Buffalo in the ’20s: Pierce-Arrow takes a test run through Parkside

By Steve Cichon

At first glance, the back of this photo offers no clues to the precise location where this photo was taken.

Buffalo News archives

The only information offered is the names of the men in the car and the date (plus a stern reminder to put the photo back in The News archives.)

Dr. Dewitt Sherman was the president of the Erie County Medical Society. Edward C. Bull was an executive with Buffalo’s Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. and the longtime president of the Buffalo Automobile Dealers Association — not much help there.

The date, however, proves useful. Nov. 16, 1929, was the opening day of the Pierce-Arrow showroom at Main and Jewett.

While useful in placing this image, the date is also somewhat irony-filled. After spending decades as the preferred motorcar of the elite from New York City to Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, Pierce-Arrow’s new Art Deco showcase palace opened within days of the 1929 stock market crash. The crash helped precipitate the Great Depression and ended the good times and free flow of cash that helped usher the Pierce-Arrow brand to the top.

By the time the last of the Pierce-Arrows rolled off of Buffalo assembly lines in the mid-’30s, the building was a Cadilliac showroom. In fact, for parts of eight decades, the building was home to a Cadillac dealership— first Maxson Cadillac-LaSalle, then Tinney Cadillac and finally Braun Cadillac, before finding new life as a bank branch for Buffalo Savings Bank and now First Niagara.

Kitty-corner from the old Pierce-Arrow showroom, both then and now, is the English Gothic Central Presbyterian Church, which today is the home of the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School. The Main Street windows — which took the place of the building’s original front door — are seen in the photo as well as on the linked image below.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.