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Posts Tagged ‘Black Rock’

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.

 

 

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Often a group of streets will be named after a theme.  This is often seen when a developer may name a bunch of streets after his family members or friends.  Many people know that Washington, DC has streets named after all 50 states to form the City’s grid (crossed by alphabetic and numbered streets).   The City of Buffalo has streets named after 32 of the 50 states.  Many of these state street names originated in one of Buffalo’s original street grids.

Map of Village of Black Rock, 1816 Source:  New York State Archives

Map of Village of Black Rock, 1816
Source: New York State Archives

Many of the streets named after streets are located in what was the original development of the Village of Black Rock.  The Black Rock streets were originally laid out  two years before Joseph Ellicott came to Buffalo!  New York State purchased a one mile strip of land along the Niagara River known as the New York State Reservation in 1802.  The State laid out the streets of the Village of Black Rock.  For 20 years, Black Rock would serve as Buffalo’s rival.  In 1825, Buffalo won its fight to be the terminus of the Erie Canal, became a booming city, and annexed the Village of Black Rock in 1854.

State named streets in Black Rock include Georgia, Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Jersey, York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hampshire.  All of the original 13 colonies are represented by these streets, other than Delaware, which was originally located where Hudson Street is today.  When Buffalo and Black Rock merged, duplicate street names were changed to prevent confusion.  These streets all lay parallel to each other in what is now the West Side of the City of Buffalo, but was originally known as the South Village of Black Rock or Upper Black Rock.  When originally laid out, these streets formed a grid with numbered streets.  The streets were laid out by Lemuel Forester, a Surveyor for New York State.  You can read about the numbered streets in Buffalo by clicking here.  These streets form what was known as Upper Black Rock.  Peter Porter was an important person in the early days of Black Rock.

It is important to note that it is difficult to differentiate between states such as North and South Carolina or Virginia and West Virginia, as the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) are used in street naming conventions.  Early maps of Black Rock show Jersey, York and Hampshire as New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire, but as time elapsed, the convention to name streets “New” to differentiate between different alignments of a street which changed over time, of which the alignment’s name may be “New _____ Street” or “Old ______ Street”.

Streets in Buffalo Named After States

Streets in Buffalo Named After States  (click to view larger image)

The City also has streets named after the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • North and South Dakota (as Dakota Street)
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

There are several streets named after states that used to be located in Buffalo.  These streets names have been removed for various reasons:

Portion of 1900 Sanborn Map depicting locations of Idaho and Arizona Streets.

Idaho Street and Arizona Streets– were located in North Buffalo off Military Road, north of Sayre Street.  The Buffalo Foundry was located here, and industrial facilities eventually absorbed the streets.

1951 Sanborn Map showing the former location of Indiana Street

 

Indiana Street was located near the foot of Main Street.  The street was eliminated when Crossroads Arena (aka Marine Midland, aka HSBC, aka First Niagara Center) was built.  The street is currently buried under First Niagara Center.

1925 Sanborn Map Showing Alaska Alley

1925 Sanborn Map Showing Alaska Alley

Alaska Alley  – was closed on February 24, 1960.  This was a small alley off of Chippewa near Genesee and Washington.   The block where Alaska and Seward Alleys were located is now parking for the Electric Tower building.

Iowa – used to be the part of LaSalle Avenue from Bailey to Eggert (near Minnesota Avenue).  However, they changed the name when they wanted to rename Perry Street to Iowa Street.  They then decided that Perry was too important to change the name of the street.  At this time, they also tried to change the name of Fulton Street to Oklahoma, but also decided that Fulton was too important of a person to change the name of the street.

In 1901, the City wanted to rename Indian Church, Hudson or South Division Street to Missouri.  Residents complained because it sounded like “Misery” to them, and they did not want to live on “Misery Street”.

There is no Maine Street, because it would be confusing because it sounds like Main Street.

I was unable to find evidence of streets in Buffalo named after the following five states:

  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Utah
  • Hawaii

Buffalo Ex-Pats living in the Washington, DC area will be happy to know that Columbia Street, in the Cobblestone District near the arena, is named after the District of Columbia.

