LB Smith Plaza/Abbott Rd. Plaza, 1976

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

An emailer asked what the name of the deli in the Abbott Rd. Plaza was back in the day….

That was Columbia Foods.

While looking that up, I also came across the list of Abbott Road Plaza merchants in 1976.

Good times at Abbott & Ridge!

What’s a milk machine, Dad?

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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.

Buffalo in the ’50s: Lackawanna without ‘the ugliest building on planet Earth’

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This 1958 view from the bell tower at Our Lady of Victory Basilica is still recognizable today, with one notable addition to the streetscape and one notable subtraction.

Cord’s Drugs was a popular Lackawanna spot.

Cord’s Drug Store has been a parking lot for decades now, but many still remember waiting for the bus inside the split-level store, hoping not to get yelled at for ignoring the sign that directed, in bold letters, not to read the magazines.

It was a great old full-service drugstore, with a place to test radio and TV tubes and a big selection of model cars, comic books and candy.

Next door on Ridge Road was Ruda’s Records, later May’s Music when Ruda’s moved to the East Side.

South Ridge Restaurant was on Ridge Road in the 1950s.

Across Ridge Road was the longtime home of the South Ridge Restaurant, which according to the sign on the South Park side of the building, served Fairmont Dairy products. A few doors down, the only part of Parson’s Pharmacy that’s visible is the Rich’s Ice Cream sign, at a time when dozens of local dairies and larger conglomerates vied for Buffalo’s milk and ice cream dollars.

The Colonial Kitchen restaurant was around the corner on Ridge Road and was the first of what became a chain of several restaurants, including one further down South Park Avenue in Blasdell, and another on Seneca Street in South Buffalo.

Notably missing in 1958 is the building that Lackawanna’s mayor calls “the ugliest building on planet Earth.”

Lackawanna City Hall, 2013

The modernist, orange-paneled box on stilts which was added to the front of Lackawanna’s City Hall during the late ’60s and early ’70s has been a source of derision since plans for expanding the Steel City’s government offices in the early 1960s.

The Lackawanna City Council approved $400,000 for the building of an addition to City Hall in 1965. By the time the project was finished, it had cost $1.5 million.

There was controversy over where it would be built. It was front page news when after the building was nearly complete, a leak in the faulty ventilation system caused thousands in damage to ceiling tiles, rugs and draperies that weren’t even used yet. Truckloads of furniture showed up before bids were reviewed and contracts signed.

Despite all this, in 1970, Lackawanna Mayor Mark L. Balen called the structure the “most beautiful facility that will more than adequately serve this community for the next 50 years.”

In 1973, the building made front page news again – this time, the front page of The New York Times – as Lackawanna’s entire five-man Council and the city clerk were all indicted by a federal grand jury on interstate racketeering charges in connection with the building and furnishing of the giant orange addition. Two years later, the six were cleared of extortion and conspiracy charges.

In talking about building a new City Hall and demolishing the orange-paneled addition at the current building, Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski told The News in June 2018, “We’ll be bringing that down and I’ll be handing out orange panels to my enemies, for Christmas.”

Buffalo in the ’30s: Queen City Hospitals

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

In 1932, Buffalo was swept up in the celebration of the city’s centennial, and many groups and organizations that had existed through those 100 years took the opportunity to celebrate their own existence as well.

Buffalo Stories archives

The Buffalo Academy of Medicine — particularly proud that Buffalo’s first mayor, Ebenezer Johnson, was a medical doctor — wrote a lengthy history of the practice of medicine from Buffalo’s frontier days right up to the most modern advances 1932 could offer.

The most interesting part, however, might not be that dryly written narrative,  but the index of hospitals open in Buffalo in the centennial year.

Buffalo Stories archives

The directory offers a glimpse of medical care in a different era: the J.N. Adam Memorial Hospital devoted to the “various phases of tuberculosis.” The Moses Taylor Hospital in Lackawanna “chiefly for the care of industrial accident cases.” Buffalo State Hospital, “a special state hospital of 2,400 beds devoted entirely to mental diseases.”

Several of the hospitals also took out ads in the booklet — they give a look at some of the hospital buildings around Buffalo as they stood 85 years ago.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

 

Torn-Down Tuesday: Ridge Road’s Golden Arches

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The building still stands, but the golden arches came down — at least figuratively — in October 1984, as one of Western New York’s longest-surviving original McDonald’s hamburger stands served up its last Big Mac.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

After 20 years on Ridge Road, millions of hamburgers served, and employing about 6,000 Lackawanna teens through the years, The Steel City’s only McDonald’s shut its doors as the corporation was looking to modernize the original stands into the more familiar mansard-roofed 1980s buildings.

A similar-looking McDonald’s stand on Clinton Street was torn down and modernized around the same time this one was closed.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Signs of Bethlehem Steel along Route 5

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

For decades now, thick weeds have enveloped chain link fencing right up to the roadway along Route 5 in Lackawanna.

Buffalo News archives

Thirty-two years ago, even as Bethlehem Steel’s operations were winding down, there was no room for weeds. This photo shows the trappings of steel manufacturing, familiar for generations along that stretch of the lakeshore.

This photo was taken in 1983, as part of a story talking about traffic tie-ups on Route 5.

Buffalo in the ’80s: What Black Friday looked like at K-Mart in 1986

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This is what Black Friday 1986 looked like at the K-Mart store on Ridge Road in Lackawanna.

Buffalo News archives

Discounted televisions and VCRs got people lined up nice and early on the day after Thanksgiving 29 years ago, when this store was one of the first to open its doors that morning. The signs on the door clearly state the store would be opening much earlier than usual: at 7 a.m.

The signs also promote Breakfast with Santa. The kids’ pancake breakfast was $1.19; adults paid $1.69.

This K-Mart location, which closed in 1999, is now home to Global Concepts Charter School.

 

Torn-down Tuesday: Bethlehem Steel from the air

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It’s with a hybrid of longing and loathing that we look back at Bethlehem Steel.

By itself, a title like “Torn-down Tuesday” might inspire a sense of loss and memories of once-wonderful places that vanished after a misguided date with a steam shovel or a backhoe.

Sometimes, it’s a bit more complicated. Many of us fondly remember the days when 20,000 of our Western New York neighbors worked for Bethlehem Steel. It was dangerous, back-breaking, really terrible work — but the good pay and benefits from Bethlehem and other manufacturing giants provided the means for hundreds of thousands of men to offer the next generation a life better than their own.

The burning of coal to smelt iron, and the slag and smoke that process created, left our ground, water, and air heavily polluted. It contributed to irreversible environmental damage and very likely played some role in the sickness and disease of thousands of people who never stepped foot in the plant.

But still, smoke stacks meant jobs.

The smoke stacks were still there when this photo was taken in 1984, but most of the jobs left in 1982 when the main plant closed.