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titusgoodyearkoonsTitus Avenue is a street running between Broadway and Walden in the Emerson Neighborhood of the East Side of Buffalo. The street was named for Judge Robert Titus.  Judge Titus went into a partnership with Charles Goodyear, Frank Goodyear, Edward Koons and Henry Koons to subdivide and develop the land on these streets.  You can read about the Goodyear brothers by clicking here.

Robert Cyrus Titus was born in Eden, New York  in October 1839.  His parents came from Otsego County, New York to the “far west”, as the Holland Purchasewas called in 1817.  At the time, there were no roads through the countryside surrounding the small Village of Buffalo.  Guideposts along the way were blazed trees along the lines most frequently traveled by the occasional settler.  By 1831, they had plowed fields and built a house with a large fireplace and dutch oven.  In this house, Robert Titus grew up, the youngest of six siblings.

judgetitusRobert Titus was educated in a one-room school-house and then attended Oberlin College.  He taught school during the winter term to help finance his own education.  He studied law and set up a practice with Horace Boies in Hamburg, New York.  He opened a practice in Hamburg, New York.  In 1863, Mr. Titus organized a company, which became part of the 98th Regiment of the National Guard of New York State.  The regiment was in service from August 10, 1864 to December 22, 1864.  After he returned home, he was admitted to the bar.  Shortly thereafter  he was appointed Special Deputy Clerk of Erie County and held the office until 1864.  In 1867, he was a candidate for the New York State Assembly, but was defeated.  His first public office was Supervisor of Hamburg from 1868-1871.

In 1873, Mr. Titus moved to Buffalo with his wife Arvilla  to enter into a partnership with Joel Walker.  In 1878, he was elected district attorney.  In 1879, Mr. Titus was made a partner in the firm of Osgoodby, Titus & Moot and practiced with them until 1883, when he formed a partnership with B.S. Farrington.   In 1881   he went to Albany as a State Senator.  During his term in Albany, there was a great opposition to the Erie Canal, however Robert was a strong supporter to keeping the canal open.

In 1885, Mr. Titus was elected Judge of the Superior Court of Buffalo.   He was made Chief Judge in 1891.  When the Court was abolished in 1895, the judges were transferred to the New York Supreme Court.

An Artist's Depiction of President McKinley's Assassination.

An Artist’s Depiction of President McKinley’s Assassination.

Robert Titus was considered to be one of the state’s leading trial lawyers before he ascended to the bench. He was chosen by the state Bar Association to defend  President William McKinley’s assassin in 1901.  The trial of Czolgosz was notorious for how quickly it was completed.  President McKinley died on Saturday, September 14th, Czolgosz was indicted on Monday September 16th.    The jury for the trial was selected in two hours and twelve minutes.  The trial began on September 23rd, as soon as the final juror was named.  By the following afternoon, it was over.  Judge Titus had been in Milwaukee attending a masonic convention when he heard he was assigned to the case.

While the judges were highly respected, neither he nor his partner on the case, Judge Loran Lewis, had worked as a trial lawyer in years.  Judge Titus and Judge Lewis had not wanted to represent the assassin; however, they took the side of justice to ensure that he was given a fair trial.  The public outrage over the murder of the President was demanding a speedy trial and at the time, there was fear that it might not be a fair one.  It was a credit to the both of theirs honor that they ensured that Czolgosz was dignified with a fair trial and not disposed of by “lynch or mob law”.  Czolgosz assisted with the trial’s speed by refusing to cooperating with his legal counsel.  Czolgosz tried to enter a plea of guilty; however, due to the magnitude of the trail, he was not allowed. The jury took only 30 minutes to determine that Czolgosz was guilty and he was sentenced to death on September 26th.   One month later, Czolgosz was electrocuted in Auburn Prison.

Judge Titus' House on Columbus Parkway

Judge Titus lived on Seventh Street.  The portion of 7th Seventh Street on which he lived later became Columbus Parkway.  Mr. Titus died on April 28, 1918 at the age of 79.  He was survived by his son, Lieutenant Allan S. Titus, and daughter, Amy Titus Worthington.  Judge Titus is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Hamburg, New York.

Don’t forget to check out the Street Index to find out about other streets!

Sources:

  1. Contemporary American Biography:  Biographical Sketches of Representative Men of the Day.  Volume 1, Part 2.  Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Co:  New York, 1895.
  2. Lord, Walter.  The Good Years:  From 1900 to the First World War.  Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007.
  3. Our County and its people:  A descriptive work on Erie County, New York.  Edited by: Truman C. White.  The Boston History Company, 1898
  4. Miller, Scott.  The President and the Assassin.  Random House Publishing Group:  New York, 2011.
  5. “Assassin Czolgosz Refuses to Plead:  His Lawyer Enters a Provisional Plea of Not Guilty”.  New York Times, September 18, 1901.
  6. Obituary of the Honorable Robert C. Titus.  Buffalo Morning Express, Sunday April 28, 1918.

