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Archive for the ‘West Side’ Category

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Map of Pooley Place and Cordage Alley

Today we’re going to talk about two streets in the Grant-Forest Neighborhood of the West Side – Cordage Alley and Pooley Place. Pooley Place runs between Grant Street and Dewitt Street. Cordage Alley, also known as Cordage Lane or Cordage Place, is a small little alley that runs for one block between Pooley Place and Bird Avenue. It used to be the “center of one of Buffalo’s greatest industries”, the Pooley & Butterfield rope factory. Historically, this area was a part of Black Rock and was known as Upper Black Rock, with Lower Black Rock on the other side of Scajaquada Creek.  It was called “upper” because it was upriver of the Lower Black Rock as the Niagara River flows south to north.

George Pooley was a well-known resident of Black Rock. He was born in 1816 in Suffolk, England to Edward Pooley and Maria Smith Pooley. The family came to America around 1824 and settled in Wayne County, New York. In 1843, he married Mary Ann Clinton, who was born in Black Rock in 1821. They lived in Palmyra, NY and had two children – Maria Smith and Mary Clinton – and then moved to Buffalo in the late 1840s and had two more children – George Clinton, and a daughter who died before being named. Mary Ann Pooley died in May 1853 and was buried in Palmyra with her baby daughter.

162 BirdMr. Pooley got remarried a year later, in 1854, to Cornelia Pooley. George and Cornelia had four children – Mary Hubbard, Cornelia, Katie, Edward, and Harriet  Of Mr. Pooley’s nine children, only three lived to adulthood – Maria Smith Pooley, Harriet Pooley and George Clinton Pooley (we’ll call him George Jr). The Bird family lived at 162 Bird Avenue.

After coming to Buffalo, he created a rope-walk business as Pooley & Butterfield. His partner Martin Butterfield was a resident of Palmyra, New York. The rope-walk was an old fashioned industry. The workers were called rope-walkers.  Ship’s rope is made of a number of strands, typically three. The strands in turn are made of several threads, which makes a hawser. Three hawsers are twined together to form a cable. Ship’s rope was made from hemp, typically Manilla hemp from the Philippine Islands. Loose hemp fibers were brought into a shed where a man attacked them with a hacker, a gigantic curry-comb with teeth about the size of a ten-penny spike.  Oiling a handful of the hemp, the hemp was run through the comb again and again until all the strands face the same way, binding it into other strands.  Then the strands went to the rope-walker.  The rope-walker would walk through a long, open shed.  The shed was 16 feet wide and 1000 feet long, almost the length of Pooley Place.  The shed didn’t have sides, just a roof.  The rope-walker, who wore a long leather apron, would take a number of strands from the comb-man, wrap them tightly around his waist under his apron and hitch the end to a wheel at one end of the shed.  An assistant would turn the wheel, which was fitted with hooks to twist the loose stands together.  The rope walker, walking rapidly backwards, fed the room from under his apron until he reached the shed, clipped off the remaining strand and began again, walking back and forth..  To keep things uniform in strength and thickness, the rope-walker would have to go the same pace as the wheel-man.  The rope-walkers would make the strands into hawsers and the hawsers into cables.  Dozens of them would work at a time at the rope-walk.  At it’s height, the business employed 40 men who worked to put out about 3 tons of rope a day.

Rope Walk 1872 Atlas

1872 Atlas of Buffalo showing the rope walk on Pooley Place. Note the property of Geo, Pooley along Cordage Alley south of Pooley Place (near the number 153 on the map). Mr. Pooley’s house is shown along Bird Avenue on his property.

pooley 1858

Ad for Pooley & Butterfield from the 1858 Buffalo City Directory

Shipbuilders from all over the Great Lakes and even some that sailed on the ocean came to Cordage Place to buy their cordage.  This included ropes to hoist the sails of their schooners, ropes to hold anchors (before the days of chain cable) and ropes for all of the other thousands of uses for ropes on a sailing ship.  The ropes for all of the Great Lakes were supplied on Cordage Place, it was before Detroit, Chicago or Cleveland grew, so Buffalo provided the majority of supplies and materials for lake shipping.  The thousands of ships on the Lake would get their cordage in Buffalo.  This was not the only rope-walk in Buffalo, there were many, including one not far from Pooley, owned by Mr. Francis Wardell on Thirteenth Street between Massachusetts and Hampshire Aves.  Mr. Pooley’s rope walk was one of the largest.

Rope Walks were very much a part of life in the middle of the 19th Century.  Well-known American Poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem about it.  Longfellow is best known for poems such as Paul Revere’s Ride and the Song of Hiawatha.  His poem titled The Rope Walk, which was published in the Buffalo Morning Express on November 2, 1855:

In that building long and low,
With its windows all a row,
Like the port-holes of a hulk,
Human spiders spin and spin,
Backward down their threads so thin,
Dropping, each, a hempen bulk.

At the end an open door;
Squares of sunshine on the floor
light the long and dusky lane;
And the whirling of a wheel,
Dull and drowsy, makes me feel
all its spokes are in my brain.

And the spinners to the end
Downward go and re-ascend,
Gleam the long threads in the sun;
While within this brain of mine
Cobwebs brighter and more fine
By the busy wheel are spun.

Two fair maidens in a swing,
Like white doves upon the wing,
First before my vision pass;
Laughing, as their gentle hands
Closely clasp the twisted strands,
At their shadow on the grass.

Then a booth of mountebanks,
With its smell of tan and planks,
And a girl poised high in air
On a cord, in  a spangled dress,
With a faded loveliness
And a weary look of care.

Then a homestead among farms,
And a woman with bare arms,
Drawing water from a well;
As the bucket mounts space,
With it mounts her own fair face,
As at some magician’s spell.

Then an old man in a tower
Ringing loud the noontide hour,
While the rope coils round and round
Like a serpent, at its feet,
And again in swift retreat
Almost lifts him from the ground.

Then within a prison-yard,
Faces fixed, and stern, and hard,
Laughter and indecent mirth;
Ah! It is the gallows-tree!
Breath of Christian charity,
Blow, and sweep it from the earth!

Then a schoolboy, with his kid,
Gleaming in a sky of light;
And an eager, upward look;
Steeds pursued through lane and field;
Fowlers with their snares concealed,
And an angler by a book.

Ships rejoicing in the breeze,
Wrecks that float o’er unknown seas,
Anchors dragged through faithless sand;
Sea-fog drifting overhead,
And with lessening line and lead
Sailors feeling for the land.

All these senses do I behold,
These and many left untold,
In that building long and low;
While the wheels go round and round
With a drowsy, dreamy sound,
And the spinners backward go.

Pooley Place was opened in honor of George Pooley after several citizens, including G. Dewitt Clinton, petitioned to put a street there in 1866.  Pooley and Butterfield became George Pooley & Son after George Clinton Pooley entered the business.

Eventually, ships started to use wire cables, making the rope unnecessary and the rope-walkers fell to the wayside.  The name of Cordage Alley is one of the few reminders of the major shipbuilding that happened here in Buffalo.

George Pooley & Son Rope-Walk closed in 1888 and was absorbed by a larger trust – The National Cordage Company.  The National Cordage Company was a trust and owned nearly all of the cordage buyers and distributers in the country at the time.  Due to the trust, Pooley & Son wasn’t able to purchase hemp and therefore could not operate their role-walk.  They were offered stock in the company in return for keeping their works idle.  Mr. Pooley fought to keep his works in operation, as many of his employees had been with the firm for 10 to 20 years.  But he was unsuccessful.  The American Cordage Company absorbed the National Cordage Company in 1892.  American Cordage sold off the machinery, which hadn’t been used in several years, and ended up selling the land back to the Pooley family.  The Pooleys sold their stock when it was high.  They ended up making money in the deal and also still owned their land.

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1894 Atlas of Buffalo showing how most of the ropewalk property was now developed with houses.

Mr. Pooley had built tenant cottages along Forest Avenue and three large houses on West Avenue to house their workers.  Around 1891, they began building houses on Pooley Place. Mr. Pooley was well known in Black Rock.  He was a member of Grace Church and served as Chairman of the Black Rock Business Men.

The building at 92 Pooley Place, formerly George Pooley & Sons rope-walk, was converted into a laundry used by the Buffalo Steam Laundry.  The building caught fire on February  10, 1895 around 7:30pm from an overheated drying-room.  Fireman battled the blaze for two hours, but the building was a complete loss.

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Mr. Pooley’s grave in Forest Lawn

George Pooley died on February 8, 1898. He had been suffering from cancer for several years and had surgery to remove his arm at the shoulder in January.  He had recovered well from the surgery and was hoping to return to a regular life shortly after, when he became ill and died from kidney disease.  Mr. Pooley is buried in a family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  When he died, he was almost 83 years old and was the oldest voter in the 24th ward.  It took two years to settle the estate through Surrogate Court.  Daughter Maria had to petition for her fair share of the estate.  The will was contested as it was believed to have been procured through coercion from son George Jr and George Jr’s wife Margaret.  Maria also alleged that her father was not of sound mind when the will was executed.  Interestingly, Maria’s name was also left out of some of the obituaries published in the newspapers, but her name was included in others.  During the trial, it came out that part of the will had been written by Henry Perrine, one of the executors of the estate, and not by Mr. Pooley himself.  The will did not make provisions for the division of the real estate, other than leaving the family home to his widow Cornelia.  The estate involved about $140,000 (about $4.6 Million in today’s dollars) in personal property and real estate.  The real estate was worth about $78,000 ($2.6 Million today) and was all rented out, and brought in about $3,000 to $4,000 ($98,000 – $131,000 today) in income each year.  The Pooley Home at 162 Bird, which was left to Mr. Pooley’s widow, Cornelia, was valued at $1,000 ($32,000 today).  The personal property estate was divided as follows – to Cornelia, widow, $30,000 set in a trust; to George C Pooley, son, $20,000; to Margaret Pooley, his wife, $10,000; to Maria Vosburg, daughter, $10,000; to Harriet E Manning, daughter, $20,000 to George Manning, grandson, $15,000.  The remainder was divided among grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  Maria was looking for the court to allow the sale of the real estate to pay off legacies.  The court held that it would be foolish to dispose of the remainder of the real estate at the time and divided the real estate between the three children – George, Maria and Harriet.  Deeds to the real estate were transferred to the respective heirs in July 1900.

By 1900, most remnants of the rope-walk were gone, and the property was fully developed with houses. In addition to George’s own house on Bird Avenue, several other houses built by George Pooley are still standing on Forest, Pooley Place and Bird.  The Grant Ferry Neighborhood Intensive Level Historic Resource Survey completed for the City of Buffalo lists the following houses as built by George Pooley – 162 Bird Ave, 172 Bird Ave, 201 Forest, 203 Forest, and 90 Pooley.  There may additional properties as well.

The next time you pass Pooley Place or Cordage Alley, think about all the rope that once was made in Buffalo!  Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  • “Made Money in Cordage”.  Buffalo Weekly Express. May 11, 1983, p5.
  • “Overheated Drying Room”.  Buffalo Morning Express. February 10, 1895, p14.
  • “The Rope-Walk”.  Buffalo Morning Express.  November 2, 1855, p 4.
  • Holloway, Hubert.  “Notes and Quotes”.  Buffalo News.  February 13, 1958, p25.
  • “All Around Town.”  Buffalo Courier.  March 10, 1982, p5.
  • “A Hemp Trust”.  Buffalo Sunday Truth.  February 26, 1888, p 8.
  • “City and Suburbs:  Black Rock”.  Buffalo Times.  February 4, 1887, p4.
  • “Death of George Pooley”.  Buffalo News.  February 9, 1898, p1.
  • “Coercion Alleged”.  Buffalo Times.  February 17, 1899, p5.
  • “Pooley Estate Settled”.  Buffalo Morning Express.  April 27, 1900, p6.
  • “Pooley Will Under Dispute”.  Buffalo Enquirer.  October 20, 1899, p1.
  • “Pooley Will Case Settled.”  Buffalo Times.  March 12, 1900, p4.
  • “George Pooley Will Decision”.  Buffalo News.  March 12, 1900, p9.
  • “Deeds Filed.”  Buffalo Review.  July 25, 1900, p6.
  • “Ghosts of Old-Time Rope-Walkers Inhabit Cordage Place, Erstwhile Center of Vessel-hawser Industry”.  Buffalo Courier.  November 8, 1925, p63.

