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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

 

 

military road

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

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

map of military road - from buffalo history gazette

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

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

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

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

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

Military Road Marker

Historic Marker near Amherst Street and Military Road

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

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

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

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

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

miliatry marker sheridan drive

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

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

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

Source:

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

 

 

Today’s post doesn’t deal with a street, forgive me. It’s the seventh anniversary of Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time! This blog started as a research project for me to find out how Keppel Street got its name since that’s my last name. Seven years ago this week, I began researching in earnest and I realized I was learning all these cool stories.  By the first week in July, the blog posts started. In honor of the anniversary, I have decided to write about the woman who came 75 years before me, as the Original Buffalo Streets Girl, H. Katherine Smith.  She has basically become my new favorite Buffalo Gal!

highlight-for-xml.jpgHelen Katherine Smith was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. She went professionally by H. Katherine Smith and was known as Kate to her friends. Miss Smith’s paternal grandfather was director and general manager of the original Gas Company in Wilkes-Barre and her maternal grandfather was a founder and director of the Wilkes-Barre Deposit and Savings Bank. The family noted that Miss Smith got her business sense and drive from her grandfathers and that if she ever got tired of writing, she’d have made a wonderful business executive. Miss Smith’s first writing was to write rhymes for greeting cards, which she would sell with her father’s help as a young girl, for 25 cents a card.

Miss Smith was hired by the Buffalo Courier-Express in June of 1928. She had just graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College with a degree in journalism. Her most well known Sunday column was titled “Buffalo’s Good Listener”, a series that began in 1936. Published on Sunday’s, her articles were considered to be as important to Buffalonians as going to church. Other columns written by her were “Men You Ought to Know”, “Women of Achievement” and “Who’s Retired”.

Miss Smith also wrote a series of articles where she interviewed the descendents of families for whom Buffalo’s streets were named. These are one of the sources that I use as the first step of my research for this blog. This website is literally indebted to Miss Smith…if I hadn’t been referred to her articles seven years ago by the Research Librarian at the Buffalo History Museum (Cynthia Van Ness), none of what I’ve accomplished so far would have been possible. I like to think MIss Smith would be proud of the silly Buffalo Gal who found inspiration in her articles, seventy-five to eighty years after they were written. She was about my age when she was writing them too!

Miss Smith’s biggest accomplishment – she did it all while blind. She had been inspired by a journalism professor and decided that she wanted a newspaper job. After she graduated, she and her widowed mother had planned to travel from city to city to find a way to make it happen. Her father had passed away in 1913. Their first stop, five days after graduation, was in Buffalo and she got the job. Unknown to Miss Smith at the time, the same day she met with Courier Editor, the newspaper had run an editorial about her accomplishment of graduation with honors despite her blindness, commending her courage and success despite her obstacles and wished her luck in all her endeavors. She arrived in the editor’s office later that day and was hired. She found a niche at the Courier Express and produced many, many articles. By the end of her first nine years, she had already conducted more than 1,000 interviews.

She worked with the Courier-Express for more than 48 years, until her retirement in 1976, when she moved to Florida. In all the interviews she did over the years, she said “men are often easier to interview than women, for they are more certain of what they want to tell you, while women have a better memory for picturesque details”.

Most of her articles revolved around her interviews with people, in Western New York and beyond. She traveled to Hollywood, Europe, and South America. In her travels, she flew in a glider, floated down a river in Ecuador on a balsa raft, and raced across Lake Erie on an experimental hydro-skimmer. She covered press conferences in Washington, DC, during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In 1936, she covered South America and preparations for the Pan-American Peace Conference in Buenos Aires that fall. She sailed from New York and visited universities at Santiago, Chile, Lima, Peru, and Quito, Ecuador. She took two years of Spanish in college, and studied with a private tutor and became competent in Spanish. At the start of World War II, the President of Peru was in Buffalo for a press conference. All of the press were provided with the same summary sheet. Because of her Spanish skills, she was able to quickly ask him about Peru’s efforts to help the US War Effort while he shook all the reporters’ hands. She was the only reporter with the scoop because she was the only reporter to understand his response (in Spanish). In addition to her Spanish language skills, she minored in French in college and was an active member of the French Club of Buffalo.