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ellicottEllicott Street is one of the main north-south thoroughfares in Downtown Buffalo.  As most people know, the street was named for Joseph Ellicott, the surveyor of the Holland Land Company who laid out the City of Buffalo.  Since Ellicott was such a prominent man, instead of making this post too long, I have decided to break it up into three posts.  Part 1 today is about Joseph’s early life.   Part 2 details Joseph’s work with the Holland Land Company.  Part 3 discusses Ellicott’s legacy.

Joseph Ellicott’s father, Joseph Ellicott, Sr. was founder of Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland in 1772 when he and his brothers set up a milling business there.  The elder Joseph Ellicott was instrumental in the farming of the area, by convincing the farmers to plant wheat instead of tobacco.  The farms flourished because he introduced fertilizer (using ground plaster of paris) to the area to help the depleted soil be revitalized.   After the Revolutionary War, they were growing enough wheat to build a mills and the town grew up around the mills.  Joseph Ellicott the elder had nine children.  Two of his sons, Andrew and Joseph Junior became surveyors.

Andrew Ellicott was born in 1754.   In 1784, Andrew was appointed to be a member of the survey group working to extend the survey of the Mason-Dixon line.   He also surveyed the “Ellicott Line” in 1786.  This is the line running north-south that forms the western boundary of Pennsylvania.  During his work, he met Benjamin Franklin.  Based on Franklin’s recommendations, Andrew was appointed by George Washington to survey the lands between Lake Erie and Pennsylvania to determine the border between Western New York and U.S. Territory.  He also made the first topographical study of the Niagara River.

Andrew Ellicott's Plan for Washington, D.C., 1792

Andrew Ellicott’s Plan for Washington, D.C., 1792

In 1791, Thomas Jefferson (then Secretary of State) selected Andrew to survey the boundaries of the Territory of Columbia, which became the District of Columbia (Washington, DC) in 1801.  During this time, he surveyed the future city of Washington, working with Pierre L’Enfant.   When L’Enfant disagreed with some of the commissioners, L’Enfant stepped down and Andrew took over the planning and revised the plans.  Andrew Ellicott’s plans, printed in 1792 were the first Washington city plans to receive wide circulation.

The Erie Triangle, Surveyed by Andrew Ellicott

The Erie Triangle, Surveyed by Andrew Ellicott

In 1794, Andrew plotted the road from Reading, PA to Presque Isle on Lake Erie.  He then laid out the City of Erie, PA and supervised the construction of Fort Erie.

In 1796, George Washington again commissioned Andrew for the commission to survey the border between the Spanish Territories in Florida and the United States.  He traveled via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.   He worked for four years on this survey and presented his final report to the government in 1800.  However, political administrations had changed and the Adams administration refused to pay Andrew for the work done on the survey.  He sold many of his possessions to support his family during this time.  When President Thomas Jefferson offered him the post of Surveyor General, Andrew turned it down due to his negative experience with the Adams administration.

Andrew’s brother, Joseph was born in 1760 in Bucks County, PA.   During Andrew’s survey of Washington, D.C., Joseph was Andrew’s chief assistant.  Following the survey of Washington, Joseph went to Georgia to survey the boundary line between Georgia and Carolina.  Following that survey, he returned to Pennsylvania, where he met up the Holland Land Company.

For more on Joseph’s days with the Holland Land Company, click here to read Part Two….

Sources:

  1. “Joseph Ellicott”  Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York. Volume 1, Biographical and Genealogical
  2. Beers, F.W.  “Our County and It’s People:  A descriptive Work on Genesee County, New York.”  J.W. Vose & Co Publishers, Syracuse NY 1890.
  3. “Our Street Names:  They Tell Much of Buffalo’s History”.  Buffalo Express, November 14, 1897.

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Buffalo Skyway around 1956
(from WNY Heritage Website)

The Buffalo Skyway was originally known as “High Level Bridge”, a description of the function of getting the road over the Buffalo River.  The bridge opened in 1955 and was a marvel of modern engineering.  The bridge is fraught with controversy today, as many people see the skyway as a barrier to development of the waterfront.

The bridge eliminated the waits for railroad and lift bridges that plagued commutes between downtown Buffalo and South Buffalo/Lackawanna.    Plans for a bridge had been discussed amongst the Planning Commission as early as 1922.  Some early traffic planners had fought for a tunnel instead.  The tunnel idea was scrapped because the City would have been responsible for operation and maintenance costs for lighting, ventilating and other maintenance, which the City could not afford.  New York State is responsible for maintenance of the Bridge.

