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Marine Drive depicted in red.  Canal District depicted in blue.

Marine Drive depicted in red. Canal District depicted in blue.

This post is the third and final park in a series on the history of Buffalo’s Canal District.  Click here to read Part One, about the early days of the Canal – the Canal Street era.  Click here to read Part Two - the Dante Place era.  Today’s post is about the Marine Drive era of the Canal District.  Marine Drive replaced Dante Place during the 1950s.  Marine Drive stretches from Main Street to Erie Street and forms a loop, intersecting upon itself after circling around the Marine Drive Apartments.  If you zoom in far enough on online maps, you’ll see that a small part of Marine Drive still holds its claim as “Dante Place”, at least according to google!

Little sliver of Dante Place (top center part of picture) still shows up in Google!

A little sliver of Dante Place (top center part of the picture) still shows up in Google!

Plans were developed to build “Fairhaven Village”, a private development for 1,078 middle-income families.   After a building explosion in 1936 and the 1936 State Law allows cities the right to condemn and remove “unsafe and unsanitary” buildings,  buildings began to be demolished.  Approximately 500 families moved out of the neighborhood in the summer of 1937.   It was to be one of the first slum clearance rehabilitation projects in the Country.  Early plans for Fairhaven Village  in 1938 called for accommodations for 962 families with a total of 2,942 rooms.  The apartments were to include a 500 car garage to be built below grade of the apartments.  The apartments were to average $17.50 a room, including hot and cold water, gas, electricity and refrigeration.  It was going to be the first project of its kind to be privately owned, managed and financed.    At the time, there was a rental shortage in Buffalo, and reports estimated that there were close to 7,000 families living doubled (or tripled) up in apartments meant for one family.   However, the effects of the Great Depression and later wartime restrictions limited the construction funds to build the development.

Evans Street Demolition 1950s.  Note City Hall in the rear background of the photo.

Evans Street Demolition 1950s. Note City Hall in the rear background of the photo.

After WWII, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority began plans for low-income housing in the Dante Place district, despite local opposition.  In 1948, 90 families were displaced by the State for construction of new housing, which began in 1950.  The Dante Place Projects were completed in 1952, residents moved in during September of that year.   The seven 12-story buildings were the first permanent state-aided housing in the City of Buffalo and consisted of 616 units.  Each building contains a mix of one, two, three, and four bedroom apartments.

Photo from the Courier Express - 1950 during demolition for construction of the Dante Place Project

Photo from the Courier Express – 1950 during demolition for construction of the Dante Place Project

When the Dante Place Project was in its planning stages, Howard Kelly of the Municipal Housing Authority stated:  “We hope that this will be the first step of a waterfront beautification program which will continue right through to Porter Ave”.

Ad for bathtubs installed in Dante Place Project

Ad for bathtubs installed in Dante Place Project

Dante Place Project tenants protesting their eviction.  Source:  Artvoice

Dante Place Project tenants protesting their eviction. Source: Artvoice

By 1960, many of the tenants of Dante Place Project were those displaced from condemned substandard housing on a the Lower East Side of Buffalo, a historically black section of the City.  The Dante Place projects had become again considered to be a slum area.  The BMHA was losing money due to unfilled apartments.  The BMHA responded by moving low-rent residents back to the Douglass Towers and the Ellicott and Talbert Mall.  This was the first attempt in the country to convert public low-cost housing into privately owned development.  The tenants formed the Dante Tenants Defense League to represent the 400 families remaining in the project and fight the evictions.  In 1960, the group went to the state housing commissioner, but they were unsuccessful fighting the conversion of the complex.   New York State Supreme Court Judge Catalano ruled in October 1960 that the conversion was not in violation of New York Public Housing Law.

1951 Aerial view of the Canal District

1951 Aerial view of the Canal District – Dante Place Project/ Marine Drive Apartments shown in center

By 1961, Dante Place resembled what had been originally been proposed as the Fairhaven Village – converting the complex from public housing to subsidized moderate income rental apartments.  A $300,000 remodel was completed and the apartments were rented out.  This project was the first time in the United States that a low-income housing project was converted into a private non-profit middle-income apartment development.  Once the new complex reached 92% occupancy, the tenant stockholders elected a board of directors and officers to manage the development.  The complex was renamed Marine Drive Apartments.

When planning for the Dante Place Projects, there was a great discussion among the City Planning Board members regarding what to name the new street.  Councilman John Ramunno argued for the new street to be named “Dante Place” to keep with the history of the neighborhood.  However, the Council President and others protested because they wanted a new name that did not have a connection to the past, the history of the neighborhood, or the Italian culture that it represented.  The Council eventually voted in favor of removing ties to the “old environment” and Marine Drive was named due to the waterfront neighborhood’s location.

As part of the Downtown Urban Renewal Plan, development of the Waterfront Village began.  The first condos opened in Waterfront Village in Summer 1972.   In 1974, the Erie Basin Marina was completed, built by slag from Bethlehem Steel.  The gardens at the Marina were developed by Stanley Swisher, supervisor of the grounds for the City’s Engineering Department.  Stanley Swisher would plant a new bed of perennials each year.

In 1979, the Buffalo Naval and Servicemen’s Park opened.  The original display included the USS Little Rock and the USS The Sullivans.  In 1988, the submarine the USS Croaker was added to the display.

Other than the Marine Drive Apartments and Waterfront Village, since the 1950s, much of the Canal District sat vacant and silent.  The Central Wharf and the Commercial Slip were buried and covered in stone and parking areas.

2002 Aerial View of the Canal District

2002 Aerial View of the Canal District

Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

In 1999, as part of Phase I of the Erie Canal Harbor plan, the Naval Park moved as part of a $15.5 million dollar improvements to the Erie Canal Harbor.  Memorials were moved to the newly created Veteran’s Park.  The USS Little Rock, the Sullivans and the Croaker were repaired and moved to the new Naval Basin.  The existing esplanade facilities were enhanced and expanded to create a continuous walkway along the edge of the water.

Canalside

Canalside

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation was created in 2005 to help restore economic growth to Buffalo and WNY’s waterfront.  Phase II of the Erie Canal Harbor plan was completed in 2008 and included the re-watering of the Commercial Slip, a towpath/walkway on the edges of the slip, construction of a bowstring truss bridge, the reconstruction of Commercial Street, Lloyd Street, Perry Street and Hanover Street, and the uncovering and preservation of the Steamboat Hotel and Lloyd street as an archeological site.  A wooden wharf was created, along with floating docks.  This area is referred to as Canalside, a 20-acre part of the historic Canal District. Canalside has been successful in drawing people down to the waterfront – offering programming, events, festivals and other attractions.   Canalside has more than 750 events and 750,000 visitors annually.

