Torn-Down Tuesday: Laube’s Cafeteria, Pearl and West Eagle streets

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A 46-year era came to an end in 1968 as Laube’s Cafeteria – first opened in 1922 – closed as business nearly ground to a halt with the building of the Main Place Mall across the street and demolition started for the Rath Building just to the south.

Charles Laube started the restaurant empire, which briefly spread to Rochester, in 1907 after moving to Buffalo from Germany. His first place was called “My Lunch,” a 32-seat diner at 33 Niagara St. When the larger building opened up around the corner at Pearl and West Eagle, Laube hopped at the chance and created one of Buffalo’s most beloved dining spots through the 1930s and 1940s.

The Family Court Building now stands where generations of Buffalonians ate affordable meals at Laubes Cafeteria. Buffalo News archives

The Family Court Building now stands where generations of Buffalonians ate affordable meals at Laube’s Cafeteria. (Buffalo News archives)

Diners catching one last meal before the neon and grills went cold remembered how novel the idea of balcony seating was when the place first opened.

Laubes Cafeteria Buffalo Stories archives

Laube Cafeterias. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“Being taken to Laube’s for lunch before a matinee at the Buffalo Theater was a treat – maybe the best part about coming downtown,” remembered one Buffalonian.

At its peak, 2,000 people a day ate at Laube’s Cafeteria, where the well-known slogan was “famous for food.” Laube’s was also famous for quality and high standards, only giving into the overwhelming savings of paper napkins over cloth napkins within the last few years of operation.

The fate of the Laube’s building was sealed within months of the restaurant’s closure. The City of Buffalo bought the property, and leveled it with hopes of a companion development to Main Place Mall.

The Laube family still operated a cafeteria inside the YMCA as well as a full-service restaurant inside the Lord Amherst Hotel at Main and Kensington in Snyder.

By then, the family’s best remembered restaurant, Laube’s Old Spain, located next door to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre in downtown Buffalo, had already been closed. The City of Buffalo assumed ownership of the Shea’s Buffalo and Laube’s Old Spain building for back taxes at the same auction in 1975.

Laubes Old Spain, Main Street, next to Sheas Buffalo. Later the home of Swiss Chalet, it is now The Sheas Smith Theatre. Buffalo Stories archives

Laube’s Old Spain, was located on Main Street next to Shea’s Buffalo. Later the home of Swiss Chalet, it is now the Shea’s Smith Theatre. (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

Torn-down Tuesday: Gas station behind City Hall

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s been the site of a parking lot for most of recent memory, but in 1951, as you left City Hall, walking up Niagara Street towards the West Side, an interesting little gas station was among the first buildings you’d encounter.

Buffalo News Archives

The gas station, which was on Niagara Street, is long gone, but the building next door on the very short piece of West Mohawk Street still stands.

Buffalo News Archives

Even Old Buffalo Looking New: Ch.4’s 1960’s Buffalove

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

BUFFALO, NY – My friend Libby wrote something the other day which made me think. She was talking about the cold and the gray and the snow, and how we don’t even realize how the darkness of it all creeps into our personality.

“Honestly do not even realize I am depressed, until the sun comes out and everything is sunshiny and I feel the depression lift!”

skyway
I read this amidst my going through my collection of old radio and TV trade magazines. In the late 50s and early 60s, these magazines were filled with ads from local radio and TV stations looking to appeal to national advertisers. They talk about how great the station is, but also how wonderful the city and it’s people are– a great place to sell your stuff.

There are plenty of great ads from Buffalo stations. It’s like a Buffalo version of the wacky creative efforts you might see from the guys on Mad Men.

WBENTVbuildings

I’ve used these old magazines as a resource for years. Decades even. This time, however, the feeling was different, and Libby’s exaltation helped me put my finger on what made some of these ads better than they were the last time I looked.

These ads look better and more interesting, because there is hope and brightness in Buffalo like we haven’t seen here since the late 50s.

These ads, from 1958 and 1964, show WBEN-TV’s excitement for Buffalo and what is to come, and are meant to showcase the “just-over-the-horizon New Buffalo” that was on it’s way.

These ads feel fresh and great, because while there was a 60 year lag, that New Buffalo really is just around the corner this time.

WBENTVgrainelevators

When we were filled with gloom and darkness about our city, we would look and read these, and point to the empty, rotting grain elevators as a vestige of a vanished industry.

We’d look closely on the Skyway image, and see the beams marked with the logo of Bethlehem Steel. It was a bridge built to get 15,000 men from the city to their jobs in a plant that’s been cold for 30 years.

We imagine what Buffalo would have looked like if we didn’t build highways and downtown office buildings for 2 million expected Western New Yorkers, and we lament the buildings that were lost because too much of downtown was torn down too quickly for the wrong reasons.

But now, with the sun out here for the first time in generations, we look at these images and see progress and what’s to come. We now recreate under the Skyway, with promise of more to come. Grain elevators and malt houses are becoming the avant-garde, up-and-coming spaces that the next generation of Buffalonians realize are incredibly unique to us alone, as moves are made to re-imagine and re-purpose what makes us unique.

WBENTVskyway

And with cranes and scaffolds up in dozens of places around the city, the thought of “new building” isn’t necessarily followed by “oh no.”

As the sun shines, and us Buffalonians feel the depression about our city lift, we’re beginning to figure out how to make our dynamic past, part of our dynamic future.

And we’re getting excited about seeing how the same ol’stuff starts to look different with some sunshine on it, warming the face and the soul.