Torn-Down Tuesday: The Bailey Homestead, circa 1880

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When William Bailey bought the land on both sides of what is now Bailey Avenue between Broadway and William, it was little more than a wooded trail. “Bailey’s Road” became Bailey Avenue when the right of way was donated to the city in 1854.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

After coming to Buffalo via the Erie Canal in 1830, Bailey built his home along Batavia Street, now Broadway, near Bailey Avenue.  The trees cleared from his property became the timber backbone of one of America’s fastest-growing cities in the second half of the nineteenth century. When New York Central first laid down tracks across Buffalo’s East Side, they did it through Bailey’s backyard. He also quarried the stone needed for the railbeds and bridges that New York Central went on to build in the area.

In 1856, Bailey built a palatial home at Franklin and Tupper, which was long remembered as Buffalo’s first building with plate glass windows.

The Buffalo You Should Know: Big names of Buffalo’s tumultuous banking past

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

“It doesn’t take very long for a newcomer to become acquainted with Buffalo’s banks,” wrote News Reporter Robert J. Summers in 1980. “Stand at a corner like Main and Court, and you can see most of the big buildings where they are headquartered.”

Of the five bank headquarters Summers listed as visible from that intersection, only one remains in business 36 years later.

As the names involved in Buffalo’s banking scene are changing once again, BN Chronicles looks back at the names that might have been stamped on the front of your first savings account passbook or at the top of your first paycheck.

1979 ad. Buffalo Stories archives

Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company was founded in Buffalo in 1856. M&T was and is headquartered in the 318-foot, 21-floor building at One M&T Plaza that opened in 1966. That block has seen plenty of history.

M&T branch on Abbott Road at Stevenson, South Buffalo. (Buffalo News archives)

In 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s body laid in state at the St. James Hotel on the site. The Hotel Iroquois, and then the Bond Men’s store, occupied the north part of the site until 1964. M&T’s headquarters was first built on the southern half of the block now occupied by the headquarters building in 1916.

1964, just before the demolition of the circa-1916 M&T headquarters and Bond Menswear. AM&A’s is in the background. The block with H. Seeberg and the Palace Burlesk was torn down and is now green space. (Buffalo News archives)

In 1980, Marine Midland Bank was Buffalo’s oldest bank and headquartered in Buffalo’s tallest building.

Marine Trust’s Main & Seneca office, 1951 (Buffalo News archives)

Founded in 1850, Marine Midland was the nation’s 12th largest bank with $12 billion in assets in 1980. It was acquired by HSBC Bank in 1999. HSBC sold off its Buffalo-area branches to First Niagara in 2011. By the end of the summer, it’s expected that First Niagara will be acquired by KeyBank. The former Marine Midland Center is now known as One Seneca Tower.

Marine Midland ad for a “groovy Bills bank,” 1969. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Western Savings Bank’s headquarters was right on the corner that Summers chose as his 1980 vantage point for financial institutions. It’s the building with CVS Pharmacy currently occupying the ground floor space that was once Western’s main office.

Western Savings Bank ad, 1979. (Buffalo Stories archives)

While Western joined other area banks in demolishing decades-old Roman-inspired headquarters buildings for flashy new high-rise towers in the 1960s, by the early 1980s, deposits were falling and Western was losing money. In 1981, Western merged with longtime rival Buffalo Savings Bank.

Buffalo Savings Bank opened a temporary branch serving skiers at Kissing Bridge in 1980. Buffalo News archives

Buffalo Savings Bank’s famous gold-domed headquarters, designed by E.B. Green, is the rare survivor of our city’s magnificent bank buildings. As it expanded and acquired outside of Buffalo, Buffalo Savings Bank changed its name to Goldome — as a nod to its great headquarters with a name a bit less parochial sounding.

The Buffalo Savings Bank building with its famous gold dome, photographed in 2009. (Buffalo News file photo)

Like many banking institutions around the country, Goldome grew too quickly and went under during the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s. In 1991, Goldome’s assets were split between KeyBank — which entered the Buffalo market after Empire of America succumbed to the S&L crisis — and another bank in 1989.

Buffalo Stories archives, 1960

For the same reasons Buffalo Savings Bank became Goldome, “The Big E” changed its name from Erie County Savings Bank to Empire of America in 1981. After nearly a decade of borrowing to acquire other banks around the country, in 1989 Empire told regulators it was insolvent and posted a $158 million loss in the third quarter.

Big E celebrated 125 years in business in 1979. Ten years later, the federal government assumed control of the bank. (Buffalo Stories archives)

As longtime Buffalo banks Buffalo Savings and Big E were busy buying up other deposit bases, longtime Buffalo institution Liberty Bank instead was bought up.