Demolition of the Aud

Demolition of the Aud

Memorial Auditorium closed in 1996, when the Buffalo Sabres, Blizzards and Bandits moved across the street to the newly built Crossroads Arena (now First Niagara Centerclick here to learn more about the name of the Arena).  Plans to renovate and repurpose the Aud were shuffled around for years, including the reuse of the Aud as a Bass Pro site.  In 2007, the Aud was sold by the City of Buffalo to ECHDC.  Salvageable items were removed to be sold, stored or removed.  Asbestos removal and environmental remediation of the Aud site was performed in 2008 and demolition began in January 2009.  A farewell ceremony was held June 30, 2009 to open the time capsule from 1939 and say goodbye to the Aud.

The Aud Block is currently being redeveloped, which includes development parcels based on the historic street grid.  One of the parcels will be developed by the Explore and More Children’s Museum.  Additional restaurant and public spaces are anticipated to be developed as well.  Water features on the Aud Block will be interpretations of the alignment of the Erie Canal, Main and Hamburg Canal, and the Commercial Slip.  Across Main Street on the Donovan Block, south of the newly opened One Canalside, a portion of the canal water feature will be included, as well another development parcel.  These projects, along with Harbor Center, will create the next phase of the Canal District’s development.

2011 View of the Area, showing the rewatered commercial slip, recreated historic street pattern an demolished Aud site

2011 View of the Area, showing the rewatered commercial slip, recreated historic street pattern and the demolished Aud site

Buffalo’s Canal District has been a unique part of Buffalo’s story since the founding of the City of Buffalo.  The district has had several lives – from seedy underbelly, Little Italy’s crowded tenements, public housing, to sitting dormant and the recent redevelopment. As Canalside continues to be developed, the story will continue to unfold.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Check out the Street Index to read about other streets.

Sources:

  1. “Housing Project Rises wehre Canalers Roistered” Courier Express 10-29-1952
  2. “Lusty Canal St. Lived Hard and Fast in Heyday” Courier Express 10-26-1952
  3. “Dante Area Streets Get Single Name” Courier Express, November 11, 1960 Buffalo Streets Vol 1.
  4. America’s Crossroads:  Buffalo’s Canal Street/ Dante Place.  Buffalo NY Heritage Press, 1993.
  5. Dug’s Dive.   Buffalo Express Saturday Morning August 29,1874
  6. Hart, Mary Bronson.  Partitioning Poverty:  Zones of Influence in Social Work.  Boston Evening Transcript.  August 29, 1900.
  7. Syracuse, Buffalo Illustrate Broadened UR Concept.  The Evening News.  Newburgh, NY.  August 9, 1961.
  8. Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia.  Family and Community:  Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930.
  9. First Tenants to Move into Dante Project.  Buffalo Courier-Express.  August 31, 1952.  8-A.
  10. Crowbars End Lurid History of Slum Area.  Buffalo Courier Express.  July 11, 1948.
  11. Move to Clear Buffalo Slum Area Launched.  Buffalo Courier Express.  October 2, 1936.  p 7.
  12. Dante Tenants Fight Eviction.  Baltimore Afro-American.  August 30, 1960.
  13. Queen City Waterfront Plan

This post is Part Two in a series of three posts about Buffalo’s Canal District.  Click here to read Part One, discussing the early days of the Erie Canal, when the area was part of the seedy underbelly of Buffalo.  Part Three will come out next week and will discuss the most recent years of Buffalo’s Canal District.  Today’s post discusses the Italian Quarter and Dante Place, the street that replaced Canal Street.

1925 Map of the Canal District

1925 Map of the Italian Quarter

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, built in 1906 on LeCouteulx Street

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, built in 1906 on LeCouteulx Street Source: America’s Crossroads by Michael Vogel

The Canal District slowly died as trade along the canal was replaced by railroads.  Industry and immigration began to change the landscape of the area.  The sailors and canal business moved out of the area and sought work elsewhere.  The vacant buildings were taken over by immigrants.  The Canal District made way to what was called the Italian Quarter, due to the influx of Italian immigrants.  Between 1900 and 1920, the Italian population of Buffalo increased from 6,000 to 16,000 (Buffalo’s total population in 1920 was 506,775).  The Italian community separated in Buffalo based on the territories and villages of their homeland – each settling into different parts of the City of Buffalo.  The Abbruzzese moved to the upper East Side; the Campobassini moved to the Lower East Side; the Calabrians moved to South Buffalo; and the companies moved to an area near Downtown Buffalo.  The Italians who settled in the Canal District were coming mainly from Sicily to escape a famine and high taxes.

The area was also known as “The Hooks” after the cargo hooks that the dockworkers and longshoremen used.  Near the entrance to the district was “the Coop”, an Italian fruit vendor stand.  The bath house posted instructions in both English and Italian.    The name of Canal Street was changed to Dante Place in 1909.  The impact of changing the name of the street had a large impact on the neighborhood. The rule limiting the women of Canal Street from venturing north into Buffalo proper was lifted.  After the women left, the saloons and concert halls began to close.  The once notorious dance hall saloon known as the Only Theater became a “normal” tavern and politicians meeting place.

Jacob Schoellkopf, a millionaire who made his money from tanning...owner of the Revere Block

Jacob Schoellkopf, a millionaire who made his money from tanningowner of the Revere Block.  Newspaper articles of the day criticized him for the poor conditions in his buildings.

Former brothels and hotels for canal workers and travelers became tenements.  These three and four story brick buildings housing multiple families in crowded conditions. The tenements were poorly-ventilated, small rooms with little heat, frozen pipes in winter and little sunlight. Cholera and pneumonia were common in the tenements.  Many of the immigrants lived in poverty. Rooms rented for $6/month (about $100-130 in current dollars).  In 1890, one old hotel called the Revere Block, originally designed to hold 100 guests, had 1,040 residents living in crammed conditions.  Reports in other buildings included 18 families crammed into four rooms; 56 people sharing eight bedrooms.  Conditions in many of these tenements were disgusting and unsanitary. Social work organizations began working to help deal with the conditions in the district.  Charity Organization Society and Miss Maria Love began to work with the churches around 1895, working to organize efforts against poverty throughout the City of Buffalo.   Seventy-six churches, of 12 denominations, pitched in to help around the city.  Each church was responsible for a district, working for the “moral elevation of the people, and for the relief of all the needy and neglected persons of whatever religious faith within the district”.  Instead of offering direct relief, many of these societies attempted to address the cycle of poverty.