Some planners insisted that construction of either the bridge or a tunnel would be too expensive and not worthwhile.  The Skyway was built despite the fierce opposition and bitter criticism.  It was heralded as a triumph of development and engineering.

The highest piece of the bridge sits 120 feet above the River.  And the viaduct is 5,803 feet in length.  The Steel used to create the skyway was from the Bethlehem Steel plant, just down the road.  The girders were brought to the River via barge.   The Father Baker Bridge, further down the river, was built in similar fashion to cross the Union Slip Canal and opened in November the following year  The two plate girder spans measure 348 feet and at the time were the second longest on any structure in the United States (not sure if they still are).  The bridge was built by the Bates and Rogers Construction Corporation.  Approximately 10,000 cubic yards of concrete was used.  It is supported by 15 massive steel “bents”.  More than 10,000 gallons of paint were used to protect it from the weather.  The bridge incorporated 11,516 tons of structural steel that was fabricated by Bethlehem Steel.

The Street was named The Buffalo Skyway after a contest was held to name the bridge.  Mrs. Wallace E. Easter, of Lackawanna, submitted the name “Skyway”.  Mrs. Easter received a golden key to the City and $100 for her prize.  If you had to name the road, what would you have named it?

Officials on the Skyway
October 4, 1955
From The Buffalo News

The Bridge cost $12,000,000 (1955 dollars) and Opened on Oct 19, 1955.  The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held on October 19th and consisted of Mayor Pankow accompanying an inspection party of city and state officials on a tour by car and a ribbon cutting at the north abutment near Delaware and Church Street.  A reception was held following the ceremony at the Hotel Lafayette, which included an address by State Public Works Superintendent John W. Johnson.

The Skyway brought the start to some major transportation investment projects in Buffalo.  The following projects were announced as being funded during the reception (costs in 1955 dollars):

  • Union Slip Canal Bridge (aka the Father Baker Bridge…it has since been demolished) – $13,000,000
  • Kensington Expressway – $6,3,00,000 (for Section 1)
  • Broadway Viaduct Elimination (aka the Z-viaduct of the New York Central) – $2,4,00,000
  • Scajaquada Creek Expressway – $10,000,000.

These investments brought the City of Buffalo into a new time period.  A time where the car was king.   The state officials at the reception called the opening of the Skyway “so magnificent as to be unforgettable”.

Today, many people consider the Skyway to be a barrier to development of our waterfront.   Many public meetings regarding the waterfront, canalside, and other projects result in cries to remove the Skyway.  However, from a traffic perspective, it’s one of the best ways to move traffic.  It’s a key transportation artery in the City of Buffalo, carrying an average of 38,800 vehicles each day (according to 2011 data from GBNRTC).  The New York State Department of Transportation see the Skyway as “a safe, efficient sturdy roadway with another 40,50 years of life in it”.

Yesterday, a new article was published in Next American City which quotes the Congress for the New Urbanism stance that the Skyway as one of the top 12 roads that need to be removed.

Many argue that the accidents on the Skyway is a reason for its removal.  However, the rate of accidents on the Skyway is 0.61 accidents per mile, far below the statewide average for urban, divided four-lane highways, which is 1.52.

Some see the Skyway, with its smooth curves as graceful, while at the same time monumental and graceful.   The ride along the Skyway is unlike any other drive in Buffalo – these people see the climb, the descent, and the view as phenomenal.

So which side of the Skyway Debate do you fall on?

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

Sources:

  1. “Buffalo Skyway to Open” Oct 19 with a ribbon-cutting, Buffalo News 10-4-1955
  2. “Final River Span Lifted Into Place” , Courier Express 5-5-1955
  3. “Skyway Name Approved by Mayor” Buffalo News 10-6-1955
  4. “Traffic Streaming Over Skyway Heralds New Era For City”,  Buffalo News 10-19-1955
  5. “Skyway Called First Of Big Projects”,  Courier Express 10-20-1955
  6. “Skyway Celebrates 50th Year” Buffalo News, 10-21- 2005

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Nash Street is a short street a close walk from the Central Business District, between Broadway and William Street near Michigan Avenue.  The street is less than a quarter-mile long, but is a part of the rich history of Buffalo.  Nash Street was known as Potter Street until the 1950s.

The Street is named after Jesse Edward Nash, Sr.  Dr. Nash was one of the City of Buffalo’s most prominent African-American citizens for the first half of the 20th Century.

