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Grosvenor Street

Grosvenor Street

Grosvenor Street is a street on the near East Side of Buffalo.  The street currently runs two blocks, between South Division Street and Eagle Street.  Historically, the street continued south to Seymour Street, and changed name to Heacock after crossing the railroad tracks.  When at-grade rail crossings were removed, the street was shortened, and Heacock Street was later changed to Larkin Street.  The street is named after Seth Grosvenor, who only was in Buffalo for a short while, but left an important impact on the City.  Heacock Street was named after family friend, business partner, and brother-in-law of Mr. Grosvenor, Reuben Heacock (we’ll learn more about him later).    The name is pronounced Grove-nor, with a silent s.  There is also a Grosvenor Road in the Town of Tonawanda.  The name also lives on in the Grosvenor Room at the Buffalo Library, which happens to be where I do most of my research for this blog!

Seth Grosvenor Source: New York Historical Society

Seth Grosvenor
Source: New York Historical Society

Seth Grosvenor was born on Christmas Day, December 25, 1786, in Pomfret, Connecticut.  Seth’s family consisted of sixteen children – Abigail, Lucia, Roswell, Marcia, Godfrey, Martha, Mary, Polly, Betsey, Eliza, Thomas, Abel, Peggy, George, Seth, Stephen.   The family moved to Columbia County, New York around 1800. Little is known about when Seth Grosvenor arrived in Buffalo, as reports from the times tell conflicting stories.  It is believed that Seth Grosvenor arrived in Buffalo in late 1812/early 1813 to settle his brother Abel’s estate and run his store following Abel’s death.  Abel had been attacked by a mob of volunteer troops from Baltimore who mistook Abel for Mr. Ralph Pomeroy, the keeper of the hotel at Main and Seneca Streets.  The story goes that Mr. Pomeroy offended the folks from Baltimore by stating he was a friend of the British, and a mob set out to kill Mr. Pomeroy.  They saw Abel and mistook him for Mr. Pomeroy and attacked him instead.  Abel Grosvenor left Buffalo with his family but died from his injuries a short time later.  It is believed that Seth came to town shortly thereafter, but some reports indicate that Seth had arrived earlier to help his brother at the store.

On December 31, 1813, during the Battle of Buffalo, Seth Grosvenor organized a group of 20 to 30 men to defend the village against the British and Native American Troops, by taking a stand at the corner of Main and Niagara Streets.  During the Battle of Buffalo, the Grosvenor store and all its merchandise were burned to the ground on December 31, 1813.  Four days later, on January 4th, Seth advertised that he was back in the dry goods business, selling out of the Harris Tavern in Clarence.  One of the amazing things about Buffalo’s resilience following the burning of Buffalo is the quickness with which people and businesses returned to the fledgling village.  On April 5th, the Gazette read:  “Buffalo village which once adorned the shores of Erie and was prostrated by the enemy, is now rising again; several buildings are already raised and made habitable; contracts for twenty or thirty more are made and many of them are in considerable forwardness.  A brick company has been organized by an association of most enterprising and public-spirited citizens, with sufficient capital for the purpose of rendering the price of brick so reasonable that the principal streets may be built up of that article”.  Mr. Grosvenor was a member of the brick company.  By May 24th, the Gazette reported the following completed structures:  “23 houses occupied by families, 3 taverns, 4 dry goods and grocery stores, 12 grocery and other shops, 3 offices, 39 or 40 huts (or shanties).”  Mr. Grosvenor had also returned to Buffalo from Clarence by April 24th advertising that he can be called upon “at the new house situate where the Printing Office of Salisburys’ stood, will find him opening an assortment of dry goods, groceries, hardware, cigars and tobacco.”  His shop was located at the northwest corner of Pearl and Seneca Streets, which is where the Pearl Street Brewery is now located.  Later that year, Mr. Grosvenor went into business with his youngest brother, Stephen.

