Buffalo’s last city-owned Polish-language sign

By Steve Cichon

I take a photo of this great bilingual sign every time I walk by it in the Broadway Market parking ramp for fear that it will disappear.

Is it the last still-used city-owned sign in Polish? It’s the only one I know of… and it’s a treasure.

United Air Lines says VISIT BUFFALO in poster form, c.1960

By Steve Cichon

For years, on and off, I’ve been looking for a Buffalo travel poster, any Buffalo travel poster.

Honestly, I kind of assumed that there never was one. I mean why waste precious wall space with (my beloved) Buffalo when there have always been far more exotic, colorful, and warm places which might be more gerenally appealing to the traveling public.

Then I came across this beauty from the late 50s or early 60s.

United made Buffalo look fun!!

We’re all to blame for the horrific tragedy of Larry’s death

By Steve Cichon

If you knew Larry at all, then just like me, this is probably how you knew him– the guy with the long dreadlocks sitting just inside the door at the Tim Horton’s on Main Street in Williamsville.

I took this photo last January, after asking him if he needed anything on a cold night. In his quiet and gentle way, he politely declined. His face told parts of the story that he wouldn’t say with his voice.

Poor Larry died overnight in the bus shelter at Main & Union, and my heart breaks.

I don’t know why he chose to live on the streets, but I know we have to do better helping people like him— people like me.

Mental illness is terrifying and taboo, for both people who suffer and people who can’t understand the suffering. I don’t know what the answers are, but I know he died in large part because his brain was sick, and we have no good way to help.

We can’t write off his death as “the life he chose for himself” any more than we can write off the death of someone who dies when a sick heart gives them a heart attack or when sick cells mutate and cause cancer.

I tried to buy Larry a cup of coffee a few times over the years. That’s not even close to enough. Others have done a lot more for Larry and others like him, but how the hell can we sleep at night having people freezing to death in one of the wealthiest goddamn zip codes in the country?

A warm bed would have treated a symptom, but still, the sickness would remain. Larry’s sickness took him to a bus shelter to die in a blizzard. That’s the extreme version. There are less dramatic (but just as real) versions of the same story playing out all around all of us everyday. It’s needless suffering that we as a society have to decide all together must end.

Rest in peace, Larry. On behalf of humanity, I’m sorry we failed you.

When Amherst Street between Delaware and Elmwood was farmland, 1900

       By Steve Cichon

On the 1880 map, it’s a bit difficult to distinguish Amherst Street between Elmwood and Delaware avenues because in 1880, two out of three of those streets barely existed.

Delaware Avenue was already a route between downtown Buffalo and the Tonawandas, but Elmwood Avenue stopped at Forest Avenue. And while plans for Amherst Street to the east of Black Rock were drawn onto maps, the actual creating of the road all the way to Main Street and beyond had not yet been completed.

The Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition stood in the middle of Amherst Street.

In 1899, Amherst Street was carved into the farmland north of the Park Lake and south of the New York Central Beltline tracks in anticipation of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.

The line of trees in this photo represents about where Amherst Street was laid as the center of the Pan-Am. The Electric Tower stood at what is now Amherst Street and Lincoln Parkway.

Elmwood Avenue was extended from behind City Hall on through into Kenmore through 25 years of wrangling, eminent domain and absorbing and remaining parts of other streets.

Voelker’s bowling alley has been a fixture on the corner of Elmwood and Amherst since the days of Prohibition.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Delaware at Hertel in 1950

       By Steve Cichon

There’s not much that’s recognizable from this 69-year-old view of Delaware Avenue, looking south from Hertel Avenue.

Delaware Avenue, looking south from Hertel Avenue in 1950.

The Esso gas station and Deco restaurant have long been replaced by the buildings that are now home to KeyBank and M&T Bank. In fact, none of the commercial buildings visible remain.

The houses on the left and the train overpass off in the distance are the only landmarks which still stand.

In 1950, there were several car dealers on both sides of Delaware up to the train overpass, including Hunt for Chevrolet. The last car dealer in that stretch was Gary Pontiac, which was torn down to make way for Tim Hortons.

