Torn-Down Tuesday: Main and Swan, kitty-corner to today’s Ellicott Square

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This is a 1912 look at the southwest corner of Main and Swan, a block west of Coca-Cola Field and kitty-corner to the Ellicott Square Building.

Buffalo Stories archives

The following year, the buildings were torn down to make way for a new M&T Bank headquarters on the site. That building eventually served as Buffalo’s Federal Reserve Bank branch.

Buffalo Stories archives

The spot has been a parking lot now for nearly 60 years.

When the bank building was demolished in 1959, its columns were shipped to the University at Buffalo for a project that was never completed. In 1978, the columns had been lying in storage at what had become UB’s South Campus for almost 20 years when they were cleaned and placed at Baird Point on UB’s North Campus.

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street in postcards

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo Stories takes postcards of several parts of Main Street from the past and compares them with current street views.

Two views of Shelton Square, Main at Niagara.

Main no longer intersects with Niagara Street. That portion of Niagara Street was gobbled up by the Main Place complex.


Main at Court

The corner once famous as a stop for the yellow street car to Niagara Falls is now famous for Tim Hortons coffee.


Main at Huron


The Main and Huron intersection has completely changed several times since the days of the horse and buggy.


Main at Chippewa

In the 1950s, from Main and Chippewa, you could see the Harvey & Carey Drug Store, MacDoel’s Nightclub, Whiteman Music shop, and a handful of movie theaters.


The only immediate similarity with today’s view is the restored Shea’s Buffalo marquee.


Main from Tupper


This is nearly the same view from the other direction a few years earlier. It shows Laube’s Old Spain, now Shea’s Smith Theatre, Shea’s Buffalo and the Paramount Theatre.

Torn-down Tuesday: Shelton Square in 1964

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Until the lifeless and drab Main Place Mall and Tower replaced its character-filled old buildings, billboards and neon signs, Shelton Square was more or less Buffalo’s version of Times Square.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

It was the city’s crossroads; it was bright and vibrant. It was the place where people transferred streetcars and buses — just about every line in the city came through. Standing in Shelton Square, you were a few blocks from the Crystal Beach Boat in one direction, a few blocks from the Town Casino the other way. It was the middle of the action that was Buffalo.

If you remember it, it was a special place.

It was filled with character and characters. There was Domenic Battaglia, who ran the newsstand shown at Niagara and Main starting in 1929 “with his oversized cap, news apron and halfchewed cigar.” His News obituary called him “a goodnatured curmudgeon who was out daily in all kinds of weather to sell newspapers and magazines. He never wore gloves even on the coldest days and often heckled his customers who did.”

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Battaglia’s newsstand is in front of the Harvey & Carey Drug store at Main and Niagara.

He moved to Main and Church when the entire Niagara Street was eliminated from the map, now underneath the Main Place Tower.

In the very foreground of the photo is the top of the Palace Burlesk sign. George Kunz, whose beautifully crafted memories of days gone by used to appear in The News, wrote “the Palace exuded life. Pedestrians passing during showtime heard raucous, robust sounds of extravagant fun. The orchestra blared, drums rumbled and laughter, a rollicking outrageous laughter, tumbled out the doors onto Main Street.”

“Such was the theater’s fame that for years the Palace was used as a focus for any downtown geographical instructions,” wrote Kunz in 1993. “’You know where the Palace is . . . well, you turn right there.’ Everybody remembered the lively marquee with the dancing girl figures kicking endlessly to the rhythm of blinking lights.”

Right next door to the Palace, disc jockey Tom Clay — known as “Guy King” on WWOL Radio – ushered in the rock ‘n’ roll era in Buffalo on July 3, 1955, when he climbed out of the station’s window and onto the giant WWOL billboard.

There, he urged the teens in his audience to drive to Shelton Square and honk their horns if they wanted to hear Bill Haley and The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock.” They did in huge numbers, and he kept playing “Rock Around the Clock” until the fire department showed up with a ladder truck to help police get him off the billboard. After climbing back in the station window, he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for the stunt.

