The Golden Age of Buffalo’s Great Retailers

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY  – The outpouring was amazing.

After agreeing to give a lecture at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery about some of the city’s great retailers of the past, I was deluged with people offering up their memories, and thirsty for the memories of the stores of Buffalo’s grand old stores.

Consider this page a taste of the Golden Age of Buffalo Retailing talk that’s been seen by thousands of Western New Yorkers (and can become a part of your next meeting or event. )

Take a stroll down memory lane, and play some classic jingles while looking over some images of Buffalo’s by-gone retailers.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

 

Buffalo in the 40’s: Frank Sedita’s Booze Shop

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I found this postcard a while ago, showing two men standing in a West Side liquor store in the 1940s.

Anthony Tauriello and Frank Sedita. Buffalo Stories archives
Taurielllo & Sedita Liquor Store, 436 Niagara Street. Buffalo Stories archives

The Man on the left would become a congressman in the 60’s (Anthony Tauriello) and the man on the right would become Buffalo’s Mayor– Frank Sedita, the current DA’s grandfather.

Now that I dug out the card, I’m giving it to the Sedita family. Neat heirloom.

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Buffalo in the 50’s: WWOL’s Guy King arrested hanging out on a billboard

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was the craziest radio prank to date in Buffalo and Tom Clay– who was one of many men who used the air name GUY KING on WWOL Radio– kicked off Buffalo’s Rock’n’roll radio era in style.

Leading into the Independence Day holiday, Clay played Bill Haley & The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” over and over again, while hanging outside the studio window out on the WWOL billboard in Shelton Square, urging motorists to get a look at him and beep their horns to say hello.

Shelton Square, late 1940s, showing street cars, the Palace Burlesk, and WWOL Radio. Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Police and Buffalo Fire didn’t appreciate the prank, and Clay spent part of the night in the clink.

Buffalo Stories archives

New Book! The Complete History of Parkside

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Complete History of Parkside, Buffalo, NY
A New Book by Buffalo Author Steve Cichon

A history of the Frederick Law Olmsted designed neighborhood, from its place in the history of the Seneca Nation, to its role in the War of 1812, to Olmsted’s design and the turn of the century building out of the area, and the neighborhood’s 20th century evolutions. Included are discussions of the area’s earliest colorful settlers, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, Delaware Park, The Buffalo Zoo, and the stories and anecdotes of many more struggles, individuals, and institutions that have made Parkside one of Buffalo’s premier historic neighborhoods today.


Questions You’ll Have Answered as You Read:

  • Where is Parkside’s mass virtually unmarked grave?
  • How did a Parkside quest for riches turn to… naked women?!?
  • Why did the FBI have Parkside staked out for most of a decade?
  • You’ll also learn details on how America’s first jet plane was built in Parkside, and the scandal with Parkside roots that nearly brought down a Presidency.

135 historic photos, 172 pages.

Steve CichonABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Cichon is an award winning journalist with WBEN Radio, where he’’s been a news reporter and anchor since 2003, having worked in Buffalo radio and television since 1993. Steve and his wife Monica became Parkside home owners on Valentines Day 2000, and quickly fell in love with the neighborhood. They continue to renovate and restore their 1909 EB Green designed American Four Square, and will likely continue to do so into perpetuity.

Books available for purchase NOW online… and at the following locations:

  • Talking Leaves Books (Main St. and Elmwood Ave. Locations)
  • The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society Shop
  • The Darwin Martin House Gift Shop
  • WNY Barnes & Noble Stores
  • Borders WNY Locations
  • Buy online at the Buffalo Stories Bookstore

Steve is available to talk about Parkside History. Please email Steve for details.


Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Grover Cleveland’s ties to Parkside and the birth of modern anesthesia: Sisters Hospital & The Marine Hospital

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

While they owned much of the property along the neighborhood’s southern border, and taught at St. Vincent de Paul, Mt St Joe’s, Medaille, St. Mark, and St Mary’s School for the Deaf, the Sisters of St. Joseph haven’t been the only Catholic nuns along the Parkside section of Main Street.

The Sisters of Charity established Buffalo’s first hospital downtown in 1848, and moved to the corner of Main Street and Delevan Avenue (the current home of the Canisius College Koessler Athletic Center) in 1876.