It is said that Mr. Grosvenor remained a bachelor all his life due to a bad romance between himself and Mary Merrill of Buffalo.  Before the Battle of Buffalo, Mary was said to be engaged to Mr. Grosvenor.  Following the Battle, many Buffalonians sought shelter and safety at Harris Tavern in Clarence.  Miss Merrill was said to have been affected by the charm and heroics of Captain Harris.  Two months later, in February 1814, Mary Merrill became Mrs. Harris.  Their breakup is also said to be one of the reasons Mr. Grosvenor left Buffalo for New York City in 1815, after teaching his brother Stephen the ins and outs of business and leaving Stephen in charge of the business.  Stephen Keyes Grosvenor was an active member of the Whig Party, and later served as Justice of the Peace in Buffalo.   Despite Seth only spending two years here, he had established many close ties during those years, and he kept close to Buffalo even after he left.  Mr. Grosvenor lived at 39 White Street in Manhattan.  Following his death, his estate expanded the home and later built a new building, which still stands on White Street.

Seth Grosvenor Grave

Seth Grosvenor Grave

Mr. Grosvenor died in October 1857 and was originally interred in Manhattan at New York Marble Cemetery.  His remains were later removed and re-interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in 1862.  He is buried next to his sister Eliza.

Mr. Grosvenor is often referred to as the “City’s greatest benefactor”.  He donated money to build the Grosvenor Library in Buffalo (as well as money for the New York Historical Society and Library in NYC).  In 1857, while living in New York City,  he announced that he was leaving $40,000 to the City of Buffalo, to be paid two years after his death.  The first $10,000 was to be used to purchase a lot and build a building for a public library.  The remaining $30,000 was given, to be invested forever, and its income to be used for the purchase of books, to be kept open for the use of the public, and the books not to be lent out nor rented, only used for reading within the building.

Grosvenor Library Source: A History of the City of Buffalo: It's Men and Institutions

Grosvenor Library
Source: A History of the City of Buffalo: It’s Men and Institutions

The City accepted the bequest in 1865.  The library first used in space within the Buffalo Savings Bank Building at Broadway and Washington Street, and the library was opened to the public in 1870.   The City set aside $4,000 a year to operate the library.  Over time, a building fund was put together, and in 1891, the trustees erected the Grosvenor Library at the corner of Franklin and Edward Streets.  In 1897, the library was passed into the control of the City of Buffalo and by 1908, the library contained more than 75,000 books and 7,000 pamphlets for reference use.  The library operated for free use for citizens of Buffalo, temporary residents and strangers alike.  By 1920, the collection had grown to 162,000 volumes and the library was open from 9 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and 2pm to 6pm on Sundays.

The Grosvenor Library was open until 1956.  Of note are the Grosvenor Library’s collection of music as well as one of the largest genealogy collections in the country~  At the time, there were three different libraries in the Buffalo area – the Grosvenor Library, the Erie County Public Library – which was founded in the 1940s and provided bookmobile services to rural towns and villages, and the Buffalo Public Library – which developed out of the Young Men’s Association as early as 1836.  In 1953, the three institutions were combined by an act of the New York State legislature, creating the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  In 1963, the collections of the Buffalo Public and the Grosvenor Library were integrated on the shelves in the new Central library, which opened at Lafayette Square in October of 1964.  The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library inherited the collections, which form the core of the Grosvenor Room at the Downtown Buffalo Library.    The Grosvenor Library Building was demolished in 1974.

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

Sources:

  1. Rooney, Paul M. 150 years, 1836-1986 : Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  [Buffalo, N.Y. : Grosvenor Society, 1986].
  2.  “Grosvenor Street Reminds City of Donor of Library”  Courier Express Jan 11, 1942, sec. 5 p 5
  3. “Seth Grosvenor and Buffalo” Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 4.  June 1921
  4. A History of the City of Buffalo:  It’s Men and Institutions.  Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo. 1908.
  5. Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Vol III.  September, 1920.
  6. “History of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library”.  Buffalo and Erie County Library.  175th Anniversary of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.
  7. “The Grosvenor Family in Connecticut”.  Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Volume 1.

 

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holland placeHolland Place is a one block long street in the Masten Park neighborhood on the east side of Buffalo, running between Riley Street and Northhampton Street.  The street is named after Nelson Holland.

Nelson Holland was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts in 1829.  The Holland family was a pioneer American family, John Holland had settled in Massachusetts in 1633.  Seven years after Nelson was born, his father brought the family to Western New York and bought a farm in Springville, New York.   Nelson attended rural schools and the Springville Academy (now the Griffith Institute).

nelson hollandIn 1850, Nelson Holland moved to Buffalo to work for his uncle, Selim Sears, who at the time was operating a mill in Michigan.  Nelson later purchased a portion of a saw mill, which stood where the Michigan Central Railroad station is (look this up).  He then purchased 4,000 acres of pine lands in Michigan.  In 1855, Mr. Holland purchased a mill in St. Clair, Michigan.