TKRSummer1936_Page_21.jpg
Miss Smith lived in a second floor flat with her dog and her mother. Each day, one of her five volunteers would read her the local papers, which she would use to gather ideas for articles about personalities around the region. Many of her leads came from friends or readers. Often, the people she would interview would come to her home, otherwise, she would have someone drive her to their house or office. Her mother would often accompany her to the interviews, as a silent partner, reading silently while Miss Smith did her work. Sometimes, before the interview began, her mom would whisper to her details of the room that could serve as a lead in a story – for example, a picture of Lincoln over the fireplace or a stamp collection on the desk. Her mother would often read aloud for entertainment at home, as at the time, less than 1 percent of books were available in Braille and books on tape did not yet exist.

All of Miss Smith’s notes were taken in braille, which she learned at age 4, when she started kindergarten. The teacher herself taught herself braille and used the method to teach her. She had a private teacher for five years and then attended the Wilkes-Barre Institute before she attended Vassar. In 1969, she bought a tape recorder to help use during interviews when there were technical terms she was unfamiliar with. She always preferred not to use the tape recorder. After she’d type her story on her braille typewriter, she’d have someone read it to her for corrections before it was mailed in to the newsletter. Editors noted that her work was typically free from typographical errors.

She was active outside of her journalism work. She swam every morning at the Buffalo Athletic Club. She played bridge and may have been the only player to compete in championship tournaments while openly using marked cards. She won at least two tournaments in the Niagara Frontier. She had been a Camp Fire Girl and was awarded the Women of Achievement Medal from the Camp Fire Girls in 1939.

She was in demand as a speaker for many women’s and civic groups. One of her most popular presentations was titled “Adventures in Newspaper Writing”.

In addition to her journalism work, she also worked as a tutor for the blind, teaching braille to many students. She was an advocate for self-reliance for the sightless. Stating that she did “not believe that sightless people should be much together”. She felt that anyone that has to deal with adjustments to live is: “They must assume their own responsibility. They must bear extra expense and they must do extra work; it simply means working harder.” And Miss Smith surely worked hard to accomplish all she did. She was often invited to speak at schools for the blind. At one graduation, she said, “I was able to do it and I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to go ahead and make a mark for yourself. Of course, it requires courage”

I’ve really been inspired by Miss Smith’s story lately. I have had some difficulties with a condition called uveitis, which has led to a few bouts of temporary blindness. I am currently in one of those flares right now. It’s been a struggle, but I think to the example of Kate and everything she accomplished, and the prospect of my issues becoming permanent don’t seem quite as scary. It tends to put a damper in my ability to write for this blog at times, because so much of my research is done reading old books and microfilm, which aren’t exactly optimized for the visually impaired. It’s tough, but I know I’ll get through this.
Screenshot_20180604-211540.pngIn an interview after her retirement, Miss Smith said her favorite food was Italian eggplant (eggplant parmesan). She enjoyed cooking, but she didn’t like to bread the eggplant, because it’s too much work. A newspaper in Florida published her recipe for Italian eggplant, and I intend to add it to my repertoire. As those who know me know, eggplant parm is my favorite meal and a staple of my diet. I often will buy three eggplant at the farmer’s market and spend the afternoon breading them all at once and freeze the slices, because I also hate breading it too! I like to think Miss Smith and I would have been good friends. I can’t wait to sit around and chat with her in the great hereafter….imagine the two of us as a tag-team of interviewers! We’d be able to write-up some interesting stories for sure.

I still can’t believe I’ve been writing here on this blog for seven years! We’re a growing group of Buffalo History fans.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to every single one of you. It makes me so happy to share these stories and to hear your stories in return. I wish I could have a get together with all 6,800 of you and talk about history and Buffalo and everything else. Thank you to everyone who has read my posts or come to any of my lectures.  Please continue to share my posts with your friends, because the more the merrier.  I love writing these posts and I hope you all have gotten something from them too.   In addition to my regular streets presentations, I have a new presentation that I’ve been giving called “Which Side of the Skyway Do You Stand On?” about the history of the skyway; please contact me if you’re interested in having me give a presentation to your group.   I also have plans down the road to create a downtown walking tour to mesh together my love of history with my career as an urban planner.  So stay tuned, there’s always more to come.  We have covered close to 175 street names in the past seven years!   We’ve got a lot more yet to come!  Want to start back at the beginning?  Check out the street index to read all of the entries.  And again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Sources:

