Perkins Drive is a little street coming off of Niagara Square, along the south side of City Hall. It’s one of the streets in Buffalo that we drive on and most of us don’t realize it actually has a name. It’s most well-known for showing up in google maps when you have directions starting from Buffalo. When you list “Buffalo” as the starting point for directions, the first few steps normally get you onto the I-190 via Church Street using these steps:
- Head South toward Perkins Drive
- Exit Traffic Circle onto Perkins Drive
- Turn Left onto S Elmwood Ave
Perkins Drive is named for Former Councilman Frank. C. Perkins. He served as President of the Common Council. He was considered a socialist at the time, but not a radical. He was elected to the Council several times, but never spent more than $50 on a campaign.
Mr. Perkins was born in 1868 in Dunkirk, New York. He won a scholarship to Cornell University and paid for the remainder of his education by publishing marketing booklets about the university After graduating from Cornell, he studied electrical engineering in Germany and other European Countries. He then opened an office in the Erie County Bank Building. He conducted night school there to teach streetcar motormen and boys to learn the fundamentals of electricity. Electrical equipment was still in its infancy at the time. Mr. Perkins was published in electrical journals in the US, England and Germany.
He was the inventor of the first electric incubator to be patented. He was well-known in the engineering community. When he was elected to Council, he closed his consulting business.
Mr. Perkins and his wife lived at on Prospect Avenue near The Connecticut Street Armory. Their house was the first house in Buffalo to be wired for electricity. Mr. Perkins did all the wiring himself. The Perkins Family was especially proud of an apple tree in their back yard which was 100 years old when they were living there. The house is still standing today, I wonder if the apple tree is still there!
Mr. Perkins was a socialist, the type that was of the sort that advocated municipal ownership of electrical power plants to light the streets and asphalt plants to pave the streets. He left the socialist party in 1920 after one of his appointments was rejected by the rest of the City Council.
For those of you who enjoyed yourselves at Larkin Square this summer might have heard about how the original proposal for Larkin Square was established in the earlier part of the century, but never built. Here’s a post at the Hydraulics Press that explains a little more about that.
Mr. Perkins was known as “the watchdog of City Government”. Shortly after his death, his fellow council members named the street after him.
Be sure to check out the Street Index to learn about other streets!
- “Perkins Drive Memorial to Councilman” Courier Express Apr 2, 1939, sec 5 p 2
- “Perkins Quits, Buffalo Local Socialists Are Not Surprised” The New York Call, February 13, 1920, p3.