In 1864, Mr. Holland purchased 4,000 acres in Buffalo and came to Buffalo to look after his purchase, leaving his St. Clair mill in the hands of his brother Luther.  Mr. Nelson purchased interests in many mills and lands, stretching into Canada.  He owned lands stretching from Buffalo to Texas.

Mr. Holland’s holdings held firm through the ups and downs of the lumber industry, and survived the panics of 1857, 1873 and 1893.  He had controlling stakes in as many as 4 different lumber companies at the same time.  Even after 40 years in the business, Mr. Holland was said to “retain much of his old-time vigor, ambition and force with which to carry forth plans of future operations”.

In 1877, the Buffalo firm of Holland, Graves and Montgomery was organized.  They handled more than 500,000,000 feet of pine lumber.  Mr. Holland was considered to be a master in the art of manipulating pine forests to get product into marketable form.  It was also said that he had probably cut and consumed more pine lumber than any other man.

Mr. Holland was also prominent in lake transportation interests and was proprietor of the Buffalo Standard Radiator Company, which made radiators.

Holland Family Plot

Holland Family Plot

He was a member of North Presbyterian Church and served as President of its Board of Trustees, and then later became a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Holland married Susan Ann Clark of Silver Creek in June 1857.  They had four children – Jessie Clark, Helen Lee, Grace and Nelson Clark.  Their son Nelson II took over the lumber business from his father. The family lived in a large brick home with sandstone trimmings on the northwest corner of Delaware and Bryant. Mr. Holland died in 1896 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Our County and its people:  A descriptive work on Erie County, New York.  Edited by: Truman C. White.  The Boston History Company, Publishers: 1898.
  2. Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York.  The Genealogical Publishing Company:  Buffalo:  1906.
  3. Larned, J.N.  A History of Buffalo:  Delineating the Evolution of the City.  The Progress of the Empire State Company:  New York.  1911.

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loveringLovering Avenue is a street in North Buffalo, running between Hertel Avenue and Taunton Place.  The street is named after Sarah Lovering Truscott as well as her niece and daughter.  The three Lovering women were  influential women of their time in Buffalo.

Sarah Mitchell Lovering Truscott was born in September 1828 and came to Buffalo as a young child with her family from Boston, Massachusetts.  The family traveled to Buffalo via the Erie Canal and lived at 37 Eagle Street, which was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the City at the time.  In 1851, Sarah married George Truscott, a banker with Manufactures & Traders Bank (now M&T) who also served as water commissioner.

Mrs. Truscott was considered to be an efficient executive and was very involved in leading numerous charitable causes.  She was a member of the women’s board of Buffalo General Hospital and promoted the nursing school, which was Buffalo’s first training school for nurses.  She helped to organize and was president of the board of Children’s Hospital.

Former Unitarian Church, Eagle and Franklin Streets

Former Unitarian Church, Eagle and Franklin Streets

The Truscott family lived at 340 Delaware Avenue until 1918, when they moved to 335 Delaware Avenue.  The family was active in First Unitarian Church, which was located at the corner of Franklin and Eagle Streets.  The building was remodeled to add a third floor after it ceased to be used for church purposes and still stands, one of the oldest buildings in Buffalo.   The church congregation still exists, having merged with the Universalist Church, worshiping on Elmwood Avenue.  Sarah passed away in 1918 at the age of 90.

Sarah’s niece, Mary Lovering, was considered to be one of the first local gentlewomen to earn her living outside the house – she conducted a dancing school.

Sarah’s daughter, also named Sarah Lovering Truscott, was born in 1857.  Sarah Lovering Truscott was one of the city’s pioneer women in the real estate business.  Sarah was often see riding her bicycle to make a sale.  At the time, bicycles were just coming into fashion, mostly for men.  Many women began to ride bicycles as well, which many men scoffed at.  However, bicycles allowed women a greater freedom and mobility  to travel outside their homes and outside their neighborhoods.  Sarah was involved in many causes including:  assistant treasurer of Woman Suffrage headquarters, member of Buffalo Political Equality Club,  member of the Equal Franchise League, president of Woman’s Civil Service Reform Association of Buffalo, member of the Executive Committee of the Neighborhood House ( a settlement house), and member of the Peace and arbitration Society of Buffalo.  She was also a member of the Twentieth Century Club.  Sarah Lovering Truscott died in November 1943 at age 88.