To answer the “which street named after a state is your favorite?” question – mine is York Street.  My dad moved to Buffalo (from Central New York….and after time spent in the Navy) in 1978 and his first apartment here was on York Street.  My parents lived there when the first got married.  This is where my branch of the Keppel family started in Buffalo.  🙂

To read about other streets, click the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. “Many Changes Made in Names of Streets Here” Courier Express, August 26, 1928
  2. “New Names for Streets” Buffalo Express Oct 7, 1901
  3. “Council Closes Alaska Alley” Buffalo Courier Express, February 24, 1960.

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porterThe Porter family was very influential in Buffalo/Niagara during its formation and early years of settlement.  There is Porter Ave in Buffalo, Porter Road in Niagara Falls, a Town of Porter in Niagara County and the Porter Quadrangle complex at University of Buffalo.   Porter Avenue is located in the Front Park neighborhood on the West Side of Buffalo and is an Olmsted Parkway.   The street was originally known as Guide Board Road and predates Joseph Ellicott’s time in Buffalo.  It was an Indian Trail used during the Revolutionary War to a ferry which led to Canada.

Guide Board Road sign, on North Street near Franklin Street

Guide Board Road sign, on North Street near Franklin Street

The original street alignment went straight west towards the Niagara River.  When Frederick Law Olmsted designed the City’s parkway system, he decided to turn a portion of York Street into Porter Avenue, in order to connect to Front Park and Fort Porter.  This allowed the connections between parks that completes our parks system.

Castle at Fort Porter Postcard

Castle at Fort Porter Postcard

The former Fort Porter was located on the Lake Erie shoreline just north of Front Park.  Olmsted included the Fort’s grounds into his original plans for Front Park.  The Fort was torn down to build the Peace Bridge.  The Porter Family included Augustus and Peter Porter.  Augustus was prominent in Niagara Falls, living on and owning Goat Island  His brother Peter Porter was prominent in Black Rock/Buffalo.  

Peter Porter

Peter Porter

Peter Buell Porter was  born on August 14, 1773 and was raised in Connecticut.  He attended Yale and Litchfield Law School.  He moved west to Canandaigua for his law practice in 1793.  He served as Clerk of Ontario County from 1797 to 1804 and was elected to the New York State Assembly, representing Ontario and Steuben Counties in 1802.    

While in the Assembly, Peter Porter was influential in working with Joseph Ellicott to promote road construction in Buffalo.  However, shortly thereafter, Peter Porter began to develop a community two miles north of Buffalo called Black Rock.  At Black Rock, there was what was called a “safe and commodious” natural harbor, and the land was owned by New York State, unlike the majority of Western New York which was owned by the Holland Land Company.   Peter purchased land with his brother Augustus and Benjamin Baron to form Porter, Barton and Company.  New York State gave their trading firm a monopoly of the transportation business on the portage around Niagara Falls and it handled much of the trade on the Upper Great Lakes.

Around 1797, Joseph Ellicott tried to convince Porter and his friends to purchase property from the Holland Land Company.  Instead, they bought state lands along the Niagara River.  The laid out a town site, built warehouses and other trading facilities, establishing Black Rock.  This angered Paul Busti and other Holland Land Company agents, who then tried to purchased land from the State for the Holland Land Company in order to sabotage Porter’s plans.   As the town of Black Rock developed, the Holland Land Company tried hard to push Buffalo’s interests by using political influence in Albany.  However, Porter was equally determined to make Black Rock successful and had his own power in Albany.

Peter Porter moved to Black Rock in 1809 and was elected to the US House of Representatives, furthering his influence from Albany down to Washington, D.C.   He was so influential as a congressman that he convinced President Madison to move the customs house from Buffalo to the smaller Black Rock during summer (the more active) months. 

Map of Black Rock prior to the War of 1812

Map of Black Rock prior to the War of 1812

During the War of 1812, General Porter served in the New York State Militia.  In congress, Porter was labelled a War Hawk as he fought for security of the Niagara Frontier as the conflict leading up to the war became heated.  He found strong allies in Henry Clay and John Calhoun and was named  chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Porter was presented a gold medal from Congress on November 3, 1814 for “gallantry and good conduct” during the Battle of Chippewa, Battle of Niagara and Battle of Erie.