It’s worth adding that this photo came from the “Buffalo History” file of the dean of Buffalo radio talk show hosts, Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Famer John Otto.

John Otto, in the WWKB studios in the mid-1980s.

In the days before the internet, when Otto had to rely on his memory and his vast collection of files when leading his “conference call of all interested parties” overnight on WGR. Most nights, Otto would take calls from anyone willing to “pull up a piece of airtime, speaking frankly; generally, on any topic at all.”

These days, the answer to most questions are available with the proper search terms in Google. When a point of information came into contention on the Otto program, he would often turn to “your listenership” for an answer, if he didn’t have it at his fingertips.

Aside from the nightly talk show for which he’s remembered, Otto was also a television pioneer, having hosted children’s programs and serving at the Atlantic Weatherman in the early days of Channel 2.

Otto was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1998. He died in 1999.

Invalids’ and Tourists’ Hotel at Porter and Prospect

       By Steve Cichon

By the time he opened the “Invalids’ and Tourists’ Hotel” at Porter and Prospect avenues in 1878 on the West Side, Dr. R.V. Pierce had long run a mail order quack medicine dispensary from Buffalo and had also been elected state senator.

The Pierce Hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1881.

“There is no quarter of the civilized world where his remedies aren’t known,” said The Buffalo Express upon the completion of the building. Pierce chose Buffalo as his base of operations because, The Express reported, that statistics “prove dispute that Buffalo outranks in healthfulness all other cities of the United States.”

The paper called the finished hotel “superb in its completeness, one of the proudest ornaments of a city famed for its beauty.”

The piazzas and grand porches of the building provided stunning views of the Niagara River and Lake Erie, and newspaper accounts printed around the country gushed about “bath appliances of all sorts, a steam elevator, and a fully furnished gymnasium.”

As the name would imply, the campus was split into two distinct sections. One for summer tourists and “a pleasant and cheerful home for invalids in search of health in a delightful, bracing and invigorating climate.”

“Chronic diseases of every sort will be treated in the sanitarium,” reported The New York Times.

Like many of Buffalo’s grand structures of the era, it was destroyed by fire in 1881. The site is now a part of the D’Youville College campus.

For many decades following, Dr. Pierce’s hotel and dispensary were on the 600 block of Main Street opposite Shea’s Buffalo. The Pierce Building still stands there.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Michigan Avenue Bridge collapsed 60 years ago today

       By Steve Cichon

It was more of a wipeout than a teardown, the effects of which were being fully realized on this day 60 years ago.

The Michael K. Tewksbury takes out the Michigan Avenue Bridge in 1959.

Gale force winds and rushing waters ripped the grain boat Michael K. Tewksbury from its moorings at the Standard Elevator, and sent it pilot-less down the Buffalo River, smashing into and destroying the Michigan Avenue Bridge, just before midnight on Jan. 21, 1959.

The Michigan Avenue Bridge collapsed in 1959.

After hitting a grain elevator straight on, the 515-foot Tewksbury then hit the bridge broadside, wiping out one of the 200-foot towers.

Those who heard the gnashing and groaning of the steel say they’ll never forget it.

“A sickening, scratching crash like an auto accident magnified a million times,” said an engineer who heard the crash from the nearby fireboat.

It took workmen and tugboat crews 10 days to get the ship free.

A trial to determine fault stretched on even longer, as the city blamed the owners of the Tewksbury and another ship, the Shiras, for not having been properly moored. Ship owners, meanwhile, blamed the city for allowing ice floes to jam up the river and not raising the bridge to avoid the accident.

By 1961, $30 million of claims had piled up in relation to the incident.

Ultimately, a judge decided the other ship was improperly moored, came loose, and hit the Tewksbury, and also that the city should have lifted the bridge to avoid the crash. Midland Steamship Co., owners of the Tewksbury, were held harmless.

A replacement bridge was built in 1960 at a cost of $2.5 million. After being repaired and returned to seaworthy condition in Buffalo Harbor, the Tewksbury was eventually sold for scrap in 1962.