To learn about other streets, check out the street index.

Sources:

  1. “Few Streets Named by City Government”  Courier Express, February 26, 1954.
  2. “Lovering Avenue Memorial Early Woman Philanthropist”.  Courier-Express, June 23, 1940, p. 3.

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ripleyRipley Place is a short, one-block street on the west side of Buffalo, running between Vermont and Connecticut Streets, near Richmond Avenue.

Mary A. Ripley was a teacher at Central High School from the 1860s through the 1880s.  She was born in Windham, Connecticut in 1831, but grew up in Alden, New York and attended local schools.  She was known around town as one of the few woman who dared in the 1880s to wear her hair short.

mary ripleyMiss Ripley taught for seven years at School 7.  In 1861, she became a member of the faculty at Central High School.  She was determined to make over the school.  At the time, the teachers often had to call in the police to stop the students’ riots.  Miss Ripley asked for the job of taking care of the boys’ study hall, which was where many of the riots originated.  The male teachers doubted she’d be able to handle the boys, but Miss Ripley kept order with little difficulty.  She would tell people her goal was to develop young people’s conduct and character.

In 1867, Miss Ripley published a volume of poems.  She also wrote a textbook of Parsing Lessons for small school room use and a book titled Household Service.  Many considered Miss Ripley a talented poet and writer; however, her heart was truly dedicated towards her students.  She made long lasting impacts on her students.

Several of her poems were featured in magazines.  The following comes from the Magazine of Poetry and Literary Review, Volume 6:

ripley poem

When the State Normal School opened in Albany, Miss Ripley was summoned there to become one of its first teachers.  She went to Albany to teach for a few years, but missed her old school so she returned to Buffalo.  She taught at Central until 1888.

Miss Ripley received many honors in her years teaching.  During the Civil War, at a Washington’s Birthday celebration, she was seated with former President Millard Fillmore.  In 1886, for her 25th anniversary of teaching at Central, she was given a gold watch and roses.  For her retirement, she was given a diamond ring from “Miss Ripley’s Boys and Girls”.  They formed the Mary A. Ripley Association, which met for several years.  Miss Ripley passed away in 1893.

Mary Ripley Library in the Union Hall.  Source:  WNY Heritage

Mary Ripley Library in the Union Hall. Source: WNY Heritage

The Mary A. Ripley Memorial Library was established in the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union building.  Miss Ripley was a member of the Board of Directors of the Union.  The Ripley Memorial Library was furnished at a cost of $2,000 and contained 500 volumes when it first opened.  The Ripley Memorial Library was established with the Public Libraries division of the University of the State of New York.  The library was widely used as a place to read and study.

The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union was established in 1884 by Harriet Townsend.  We’ll get to more about the Townsend men and Townsend Street on another day, but it’s women’s history month, so we’ll talk about her today!  Mrs. Townsend was made the CEO of the organization due to her intelligence, vision and management skills.  She had no children, which allowed her to work full time for the advancement of women, advocating for women’s rights all of her life.  The Union building was located on Delaware Ave at Niagara Square (site of the City Court Building) in the former Babcock house, which was later demolished to build a larger building.  During the dedication ceremony of the new building, Miss Ripley recited a poem she had written.

Membership into the Union was $1. Union reports stated “We no longer listen to the selfish moralist who cries ‘Let the woman stay in her home, her only safe haven'”, and that “it is not, an association of benevolent, well-to-do women, joined for the purpose of reaching down to help the poor and persecuted women, but a Union of all classes and conditions of women”.  The concept was unique at the time.

Union Building on Niagara Square c. 1890.  Source:  WNY Heritage

Union Building on Niagara Square c. 1890. Source: WNY Heritage

The Union building contained the first gymnasium for women in Buffalo, kitchen space for instruction in nutrition and cooking, and provided classes on various topics not provided in public schools.  The Union gave scholarships to women to attend Bryant and Stratton and trained women for low wage jobs, such as cooks, domestics, and seamstresses.   The Union taught members how to navigate the bureaucracy of government.  The Union lobbied to establish equal guardianship rights for women in case of divorce.  The Union successfully got a women appointed to the School Board and fought for rights for all women.