  1. Ritz, Joseph. “The Good Listener: Chatty for 33 Years” The Braille Monitor. January 1970. Inkprint Edition. National Federation of the Blind, Berkeley California..
  2. “Intrepid Reporter” The Key Reporter: The Phi Beta Kappa News Magazine. Summer 1936. Published by the United Chapters.
  3. “Journalism A Career of Rewards”. Palm Beach Post. Feb 22, 1980.
  4. Camp Fire Girls of Buffalo and Erie County , “Camp Fire Girls Women of Achievement Project, Helen Katherine Smith, 1939,” Digital Collections – University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed June 1, 2018, https://ubdigit.buffalo.edu/items/show/55927.
  5. “Katherine Smith, Blind Journalist, Great Personage”. The Post, Ellicottville NY July 18, 1934.
  6. Lyon, Jean. “A Newspaper Feature Writer Takes Notes in Braille” Perkins School for the Blind Bound Clippings: Occupations, 1908-1937.
  7. Winn, Marcia. “Buffalo Woman Tells of Her Work Here”. Perkins School for the Blind Bound Clippings: Occupations, 1908-1937.
russell

Map showing the locations of Russell, Fairfield and Greenfield Streets and Orchard Place.

Russell Street is a street in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo.  It runs for four blocks between Parkside Avenue and Greenfield Street.   Greenfield and Fairfield Street, as well as Orchard Place, were also named because of the Russell family.  You can explore the Parkside neighborhood at the Parkside Tour of Homes on Sunday, May 20th.  The tour starts this year at the corner of Russell Street and Parkside Avenue.  The tour runs from 11 am to 4:30 pm and you can get more information and buy tickets by clicking on this link.  All money raised goes to support the Parkside Community Association and all the good work they do in the neighborhood.

Russell Street is named after Washington Adams Russell II and his family.  His name is sometimes misprinted (including by myself on my blog post about Elam Jewett) as Washington Russell III.  A Russell relative currently living in New York City, the Great Grandson of Washington Adams Russell II, corrected me and provided some of the information provided below.  There were three Washington A. Russells.  The first two were Washington Adams, the third one’s middle name was Alfred.

Washington Adams Russell, the first, was born in 1799.  He built the oldest home in the Parkside area around 1841.  Mr. Russell was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg).  The Russells were a prominent family in Middletown, and Russell Street there was likely named after Washington Russell’s father, James Russell, who had served in the Revolutionary War.  James named his son after the first two presidents – Washington and Adams (the only two presidents at that time!)  Washington Adams Russell came to Buffalo with his father-in-law, Rudolph Barr (originally Bär or Baer), a Swiss brewer.  Mr. Barr had a brewery near Ferry and Main Street.  The Barr family operated Cold Spring Tavern there from 1826 until about 1849.  Mr. Russell bought 200-acres of land in what is now Parkside and built the first brick home in the Parkside area in 1841, at 2540 Main Street.  The house still stands and is now a church.

Washington Adams Russell had eight children.  His daughter Eliza was born in 1827 and married Barton Atkins, a Great Lakes ship captain.   The son, Washington Adams Russell II, was born in 1828.  Mr. Russell the elder died in August 1876 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

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Map depicting land owners. Washington Russell’s land is near the center of the photo.  His father-in-law, Henry Mochel’s land can be seen across Main Street to the northeast of the Russell Farm.    Source: 1872 Hopkins Atlas of Buffalo

Washington Russell II went to California in 1849.  He returned to Buffalo and married Mary Magdalena Mochel in 1867.  Mary Russell’s parents ran a tavern across Main Street, near what became Bennett High School.   Washington II and Mary had four children.  Their first-born son, Washington Alfred Russell (called Fred), was born in 1869. A second son, James, was born in 1877.  Daughters, Nellie and Lilian were born in 1872 and 1880 respectively.  The family lived in the Russell House on Main Street.

