Archive for the ‘West Side’ Category

Johnson Park consists of two parallel streets that create a court between Delaware and a park that shares its name with the road.  The “park” in Johnson Park is named after the estate of Ebenezer Johnson, the City of Buffalo’s first mayor!


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Lafayette Avenue runs approximately 2 miles from west to east across the center of Buffalo, from Main Street to Niagara Street.  Lafayette Avenue crosses both Gates Circle and Colonial Circle.  The street was originally named Bouck Avenue.   There was a Governor of New York, William Bouck, but don’t quote me on it being named after him.  Before he was Governor, Bouck was involved in the building of the Erie Canal; his job was to bring the money to the workers in the western portion of the state.

Lafayette Square, located at Main Street between Broadway and Clinton, was originally laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804.  Lafayette Square was known in those days as Courthouse Square.  The Courthouse was located where the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library is currently located.


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This post is at the request of John Fell.  Don’t forget, if you have any requests for specific streets- leave them in the comments or send me an email at buffalostreets (at) gmail (dot) com!

Fell Alley is a small,  two block alley running between Niagara Street and Prospect Avenue, from Carolina to Virginia Street.

Fell Alley was named for Dr. George Edward Fell.  Dr. Fell was the inventor of the Fell motor, a submarine life-preserver, and co-inventor of the electric chair.  The Fell motor is a device used for mechanical respiration and was used until the invention of the pulmotor in 1911.   The first Fell motor was invented in 1887, and used bellows, piping and a breathing valve to resuscitate unconscious patients.  At the time, the restoration of respiration was believed to be impossible, however Dr. Fell made it possible and saved many lives.    The submarine life-preserver not only kept you afloat,  it also provided an air supply to allow easier breathing should you go overboard.

Dr. Fell was a professor of  microscopy in the medical department of Niagara University (which is now the UB Medical School).    George Fell also worked as a surgeon.   While he was opposed to capital punishment, his work on the creation of the electric chair was intended to minimize the pain of the death penalty.

While he attended medical school in the evenings, George Fell also had worked as a City Engineer from 1882-1883.  He worked on the installation of one of the break walls from the harbor along the south shore of Lake Erie to the South Buffalo Lighthouse.  When George Fell completed medical school, his brother Charles took his place in the Engineering Department and completed the break wall.    Charles Fell is responsible for many of the plans for the City’s sewer lines, although many of them were not built until after his death.

George Fell was also considered to be a great humanitarian.   Dr. Fell’s home and office was at 72 Niagara Street.  He had four daughters and a son.  He moved to Chicago in 1917 and died in 1918.


  1. Essig, Mark.  Edison and the Electric Chair: A Story of Light and Death.  Walker and Company:  USA, 2003.
  2. “Fell Alley memorial to Physician – Inventor” Courier Express May 19, 1940 sec 5, p7.
  3. Fell, George.  “A New Method of Saving Life at Sea:  The Fell Submarine Life Preserver”.  Buffalo medical journal, Volume 71.  August 1915
  4. Fell, George.  “The Influence of Electricity on Protoplasm.”  Physician and Surgeon 10.  October 1890,p 441-442.

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Putnam Street runs about 0.3 miles on the West Side of Buffalo, west of Richmond Avenue, between Lafayette Avenue and West Ferry Street.    The street was named for James O Putnam.

James Osborne Putnam was  a friend of Lincoln before he became president and worked on Lincoln’s election campaigns.  He was also appointed by President Garfield to represent the US as minister to Belguim.

Putnam’s relatives arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in the early 1600s.  James was related to the Revolutionary War general, Israel Putnam.  The Putnam family arrived in Western New York in 1817 and built a log cabin.  James O. Putnam was born a year later.  James studied law at Yale and came back to Buffalo to practice.  While waiting on clients, he spent his time writing a book of essays and biographical sketches of Buffalonians.  His book can be found  here.

The Putnams lived on Swan Street, but later moved into a brick house at 756 Washington Street (The Putnam House was used as a kindergarten and nursery school for years after his death).  James O Putnam owned a farm that covered most of the land west of Richmond Avenue including Putnam Street.  He bought the land as an investment, and subdivided it into building lots and sold them.   The trees on the east side of Richmond Ave from Colonial Circle to Breckinridge were planted by James O Putnam.  He was a perfectionist, and inspected the trees year after year.  The weakling trees would be uprooted and replaced throughout the years.   At the age of 80, Mr. Putnam was selected to present the flags to the Buffalo soldiers and sailors leaving for the Spanish American War.    He also served as Chancellor of the University of Buffalo.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Source:  “Named for James O Putnam”.  Courier Express Aug 28, 1938, Located in ECBPL Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, Vol 2.

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Hodge Avenue runs approximately a half-mile between Delaware Avenue and Ashland Avenue.  Like many of the streets in the Elmwood Village, Hodge Street is lined with beautiful homes and large stately trees.  It’s hard to imagine the City of Buffalo without it’s street trees.  Although, the trees might not even be there if it wasn’t for the Hodge family….


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Numbered Streets in Buffalo

One thing many people don’t understand is Buffalo’s numbered streets.  Sure, we don’t have a perfect numbered grid like New York City, but our radial street pattern and unique street names are important to the City of Buffalo’s identity.  (Also, it gives me a reason to blog).

While Buffalo does have some numbered streets, the numbered streets  seem not to make any sense at all.  They are scattered throughout the west side of Buffalo in a seemingly random fashion.  We have the following numbered streets:

  • 4th
  • 7th
  • 10th
  • 14th
  • 15th
  • 16th
  • 17th
  • 18th
  • 19th

Why do they start with number 4?  Why do they skip numbers?  Why don’t they make any sense?


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Did you go to the concert tonight on Bidwell Parkway?  Do you shop at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s market on Saturday mornings?   Bidwell Parkway is one of the Olmsted Parkways, designed as an entranceway into Delaware Park.  The Parkway serves as a meeting ground for the community in the vibrant Elmwood Village.

But do you know who Bidwell was?


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When I was in 5th grade, I was cast as Gracie Shinn, the Mayor’s daughter in The Music Man.  In my moment of theatrical glory, I got to run across the stage yelling “Daddy Daddy Daddy, the Wells Fargo Wagon is Coming”.  Talk of the Wells Fargo Wagon stirs up feelings of old-timey nostalgia for the days when you couldn’t just order things overnight delivery on amazon.com.  Waiting for the stagecoach must have been excruciating!    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a video from the 2003 movie.


Did you know that Wells Fargo has its roots in Buffalo? (more…)

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