The Union dissolved in 1915, finding that its work was finished – most of its groundbreaking programs had been adopted by educational, governmental and civic organizations.  These Women’s Union began programs we take for granted today such as vocational education, physical education, night school, free kindergartens, probation officers, Legal Aid, etc.  The building then became Townsend Hall, part of the University at Buffalo and was the college’s first College of Arts and Sciences, named after Harriet Townsend.  The building was razed in 1959 after it was destroyed by fire.  The Townsend Hall name was transferred to a building on South Campus.

Learn about other streets in the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. “Ripley Place is Memorial To Beloved Central High Teacher” Courier Express Oct 5, 1941, sec 5 p 3
  2. “Streets Have Historical Link” Buffalo Courier Express. Dec 7 1952 p 7-8
  3. The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Buffalo.  Compiled by Mrs. Frederick J. Shepard.
  4. “Harriet A. Townsend:  The Women’s Union.”  Susan Eck.  Western New York Heritage Press.
  5. The Magazine of Poetry, A Monthly Review.  Charles Wells Moulton.  Buffalo NY 1894.

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griderGrider Street is located on the East Side of Buffalo, running north-south between Leroy Street and East Delavan Avenue.  The street is one of the main thoroughfares through the Delavan-Grider neighborhood. The Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) is located on Grider Street.

Daniel Grider (also spelled Greider) was born in Pennsylvania in 1787.  He came to Buffalo in a covered wagon drawn by oxen in the early 1820s.

Daniel Grider's great-granddaughter.  Courier-Express, February 4, 1940

Daniel Grider’s great-granddaughter with the family cornerstone. Courier-Express, February 4, 1940

Daniel Grider bought a 48-acre farm for 50 cents an acre.  He built a frame house opposite the site of the Buffalo City Hospital (now ECMC).   Mr. Grider’s family spoke German in his youth.  One way that Daniel would save money was to hire newly arrived German immigrants to work on his farm in Buffalo, giving them food and board and teaching them English.  By 1835, he had prospered and built a larger, more substantial house in its place.

Mr. Grider and his wife Nancy, had two daughters, Fanny and Nancy.  He was well respected in Buffalo, but never ran for public office.  Mr. Grider served as a representative from Erie County for the Canal Convention regarding upgrades to the Erie Canal in 1837.

The Grider farm was subdivided when the Erie and Lackawanna railroads passed through Buffalo.  At that time, the farm was cut into building lots and streets were laid out.

Mr. Grider passed way on March 25, 1855.  The family operated a burial plot on the Grider farm.  When the property was sold, the family members’ graves were moved to Mount Hope Cemetery at Pine Ridge.

Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index.

Source:  “Grider street Recalls Name of Land Owner”  Courier Express Feb 4 1940 Sec 5 p 4

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walden aveWalden Avenue is an east-west thoroughfare that begins at the intersection of Genesee and Best Streets on the East Side of Buffalo and runs eastward to Alden.  In Alden, Walden Ave meets back up with Genesee Street and turns into NY Route 33.  Outside of the City of Buffalo limits, Walden Avenue is designated as New York State Route 952Q.  The route is the longest non-parkway reference route in New York State.  The road is named after Ebenezer Walden.

walden_ebEbenezer Walden was born in Massachusetts in 1777.  He graduated from Williams College in 1799.  He then studied law and while he became well-known in the law community in Massachusetts, he decided to make his start in a young community that he could help develop.  He came to Buffalo in 1806.  Part of his trip included a 40-mile walk through the woods from Batavia.

Mr. Walden was the first lawyer in Buffalo. There weren’t enough people in the Village at the time to sustain a full-time lawyer.  Mr. Walden set up a law office in a hut on Willink Street (now Main Street) between Crow (now Exchange) and Seneca.  He filled his days serving as a clerk in stores and doing other odd jobs to maintain his livelihood.  He invested in what became known as the Walden Farm near what is now Walden and Fillmore.

In 1812, Mr. Walden married Suzanna Marvin.  The same year, he was elected to represent the area that now contains Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties in the State Legislature.

Mr. Walden was committed to building up Buffalo and Western New York, and was considered by his neighbors to be kind and brave.  During the Burning of Buffalo, he was captured with Mr. Cyrenius Chapin.  When his captors left him for a moment, he escaped and ran back into town to help those left behind in the rubble.

