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

Hertel Avenue and others Named After Black Rock Land Company Associates

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

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

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

John S. Hertel, 1899

John S. Hertel, 1899

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

Rvierside Park, about 1910

Riverside Park, about 1910

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

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

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

hertel grave

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

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

Sources:

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zittelLouis Zittel was born in Johnsonsburg, Wyoming County, New York in February 1836.   His parents, Anna and Peter, came to the States from Germany shortly before Louis was born.  Mr. Zittel was educated in the public schools.  As a young man in the 1860s, Mr. Zittel moved to Buffalo and purchased a farm at the corner of Seneca and Cazenovia Streets.  At the time, the area we know of as South Buffalo only consisted of four streets – Buffum, Seneca, Cazenovia and Indian Church.  You could take a stagecoach to South Buffalo from Buffalo, and the trip was so long, it was generally only worth it if you were going to spend the night.  Mr. Zittel established a post office in South Buffalo.  Before 1891, the Post Office Department had no established policies regarding post office naming.  Postmasters were allowed to name their post offices as they wished.  Mr. Zittel named his post office “South Buffalo”, thereby creating the hamlet of South Buffalo and forever banishing “south side” from our city’s geography.

In 1887, Frederick Law Olmsted was commissioned to design a new park for the southern portion of the City (at this point, he had already designed what we know as Delaware, Front and Martin Luther King Parks).  Olmsted’s original vision for the South Buffalo park consisted of a large waterfront park along the Lake Erie shore south of what is now Tifft Street, east to the railroad corridor.  The original design was rejected as it was too costly, too likely to be damaged by storms coming off the lake and too far away from the residential areas of South Buffalo.  In 1888, Park Commissioners began looking for another site suitable for park use.  Three sites were identified to be used – the 76-acre Hart Farm which was being promoted for residential development along Cazenovia Creek, the grove at Mineral Springs, and a 156-acre just outside the southern boundary of the City limits.  The Parks Commissioners ended up approving two parks, that we now know as South Park and Cazenovia Park.

Olmsted's Cazenovia Park Plan

Olmsted’s Cazenovia Park Plan

Louis Zittel was a strong proponent for creating the park at the Cazenovia Creek site.  Serving as a Park Commissioner, Mr. Zittel worked hard to get the unused Hart Farm tract used as a park.  The park is a monument to Mr. Zittel’s perseverance and interest in benefiting his section of the City.  After the park was laid out, he moved to 150 Cazenovia Street, where he could view the park from his front windows.  The property where his house stood is now the American Legion.

After his move, he subdivided his farmland and developed the streets surrounding the street that bears his name.

Mr. Zittel died on April 22, 1921 at his home on Cazenovia Street at the age of 87 years.  He is buried in Forest Lawn.

grave

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

Sources:

  1. “Proceedings of the Society”, Volume 26. Edited by Frank H. Severance.  Buffalo Historical Society Publications, 1922.
  2. “Named after Park Commissioner”.  Courier Express, March 12 1939, sec 5, p 12.

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Gates Circle is a part of the Olmsted Parks and Parkways System that Buffalo is known for (so is Symphony Circle, which we’ve already talked about).  It’s one of two traffic circles on Delaware Avenue.  The Circle has beautiful light fictures, two water-spout fountains, and a granite bench which circles the larger center fountain.   It’s a neat design, because the fountain is sunken down, so from the inside of the circle, you can’t really see cars on the street, so you feel like you’re actually in a park, not surrounded by Delaware Avenue, which can get busy, traffic-wise.

It’s been hot in Buffalo this week.  Maybe you’ve driven, biked or walked down Delaware Avenue and thought, “I really want to hop in the fountain at Gates Circle.  But then, out of the corner of your eye, you notice the sign….NO WADING OR SWIMMING IN THE FOUNTAIN.

Darn.

But swimming and wading wasn’t always forbidden….

(more…)

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