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Note from Angela:  After more than a decade of my street project, I’ve become a much better researcher.  So, I’ve felt like I should go back and reexamine some of my early posts!  I have been able to find some more in-depth sources and I’ve gotten much better at using microfilm at the library!  So, I have decided to rewrite my very first blog post.  I never felt we fully gave Mr. Fargo his due.  This story has everything – pony express, mansions, estate lawsuits, custody battles, divorce, estate lawsuits, an abandoned mansion, and did I mention estate lawsuits!?  Enjoy!  

fargo AVEFargo Avenue runs between Hudson Street and Niagara Street in the Lower West Side neighborhood of Buffalo.  The street was originally named 10th Street when it was laid out as part of the original Village of Black Rock.  The street was named in May 1869 for William Fargo, founder of American Express and Wells Fargo & Co.  I have not been able to figure out officially why they left the last three blocks of Tenth Street still remaining with the number.  In June of 1869, the residents of Tenth Street between Hudson and Carolina Streets petitioned to change the name of their part of the street to Fargo Avenue as well.  The residents then rescinded their petition and submitted a new petition to change the name to Forest Avenue.  However, the street remains Tenth Street.  The streets don’t quite align at Hudson Street, so perhaps the City felt it was better to keep them as separate streets, and then perhaps the residents couldn’t quite agree on what their street should be named!

William Fargo 1860 photo by matthew brady

William Fargo, around 1860.

William George Fargo was born in Pompey, Onondaga County, New York in 1818.  The Fargo family had been in America since 1670 when William’s Great-Great-Great Grandpa Moses Fargo came from Wales.  Mr. Fargo’s father fought in the War of 1812 in Western New York, particularly at the Battle of Queenstown Heights.  William Fargo was one of ten children and attended rural schools, where he learned the three r’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic –  during the winter months.  At the age of 13, he dropped out of school to begin working as a mail carrier, carrying mail from Pompey by way of Waterville, Manlius, Oran, Delphi, Fabius, and Apulia (about a 40-mile route).  While he was delivering mail, families along the route would ask him to make purchases in other towns.  He’d charge the people a small fee for the service.  This sparked the idea of what became his nationwide express delivery service.  Express delivery is a service in which letters or packages are delivered by a special service to ensure speed or security.

Mr. Fargo worked in the grocery business in Syracuse, but he realized that transportation interested him more.  In 1839, he connected with the Auburn & Syracuse Railroad and the Pomeroy Express Company in Albany.  In 1843, he became the Pomeroy Company’s Buffalo agent for their stagecoach service (at the time still the only public transportation between Batavia and Buffalo).  In 1844, he formed a partnership with Henry Wells and Daniel Dunning to organize the first express company west of Buffalo.  An express company is a business that provides delivery of parcels.  The company connected the Pomeroy firm to extend to Cleveland and Detroit.  In the summer, they transported via Lake Erie, but after lake navigation season ended, they’d use stage coaches and sleighs.   They extended to include Chicago and Milwaukee.  Mr. Dunning withdrew his interest in the company and Mr. Wells sold his interest in the company to William Livingston in 1846 and the company name was changed to Livingston & Fargo.

amex-our-history-02

American Express office and cart, 1878. Source: American Express.

In 1850, the American Express Company was established, with Henry Wells as President and William Fargo as secretary.  American Express was the merger of companies – Wells & Company; Livingston, Fargo & Co; and Wells, Butterfield & Company.  In 1856, American Express started to expand into financial services by offering a money order business, to compete with the US Postal Service money orders.  In 1868, American Express Company merged with the Merchants’ Union Company.  At that time, Mr. Fargo was president of the nationwide firm.  By 1881, American Express has 3,000 offices.

1200px-Phoenix-Wells_Fargo_Museum-1860_Wells_fargo_Stagecoach

Wells Fargo Wagon (listed as both 1860 and 1879).  Source:  Wikipedia.

Shortly after the organization of American Express, some of the directors didn’t want to expand to California, though Mr. Wells and Mr. Fargo wanted to expand.  So in 1852, Wells, Fargo & Company was organized to transport parcels and mail to San Francisco, using steamships from New York to the Isthmus of Panama and from Panama to the California Port.  They continued this route until the Union and Central Pacific Railroad was complete.  Wells Fargo’s pony express was the only link between many frontier towns.  They established banks in the West to fill the needs of gold miners.  Wells Fargo grew during the 1850s and 1860s, building on a reputation of trust between the business and their customers.  Wells Fargo was a part of a transportation revolution as travel began to be more accessible and the United States grew westward.  The company always sent their business via the fasted way possible depending on the region – stagecoach, steamship, railroad, pony ride, or telegraph.

1280px-Black_Canyon_City-Wells_Fargo_Stage_Stop-1872

Wells Fargo Stage Stop in Black Canyon City, Arizona, built in 1872.  Source:  Wikipedia.

By 1866, Wells Fargo stagecoaches covered 3,000 miles of territory across California, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, and Idaho.  In 1888, Wells Fargo became the country’s first nationwide express company, serving communities from the urban centers of the eastern seaboard, through the rail hub of Chicago, farming regions of the Midwest, ranching and mining centers in Texas and Arizona, and lumber mill towns in the Pacific Northwest.  The Wells Fargo wagon was a piece of Americana so familiar that when Meredith Willson wrote The Music Man in the 1960s about his childhood in Iowa in the 1910s, he included a song about the Wells Fargo Wagon coming to town.  In 1905, Wells Fargo separated the banking and express operations.

Both Wells Fargo and American Express ended their express service in 1917 when the US Treasury began to consolidate railway lines as part of the war effort.  All contracts between express companies and the railroad were null and express shipping was consolidated into the US Railway Express Agency (REA), which continued service until 1975.

Wells Fargo and American Express helped to revolutionize shipping across the country.  The companies were an important part of establishing regular mail service across the country and they helped to reduce postal rates.  They charged less than the government and offered better service, so US Postal Service had to keep up.

Mr. Fargo played a prominent role in the development of American railroads.  He served as Vice President of the New York Central and was a Director of both the Northern Pacific and the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia lines.  He was also connected with the Buffalo Coal Company and the McKean & Buffalo Railroad Company.  He was a stockholder in several large manufacturing interests in Buffalo.  He was the majority stockholder and President of the Buffalo Courier Company.  He was a member of the first board of Buffalo State Hospital when it opened in 1880.

Mayor Fargo First House - Buffalo Times

47 Niagara Street, the Fargos first home in Buffalo. Source: The Buffalo Times

William G. Fargo married Anna Hurd Williams in January 1840.  The Fargos came to Buffalo in 1843.  They originally lived in a house they built at at 47 Niagara Street. The house was at the corner of Franklin Street. When the Fargo family moved out, the building was converted to business purposes and had several uses over the years.  Supposedly in 1948, when the building was being remodeled, the construction workers found old Wells Fargo boxes in the house.  The building’s last use was as Crotty’s Peace Pipe, a restaurant and lounge, which was in the building from 1949 to 1971.  Crotty’s closed on Kentucky Derby Day.  The building was torn down as part of Phase II of the Main Place downtown urban renewal project in the 1960s and the building’s site is now a part of the site of Erie County Family Court and the Fernbach Parking Ramp.

1862fargos mayor portrait

Mayor Fargo’s Portrait. Source: City Hall Portrait Collection.

Mr. Fargo served as Mayor of Buffalo from 1861 to 1865, during the Civil War.  He was known as being a friend to soldiers during his time as mayor.  He paid to ship care packages to the Buffalo troops and provided the local regiment with regimental flags.  In 1864, he helped Union forces prevent a Confederate plot to invade Buffalo and other Lake Erie cities.  During William Fargo’s time as Mayor, Mrs. Fargo was President of the Christian Commission, an organization that prepared bandages and necessities for soldiers of the war.  Mayor Fargo was nominated for a third term as Mayor in 1865, but lost to Chandler Wells by just 200 votes, in a a 51% to 49% vote.  This Chandler Wells often gets mistaken as the Wells in Wells Fargo.  Mr. Fargo’s business partner was Henry Wells, and I found little evidence that Henry Wells lived in Buffalo for any substantial amount of time.  I tracked both Chandler Wells and Henry Wells’ families back to the 1600s and found no relation between the two families.  We’ll learn more about Chandler Wells when we discuss Wells Street.

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Fargo Property in Center of Photo. Source: 1872 Atlas of Buffalo.

In 1867, the Fargos purchased a property bounded by Fargo, West, Pennsylvania, and Jersey.  In April 1870, the family moved into the Fargo Mansion.  The house was completed in August 1872.  Artists and artisans from Europe were brought to design, construct and decorate the structure. The Fargo Mansion was very elaborate and was 22,170 square feet in size.  It cost $500,000 (about $12.1 Million today) to build with a total of $621,000 (about $15.1 Million today) including the house, barns, greenhouses, and grounds.  The stable, built at the corner of West Avenue and Pennsylvania Streets cost $50,000 (about $1.2 Million today) alone.

fargo mansion

Fargo Mansion. Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo

The house was three stories, with a five-story central tower, and was designed by JD Towle, a Boston Architect.  Mr. Towle also designed the houses of George Howard, Bronson Rumsey, and Myron Bush.  The main entrance was on Fargo Avenue, with the library entrance on Jersey Street.  There was a beautiful hall on each floor.  Many kinds of woods were used throughout the house – black and French walnut, ebony, birdseye maple, cherry, tulip, tamarack, ash, satinwood, rosewood, elm, oak, butternut, California woods, and many more.  Wood from every state in the Union (37 at the time) was included in the building.  The grand stairway was made of walnut and was considered to be one of the finest in any private residence in the country.  The staircase was rarely used, because the Fargo home had the first elevator ever installed in a home in Buffalo!  The rooms on the first floor had 15-foot ceilings, the second floor had 14.5-foot ceilings and the third floor had 14-foot ceilings.  The bedroom chambers each contained its own bathroom and were decorated in their own color – red, green, pink, blue, and amber.

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Statue of Charlotte Corday by Pasquale Miglioretti, similar to the one found in the Fargo Mansion. Source: Flickr

The house had a billiard room on the third floor.  The drawing room had a crystal chandelier which had 3,684 pieces and weight 1,150 pounds.  The house was rumored to have gold doorknobs.  The house was decorated with fine art throughout the house, including a marble statue of Charlotte Corday in her prison chair which had been displayed at the Paris Exposition of 1867.  There were at least three of these statues made.  The library was home to a large onyx clock which was imported from Paris.  While living in a lavish mansion, Mr. Fargo was said to have always remembered his humble roots.  For this reason, the family kept a photograph of the small cottage where Mr. and Mrs. Fargo lived when they first married prominently on display in the library.

fargo entrancehall

Hall at Fargo Mansion. Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo

The spacious lawns and gardens of the grounds of the Fargo Mansion were designed by William Webster.  He was a landscape architect in Buffalo.  Before Frederick Law Olmsted came to town, Mr. Webster was responsible for the design of many of Buffalo’s parks, as well as work in the Village of Depew.  The property had 249 feet on both Jersey and Pennsylvania Streets and 627 Feet on Fargo and West Avenues.  In addition to the 5.5 acres, Mr. Fargo bought the blocks across the street on Fargo and West Avenues and kept them vacant during his lifetime.  The property contained a conservatory filled with rare tropical plants.

The Fargo’s property was managed by Mr. Isaac Clark, who took care of the house for 25 years.  The family reportedly had a staff of 14 people year-round to run the the mansion.  Some of the staff were with the family for many years, and several of them were included in the wills of the family members.

  • In 1855, the family had three servants living with them – Harriet Langdon, 22, from Ireland; Catherine Liston, 21, from Ireland; and Patrick Langdon, 25, from Ireland.
  • In 1860, the family had three servants living with them – Mary Murphy, 27, from Ireland; Hannah Holman, 22, from Germany; and George Stanford, 27, from England.
  • In 1870, the family had four domestic servants living with them – Mary Murphy, 40, from Ireland; Bridget Murphy, 28, from Ireland; Phillip Pasmore, 30, from England; and John Williams, 27, a Black man from Virginia.
  • In 1875, the family had eight staff living with them – Cooper Williams, a 33 year old Black Man, Butler, from South Carolina; Mary Murphy, 45, Cook, from Ireland; Agnes Bugard, 30, Parlor Maid, from Canada; Maria Minnihan, 30, Chamber Maid, from Ireland; Bridget Nicholson, 17, Nurse Aid, from Ireland; Abby Washington, 50, Nurse, from England; and Maria McCall, 28, Governess, from Canada.
  • In 1880, the family had 11 servants living with them – Mary McCall, 33, from Scotland; Mary A Glenny, 41, from France; Marie Pedeberdot, 35, from France; Kate Connell, 24, from Pennsylvania; Bridget Nicholson, 22, from Ireland; Mary O’Hara, 40, from Ireland; Ambrose McAlbin, 27, a Black man from Mississippi; James Buckley, 26, from Ireland; John Jamison, 43, the coachman, from Ireland; and John’s wife and daughter Anna Jamison, 43 and Jamie Jamison, 21.

When the Fargos moved uptown, many prominent families began to move to the Lower West Side as well, as Downtown started to change from a residential neighborhood to a central business district.  Lots were advertised around the Lower West Side neighborhood as being “near the Fargo Mansion” to up their desirability as soon as the Fargo Mansion was built.  The Sidway homestead was another large estate in the area (on the block bounded by Pennsylvania, Eleventh-now West, Hudson, and Twelfth-now Plymouth Streets), just southeast from the Fargos.