Following the War of 1812, Porter was able to assist in getting the War Department to use federal troops to repair and improve roads between Fort Niagara and Black Rock which were damaged during the war.  Porter also brought federal funds to the area to build roads and canals.  Porter and his supporters also wanted the federal government to build roads from the “Buffalo Frontier” to Washington to foster trade between the federal capital, the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes.  This led to conflicts between Black Rock (which was Peter Porter, because of his vast real estate holdings and commercial enterprises) and Buffalo’s leaders – including Samuel Wilkeson, Albert Tracy, David Day and Oliver Forward.  Buffalo’s leaders were on the side of Dewitt Clinton, Mayor of New York City at the time.  Porter and his friends were on the anti-Clinton political faction.

General Peter served as Secretary of State of New York from 1815 to 1816.   During a special election after the resignation of Governor Tompkins, Tammany Hall printed ballots with Porter’s name on them.  Porter received 1300 votes, despite not running for office.  Governor Dewitt Clinton won that election, despite Tammany Hall’s efforts.

General Porter was appointed to the Canal Commission created to examine possible canal routes.  Governor Clinton opted for a Hudson River to Lake Erie straight across the state.  General Porter preferred two canals, one joining the Hudson River with Lake Ontario and one around Niagara Falls, joining Lake Erie and Ontario.  Buffalo Leaders and Joseph Ellicott preferred Clinton’s ideas, but in 1814, it seemed that the Canal Commission might adopt Porter’s suggestions.   By 1816, Porter had not been reappointed to the Canal Commission as he had accepted the office of boundary commissioner to clarify the disputed sections of the US-Canada Border.  Joseph Ellicott replaced Porter on the Commission, Dewitt Clinton had been elected Governor, and the Erie Canal took the alignment we are familiar with today.

The rivalry then shifted to whether Buffalo or Black Rock would be the western terminus for the Erie Canal.  Black Rock had a large, natural harbor which would be easy to expand and for years it had been the center of east-west trade and was used even by the merchants in Buffalo.  Black Rock also provided an escape from the turbulent winds and swells coming across Lake Erie.  It also would shorten the canal a few miles, lowering construction costs.  Buffalo had advantages too:  it was out of the range of British canons on the Canadian Shore (which was important given the recent War with Great Britain).  Higher water levels meant the canal would feed better in Buffalo.  Samuel Wilkeson led the charge, along with a group of enterprising men, determined to make Buffalo the canal terminus.  A report by engineers stated that the terminus should be located in Buffalo as the Black Rock harbor was too vulnerable to British attack, too exposed to ice damage and too expensive to develop.  While several later reports supported Black Rock, the Canal Commission designated Buffalo as the canal terminus in 1822, on the advice of four out of five of its engineers.  Efforts by Porter and his friends to alter the decision were fruitless, and bills were passed in the legislature for a canal link from Tonawanda to Buffalo, completely bypassing Black Rock.

Porter House facing Niagara Street circa 1880s when Lewis Allen owned the house

General Porter built a house at 1192 Niagara Street (between Breckenridge and Ferry) in 1816.  He Porter married Letitia Breckenridge of the prominent Breckenridge family.   Breckenridge Street, which was originally called Commerce Street, is named after her.     When Grover Cleveland moved here to Buffalo, he lived in the Porter house, with his Aunt and Uncle, the Allens.   Peter and Letitia’s son Peter A. Porter went on to become a Civil War Colonel, killed in the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.  

General Porter donated the land for the Union Meeting House Church across the street from his house.  The church is located at 44 Breckenridge and is also known as the Breckenridge Street Church.  

Peter Porter was also President of Jubilee Water Works, the first company to bring water into people’s homes.  The water came from the jubilee spring (located in present day Forest Lawn…Crystal Lake is formed from waters from the spring) and was pumped through wooden pipes.  Some of Buffalo’s wooden water pipes still exist.

porter grave

Peter Porter’s Grave

In 1837, Black Rock was dealt another blow when General Porter sold his interests there and moved to Niagara Falls where he built a new home.  Peter Porter died in 1844, and Fort Porter was named in honor of the businessman-politician-soldier.  Peter and Augustus Porter are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls.  Nine years after his death, Porter’s beloved Black Rock was annexed to a thriving, expanding Buffalo.   Black Rock became a neighborhood in the City of Buffalo.

The next time you’re driving down the 190 along the Niagara River or driving through Black Rock, think about Peter Porter and what our region might look like if we lived in the City of Black Rock and the Erie Canal went from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario!