Images from Welcome Hall, one of the settlement houses in Dante Place.   Click here to see in greater detail

Images from one of the settlement houses in Dante Place.
Click here to see in greater detail

Remington Hall was located at the corner of Erie Street and Canal Street (next to the Revere Block) and was one of the settlement houses located in the canal district.  Miss Mary Remington was the head of the settlement house, working with First Presbyterian Church to reform one of the “vilest tenements in Buffalo”.

Mary Remington was born in 1859 in Connecticut and began working to help others at a young age.  At the time, social service was in its infancy and community centers were not common.  In 1894, when Miss Remington came to Buffalo, she noticed that the churches were ignoring the Canal street district, but she saw that the need there was the greatest.  Many Buffalonians did not believe that she could make a difference in that neighborhood, but she was determined to try.

Mary Remington in 1933 Source:  Buffalo Courier Express

Mary Remington in 1933
Source: Buffalo Courier Express

Remington Hall included a kitchen, sewing classes, a Sunday School, mothers’ meetings, a nursery and kindergarten, vocational education, housekeeping and cleanliness classes and recreational programs.  Miss Remington served as landlord, cook, leader of religious services, pianist, teacher and friend to the needy regardless of their race, creed, age or reputation.  She was referred to as “mea madre” by many of the Italian immigrants.  She wrote letters for the men who could not write, she delivered soup and tea to sick women, bailed neighbors out of jail and helped out her neighborhood in any way she could as part of her daily routine.  During the Pan American Exposition in 1901, she took in extra borders and raised $1,000 to do repairs to her building and open a fresh air lodge at the old International Hotel in Fort Erie for poor residents to go to experience a summer change of scenery. She helped more than 100 women who had kept brothels by showing them a different, upstanding way of life.  She sustained the Remington Hall primarily by the rents she charged her tenants.  She was named among the “Woman’s Who’s Who of America” in 1914.  In 1933, Miss Remington said, “If I could live my life over, I would again spend it among the poor”.  During the depression, Miss Remington’s health declined and she was forced to move to the country.  She still continued to provide for the needy, knitting mittens and sending vegetables from her gardens in to the city.

The Settlement House Movement was strong in Buffalo and settlement houses existed across Buffalo.  Two of the oldest – Westminster Community House (1893) and Neighborhood House Association (1894) merged to form the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers (BFNC) in the 1980s and still provide services in the Fruit Belt Neighborhood.

While settlement workers tried hard to make conditions better for the residents in poverty stricken areas, many of the early social workers were viewed as outsiders.  They were thought to undermine old world culture rather than seeing its positive value.  In Dante Place, they misunderstood many of the Italian immigrants, and the Italians misunderstood them.  The American values of sobriety, thrift, sociability, industry, cleanliness, patriotism and “properness” were foreign to the southern Italians of the district.  Many of the Sicilian men resented the settlement’s intrusions into family life. The district was described as “looking more and more like Little Italy by day, and the old-time pit of vice and iniquity by night”.  There were reports of organized crime, but for this area, this was nothing new.

Il Corriere Italiano from the day President McKinley died in 1901

Il Corriere Italiano from the day President McKinley died in 1901

Many of the Italians formed their own fraternal organizations, professional societies and cultural clubs.  There were so many of these groups that a Federation of Italian-American Societies was established in 1906.  One of the important Italian newspapers in Buffalo was known as Il Corriere Italiano (the Italian Courier).  The paper was published from 1898 until the 1950s.   The editor of the paper also published a book in 1908 called La Citta di Buffalo, NY (the City of Buffalo, NY) which was written to bring potential immigrants from Italy.

Most of Buffalo’s Italians worked as laborers.  Many of the Italians worked on construction of the Pan-American Exposition in the northern part of the City of Buffalo in 1901.  During the Pan-American Exposition, the Italians were represented by the Venice in America attraction on the Midway of the Exposition.  The attraction included mandolin and guitarist players.

Here is a view of the area from 1921:

1921 View of the Area

1921 View of the Area

During the 1920s, New York State began to fill in the Erie Canal.  At the time, the abandoned canal waters stood stagnant and polluted.  By the 1930s, the area was considered one of Buffalo’s worst slums.  Citizens living in the “proper” part of Buffalo continued to cast their eyes down on the waterfront.   City Planners began a 40-year fight to change the area to create something new on the waterfront, to create something of which the whole city could be proud.

A typical tenement in Dante Place - 42 Fly Street

A typical tenement in Dante Place – 42 Fly Street

Little Italy lingered on for a little longer; however, the neighborhood began to look old and dilapidated.  Many of the Italians from Little Italy began to integrate into the rest of the city, as their families began to earn enough to move into houses on the Lower West Side.  The paved streets, concrete sidewalks and trees of the Lower West Side was seen as an improvement from the manure filled cobblestones and wooden sidewalks of the Canal District.  In 1949, Mount Carmel Church closed, and St. Anthony’s on Court Street replaced it as the main Italian church in Buffalo.  The Italians celebrated many of the feast days with parades and large religious festivities.  Among these was the Feast of St. Anthony, when people came together for a parade and festivities.  The St. Anthony’s Festival on Connecticut Street began in 1976 as a way to bring back the days of the old traditions.  The Connecticut Street festival was moved to Hertel Avenue in the 1980s and is the annual Italian Heritage Festival, held every summer and attracting an estimated 600,000 annually.

A 1947 painting titled Dante Place by Joseph Carvana

A 1947 painting titled Dante Place by Joseph Carvana

In 1936, one of the residents of a tenement in Dante Place lit a candle and went into the basement, causing a Natural Gas explosion that lifted the entire building off its foundations.  Five people died in the blast, bringing national attention to slum areas, which spurred new legislation.   Buffalo quickly moved to raze the substandard buildings in Dante Place, and by 1937, over 160 buildings had been demolished.  In 1948, only 90 families remained in the area.  The Buffalo Courier Express noted in October 1936 that this may have been the first slum clearance rehabilitation project in the United States.  In the 13 block area, there had once been 1500 residents and by 1936, there were only 124 remaining.

City officials used Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds to construct Memorial Auditorium on the northeastern portion of Little Italy.  The Aud replaced the Broadway Auditorium.   When construction began, the Buffalo News reported:

As if overnight, the Terrace once more is coming to life.  The massive new hall will be the mainstay, but city planners also want to improve the section with a boulevard in the old canal bed, waterfront parks and relocation, if not removal of the New York Central tracks.  Visible proof of these good intentions is construction of the new hall.

