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person st

Person Street

Person Street runs between two sets of railroad tracks in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood of Buffalo.  The street runs for three blocks south of Broadway, and then  jags at Broadway and continues another two blocks.  The two halves of the street do not line up.  This is because north of Broadway, the street was once known as Kuempel Ave.   Sometime between 1893 and 1900, Kuempel Ave was changed to Person Street.  Person Street seems like a generic kind of name.  But it is named after an actual person who also happened to be a Person – Charles Person.

charles personCharles Person was born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1827.  He came to Buffalo in 1841 at the age of 14.  He worked in a liquor business learning the trade.  At the age of 23, he started his own liquor business.

Mr. Person and his wife Sophia had 11 children.  The lived on Elm Street, which was still a mostly residential neighborhood at the time.  George Urban and his family lived around the corner on Genesee Street.  The Person family had grape bushes along the length of their property, with plum and pear trees in the backyard.  The children spoke German with their mother, who had come to Buffalo at 18 but Charles Person insisted on speaking English whenever he could to learn to master the language.  

Mr. Person’s business, C. Person’s Sons was the city’s “foremost whiskey rectifier”.  Charles started the company in 1850. He sold his whiskey wholesale from 390-392 Elm Street next door to the family home.  His firm was the largest liquor warehouse in Buffalo.  Their building is currently part of the site that is presently the Catholic Health Headquarters.  The company was well known, not just in Buffalo but throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Two of their brands were Buffalo Club Whiskey and Riverside Whiskey. The whiskey business continued for three generations until prohibition.  For the two weeks before Prohibition started, the line outside of their business went for blocks, everyone stocking up on whiskey.  To understand the size of the business, when the doors closed, they still had 2,000 barrels of bonded whiskey remaining!  One of the grandsons reported that they kept the whiskey at his house, and that they still had stock into the 1940s!  During Prohibition, there were 4 attempted robberies at this house, so he had a special vault constructed to store the whiskey.   

Mr. Person held a lot of real estate throughout Buffalo and was the first person to own property on the street that now bears his name.  Mr. Person was Erie County Supervisor from the 4th Ward in 1873 and 1874.  In 1875, he was elected Alderman of the 4th Ward.  At the time, the 4th Ward encompassed Downtown between Eagle, Michigan, Goodell and Main Streets.  

Source:  Buffaloah.com 

Mr. Person died in 1885.  He left his business to three of his sons – Daniel, William and Frank.  The sons continued the success of the business.  When Charles first started the business, it was located in a space 20 by 30 feet.  The business grew to take up 60 times the space – a 4 story building with dimensions of 60 by 150 feet.  The building was described as including “elegant office and a distillation, packing, and storing area which employs an army of workers.”  In addition to their own whiskeys, they also sold imported wines from Germany, Spain, France, Italy and Hungary.  They were also the local agent for Cook’s Imperial Champagne, Pellich Gin, Sheboygan Mineral Water, and Anheuser-Busch Budweiser Beer. 

Son William Person was also Fire Commissioner of Buffalo for 18 years.  At  the time this was the longest anyone had held that title.  William ended up selling the remaining Person family lots on Person street in order to finance his son Eugene’s education at the University of Michigan.

Daniel H. Person was also a director of Meadville Distilling Company and of the Union Bank of Buffalo.  He was a member of the Harmonia Lodge No 699.  

Frank was the son who mostly managed the business.  Frank had 2 sons – Frank W. and two daughters – Clara and Flora.  Frank’s son and several of his nephews worked for the business.  Frank was director oft the Buffalo Automatic Smoke Consuming Company and the Freehold Savings and Loan Association.  He was a thirty-second degree mason.  

So the next time, you pass Person Street, think of the Person family…and maybe raise a glass of whiskey in their honor.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made.  You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the home page.  You can also follow the blog on facebook.  If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.  

Sources:

  1. Smith, H. Katherine.  “Person Street Honors Land Owner Who Held City and County Posts”.  Buffalo Courier -Express.  October 1, 1939, Sec L-4.
  2. Mueller, Jacob.  Buffalo and Its German Community.  German-American Historical and Bibliographical Society.  1911.  Translated by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks.
  3. White, Truman, editor.  Our County and Its People.  The Boston History Company, 1898.

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