J. Edward  Nash was born in Occoquan Virginia in 1868.  He worked as a farm hand, a blacksmith, a mason and a boatman.    He was a student at Virginia Union College in Richmond with Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Senior, the pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.   Rev. Powell’s son was the first African-American elected to congress.  Reverend Nash became a minister at age 18.  At age 24, he came to Buffalo in 1892 to serve as pastor of Michigan Avenue Baptist Church.  He was pastor from 1892 until he retired in 1953.   Dr. Nash married Frances Jackson in 1925 and moved to 36 Potter Street in 1925.  Dr. and Mrs. Nash had one son, Jesse Junior, who became a professor at Canisius College.

Dr. Jesse Edward Nash, Senior

The City of Buffalo has had a strong history of African-Americans living in freedom.  When the City was incorporated in 1832, the city directory listed the names of 68 colored heads of families.  The majority of the African-Americans in Buffalo lived in the 4th Ward of Buffalo at the time – east of Main Street between North Street and South Division Street.  Michigan Avenue was the heart of the African-American neighborhood.  The Michigan Avenue Baptist Church was founded in 1836.  The current church was built in 1845, prior to this, they worshiped in a meeting room on Niagara Street near Pearl Street.

During the early 1900s, Buffalo’s African-American community was growing quickly, due to the City’s industrial economy.  When Dr. Nash came to Buffalo, there were only three established African-American churches.  By 1952, there were more than 30 churches.  Because of his education, Dr. Nash was well respected and he became one of the main representatives and spokesperson for the City’s African-American Community.

Reverend Nash helped to found the Buffalo Urban League.  This functioned as an agency to welcome African-Americans to Buffalo when they arrived from the south, by helping them find housing and jobs.  The Buffalo Urban League is still in operations today.

Reverend Nash was unique in his role in Buffalo.  He was widely respected by the city’s white leadership, so he had access to the Mayor and elected officials.  This was uncommon in many other cities during this time.   He worked to put together community meetings of black Buffalonians to intercede on behalf of other black citizens who were being wronged because of their race.

Dr. Nash was well-known, not just in Buffalo, but throughout New York State and the entire country.  He hosted Booker T. Washington in 1910 in Buffalo.  In addition to Mr. Washington, many nationally known African-American leaders were guests of Dr. Nash’s, including WEB DuBois.  Dr. Nash’s neighbor was Mary Talbert, another significant African-American in Buffalo during this time period, but we’ll get to her later (there’s a street named after her as well).

In 1912, Virginia Union University awarded Nash an honorary doctorate.  Dr. Nash served as treasurer of the Western New York Baptist Association, secretary of the Baptist-Disciples Ministers Fellowship.  He was chaplain at Meyer Memorial Hospital (the predecessor to ECMC).

During the 1950s. Buffalo was undergoing a series of urban renewal projects.  Many of these projects impacted African-American neighborhoods disproportionately.   Dr. Nash advocated for fair housing and worked to stop the loss of affordable housing which was occurring under the name of “slum clearance”.

Dr. Nash retired as pastor in 1953.  To commemorate his retirement, the City renamed the street from Potter Street to Nash Street.  In 1954, Dr. Nash was awarded one of the first Brotherhood Awards from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.  He passed away in 1957 and was survived by his wife and his son Jesse Edward Nash, Junior.  He is buried at Forest Lawn.

Nash House, 36 Nash Street

The Nash House is located at 36 Nash Street.  The Buffalo Preservation Board and Buffalo Common Council designated the NAsh House a local historic landmark in 2001.  The house was originally built as a two-family residence, with an upper and lower unit.  Many of the houses in Buffalo were built like this as a practical form of housing for the urban middle class.   The Nash family lived on the second story of the house and rented out the lower floor.

The house was built around 1900.   Few changes have occurred through the years, and the historic integrity of the structure has been preserved.  The house and its contents, which included most of Dr. Nash’s papers, were acquired by the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation in 2000.  Restoration from 2002-2003 included restoration of the clapboard, windows and front porch.  The Nash family living quarters is fully restored, and the lower levels was rehabilitated for office and research space.

Dr. Nash and his family lived in the house from 1925 until 1987.   He passed away in 1957, but his widow occupied the house until she died in 1987.

The Nash House was restored and opened as the Nash House Museum in May 2007.   The museum provides a glimpse into what life was like in the early 1900s on Buffalo’s East Side.  The museum is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 11:30-4pm.   My interest has been piqued and I intend to check out the museum, hopefully this weekend.

For more information on the Michigan Street Heritage Corridor Commission and some of the amazing African-American history of Buffalo that happened in this neighborhood, please read this report prepared for the Commission by a UB Planning Studio.  

