Amherst turns 200!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Today is Amherst’s 200th Birthday! It’s official because it says so on Wikipedia:

The town of Amherst was created by the State of New York on April 10, 1818; named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst was formed from part of the town of Buffalo (later the city of Buffalo), which had previously been created from the town of Clarence. Timothy S. Hopkins was elected the first supervisor of the town of Amherst in 1819. Part of Amherst was later used to form the town of Cheektowaga in 1839.

Here are a few of our looks back at the Town of Amherst over the years:

What it looked like Wednesday: The Village of Williamsville, 1933

Torn-down Tuesday: Ice cold beers in Williamsville, 1888

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street, Williamsville, 1960s

Buffalo in the ’50s: The state’s first McDonald’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard

Torn-Down Tuesday: Henry’s Hamburgers, Sheridan at the Boulevard

Buffalo in the ’70s: Twin Fair is closed on Sundays, but Two Guys is open for business

 

“Tony Krew” and his accordion provide the soundtrack Broadway Market

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Listen:

His smiling face and happy accordion are one of the great welcoming sights of the Easter Season at the Broadway Market.

Steve Cichon and Tony Krupski at the Broadway Market during the 2018 Easter season.

And with his Easter season appearances in newspaper and social media photos and all over television newscasts, Tony Krupski has really become the face of the Broadway Market.

“Many people tell me that, yes,” said Krupski last week at the market.

Krupski has been playing accordion for 60 years, famously for his family’s band, The Krew Brothers Orchestra and for Full Circle. Playing at the market is really source of pride.

“I don’t take it for granted. I’ve been playing all my life. But the Broadway Market– it rejuvenates the entire year. I’m happy to be a part of it,” says Krupski.

So now as his playing creates new memories and a connection to the past at the Broadway Market, he’s reminded of his own memories of the place.

Tony Krupski entertains holiday shoppers at the Broadway Market with his smile and accordion.(Buffalo Stories/Steve Cichon photo)

“I remember coming here to the Broadway Market as a youngster,” says Krupski. “My parents would bring me here and we’d shop in the market. In the back, the hucksters selling fruits, vegetables and chickens. It just brings back a lot of memories, and here I am, years later, enjoying and playing here.”

Tony honored me with a command performance of my favorite Krew Brothers’ song, The Buffalo Polka.

Thruway toll booths: More than 60 years of passing through that same little hut

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For six decades, a trip to Grand Island has included passing through one of these blue sheds– the same toll booths have stood at the entrances to the Grand Island bridges and all along the Thruway.

We’re looking back at Thruway toll booths as we say good bye to the Grand Island booths with the introduction of cashless tolls to the Island this Thursday.

The I-190 under construction on Grand Island in 1955. (Buffalo Stories archives)

When the Thruway was built throughout the 1950’s, it was celebrated as a marvel of modern engineering– and written about in places like National Geographic magazine.

People were actually happy to pay the tolls– as the Thruway cut the time to drive to New York City, for example, by 300%.

Paying tolls in 1956 at “the Buffalo entrance” of the New York State Thruway, as appeared in National Geographic. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Driving through toll booths were even something you wanted to tell the folks back home about– There were postcards all along the Thruway, like these two from the Buffalo area for the Williamsville tolls and the 90/190 interchange, the old Ogden tolls.

The last weekend of the Grand Island tolls, March 2018. (Buffalo Stories photo)

And back in 2015, we celebrated a decade without the Black Rock and Ogden tolls…

 

Ah Black Rock and Ogden, we hardly knew ye. The new year will mark a decade since the City of Buffalo had toll booths at its northern (Black Rock) and southern (Ogden) borders along the I-190.

For generations of Buffalonians, it was a bit of a sport to toss the quarter, and later two quarters, into the EXACT CHANGE baskets at the now demolished 190 toll booths.

The tolls were supposed to come down in when the highway was paid for in the late 80’s– but to the outrage of WNYers, you had to pay a toll to get to downtown Buffalo. The outrage built to a crescendo in 2006 when the toll booths were removed.