Postcard of Memorial Auditorium

Postcard of Memorial Auditorium

The Aud opened in October 1940.  The Aud was host to many events, including circuses, concerts, sports and political events.  Over the years, the Aud was home to the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL, the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, the Buffalo Braves of the NBA, the Buffalo Stallions of the MSL, the Buffalo Bandits of the MILL, the Buffalo Blizzard of the NPSL, and the Buffalo Stampede of the RHI.  Additionally,  The last of the old saloons was the Peacock Grill, located at 136 Dante Place.  In 1950, Libby and Joe Guillo sold the rights to the Peacock Grill building and moved up to Main Street.  The era of the Canal District as Little Italy had ended.

Stay tuned for Part Three, which discusses the last 60 years of Buffalo’s Canal District.

Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Courier Express Dec 17, 1952 p 15
  2. Buffalo Evening News 4-15-1950 “Echoes of Revelry Have Faded out and Earth-Movers Clang Away.
  3. “Housing Project Rises where Canalers Roistered” Courier Express 10-29-1952
  4. “Lusty Canal St. Lived Hard and Fast in Heyday” Courier Express 10-26-1952
  5. “Dante Area Streets Get Single Name” Courier Express, November 11, 1960 Buffalo Streets Vol 1.
  6. America’s Crossroads:  Buffalo’s Canal Street/ Dante Place.  Buffalo NY Heritage Press, 1993.
  7. Dug’s Dive.   Buffalo Express Saturday Morning August 29,1874
  8. Hart, Mary Bronson.  Partitioning Poverty:  Zones of Influence in Social Work.  Boston Evening Transcript.  August 29, 1900.  http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2249&dat=19000829&id=z40-AAAAIBAJ&sjid=qFkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6968,6102881
  9. Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia.  Family and Community:  Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930.
  10. Maggiotto, Anthony, Sr.  LaTerra Promessa:  The Promised Land:  200 Years of WNY Italian-American Experiences.  Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York,  2007.
  11. Mary E. Remington Founder of Dante Place Mission.  Buffalo Courier Express, August 27, 1933.  P 4.

This post is the first in a series of three posts about one street that still exists – Marine Drive – and several streets that no longer exist – most specifically Canal Street and Dante Place.  These streets are a part of Buffalo’s old (and new) Canal District.  The Canal District contains some of Buffalo’s most fascinating stories.   Today’s post will deal with the district when it was known as the Canal Street area.  Part Two will come out on Friday April 4th and deals with the Italian Immigrant era, when it was known as Dante Place or “The Hooks”.  Part Three will come out next week and deal with the last 60 years of the area’s history – the Marine Drive apartments and Canalside.

The Canal District consists of the area along Buffalo’s inner harbor, which today is located south of the I-190, between Main Street and Erie Street.  Here is a current view of the area we’re discussing:

View from 2011

View from 2011

The area, with the success of Canalside, is quickly becoming one of the success stories for Buffalo.  The area has a long and fascinating past, some of which is represented by the ruins of canal era buildings along the Commercial Strip today.  In 1950, the Buffalo Evening News wrote of the area:

Old Canal Street – Dante Place for the past quarter of a century – lies doggo this spring. Its days are numbered. Of some ordinary street it could be said it is dreaming of its past stories – but not Canal St – the old rip. If anything, Canal St. is like an ancient burned-out roue reflecting on a disreputable past. Canal Street and some of its immediate purlieus like Maiden Lane, and Peacock Street have empty houses with the windows bashed out. The old plaster in old rooms is broken and crumbling. Along the streets are old house numbers – 148, 156 – corroded and painted over and beaten by the weather of a hundred years. There is the occasional iron rail across what was once a barroom window, to protect it from stumbling drunks and lolling roustabouts. These are the flotsam and jetsam of an era long gone – a rough and roistering era of hard men and fancy women, of the waterside of Buffalo when it was young and heady with liquor, laughter and love at voyage end. It was the days when the canaler could sing that “The Erie was a-risin‘, the gin was gettin‘ low, and I scarcely think we’ll have a drink till we get to Buffalo”. It was the days when the sailors, swinging off their brigs and barks and ready for a fight or frolic, could yell: “Canaler, canaler – you’ll never grow rich; you’ll die in the ditch”.

dug in his dive_gif

Dug’s Dive Illustration

Canal Street was only two blocks long, running between Commercial Street and Erie Street.  The street was called “the wickedest street in the world”.   It was said that, during its heyday, there was a murder every day. Legends were told of saloon owners who would serve a poisoned drink, steal a man’s clothes and personal items, and dump the body in the canal.  The supposed first “dive bar”, Dug’s Dive was located along the canal, down a steep set of slippery steps from the towpath, so patrons sometimes “dived” into the bar.  The proprietor of Dug’s Dive was William Douglas, a former slave.

Canal Street was a busy place, due to its location on the waterfront. The Canal folk met the sailors from the Lake.  In 1829, when the road was laid out, it was known as Cross Street because it crossed several of the short streets between Commercial Street and Erie Street.   Other streets in the area were Peacock, Fly, Water, Hanover, LeConteuix, Evans, Lake, Lloyd and State.

 In 1847, it was written in the Buffalo Republic:

During the summer, the very worst class of people inhabiting this portion of the first ward, have been permitted to gather there in unusual numbers, publicly enacting the most disgusting scenes, rioting by day and reveling by nightIf the canal could speak, and its waters cast up the hidden bodies of those who have doubtless come to an untimely end, its tale of horror would startle the public mind, and those whose duty it is to  look after the public peace of our city, might feel and realize how great this has been of their omission of duty.

Depiction of the Canal Street Area

Depiction of the Canal Street Area

By 1854, the canal had become supreme in the district, and the name was changed to Canal Street. The street was a busy place – The Erie Canal connected under Main Street with the Main-Hamburg Canal, running east to connect with the Clark-Skinner Canal, which started around Chicago Street and ran south to the Buffalo River. On the lake were the Prime, Coit, and Niagara slips, among others.  The Canal Street district of the city was bounded by The Terrace, Lower Main Street, Erie Street and the harbor.  The Canal Street district was connected to the rest of Buffalo by foot and wagon bridges over the Canals.  Maiden Lane got its name from the early days of Buffalo when the young women said goodbye to their sailor sweethearts or welcomed them home from voyages.

The Canal District quickly established itself with bars and taverns to entertain the canal workers.  Along with the taverns came gamblers, drunks and working girls.   Long nights of drinking and brawling turned the area into a crime-ridden district.