On the pages of The News, Janice Okun wrote about Hughes Restaurant, “the dingy old coffee shop on Shelton Square where you sat on high stools at even higher marble tables and injected fat into yourself in the form of Snappy Cheese Sandwiches, while drinking coffee from a clunky mug carefully. Because if you dropped the mug, it would break a toe.”

Minnie Feiner’s had high tables, too. And there was Minnie Messina’s cafeteria through the ’50s and ’60s.

In 1965, most of the buildings in this photo started to come down. In December, it was announced the new $20 million complex being built in its place was given a name “big enough for such a big project — Main Place.”

This part of Niagara Street is now covered by the Main Place Tower.

This block of Niagara Street, between Main and Pearl, is now covered by the Main Place Tower. City Hall (upper left) and the McKinley Monument were visible from Main Street at Shelton Square until 1968.

At the time, editorial page writers panned the name, saying it wasn’t distinctive and was “anything but appealing.”

One writer said, “It’s a terrible name. It grates on one’s ears. … It certainly wasn’t given too much thought.”

In hindsight, though, it’s probably better that the name many wanted to keep — Shelton Square — was retired. It makes it easier to give a name to the memories.

A 1980's view of Main Street, with the Main Place Mall and Tower on the right, and Woolworth's and AM&A's on the left.

A 1980s view of Main Street, with the Main Place Mall and Tower on the right and Woolworth’s and AM&A’s on the left.

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street in transition, 1981

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This photo of Main Street was snapped just before a handful of 1980s projects would change the thoroughfare’s look and feel forever.

Buffalo News archives
Buffalo News archives

Absent are the MetroRail, the Hyatt, the TGI Friday’s/Comfort Suites building, the former KeyTower and the former Goldome Headquarters (now used by M&T.)

Buffalo News archivesBuffalo News archives 

In the very foreground of this section of the larger photo, there’s the two-floor Burger King at Main and Mohawk, and the Century Theatre next door. You can also see some of the storefronts in the ground level of what is now the Hyatt.

Buffalo News archives
Buffalo News archives

This photo shows more of what is now the Hyatt and the beginning of the clearing of buildings for Fountain Plaza on the west side of Main. On the east side, the buildings soon to be cleared for the Goldome headquarters are still intact, as are the buildings which would make way for TGI Friday’s north of Chippewa Street.

Buffalo News archives
Buffalo News archives

The area known for a generation now as the Theatre District was a block more or less in disrepair.

MORE: Buffalo in the ’80s: Pre MetroRail Buffalo


This first appeared at history.buffalonews.com.

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What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main Street in transition, 1981

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This photo of Main Street was snapped just before a handful of 1980s projects would change the thoroughfare’s look and feel forever.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

Absent are the MetroRail, the Hyatt, the TGI Friday’s/Comfort Suites building, the former KeyTower and the former Goldome Headquarters (now used by M&T).

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

In the very foreground of this section of the larger photo, there’s the two-floor Burger King at Main and Mohawk, and the Century Theatre next door.  You can also see some of the storefronts in the ground level of what is now the Hyatt.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

This photo shows more of what is now the Hyatt and the beginning of the clearing of buildings for Fountain Plaza on the west side of Main. On the east side, the buildings soon to be cleared for the Goldome headquarters are still intact, as are the buildings which would make way for TGI Friday’s north of Chippewa Street.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

The area known for a generation now as the Theater District was a block more or less in disrepair.

Buffalo in the ’40s: the Ford Buffalo Assembly Plant

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

In the wake of World War II, there was a nearly five-year period where no American passenger cars were being built. As the war effort gave way to renewed consumerism, Buffalo’s Ford Assembly Plant saw its first postwar car roll off the line in September 1946.

Buffalo News acrhives

Buffalo News archives

The plant was built on Fuhrmann Boulevard in 1930 to replace Ford’s facility on Main Street in Buffalo. Six hundred thousand Model T Fords were built in the building known now as the Tri-Main Center and shipped off on the adjacent New York Central Beltline railway.

Ford Plant, 1920. Now the Tri-Main Building. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Ford Plant, 1920. Now the Tri-Main Building. (Buffalo Stories archives)

About 1,400 workers lost their jobs when Ford closed the Buffalo Assembly Plant in 1958. It was replaced by a new facility in Lorain, Ohio.