For some tollbooth memories we dip into the Buffalo Stories archives for these shots.

dannythruway(1)

Its WKBW-TV Channel 7’s zany weatherman Danny Neaverth standing at the Ogden Tolls sometime in the early to mid 80’s.

dannythruway(2)

This story was all about how fast people could drive through the “Exact Change” booths, and still get the coins into the basket.

dannythruway(3)

Buffalo in the 80’s: Remembering the taste of Visniak pop

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Visniak was the unofficial soft drink of VFW Posts, corner gin mills, and East Side homes where the Visniak van would make weekly drop-offs of cases filled with a rainbow of pop flavors.

Buffalo Stories photo

Hattie Pijanowski, along with her husband, Edward, started the Visniak-Saturn Beverage Corp. on Detroit Street on Buffalo’s East Side in 1931. In 1939, the plant moved to Reiman Street in Sloan.

Edward Pijanowski became active in Sloan politics and ran for mayor of the village in 1951.

The company, which employed ten in 1968, brought colorful and tasty pop to generations of Buffalonians two different ways– in 7.5-ounce glass bottles and from barroom “pop guns” all over the city.

Chances are pretty good– if you ever ordered a Coke in an East Side tavern sometime between the ’50s and the ’90s, you were likely drinking a “VEESH-nyak” (from the Polish for “cherry”) and didn’t even realize it.

Visniak seeks Polish-speaking distributor, 1955. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Hattie Pijanowski died in July, 1985, at age 82. Her son, Ray, was 70 when he closed up the business in 2004, “because nobody returned the bottles,” and a new bottle cost more than what that bottle filled with pop would sell for.

Buffalo Stories archives

Gary White—The Custom Hatter

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

From an unassuming store front on Buffalo’s East Side, one of Buffalo’s most widely renowned craftsman puts as much energy and artistry into the order from a local walk-in and he does from the giant orders he gets to outfit Hollywood.

Gary White, the hat man.

Gary White is as humble as the generations-old tools of the hat making trade that surround him at The Custom Hatter (1318 Broadway St., Buffalo, NY 14212, 716-896-3722). He’s been selling hats to gentlemen (and now, more frequently, ladies) since working at Buffalo’s venerable old men’s clothier Peller & Mure back in the 1970s.

Back then, you’d see his hats on the heads of retirement-aged men who worked in Downtown Buffalo. Today, his hats are seen all over the world, from heads at The Broadway Market to movies like The Untouchables, Dick Tracy, and Indiana Jones, where the hats play as big a role as the actors.

“It makes a statement, a real fashion statement,” says White, who says a hat should reflect your character and be an extension of who you are. “When you’re wearing a well-made hat, you can not only tell by the fit of the hat, but also by the way the hat lusters, and the trimming. There really aren’t words enough to explain it.”

For decades now, he really hasn’t had to explain it. There’s a constant stream of people at his doorstep who get it, even though the styles predate the grandfathers of some customers.

“Many of my younger clients now start with the ready-made hats that come from China,” says White, and after their fourth or fifth “disposable” hat, they decide “they want to move up a notch to a nicer, better made hat. That’s when they come in to see me.”

He’s not being pejorative when he calls today’s mass-produced hats “throwaways.” They often don’t do well in rain or snow, the synthetic material makes them challenging to clean, and if they are crushed, the new hats can’t be “reblocked,” or reformed back to their original shape.

“You get what you pay for,” he says.

White considers educating people about headwear as a large part of his calling, saying every hat is a unique match to a unique person. “It’s like framing a picture,” he says, “nothing too wide, nothing too tall.”

There is a cost associated with the crafting and the quality of the materials that go into one of his hats, but thousands of customers from the very famous to everyday folks say it’s worth it.

“After 40 years in the industry, I’m still learning,” says White—who’s quick to add something he learned long ago that always seems to hold true. “You can buy that $40 hat every year for the next 20 years, or you can buy one good hat that’s going to last you for the rest of your life.”

Charles A. Doyle: Buffalonian whose only crime was being a Communist

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

His only crime was being a member of the Communist Party.