Washington Russell II, along with Elam Jewett and Dr. J. White, formed the Parkside Land Improvement Company in 1885.  The men began to develop and sell off the lots.   Russell Street was the cowpath the family’s cows would walk to drink from the spring in the Delaware Park Meadow.  Fairfield and Greenfield were the names of pastures on the Russell farm, near where the streets are today.  Orchard Place was the site of the family’s fruit orchard.   The streets were laid out in 1886 by the Parkside Land Company and dedicated to the city in 1889.  Olmstead had planned for Parkside to be comprised of large lots for quiet villas, the developers opted instead to decrease the size of many of the lots from 300 feet to 100-200 feet, in order to maximize profits by allowing more lots to be sold and more houses to be built.  As such, the neighborhood has Olmsted’s curving streets and building setbacks, but not the large lot sizes.  Russell Street was originally known as Russell Avenue, but at some point was changed to Street.

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Washington Adams Russell II strolling in front of his house (on the right of the photograph). His son’s more ornate Victorian era home at 2532 Main Street is behind him to the left of the photo. Both houses are still standing today. Photo from Robert Russell’s family collection

Washington Russell II. died in November 1904 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

James Russell, son of Washington of Parkside Land Improvement Company, was grandfather of Robert Russell who provided information for this post.  James was sometimes considered a black sheep of the family, because he married a Catholic girl.  Her father also ran a tavern.  James and his family lived at 39 Fairfield Street, which backed into the property at 2540 Main Street where his father lived.   James’ daughter Jean was born in 1908 and was part of the first graduating class of Bennett High School in 1926.  James’ son was James Washington Russell, and James Washington Russell’s son was Robert Russell.

Nellie and Lillian lived in the old house at 2540 Main Street.  Lillian had married Merritt Cook, but they had no children.  Robert Russell notes that in her old age, Lillian was stooped and had a screechy voice, so she fit “the old lady living in an old house is a witch” trope often perpetuated by neighborhood children.

highland lodge

Historic Image of the Highland Lodge on Main Street

Washington Alfred Russell (known as Fred) attended University of Rochester and University of Buffalo Law School.  He was a lawyer and 33rd degree Mason.  The Highland Lodge #835 is at 2456 Main Street.  The building was built by Green & Wicks Architects in 1905 and was used as the community center for Central Presbyterian Church for some time.  The lodge is still standing today.  Fred lived at 2532 Main Street, adjacent to his parents, his house can be seen in the photograph above.  The house is also still standing today.  Fred died in 1944 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

 

1928_Olympics_4x100m_relay

Henry Russell at the Olympics.    Source:  U&U 1928

Fred had a son named Henry Argue (called Hank).  Hank was born in 1904 and ran track at Cornell.  In the 1928 Olympics Trials, Hank placed third in the 100 meter at the finals.  in Amsterdam at the 1928 Olympics, Hank was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 meter, but he anchored the 4 by 100 relay, winning a gold medal and tying a world record.  He later left Buffalo to work for DuPont.  Hank died in 1986 in West Chester, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia).

The Washington name continued thru the Russell family for another generation.  Robert Russell had an uncle, Washington Arthur Russell.  His son was named W Arthur Russell, as his mother couldn’t quite accept the Washington name.

Don’t forget to stop by the Tour of Homes on May 20th and impress all your friends with random facts about the Russell family while on the tour!  Tickets can be purchased here.  Very special thanks to Robert Russell for all of his insight and sharing of his family story.  Got a story to share about your family?  I’d love to hear them!

To learn about other streets – check out the street index here.

 

Sources:

  • Severance, Frank H, editor.  “Mr. Hodge’s Reminiscences”.  Buffalo Historical Society Publications.  Volume Twenty-Six.  Buffalo, New York, 1922.
  • Powell, S. R., Rushing the Growler:  A History of Brewing in Buffalo.  Apogee Design, 1996.
  • History of the Great Lakes.  Volume II.  J.H. Beers & Co, Chicago:  1899.
  • Parkside East Historic District.  National Register Nomination Form.  National Register:  90OR3175.  New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
  • Recollections of Robert Russell.  Spring 2018.
  • Cichon, Steve.  “Parkside After the War of 1812”.  blog.buffalostories.com/parkside-after-the-war-of-1812/

gill alleyGill Alley runs between Breckenridge Street and Auburn Avenue in the Elmwood Village.  Gill Alley is one of a common type of alley that exists in Buffalo, particularly around the West Side.  These alleys give access to carriage houses and garages via the rear of the properties along the adjacent streets.  Housing ads in the early parts of the 1900s used frontage along the alleys as a selling point for homes.  Many of these carriage houses have now been converted into apartments.