Ford’s nearby stamping plant remains in operation to this day, having turned out body parts for many different cars through the years, including the then-new Ford Escort, shown here in 1980 with Mayor James D. Griffin behind the wheel.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

What it looked like Wednesday: The Village of Williamsville, 1933

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This airborne shot of Main Street in the Village of Williamsville looks down Main from what is now the Creekview Restaurant, past what is now Amherst Town Hall, down to what is now the Beach-Tuyn Funeral Home and beyond.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

Williamsville Island is now Island Park, and the home to Old Home Days.

What it looked like Wednesday: The Zamboni drives up Main Street, 1975

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The City of Buffalo owned Memorial Auditorium and ran the day-to-day operation of the venue in a way that doesn’t happen with Erie County and First Niagara Center. This included apparently, changing the oil on the Zamboni.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

So, as Sabres fever in Buffalo was hitting a high point in February of 1975 — as the Sabres where destined for the Stanley Cup Finals that year — Jim Lombardo took the Zamboni in for “routine maintenance.”

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

Whatever exactly that meant, it involved driving the Zamboni from Memorial Auditorium up Main Street to a city garage for repairs. The maximum speed for this vehicle — which is cruising the 600 block of Main in these photos — was 8 mph.

Likely the heads of a few lunch patrons at the Swiss Chalet’s original location (across Main from Shea’s) were turned, as The Aud’s ice resurfacer incongruously schlepped its way past the window.

The repairs must have worked. The ice was so great at The Aud the following night that the Sabres and Flyers combined for 12 goals in a 6-6 tie.

Torn-Down Tuesday: The Mansion House, Main & Exchange, 1932

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Mansion House was built on the ground one of Buffalo’s early taverns and hotels. Originally known as Crow’s Tavern, the place was bought by Phillip Landon, an early surveyor of Buffalo, in 1806.

Buffalo News archives

(Buffalo News archives)

Landon’s public house served as Buffalo’s first public school as well as Buffalo’s first county courtroom.

The original tavern was destroyed when the British burned Buffalo in 1813.  Phillip Dorsheimer bought the entire block, and built a five-story building. Another floor was added, and that rebuilt gin mill was styled into a modern hotel by new owner Rebecca Wheeler in 1829.

For the next 100 years, the hotel served Buffalo’s elite arriving first by stage coach, then by canal and then by rail.

“The Mansion House, the career of which abounds in color and historic lore, was host to aristocracy of its day,” wrote The News as the building was slated for demolition in 1932.

The structure was called “one of the most outstanding landmarks in Buffalo’s history” weeks before it was taken down, to make way for buildings to be utilized by the New York Central Railroad.

The New York Central right-of-ways were then sold to New York State for the building of the I-190.

Piers holding up the I-190 now occupy the space once home to Mansion House.

What it looked like Wednesday: Lines at the grocery during World War II rationing, 1943

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The Office of Price Administration was actually established several months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, as the country prepared for the possibility of war.

Weeks after the declaration of war, price controls and rationing were implemented on all manner of consumer goods except agricultural products.

Ben Dykstra, butcher and grocer at the corner of Main and Merrimac in University Heights, shows off the full March, 1943 ration of canned goods for a family of four.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

Families had to register for ration books, as Mrs. EW England was doing at School 16 on Delaware and Hodge in 1943.

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Women jammed markets when they knew they could get good meat. Such was the case at Neber & McGill Butchers on William Street in 1943.

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Additional ration points could be earned by turning in food waste, like grease, for the war effort. Mrs. Robert Bond of Hampshire Street collected four cents and two brown ration points for turning in a pound of rendered kitchen fat to Anthony Scime, of Scime Brothers Grocery, at Hampshire and 19th on the West Side.

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Even after the war, shortages continued. This is the scene at the Mohican Market on Main Street near Fillmore in 1946, on a day when butter was available.

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The News called it “a mob scene” inside, where Office of Price Administration rules dropped the price to 53 cents. Some markets, confused by the change in rules, were selling for 64 cents.

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The OPA was dissolved and price controls ended in 1947.