And while Sisters Hospital didn’t move there until the World War II era (1943), a hospital of sorts has stood on the spot where Sisters now stands since the Civil War era. The Providence Retreat, also known as through the years as the Providence Insane Asylum, and the Providence Lunatic Asylum, it was established in 1860 by Dr. Austin Flint and Dr. James Platt White, with the help of the Sisters of Charity.

As the Civil War dawned, after it was “decided that the city needed a hospital for the treatment of mental and nervous diseases.”  The institution opened its first building on the Main Street grounds July 15, 1861. That building was then outside the city limits, on grounds described as “spacious and beautiful.” The grounds contained both a hennery for eggs and a dairy, and “stronger patients” were able to take advantage of the neighboring Delaware Park and Zoological gardens.

The Providence Asylum, 1870s. Sisters Hospital stands on this spot today.

The asylum, and its most infamous guest, nearly cost Buffalo a Presidency. One of Buffalo’s most scandalous residents was a “guest” at the Providence Retreat. Maria Halpin was one of many unwed mothers residing there, and she became a star in the 1884 Presidential campaign. It just so happened that the prominent Buffalo attorney with whom she reportedly had a tryst quickly moved up the ranks as Mayor of Buffalo, then Governor of New York, and ultimately President of the United States.

Had Grover Cleveland run for President in this modern age, the intense vetting process likely would have knocked him out of the running early. The Halpin story was well-known but not talked about in Buffalo for at least a decade. However, when Grover Cleveland decided to run for the White House, The Buffalo Evening Telegraph, a paper similar in journalistic integrity to the National Enquirer, ran a story entitled “A Terrible Tale-Dark Chapter in a Public Man’s History.”

The rag put into print a damning piece of salacious bombast slanted against Cleveland by his old Western New York political enemies. The paper spelled out that Cleveland was the lover of The Loose Widow Halpin, and when she became pregnant, the powerful Cleveland had her institutionalized, the child placed in an orphanage, all at Cleveland’s expense. The story spread like wildfire around the country, to the delight of Cleveland’s political opponents.

A familiar song on the Presidential campaign in 1884 went, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.” Grover Cleveland paid for the institutionalization of his one-time lover– the mother of what possibly was his love child– at Providence Asylum, which stood where Sisters Hospital stands today.

Though painted in the worst possible light, Cleveland couldn’t and wouldn’t deny the story. Halpin actually kept the company of several prominent lawyers, many of them married, including Cleveland’s partner and best friend Oscar Folsom. Folsom was nearly positive the child was his, but to save Folsom and the other men potential martial problems, the bachelor Cleveland took responsibility for the care of the woman and her child, whom she named Oscar Folsom Cleveland.

Cleveland asked a judge to commit Halpin to the bucolic Parkside mental ward only after he was unsuccessful in trying to break her of alcoholism. At Cleveland’s expense, his young ward was place in the finest orphanage to move along his placement with and adoption by a well-to-do family.

These details, however, were only made public decades later. Despite the controversy, Cleveland was elected President, where he was the first man to be married in the White House. Not to Halpin, who continued to hound Cleveland for money, but to Frances Folsom. The daughter of his partner Oscar, Cleveland became her legal guardian when she was 11 years old.  She was somewhat scandalously 27 years younger than the President, and, though it wasn’t common knowledge at the time, was likely the half sister of Cleveland’s “son.” For his part, Oscar Folsom Cleveland eventually became a very successful doctor; his education paid for by the man who took a political hit for doing what he thought was the right thing.

The Providence Retreat was not alone in catering to the psychological needs of Parksiders. Dr. S. A. Dunham was the superintendent of Parkside Sanitarium, 1392 Amherst Street. It was established in 1902, and had a capacity of 25.

A More Modern Hospital

As modern medicine progressed, particularly in the newly developing field of psychiatry, a new state of the art “Asylum” was built in 1905. Bishop Charles Colton was assisted by Msgr. Nelson Baker in laying the cornerstone for what was  then known as The Providence Retreat.  The building was to be fireproof, and “up to the high standards required by the state… in the treatment of the insane and feeble minded.”

Bishop Colton and Father Baker assist in laying the cornerstone for the Providence Retreat, Main at Kensington & Humboldt. This building still stands; greatly modified and added to, as Sisters Hospital.

A 1905 Buffalo Express article notes, “The institution is managed by the sisters, under the rules approved by the state commission of lunacy.” The article goes on to talk abut the $300,000 building. “Away in the back, and distinct from the others, are the rooms for violent patients who may be noisy.”