Gill Alley is named in honor of Helen Gill.  Mrs. Gill was the daughter of Guy C. Martin, who came to Buffalo from Vermont via canal boat.  He lived in Griffins Mills, a hamlet in the Town of Aurora.  There, he began working at the Rumsey tanneries.  He became superintendent of the Rumsey tannery in Holland and later of their Louisiana Street tannery.  He died in 1921 at the age of 102.  Helen was born in 1845, one of nine children.

Helen married Thaddeus S. Gill, the superintendent of Bush & Howard Company, a tannery that was located at Chicago and Scott Streets.  The family lived on North Division Street, when Mr. Gill passed away in 1888 at the age of 44.  Shortly before his death, the family had been discussing building a house further out of the congested areas of the city, in the new residential sections being developed north of downtown.  Between 1880s and 1900, the Elmwood area was being developed as a streetcar suburb, allowing residential living away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Helen decided after Thaddeus died that she would still build the house, despite her husband’s death.  She lived in a time when a woman’s place was considered to be in the home, but the man was the master of the house.  She purchased the property herself and even sketched out the original plans of the house.  The architect in charge of the construction only made minor changes to her design.

The Gill house is located at 482 Ashland Avenue.  When the Gill’s family home was built, the area was a part of John J Albright’s cow pasture.  Wild blackberry bushes grew around the pasture, which Mrs. Gill baked into pies.

helen gill graveMrs. Gill developed a large garden in the rear of her home.  She was a member of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church and a Vice President of the Crippled Children’s Guild.  She lived for nearly thirty years in the home she had built for herself.  She died in 1919 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

Helen’s son, Howard M. Gill, was born in the North Division Street house, and continued to live in the Ashland house after his mother died.  He attended West Side School on School Street and Masten Park High School.  He worked for the New York Central Railroad, American Car & Foundry, and Goodyear Rubber Company.  He managed his mother’s estate following her death.

To learn about other streets, check out the Street Index

Source:  Buffalo Courier-Express, June 2, 1940. p 14-W.

 

abbott.jpgAbbott Road is a road that starts in the City of Buffalo at an intersection of Bailey Avenue and South Park Avenue and runs to an intersection at Bayview Road/Armor Duells.  Abbott Road is about 9 miles in length and runs through not only the City of Buffalo, but also the City of Lackawanna and the Town of Orchard Park.   Abbott Road used to continue north across the Buffalo River towards the First Ward neighborhood, but that portion of the road was changed to South Park Avenue during the 1930s.

Brothers Samuel and Seth Abbott helped to build Abbott Road in 1809.  Seth Abbott lived at Abbott’s Corners and was interested in constructing a road to lead into Buffalo.  Samuel was one of the earliest settlers in Orchard Park.  The brothers helped clear the road of huge primeval trees, using their teams of oxen brought here from Vermont in 1807.  The road still follows, with only slight deviations, the same path that the brothers originally cleared.

The brothers’ ancestors came from England to Massachusetts in 1646.  Another ancestor, Timothy Abbott, was one of the first settlers of Rutland, Vermont.  From Vermont, Seth and Samuel made their way through the forest and ended in the vicinity of Orchard Park and Armour (a hamlet on the boundary between the towns of Hamburg and Orchard Park).  Armour was originally known as Abbott’s Corners after the Abbott brothers.  Abbott Road was originally known as Abbott’s Corners Road.  Often on the journey, they would have to leave their ox carts to go ahead to clear passages through the forest by hand before being able to bring the cart through the forest.

The Abbott brothers invested in large amounts of land.  Samuel was a farmer and surveyor and surveyed most of the principal early roads of Erie County.  In 1812, Samuel was first overseer of highways and fence viewer for District 10, East Hamburg.  During the war of 1812, Samuel Abbott and his wife, Sophia (Brown) Abbott were afraid that the British would continue south and burn them out.  They hid their most valuable possessions in the well next to their home.

samuel abbott house.jpg

Samuel Abbott’s house in Orchard Park circa 1915 (source:  Orchard Park Bee)

Samuel was also the second supervisor of the Town of Hamburg in 1813.  He then moved to the Town of Boston, where at the first town meeting in 1818, he was elected first supervisor of the Town of Boston.  Around 1825, he returned to East Hamburg (now Town of Orchard Park) and built a home on East Quaker Road in front of the log cabin he had built ten years prior.  After Samuel died, his son Chauncey Abbott and wife Charlotte moved from Buffalo to the Hamburg house in 1851.  The house is at the corner of Franklin Chauncey Lane and Franklin Street were named after Chauncey and Franklin Abbott, sons of Samuel.