Dellenbaugh Block

This neighborhood has a personal history for me, as my uncle owned the complex of buildings known as the Dellenbaugh Block at the corner of Broadway and Michigan for much of my childhood.  He operated a car wash and pizzeria on the Broadway side of the block.  There was a pharmacy on the Michigan side of the building which always reminded me of the pharmacy in It’s a Wonderful Life.  The pharmacy here in this building was the first 24-hour pharmacy in Buffalo.

The Langston Hughes institute has plans to develop the Dellenbaugh Block.   More on their plans can be found here.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories were spent exploring that building and being fascinated by the neighborhood and the history.  The dark and scary basement of the building always freaked me out, because legend has it that it was a part of the underground railroad.  Portions of the building were built in 1842.  The city lists the building as being built in 1890, but to my childhood imagination, there were civil war era ghosts in that basement.

The Dellenbaugh Block is a designated landmark with the City of Buffalo.  The block is named for Frederick Dellenbaugh, a German immigrant.  Mr. Dellenbaugh was a physician and built his home and office at 173 Broadway circa 1842.  The house is visible from Nash Street, behind the newer storefront.   The storefront was the location of a Deco restaurant in the 1930s.

Broadway Arsenal in 1858

Across Nash Street is the Broadway Barns, a City of Buffalo DPW garage.  This building was originally designed as a New York State Arsenal.  Portions of the original circa 1865 armory still exist and can be seen from the inside of the building.  Once the regiments left the Arsenal, the building was converted to an exposition and event hall.

Broadway Auditorium in 1915

This was used for events prior to the construction of the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on the Terrace.  There are pictures of elephants walking down Broadway to get to the circus at the old Broadway Auditorium.   After the Memorial Auditorium was built, the Buffalo Streets Department began using it as a garage.  What a change this building has seen in the past 150 years!  What a history in this little pocket of a neighborhood!

 

Check out the Street Index to learn about other streets in Buffalo.

 

Sources:

Cottrell, Kevin.   “J. Edward Nash History”.  accessed at: http://www.motherlandconnextions.com/nash.html

“Dr. J. Edward Nash, Sr.” (Obituary).  Buffalo Courier Express.  27 January 1957

http://www.showcase.com/property/163-173-Broadway-Street/Buffalo/New-York/1435912

http://greaterbuffalo.blogs.com/gbb/2005/12/campaign_landma.html

http://www.nashhousemuseum.org/history.html

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Sanborn Map depicting Polonia Park in 1925

While researching Curtiss Street, I noticed that there was Polonia Park marked on some of the maps.  I have a great interest in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood and the area around the Central Terminal in particular, and I had never heard of this before.  I got sidetracked from my street researching and ended up finding out some interesting stuff which I would like to share with you all.  I know it’s not a street history, but hopefully you all will enjoy these tidbits of information as much as I do.

Polonia Park was located on Curtiss Street prior to the Central Terminal’s construction.  The park was purchased by the City in 1913 at the same time as the land for Schiller Park, Willert Park, an extension to Riverside Park and an addition to Lanigan Park.

In June 1916, the Buffalo Live Wire (a publication published monthly by the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce) posted that “A well-prepared city plan is indispensable to the intelligent acquisition of park properties, and if we enjoyed the guidance of a city plan in our recent campaign for additional parks, we would not now be wondering why we purchased, at a cost of $60,000, Polonia Park, consisting of lands useful for neither park nor playground.”

The article did not elaborate on this, but my guess is that because the land had been part of the railroad corridor, it was ill-suited for parkland.  Railroads use a great deal of pesticides to keep foliage from blocking the tracks, as can be seen when abandoned railroad corridors are still free from most grasses and shrubs long after the trains stopped coming through.  The West Shore Railroad, which connected Buffalo to New York City formerly cut through this park, following approximately the path which Memorial Drive follows today.

Despite the reports that the land was not useful as a park, the park was used during the early 1920s, as there are reports in the newspapers of baseball scores for games played in Polonia Park.

August 24, 1924
Buffalo Morning Express

By March of 1925, the property was owned by the Buffalo Board of Education as the intended site of the Peckham Vocational School.   Peckham Vocational was located at the corner of Peckham and Townsend, however they originally started out in the Adam Mickiewicz Library on Fillmore while the original school was being constructed.   As this ad from the Buffalo Morning Express, August 29, 1922 shows, there were four vocational schools in Buffalo at the time.  This was the time when many students would go out in the world to work after they completed 8th grade.  Vocational schools were a way to continue your education, while also learning a useful trade.