Charlie Doyle’s story is one that I learned not from McCarthy-era newspaper articles, but from sitting in kitchens and on front porches on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

The Buffalo Evening News reports on February 20. 1948, “Charles A. Doyle… has been arrested.. for prosecution and for deportation as a Communist. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“He was a commie, but he was always trying to help people,” I’d hear. “A good guy.”

You’d expect that kind of talk from his family — from my family. Charlie Doyle was my grandmother’s uncle. Aunt Agnes’ brother.

Charlie Doyle had dozens of close relations living on or just off Seneca Street in South Buffalo in the late 1940s when the move began to deport him. (Buffalo Stories archives)

I grew up in the ’80s, not the ’50s, but Communists still weren’t good.  They were the bad guys, but there was still Doyle, the Communist who caused people to smile when they talked about him.

The Doyle family, 1912, in Coatbridge, Scotland. The Irish Catholic family family had moved from Down, Northern Ireland to near Glasgow, Scotland in the 1880s. When father William died. his widow Mary and many of their children moved to South Buffalo, including my great-grandmother Peggy (third from left), Agnes (standing in front of Peggy), and Charlie– the baby– standing to the right of his father. (Buffalo Stories archives)

I didn’t realize until later that the story of Doyle was a bigger deal than just family lore. Though he continually denied it publicly for his safety and the safety of his family, he was a member of the Communist party. He was also a talented labor organizer and helped workers force safer working conditions and better pay at places such as Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel and Carborundum.

A pamphlet entered into evidence in the House Un-American Activities hearings in the 1950s. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Despite having been a legal U.S. resident for 25 years with an American wife and family, because he was born in Scotland, he wasn’t allowed to re-enter the U.S. after a trip to Canada in 1949.

Doyle guilty of illegal entry, jury decides after quick trial: “The trial was one of the fastest in Western New York Federal Court history. A jury headed by foreman Nelson Barlett, a Forestville mechanic, which had been selected in 25 minutes, returned the verdict in an hour and five minutes.” (Buffalo Stories archives)

He spent the next several years in and out of prison based on illegal entry charges before– at the height of the McCarthy era– he was deported in 1953.

Communists Gerhard Eisler, John Williamson, Ferdinand C. Smith and Charles A. Doyle wave to crowd as they step on ferry on Ellis Island– where they’d spent months imprisoned.

Being deported from the US wasn’t the end of Charles Doyle’s trouble.

Upon landing on the shores of Britain, Doyle spoke of “insidious forces and McCarthyite scoundrels” back in the US. He attacked those “who in the name of patriuotism would destroy the Bill of Rights and bring our country to the brink of disaster.” This Reuters storyt was carried in newspapers around the world. (Buffalo Stories acrhives)

In London, Doyle picked up where he left off in Western New York– leading  labor organization efforts at a nearby power plant.

The resulting nationwide labor slowdowns caused massive power outages, including at London’s famously lit Piccadilly Circus. Those outages came during one of the coldest snaps of weather on record in London, and nearly two dozen people died from the cold. Doyle was tried in their deaths but exonerated.

In 1963, London’s Daily Mirror tabloid front page was filled with his photo and the bold-faced underlined words, “The most hated man in Britain.”

London tabloid “The Daily Mirror” called South Buffalo’s Charlie Doyle “the most hated man in Britain.” (Buffalo Stories archives)

And it wasn’t just America that didn’t want him. Despite having being deported from the US to his native UK, the House of Lords discussed trying to send him back.

Discussion from Britain’s House of Lords on whether the UK might be able to deport Charles Doyle. (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

Buffalo’s most famous Communist– labor leader and playwright Manny Fried– wrote about Doyle in a piece which was rejected for publication by The Buffalo News called “Democratic Leaders Are at a Fork in the Road.”

When (John L.) Lewis broke with the American Federation of Labor and sponsored the Congress of Industrial Organizations to organize production workers, he said that he hired the communists to organize the workers because communists were the best organizers, idealists sacrificing everything to get workers organized — and when they got the workers organized, he fired them.