In 1943, the 83 year old Providence Retreat, long the home “for treatment of mental patients,” was closed and converted to a maternity hospital. Upon the opening of Louise de Marillac Hospital, an official told the Buffalo Evening News, “We feel there is more need here for an additional maternity hospital and an enlarged institution for babies than for the care of the mentally afflicted that the Providence Retreat has been carrying on.”

Three years later, ground was broken on another million dollar expansion of the structure that was destined to become the new Sisters Hospital at Main Street and Humboldt Parkway. The new streamlined, modern structure was prepared to combine the efforts of the Louise de Marillac Maternity Hospital and Sisters Hospital. The hospital was on the cutting edge of modernity, with a telephone and radio in every room.

Easily ignored, standing between Sisters Hospital and St Mary’s School for the Deaf is a rather nondescript brick building with a lesser known rich history.  Built in 1907-10 as the US Marine Hospital, it’s likely to have gone unnoticed by most passersby for over a century. The building served as a home “owned and operated by the United States Government, and is for general medical service to sailors, marine soldiers, ex-soldiers, marines and merchant seamen” for almost 50 years.  Far and away the most common, interwoven maladies amongst the old seadogs were old age and alcoholism.

US Marine Hospital; Main Street, between St. Mary’s School for the Deaf and what is now Sisters Hospital. 1930’s postcard.

In three separate incarnations, this building has played, and continues to play, a role in the forefront of medicine. First, as the Marine Hospital, many early strides in anesthesia were made inside the walls of the Parkside institution. Very early in his career, it was here that one of the world’s pioneering anesthesiologists first learned his trade, at a time when the specialty at best was an after thought.

In an article in Anesthesia and Analgesia in 2000, Drs. Ronald Batt and Douglas Bacon write about Dr. Clarence Durshordwe, a World War I veteran who grew up on Buffalo’s East Side and attended UB Medical School.

After medical school, Durshordwe interned at the 68-bed Marine Hospital in Buffalo. On completing his training, he was hired as an assistant surgeon for the Public Health Service. Early in his five years of service, he discovered that the lowest ranking physician was assigned to give anesthetics. Concerned that he might harm a patient, Durshordwe went to Buffalo City Hospital to observe nurse anesthetists administer anesthetics. Toward the end of his tenure at the Marine Hospital, now assigned to perform surgery, Durshordwe found he spent more time worrying about the anesthetic than the surgical procedure.

The mostly self-taught doctor would be one of the men who helped bring together the theories and practice of anesthesia from locations all around the world; where even late into the mid-20th century some physicians around the world still questioned it’s medical value.

Great strides were also made in the fledgling practice of physical therapy when the federally owned hospital was transferred to the state in 1950, and it became the home of UB’s Chronic Disease Institute. It was the area’s first hospital devoted to “physical medicine, the combination of medicine and therapy.” Within 3 years of the doors opening, the institute “achieved remarkable results in restoring to partial or complete usefulness disabled limbs, muscles, and organs, and overcoming speech difficulties.”  It was here that many of the tenets of 21st century medicine were first explored locally.

As of 1953, two years before the polio vaccine was announced to the world, and at a time when the diagnosis meant fear, every polio patient brought to the facility in an iron lung was able to gain release from the “cumbersome contrivance.”  One arthritis patient, so seriously disabled he was brought into the center on a stretcher, walked out, self-supporting, eight months later; all by virtue on the modern medical theories we now take for granted, first explored locally by our Parkside neighbors.

The Marine Hospital Campus was purchased by Sisters Hospital in 1995 for off-street parking for visitors and employees. While the original plans called for the building to make way for even more parking space, The Parkside Community Association advocated saving the historic structure. This was accomplished when Benedict House was opened at the Main Street location in 1997. It’s mission, as taken from its website in 2008:

The mission of Benedict House is to provide non-discriminatory residential housing opportunities and supportive services for persons living with AIDS in an environment promoting the principles of dignity, respect, understanding, compassion and self-determination.

©2009 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon

The 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

Canisius College & The Sisters of St. Joseph

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The fate of the Main Street land immediately north of Jefferson Avenue was sealed when Jesuit Fathers purchased it, described as an “expanse of land and… groves of trees,” as a farm from the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1874. In 1911, the Fathers built Canisius College there, and have been growing it, and buying more land and buildings to expand their campus, ever since.