The Fargos helped to found St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1846, which was originally located at Washington and Swan Streets.  They later helped to establish Christ Church on Delaware Avenue in 1869.  When Christ Church merged with Trinity, they became members of Trinity Episcopal Church.  They were considered to be very generous people.  Mr. Fargo was on the first board of the Buffalo State Hospital.  After the Chicago Fire, Mr. Fargo donated $10,000 ($242,763 in today’s dollars) to those who had lost their homes.  During the Civil War, Mr. Fargo continued to pay the salaries for all of his employees who joined the Union Army.

william fargo grave

William Fargo Grave. Photo by Author.

Mr. Fargo died in August 1881 after being ill with Bright’s disease of the kidneys and an enlarged liver.  He is buried in the family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  When he died, American Express had 2,700 offices and employed more than 5,000 men. It isn’t often that you see last words printed in the Buffalo News, but Mr. Fargo’s obituary indicates that his last words were “Oh, dear me”, uttered as he was helped to bed about two hours before he died.  At the time of his death, Mr. Fargo’s wealth was estimated to be $20,000,000 (about $581 Million today).

So what happened to Mr. Fargo’s wealth?  William and Anna had eight children.  Five of the children died in childhood- Alma Cornelia died at ten months old in 1842, Sarah Irene Fargo died in 1854 at age 11, Hannah Sophia in 1851 at age 4, Mary Louise at six months old in 1852, and Edwin Morgan in 1865 at age 4.  Three children lived to adulthood – Georgianna, born in 1841; Helen Lacy, born in 1857; and William George Jr, born in 1845.

fargo babies

Graves of the Fargo Children. In the back are the graves of William Fargo’s parents – William and Tacie. Photo by Author

Eldest daughter Georgianna (Georgia) Fargo married Charles McCune in 1865.  They divorced in 1879 and Georgia moved to New York City, where she continued to live for the rest of her life.  In January 1885, Mr. McCune married Libbie Wells.  Libbie was the daughter of Chandler J. Wells, Mr. Fargo’s political rival!  When Mr. McCune died in March 1885, just two months after his wedding to Libbie.  Georgia happened to visit Buffalo shortly after his death.  Newspapers reported that she was in town to contest the will, and speculated as to the reasons that Georgia might be eligible for a portion of the McCune Estate.  Mr. McCune had been the head of the Buffalo Courier and the estate was estimated to be worth $800,000 (about $24 Million today). The newspapers called Georgia “the divorced wife”.  Georgia spoke back and said that Mr. McCune was her divorced husband.  The Buffalo Morning Express printed the divorce documentation in the paper in March of 1885, including the salacious details about Mr. McCune’s adultery and the times and places at which it occurred.  Grover Cleveland was one of the lawyers involved in Georgia’s divorce case!  Georgia visited with her family, cleared her name and headed back to New York City.  In 1888, Georgia had to take her uncles James and Charles to court regarding the will of her father.  The estate had not been paying her the full amount of her inheritance stipends.  The estate was required to pay her the full amount.

william fargo jr

Grave of William Fargo Jr and his wife, Minerva. Photo by Author.

Son William George Fargo, Jr, died at age 27 in 1872.  His  pregnant wife Minerva survived him and twin girls Mary Carver and Annie E were born just a month after his death.  Minerva died in 1873, when the twins were just 7 months old.  After Minerva died, the twins lived at the Fargo Mansion, and were treated as members of the Fargo family.  Minerva’s will technically gave custody of the children to her mother, Mrs. Prendergast, who lived in Westfield, Chautauqua County (Chautauqua County friends will likely recognized the Prendergast name, they were an influential family there). Mrs. Prendergast would come to visit the children, and they visited with her in Westfield a few times on short visits.  In 1884, there was a heated legal battle for custody of their twins between the grandmothers, as Mrs. Prendergast wanted to return to Chautauqua County with the girls, taking them away from the only home they had known.  The court decided that Mrs. Prendergast had waived her rights to custody, by allowing the girls to live at the Fargo Mansion for 10 years.  Mrs. Fargo was awarded custody of the children, so they stayed at the Fargo Mansion, with the condition that Mrs. Prendergast and the children could visit.  The twins attended boarding school at Ogontz School for Young Ladies near Philadelphia beginning in 1888.  During breaks, they’d lived with their Aunt Georgia in New York City.  Mary Fargo married Louis Balliet in December 1896.  Annie Fargo married William Perry in February 1896, but sadly she was widowed just a year and a half later when her husband was thrown from a cart.  Annie married Frederick Albree in March 1900.

Daughter Helen Lacy Fargo married Herbert G. Squiers in 1881.  After marriage, Helen never again lived in Buffalo.  Mr. Squiers was  in the US military and served as US Ambassador to Berlin and Secretary of the US Legation in Pekin during the Boxer uprising.  He was later appointed minister to Cuba and to Panama.  In 1883, a suit in surrogate court between Helen Fargo Squires and the estate of her father, William G. Fargo, took place.  Helen was awarded $70,000 at that time, and she agreed to not use any of her remaining $150,000 until the death of her mother.  At the time, William Fargo’s estate was worth about $5,000,000 (about $121 Million today) which was held in trust by the executors for the heirs.  Helen died in 1886 due to complications during the birth of her fourth child.  After Helen’s death, Mr. Squiers contested her will in court.  There was much debate with the executors of William Fargo’s estate over whether Helen had intended that the money she inherited from her father should stay in trust until her children are of age, or whether Herbert had rights to that money.  The court decided in Herbert’s favor in 1887.

After William Fargo had died in 1881, his brothers James Fargo and Charles Fargo had been made Executors of William Fargo’s estate, along with Franklin D Locke, the family’s lawyer. James lived in New York City and Charles lived in Chicago.  In addition to his home, there were also other real estate holdings.  There was disagreement on how to deal with the property.  The heirs wanted to sell the properties, but the executors felt that the property should be held until the real estate market changed and prices in the area increased.  Property values in Buffalo were very low at the time.  A lawsuit resulted, which took nearly a decade to settle.

William G. Fargo Sr’s wife Anna died in July 1890.  Anna had remarried Francis Frederick Fargo (no relation to the original Fargo family) in 1883.  The contents of the mansion, except for special items, were left to Georgia and the twins Annie and Mary.  Mrs. Fargo’s will directed that the personal and real property be converted into cash at public auction  or private sale, and be invested for the benefit of Annie and Mary, who were just 16.  Mr. Francis Fargo, the second husband, died in 1891, just six months after his wife.  Daughter Georgia was the only child still living and she lived in New York City, with the twins staying with her when they were home from boarding school.  The Fargo family officially moved out of the Buffalo house in September 1891.

As soon as Anna Fargo died in 1890, there was a lot of debate over what to do with the mansion.  In 1900, the Buffalo Morning Express reported that:

“The house is so large, so spacious, so unseemly spacious, that but few families in Buffalo or out of it would care to take it as a home.  It might do for an old fashioned family of 16 children, but that kind of a family is scarce nowadays.  A more recent family of parents and two or three children would find themselves lost in such a vast house.  The Fargo mansion was built when entertaining was done on a much grander scale than in the present time.  The magnificent dances and royal dinners that the old mansion saw when William G. Fargo was alive made it famous.  The tendency nowadays is toward smaller and more exclusive entertainment than the good large-hearted days of yore, and therefore it would be difficult to discover a man that would use such a house a the present time in which to play host.  The Fargo mansion might do for the royal fetes of an emperor, but not for the more modest entertainments of a latter-day American family.”

It was estimated that William Fargo spent $50,000 (about $1.5 Million today) annually to maintain the house.  Articles of the time estimated that people would need at least half that to keep up the house.  The house had lofty ceilings, large rooms, and vast halls.  Therefore, most modern men of means preferred to build their houses as to the modern standards of architecture.  The Lower West Side was also no longer considered fashionable, as the millionaires of Buffalo moved to Delaware Avenue and North Street.  The house, which cost $500,000 ($12.1 Million today) to build was estimated to “only” be worth $150,000 ($4.9 Million today) in 1890.

fargo-mansion-_-picture-book-of-early-buffalo

Fargo Mansion from the grounds. Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.

The contents of the mansion were sold at public auction in September of 1890.  Several thousand people were said to have attended the estate sale, many who came just to walk thru the mansion.

Some people wanted the mansion to be turned into a public institution – a hospital, a religious retreat, a library or an art gallery.  Public institutions generally do not have the funds to maintain such a large building and the required upkeep.  Georgia Fargo contemplated turning the house into a monument for the memory of her family.  Nothing ever came of her plan and she died in 1892, after two years of illness.  At that time, the only Fargo relatives still living were the 19-year old twins and four young grandchildren (ages 10, 9, 8, and 6), none of whom lived in Buffalo.  Georgia left most of her estate to the twins, Annie and Mary.  Georgia also set aside money for 9 of her existing and former servants in her will, including the following:

  • Mary Pedeberdot – $14,000 ($455,647 today)
  • Mary Coghlan $6,000 ($195,277 today)
  • Mrs. A Allman, seamstress – $1,500 ($48,819 today)
  • Isaac Clark – $1,000 ($32,546 today)
  • Mary Lane – $1,000 ($32,546 today)
  • Mary Murphy – $1,000 ($32,546 today)
  • Victor Belquien – $1,000 ($32,546 today)
  • Mrs. Egan – $500 ($16,273 today)
  • Martha Brown – $250 ($8,136 today)

In December 1891, the Fargo Mansion was listed for sale at $180,000 ($5.9 Million today) including the 5-acres that went with the house.  The executors of the estate had had zero offers in a year and a half on the market.  Ads were listed in the newspaper stating “Do you want a mansion?”  By the end of 1893, the estate was advertising for bids for the demolition of the house.

Some people wanted to turn the mansion into a high school.  In 1893, the City of Buffalo wanted to put an option on the property for the mansion and a property ten feet on each side of the mansion, but the executors wanted to sell the property in its entirety or not at all.  In March 1894, one of the Alderman tried to negotiate with the Fargo estate to trade the old Prospect Reservoir site for the Fargo mansion site.  The Fargo estate asked for $75,000 ($2.6 Million today) in addition to the Prospect Reservoir site (which was valued at $120,000 – $4.1 Million today –  at the time).  In addition to the high cost, many residents felt that the property was too large for a school and that the new high school should be located on the East Side, closer to the center of population.  Others felt that one of the biggest drawbacks of Buffalo’s Central High school was that it was carved out of a mansion, which made a rambling school, as opposed to a building built specifically for a school.  By December 1894, the Prospect Reservoir Site was being proposed for the site of what became the Connecticut Street Armory.

st. mary's on the hill

St. Mary’s On the Hill church when it was crumbling before it was demolished. Source: https://buffaloah.com/a/niag/781/781.html

In December 1894, a benefit for St. Mary’s-on-the-Hill church was held at the Fargo Mansion.  The benefit was a holiday bazaar to raise money to pay of the debt off the church which was incurred to build their chapel at the corner of Vermont and Niagara Streets in 1893.  The bazaar ran for three days and raised over $2,000 (about $69,000 today).  Thousands of people attended the bazaar, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mansion one more time before it was torn down.  St. Mary’s-on-the-Hill closed in 1994 and crumbled in a demolition by neglect situation.  Despite a fight from preservationist, the church was eventually demolished in 2010.  The bell from the church was saved and is on display at the corner with a memorial to the church.  The site is now a parking lot for D’Youville College.

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Pencil Sketch of the Old Fargo Mansion, by HH Green. Source: The Buffalo Sunday Express.

The estate was still being contested by the heirs during this time and went to the supreme court in November 1898.  It took a full year to settle; the decision was made by Justice Warren B. Hooker to put the property on the market to be sold at Public Auction.  The Fargo Estate included $524,000 of real estate ($18.7 Million in today’s dollars) and had been tied up in court since William Fargo’s death in 1881.  The Fargo estate also included 160 acres of land in Cook County, Illinois.  All parties agreed that the land near Chicago was more valuable, so it did not need to be divided at that time, so the judgment only pertained to the Buffalo land.   The land included ten parcels:

  1. 200 Washington Street occupied by Filbrick’s bill posting agency.  Selling for $33,000
  2. The Times Block on Main Street above Exchange Street.  Selling for $50,000
  3. A leasehold interest in the Dunston Building at the Terrace and Seneca Street.  Selling for $15,000
  4. On Seneca Street west of Main, occupied by Buffalo Commercial Bank and insurance and real estate agencies.  Selling for $80,000
  5. A second parcel included with number 4.
  6. One story building at Franklin Street opposite city hall, next to Shea’s Garden Theatre on the north.  Owned by the Fargo and Cary heirs.  The Fargo interest was selling for $20,000
  7. The property from Pearl to Franklin Street opposite city hall occupied by Shea’s.  Occupied by Shea’s.  Owned by Fargo and Cary heirs.  Selling for $100,000
  8. The old Fargo home at Niagara near Franklin Street.  Selling for $50,000
  9. The old Fargo home on Fargo Avenue.  Originally cost $500,000 itself but “it is at present of but little value”.  The property was valued at $150,000.
  10. Warehouse on Express street, running from Franklin to Pearl north of Niagara Street.  Occupied by Adam, Meldrum and Anderson Company.  Selling for $26,000

The judgment stated that the properties must be disposed of and sold within one year of the judgement.  The judgment also said that if within three months of the judgment, the Fargo mansion doesn’t sell, it may be razed so that the property can be subdivided into building lots to be sold individually.