Learn about other streets by checking out the street index.

 

Sources:

  1. Courier Express, July 24 1938, sec 6, p.4.
  2. Grande, Joseph.  Peter B. Porter and the Buffalo Black-Rock Rivalry.  Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Publications.

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Hopkins Street in South Buffalo

Hopkins Street in South Buffalo

Hopkins Street is a north-south thoroughfare in South Buffalo.  The road leads from South Park north towards the Buffalo River.  Historically this area was a mix of commercial and industrial uses, connecting the steel mills to the adjacent South Buffalo neighborhoods.

Hopkins Street is named for Brigadier General Timothy S. Hopkins, a War of 1812 general.    Hopkins Road in Amherst is also named General Hopkins.

The Hopkins family descended from Stephen Hopkins, who came over on the Mayflower.  Oceanus Hopkins was born aboard the Mayflower.  Most history books list Oceanus as a son; however, Hopkins family lore indicates that the family was bad at latin, she was a girl and should have been thus named Oceana.  A second Stephen Hopkins signed the Declaration of Independence and Ichabod Hopkins signed the Constitution in Philadelphia on behalf of Massachusetts    Ichabod Hopkins had a son, Timothy Soveral Hopkins.

Timothy S. Hopkins

Timothy S. Hopkins

Timothy S. Hopkins was born in Massachusetts in 1776.  He arrived in Clarence at the age of 22, arriving by foot.  He then purchased land in 1804 from the Holland Land Company.  Mr. Hopkins is said to have grown the first wheat on the Holland Purchase, on a farm in Clarence Hollow.   When it was ready to be ground, he had to travel to Street’s mill at Chippewa, a village that became a part of the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario.  This was a distance of 40 miles!  The trip took four days and included a ferry ride from Black Rock, where only one family resided – the family of the ferry owner!  Timothy married his wife Nancy Kerr in Williamsville; their marriage was the first recorded marriage in Erie County.  They settled on Main Street on a farm in Snyder, near where Amherst Central High School is currently located.

Burning of Black Rock, December 1813

Burning of Black Rock, December 1813

During the War of 1812, Mr. Hopkins rose through the rank to Brigadier General.   He was an important part of the Battle Of Buffalo (also known as Battle of Black Rock), where he was stationed in Black Rock.  Following the war, he resigned from his post.

In 1819, he became the first Supervisor of the Town of Amherst and later served as Justice of the Peace.  His reputation spread through the area, and he was elected Sheriff of Erie County.  He was later elected to the New York State Assembly.

The Cayuga Street Stone School

The Cayuga Street Stone School

The Cayuga Street stone school-house in Williamsville was built by Timothy S. Hopkins in 1840 and still stands in Williamsville at 72 Cayuga.  He died January 23, 1853.

Nelson Hopkins grave

Nelson Hopkins grave

Nelson Kerr Hopkins, Timothy’s son, owned much of the land which included Hopkins Street.  Nelson subdivided the land into building lots and named the street after his father.  Nelson served as President of the Common Council of Buffalo and was New York State Comptroller from 1872 to 1875.  Nelson also organized the City’s first paid fire department and served as fire commissioner for ten years.  Nelson died in 1904 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

Timothy A. Hopkins

Timothy A. Hopkins

Nelson’s brother, Timothy Augustus Hopkins owned the Eagle Hotel in Williamsville, which is now known as the Eagle House.   He also operated a mill near the Eagle House, served as Justice of the Peace and Erie County Sheriff.  Timothy A. Hopkins is responsible for building a bridge over the Erie Canal in the Tonawanda Creek area, and constructing drainage ditches in the northern part of Amherst to reclaim thousands of acres of land that were often covered by spring floods after a dam was placed near the mouth of Tonawanda Creek for canal purpose.  Timothy A. Hopkins passed away in 1894 and is buried in Williamsville Cemetery.

The Hopkins Street area is currently a part of the City of Buffalo South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA).  This study being done by New York State is working to revitalize the neighborhood by cleaning up vacant industrial sites and marketing properties for redevelopment.  More information about the South Buffalo BOA can be found through Buffalo Urban Development Corporation.