Seth and his wife Sophia (Starkweather) Abbott lived in Amour, formerly Abbott’s Corners.  Before Seth settled in the area, it was known as Wright’s Corners.  From 1812 until about 1850, Abbott’s Corners was the business center for Hamburg, also being the location of the post office.  In 1891, an influential resident Mr.  Louis Hepp, proposed renaming Abbott’s Corners to Armour, supposedly after the Armour Meat Packing Company after a trip to Chicago.Seth opened a tavern in 1820.  The tavern went by several names and had several owners before being destroyed by fire in 1912.   A new building containing a tavern and an inn was built in it’s place.  In April 1824, a meeting of concerned citizens was held at Seth Abbott’s home.  As a result of the meeting, the first public library in Southern Erie County was established.  The library opened in 1824 with $102 in seed money, selling subscriptions to fund the project.  Little else is known about this early library in Hamburg.

seth abbott graveSeth Abbott died on June 8, 1831 and is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Hamburg.

 

samuel abbott graveSamuel Abbott died on October 2, 1846 and is buried in Deuel Cemetery in Orchard Park.

 

 

 

 

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

Sources:

  1. “Abbott Brothers Helped Build Road of that Name.”  Courier Express July 10, 1938, section 6 p. 10
  2. White, Truman, ed.  Our County and Its People:  A Descriptive Work on Erie County, New York, Volume 2.  The Boston History Company:1898.
  3. Kulp, Suzanne and Joseph Bieron.  Images of America:  Orchard Park.  Acadia Publishing, Portsmith, NH:  2004.
  4. Kulp, Suzanne.  History of Orchard Park.  http://orchardparkny.org/content/history  accessed February 24, 2018.
  5. “Seder’s Armor inn, historic site of Seth Abbott’s original hotel, later become Hook’s Armor Inn”.  Hamburg Sun.  December 17, 2009.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sources:

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

Tracy Street is a short street in Downtown Buffalo, running for two blocks between Delaware Avenue and Carolina Avenue, running parallel to West Tupper and Johnson Park.  Tracy Street is unique to the downtown area, as it is mostly residential homes, most of which date from approximately the 1860s.

o58tra1

Houses on Tracy Street

The street is named for Albert Haller Tracy.  Some places spelled his middle name as “Hallar”, but his gravestone uses Haller, so I will use that here.  Tracy Street was opened in 1838.  Mr. Tracy originally owned the land occupied by the street.  At one point, Mr. Tracy tried to sell the land and the houses along the street to Mr. Lewis Allen for $500 (approximately $12,000 in today’s dollars).  Mr. Allen turned down the offer, saying that it was not worth that much money.  By the 1860s, the land along the north side of Tracy Street was part of Rumsey Park, owned by one of the richest men in Buffalo.

Albert Hallar Tracy was born in Norwich Connecticut in June 1793.  His father was a physician and Albert originally intended to follow his footsteps and study medicine.  However, after deciding medicine was not his passion, he went to Batavia to study law.  In 1815 he was admitted to the bar in the Village of Buffalo.  He practiced law in partnership with James Sheldon and later with Thomas C. Love.

Mr. Tracy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1819, when he was only 24 years old.  He ran on the Whig ticket and represented nearly all of Western New York.  He turned 25 during the time between election day and his inauguration.  He served three terms in Congress and was friends with many statesmen of the time, including future President Martin Van Buren.

During his time in Congress, one of the major issues at hand was the admission of Missouri to the Union.  Mr. Tracy argued on the house floor against allowing Missouri as a slave state.  Mr. Tracy stated:

“We  are called up on now to act with  promptitude and decision upon this question; that posterity will hold us responsible if we consent to entail this evil upon it; an evil which can only be eradicated hereafter by civil commotion and perhaps bloodshed….slavery engenders pride and insolence in him who commands, and inflicts intellectual and moral degradation on him who serves, that it is abominable and unchristian.  Then why should we not apply this restriction?  Why should we hesitate to prohibit such an institution in a State whose geographical position alone ought to exclude it?”