Fargo newel post wm

Fargo Mansion Newel Post. In the Collection of Buffalo History Museum. Source: Buffalo History Museum

The staircases, mirrors, mantels, and bookcases from the mansion were sold off in 1900.  In December 1900, JC Mussen Building Contractor advertised in the Buffalo Commercial that they had secured part of the woodwork of the Fargo Mansion and were planning to use it to put up cheap buildings suitable for stores, concessions, restaurants, etc, for the Pan American year.  While many properties built for guests to attend the Pan Am were temporary, it is possible that some properties that were built during this time may still stand and may include wood from the Fargo Mansion.  The Newel Post from the staircase is in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum and was on display in the Buffalo Made exhibit for many years.  You can see from the photograph how detailed and intricate the entire staircase must have been!

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Fargo property today, outlined in blue.

The property was razed beginning in the fall of 1900.  The property was subdivided into parcels which were sold off for building lots.  An entire neighborhood developed on the Fargo property.  Today, the neighborhood is listed as the Fargo Estate Historic District, a national historic district.  Mr. Fargo’s estate was still being disputed in court by Mary and Annie (the twins) and the Squiers children as late as 1919.  Annie died in 1933 at her vacation home in Florence, Italy.  Mary died in 1951 in Como, Italy where she lived for the last 18 years of her life.

So next time you drive down Fargo Avenue, bank at Wells Fargo, use an American Express credit card, or visit Fargo, North Dakota, think of William Fargo and his family!  Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  1. “To Be Sold:  The Fargo Real Estate in this City Will Be Disposed Of”.  Buffalo Commercial.  November 15, 1899, p9.
  2. “Beautifying the Village of Depew:  Landscape Architect William Webster is Making the Place Very Attractive.”  Buffalo Evening News.   June 4, 1898, p 7.
  3. Kelly, Edward.  “Many Changes in Fargo Avenue.”  Buffalo Times.  November 7, 1925, p14.
  4. “Razing the Fargo Mansion”.  Buffalo Times.  April 6, 1925, p6.
  5. “The Fargo Mansion:  Its Desirability for Use as a High School Urged”.  Buffalo Courier.  March 10, 1894, p5.
  6. “The Fargo House for a School”.  Buffalo Commercial.  March 7, 1894, p9.
  7. “Fargo-Fargo”.  Evening Telegraph.  August 9, 1883, p4.
  8. “The Fargo Will”.  The Evening Telegraph.  December 29, 1883, p1.
  9. “She Outstaid Her Welcome”.  Buffalo Evening News.  February 4, 1884, p8.
  10. “In Dispute”.  Buffalo Express.  February 2, 1884, p5.
  11. “They Remain At Home:  The Little Twin Sisters Stay at the Fargo Mansion.” Buffalo Times.  February 20, 1884.
  12. “Will The Old Fargo Mansion Fall?”  Buffalo Evening News.  May 2, 1890, p9.
  13. “A Grand Project:  Ultimate Disposition of the Fargo Mansion”.  Buffalo Express.  August 14, 1890, p5.
  14. “Interesting Inventory:  Appraisal of Pictures, Plate, Etc in the Fargo Mansion”.  Buffalo Courier.  September 12, 1890, p6.
  15. “Decadence of a Mansion”.  Buffalo Enquirer.  December 1, 1893, p5.
  16. “The Fargo House:  A Conspicuous Mansion Which May Soon be Torn Down”.  Buffalo Morning Express.  December 10, 1893, p5.
  17. “Memory of Express Pioneer Perpetuated in Street’s Name”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  November 10, 1940, p7-3.
  18. “Home and Society”.  Buffalo Morning express. June 16, 1889, p10
  19. “Helen Squiers’ Will:  Her Military Relict Wants it Liberally Interpreted”  Buffalo Times.  November 25, 1886, p5.
  20. “The Courts”.  Buffalo Morning Express. February 4, 1887, p6.
  21. “William G. Fargo”  The Buffalo Commercial.  August 4, 1881, p2.
  22. “WM G. Fargo Dead:  The Laborer’s Son Who Became One of America’s Wealthiest Men”.  Buffalo News.  August 3, 1881, p13.
  23. “Close of a Busy Career:  The Hon. William G Fargo Dies at Buffalo Yesterday”.  New York Times.  August 4, 1881, p5.
  24. “Wells Fargo History”.  https://www.wellsfargohistory.com/  accessed October 2022.
  25. “The Common Council”.  Buffalo Commercial.  June 22, 1869, p3.
  26. “Citation for Judicial Settlement”.  Buffalo Times.  August 4, 1919, p8.
  27. Severance, Frank.  Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.  1912.
  28. The McCune Divorce.  Buffalo Express.  March 24, 1885, p5.
  29. Mrs. Fargo’s Will.  Buffalo Morning Express.  July 23, 1890, p5.
  30. Buell, Franklyn.  Fall of the House of Fargo Recalls Days When Buffalo Was A Gateway to the West.  Buffalo Evening News.  May 5, 1971, p28.

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jones streetJones Street is a street in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood of the East Side, running between Clinton Street and Lyman Street.  Historically, the street went one block further north to Howard Street and one block south to Seneca Street.  The street is named after a prominent Buffalo family who once had a pork and beef business on the site.

miles jones pb

Source: History and Genealogy of the Ancestors and Descendants of Captain Israel Jones

Miles Jones was born in Park-Hempstead, Connecticut, on May 20, 1804. His parents were Elizabeth Merrill and Marquis Jones. The Jones ancestors had lived in America since the Colonial Times. Miles was apprenticed to a shoemaker in the Village of Fredonia, where he learned the shoemaking trade. Miles came to Buffalo around 1820.

Mr. Jones married Elizabeth Roop in April 1829. Elizabeth was born in Buffalo in January 1810. Her father, John Roop, had come to Buffalo from Germany by way of Pennsylvania. During the Burning of Buffalo in 1813, Mr. Roop was murdered by Native Americans. Elizabeth was orphaned and taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bidwell of Black Rock. I couldn’t find what happened to her mother, but sources list her and her brother as orphans. Once grown, Elizabeth was courted by the Bidwells’ son General Daniel D. Bidwell. However, she preferred Miles Jones, so she became Mrs. Jones.

The Jones family first lived on Delaware Avenue, where the County Jail is now. In 1835, moved to a steamboat (temperance) hotel that they ran on Lloyd Street near Prime Street. This hotel was one of the best known in town for those waiting for transportation on the Canal or Lake. At the time, the Canal area was still a place of upstanding businesses and the heart of the Village of Buffalo. It had not yet become the seedy part of town. The Joneses quickly became a well-respected part of Buffalo society life. Miles was elected First Ward Supervisor in 1839, 1840, 1841, 1851, and 1852.

In 1844, Miles Jones was made an inspector of beef and pork. He established Miles Jones Pork & Beef Wholesale business. The business was located near the canal at the corner of Prime and Hanover Streets. Mr. Jones was a pioneer in the pork packing industry. His pork packing house was looked upon as a marvel of its day. Wondering how pork was sold back then? In 1846, Miles advertised in the paper for sale of “500 pork barrels, 800 smoked hams, 600 smoked shoulders, 2000 pickled hams and shoulders, 100 barrels of Mess Pork, 200 barrels of Prime Pork, and a large quantity of odds and ends.”

The family moved from the canal area to 14 Green Street. Green Street is a small cobblestone street off of Washington Street that is basically just a cobblestone driveway into a parking lot these days. You might think the road was lost because of the construction of the Thruway. However, the street was already consumed by William Fargo’s American Express, which used the land for their shipping sheds.

miles jonesIn 1854, the Jones family built a large house at the corner of Chippewa and Georgia Streets. This was on the location of the Reservation Line, which divided the New York State lands from the Holland Land Company land. The Reservation Line was established in 1786 when the land was reserved for New York State.  At the edge of the reservation was where Peter Porter laid out the original settlement of Black Rock, with the streets named after states and numbers.  When Mr. Jones purchased the property, there was nothing but fields to the west of their home. The Jones Family house was originally numbered 135 but was later changed to 186 West Chippewa. The Jones property also extended to Ninth Street. The Jones family owned two houses on Ninth Street and another house on Cary Street. Their carriage house associated with their Chippewa Street home was also located at the dead-end of Cary Street. In 1869, residents of Ninth Street petitioned Common Council to change the name to Prospect Avenue, which was granted by June of 1870.

The Jones family lived with their twelve children, two domestic servants, and a carriage driver. The children attended Buffalo Public Schools. Unfortunately, two of the Jones children died in childhood. The Jones family owned much of the block, so they’d subdivide their property to build homes for their many children as they grew up.

  • Helen M. was born in January 1830 and married Oliver Bruce in 1848. She had four children – Isabella, Helen, Miles, and Oliver. Her husband died in 1855, and Helen married David F. Day. The family lived at the Day Mansion at 69 Cottage Street. She died in May 1890. The mansion was later used by the Salvation Army as a Home for Young Women but was later demolished.
  • Marshall N was born in September 1831. Marshall was married three times – to Harriet A Beach, Rosanna Quinn, and Hulda Smith. Marshall had six children – Miles, William, Freddie, Richard, Eva, and Hulda. Marshall and his family lived for several years in the family homestead on Chippewa Street. In 1880, he moved to Main Street near Bryant.
  • Chapin William (sometimes went by William) was born in October 1833. He married Caroline (Carrie) Cox in August 1859. They had 5 children – Kate, Marshall, Roop, Allen, and Elizabeth. Chapin and his family lived near the rest of the family, at the corner of Cary Street and Morgan (now South Elmwood).
  • Sarah Stanard was born in November 1835. She married Lafayette E. Mulford in June 1865. They had one child, Henry Jones Mulford, and lived at 90 Bryant Street.
  • Miles was born in October 1838. He died at age 6 in 1844.
  • Elizabeth Roop was born in April 1840. She married Allen M Adams in June 1863. They had 7 children – Allen, James, Frank, Elizabeth, Miles, Helen, and Jay. Their family lived at 1211 Seneca Street.
  • Dencie was born in 1842. She died just before her second birthday in 1844.
  • Henry Roop was born in March 1844. Henry and his wife lived at 13 Ninth Street (which became 25 Prospect when the street name changed). They had two children. In 1874, they moved into 267 Georgia Street, where they lived for 14 years before moving up Niagara Street near the corner of Rhode Island.
  • Elsie Louise was born in January 1847 and married Charles H. White in 1868. They had two children. She and her family lived at the family homestead on Chippewa. After the house was old, they moved up to Allen Street. She died in June 1908.
  • Isabella Clara Jones was born in May 1848 and married Frank H. Ransom in December 1869. They had two children. She died suddenly in Rome, Italy, on vacation with her family in 1885.
  • Ida Francis was born in April 1850 and married John Siver in July 1870. Mr. Siver worked at the Lackawanna steel plant (which became Bethlehem Steel). They had eight children – John, Burton, Eva, Ida, Leroy, William, George, and Elsie. The family lived at 82 Fields in South Buffalo.
  • Eva Imogen was born in Sept 1853 and married George M. Trefts in February 1876. They had three children – George, John, and Chilion. They lived at 25 Prospect when her brother moved out. She died in October 1899.

The youngest brother of Miles Jones, Merlin Willard Jones, also came to Buffalo to work with Miles in the pork business. Merlin lived across Prospect from the rest of the family at 28 Prospect.

church of the messiah main street

Church of the Messiah Alter on Main Street. Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.

The Jones family were universalists. They attended the Church of Messiah which was located on Washington Street near Swan. In 1866, the church moved to a new building on Main between Chippewa and Huron.  The Jones family donated money for the new church for a pulpit made by the Thompson Hersee factory of Buffalo. Miles Jones was a member of the Hiram Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons. Mr. Jones died in 1869 at age 64 after being confined to his house due to his ill health. Despite this, he insisted on going to the polls to vote on election day, his final outing. He is buried in Forest Lawn

Miles and Elizabeth’s sons Henry and Marshall had entered the pork packing business. When Miles retired, the business was continued by Henry and Marshall under the name Miles Jones’ Sons. The Jones property near the canal was sold to the DL&W Railroad. At that time, the plant moved to Clinton Street near the corner of Metcalfe Street. This area was near the Buffalo stockyards on William Street, so it was a popular area for meatpacking.  Buffalo’s meatpacking industry was second only to Chicago.  When Miles Jones’ Sons business closed, Jones Street was opened through the property in 1882.

georgia apartments

Lasalle Apartments. Source: Author.