Though now the gentrified, commanding presence along that portion of Main Street, Canisius College moved to the area at a time when Catholic institutions weren’t necessarily welcomed with open arms in all sections of the city. This wasn’t a problem on this stretch of Main, however, given the fact that the new school was flanked by a well-established Catholic church, Catholic hospitals, several Catholic elementary and high schools, and a convent.

The land was wilderness far beyond the edge of the city when St. Vincent de Paul Parish was founded in 1863. Bishop John Timon and Rev. Joseph Sorg established the church to serve the mostly German quarry men and farmers in the Kensington-Humboldt area. It was, according to the parish’s 100th Anniversary History booklet, “a peaceful, wide open location removed from traffic and congestion of the city.”

As already discussed, three successively larger churches were built over 60 years.  The first 1860’s wooden church became the school when a larger brick church was built in 1887.  And as the neighborhoods surrounding the church, including Parkside, grew, by 1924, the need developed for yet another, newer, larger church building.   The Byzantine-Romanesque style, final home of St Vincent de Paul was opened Thanksgiving Day 1926, with over 5,000 people in attendance. When the church closed in 1993, Canisius College bought the buildings of its old neighbor, and renamed the exquisite Byzantine building the Montante Center.

Also as mentioned, the Sisters of St. Joseph were major developers of Main Street, having first strolled north of the horse-drawn trolley tracks (which then ended at Delevan Avenue) to built their novitiate, south of the church, where Canisius College now stands, and  moving the Deaf Mute Institute to the corner of Dewey and Main in 1898. The name was officially changed to St. Mary’s School for the Deaf in 1936, and continues to be the longest continuously operated institution in the Parkside neighborhood.

St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, 1923

Aside from teaching at both St Vincent’s and St. Mark in Parkside, The Sisters also ran Mt. St. Joseph’s Elementary and High Schools, founded in 1891. The high school was closed in the mid 1980s, but “Little Mount” survives to this day. The Sisters of St Joseph decided to close the school in 2005, but parents and alumni banded together to keep the school open. The school moved from a building recently torn down on the Canisius campus to the former Central Presbyterian Church complex in 2007.

In 1937, Mount St. Joseph’s Teachers College received its charter from New York State to award degrees in Education. In 1968, the curriculum expanded, men were welcomed to the campus for the first time, and Medaille College was born.

Mt St Joseph (High) School For Boys, 1923. Now Medaille College.

©2009 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon

The 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

Former Main Street institutions of the Parkside era now part of the Canisius campus

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Parkside Historian Michael Riester puts forth the thesis, “As goes Main Street, so goes Parkside.” The following pages will take a look at Main Street in three separate sections: The institutions of the area, the automobile showrooms, and, finally the small businesses; the shops and storefronts where most people did most of their spending and buying of goods and services.

Many modern Parksiders, who just think of the whole area as “Canisius College,” will be surprised to know that the block of Main between Delevan and Jefferson has been home to a brewery, an amusement park, and for over 50 years, a Sears & Roebuck store.

In 1842, Jacob Schaenzlin moved into a brewery built two years earlier at 1857 Main Street, near Scajaquada Creek. This is the present site of the Delavan/Canisius MetroRail station.

While the waters were visible in this photo of the Schnaezlin Brewery snapped circa 1900– today, Scajaquada Creek is underground from Forest Lawn Cemetery all the way to Cheektowaga. The photo was taken from the east side of Main Street looking west. That’s the Main Street bridge in the photo.

Further up the block, and a half century later, at the point where Jefferson Avenue and Main Street meet, stood an amusement park, which was known by at least 3 different names over the decades it was open. First known in the 1890s as Athletic Park, its name was changed first to Carnival Court, then to Luna Park, when it was purchased by the father of the modern amusement park, Frederick Ingersoll. He owned the park from 1904-1920.  Among the more popular rides was the “Shoot the Chutes” water ride, which Ingersoll built in all his parks, and was the basis for the modern water flume ride.

Looking north up Main from the From the Top of Shoot the Chutes. That’s Jefferson Avenue, St. Vincent’s, then Providence Retreat (now Sisters Hospital )

The midway of the Carnival Court was heavily damaged by fire in 1909. The fire was briefly mentioned in the New York Times, calling the place a “pleasure resort,” and mentioning the skating rink and the theatre suffered damage in the blaze.