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

Sources:

  1. “Hopkins Street named for 1812 General” Courier Express.  Oct 30 1939, sec 6 p 4.
  2. Larned, Josephus Nelson.  The Progress of the Empire State:  the History of Buffalo.  Published by The Progress of the Empire State Company, New York:  1913.
  3. Smith, Henry Perry.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, Volume 1:  1620-1884.   D. Mason & Co Publishers, Syracuse NY: 1884.

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Hertel Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare in North Buffalo running from Main Street to the Niagara River. The street was previously known as Cornelius Creek Road, named after the creek, which ran near the street. Hertel Avenue was named for John Stephen Hertel, former County Supervisor.

Hertel Avenue and others Named After Black Rock Land Company Associates

Hertel Avenue and other streets named after Black Rock Land Company associates

Mr. Hertel was one of three owners of the land that is now Riverside Park and was a founder of the Black Rock Land Company, the first land development company in Buffalo. The Black Rock Land Company was founded in 1888 and consisted of John Hertel, John Esser, Frank Argus, Louis Roesch and Frederick Ullman. You’ll notice that several other streets in the Black Rock/Riverside neighborhoods are named after these men.

John Stephen Hertel came to Black Rock with his parents at the age of two, immigrating from Edesheim Germany. Mr. Hertel attended St. Francis School and learned the cooper trade, making barrels for brewers and distillers. He then became involved in the hotel business. He opened a hotel at the corner of what would become Hertel Avenue and Niagara Street. Before the 1890s, the Riverside area was primarily rural countryside. At the time, the street that would become Hertel Avenue only extended from Niagara Street to Military Road. When the Niagara Horse Car Line was extended to Hertel Avenue, the legend says that Mr. Hertel was so excited, he ran out of the hotel without a coat to be the first to ride on the first horse-car to pass the hotel.

John S. Hertel, 1899

John S. Hertel, 1899

Mr. Hertel was also the director of the Erie Fire Insurance Company and had extensive real estate holdings. The Black Rock Land Company was formed in 1888 and was one of the first development companyies in the City of Buffalo. The Land Company included Mr. Hertel, Mr. Esser, Mr. Argus, Mr. Roesch and Mr. Ullman. Mr. Hertel’s property included most of the land occupied by Peoria Street and Hartman Place. He subdivided the streets and named the latter for the family of his wife, the former Anna S. Hartman of Rochester. The hotel was successful for Mr. Hertel. He then went into business with John J. Esser and Frank Argus to purchase what was known as Germania Park, which at the time was a private picnic grounds with a boat launch. They built a hotel at Germania Park. The City of Buffalo offered to purchase their property.  The City of Buffalo used this site to create Riverside Park.

Rvierside Park, about 1910

Riverside Park, about 1910

At the time, there was great support for the City to buy Germania Park, to give the public a place to enjoy the river “where any resident of Buffalo could go with his whole family and be free from beer saloons and drunken men”. Riverside Park was the final park designed for Buffalo by the Olmsted Architecture Firm, following Frederick Law Olmsted’s retirement. The park was designed in 1898, at the time the Erie Canal traversed the park, separating the shoreline from the main part of the park. The original 22-acre park included a boat dock and canal overpass. The New York State Thruway I-190 currently runs along the Erie Canal alignment. The park was expanded in 1912 to include an additional 17 acres on the south side of the park. The original southern boundary was a line extending from Esser Avenue to the Niagara River.

After selling Germania Park, Mr. Hertel and Mr. Esser left the hotel business. They entered into the coal and wood business, establishing the business near the corner of Niagara and Farmer Streets. They also established the Tonawanda Street Planing Mill at Tonawanda and Arthur Streets.

John Hertel and his wife Anna lived with their family at 362 Dearborn Street. The Hertel family lived in the house for several generations, his son John Stephen Hertel II, his daughter Mrs. Franscis Healy and his grandson John Hertel Healy all lived in the Dearborn house.

hertel grave

John Stephen Hertel was a life long democrat and was active in local politics. He was unsuccessful in a campaign for congress. For 27 years, he was a lieutenant colonel of the Knights of St. John. He was a member of St. Mary’s Commandery and an organizer of the commendary at St. Francis Church.  St. Francis Church is now the Buffalo Religious Arts Center. He was active in the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Men’s Benevolent Association, the Foresters of America and the Black Rock Businessmen’s Association. He died in 1917 and is buried at the United German and French Cemetery in Cheektowaga

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

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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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