Charlie Doyle, the leading open Communist Party activist in Western New York, was hired by Lewis to work for the Steel Workers Organizing Committee. Charlie played a major role in organizing workers into the union at the Lackawanna Bethlehem Steel plant. Then Lewis fired Charlie, and others were credited with
what Charlie had done.

When Lewis subsequently split with CIO leaders and formed District 50 of his Mine Workers Union to organize chemical workers in Niagara Falls, he again hired Charlie Doyle. When Charlie finished organizing those chemical workers into the union, Lewis again fired Charlie.

The CIO Chemical Workers Union then hired Charlie — and the unions Charlie had organized switched from District 50 to CIO. Then CIO fired Charlie. And then Lewis rehired Charlie – and those unions switched back to District 50 with Charlie. AFL and CIO merged into one organization and their AFL-CIO Chemical
Workers Union hired Charlie — and all those same unions of chemical plant workers switched over to the AFL-CIO with Charlie.

Carborundum workers went out on strike in connection with contract negotiations and leaders of the union in Washington held a meeting about the strike across the river in Fort Erie, Canada. U.S. Customs and Immigration wouldn’t let Charlie back across the bridge into U.S. But Canadian authorities looked the other way while Charlie crossed the river back into U.S. in a boat.

FBI and U.S. Immigration then picked up Charlie for deportation on grounds that years earlier when he came here from Scotland he was a communist. Charlie had his first papers to become a citizen, but hadn’t been granted his second papers to complete the process. Jailed for deportation, Charlie staged a hunger strike, but
finally agreed to be deported to England in return for U.S. government authorities persuading his Catholic wife to agree to end their marriage so he could marry the woman he loved.

(Several decades later the Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council passed the resolution offered by University of Buffalo Chapter of United University Professions recognizing Charlie’s contribution to organized labor in Western New York.)

Democratic Leaders Are at a Fork in the Road, Emanuel Fried

Doyle died in London in 1983. His obituary appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

 

Dr. Martin Luther King speaks in Buffalo, 1959

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Already a widely known leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Buffalo in December, 1959.

The Buffalo Criterion published this photo of Dr. King at Faith Baptist Church on Humboldt Pkwy on its front page during Dr. King’s visit to Buffalo in December, 1959. (Buffalo Stories archives)

In his role as Vice President of the National Baptist Sunday School and Training Union Congress, Dr. King came to Buffalo to help plan that organization’s annual national session, which was to be held in Memorial Auditorium and at UB in June, 1960.

Originally built as Temple Beth David in 1924, the worship space at 626 Humboldt Parkway has been Faith Baptist Church for more than sixty years– since 1955. Martin Luther King spoke to the congregation at First Baptist in 1959. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Dr. King spoke with The Buffalo Evening News as well as with the people of Faith Baptist Church on his visit. Some of his remarks were reported in the Thursday, December 17, 1959 edition of The Buffalo Evening News.

Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Wednesday evening told The Buffalo Evening News:

“Today in the deep South there is a collision between two strong institutions — segregation and the public schools. When and where people must make a choice between the two, it is palpably clear what the choice will be.

“The example being set in certain other states, where integration was chosen over closed schools, is influencing the thinking of white  leaders.”

The article went on to say, quoting Dr. King:

“There are dark areas and bright areas in the over-all segregation picture,” he said. “The dark portions are the concerted resistance of public officials and the bright portions are created by the rays of light coming from the outside, where we know we have the sympathy and moral support of many Americans.”

Addressing the congregation of Faith Baptist Church and expressing greetings from “behind the ‘cotton curtain’ of Alabama,” he said the bus boycott of December 1955 to December 1956 was successful and a long stride toward recognition of the Negroes’ rights. “We believed,” he said, “that it was better to walk in dignity than to ride in humiliation.”

In a spiritual message, Dr. King said:

“Man has forgotten God, though unconsciously, not intentionally. Right still is right and wrong still is wrong but we are faced with the dangerous thinking that the question of right or wrong is relative. “Everyone is trying to obey the ’11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Get Caught.’ We must re-discover that all reality hinges on moral foundations, every personality has dignity and worth, all men are created equal, all reality has spiritual control. “We must re-discover God and put Him at the center of our lives.'”

