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Posts Tagged ‘buffalo streets’

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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