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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.

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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.
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South Park Avenue shown in Blue.  Ohio Street shown in Pink.  Elk Street shown in Teal.  Abbott Road shown in Purple.  Yellow lines show connections that are no longer extant.

South Park Avenue shown in Blue. Ohio Street shown in Pink. Elk Street shown in Teal. Abbott Road shown in Purple. Yellow lines show connections that are no longer extant. (click map to zoom in)

South Park Avenue runs from Downtown Buffalo to the Buffalo-Lackawanna City Line (and beyond down into Hamburg where the road changes to Buffalo Street).  Ever wonder why South Park Avenue has some weird intersections?  It’s because the street was originally a bunch of different streets!  Not all street names are changed to honor famous or influential people.  In 1939, a proposal was presented to change the name of four streets to allow motorists to travel from the Lackawanna city line all the way to Main Street in Downtown Buffalo along one continuous road.

1899 View of Triangle Neighborhood

1899 View of Triangle Neighborhood

The proposal began thanks to efforts of the Tri-Abbott-South Park Businessmen’s Association.  They proposed that portions of Ohio, Elk, Triangle and Abbott Road  be named South Park Avenue.   Yes, there was a Triangle Road in the Triangle Neighborhood!  Triangle Road ran from Abbott Road to what is now Southside Parkway.  Southside Parkway was originally part of South Park Avenue, which ran from Ridge Road to Abbot Road).  Southside Parkway was renamed McKinley Parkway and a portion of South Park Avenue was renamed Southside Parkway.

The intent of the name change for South Park Avenue was to allow those entering the City of Buffalo from the Southtowns to be better able to find the downtown district.  At the time, when you were entering the City from Lackawanna, you would take South Park Avenue to Triangle Street, to Abbott Road, to Elk Street and to Ohio Street before you arrived at Main Street.  You saw five different street names, even though the roads were essentially a continuous thoroughfare.

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

The proposal to change the name was made around the time of construction of the new convention hall (Buffalo Memorial Auditorium) so it was anticipated that more people would be travelling into Downtown Buffalo for events.  Additionally, many people were expected to stop in Buffalo on their way to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

The proposal was approved by the City Council on May 26, 1939.  At the time, the Council kicked around the idea of renaming the road “South Main Street”; however, they decided upon South Park.  Of the 38 organizations who comprised the South Park Taxpayers Improvement Association, 35 of them voted in favor of calling the “new” road South Park.  Representatives from near the Elk Street business district wanted the route to be called Elk street.

 Learn about the origins of other street names by checking out the street index.

Sources:

  1. “South Park Ave name chosen for proposed continuous thoroughfare.” Courier express April 29, 1939, p 7
  2. “South Park – Triangle – Abbott- Elk- Ohio route -what shall it be called” Courier Express Apr 21, 1939, p 7
  3. “South Park Avenue Lengthening Urged” Courier Express March 3, 1939.  Buffalo Streets Scrapbook Vol 2, 159

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