Missouri was eventually accepted as a slave state (with Maine as a free state) in what became known as the Missouri Compromise.

Mr. Tracy was considered to have an unusually brilliant and logical mind, which contributed to his success.  In 1829, Governor DeWitt Clinton appointed him a circuit court judge; however, Mr. Tracy declined the post.  Shortly after, he was elected to the New York State Senate, where he served from 1830 to 1838.   During his term as a Senator, he served in the State Court for the Correction of Errors, in which the Senate was included.  Mr. Tracy wrote more than 150 legal opinions during his time in the State Senate.

Mr. Tracy was one of the nine original members of the Buffalo Harbor Organization, which organized in 1819.  He was also a member of the first Board of Directors of the United States Bank, which incorporated in Buffalo in 1826.  In 1846, he helped to incorporate the University at Buffalo.  He also served as President of the Buffalo Water Works Company from 1855 to 1859.

Later in life, Mr. Tracy moved from the Whig to the National Republican party.

tracy graveMr. Tracy married Harriet F. Tracy.  Albert and Harriet had two sons – Albert Haller Tracy, Jr. and Francis W. Tracy.  The Tracy family lived at the northeast corner of Court and Franklin Streets.  Mr. Tracy died on September 19, 1859 and he is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Harriet died in March 1876.  Albert Jr died in 1874.

800px-Agnes_Ethel_001Francis (Frank) married Mary Robinson in 1862 and they had a child named Harriet in 1867.  Frank suffered from alcoholism and Mary divorced him in 1871, and was awarded custody of Harriet by the court.   Frank then married Agnes Ethel in 1873.  Agnes was a popular broadway actress of the time.  Frank died in 1886 at the age of 47.  Frank’s will was contested by Mary on behalf of Harriet, but Agnes was awarded all of Frank’s fortune.

Read about other streets by checking out the Street Index.

 

Sources:

  1. “Tracy Street Linked to Lawyer Who was a Congressman at 24″Courier Express June 26, 1938, sec 5 p 2
  2. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress – Albert H. Tracy (id:  T000343)
  3. “In the Matter of Probate of the Last Will and Testament of Francis W. Tracy”.  New York State Reporter.  Surrogate Court, Erie County, Filed November 18, 1886.
  4. Proctor, L.B. The Bench and Bar of New York. Diossy and Company:  New York, 1870.

McKinley Parkway is one of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed parkways.  The parkway system Olmsted designed allows the greenspace of the park system to radiate out into the neighborhoods.  McKinley Parkway runs from the main entrance of South Park past McKinley and McClellan Circles to Heacock Place.  During the 1890s, much of the land for the parkway was donated by residents of South Buffalo who wanted to have the benefit of having a parkway in front of their homes.  McKinley Parkway was often referred to as the Delaware Avenue of South Buffalo, as it was a street of stately homes occupied by prominent Buffalonians.  During the 1930s, a portion of McKinley was extended north across Abbott Road to connect to Bailey Avenue.  The parkway was originally known as South Side Parkway.  The name was changed in December 1915, to honor McKinley.  South Side Parkway’s name was selected as the street name to change because many residents about their mail delivery – residents living on South Park and South Side Parkway often got each others mail.  At this time, they also changed the name of Woodside Circle to McClellan circle, for a similar reason.  The traffic circle at McKinley and Dorrance Avenue is known as McKinley Circle, but was also originally known as South Side Circle.   When South Park Avenue was created from various South Buffalo Streets in 1939, they renamed a portion of the former South Park Avenue, reusing the Southside Parkway name.

Heacock Place – the start of the South Buffalo Olmsted Parks and Parks system and where McKinley Parkway originates

The South Buffalo Olmsted parks and parkways system was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.  The system consists of the following:  Heacock Place, McKinley Parkway, McClellan Circle (formerly Woodside Circle), Red Jacket Parkway, Cazenovia Park, McKinley Circle and South Park.  The South Park-Cazenovia Parks and Parkways were created later than the Delaware Park-Front Park-Humboldt Park system.  Fillmore Parkway was originally designated to be a link between Humboldt Park (now Martin Luther King Jr Park) to South Park.  Olmsted originally proposed the plans for South Park in 1887.  South Park was built on a smaller scale than originally planned, as by 1893 when the park was approved by Common Council, industrial development had begun to take over the lakefront area originally designated for the park.  Planning for Cazenovia Park coincided with the development of South Park, and Olmsted planned for the South  Side Parkways to link the two parks.  Fillmore Avenue was partially laid out, but the full vision was never completed to connect the southern parks with the older parkway system in the northern part of town.