The people of Faith Baptist Church, 1958. Click to enlarge. (Buffalo Stories archives)

More on Martin Luther King in Buffalo:

Martin Luther King addressed a full house at at Kleinhans Music Hall on December 9, 1967

Buffalo’s leaders urge peace following King’s assassination

Happy Birthday, Grandma Coyle

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Grandpa Coyle took this picture of his girl while they were dating some time in the late 40s. Today, they’re celebrating her birthday together in heaven. She’s no longer here, but the love she gave to us continues to grow and flourish every day. She was about as good as they come. Happy Birthday, Grandma!

June Marie Wargo, late 1940s.

People have told me my grandpa was the toughest guy in Seneca-Babcock.

Jimmy Coyle, the toughest guy in Seneca-Babcock, in front of a gin mill with an Iroquois Beer neon light.

He was a bouncer at the Southside Athletic Club and ran the Seneca-Babcock Boys Club.

Gramps met his match with this little 5’2″ lady.

“Sh*thole country” is 2018 speak for No Irish, No Colored, No Polish, No Italian…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Recently, the President of the United States referred to a handful of poor countries as “shithole countries,” which frankly is bad enough on its own– but the fact that it was in reference to not allowing the good people of those poor, desperate places access to the American dream makes me sick and makes me sad.

If you are reading this, chances are you have some connection to Buffalo. If you have some connection to Buffalo, chances are pretty good that you some part of your family migrated here from a nation that was considered poor and unsavory by most “real Americans,” ie, the people who’d already been here.

If you are one of those folks, can you read through this list of want ads I’ve compiled from Buffalo newspapers and feel the treatment your Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Catholic, and African-American ancestors felt. (and in some cases you still feel.)

No Polish or Colored. Buffalo Courier, 1918. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No colored. Buffalo Evening News, 1925. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Colored woman need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1916. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Catholics. Buffalo Evening News, 1883 (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

No Polish. Buffalo Courier, 1907. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Polish. Buffalo Evening News, 1913. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Irish wanted. Buffalo Evening News 1895. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Polish girl need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1898. (Buffalo Stories archives)
“Work and Opportunity for all,” but No Italian. Buffalo Courier, 1907. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Jewish people. Buffalo Evening News, 1925 (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Polish Need Apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1913. (Buffalo Stories archives)
First class man needed– no Italian. Buffalo Courier, 1908 (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Irish need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1892. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Italians need apply. Buffalo evening News, 1892. (Buffalo Stories archives)
No Jews or foreigners need apply. Buffalo Evening News, 1926 (Buffalo Stories archives)

The rhetoric has quickly evolved from “we don’t want ‘those people’ here because they broke the law to get here,” to “even if ‘they’ came legally, we’re sending them back…” to “we must stop people from ‘shithole countries’ from emigrating to the US, period.”

When my ancestors came from Ireland, Poland, Hungary, and Bas-Rhin/Germany… those places were all considered shithole countries by the landed classes of this country. Since 1620, this country has been the shining city on the hill people have clawed their way toward for a new start… allowing more people access to our opportunity doesn’t diminish it– it enhances it.

America’s greatness lies in our heart and our ambition. Stopping people from coming here to make a new life for themselves and their families shows a lack of heart and cut down on our overall total ambition, too.

 

History at Main & Jewett: The Chapins, The Jewetts, and the Willow Lawn Subdivision

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Willow Lawn is a short street with a long history.

Elam Jewett, Buffalo publisher. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Like the rest of the southern two-thirds of Parkside, the properties on Willow Lawn were once a part of newspaper publisher Elam Jewett’s Willow Lawn farm and estate, most of which was sold in part to the city for Delaware Park and in part to the Parkside Improvement Company (and others) for development into the Parkside neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Elam Jewett died in 1887, but until his widow’s death in 1901, Mrs. Caroline Jewett retained the family home at the corner of Main and Jewett Parkway and parcel between School 54 and the parkway which bore the family name.

This ad appeared in the Buffalo Evening News in 1901.