The Canal District was often referred to as the “infected district”, both due to the low moral standards in the area and due to the diseases that ran rampant  syphilis, chlamydia as well as diphtheria, scarlet fever, whooping-cough and the flu.  The Express described the area as containing “broken down hovels of ill-fame, presided over by ill-favored hags, who have long forfeited their right to the name of women”.    The saloons were profitable enterprises for many Buffalonians.  When early reformers and settlement houses tried to come in, they failed to lure the men away from the saloons.  The saloons of the time functioned as a labor bureau, a post office, a source of credit, a political headquarters, an ethnic gathering place, and a spot where a man could get a free lunch along with his beer.

1893 Map from the Christian Homestead Association of the "Houses of Ill-Fame" in the Canal District

1893 Map from the Christian Homestead Association of the “Houses of Ill-Fame” in the Canal District  (Source:  Rare Book Room of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library)

The song “Buffalo Gals” was written by John Hodges in 1844 and refers to the women who lived in the canal district.  By the 1880′s, it was said that there were as many as 400 women “of easy virtue” in the Canal Street section of the City of Buffalo.  Included in the district were 93 saloons, 15 concert-hall dives, and hundreds of dance-hall girls.  While Grover Cleveland was Sheriff in 1870, Cleveland had tried to clean up the place, but was unsuccessful.  Many of the women were employed by the saloons as “cooks” but were on hand to provide companionship to the men of the barges. These women of the district were not allowed to go further uptown than the Liberty Pole, which was located near where the Memorial Auditorium was later located.  Once a week, the women were allowed to go into town to go shopping.

During the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, a number of women from New York City came to the canal district, attempting to make money off visitors to the Pan-Am. They planned to take the “Buffalo Gals” out of their territory by bringing their worldliness to the area. Before the Pan-Am, there were 500 Buffalo women living in the Canal district.  The ladies of Canal Street resented the NYC women, and joined forces and attacked the NYC women with clubs, knives and fists, chasing the NYC women out of Buffalo.  The NYC women were escorted by police back to NYC on packet boats and trains.

Commercial Street Bridge Over Erie Canal, 1926

Commercial Street Bridge Over Erie Canal, 1926

In 1895, the Erie Canal was deepened and shortened.  Newly built railroads were built, which were more efficient in moving goods across distances with greater speed and power.  The changing transportation landscape began to change the neighborhood.  Immigrant families began to settle in the area.   The rule limiting the women of Canal Street from venturing north into Buffalo proper was lifted.  These ladies “of the fancy ways” began deserting the area. The vice they represented moved to other areas in the city, including the red light district of Vine Alley (located between Elm and Oak -the area was razed in the 1920s when William Street was extended from Michigan to Broadway). After the women left, the saloons and concert halls began to close.

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will discuss the Canal District’s transition into Dante Place, coming out on Friday April 4th.

Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Courier Express Dec 17, 1952 p 15
  2. “Echoes of Revelry Have Faded out and Earth-Movers Clang Away. Buffalo Evening News 4-15-1950
  3. “Housing Project Rises where Canalers Roistered” Courier Express 10-29-1952
  4. “Lusty Canal St. Lived Hard and Fast in Heyday” Courier Express 10-26-1952
  5. “Dante Area Streets Get Single Name” Courier Express, November 11, 1960 Buffalo Streets Vol 1.
  6. America’s Crossroads:  Buffalo’s Canal Street/ Dante Place.  Buffalo NY Heritage Press, 1993.
  7. Dug’s Dive.   Buffalo Express Saturday Morning, August 29,1874
  8. Hart, Mary Bronson.  Partitioning Poverty:  Zones of Influence in Social Work.  Boston Evening Transcript.  August 29, 1900.
  9. Yans-McLaughlin, Virginia.  Family and Community:  Italian Immigrants in Buffalo, 1880-1930.
  10. Nicolosi, Rachel.  Love for Sale:  Prostitution and the Building of Buffalo, New York, 1820-1910.  The Exposition:  vol 2, Issue 1. 2014.

clevelandCleveland Avenue is a street in the Elmwood Village, running between Elmwood Avenue and Delaware Avenue.  Cleveland Avenue is named after one of Buffalo’s most prominent citizens, President Stephen Grover Cleveland!  Today (March 18th) is Grover’s birthday.

Grover Cleveland’s story is a rare one.  He rose to political fame from the position of an unknown lawyer in Buffalo in a period of only three years.  He was not connected via his lineage, but rather worked hard and represented himself with integrity, which led to his success. While much has been written about President Cleveland’s campaigns and White House years, I’m going to focus on his time before he was president.

Grover Cleveland Birthplace, now a museum Source

Grover Cleveland Birthplace, now a museum
Source

Mr. Cleveland’s family came to America in the 1600s, settling in Massachusetts from England. Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey, the son of a Presbyterian minister.  He was named after the previous pastor at the church where his father now preached – Dr. Stephen Grover.  The first name was dropped; however, and he always went by Grover.  He was educated in public schools in Fayetteville, New York and at the Academy in Clinton, New York.  He served as a grocery clerk in Fayetteville as his first job.  He later became an assistant in the Institution for the Blind, New York City.  

Grover Cleveland as a young attorney

Grover Cleveland as a young attorney

In 1855, Mr. Cleveland came to Buffalo.  He was heading to Ohio to seek fortune, but first came to visit his uncle, Lewis Allen, who lived on a farm.  Mr. Allen convinced Grover to stay in Buffalo, by giving him a place to stay and introducing him to members of a law firm.

Mr. Cleveland studied law with Bowen & Rogers and was admitted to the bar in 1859.  One of the local legends is that when Mr. Cleveland first started at a law firm in Downtown Buffalo, he made such a little impression on the lawyers while he studied, the lawyers forgot he was there, and locked up the office for the day while he was still in the office.  He vowed that “someday, I will be better remembered”.

During the Civil War, Mr. Cleveland was drafted. His two younger brothers enlisted. At the time, the Enrollment Act of 1863 allowed draftees to pay $300 to have a substitute go to war for you.  Grover borrowed money to pay a substitute, so that he could stay in Buffalo and take care of his mother.

In 1866, Mr. Cleveland formed a partnership with I.K. Vanderpool.  The two worked together for 4 years.  He then worked with P. Laning and Oscar Folsom, working with them for two years when Mr. Cleveland was then elected to be Sheriff of Erie County in 1870.

