffalo was attacked in December 1813 by the British.   Samuel Junior died in 1822.  Samuel Junior had four children.

Samuel Fletcher

Samuel Fletcher

Samuel Junior’s oldest sun was Samuel Fletcher Pratt.  Samuel Fletcher was born in Vermont in 1807.  Soon after his birth, he came to Buffalo with his parents.  In 1822, he entered into the hardware business with George and Thaddeus Weed, forming George Weed & Company.  Mr. George Weed died in 1828 and the business became Weed & Pratt.  Samuel Fletcher continued the business for many years, eventually bringing in his brother Pascal, establishing the store as Pratt & Company.  In 1845, Samuel Fletcher and Pascal founded the firm of Pratt & Letchworth with William Letchworth, making saddles and hardware for horses.  In 1848, Samuel Fletcher helped to organize the Buffalo Gas Light Company and served as President until his death.   He was often asked to run for Mayor, but Samuel Fletcher always declined.  In 1851, he was one of the founders of the Buffalo Female Academy.  He was a member of First Presbyterian Church.  Samuel Fletcher died on April 27, 1872.

fitchdrawingSamuel Junior’s second son was Lucius Pratt.  Lucius was born in Buffalo in 1809.  Lucius was a Great Lakes shipping merchant and owned a warehouse on the River at the Pratt Slip.  He was married to Cynthia Weed, who died in 1843.  He then married Susan Beals in 1844.  Lucius and Susan had six children between 1845 and 1854.  Lucius and his family lived at 159 Swan Street.  The house was built around 1835 of land that was originally deeded to Captain Samuel Pratt, Lucius’ grandfather.  At the time, Swan Street was one of the social centers of Buffalo.  The house was purchased by Benjamin Fitch in the 1870s after Lucius’ death.   Fitch then donated the house, following urging from Maria Love, to the Charity Organization Society of Buffalo.  The Fitch Creche was located in the house, opening on New Year’s Day 1880.  The Fitch Creche was dedicated to providing nursery care and education for children of working mothers.  It was the first  kindergarten in the Country!  The program developed at the Fitch Creche was emulated in other cities across the country.  Unfortunately, the building was demolished in 1998.

Pascal Pratt

Pascal Pratt

Samuel Pratt’s youngest son was Pascal Pratt.   Pascal was born in Buffalo in 1819.   He was educated in local schools and went to Hamilton Academy (now Colgate University) and Amherst College.  He learned the business trade at his brother Samuel Fletcher’s store.  He was made a partner in Pratt and Co and eventually in the firm of Pratt and Letchworth.   Pascal founded the Buffalo Iron and Nail Company, the Fletcher Furnace Company and the Tonawanda Furnace Company all in 1857.   Pascal was considered to be progressive and publicly boasted about Buffalo being a good place for manufacture and brought many residents to Buffalo in order to work at his companies.  He encouraged his friends to invest in the young city and was a strong force for the industrial development of the city.

In 1856, Pascal founded Manufacturers and Traders Bank (M&T).  He also was a director of three other banks – Bank of Attica, Bank of Buffalo and Third National Bank.  Pascal was the largest contributor to Buffalo’s original YMCA building and the first president of the Y’s Board of Trustees.  He was vice-president of the Civil Service Commission and of the Buffalo Street Railroad Company   He was involved in other cultural and philanthropic organizations including Buffalo Seminary, State Normal School (Now Buffalo State College), North Presbyterian Church and Buffalo Orphan Asylum.   Pascal  has been called father of the Buffalo Parks System.   He was chosen as a member of the Park Commission of Buffalo in 1869 and served the commission for a decade.   He was one of three commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court  to assess the value of the Niagara Falls property that is now the State Reservation (state park).  He was a charter member of the Buffalo Club and active in the Ellicott Club and Country Club.

prattfamilyplotMany members of the Pratt family are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Stop by and visit them sometime to say thanks to this pioneer family that shape Buffalo’s early history.

[Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index]

Sources:

  1. “Named for Three Pratts”  Courier Express June 11, 1939, sec 6 p2
  2. “Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York”, Volume 1.  The Genealogical Publishing Company, Buffalo, 1906.
  3. Rizzo, Michael Through the Mayor’s Eyes.  Old House History:  Buffalo NY, 2005.
  4. Conlin, John.  “A last look…159 Swan”.  WNY Heritage Magazine.  Fall 1998.

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