Closed and abandoned by 1920, Sears and Roebuck purchased the property and built a store on the site in 1929. From that Sears store, generations of Parksiders were clothed, and kept in appliances, hardware, paint, and gardening supplies. Sears left in 1980, and four years later, the building became the headquarters for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of WNY.  The building, which once housed all that the Sears Catalog had to offer, is now Canisius’ Science Hall.

George Zornick lived on Russell in the 1960s. “Sears was very convenient to the neighborhood. As a kid, I remember the big escalator in the middle of the store. We’d go there for clothes and my dad for hardware; the place seemingly had everything.

©2009 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon

The 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

“The Main Street” near Parkside

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Of course, following the rail and the streetcar to Parkside soon enough was the automobile. King’s Official Route Book was the Mapquest.com of the early automobile era. It gave new drivers not only street names as far as getting from one place to another, but offered landmarks as well in an era when street signs may not have been the most reliable or varied. In the 1913 edition, the book makes notes of several landmarks you’d see driving on Main Street from downtown through Parkside on your way from Buffalo to Batavia.

Buffalo, N. Y., to Batavia, N. Y.,
38.6 miles, Road mostly all brick and state road.

  • 0 Leave Soldiers’ Monument and Park on right, go north on Main St., following trolley .
  • 0.7 Pass Teck Theater Bldg. on left
  • 2.3 Intersection of trolleys with car barns on right (Cold Springs Street Car Barn)
  • 2.6 Passing hospital on right (Sisters Hospital at original Main/Delevan location)
  • 2.7 and Forest Lawn Cemetery on left
  • 2.8 Pass Carnival Court Park on right (amusement park where Main and Jefferson meet)
  • 3.0 St Vincent of Paul’s Church on right (now Canisius College Montante Cultural Center)
  • 3.1 Mount St. Joseph Academy on left (now Canisius’ Lyons Hall)
  • 3.3 Providence Retreat on right       (current site of Sisters Hospital)                                                                                             
  • 3.4 U. S. Marine Hospital on right      (currently Benedict House)   
  • 3.5 Deaf Mute Institution on right, straight ahead through                        
  • 3.6 Parkside brick schoolhouse on left   ( in current School 54 parking lot)                                                                               
  •  3.8 Central Presbyterian Church on left   (now Mt St Joseph’s Academy)
  •  3.9 Cross cement bridge over R. R.

Between the businesses in the Parkside neighborhood itself, and the business along Main Street, it was possible, for much of the neighborhood’s history,  for someone living in the area to not have need to leave the neighborhood for months at a time.

Without Main Street, there would not have been a Flint Hill or a Parkside. While over the last two decades its become the re-invigorated Hertel and Delaware Avenues that are the local shopping and dining destinations for Parksiders, for the 200 years previous, it was Main Street that served most of the needs of the people of the area we now call Parkside.

Over a three year period, third generation Parkside Resident and Definitive Parkside Historian Michael Riester wrote a series of articles, published in the Parkside News, examining the history Parkside’s portion of Main Street and role the stretch of road played in the life of the people of the area through the two centuries since the path was first carved from the wilderness.

(I)n 1850, the city secured vast tracts of Erastus Granger’s farm on Flint Hill (as Parkside was then known.) This land, with its rolling hills, large open meadows, woods, and Scajaquada Creek was considered the most beautiful and scenic in the area. 80 Acres would become Forest Lawn Cemetery, but the land to the north and west of the then-proposed cemetery, including Granger’s meadow and quarry, would be reserved for parkland. It would be some years yet before the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted would draw on its natural beauty to create Delaware Park. “

By the 1880s, once “The Park” was developed, and the modern streets of Parkside were laid out, the character of Main Street changed dramatically. Large homes, like the brick Victorian of the Garris Family at Main and Robie were being erected. The Garris family made their fortune in the Jammerthal quarries near Grider and Kensington.

©2009 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon

The 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

Getting Around Parkside and Beyond

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Beltline Railway, which helped open up Parkside to development, was eventually too industrial for the sensitivities of the upwardly mobile new residents of Parkside to handle. One of life-long Parkside resident Bob Venneman’s earliest memories was of a 1918 freight train crash. He spoke of the crash with the Parkside News in 1988.

The trains met head-on on a curve opposite the Amherst Station. Dad and Mother walked me up there. All the trees were singed for a long time. Of course, all the tracks were lowered 16 feet in 1909 when Lewis Bennett, the developer of Central Park, objected to the noise of the trains. Wooden stairways led down to the tracks.