Mr. Cleveland was considered to be just and fair in his term as Sheriff.  He showed a disregard for partisan interests and he was considered a reformer.  He served as Sheriff until 1874, using his down time to continue his studies.  When he returned to the bar after his time as Sheriff, he was more confident and was considered to be a better lawyer.  He never became wealthy as a lawyer but was distinguished among the law community for his hard work and strong ethics.

Statue of Cleveland at Buffalo City Hall

Statue of Cleveland at Buffalo City Hall

In 1881, the City of Buffalo was considered to have a corrupt government that was driving the city towards ruin.  The population was growing quickly; politics and business were intertwined, and there was a demand for reform.  Citizens were looking for a mayoral candidate who could bring about reform.  They found their man in Grover Cleveland.   With some convincing by Peter Doyle, he decided to run.  He was elected with a majority that was the largest ever given to a candidate up until that time.  His main principal for his official life is expressed by one of his messages to the Common Council:  “There is, or there should be, no reason why the affairs of our city should not be managed with the same care and the same economy as private interests”.

Mr. Cleveland clung to and fought for what he thought was right.   He was known as the “Veto Mayor” (and later the “Veto Governor” and “Veto President”).  As Mayor, he was careful with city expenditures.  Mr. Cleveland’s term as Mayor was noticed throughout the state and led to his nomination for Governor.

Mr. Cleveland’s strength in the gubernatorial campaign lay in the fact that he was relatively unknown, and, therefore, not part of the machine that had run New York politics.  He had never met many of the representatives of the Democratic Party until the night of the convention.  He was elected in 1882, defeating Charles Folger by nearly 193,000 votes.

On election night, Grover wrote to his brother William, “But the thought that has troubled me is Can I well perform my duties and in such a manner has to do some good to the people of the State?  I know there is room for it and I know that I am honest and sincere in my desire to do well, but the question is whether I know enough to accomplish what I desire.”

Grover Cleveland as Governor

Grover Cleveland as Governor

His guiding principles while Governor were retrenchment, economy, integrity and reform.  He worked from early morning until late at night, carefully and deliberately undertaking the tasks at hand.  It is said that he did little to attract the attention of the party leaders outside of New York State, but in doing so, his honesty and personal habits set him apart from the pomp, circumstance and parade of importance around which many public servants surround themselves.

When the Democratic National Convention met in Chicago in 1884, Mr. Cleveland was nominated for Presidency.  He won the election by beating James G. Blaine, and became President of the United States.  After being defeated by Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland returned to New York City to work as a lawyer.  In 1892, Cleveland defeated President Harrison and became the first president to be elected for non-consecutive terms.

President Cleveland's Wedding to Frances Folsom

President Cleveland’s Wedding to Frances Folsom
Source: 1886, Harper’s Weekly

During his first term as president, in 1886, Mr. Cleveland married Buffalonian Frances Folsom.  He is the only president to be married during his term, with the wedding taking place in Blue Room of the White House.  When Oscar Folsom (Cleveland’s business partner and Frances’ father) died, Grover became executor of his estate, but was never the legal guardian of Frances, as many believe.  Frances was the youngest first lady in history, 21 at the time of their wedding.  She was a popular first lady, people purchased souvenirs bearing her likeness and copied her hairstyles and clothing.  Frances was born in Buffalo; her house still stands on Edward Street.  A slice of  the Clevelands’ wedding cake from 1886 is in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum. Frances and Grover had three daughters and two sons.

Grover Cleveland's Grave

Grover Cleveland’s Grave

In 1896, Cleveland declined the nomination for a third term, and retired to his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey.  He became a trustee at Princeton University.  He also served as a consultant to President Theodore Roosevelt.  He died of a heart attack in 1908.  His last words were “I have tried so hard to do right”.  He is buried in the Princeton Cemetery.

Other things named after Cleveland in the Buffalo Area:

  • Grover Cleveland Hall at Buffalo State College (Cleveland served on the Board of Directors when it was the Buffalo Normal School)
  • Grover Cleveland High School in Buffalo (the building now houses the International Preparatory School)
  • Grover Cleveland Golf Course
  • Cleveland Hill Neighborhood and School District in Cheektowaga
  • Cleveland Avenue, Niagara Falls
  • Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga
  • Cleveland Avenue, City of Tonawanda

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

Sources:

  • Triplett, Frank.  The Authorized Pictorial Lives of Stephen Grover Cleveland and Thomas Andrews Hendricks.  New York:  E.B. Treat, Publisher.  1884.
  • Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York.  Volume 1.  New York-Buffalo:  Genealogical Publishing Company, 1906.
  • Peckham, Caroline.  The Pre-Presidential Career of Grover Cleveland.  University of Wisconsin:  1922.
  • “Mr. Cleveland is Dead at 71″.  New York Times:  June 25, 1908.

churchChurch Street is one of the main east-west streets in Downtown Buffalo, connecting to Main Street to what is now the Interstate-190.  The street was originally laid out by Joseph Ellicott and was named Stadnitski after Pieter Stadnitski, a Dutch banker and one of the agents of the Holland Land Company.  The street was renamed in honor of St. Paul’s Episcopal, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic and First Presbyterian Churches.

The Downtown Buffalo core used to be home to other churches, but many moved uptown as their congregants moved out of downtown towards “suburbs”, such as the case with First Presbyterian Church or Lafayette Presbyterian Church.

The Three Church Street Churches circa 1880s

The Three Church Street churches circa 1880s

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral is the cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York.  The congregation started in 1820, and their first church was built on land donated by Joseph Ellicott, at the corner of Main and Erie Streets.  Reverend William Shelton came to the church in September 1829 and served as Rector until 1881.  The congregation started to grow significantly following the opening of the Erie Canal.  The current church opened (on the site of the old church) in 1851, on Shelton Square.  The church was designed by Richard Upjohn, who is considered one of the greatest American Gothic church designers.  The congregation wanted the church to be made out of limestone; however, they could not afford the limestone.  Upjohn instead used Medina sandstone.

On May 10, 1888, the church was almost destroyed following an explosion and fire.  All that remained was the walls.  The church was rebuilt according to Upjohn’s original plans and reopened in 1890.  St. Paul’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Rev. Shelton

Rev. Shelton

Shelton Square was named after Reverend William Shelton in 1897.  Shelton Square was a public space within Joseph Ellicott’s original street layout for Buffalo, at the intersection of Erie, Church, Main and Niagara, North Division and South Division Streets.  The area was where Joseph Ellicott originally planned to build his house.  He later donated land at Shelton Square to the churches.  In the 1950s, Shelton Square was considered Buffalo’s “Piccadilly Circus”.  A trolley/bus shelter was located in the middle of the square, and this served as the main hub for the entire city – serving the International Railway Company and then the Niagara Frontier Transit system.   Shelton Square disappeared during the 1970s, when a portion of Shelton Square was covered by the Main Place Mall, and Erie street was replaced by Cathedral Park.