Ad for Vocational Schools
Buffalo Morning Express, August 29, 1922

Peckham Students

Peckham Vocational was a source of pride for Buffalo’s polish community.  The residents of Polonia were concerned that the high schools located in Buffalo were overlooking their community, so the residents rallied successfully to open a school in their neighborhood.  Peckham Vocational opened in 1911.  Board of Education had plans to build a new school and was about to let the contract to build when the railroad approached them to purchase the property to build what at the time was being called the “Fillmore Station”.   In exchange for the Polonia Park property, the Board fo Education received the property at the corner of Sycamore Street and Koons Avenue.  Peckham Vocational School was renamed Emerson Vocational School in 1937, after the school’s superintendent.  The school operated at its Sycamore Street address for 62 years until 1999.  Since then, the building has been remodeled and renamed Harvey Austin Public School 97, and operates as an elementary school.

After I posted my post on Curtiss Street, Marty from Forgotten Buffalowas kind enough to share these pictures of another planned park in Polonia.  It was clear that the people who lived in this neighborhood wanted a park, since they used the land that the chamber of commerce called unsuitable for a park as a park, and then plans were development for this park around 1938.  For reference, this map north is towards the bottom.  This land is currently the residential neighborhood between the Central Terminal and Broadway.

New Park Design For Park North of Central Terminal

Sadly, this park was never built.  While the residents of Polonia had successfully rallied to get a school built in their neighborhood in 1911, it seems that they were unable to rally enough support to build a neighborhood park.  Perhaps because it would have involved tearing down houses?

Recent efforts have occurred at the Central Terminal to build an urban habitat in the vicinity of the former Polonia Park.  The Urban Habitat Restoration project is working to reclaim the land which was used as a parking lot during the height of the Central Terminal’s use as a train station.  This project is working to restore some of the landscape, using native plants and green sustainable methods.   For more on this project, check out the Central Terminal Website here.

Over the course of  the past 100 years, this piece of property has transformed from railroad corridor, to park, planned use as school, to use as a parking lot, and now is being restored back to natural landscape.  Not too shabby of a history for our little piece of land that was once known as Polonia Park.

 

Learn about the history of other streets in Buffalo by checking out the Street Index.

 

Sources:

  1. “Buffalo’s Towering Temple of Transportation”, Greg Jandura.  accessed online, July 25, 2012:  http://www.trainweb.org/wnyrhs/nyctermpt1.htm
  2. “Council Wants Action on New School Tract”  Buffalo Morning Express March 21, 1925, pg 11
  3. Buffalo Live Wire, Vol. VII, No. 6,  June 1916, published by the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.
  4. “Again Central Secures Delay” Buffalo Express Dec 14, 1905
  5. http://www.buffaloschools.org/m/content.cfm?subpage=39590
  6. Bucki, Carl,  “Polish Vocational School Was The Source Of Community Pride”.  Am-Pol Eagle.  Access online: http://ampoleagle.com/polish-vocational-school-was-br-the-source-of-community-pride-p5222-147.htm
  7. Plans for park designed by Joseph Fronczak provided by Marty Biniasz.

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Curtiss Street
Present Day Alignment

Curtiss Street is runs along the railroad tracks near the Central Terminal.  The street follows the curves of the railroad, which has been there since at least the 1880s.  The streets in the vicinity of the Terminal have changed a bit in the last 100 years.  More information about other streets will be coming in other blog posts.  Since the construction of the Central Terminal, Curtiss Street has run underneath the Terminal at the curve.  (click photos to enlarge for easier reading)

Curtiss Street in 1889

Curtiss Street in 1925

Curtiss Street in 1950

People often believe the street is named after Glenn Curtiss, known for Curtiss Aeroplane Company.  However, Glenn Curtiss wasn’t born until 1878, and the street was named by at least 1889.  While it would have been very interesting if the street had been named in honor of an 11-year-old who ended up being as remarkable as Glenn Curtiss, this was not the case.   I was unable to find any concrete evidence linking Glenn Curtiss to the other Buffalo Curtiss family.  If anyone has any information of their linkage, please let me know in the comments.  But no, Curtiss Street is NOT named for Curtiss-Wright airplanes.

Curtiss Street is named for Charles Gould Curtiss.  Mr. Curtiss was an officer of the Lancaster and Depew Land Company, which developed Curtiss Street and several other streets in its vicinity.

Mr. Charles Gould Curtiss was born in 1827 and grew up in Utica, New York.  He ran the news stand at the Utica Rail Station while he was a boy, and eventually became a produce salesman.  At the age of 23, he formed a connection with a wholesale grocer, which brought him to New York City.  He made many connections while in New York. For a short time, he became an executive of Breckinridge County Coal Oil Company in Louisville Kentucky.  He worked to substitute coal oil for sperm oil. The discovery of petroleum caused the business to fail, as the coal oil was no longer necessary.