The full story of that night and the years that followed trying to figure out what happened is told with photos, excerpts from depositions, and eyewitness accounts by Old First Ward historian Gene Overdorf at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tewksbury Lodge at 249 Ohio St. The admission is $10.

The Edward M. Cotter, at left, was spared when the Michigan Avenue Bridge collapsed in 1959.

Aside from showing the Michigan Avenue Bridge wrapped around the Tewksbury, and the near-miss for the Edward M. Cotter just to the left, it also shows the dramatic changes to the landscape of the First Ward over the last six decades.

In both images, the most recognizable landmark is the Swannie House.

The image below is from Google Earth.

Clint Buehlman sings about winter’s slick roads on classic Buffalo radio

       By Steve Cichon

In 1973, Clint Buehlman was celebrating 30 years of hosting the morning show on WBEN. His program had more listeners than the next three stations’ morning shows combined. More than 300,000 people tuned in to “your AM-MC” during the course of the week.

WBEN morning man Clint Buehlman at the piano in 1973.

“Dependability,” explained Buehly, was the reason for his 40 years of success on morning radio on WGR and then WBEN.

And from the 1930s through the 1970s, if it was snowing in Buffalo on any given morning, you could depend on tuning around your dial to find “Yours Truly, Buehly” sitting at the piano, singing his song about driving in winter weather.

“Leave for work a little early cause the roads are kind of slick,

and even though your brakes are good you’ll find you can’t stop quick.

“When you step upon that peddle and your car begins to skid,

just remember this advice and you’ll be glad you did.”

It was winter weather that helped end the Clint Buehlman era on Buffalo radio. During the Blizzard of ’77, listeners came to rely on the more modern sound of Danny Neaverth on WKBW, and less on the dated sound of Buehlman’s show on WBEN.

In March 1977, Buehlman turned 65, and WBEN management took it as an opportunity to force him to retire.

Clint Buehlman, at the piano, 1950s.

What’s a milk machine, Dad?

By Steve Cichon

I get ridiculously happy when I find a photo of a milk machine, like this one on Ridge Road in Lackawanna from 1989. The machine was likely owned and served by Beres’ Dairy, which was on Abbott Rd. between Leonard and Meadowbrook.

It’s not the clearest or the highest resolution photo around, but isn’t it amazing to think about how milk vending machines were everywhere around the City of Buffalo?

Sometime soon, the memory of these once ubiquitous devices will be reduced to overly-nostalgic posts like this one, which will also recall the orange drink which sometimes would get kicked out the machine a little bit frozen, just like the milk.

Broadway & Person was the typical Buffalo corner in the 1970s, with a gin mill and milk machine.

Jefferson & Best: Lang’s Brewery and The Rockpile

       By Steve Cichon

In 1880, the spot where Johnnie B. Wiley Stadium – once known as War Memorial Stadium – stands, was on the far outskirts of the city.

The big landmark along Jefferson Street between Best and Dodge wasn’t “The Rockpile,” but was across the street from the stadium where the Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center now stands.

War Memorial Stadium – the old “Rockpile.”

The school was built on what was once the campus of the Gerhard Lang Brewery. Built in 1875, the brewery was marked as No. 57 on the 1880 map.

It would be another 10 years before there was any activity on the land on the other side of Jefferson Avenue.

Gerhard Lang Brewery.

In 1880, the Prospect Hill Reservoir was still Buffalo’s primary source for drinking water. Located at Niagara and Connecticut streets, the original reservoir spot has been the home of the Connecticut Street Armory for more than 100 years.In 1893, the new Prospect Reservoir started serving as Buffalo’s stand-by water source on Jefferson Avenue.

The Old Prospect Reservoir stood where the Connecticut Street Armory now stands, on Niagara between Connecticut and Vermont.

A generation later, that second reservoir would be replaced by War Memorial Stadium as a Depression-era WPA project.

The second Prospect Reservoir stood where War Memorial Stadium was built on Jefferson Avenue between Best and Dodge.