Shelton Square 1908

Shelton Square 1908

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph's Cathedral in 1914

St. Joseph’s Cathedral in 1914

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is located at 50 Franklin Street.  The church serves as the cathedral church for the Buffalo Diocese.  Buffalo’s first Bishop, John Timon, established St. Joseph’s in 1847.  The cathedral was dedicated in 1855 and was consecrated in 1863.  The original plans for the cathedral called for two towers at the north and south ends of the facade, but only the south tower was built.  The tower contained a 43 bell carillon (a musical instrument consisting of bells, typically found in church towers or municipal buildings).  At the time of installation in 1869, the carillon was the largest in America and the third largest in the world.  The bells were too large for the tower and never worked properly, so all but two were removed from the church.

In 1902, the Buffalo Diocese determined that a new cathedral was necessary, so property was purchased at Delaware Avenue and West Utica Street.  The New St. Joseph Cathedral opened in 1915, and St. Joseph’s downtown was known as “St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral”. The new cathedral was not built for Buffalo’s climate and major repairs had to be made as soon as 1924.  The exterior marble started to fall off and in 1976, the Bishop decided repairs would be too costly.  In 1977, after demolition of the new cathedral, the “old cathedral” reverted to its former name of St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

First Presbyterian Church

Color Portrait of the First Building of the First Presbyterian Church  (First Presbyterian Church archives)

Color Portrait of the First Building of the First Presbyterian Church (First Presbyterian Church archives)

The third of the churches was First Presbyterian Church.  When First Presbyterian Church was organized on February 2, 1812, it was the first organized religious body formed in Western New York.  The first building for the church was built at the corner of Pearl Street and Niagara Street.  The church opened in 1824 and was used by the church until 1827. As the congregation grew, the building was sold to another congregation in 1828 and moved to the corner of Genesee and Hickory Streets, and was later moved to Walnut Street in 1878.  The building saw many uses over the years – a school-house, a tenement,  a cooper’s shop and an icehouse for a brewery.  It was destroyed by a fire in 1882.  No pictures of the building are known to exist.

"Old First" Presbyterian Church (1827-1890) from the First Presbyterian Church Archives

“Old First” Presbyterian Church (1827-1890) from the First Presbyterian Church Archives

First Presbyterian’s “Brick Church” was dedicated in March 1827.  With seating for 800, it was the largest church west of the Genesee River.  The church’s bell was referred to as the “town clock bell” and served all of Buffalo as a fire alarm.  When sounding alarm for a fire in 1833, the bell cracked, but was quickly recast and served the church until the church was razed.  The bell was then presented to a church in North Tonawanda.

As the congregation grew, members also moved away from the central part of the City of Buffalo.  At the time of founding, most of the congregation lived near the church, but as the central business district developed, many had moved uptown and found congregations closer to their homes.  The church was at risk of closing.  Many members of the congregation were against moving the church, so the matter had to be taken up with the Presbytery and was taken to court.  The matter was resolved in favor of moving.

First Presbyterian Church today on Symphony Circle

First Presbyterian Church today on Symphony Circle

In 1887, Mrs. Truman Avery, who lived where Kleinhans Music Hall is now located, donated a parcel of land across the circle, at the corner of Wadsworth and Pennsylvania Streets.  In April 1889, the congregation was ordered by the city to sell the property to Erie County Savings Bank to make way for the bank’s new office.  (the bank was located at Shelton Square until the 1970s, when it was demolished for construction of the Main Place Mall).

Sources:

  1. The Catholic Church in the United States of America:  Undertaken to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Holiness, Pope Pius X.  Volume 3.  Catholic Editing Company, New York, 1914.
  2. DeMille, George.  St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, 1817-1967:  A Brief History.
  3. Rote, David.  30-A Shelton Square.  1994.  accessed through City of Buffalo Website:  https://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/OurCity/Buffalo_My_City/Buffalo_My_City_Watercolors/30A_Shelton_Square_1994

tifftstTifft Street forms an important east-west path in South Buffalo, running from McKinley Parkway to Fuhrmann Boulevard/Route 5.  It is one of the few streets in South Buffalo that reaches the waterfront.   The road is named after the man who first owned the land in the vicinity of the street, G.W. Tifft.

George Washington Tifft was born in January 1805 in Nassau, Rensselaer County, New York.  One of Tifft’s first land purchases was 5 acres in Orleans County.  He cleared the land to sell  the wood.  He hired men to chop timber, realizing that he could reap a profit on the labor of each man.  He later bought a more land and hired additional men to work for him.

tifftBy the time George was 21, he had saved $1,200.  Mr. Tifft received another $1,000 from his father’s estate, and began a new business venture.  He first traveled to Michigan City, Indiana, where he bought grain to ship to the east.  At the time, all grain was shipped through the lakes.  While in Michigan City, he learned of Buffalo’s shipping and moved to Buffalo in 1842.

Mr. Tifft formed a partnership with Dean Richmond, a member of a prominent Buffalo family.  Mr. Tifft set up the Troy and Michigan Six Day Line, named b/c it did not operate on Sunday.  He purchased more mills to increase his commercial holdings. Mr. Tifft established the International Bank of Buffalo and was the first president of the bank in 1854.  He invested $100,000 in the Buffalo Steam Engine Company and was elected president of the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad in 1858.

Tifft House

Tifft House

He then turned his attention to his Buffalo real estate holdings.  In 1863, Mr. Tifft erected 74 houses, a hotel (the Tifft House) and the Tifft Grain Elevator.  The Tifft House hotel opened in 1865 and was demolished in 1902, after serving as a hotel during the Pan American Exposition, and was replaced in 1903 with the William Hengerer Company department store.

Mr. Tifft also purchased a 600-acre tract of land in the southern portion of Buffalo which people referred to as the Tifft Farm.  Mr. Tifft was among the first in Buffalo to experiment with growing “winter wheat”.  He invested his money in the Pennsylvania coal fields and experimented with smelting processes.  His vast land holdings spread across the country – he owned a 5,000-acre farm in Shelby county, Iowa which was stocked and cultivated.  The large Tifft Farm tract in South Buffalo was broken up into residential and industrial areas when Mr. Tifft sold it to Pennsylvania capitalists who leased the land to the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company for 50 years.