Liberty Bank’s branch at Bailey & Kensington, 1930s. (Buffalo News Archives)

While the twin Lady Liberties atop the bank’s headquarters still stand proudly on Buffalo’s skyline, in 1985 Liberty Bank became Liberty Norstar. Boston’s Fleet Bank bought Norstar in 1987, and in 2004, all Fleet branches became Bank of America branches after those two institutions had merged.

Buffalo Trust, previously known as Buffalo German Bank, was headquartered in a Victorian Italianate structure that was torn down in 1957 to make way for the Tishman building, the longtime headquarters of National Fuel. Today the site is home to a Hilton Garden Inn.  (1924 ad, Buffalo Stories archives.)

 

Buffalo in the ’80s: Smiling Ted’s Used Cars (and community service)

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

He smiled when he could put you in one of his “quality used cars,” and he smiled when he could find some way to help those who needed it. From 1961 until his death in 1996, Thaddeus Sawicki lived up to the name “Smiling Ted” in just about every way imaginable.

Buffalo News archives

He was the king of the stretch of Bailey Avenue that was known for decades as a sort of shopping mall for used cars.

Cigar-chomping, gold-jewelry-wearing Sawicki embraced the happy-yet-no-nonsense persona he created, but not the shady, high-pressure, corner cutting notion of what some thought every used car dealer was.

Sawicki, the youngest of 12, grew up in Lackawanna, and he opened the dealership near Bailey and Walden when he was 28. Over the next 35 years, he became a fixture in the community. Twice he helped police collar thieves trying to sell stolen cars.

He also remembered growing up wearing hand-me-downs and putting cardboard in his shoes. It made it easy for him to help the community’s neediest.

Buffalo News archives

Smiling Ted’s story is a prequel to the Russell Salvatore story: Both were self-made businessmen from humble beginnings, and both believed in giving back to the community that built them up.

In 1987, Sawicki (pictured above with his grandson Ted Jr.) spent around $45,000 buying Christmas gifts for 1,500 of Buffalo’s poorest kids. The same year, he bought dinner for 800 at the City Mission, “including real butter and sugar on the table” for Christmas.

Part of it was wanting to help, part of it was wanting to defeat the attitude towards used car dealers which lead to some banks not working with him or his customers, especially in the earliest days of his business.

Sawicki told News Reporter Ray Hill that he’d seen used car dealers come and go — and that the fly-by-night ones always made his honest work more difficult.

“One of those who came, and happily for Smiling Ted, has gone, was the late Dan ‘Shame on you’ Creed,” wrote Hill in 1987. “(The) Canadian who affected a southern accent moved to Buffalo in the mid-1960s, and huckstered jalopies with the not-so-subtle flair of a snake oil salesman who left town in a hurry after someone beat him with a baseball bat, leaving many people feeling like they didn’t like the taste of his snake oil.”

“It was the Dan Creeds of the world that made my life difficult,” Smiling Ted told Ray Hill.

But Smiling Ted was definitely one of Buffalo’s all-time great characters.

Buffalo News archives

“I’m miserable, but I have a heart of gold,” he told The News’ Jane Kwiatkowski in 1988. “People are jealous of me, but I work hard. I’m here in the wintertime. My wife and daughter and I are outside shoveling the snow and wiping the cars off.”

But why “Smiling” Ted?

“’Cause I always smile,” Sawicki told Kwiatkowski. “I see the color of money, and I got to smile.”

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Eduardo’s on Bailey Avenue

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Eduardo’s Restaurant on Bailey Avenue at LaSalle survived long enough to be remembered differently by different generations.

Buffalo News archives

The Tarquini family started what wound up being a chain of seven restaurants in 1953 on Bailey, and it quickly became one of Bailey’s most popular pizzerias.

Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories archive

Before Eduardo and his wife, Alice, retired from the business in 1980, the original Eduardo’s had been a pizzeria, a 1960s-style nightclub with live music, and a 1970s-style club as well.

Steve Cichon/Buffalo Stories archive

The address that was Eduardo’s for a quarter century is now a mental health services clinic.

Selling Chevys in Buffalo in the 1960s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

You can almost hear the guttural laments of car enthusiasts everywhere.

Few cars are more sought after than early Corvettes, and there likely haven’t been many available at $2,795 since Mernan Chevrolet put this one out on the Bailey Avenue lot back in 1960.

While many among us can see ourselves peeling off the hundreds to buy such a classic at such a rare price, it must be noted that the National Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator says this ‘Vette actually cost about $22,500 in 2015 dollars. Still a great deal, but maybe it doesn’t sting as bad for having missed it?

57 Chevy for $1595

Right around the same time, Mernan also offered more of a working man’s classic.

For decades, the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air has been a sought-after ride. It’s considered among the most perfect examples of 1950s American design and consumer culture.

During the spring of 1960, it was little more than a three-year old used car that the folks at Mernan Chevy wanted off their Bailey Avenue lot.

A few years later, Mernan was hoping a little mid-’60s sex appeal would help clear out their “dreamy 1965 models” to make room for 1966 Chevys.