Judge Walden's house to rear of picture

Judge Walden’s house at Main and West Eagle to rear of picture

Following the Burning of Buffalo,  Mr. Walden practiced law in Williamsville while the village was rebuilding. Mrs. Walden served as a leader in women’s war work.  After peace was restored, Mr. Walden was a member of the committee to appraise losses during the war.  The Waldens returned to Buffalo and built a brick home at the northeast corner of Main and West Eagle Streets.

In 1823, when Erie County was established, Mr. Walden served as the first county judge.  He served as a judge for five years.  When the Village of Buffalo was incorporated, he was one of the four trustees.  In 1828, he was a Presidential Elector for John Quincy Adams.   In 1838, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo as a member of the Whig party.

The Waldens House at Main and Edward

The Waldens House at Main and Edward

As Buffalo grew, the Waldens moved further up Main Street, near Edward.  Their property extended to Franklin Street and contained lawns, orchards and gardens.  Judge Walden purchased many other properties in the Buffalo region.  One of his properties was a large farm at Walden and Fillmore Avenues.  While the Waldens never lived on the farm, it was known as the Walden Farm, so when the road was laid out in 1873, it was named Walden Avenue.

The Waldens Home Lake View

The Waldens Home Lake View

After retirement, Judge Walden lived on a 272-acre farm in what is now Lake View, which he purchased in 1837.  He built a mansion which he named Lake View, which became the name of the hamlet that eventually developed nearby.  Much of the present hamlet of Lake View was part of this farm.  In 1853, Judge Walden deeded a strip of land across his farm to the Buffalo and State Line Railroad.   Judge Walden died in 1857 at 80 years old.  His integrity, benevolence, profound culture and unselfish patriotism were remembered in Buffalo long after his death.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Walden-Myer Mausoleum

Walden-Myer Mausoleum

The Lake View Hotel - still stands at 1957 Lake View Road

The Lake View Hotel

Judge Walden’s son James became the first postmaster of Lake View in 1868.  Judge Walden’s daughter Catherine built the Lake View Hotel in 1880 to serve the traveling salesmen who would come to Lake View on the daily trains to sell their wares.   The Lake View Hotel building still stands today at 1957 Lake View Road.

 Check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

Sources:

  1. “Two Streets Perpetuate Names of Early Jurists”Courier Express Nov 2, 1941 sec 6 p 3
  2.  Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.  Buffalo Historical Society, Buffalo, New York:  1912.

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fillmoreFillmore Avenue runs north-south through the East Side of the City of Buffalo, between Seneca Street in the south to Main Street in the north.  The street is named after President Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States.

Millard Fillmore was born in Locke, Cayuga County, New York on January 7th, 1800.  His parents, Nathaniel Fillmore and Phoebe Millard were among the pioneer settlers of the so-called Military Tract.  Nathaniel was a farmer and built a log cabin for his family.  Millard worked on his father’s farm and attended local schools until he was 15 years old.

Millard Fillmore portrait from the National Portrait Gallery

Millard Fillmore portrait from the National Portrait Gallery

In 1815, Millard served as an apprentice in a carder and cloth-dressers business in Newhope, New York (carding is the process of preparing wool for use as textile).  While working for the shop, he began to self educate himself, reading everything he could get his hands on.  When Millard was 18, he taught school for the Town Of Scott for a term.  He decided that he wanted to study law, and entered into the law-office of Judge Walter Wood at Martville.  In 1821, he arrived in Aurora to teach a winter school in East Aurora.  In 1822, he came to Buffalo and taught at a district school while also studying law under Asa Rice and Joseph Clary.  While in Buffalo, one of his students was  Alvan Dodge.

In Spring 1823, Mr. Fillmore was admitted to practice in the Court of Common Please, and opened his office in East Aurora.   The Fillmore house in East Aurora is now the Millard Fillmore Museum.  In 1827, he was admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court and became counselor in 1829.  In 1830, he moved to Buffalo to form a law partnership with Joseph Clary.

Fillmore House on Franklin Street

Fillmore House on Franklin Street

He lived at 180 Franklin Street in Buffalo (near Franklin and Huron…the house has been demolished).  He practiced law until 1848, when his duties as a politician forced him to give up his private practice.  The firm he was a part of still practices in Buffalo today as Hodgson Russ, LLP, one of Buffalo’s oldest law firms.