In 1857, Mr. Curtiss came to Buffalo to join Levi Willard in the insurance business.  In 1873, he organized a barley and malt firm that continued to operate for nearly half a century.  Charles and his wife Amelia lived in a large stone house at 63 West Huron Street.  He kept his horses at Efner’s Livery Stable at Franklin and Chippewa, and it is said that he rode his horses through Delaware Park on a daily basis.  At the time, the roads were only paved as far as North Street, so riding to the park was a ride out to the country.

In 1882, Charles was a delegate to the Democratic Convention where his friend Grover Cleveland was nominated for Governor.  After his election, Cleveland appointed Mr. Curtiss to the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo State Hospital for the Insane.  The Curtiss family also kept a farm at Delavan and Main Street where he raised chickens and kept a cow.  He felt that “the country was the best place for growing boys”, so he spent a great deal of time on the farm with his sons Harlow and Alexander.   Although his own schooling was limited, Charles felt an education was important, so he sent both sons to college.

Alexander Curtiss House
(currently the Ronald McDonald House)

Alexander studied medicine at the University of Rochester after coursework at Cornell.  Dr. Curtiss (Alexander) was in charge of the first hospital established in Denver, Colorado.  Following the birth of his first son, Colman, Dr. Curtiss returned to Buffalo and became a surgeon for Buffalo State Hospital.  Colman eventually ran his grandfather Charles’ barley and malt firm.  Colman was president of the company when it went under due to prohibition.  Following the closure of the malt firm, Colman worked in insurance for John Hancock Life Insurance Company.  Colman married Sally Cary, daughter of Trumbull Cary (another prominent Buffalonian).  Alexander and his family lived at 780 West Ferry, the house which is better known today as the Ronald McDonald House.

Ethel Mann Curtiss House
(100 Lincoln Parkway)

Harlow was a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and studied law under Grover Cleveland.  Harlow became a lawyer and became an extensive real estate owner throughout the City.  Harlow and his wife Ethel were prominent in Buffalo during the early 1900s.  Ethel was originally Ethel Mann, the daughter of Matthew Mann, the doctor who operated on President William McKinley after he was shot on the Pan-Am grounds in 1901.  Harlow was influential in the development of the Curtiss Building at the corner of Franklin and Huron.  Ethel was considered a community leader as well, she worked with the Buffalo Council of Campfire Girls and conducted programs to develop leadership skills for women.  Ethel and Harlow lived at 100 Lincoln Parkway.

Curtiss Building
Franklin and Huron Streets

The Curtiss Building at Franklin and Huron Streets was designed by Harlow’s brother-in-law, Paul Mann, and was built in 1912.   The building is also known as the King & Eisele Building due to a jewelry firm which located in it during the 20s and 30s.  It was later known as the Hoelscher Building after the Hoelscher Building Corporation which was located there from the 1940s until the 1990s.  Mark Croce currently owns the building and had plans for a boutique hotel about 5 years ago.  However, the project appears to be at a standstill.

COMING SOON:   I became intrigued by the old maps when I saw the land where the Central Terminal now sits was once a park.  Coming later this week:  What was Polonia Park?

Sources:  “Curtiss Street Memorial to Trade Board Head, Developer” Courier Express Oct 22, 1939 sec. 6. p 10.

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Woltz Avenue is a street running about three-quarters of a mile between Walden Avenue and Broadway in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.   The street is named after a family that had three generations who all held public office in the City of Buffalo!

Woltz Avenue is technically named for Charles Woltz, who was on the Council at the time when the street was named.  The street was originally named Bowen Street.  The German residents of the neighborhood would confuse Bowen with Bone, so many of them called the street knoche, which is the German word for bone, leading to confusion.  So while Charles was president of the Council (1893-1895), a petition was drawn up to change the street name, however the petitioners failed to give suggestions for what to name it.  When the Council granted the petition, they opted to name the street after their President.

Charles was born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1853.  When the Germans acquired that territory in 1870, he came to America because of his aversion to German militarism.  Years later, when he returned to visit his brother, he was immediately thrown into jail for evading compulsory service in the German army.  His brother effected his release, however Charles never returned to his homeland again.

Charles was secretary of the Erie Land Company, which developed Woltz Avenue, Loepere and Mills Streets.  He was also an officer of the Genesee Land Company, which developed Montana, Colorado and Nevada Streets.  He was active in the Republican Party and was a delegate to the National Republican Convention which nominated William Howard Taft for the presidency.