Shortly after the death of Mrs. Elam Jewett, her home at the corner of Main Street and Jewett Parkway was put up for sale. It was rented out as a temporary residence during the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. William P. Northrup was Jewett’s nephew, and lived in another grand Parkside residence which is no longer standing– on the southwest corner of Jewett and Crescent, where Hillside Children’s Center now stands. (Buffalo Stories archives)

To take a step back, the history of Willow Lawn goes back another century or so to the earliest days of Buffalo, when the Parkside area– far outside the village and then city limits– was known as the Buffalo Plains.

The Willow Lawn Estate, as the house stood at Main & Jewett around 1905. Home to The Jewetts and The Chapins, it was celebrated as one of Buffalo’s most beautiful and palatial homes in the second half of the 19th Century. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Dr. Daniel Chapin was among the area’s most sought-after medical professionals when he moved to the rugged frontier that was Buffalo in 1807. He built a rustic log cabin on his 175-acre farm on the Buffalo Plains stretched from what is now Main Street west back through Delaware Park, The Buff State campus, and the Richardson Complex property.

Chapin traveled on foot between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, with little more than his dog, his gun, and the tools of his medical trade. He was a naturalist and insisted on keeping the natural plant life on his farm in as natural a state as possible. We have him to thank for the native beauty of the area of his land that is today Delaware Park.

During the War of 1812, part of the Chapin farm also acted as an encampment for soldiers who had come from the south to defend the nation’s border at Buffalo. Many of those men died of exposure and disease, and at least 300 of them remain interred in the part of Daniel Chapin’s backyard where he helped bury them– in the Mound in the Meadow underneath the Delaware Park golf course.

Chapin’s son was commander in the militia of Erie County during the War of 1812, and around 1820, Col. William W. Chapin built the family a larger log cabin much closer to what is today the corner of Main and Jewett.

Barton Atkins drew the Chapin log cabin from memory many years later. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Barton Atkins, a prolific writer who grew up in the Buffalo Plains, had great memories of playing with Col. Chapin’s son Harold on the property he remembered well during the 1820s and 1830s.

A primitive home of a pioneer farmer, a log dwelling, the yard dotted with trees indigenous to the soil, and enclosed with a rail fence. The barns, corn-cribs, sheds stored with farm implements all in plain view. Multitudes of domestic fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens. peacocks, and guinea hens, rambling about, the pastures alive with horses, cattle, swine, sheep, and goats; the whole presenting a scene decidedly rural.

-Barton Atkins, describing the scene at what is now Main & Jewett in the 1820s

Col. Chapin’s 1820 log cabin was expanded and encompassed by a home that was larger and more aesthetically pleasing as the years went by. the place became known as Willow Lawn, named after the many willows planted by Dr. Chapin on the property.

By the time Elam Jewett purchased the Willow Lawn estate in 1864, he was one of Buffalo’s leading citizens. The lifelong Republican and publisher of the Commercial Advertiser newspaper was close friends with Millard Fillmore.

Fillmore and Jewett traveled through Europe together in 1856, and it was likely in Europe that Jewett was introduced to “the love apple,” today known as tomatoes. The tomatoes Jewett grew at Willow Lawn were thought to be the first tomatoes grown in Buffalo.

In the run up to the Civil War, Jewett and the Commercial Advertiser took a hard line against slavery. This sentiment may have been overplayed in a grand-niece’s retelling of the Jewett story in the Courier-Express in 1941. Along side several other over-statements of fact, “a concealed subterranean room” at Jewett homestead is mentioned as a one-time stop on the Underground Railroad.

The first and only appearance of this story of Elam Jewett’s home being a stop on the Underground Railroad comes in the 1940s, making it seem that it’s likely apocryphal. (Buffalo Stories archives)

It’s mentioned here primarily to debunk it– in hundreds of pages read on Jewett and Willow Lawn, and tens of thousands of pages read on the history of the Parkside area, I’ve never seen another reference to the Underground Railroad outside this one article, again, with a descendant speaking 80 years after the Civil War as a source.

Before his death in 1887, Jewett gave the Episcopal Church the land for the Church of the Good Shepherd, and donated most of the cost of it’s construction.