President McKinley on Cayuga Island, 1897.
Source: Niagara Gazette, March 26 1931, pg 8

President McKinley enjoyed world’s fairs, and referred to them as “the timekeepers of progress” and said that “they record the world’s advancement”.  He attended the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895.  He was involved in the Pan American Exposition as well.  He came to Western New York to celebrate the choice of Cayuga Island in Niagara Falls as an exposition location in 1897.  This fair was to happen in 1899 but was pushed back by a few years due to the Spanish-American War.  After a selection committee examined a slate of 20 different potential fair locations,  the Pan American Exposition committee selected Mr. Rumsey’s land in North Buffalo.

The original Cayuga Island plan for the Pan American Exposition of 1898

The McKinleys had hoped to be in town for the Pan American’s opening day in May of 1901, but Mrs. McKinley fell ill.  The President sent Vice President Theodore Roosevelt in his place.  Vice President Roosevelt talked to the President about how impressed he was with fair and particularly the electric tower, increasing President McKinley’s desire to come to see it for himself.  On September 4th, the McKinleys made it to Buffalo.  The following is a link to Thomas Edison footage of McKinley’s speech at the Exposition.

The gun that shot McKinley, in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum

The rest, as they say, is history.  On September 6, 1901, at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley.  President McKinley held on for a few days, but died on the 14th.  Vice President Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated as President at the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue here in Buffalo.  Following the closure of the Pan American Exposition, the fair was torn down and the land was subdivided for residential development.  The location where McKinley was shot is marked by a boulder with a plaque on it on one of these residential streets.

Front page of the Buffalo Courier following McKinley’s shooting.
From the Collection of the Newseum in Washington, DC

McKinley Monument in Niagara Square

The McKinley monument in Niagara Square was dedicated in 1907.  Daniel Burnham was called in to Buffalo to consult about the design of the monument.  The monument was designed by Carrere and Hastings, who also designed the Pan American Exposition and had worked with Daniel Burnham on the Chicago Exposition in 1893.   The sleeping lion and turtles sculptures were designed by A. Phimister Proctor.  The lions represent strength and the turtles represent eternal life.

The McKinley Monument was restored this summer, the monument’s first full restoration in 110 years.  The work was coordinated by the City of Buffalo, Buffalo Arts Commission and Flynn Battaglia Architects.  The monument should be completed on September 6, 2017, the 116th anniversary of McKinley’s shooting.

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

 

Sources:

  1. “Change Street Names to Avoid Confusion”.  Buffalo Courier.  December 19, 1915, pg. 82.
  2. Goldman, Mark.  City on the Edge.  Amherst:  Prometheus Books.  2007.
  3. Kowski, Francis, et.a.  Cambridge:  MIT Press, 1981.
  4. Sommer, Mark.  First Restoration of McKinley Monument in 110 Years Begins.  Buffalo News.  June 12, 2017.
  5. Williams, Deirdre.  City Hallways (August 31):  Rehab work at McKinley Monument wrapping up.  Buffalo News.  August 31, 2017.
expressway

Scajaquada Expressway (NYS 198)

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

scajaquada street

Scajaquada Street

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

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

1850 Portrait of Philip Conjockety by Lars Gustaf Sellstedt

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

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

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

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

Doreen-DeBoth-Buffalo-NY

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

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

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

Historic View of Scajaquada Creek Source: Buffalo News

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

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

Buffalo NY Courier Express 1958 a - 2435

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

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

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

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

FotoJet

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

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

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

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

 

DenCity

Urban Planning and History Blog

Hoping for a Tail Wind

Because I probably brought too much gear.

priorhouse blog

Photos, art - and a little bit of LIT.

Sheepie Niagara

The most popular sheep in Niagara Falls

Nonprofit AF

Exploring the fun and frustrations of nonprofit work

Gather by Image

An anagram. And a reason to write... to Grieve... to Heal

Planners On Tour

People, places and planning around the world by bicycle.

Queen City Simmer

Cooking + Eating in Buffalo NY