The Jones family house on Chippewa was listed for sale in 1878. It was listed for sale again in 1885 as “a large 2.5 story house with lot, 152 feet frontage on Chippewa and Georgia Streets, will be sold at a bargain.” Similar to the case with the Fargo Mansion, just six blocks away, there was little demand for such a large house. The area of the West Village was shifting towards multi-family uses. In 1889, it was used as a boarding house with furnished rooms for let. It was listed for sale again in 1891 and 1892. The last owner of the house, Charles Beckwith, had listed the house for sale but died in the home in 1895. Following Mr. Beckwith’s death, it was demolished to build the LaSalle Apartments. The LaSalle apartments opened on the site in 1898.

Over time, the West Village neighborhood changed. Old housing began to be demolished. Single-family residential structures made way for commercial buildings such as the Lasalle Apartments which replaced the Jones family home or the Roanoke Hotel at Elmwood and Chippewa, built in 1901 for the Pan American Exposition. The building is now home to Evergreen Health Services. The Hutchinson Homestead was replaced with Hutchinson Technical Central High School (Hutch-Tech) in 1913.

The area’s property tax base declined, partly because of the demolition of houses and an increase in privately developed parking lots. In particular, parking demand increased significantly from the Federal Office Building, which opened at 200 Delaware Avenue in 1971. The Thaddeus J. Dulski Federal Office Building houses 50 federal agencies and a workforce of 1,200 people. Much of the parking was on illegal, unlicensed lots.  These illegal lots provided free parking for federal government employees. The government emptied the building in 2005. It was sold to private developers and renovated into The Avant, a mixed-use building with a hotel and condos.

In 1974, the West Village Community Association organized to bring awareness to the neighborhood’s historic value and help to revitalize and rehabilitate properties in the area. During the 1970s, 62 of the West Village’s 166 residential structures had been renovated. These renovated structures provided 265 improved housing units in the neighborhood. In addition, the Association held workshops on recycling older houses to help homeowners improve their buildings and offer suggestions and resources.

The Association saw the detrimental impact of the parking lots in the Georgia-Prospect Street area and wanted to turn the area into a robust residential neighborhood. In the summer and fall of 1979, the Lower West Side Resource & Development Corporation conducted a preliminary planning study. One of the recommendations included infill housing for the vacant lots, particularly those in the Georgia-Prospect area. Improvements to traffic patterns were another measure to improve the neighborhood conditions. Georgia Street would be made two-way; West Chippewa between South Elmwood and Whitney Place would be made one-way eastbound; Prospect Avenue between Huron and Georgia would be one-way toward the southeast; Huron Street between Niagara and Elmwood would be two-way. This was to be designed as a calming traffic measure to lessen the intrusion of downtown traffic using the neighborhood streets to zoom up to get to the highway. Today, West Chippewa and Georgia Street are one-way heading west and southwest; Huron is one-way heading east; Prospect (now Rabin Terrace) is now two-way.

west village

Map of West Village. Red Boundary shows the National Historic District. Orange Boundary shows the Local Preservation District. Blue boundary shows the Georgia- Prospect Urban Renewal Area.

In 1979, the West Village Historic District became a City of Buffalo Local Historic District. The local district is bounded by South Elmwood, Tracy, Carolina, Niagara, and Huron Street. In addition, properties on the north side of Carolina Street between Tracy and Niagara were included in the local district.

In July 1983, the West Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The boundary for the National Historic District is slightly smaller than that of the local district. The properties being looked at for the Georgia-Prospect Urban Renewal Project were left out of the National Historic District.

In February 1982, the City of Buffalo adopted an Urban Renewal Plan for the Lower West Side (Georgia-Prospect) area. Cannon Planning & Development was retained to establish a formal planning and development framework for the West Village. The plan attempted to provide community growth by assembling vacant and underutilized land to convert into productive residential uses. The program included two areas: the first Virginia-Carolina – the area between Carolina, Virginia, West, and Fell Alley. The second area was Georgia-Prospect – the two-block area bounded by Chippewa, Georgia, Huron, and South Elmwood. We will concern ourselves with the Georgia-Prospect area as this is the former land of Miles Jones.

Properties within the urban renewal area were surveyed by the Lower West Side Resource & Development Corporation. A second survey was independently completed by Cannon Design. Surveys were exterior only, with interior inspections only made on sample properties. The results of the survey indicated that 55.9% of parcels in the area were open or dilapidated. Most of the land slated for acquisition consisted of vacant land (with parking on it). The plan included demolition of all structures and improvement on properties except 241, 245, 247, and 267 Georgia Street, if rehab proved feasible for those structures(which it was).

As part of the urban renewal project, the following properties were demolished. Each of these buildings was listed as contributing to the West Village Local Historic District.  Photos show what the buildings looked like in the late 1970s/early 80s before demolition:

  1. 193 West Huron Street – a one-story residence constructed in 1872 with a front addition built in 1910. The building was constructed in a Second Empire motif with a false Mansard roof with rounded dormer windows. The property had a weird shape due to its frontages on both Huron and Prospect.

    193 Huron

    193 Huron. Source: NYSHPO

  2. 11 Prospect – a 1 and a half story brick Italianate foreman’s cottage built in 1854. It was initially constructed for Robert Denton, a piano turner who became a partner in Denton, Cottier, and Daniels. This Buffalo music store is still in business today. This property had an unusual orientation due to its location on the Reservation Line and the angle of Prospect Street. The house was built oriented towards Huron Street. The building’s last use was as a rooming house.

    11 prospect

    11 Prospect. Source: NYSHPO

  3. 17 Prospect – a two 1/2 story Shingle Style cottage built around 1910. This house had a unique orientation due to its location along the Reservation Line and the street angle. The building was built askew, with no distinct orientation. It faced neither Huron Street nor Prospect Ave.

    17 prospect

    17 Prospect

  4. 28 Prospect – a two-story Italianate-style house built in 1866. The house’s original owner was Miles Jones, and the house was occupied by Merlin, his brother.

    28 prospect

    28 Prospect. Source: NYSHPO

  5. 32 Prospect – a 1 and a half story wood Frame Italianate cottage built in 1861.

    32 Prospect

    32 Prospect. Source: NYSHPO

  6. 53 Cary Street – a 2 and a half story brick carriage house with gable roof built in 1852. The property had a Cary Street address, but the building faced Chippewa Street. It was originally built as a part of Eliza Abell’s house at 166 W Chippewa. The main house was demolished in the 1960s to build Dewey’s Diner, which was also demolished. The carriage house was vacant before it was purchased by the city.

    53 Cary Street

    53 Cary. Source: NYSHPO

  7. 55 Cary Street – a two-story wood-frame Italianate cottage built in 1854. It was typical of the working-class homes that were built in the 1850s in this part of Buffalo.

    55 Cary

    55 Cary. Source: NYSHPO

  8. 67 Cary Street – a two-and-a-half-story brick Italianate residence built in 1854. Its last use was as apartments.

    67 Cary

    67 Cary. Source: NYSHPO

  9. 69-71 Cary Street – a two-story carriage house built in 1854 at the dead-end of Cary Street. This building served as the carriage house for the Jones family home. It was later converted into apartments.

    69-71 Cary

    69-71 Cary. Source: NYSHPO

  10. 166 South Elmwood – a two-and-a-half-story brick Italianate residence built in 1865. The house was later converted to apartments and had a concrete block addition for tavern use. The original owner of the house was John R. Hazard, a coal dealer. The original address for the site was 144 Morgan Street before Morgan Street was changed to South Elmwood.

    166 S Elmwood

    166 S. Elmwood. Source: NYSHPO

  11. 192 South Elmwood – a two-and-a-half-story brick Italianate-style cottage built in 1854. The original owner was Milton Randall, a steamboat agent. A front addition was constructed in the front of the house for tavern use. The rear was converted into apartments.

    192 South Elmwood

    192 S. Elmwood. Source: NYSHPO

Five houses within the urban renewal area were saved and are still extant.  The following properties within the area have been rehabilitated, with the black and white photos showing the buildings in the late 70s/early 80s, and the colored photos showing conditions today:

  1. 241 Georgia Street – a two-story Italianate-style house built in 1869. The house was initially built by Rueben Sparks. The house is divided into four apartment units.

    241 Georgia

    241 Georgia (Source: NYSHPO)

  2. 245 Georgia Street – a three-story Second Empire style house built in 1870. Originally built by L.A. Hamilton. The house is currently divided into three apartment units.

    245 Georgia2

      246 Georgia (Source: NYSHPO)

  3. 247 Georgia St – a two-story Italianate-style house built in 1866. The house was originally built for Robert E Skillings, a livery operator. The porch collapsed in 1977. The building is currently divided into two apartment units.
    247 Georgia

    247 Georgia before. Source: NYSHPO 

    247 Georgia_now

    247 Georgia today. Source: Author

  4. 267 Georgia Street – a three-story Second Empire style house with a mansard roof built in 1874. The building was home to Miles Jones’ son. The building is currently divided into five apartment units.
    267 Georgia

    267 Georgia Before.  Source: NYSHPO

    267 Georgia

    267 Georgia Street today. Source: Author.

  5. 3 Prospect Avenue – a two-and-a-half-story Queen Anne Style residence built in the 1890s. The house is oriented towards Huron Street and has been subdivided into three apartment units.
    3 prospect

    3 Prospect (now 3 Rabin Terrace) before.  Source:  NYSHPO

    3 prospect now

    3 Rabin Terrace today

infill houses 2

Infill Houses along Rabin Terrace

As part of the urban renewal project, infill housing was built. The city paid for land assembly and infrastructure. Thirty-two new housing units were constructed in the Georgia-Prospect area by Marrano Homes. These were the first new homes to be built in the area in 30 years. The houses were sold at market rates and ranged in price from $45,000 to $60,000 ($133,800 – $178,500 in today’s dollars). Similar houses in the suburbs at the time were going for $85,000 ($252,800). The houses are small, charming, and have a design reminiscent of the Italianate houses in the area. This differed from other new housing built in the city that mostly resembled suburban ranch-style homes. These houses are generally looked at as a successful infill project.

infill houses

Examples of Infill houses in this area

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Rabin terrace Dedication. Source: Buffalo News.

In 1996 Lower Prospect Avenue was renamed Rabin Terrace in honor of Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin. He was assassinated on November 4, 1995. Prime Minister Rabin had been working towards Israeli-Palestinian peace, and signed several historic agreements with Palestinian leadership as part of the Oslo Accords.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, along with Yasser Arafat.  He was assassinated following a rally in support of the Oslo Accords by an extremist Yigal Amir, who opposed the terms of the accords.  The square in Tel Aviv where he was assassinated was renamed Rabin Square in his honor.  There is also a walkway named after Rabin in the America-Israel Friendship Grove in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York(note from Angela, this is my favorite park!).

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Recent Image of Rabin Terrace sign.

The Rabin Terrace street signs in Buffalo went up on the first anniversary of his death.  Today, these infill houses sell for $380,000-$400,000.  Many of the residents have fantastic gardens, and this is a popular area for Garden Walk each year.

Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  • “Monument to a Peacemaker.” Buffalo News November 5, 1996, p.B-4.
  • “Death of Miles Joes, Esq.” Buffalo Commercial. January 4, 1869. P2.
  • Sheldon, Grace Carew. “Buffalo Of the Olden Time: Henry Roop Jones.” The Buffalo Times.
  • Sheldon, Grace Carew. “Buffalo of the Olden Time: Miles Jones.” The Buffalo Times. Series: December 12, 1910, p11, December 11, 1910. P 40, December 9, 1910, p 15.
  • City of Buffalo Community Development Department. “Lower West Side (Georgia-Prospect) Urban Renewal Plan. February 23, 1982.
  • National Parks Service. Certification Report. West Village Historic District. July 1983.
  • “Buffalo Common Council: Name of Streets” Buffalo Courier. December 7, 1869. p2.
  • Langdon, Philip. “Replace Some Illegal Parking Lots With Homes, W. Side Group Urges.” Buffalo Courier-Express. 1979.
  • Buffalo Courier-Express, April 11, 1982. p 13
  • Haddad, Charles. “38 New West Side Houses Planned”. Buffalo Courier-Express. July 17, 1982. p1.
  • Jones, Asahel Wellington.  History and Genealogy of the Ancestors and Descendants of Captain Israel Jones.  Laning Company:  Madison, Wisconsin. 1902

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normalNormal Avenue runs between Hudson Street and Hampshire Street on the West Side of Buffalo.  The street  was originally named 13th Street.  It is one of the original streets laid out in Black Rock by Peter Porter.   Last post, we talked about General Hayes, who was important to the University of Buffalo.  Today, we’re gonna talk about Buff State!  What does Buff State have to do with Normal Ave?  Read on!