The canals at Tifft Farm shown near center of this photograph

The canals at Tifft Farm shown near center of this photograph

The Lehigh Valley Railroad Company constructed 11,400 feet of canal to connect a system of canals on the Tifft Farm property with the City Ship Canal and Buffalo Creek (now Buffalo River).  They also constructed 9,280 feet of dock on the Tifft Farm, each dock had railroad facilities and totaled 20.6 miles of railroad.  Today, Tifft Farms has been renamed “Tifft Nature Preserve” and is managed by the Buffalo Science Musem.  The preserve was created in 1972 from 264 acres of land the City of Buffalo purchased for a landfill site.  Concerned citizens worked with city legislators to plan for preservation of the area.  The landfill incorporated safety measures, which allowed the land to serve a new purpose and the preserve opened in 1976.  The former canals have been allowed to revert to nature and now form Lisa Pond, Beth Pond and Lake Kirsty on the Nature Preserve site.  The “mound” area of the preserve contains landfilled waste materials brought on site from Squaw Island.   During the 1980s, approximately 100 drums of acid sludge from a nearby industrial plant were found dumped into Lake Kirsty.

tifft engines

Mr. Tifft’s later years were spent managing the George W. Tifft Sons and Company, successors to the original Buffalo Steam Engine Works.  He also owned a group of stores at the corner of Washington and Mohawk Streets and had a furniture business there. George Washington Tifft married Lucy Enos in 1827.  They had seven children.  Mr. Tifft was an active supporter of the Republican Party and an admirer of President Lincoln.  Mr. Tifft donated large sums in support of the Civil War, and also towards charities, always considering that he had been blessed to have made his fortunes and eager to help others.

Tifft Monument

Tifft Monument

Mr. Tifft died on June 24, 1882 and is buried in Forest Lawn.  There is also a cenotaph for George at the Tifft Cemetery in Nassau, New York, located on the former Tifft homestead.  One obituary read:  “His name was a tower of strength, and was sought in every movement requiring moral, social or financial support.  He filled a large place in the affairs of the city he has done so much to build up.  His name will long be enshrined in the hearts of a people that had learned to know his worth and appreciate his virtues”.

Check out how other streets got their name in the Street Index.

 Sources:

  1. Buffalo Directory, 1860, pg. 12.
  2. Holder, Robert “The Beginnings of Buffalo Industry.”  Adventures in WNY History Series.  Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, 1960
  3. Mansfield, John Brandts, editor.  History of the Great Lakes.  Volume 1.  J.H.Beers & Co:  Chicago.  1899.
  4. Magazine of Western History. Western History Co. Mar 1886.

scatcherdScatcherd Place is a short road off of Peabody Street.  The street has never been more than just a short road leading to a driveway. Historically, this road led into Scatcherd and Son lumberyard, which later became Atlantic Lumber Company and is now owned by Battaglia Demolition.  While the street might not be on many people’s radars, it is legal city-owned right-of-way, and was named after a prominent father-son team who may have been forgotten.

James Newton Scatcherd was born in Wyton, Ontario in 1824.  He grew up on his father’s farm in London, Ontario.  James’ father, John, was a prominent Canadian citizen and a member of the Canadian Parliament for many years.  James’ brothers Thomas and Robert both also served as members of the Canadian House of Commons.

Scatcherd and Son Lumber Yard, 1900.  (Scatcherd Place is the lot between 136 and 142 Peabody Street)

Scatcherd and Son Lumber Yard, 1900. (Scatcherd Place is the lot between 136 and 142 Peabody Street)

James Scatcherd was taught about lumbering from an early age, as it was an important industry in his neighborhood.  Mr. Scatcherd moved to Buffalo in 1852 as an agent of Famer, de Blaquiere & Deeds, lumber manufacturers, dealers and shippers.  James took over the lumber firm in 1857 and became one of the principal lumber dealers in the United States.  In 1879, James’ son, John Scatcherd, joined the firm and the firm was renamed Scatcherd & Son.  The firm’s specialty was expensive hard woods.

James Scatcherd made two important contributions to the welfare of Buffalonians:  First, when he became chairman of the Buffalo Water Commission, he found the water supply was controlled by favoritism and political influence.  Politicians and friends obtained water for a small fee, while other consumers were charged more.  He served for 4 years as chairman of the Water Commission and established equal rates for all consumers, and established efficient management of the water system.  Secondly, Mr. Scatcherd served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo General Hospital.  At the time, the institution was burdened with large amounts of debt, and was cutting services due to budget constraints.  Within ten years of James’ leadership, the hospital was completely out of debt.

Mr Scatcherd married Annie Belton of Fairfield, Canada.  Mr. Scatcherd was a founder and trustee of the Delaware Avenue M.E. Church (built by Selkirk, now known as Babeville).    James and Annie had one son, John, and a daughter, Mrs. Seward Cary.  James died in 1885 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

John Scatcherd

John Scatcherd

John Scatcherd was also a prominent member of Buffalo society.  He was a leader in the lumber industry and served as president of The National Wholesale Lumber Association and the Buffalo Lumber Exchange.  John had a part in business interests including the Batavia and New York Wood Working Company, the Bank of Buffalo, and the Ellicott Square Corporation, all of which he was President.  He was a director in the Buffalo Railway Company (which became the I.R.C), the Market Bank, the Third National Bank, and the Buffalo Loan, Trust and Safety Deposit Company.

Teddy Roosevelt (on left) in Buffalo in 1901

Teddy Roosevelt (on left) in Buffalo in 1901

From 1900-1901, Mr. Scatcherd spent most of his time working as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pan-American exposition.  When President McKinley was shot at the Exposition, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was summoned to Buffalo.  Due to President McKinley’s seemingly improving health, Mr. Roosevelt left Buffalo.  When the President died, the scramble to get Mr. Roosevelt to Buffalo for the Oath of Office left him without a suitable hat.  John Scatcherd loaned Theodore his hat and Mr. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 26th President. (You can learn more about Roosevelt’s inauguration by visiting the TR Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue)

John Scatcherd married Mary Eunice Wood in 1879.  They had two children, a daughter Madeline Steele Scatcherd and a son, James Newton Scatcherd.  John Scatcherd died in 1917 and is buried near his father in Forest Lawn.

Scatcherd Grave

Scatcherd Grave

Be sure to check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

Sources:

  1. Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York.  The Genealogical Publishing Company:  New York-Buffalo, 1906.
  2. “Scatcherd Street Honors Memory of Civic Leaders, Father and Son”.  Courier Express, April 9, 1939, sec. 5, p.10.
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