Buffalo’s Medical Campus, The Iroquois Brewery, and a branch of my family tree

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Most of us who were born and raised in Buffalo feel strong ties to this place, and a feel a terrific bond whether we live here or not— and whether we particularly like it or not.

In most cases, it’s a generational thing, too. If we think at all about our roots, we think about our fathers and grandfathers who worked in dangerous plants to provide better lives for us. We think about the loving homes and families managed by our mothers and grandmothers. We think about how of all the places in the world our ancestors could have come after long voyages over the sea, they chose here.

All four of my grandparents were born and raised in Buffalo. All eight of my great-grandparents lived in Buffalo. Some were born here, some traveled from Pennsylvania, some from Scotland and England, some from Poland. In all, dating back to the 1820s, I have 37 grandparents who have called Buffalo home.

Knowing my family’s history, and seeing it in virtually every Buffalo neighborhood, only underscores my love and appreciation of our great city, the way it was, and the exciting imaginings of what is to come.

I enjoy seeing my family tree reflected in the great new things happening here, and it’s fun to trace. One adventure started in the 1906 Buffalo City Directory.

Greiner1906JosephP&FredWHighlight
from the 1906 Buffalo City Directory

My mother’s mother’s mother was Jeannette Greiner-Wargo. Her great-great grandparents (and one third-great grandfather) came to Buffalo from the tumultuous Bas-Rhin area along the French-German border in 1827 and 1830.

Catherine Greiner, my fifth-great aunt, was among the first babies baptized at the newly-built log-hewn St. Louis Church in Downtown Buffalo in 1832.

Anyway, I know I am related to a handful of the folks listed on this city directory page, but Joseph P. Greiner is my third-great grandfather, and his son, Fred W. Greiner, is my second-great grandfather.

I had never heard of the streets on which they lived, so I started in on some research– which took me to Buffalo’s promising new home of medical research.

burton2015
Burton Street once continued through the area now occupied by Trico Plant #1, the Trico parking lot, and government housing between the plant and Michigan Avenue.

 

09 sep 1928 CE Trico expands Burton Alley
Buffalo Courier-EXPRESS, 1928.

Joseph and Mary Greiner lived on Burton Street, which in 1906, ran from Main Street to Michigan Avenue, one block north of Goodell.

A portion of Burton Street was deeded to Trico to expand its now historic Plant #1 in 1928.

Later, urban renewal ate up the rest of the ramshackle housing along Burton Street to create government-subsidized housing on a new streetscape.

Today, Burton Street exists only as an utterly useless single block with no front-facing buildings from Main to Washington.

Jospeph Prentis Greiner and his wife Mary Atkinson
Joseph P. and Mary Greiner

 

neptune alley
Buffalo C-E, 1955. Neptune Alley was called Ketchum Alley until 1893.

In 1905 or 1906, Frederick W. Greiner married Jeanette Loewer and moved a few blocks north of his parents to Neptune Alley. What a great street name!

Neptune Alley ran north/south between Carlton and High Streets, and was deeded to Roswell Park Memorial Institute to make way for a parking lot in 1955.

The Greiner family only lived on Neptune Alley for a very short time. They soon moved a few blocks away to 67 Maple Street, which stood on a block which is now a parking lot for St. John Baptist Church.

Frederick William Greiner
Frederick William Greiner lived on Neptune Alley– now the site of Roswell Park Cancer Institute– before moving to the East Side to be closer to his work as a bottler at the Iroquois Brewery. He died in 1949.

To be closer to Fred’s job as a bottler at the Iroquois Brewery, they then moved to 67 Adams Street between Peckham and William. This neighborhood still stands, but the house is gone.

In 1940, they lived at 414 Madison Street between Jefferson and Sycamore, and a few years later, 481 Hickory near Sycamore.  They moved around quite a bit.

My grandmother remembered her grandmother as living in a house with a wrap-around porch on a corner near Sycamore and Jefferson Streets.

Grandma Coyle’s grandma was 4-feet, 11 inches tall and she used to chase the neighborhood kids off that corner porch with a broom.

At 5-foot-2, Grandma Coyle would mention her grandma’s height every time we would make fun of how short she was.

grandma coyle and her grandma greiner 1944
Thirteen year old Grandma Coyle and her Grandma Greiner, 1944. In the backyard of Grandma Coyle’s childhood home on Tifft Street.

I love family history and I love Buffalo’s history. It’s really exciting for me that they are one in the same.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.