In 1871, the Buffalo Normal School opened in a Victorian building at Jersey and 13th Streets (now Normal).   A Normal School is a school for teachers.  The Normal School movement was an effort to standardize what students were learning and improve schools.  The first State Normal School was in Massachusetts in the 1830s.  A bill to establish a State Normal School began circulation in Albany in early 1844.  The bill was signed into law later that year by Governor Bouck.  Beginning with the Albany Normal School, Normal Schools began to be established throughout New York State.  Albany was followed by Oswego, Potsdam, and Cortland.  By 1930, there were two New York State Colleges for Teachers and nine State Normal Schools throughout New York State.

Buffalo and Erie County looked towards establishing a Normal School here in 1866.  The State opted to move forward with the schools at Brockport and Fredonia first.  Buffalo continued to fight for a Normal School. the Buffalo Normal School was approved by the State Legislature in April 1867.  The City was responsible for providing a site and building for the school.  The State provided $12,000 ($226,055 in 2022 dollars) per year to run the school.  Jesse Ketchum provided a 5-acre lot to the City for educational purposes.  The lot was valued at $20,000 ($376759 in 2022 dollars).  The Board of Supervisors approved $45,000 ($847,708 in 2022 dollars) to erect a building and appointed Oliver G. Steele, Albert T Chester, Dennis Bowen to the Normal School Building Committee.

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1872 Atlas of Buffalo showing Blocks 105 with the State Normal School and Block 88 with the Black Rock Burying Ground.

The City and County debated the site for the school.  Because Mr. Ketchum died in September 1867 before the deed was finalized, there was some back and forth regarding the site.  The site donated by Jesse Ketchum was known as Block 105.   Across Jersey Street was Block 88 – bounded by Jersey, Rogers (now Richmond), Porter and 14th Street.  Block 88 was the site of the Black Rock Burying Grounds.  The Black Rock Burial Grounds had been established by William A. Bird on behalf of the Village of Black Rock in 1818.   This burial ground was used for the residents of Black Rock, as well as for paupers who died at the Poor House, which was located to the west of the property, near where D’Youville College is today.  When Forest Lawn Cemetery opened in 1850, the Black Rock Burial Ground was discontinued and  many of the bodies were moved to Forest Lawn by their friends and family. In October 1864, the City of Buffalo had donated the Black Rock Burying Grounds property to the Charity Foundation of the Protestant Episcopal Church with the agreement that the Charity Foundation would move the remains.   The Charity Foundation is the organization that ran the Episcopal Church Home for aged women and for orphans, which opened in 1866 on Rhode Island Street.  At the time, the Charity Foundation was interested in Block 105.  The Charity Foundation argued that the Block 105 site was better suited for them, as the existing buildings there could be used by the Charity Foundation, whereas they were useless to the school.  The Normal School ended up moving forward with their original plans on Block 105.  Beginning in 1875, the Charity Foundation began selling off Block 88 for residential development.

Construction of the Normal School began and a Ceremony was held to lay the cornerstone of the Normal School in April 1869.  More than 3,000 people came out to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone.  A large parade marched from St. James Hall (at Main and Eagle Street downtown) to the West Side, led by city and county officials.  A poem by Mary Ripley was read at the ceremony.

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Original 1871 State Normal School. Source: Buffalo State College

The building was inspected by the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of New York and the State Comptroller in August of 1870.  They approved the building and the City then transferred the property to the State to establish the school.  The first local Board of Managers of the school were appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and included:  John B. Skinner, Francis H. Root, Grover Cleveland, William H Greene, Albert H. Tracy, Thomas F. Rochester, Joseph Warren, Allan Potter, Henry Lapp.  The first Principal of the School was Henry B. Buckham, coming from Vermont.  The Buffalo Normal School opened on September 13, 1871.

The Normal School had three departments:  Normal, Collegiate and Scientific.  The Normal Department was set up for the education of teachers and had three courses of study:  Elementary, Advance English and Classical.  Students had a three year program of study.  Students were required to sign a pledge that they intend to devote a reasonable time to teaching following their education.  The first year was devoted to elementary study, the second year to more advanced English course.  The first term of the third year, the students took Philosophy of Education, School Economy and Methods of Teaching.  The second term involved teaching in the School for Practice.  The School for Practice was established with a class of 20 pupils from each of the 10 grades of the public schools set up within the Normal School.  During the term, Normal School students were given experience as temporary teachers in each grade of children.  Permanent teachers in these classrooms served as teaching critics and helped the Normal School students learn to teach.  Tuition into the Normal Department of the school was free if the pledge was signed.  Without the pledge, tuition was $60 per year.  Graduates of the school received a diploma which gave them a license to teach in New York State.

The Collegiate Department was organized to allow Normal School students to pursue an extended course of study and receive a typical four year degree, similar to other Colleges.  This was one of the first Normal Schools to offer such a department.  The four year program included:  the study of Language, English, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, Elocution, Drawing, and Composition.

The Scientific Department was established to prepare students for employment as a practical Chemist, Engineer, Surveyor, etc.  The courses were taken over three years and consisted of:  higher Mathematics, History or Language, Practical work, Surveying, Mechanics, Field Engineering, Civil Engineering, Architecture, Drawing, and Laboratory work in Chemistry.  Tuition for the Collegiate and Scientific Departments was $60 ($1,130 in 2022 dollars) per term.

At the time, each Normal School was entitled to twice as many pupils as it had Assemblymen.  Candidates had to receive a recommendation from a County Commissioner of Schools or a City Superintendent in order to apply for admission.

The school opened with 86 students – 75 women and 11 men, and 15 faculty members.  There were 195 children taught in the School of Practice.  They were all located in the three-story building at Jersey and 13th Streets.  There was some talk about creating a boarding hall as part of the Normal School, however I don’t believe it was ever built.  Students who required boarding typically found it with private families near the school.  The first school year was divided into two terms of 20 weeks each – one starting September 13th and the second beginning February 14th.

1894

1894 Map of the State Normal School. The Science Annex can be seen behind the school. The other building on the site was the Principal’s Residence, located at 110 14th Street. York Street is at the top of this image, Jersey at the bottom, with Porter running diagonally across the bottom left.

In 1888, the Buffalo Normal School was renamed the State Normal and Training School.   Because of growing enrollment, a science building was added behind the school and connected via a 2nd floor bridge.

In the early 1890s, residents of the street wanted the name changed.  A petition was distributed and signed by the majority of the taxpayers on the street.  There were originally many street named after numbers in this area.  Thirteenth was one of the streets in the area that hadn’t yet been changed:  Six Street had become Front Avenue,  Ninth Street had become Prospect Avenue, Tenth Street had become Faro Avenue, Eleventh Street had become West Avenue and Twelfth Street became Plymouth Avenue.  The Taxpayers suggested Normal Avenue for the name, in honor of the Normal School.  At the time, some people took offense with the name, writing editorials stating that if a street was “normal” would that imply that other streets were abnormal?

On January 16, 1894, the matter of the street name was taken up by the City of Buffalo Committee on Streets.  The City Assessors had found that the petition was not signed by the majority of owners with property fronting on the street and therefore the name was not able to be changed.  By February, 6 1894, the Board of Public Works was again looking at changing the street name.  The name was officially changed in August 1894.  The residents reportedly were happy to feel that they no longer lived on unlucky 13th street!

1915

1915 Map showing the Buffalo State Normal School. This building is still standing today. Again, York Street is at the top of this map, with Jersey Street on the bottom and Porter Avenue running diagonally across the lower left. Note the small building along the York Street side of the site, this was the same Principal’s Residence shown on the earlier map. The house was moved during the construction of the 1914 structure. The residence was demolished when the school was expanded in the 1950s.

By 1901, the school enrolled 828 students.  As the school continued to grow, they began making plans to build an expanded school.  In 1914, the school moved into the larger facility that is there today.   The building was designed to be similar in style to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

New Normal complete

1914 Buffalo State Normal School. The original 1871 Building had been in front of this building, where the lawn is now.  Source: Buffalo State College

When the 1914 building was constructed, it was anticipated it would meet the school’s needs until the 1960s.  The school grew more quickly than anticipated.  By 1920, the school had outgrown their Lower West Side Facility and began plans to move up to Elmwood Avenue.  They planned to move to property the State owned that was affiliated with the State Insane Asylum.  In 1928, the school became the State Teacher’s College at Buffalo.

rockwell hall

Rockwell Hall, 1300 Elmwood Avenue..

In 1931, the Elmwood Avenue campus opened, the centerpiece of the building being the Main Building at 1300 Elmwood Avenue (now Rockwell Hall).  The building contained the college’s library, cafeteria, administrative and faculty offices and an auditorium.  Rockwell Hall has a similar style reminiscent of Independence Hall and the original 1914 State Normal School.  The State architects must have liked the Federal Style!  Today, Rockwell Hall is still one of the most prominent buildings on the campus, home to classrooms, computer labs, dance studios, and performance spaces.

In 1945, the school became the New York State College for Teachers at Buffalo.  In 1950, they became SUNY, New York State College for Teachers and in 1951 the State University College for Teachers at Buffalo.  In 1960, they became the State University College of Education at Buffalo.  In 1961, they became State University College at Buffalo, known colloquially as Buff State.  A lot of names for a school that’s only had two locations!

In 1951, the Main Building was renamed Rockwell Hall in honor of Harry Westcott Rockwell, principal of the Buffalo State Normal School beginning in 1919.  He served as the first President of the New York State College for Teachers at Buffalo in 1926.  Rockwell helped guide the school through their move from the Lower West Side to Elmwood Avenue and worked to get the college State approval as a teacher’s college, becoming the first state-operated college to offer a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education. Under Mr. Rockwell’s guidance, the school grew from 275 students on a 3.5 acre campus to 2,022 students on a 55 acre campus.  Rockwell retired in 1951 after issuing 10,000 diplomas and awarding more than 5,000 degrees over 32 years at the college.

GroverClevelandHSBuffaloNY

The 1914 Normal School Building. The original 1871 building was on the lawn in front of the school.

After the Normal School moved uptown, the building on Normal Avenue became Grover Cleveland High School in 1931.  The school was named after Grover Cleveland, who had served on the Board of Managers of the Normal School when it first opened in 1871!  The school was renovated in 1959 when an addition was built on the north end for additional classrooms, a swimming pool and a gymnasium.  In 2011, the final class of Grover Cleveland High School graduated.  The building was renovated from 2011 to 2013, when it was reopened as the International Preparatory School at Grover Cleveland High School.  In 2017, Architectural Digest named the school the Most Beautiful Public High School in New York State.

The next time you drive down Normal Ave or pass by Buff State, think of the State Normal School and quest for education of teachers here in Buffalo…and all of the teachers that have influenced students of Buffalo over the years.  Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  • “Wanted – A Name.”  Buffalo Evening News.  July 13, 1891, p5.
  • Buffalo Courier.  July 14, 1891, p4.
  • Minutes.  Corporation Proceedings, Board of Alderman, Buffalo.  Monday January 15, 1894.
  • “The Name Will Remain.”  Buffalo Enquirer.  January 16, 1894, p2.
  • “All Around Town.”  Buffalo Courier.  August 15, 1894, p5.
  • Lee, Richard J.  “The Campus School at SUNY Buffalo State, 1871 -1991”.  A Selection of Works on the History of Buffalo State College. Archives & Special Collections Department, E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State.  https://digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu/buffstate-history/5
  • Buffalo State College – Our History.  https://suny.buffalostate.edu/history
  • “Normal School.”  Buffalo Daily Gazette June 8, 1844, p1.
  • “Normal Schools – A Proposition for Buffalo”.  Buffalo Morning Express.  January 7, 1867, p4.
  • “A Normal School in Buffalo.”  Buffalo Courier.  April 26, 1867, p8.
  • “The Normal School Question Decided.”  Buffalo Commercial.  June 27, 1867, p3.
  • “The Normal School”.  Buffalo Courier.  July 9, 1867, p8.
  • “The Church Foundation and the Normal School”.  Buffalo Commercial.  April 21, 1868, p1.
  • “The State Normal School and College”.  Buffalo Courier.  July 26, 1871, p2.
  • Waldek, Stefanie.  “The Most Beautiful Public High School in Every State In America”.  Architectural Digest.  September 12, 2017.
  • The President Harry W. Rockwell Digital Collection.  Digital Commons at Buffalo State. https://digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu/rockwell_buffalostate/  (online January 2022)
  • “Notice”.  Buffalo Weekly Express. October 25, 1864, p4.
  • “Proposed Change in the Location of the Normal School”.  Buffalo Express.  April 2, 1868, p2.
  • Smith, Henry Perry.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Company, 1884.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TkzInXrw

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

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

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

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

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

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Lavinia Hurd Austin

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

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

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

JGxkycc8

The Austin Family monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

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

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

77PearlStreet

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

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

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

averymansion

The Avery Mansion on Symphony Circle

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

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

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

1901

Pomeroy House on Oakland Place

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

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

Sources:

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

 

 

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ketchumKetchum Place is a small street on the Lower West Side of Buffalo.  The street runs for just one block, between York Street and Jersey Street.  The street is named after Jesse Ketchum.