Charles wife, Eva, came from Germany in a sailing vessel that took forty days to cross the Atlantic.  Charles and Eva lived at 1125 Genesee Street, which is near the street that would bear the Woltz name.  In 1890, the Woltz home is listed in the Buffalo City Directory as “Woltz Saloon”.  Charles enjoyed fishing, and he would often take trips to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the day with his neighbors to go fishing.   Charles died in 1924 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

Charles and Eva had two sons, Charles J. and George.  Charles J. was born in 1878 and was a graduate of Buffalo Law School and continued the real estate business established by his father.  George was born in 1886.  In 1901, George began his career as an office boy, and worked his way up and became a Judge.  He served for 11 years as Assistant District Attorney, and then served more than 20 years on the bench.  He was affiliated with 32 clubs and organizations in Buffalo, including Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Buffalo Consistory and Shrine, the Buffalo Athletic Club, the Elks, Oddfellows, Orioles, the Humboldt Club, Republic organizations and four German singing societies.  George lived at 755 Best Street.

George’s daughter (Charles’ granddaughter), Eva Woltz, was born in 1906 and became an attorney and clerk of the City Court.  Eva passed away in 1965 and is buried in the family plot alongside her father George and her sister Emilie.

Source:  “Three Generations Memory” Courier Express July 23, 1939, sec 5 p 5.


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Hi!  I just wanted to say that I have been overwhelmed the last few weeks with the feedback I’ve been receiving from people regarding my blog.  I guess the blog was posted on various facebook pages and I’ve had amazing readership numbers the last two weeks!   I really love doing the research and telling some of Buffalo’s stories.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  I started this blog mainly as a way for me to tell some of my favorite stories.  My friends often get bored with me talking their ears off about my favorite Buffalonians, so I decided to start writing.  The feedback has been amazing, and has inspired me in so many ways.  One of the things I love about our city is that we all really seem to care about it.  So thanks to everyone who has shared my blog, retweeted my tweets about it, and told their friends about it.  I really do appreciate it!

In case you haven’t yet noticed, at the top of the page, I have added a few pages.  There’s a page called “What Is This All About” which discusses the basic premise behind the blog, an  “About Me” for you all to learn a little bit more about myself,  and finally a Street Index so that you could more easily search for entries on specific streets.  Remember, you can request any streets at any time!  If you’ve requested streets, I’ve added them to my queue and will be getting to them shortly.

Additionally, I added a link  for the RSS feed in case you’d like to subscribe that way, and there is also a place where you can subscribe by email.

I will start updating more regularly again very soon.  I’m moving into the Hotel Lafayette on May 1st.  I’m very excited to be living into such a historically important building, and to be a part of the resurgence of Downtown Buffalo.  Once I’m settled in, I figure that I will be able to do much more research, as I will be right next door to the library.

In the meantime, please let me know if there’s any streets you’re particularly interested in.  And here’s a little tidbit of information:  Today (April 20, 2012) is Buffalo’s 180th Birthday!   The City was incorporated in 1832, and the legislation passed the Assembly and the Senate in April of that year.  If you’re interested, you can read the first charter here.   Make sure you take a second this weekend to wish our fair city the happiest of birthdays.

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Wilkeson Way is a small street…ok, technically, it’s basically just the entry way into a parking lot down by the Erie Basin Marina.  It’s named after the man who was extremely important to the building of Buffalo in the early 1800s, so I’m including it.  Originally. Wilkeson Street was a little further north of the current Wilkeson Way, behind City Hall, in an area which changed due to urban renewal in the 1960s.

While the street is short, the man it was named for happens to be my absolute favorite Buffalonian, Samuel Wilkeson. (more…)

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Kenefick Ave is a street in South Buffalo running between South Park Avenue and Abbott Road.  The street was named after Judge Daniel J. Kenefick.  Judge Kenefick is the author of the Buffalo City Charter, which was written in 1927.

Judge Kenefick was born in the Old First Ward in 1863.  He attended Buffalo City Schools, graduated from Central High School in 1881 and studied law in the Buffalo office of Congressman Richard Crowley.  He served as assistant district attorney and district attorney of Erie County and also was Justice of the New York State Supreme Court.  He served as director of the Buffalo Niagara Electric Company.  The Judge lived at 841 Delaware Avenue, at the corner of Barker Avenue.  841 Delaware Avenue is the current location of the Himalayan Institute, but I am not 100% sure that this is the same building which the Judge lived in.

Judge Kenefick grew up in the Old First Ward.  He married Maysie Germain of the Germain Family of Buffalo. He grew up alongside developer John F. Burke.  Mr. Burke grew up to become a developer and developed the part of South Buffalo where Kenefick Avenue is located.  Mr. Burke honored his boyhood friend by naming Kenefick Avenue after him.

Sources:

  1. Biography of Daniel Kenefick.  Our Country and It’s People:  A Descriptive Work on Erie County, New York.  Edited By:  Trumen C. White.  The Boston History Company, Published 1989.
  2. “Kenefick Avenue Among Few City Streets Honoring Living Citizen”.  Courier Express, October 9, 1938, sec 5 p 2.


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