That, however, is only part of the story. In the spring 2005 edition of the Parkside News, Michael Riester tells the story of the Beltline tracks having once been embedded in Parkside Avenue—right at grade level crossing Parkside– where the viaduct between Crescent and Linden is now (Above, with street car, 1940s). The story of why that intersection was dug out, and why the viaduct is now there, is a grisly one.

On October 15, 1897, the Scatcherd Daughters, Emily and Dorothy, and their aunt, Miss Emily Wood, were returning from a visit at the William Ball residence at the corner of Depew and Starin Avenues…. The story goes; the carriage driven by Miss Wood proceeded toward Parkside Avenue, where they intended to enter the park. Because of gale force winds that day, the carriage was tightly secured; the side curtains drawn. Mr. Ball noticed a west bound train coming from Main Street, and noticed that because of the wind, the warning whistles were muted, almost negligible. Sensing disaster, Mr. Ball ran after the carriage as it sped towards the Parkside crossing; however, before he could make it, the engine of the train slammed into the carriage containing the two girls and their aunt. With tremendous force, amid the terrible screeching of brakes, the train pushed the carriage and its occupants as far as the Colvin Crossing, where it finally came to a halt. The horrified engineer enlisted the help of the groundskeeper at the nearby Glenny Mansion (now the site of the Nichols Athletic Fields) to recover the lifeless body of little 11 year-old Dorothy. The mangled bodies of her sister Emily and her aunt were rushed to Buffalo General Hospital at the order of Dr. Bainbridge Folwell, who happened to be visiting Mr. Glenny. Miss Emily, age 5, died shortly after being removed from the carriage. Miss Emily Wood was pronounced dead by Dr. Roswell Park.

The father of the little girls, John Scatcherd was to become known as “The Father of the Grade Crossing Commission,” and fought to have grade level tracks eliminated on a city- and state-wide basis. He lived to see the excavation of the road and erection of the Parkside viaduct in 1911, followed shortly thereafter by the elevated bridge at Colvin Avenue. The trains of the Beltline were powerful. One of the engines regularly used along the tracks that surrounded Buffalo was Old’ 999. On a New York Central run between Syracuse and Buffalo in 1893, with Engineer Charles Hogan at the throttle, the 999 set the world speed mark. Its 112.5 miles an hour was the fastest that man had ever traveled up to that point.

New York Central Engines like this one carried the Beltline passenger cars roaring through Parkside from the 1870s through the 1950s.

While the Beltline was removed from the road, the IRC Trolley was still sharing the roads with horses, carriages, and the occasional automobile.  Trolley service started in Parkside when only a few houses dotted the landscape in 1898. The was known through the years as the Kenmore line, the Parkside line, and the Zoo line. By 1911, residents were suing the IRC to get better service to the area. Portions of the lawsuit, as published in State Public Service Commission Documents, are worth including here not only because they show the growth of Parkside, but are also very descriptive of what the area looked like in 1911.

IRC Streetcar at Parkside and Jewett; fence is gone, but the corner post remains in front of the Zoo parking lot. 1940s.

The principal complaint is centered in the irregularity of the service, its insufficiency, and the crowded condition of the cars. The lines complained of leave the Terrace in the city of Buffalo, proceed northerly about 4 1/2 miles upon Main street, turn westerly at Florence avenue to Parkside, to Hertel, through Hertel to Virgil, to Kenmore, and (outbound) to Tonawanda. The service particularly criticized by complainants is that given to residents of that portion of the seventeenth ward through which the lines pass: that is, between the turn off at Main street and Florence avenue and the turn off from Hertel to Virgil. The territory here situated is in a growing part of the city, and it was shown that a number of residences have recently been built in that section. …  The territory between the corner of Hertel and Parkside eastward to Main street is well built up in the eastern portion, and several houses have recently been added in the western portion, but it can not be called compactly built territory. On the north side of Hertel avenue there is a long stretch of vacant land practically covering the entire distance from Main street to Parkside avenue. Parkside avenue at its northern end is also very sparsely built up. The residents of this section in going to the business portions of the city must either use the Kenmore-Zoo cars or the Main Street cars. The Main Street service is frequent, and it became evident on the first hearing that if better facilities were furnished to the residents of this portion of the city to get to Main street a considerable number would avail themselves of that method of downtown travel.