Mr. Ketchum was born in Spencerport, New York on March 1, 1782.  His mother passed away when Jesse was six, and he and his ten siblings were distributed among various family and neighbors. The eldest Ketchum Sibling, Seneca, was 16 and was able to live on his own after the death of their mother.  Jesse spent much of his childhood working on a farm from sunrise until sunset; he longed to go to school but was never allowed.  It’s said that as an adult, he rarely spoke of the time between the age of six and adulthood.

Jesse Ketchum

Jesse Ketchum

At the age of 17, in 1799, Jesse went to Little York, now Toronto, to where his older brother, Seneca Ketchum, lived.  He went by foot to Oswego, where he was able to work for passage on a boat to Kingston, Ontario, and then on another boat for passage from Kingston to York.  When Jesse arrived in York, Seneca put his brother in charge of his extensive farm.  Both Jesse and Seneca fell in love with Ann Love, a young widow who worked as their housekeeper.  They drew lots to decide who would marry her, and Jesse and Ann were married.

Jesse and Ann had six children.  In 1804, Jesse moved to the outskirts of York.  He was successful in establishing a tannery there.  During the War of 1812, he became rich while making shoes for Canadian and English soldiers.  While in Canada, Jesse Ketchum served as Constable of York and a member of the Dominion Parliament.

After Ann’s death, Jesse married Mary Ann Rubergall and had three more children.  He recognized that Buffalo was becoming an important shipping hub due to the Erie Canal.   In 1845, he moved to Buffalo. He purchased land on Main Street between Allen and High Streets to build a tannery.  He continued to do good business at his tannery.  He was successful at the buying and selling of farm lands just outside of Buffalo, north of North Street.

Once he had made his fortune, he decided he was more interested in giving it away for the good of the community, rather than accumulate more wealth.  He was considered a philanthropist around town, giving money to those who needed it during the cholera epidemic of 1849.  During the Civil War, well into his 80s, Mr. Ketchum funded for the care of the families of enlisted men.

One of Mr. Ketchum’s other activities in Buffalo was buying of homes and farms.  He would “rent” homes and farms to deserving tenants.  He would then take the rent they were paying and apply it towards the eventual purchase price, allowing people to own land who might not otherwise be able to afford.

The Ketchum House on North Street

The Ketchum House on North Street

Mr. Ketchum lived in a 3-story brick home on North Street called “Tulip Garden”.  The house was located at approximately 267 North Street.  The home had 264 feet of frontage along North Street and the lawns and gardens extended to Summer Street.  The house was a popular place for his children and their friends.  A miniature train that was an exact replica of the then-new steam train connecting Niagara Falls and Buffalo ran trough his grounds.

Mr. Ketchum served as President of the Board of Trustees of Westminster Church.  He donated the land the church was built upon and donated $5,000 to the building fund.  Mr. Ketchum also donated the 5-acres of land to build the Normal School (now Grover Cleveland High School).  Ketchum Place is located close to the school.

He was very interested in the City Public Schools.  He would visit the schools and urge the children to be thrifty and abstain from tobacco and liquor.  He’d teach them about how to be proud Americans (particularly during the Civil War) and would reward students who did well with prizes.  He would visit every room in every school each year to deliver books to every student and teacher.  It is said he did this to make up for his longing to read books as a child.  Students referred to him as “Father Ketchum”.

15172691_118022808474

Jesse Ketchum’s Grave

Mr. Ketchum died on September 7th, 1867.  He was on his way to visit one of the schools when he felt a chill and returned home, where he died the next day.  His funeral was held at Westminster Church and was one of the largest and most impressive ever seen in Buffalo at that time.  The schools were closed as a tribute to their benefactor.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Jesse’s son-in-law, Barnabas Brennan, inherited the estate.  Mr. Brennan made a gift of $10,000 to Buffalo Public Schools for the awarding of medals for academic excellence, in honor of Jesse Ketchum. The first medals were awarded in 1873 and are still awarded today.  Originally, medals were awarded to high school seniors and to grammar school students in the last two grades of grammar school. Since 1950, the medals are only awarded to 8th grade students.  Approximately 15,000 medals have been awarded since 1873.  The Jesse Ketchum medal is the longest running medal for academic excellence in the country.

Front of the Jesse Ketchum Medal - with a portrait of Mr. Ketchum

Front of the Jesse Ketchum Medal – with a portrait of Mr. Ketchum

Rear of the Jesse Ketchum Medal - the latin reads "A Wise Man Will be Wiser"

Rear of the Jesse Ketchum Medal – the latin reads “A Wise Man Will be Wiser”

Ketchum Hall, one of the five original buildings built at Buffalo State College (formerly the State Normal School), is named after him.  In 1856, Mr. Ketchum donated land in the Village of Yorkville for a public park and for a “Free and Common School”.  The school was replaced by a new school building, which was named the Jesse Ketchum School.  Jesse Ketchum’s descendants founded Ketchum Manufacturing, a company still located in Brockville, Ontario.

Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index!

Sources:

  1. “Ketchum Place is Memorial to Donor of Scholarship Medals”.  Buffalo Courier-Express, Sept 28, 1941, p. 15.
  2. Severance, Frank Hayward.  The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.  
  3. Hathaway, E.J. Jesse Ketchum and His Times.  McClelland & Stewart, Toronto:  1929.

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Sheridan Drive

Sheridan Drive

There are actually two roads named Sheridan in Buffalo.  The first is Sheridan Drive, a road that most Western New Yorkers are probably familiar with.  Sheridan Drive runs from the Niagara River and River Road east into the Town of Tonawanda, the Town of Amherst and into the Town of Clarence, where it ends at an intersection with Main Street.  The western end of Sheridan Drive is assigned NY Route 325 from Niagara Street to Grand Island Boulevard.  East of Grand Island Boulevard, Sheridan Drive is designated as NY Route 324.

Sheridan Terrace

Sheridan Terrace

The second Sheridan is Sheridan Terrace.  Much of Sheridan Terrace no longer exists due to construction of the I-190 and the Peace Bridge entrance ramps. Sheridan Terrace had been a Frederick Law Olmsted designed road that led from “The Bank” (a circle located at Massachusetts Street, Sixth Street – now Busti Ave – and Niagara Street) across the front of Fort Porter into Front Park. The portion of Sheridan Terrace that remains functions as the exit ramp from the I-190 to Busti Avenue.

Unfinished monument in Sheridan Drive, 1925 (still looks the same today)

Unfinished monument in Sheridan Drive, 1925 (still looks the same today)

Sheridan Drive and Sheridan Terrace are named after General Philip Henry Sheridan.  Tonawanda historians claim that Sheridan Drive was named after Sheridan Road in Chicago and not General Sheridan; however, the road in Chicago was also named after General Sheridan.  In 1925, when Sheridan Drive was opened, a monument was built on Sheridan Drive near Delaware Avenue.  The monument had intended to have a statue of General Sheridan, but taxpayers felt that too much money had been spent on what they felt was an “unnecessarily fancy highway through rural lands”.  A completed statue of General Sheridan stands on the steps of the Capitol Building in Albany.

Sheridan Monument in Albany, New York

Sheridan Monument in Albany, New York

Philip Henry Sheridan was born in march 1831.  He claimed to be born in Albany, New York.  His parents were immigrants from Ireland.  Some skeptics claimed Mr. Sheridan may have been born on the ship coming from Ireland, and that he said he was born in Albany in order to claim natural-born citizenship to be eligible for presidency.  As a boy, he worked at general stores.  In 1848, one of his customers, Congressman Thomas Ritchey, appointed him for the US Military Academy.  He graduated in 1853.

Mr. Sheridan became a United States Army officer and Union General during the Civil War.  He defeated confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley, one of the first uses of scorched earth tactics during the war.  The troops were instructed to do damage to the railroads and crops, to leave the valley a barren wasteland to prevent the confederacy from using it as a productive crop land.

Sheridan's Ride at Cedar Creek, from the Library of Congress

Sheridan’s Ride at Cedar Creek, from the Library of Congress

In 1865, his Calvary was instrumental in forcing the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, which occurred in April of 1865.  General Sheridan and his troops helped to block Lee’s escape.  “Sheridan’s Ride” became the subject of songs and poems, talking of Sheridan’s valiant efforts.  Ulysses S. Grant said of Sheridan, “I believe General Sheridan has no superior as a general, either living or dead, and perhaps not an equal.”

Sheridan's Camp at Yellowstone

Sheridan’s Camp at Yellowstone

Sheridan was an advocate for the protection of the Yellowstone area.  He fought against a plan to develop 4,000 acres in the park, lobbing congress to protect the park.  Sheridan’s efforts expanded the park, established military control of the park, and reduced the development to only 10 acres.  Mount Sheridan was named in his honor.

General Sheridan died in August 1888 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, on a hillside facing Washington DC.  His wife, who was 20 years younger than him, never remarried and was said to have stated that “I would rather be the widow of Phil Sheridan than the wife of any other living man”.

Sheridan's Grave

Sheridan’s Grave

 Learn about other streets in the Street Index.

 Sources:

  1. Martin, Susan. “Road Test – Sheridan Drive?  Porter Ave?  Who are all these streets and highways named after anyway?”  Buffalo News, July 7, 2002, p. E-1
  2. Percy, John.  “Named After Chicago Street”.  Letter to Editor.  Buffalo News, July 15, 2002.
  3. Morrison, Jed.  “Sheridan’s Ride”.  New York Times, October 14, 2014.
  4. Grossman, Ron. “Why It’s Called Sheridan Road – Or How The General Saved Chicago”. Chicago Tribune, December 11, 2014.

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ripleyRipley Place is a short, one-block street on the west side of Buffalo, running between Vermont and Connecticut Streets, near Richmond Avenue.

Mary A. Ripley was a teacher at Central High School from the 1860s through the 1880s.  She was born in Windham, Connecticut in 1831, but grew up in Alden, New York and attended local schools.  She was known around town as one of the few woman who dared in the 1880s to wear her hair short.

mary ripleyMiss Ripley taught for seven years at School 7.  In 1861, she became a member of the faculty at Central High School.  She was determined to make over the school.  At the time, the teachers often had to call in the police to stop the students’ riots.  Miss Ripley asked for the job of taking care of the boys’ study hall, which was where many of the riots originated.  The male teachers doubted she’d be able to handle the boys, but Miss Ripley kept order with little difficulty.  She would tell people her goal was to develop young people’s conduct and character.

In 1867, Miss Ripley published a volume of poems.  She also wrote a textbook of Parsing Lessons for small school room use and a book titled Household Service.  Many considered Miss Ripley a talented poet and writer; however, her heart was truly dedicated towards her students.  She made long lasting impacts on her students.

Several of her poems were featured in magazines.  The following comes from the Magazine of Poetry and Literary Review, Volume 6:

ripley poem

When the State Normal School opened in Albany, Miss Ripley was summoned there to become one of its first teachers.  She went to Albany to teach for a few years, but missed her old school so she returned to Buffalo.  She taught at Central until 1888.

Miss Ripley received many honors in her years teaching.  During the Civil War, at a Washington’s Birthday celebration, she was seated with former President Millard Fillmore.  In 1886, for her 25th anniversary of teaching at Central, she was given a gold watch and roses.  For her retirement, she was given a diamond ring from “Miss Ripley’s Boys and Girls”.  They formed the Mary A. Ripley Association, which met for several years.  Miss Ripley passed away in 1893.

Mary Ripley Library in the Union Hall.  Source:  WNY Heritage

Mary Ripley Library in the Union Hall. Source: WNY Heritage

The Mary A. Ripley Memorial Library was established in the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union building.  Miss Ripley was a member of the Board of Directors of the Union.  The Ripley Memorial Library was furnished at a cost of $2,000 and contained 500 volumes when it first opened.  The Ripley Memorial Library was established with the Public Libraries division of the University of the State of New York.  The library was widely used as a place to read and study.

The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union was established in 1884 by Harriet Townsend.  We’ll get to more about the Townsend men and Townsend Street on another day, but it’s women’s history month, so we’ll talk about her today!  Mrs. Townsend was made the CEO of the organization due to her intelligence, vision and management skills.  She had no children, which allowed her to work full time for the advancement of women, advocating for women’s rights all of her life.  The Union building was located on Delaware Ave at Niagara Square (site of the City Court Building) in the former Babcock house, which was later demolished to build a larger building.  During the dedication ceremony of the new building, Miss Ripley recited a poem she had written.