Mr. Fillmore was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1828.  He served in the Assembly until 1832, when he was elected to Congress.  He served in Congress until 1842, when he declined renomination.  In 1847, he was elected New York State Comptroller, and in 1848, he was elected Vice President of the United States.  When President Taylor died in July 1850, Millard Fillmore became President of the United States.

President Fillmore came into his presidency at a critical period of national affairs.  He took great pains to complete his presidential duties with what has been described as unswerving conscientiousness, purity and patriotism.  In 1856, Fillmore was nominated for the Presidency by the National American Convention, but he did not win the election.

Millard Fillmore House on Niagara Square

Millard Fillmore House on Niagara Square

President Fillmore retired from public life after his presidency.  He passed his days at home in Buffalo advancing scholarly activities.  After his presidency, he and his new wife, Carolyn decided that the Franklin Street house was not fit for a former president.  He purchased a large mansion on Niagara Square in 1858.  His house was located where the Statler Hotel is today.

Millard Fillmore contributed significantly to Buffalo’s growth and development.  He helped to frame the charter that established the Village of Buffalo into the City of Buffalo.  He was one of the founders of the University at Buffalo in 1846, and served as the school’s first Chancellor, a position he served until his death.   While Fillmore was a Unitarian and is often criticized for being “anti-catholic”, he contributed substantial money to the construction of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.   During his time in Congress, he secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and to expand the Erie Canal.  He helped to found the Buffalo Historical Society (now the Buffalo History Museum) in 1862 and served as its first president.  He served as Chairman of the Buffalo Committee of Public Defense and helped incorporate the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (now the Albright Knox Art Gallery).   He spearheaded a campaign to raise money for Buffalo’s Society of Natural Sciences (now the Buffalo Museum of Science).  In 1867, he helped to found the Buffalo Club, the city’s first exclusive social club, and served as its first president.  He contributed financially to the construction of the Buffalo General Hospital, which opened in 1858.  In 1870, he served as President of the Buffalo General Hospital.  From 1870 until 1874, he served as a trustee of the Grosvenor Library, one of the predecessors of the Buffalo Public Library and one of the nation’s most comprehensive reference libraries.  He founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and served as its vice president.

Millard Fillmore as Captain of the Union Continentals

Millard Fillmore as Captain of the Union Continentals

During the Civil War, Fillmore denounced secession and supported the Union War efforts.  He commanded the Union Continentals, a corps of men over the age of 45 from Upstate New York.  The Continentals trained to defend Buffalo in the event of a Confederate attack.  The corps performed military drill and ceremonial functions at parades, funerals and events.  The Union Continentals guarded Lincoln’s funeral train when it came through Buffalo, and continued operations following the war.  Fillmore remained involved with them until his death.

Millard Fillmore died on March 8, 1874.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Since 1937, a celebration to honor Fillmore’s legacy in Buffalo occurs every year at the Fillmore grave on his birthday.   His home in East Aurora is a National Historic Landmark and operates as the Millard Fillmore House Museum.

Fillmore Grave Plot

Fillmore Grave Plot

When Frederick Law Olmsted designed Buffalo’s park and parkway system for Buffalo, Fillmore Avenue was extended to Abbott Road and upgraded south of Best Street as a parkway.  In Olmsted’s plans, the Avenues (such as Fillmore) were designed with a single drive lane with a double row of trees on either side.   The thoroughfare was linked by Abbott Road (now South Park Avenue) to Heacock Park, an existing park in South Buffalo.  Heacock Park forms the start of the South Buffalo park system.  The difficulties in creating a parkway connection were complicated by the Buffalo River and numerous railroads.  Buffalo City Engineers argued that if there was an at grade railroad-crossing, the road could not be considered a parkway.  Alternatives included a bridge which would have carried Fillmore Avenue over the railroads and the Buffalo River into South Buffalo.  The design of Fillmore Avenue was never fully realized and Fillmore Avenue was opened to commercial traffic in 1906.

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

Sources:

  1. Hillman, Jordan.  “Millard Fillmore:  Buffalo’s Good Samaritan”.  National Portrait Gallery.   May 5, 2011.
  2. Smith, Lester, editor.  Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Millard Fillmore Papers.  Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.  1974.
  3.  White, Truman, Editor.  Our County and Its People:  A Descriptive Work.  The Boston History Company.  1898.
  4. Buffalo Park Commission.  The Projected Park and Parkways on the South Side of Buffalo. 1888.

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