Even as the automobile began to grab a foothold as a means of transportation, the trolley remained an important means of moving around the city. Ann Marie Flett, the daughter the grocer Wally, grew up on Russell in the 1940s.

My grandmother used to take my brother Bill and I on the street car downtown. Every Saturday we’d take the trolley to Laube’s Old Spain for lunch, and we’d go to the show to see a movie. Around Christmas time, Mother would take us on the street car down to AM&A’s to see the windows, and all those people downtown. It was always nice.

I loved the street cars. It wobbled back and forth, especially when you crossed onto another street. It went up Parkside, then Florence, then up Main Street downtown, and there was always alot of clickety-clack when it went onto Main Street because there were so many tracks on Main. The cars were well-swept, but a little worn-down. We mostly took the Main cars, but there were street cars on Hertel and Delaware, too.

Streetcar trips by Parkside kids weren’t always adult supervised adventures, though. Tom Malamas, whose family owned The Parkside Candy Shoppe, can recall being one of the many of the youngsters of Parkside scrapping together the few cents necessary to hop on the street car to find out what fun could be had elsewhere in the city. “You could catch the trolley at Parkside and Oakwood, or at Main and Oakwood in front of the Candy Shoppe. I loved those big street cars, but it sure was a wobbly ride.”

The Kenmore/Zoo/Parkside trolley line was abandoned, and buses began following the route in June, 1950. Trolley service stopped in the city on July 1, 1950, replaced by motor busses.

The late Al Kerr spent a lifetime photographing trains, streetcars, and anything having to do with traction, including many of the photos on these pages. Little did he know, that his photographs would serve, decades later, as one of the best glimpses into everyday life in Western New York in the 1940s and 50s. His son, Fred Kerr, said traction was always his dad’s passion.

Parkside at Jewett, 1940s, Al Kerr photo

“He was a train buff, and this all started at a very early age.  He lived and grew up in the Kensington area, and he was friends with many train enthusiasts. It became his passion, too. He became involved in the National Railway Historical Society, over which he was a member for over 50 years. He loved railroading, but his passion was traction, and that meant street cars. He traveled all over the United States, collecting timetables, and photographing trains and street cars. Of course he took a great number of photos in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area.”

Parkside near Florence, 1946. Photo by Al Kerr

“When you have a passion, just like someone who runs marathons, or loves ships, or aviation, it was his hobby. He loved street cars, interurban lines. He loved steam engines, he loved riding trains; he traveled all around North America on trains. He never flew in his life. He loved doing it, he loved giving speeches about trains and street cars. The library at the NHRS Museum in Tonawanda is called the Albert D. Kerr Library.”

From Parkside onto Hertel

When trolley/street car lines were extended past Delavan Avenue towards the city line starting in the 1880’s, Main Street became a clickety-clacking spaghetti-style stretch of interweaving city lines, until the last street cars were removed from service in 1950. 30 years later, mass transit moved under Main Street, and several neighborhood landmarks made way for MetroRail Stations.

One of two houses removed to make way for the MetroRail Humboldt Station, The Frank-Culliton House was an unassuming brick home built circa 1865-1875, and at the time of its demolition in the 1980s was one of the oldest in the area. Mr. Frank’s son was an architect, and designed the neighboring apartment building, which was built to serve visitors to the Pan American Exposition in 1901. The Culliton family bought the home in 1911, moving to Buffalo from Niagara Falls. Culliton was in the stone business, and dredged the track bed for the Beltline Railway, as well as numerous homes and businesses, like the Sears Store at Main and Jefferson (later Blue Cross, now the Canisius Science building), and the Ford Factory (now the Tri-Main Building.) Mike Riester wrote of the house at the time the wrecking ball swung in 1985. “The home’s stately mid-nineteenth century exterior of neat red brick quietly reminded those who passed by of the graciousness of an earlier age, when Main Street was both rural and residential.”

Just as Parkside rattled 70 years before with the blasting out of the Beltline railbed, January, 1982 had the north end of Parkside shaking for track-laying once again for the Amherst Street MetroRail station. At the time, officials projected that it will be the second busiest stop along the MetroRail route, with 9,700 passengers arriving and departing each day. Only the Lafayette Square Station was expected to be busier. While in 2008 the NFTA had no way to quantify the numbers arriving and departing at each stop, spokesman Douglas Hartmeyer says there are approximately 23,000 passengers on the entire Metro Rail system each day.

©2009 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon

The 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York.