Membership into the Union was $1. Union reports stated “We no longer listen to the selfish moralist who cries ‘Let the woman stay in her home, her only safe haven'”, and that “it is not, an association of benevolent, well-to-do women, joined for the purpose of reaching down to help the poor and persecuted women, but a Union of all classes and conditions of women”.  The concept was unique at the time.

Union Building on Niagara Square c. 1890.  Source:  WNY Heritage

Union Building on Niagara Square c. 1890. Source: WNY Heritage

The Union building contained the first gymnasium for women in Buffalo, kitchen space for instruction in nutrition and cooking, and provided classes on various topics not provided in public schools.  The Union gave scholarships to women to attend Bryant and Stratton and trained women for low wage jobs, such as cooks, domestics, and seamstresses.   The Union taught members how to navigate the bureaucracy of government.  The Union lobbied to establish equal guardianship rights for women in case of divorce.  The Union successfully got a women appointed to the School Board and fought for rights for all women.

The Union dissolved in 1915, finding that its work was finished – most of its groundbreaking programs had been adopted by educational, governmental and civic organizations.  These Women’s Union began programs we take for granted today such as vocational education, physical education, night school, free kindergartens, probation officers, Legal Aid, etc.  The building then became Townsend Hall, part of the University at Buffalo and was the college’s first College of Arts and Sciences, named after Harriet Townsend.  The building was razed in 1959 after it was destroyed by fire.  The Townsend Hall name was transferred to a building on South Campus.

Learn about other streets in the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. “Ripley Place is Memorial To Beloved Central High Teacher” Courier Express Oct 5, 1941, sec 5 p 3
  2. “Streets Have Historical Link” Buffalo Courier Express. Dec 7 1952 p 7-8
  3. The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Buffalo.  Compiled by Mrs. Frederick J. Shepard.
  4. “Harriet A. Townsend:  The Women’s Union.”  Susan Eck.  Western New York Heritage Press.
  5. The Magazine of Poetry, A Monthly Review.  Charles Wells Moulton.  Buffalo NY 1894.

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Richmond Avenue

Richmond Avenue

Richmond Avenue runs north-south through the West Side of Buffalo, running between Forest Avenue and North Street.  The road was originally known as Rogers Road and served as a trail from Buffalo to what was known as a Shingletown area in the north.  Even when the City reached to North Street, Shingletown was still mainly open fields used for grazing animals and raising vegetables.  The most prominent building on the street was a tavern located on a terrace within a fruit orchard at the corner of Rodgers (now Richmond) and Utica Avenues.  The tavern allowed travelers heading between Buffalo and Black Rock a place to rest.  Residential development of the area increased in the 1880s and by 1900 the area resembled its current appearance.  The street was named in 1879 in honor of Jewett Richmond, who was involved in the salt and grain industries.

jewett richmondJewett Richmond was born in Syracuse in 1831.  He entered the salt business at a young age and began shipping salt to Buffalo and Chicago.  On his trips to Buffalo, he saw Buffalo’s potential to become a grain center.  He moved to Buffalo in 1854 and entered the grain business, building a grain elevator and establishing a company on the lakeshore.  He built the Buffalo and Jamestown railroad.  He was president of the Marine Bank, the Mutual Gas Light Company and the Buffalo Board of Trade.  He also served on the City Council.

At one point, in 1881, a delegation of prominent citizens wanted him to run for Mayor.  Mr. Richmond was among 5 people they asked to run for Mayor that year (Major Doyle was another).  Mr. Richmond suggested that they ask Grover Cleveland first.  Grover Cleveland accepted, and was elected to his first important political post.

Mr. Richmond was involved in many organizations.  He was a member of the Young Men’s Association, which established the Buffalo Public Library.  He was a trustee of the Charity Organization Society and the Forest Lawn Cemetery Association.  He was a charter member of the Buffalo Historical Society (now the Buffalo History Museum), the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (now the Buffalo Museum of Science) and the Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery).   He was a founder of the Buffalo Club and the Country Club of Buffalo.

The Richmond family lived at 844 Delaware Avenue.  The property originally encompassed all of the land between Delaware Avenue and Richmond Avenue and was landscaped with gardens and some of the oldest trees in Buffalo.  In 1879, a petition was submitted to City Council to rename Rogers Road to Richmond Avenue in Mr. Richmond’s honor.

844 Delaware Avenue

844 Delaware Avenue

In January 1887, the Richmond house was destroyed by a fire.  In 1888, a new home was built at 844 Delaware Avenue.  The house is often referred to as the Lockwood house, as the 2nd owner of the house was Thomas B. Lockwood.  The house is currently owned by Child and Family Services.

Mr. Richmond died in 1899.  In addition to the street, two stained glass windows are also dedicated to his memory – one in Westminster Church and one in the Richmond Chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Richmond Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

Richmond Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

1920s version of the Richmond Avenue Extension

1920s version of the Richmond Avenue Extension

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a proposal to extend Richmond Avenue further south of North Street.  During the late 1930s, residents of Richmond Avenue petitioned to have the city change the name from Richmond Avenue to Richmond Parkway in order to preserve the residential nature of the street.  In Olmsted’s plan, the “Avenues” were single drive lanes with double rows of trees on either side, while the “Parkways” were the double drive lanes with a carriage path in the center.  The residents were determined to keep the street as only a street of “homes and churches”.  Another proposal to extend Richmond Ave came to life after the construction of the Skyway in the 1950s.  This proposal would have connected Richmond Avenue to the Skyway.  None of these proposed extensions were built.

Check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

Sources:

  1. Times, Oct 26, 1929, “Days of Auld Lang Syne” Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, vol 2
  2. Richmond Ave may extend to downtown Courier Express July 10 1935, p 13
  3. Named after Jewett Richmond “Richmond Avenue Perpetuates Memory of Cleveland Sponsor” Courier Express Oct 16, 1938 sec 5 p 3
  4. “Name Change Asked:  Richmond Would become Parkway” Courier Express December 2, 1938.  Found in Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, Vol 2 p 134

 

 

 

 

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clevelandCleveland Avenue is a street in the Elmwood Village, running between Elmwood Avenue and Delaware Avenue.  Cleveland Avenue is named after one of Buffalo’s most prominent citizens, President Stephen Grover Cleveland!  Today (March 18th) is Grover’s birthday.

Grover Cleveland’s story is a rare one.  He rose to political fame from the position of an unknown lawyer in Buffalo in a period of only three years.  He was not connected via his lineage, but rather worked hard and represented himself with integrity, which led to his success. While much has been written about President Cleveland’s campaigns and White House years, I’m going to focus on his time before he was president.

Grover Cleveland Birthplace, now a museum Source

Grover Cleveland Birthplace, now a museum
Source

Mr. Cleveland’s family came to America in the 1600s, settling in Massachusetts from England. Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey, the son of a Presbyterian minister.  He was named after the previous pastor at the church where his father now preached – Dr. Stephen Grover.  The first name was dropped; however, and he always went by Grover.  He was educated in public schools in Fayetteville, New York and at the Academy in Clinton, New York.  He served as a grocery clerk in Fayetteville as his first job.  He later became an assistant in the Institution for the Blind, New York City.  

Grover Cleveland as a young attorney

Grover Cleveland as a young attorney

In 1855, Mr. Cleveland came to Buffalo.  He was heading to Ohio to seek fortune, but first came to visit his uncle, Lewis Allen, who lived on a farm.  Mr. Allen convinced Grover to stay in Buffalo, by giving him a place to stay and introducing him to members of a law firm.

Mr. Cleveland studied law with Bowen & Rogers and was admitted to the bar in 1859.  One of the local legends is that when Mr. Cleveland first started at a law firm in Downtown Buffalo, he made such a little impression on the lawyers while he studied, the lawyers forgot he was there, and locked up the office for the day while he was still in the office.  He vowed that “someday, I will be better remembered”.

During the Civil War, Mr. Cleveland was drafted. His two younger brothers enlisted. At the time, the Enrollment Act of 1863 allowed draftees to pay $300 to have a substitute go to war for you.  Grover borrowed money to pay a substitute, so that he could stay in Buffalo and take care of his mother.

In 1866, Mr. Cleveland formed a partnership with I.K. Vanderpool.  The two worked together for 4 years.  He then worked with P. Laning and Oscar Folsom, working with them for two years when Mr. Cleveland was then elected to be Sheriff of Erie County in 1870.

Mr. Cleveland was considered to be just and fair in his term as Sheriff.  He showed a disregard for partisan interests and he was considered a reformer.  He served as Sheriff until 1874, using his down time to continue his studies.  When he returned to the bar after his time as Sheriff, he was more confident and was considered to be a better lawyer.  He never became wealthy as a lawyer but was distinguished among the law community for his hard work and strong ethics.

Statue of Cleveland at Buffalo City Hall

Statue of Cleveland at Buffalo City Hall

In 1881, the City of Buffalo was considered to have a corrupt government that was driving the city towards ruin.  The population was growing quickly; politics and business were intertwined, and there was a demand for reform.  Citizens were looking for a mayoral candidate who could bring about reform.  They found their man in Grover Cleveland.   With some convincing by Peter Doyle, he decided to run.  He was elected with a majority that was the largest ever given to a candidate up until that time.  His main principal for his official life is expressed by one of his messages to the Common Council:  “There is, or there should be, no reason why the affairs of our city should not be managed with the same care and the same economy as private interests”.

Mr. Cleveland clung to and fought for what he thought was right.   He was known as the “Veto Mayor” (and later the “Veto Governor” and “Veto President”).  As Mayor, he was careful with city expenditures.  Mr. Cleveland’s term as Mayor was noticed throughout the state and led to his nomination for Governor.

Mr. Cleveland’s strength in the gubernatorial campaign lay in the fact that he was relatively unknown, and, therefore, not part of the machine that had run New York politics.  He had never met many of the representatives of the Democratic Party until the night of the convention.  He was elected in 1882, defeating Charles Folger by nearly 193,000 votes.

On election night, Grover wrote to his brother William, “But the thought that has troubled me is Can I well perform my duties and in such a manner has to do some good to the people of the State?  I know there is room for it and I know that I am honest and sincere in my desire to do well, but the question is whether I know enough to accomplish what I desire.”

Grover Cleveland as Governor

Grover Cleveland as Governor

His guiding principles while Governor were retrenchment, economy, integrity and reform.  He worked from early morning until late at night, carefully and deliberately undertaking the tasks at hand.  It is said that he did little to attract the attention of the party leaders outside of New York State, but in doing so, his honesty and personal habits set him apart from the pomp, circumstance and parade of importance around which many public servants surround themselves.

When the Democratic National Convention met in Chicago in 1884, Mr. Cleveland was nominated for Presidency.  He won the election by beating James G. Blaine, and became President of the United States.  After being defeated by Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland returned to New York City to work as a lawyer.  In 1892, Cleveland defeated President Harrison and became the first president to be elected for non-consecutive terms.

President Cleveland's Wedding to Frances Folsom

President Cleveland’s Wedding to Frances Folsom
Source: 1886, Harper’s Weekly

During his first term as president, in 1886, Mr. Cleveland married Buffalonian Frances Folsom.  He is the only president to be married during his term, with the wedding taking place in Blue Room of the White House.  When Oscar Folsom (Cleveland’s business partner and Frances’ father) died, Grover became executor of his estate, but was never the legal guardian of Frances, as many believe.  Frances was the youngest first lady in history, 21 at the time of their wedding.  She was a popular first lady, people purchased souvenirs bearing her likeness and copied her hairstyles and clothing.  Frances was born in Buffalo; her house still stands on Edward Street.  A slice of  the Clevelands’ wedding cake from 1886 is in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum. Frances and Grover had three daughters and two sons.

Grover Cleveland's Grave

Grover Cleveland’s Grave

In 1896, Cleveland declined the nomination for a third term, and retired to his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey.  He became a trustee at Princeton University.  He also served as a consultant to President Theodore Roosevelt.  He died of a heart attack in 1908.  His last words were “I have tried so hard to do right”.  He is buried in the Princeton Cemetery.

Other things named after Cleveland in the Buffalo Area:

  • Grover Cleveland Hall at Buffalo State College (Cleveland served on the Board of Directors when it was the Buffalo Normal School)
  • Grover Cleveland High School in Buffalo (the building now houses the International Preparatory School)
  • Grover Cleveland Golf Course
  • Cleveland Hill Neighborhood and School District in Cheektowaga
  • Cleveland Avenue, Niagara Falls
  • Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga
  • Cleveland Avenue, City of Tonawanda

To read about other streets, check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  • Triplett, Frank.  The Authorized Pictorial Lives of Stephen Grover Cleveland and Thomas Andrews Hendricks.  New York:  E.B. Treat, Publisher.  1884.
  • Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York.  Volume 1.  New York-Buffalo:  Genealogical Publishing Company, 1906.
  • Peckham, Caroline.  The Pre-Presidential Career of Grover Cleveland.  University of Wisconsin:  1922.
  • “Mr. Cleveland is Dead at 71”.  New York Times:  June 25, 1908.

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