Elam Jewett donated the land to build what was originally a chapel to the memory of his friend and priest, Edward Ingersoll. This is the preliminary drawing of The Church of the Good Shepherd by Marley and Burnett. (Buffalo Stories archives)

In 1892, Mrs. Jewett donated land to the City of Buffalo for Public School 54– known for many years as “The Parkside School.” That school was built on the land currently occupied by the present School 54’s parking lot.

The original School 54 stood on land donated by the Jewett family on what is now the current School 54’s parking lot. The current School 54 stands on the site of what was the Peter Hagner Dairy from 1909-1964. (Buffalo Stories archives)
The Peter Hagner Dairy stood on the site of the current School 54 from 1909-64. 1910 ad. Bill Blake, a long time Parkside resident, collector of stories, and great storyteller himself, remembers that there were cows at the dairy up until the late 1950s. (Buffalo Stories archives)

In the following years, the Willow Lawn Estate would be opened to the public in raising money for the church and the school. The Beltline trains and Cold Spring horse-cars were listed as convenient modes of transportation for folks visiting Willow Lawn for one such fundraiser in 1889.

The Jewett Era on Jewett Parkway came to a close with the death of Elam’s widow in 1901. Buffalo Courier obituary. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The life of Mrs. Caroline Wheeler Jewett , filled with years and graced with all womanly virtues, came to an end at 8 o’clock last evening, when she passed away at the family home, Willow Lawn.

In 1905, Jewett’s heirs split off the southern most part of the remaining Willow Lawn parcel for new development.

“The magnificent homestead lands of the Jewetts, at Main Street and Jewett Avenue, have been subdivided and are now offered for sale to parties
desiring home-sites in an exclusive, scenic section,” read one ad.

Another touted the “euphoniously titled” Willow Lawn’s “semi-private park style” in “the most beautiful section of the city.”

Willow Lawn, 1906. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Beautiful Willow Lawn Homestead, corner of Main Street and Jewett Avenue, has been subdivided and placed with us for sale. A new street, 70 feet wide, has been opened from Main Street to Crescent Avenue. Sewer and water pipes laid on each side are already in, and the pavement nearly finished. The lots are being sold under restrictions for residential purposes only, making some of the most desirable home sites in the Parkside District. Nearly one-half of these lots have been sold, so it is up to you to hurry if you want a lot in this desirable subdivision, the highest and healthiest section in the city where attractive surroundings are assured at a very low price.

“As a setting for a fine piece of domestic architecture,” the Buffalo Courier reported, “the site is ideal.” All but two of the lots on the street had homes built on them by 1911, and the last home was built on Willow Lawn in 1917.

As homes were being built in the “Willow Lawn subdivision,” the buildings of the original Willow Lawn estate– including the home of the Chapins and Jewetts– still stood at the corner of Main & Jewett.

Willow Lawn’s final hurrah would be as the home of a newly formed school based on learning from nature while in nature.

In 1913, after a year on Bird Avenue on the West Side, The Park School and it’s open-air approach to learning took over the last vestige of Daniel Chapin’s estate 106 years after he first built a log cabin there.

Outdoor classes for the Park School at Main & Jewett. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The Park School became a nationally renown beacon of progressive education.

Central Presbyterian Church, now the Aloma B. Johnson Charter School, can be seen in the background as children repair an animal house as part of their school day at The Park School. (Buffalo Stories archives)

For nearly a decade, children walked the same grounds Barton Atkins talked about 100 years earlier. Not confined to desks, children often weren’t even confined to indoors– with classrooms built in tree houses and screened bungalows. Days were often spent outside, even in the dead of winter, with the pupils warmly cocooned in woolen sleeping bags for lectures.

Outdoor fun for Park School students at Main & Jewett. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The Willow Lawn home was torn in 1922 after The Park School left for the school’s current home in Snyder. The current apartment buildings on the lot were built shortly thereafter, and available for rent by 1927, as shown in the ad below.

The Jewett Apartments, Jewett Parkway at Main Street. 1927 ad. (Buffalo Stories archives)