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.

aaaBuffaloStoriesBNChronicles Watermark

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.

The Buffalo You Should Know: WNY amusement parks through the decades

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Just what counts as an amusement park has been determined on a sliding scale since the phrase was first recorded in the 1890s.

Buffalo News archives

Crystal Beach, 1989. (Buffalo News archives)

Tell an iPad kid of today that he’s going to an amusement park, and visions of mega-coasters and waterparks at Darien Lake or Disney World will dance in his head.

It’s a far cry from when Buffalonians of not-so-long-ago were contented with the tilt-a-whirl and a merry-go-round permanently set up in some department store parking lot.

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For a century, Buffalo’s gold standard for amusement parks — no matter how that term was defined — was Crystal Beach. When it was founded in 1888, Crystal Beach was celebrated for the healing powers of its natural sand and crystal-clear waters. Steamboat excursions from Buffalo, first on the Puritan and the Pearl and later on the Americana and Canadiana, brought visitors to Lake Erie’s Canadian shores, but also to several similar resorts along the shores of Western New York.

Elmwood Beach Grand Island

In 1897, Grand Island’s Elmwood Beach was promoted as the only temperance — that is, alcohol-free — park and beach on the American side of the international border. It was opened in 1894 by the White Line lake steamer company, to provide its passengers with a destination it called “The Island Paradise of Buffalo.” It was operated by Harvey Ferren, owner of the Court Street Theatre downtown.

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It was built as “a safe place for bathing” for women and children, with hard white-sand beaches. Special park police made sure that there was no “objectionable swim attire” at this summer resort that “was on a scale previously unknown in the area.” The fact that no liquor was sold there made it a popular destination for church groups, which boarded the boat to the resort at the foot of Ferry Street.

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Elmwood Beach was one of a handful of such resorts that popped up on Grand Island. Eldorado Beach was another.

New “high-class amusements and novelties” were unveiled for the 1899 season, but by 1910, the place had been abandoned. The parcel eventually became part of Beaver Island State Park, unveiled in 1939.

West Seneca’s Lein’s Park, Cheektowaga’s Bellvue Park, Fillmore Avenue’s Teutonia Park

These rustic, outdoorsy amusement areas were a drive out to the country in their day, but the land they were once located upon has long since been developed. The areas were used most by Buffalo’s growing German immigrant population.

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Lein’s Park was built over the course of nearly a decade by Gardenville’s Henry Lein, just south of Cazenovia Creek and what is now Southgate Plaza on Union Road, starting in 1895.

Home to a bear pit, bowling alley and dance hall, the park closed up at some point after Lein — who served as West Seneca town supervisor — was found guilty of graft and sent to prison in Auburn in 1913. He was later pardoned by the governor and re-elected supervisor.

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Buffalo’s German-Americans were clearly the target clientele for Fillmore Avenue’s Teutonia Park, “the family resort of the East Side” of the 1880s and 1890s.

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While catering to Germans, the grounds one block north of Martin Luther King Jr. (then Parade) Park were owned by Baptist Kahabka, “one of Buffalo’s leading Polish citizens.” The park was one of Buffalo’s leading sports and conventions grounds, with boxing matches and picnics attracting crowds of up to 10,000 people somewhat regularly.

In 1921, the city cleared the land where the park once stood, and built East High School on the easternmost part of the plot.

Bellevue Park sprang up along Cayuga Creek at the last stop of a trolley line from Buffalo. The Bellevue Hotel on Como Park Boulevard was once a part of the sprawling 30-acre park, which was open until around the turn of the century.

Bellvue-Park

Woodlawn Beach

Touted as “The American resort for Americans,” Woodlawn Beach tried to take on Crystal Beach directly, hoping to scoop up some of the thousands who arrived at Buffalo’s Central Wharf to get on ships bound for Canada.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

The steamer Corona, and later the steamer Puritan, took passengers to Woodlawn Beach four times daily from Buffalo. The grounds opened in 1892 with a toboggan slide and “ice-cream” as main attractions. As early as 1894, ads also bragged about the park’s being “illuminated with electricity.”

In 1920, it was electricity that was bringing Buffalonians to Woodlawn in streetcars on what was billed as “only a seven-minute ride” from downtown. Two years later, Bethlehem Steel bought up some of the property for use as a slag dump, but the old roller coaster and amusements stayed in place in various states of operation through the Great Depression.

The evolution of many of these Victorian health retreats and picnic grounds into the more modern amusement park concept was pushed along by one of the great marvels of Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition: “A Trip to the Moon.”

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Located on the Midway on near what is Amherst Street today, “A Trip to the Moon” offered 60 passengers at once the most technologically advanced amusement of its time. A ride in a “spaceship” offered a simulated tour of the moon.

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The ride caught the fancy of tens of thousands of visitors to Buffalo and at least that many Buffalonians. That was no doubt behind the idea in naming the features of Fairyland Park at Jefferson at Ferry after the Pan-Am’s big attractions. In 1910, “the Mecca of pleasure-seekers” was promoting its midway and Temple of Music — both with names taken directly from the Pan-Am. But other budget attractions inspired by the world-class event included Mysterious Asia, Cave of the Winds, White Horse Tavern, Southern Plantation, Japanese Rolling Balls, Minerva the Mystic and Reed’s Big Congress of Novelties.

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“Luna Park was built just after the Pan-American Exposition and was the nearest thing to Coney Island in the pleasure line that Buffalo had to offer,” reported the Buffalo Courier in 1909 after the city’s biggest-ever amusement park burned to the ground at the corner of Main and Jefferson.

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Click for larger view. Buffalo Stories archives

Renamed Carnival Court, the old Luna Park cost more than $250,000 to rebuild. Five cents admission gained you access to rides like Shoot the Chutes, the L. A. Thompson Mountain Scenic Railway, Auto-whirl, Witching Water Ways, Galloping-Horse Carousel, Human Roulette Wheel and Ocean Waves.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

The site was razed to make way for a Sears Roebuck store and parking ramp in 1929. Both of those former Sears structures are now part of the Canisius College campus.

Built in Western New York

A Western New York company gave rise to many smaller amusement parks around the country in the years following World War II.

Herschell-rides

When demand for the handcrafted carousels that had made the company famous since 1880 started to wane, North Tonawanda’s Allan Herschell Co. began making smaller amusement rides it marketed as attractions to small and large venues alike.

Opened originally in the 1920s as a dance pavilion, Lalle’s at Lake Bay, Angola, steadily added amusement rides and booths through the 1940s and 1950s. New amusements for 1947 included the miniature zeppelin, auto and railroad rides, the Dodge-Em, the Ocean Wave and the Chair Plane.

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These smaller amusements were used to entice parents to bring their children — and maybe do some additional shopping — in several places around Western New York. Buffalo’s first suburban mega-shopping center, the Thruway Plaza, opened in 1952 with a handful of rides in its Kiddie Ranch.

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Just up Walden Avenue, on the corner of Dick Road, stood Twin Fair Kiddieland in the parking lot of the department store.

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In Niagara County, Page’s Kiddyland at Packard and Military first stood to help draw customers to the Simon-Gulf gas station and then the Whistle Pig restaurant.

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One of Western New York’s smallest-yet-long-lasting amusement attractions was Dealing’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard near Ellicott Creek Park.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

The Dealing family first built an elaborately carved carousel on their Niagara Falls Boulevard farm in 1929. After returning from World War II, Earl Dealing added about a half-dozen rides to the one put up by his father. He ran Dealing’s Amusement Park until 1980.

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Nestled off Main Street in the Village of Williamsville, Harry Altman’s Glen Park Casino is remembered for high-quality musical and Hollywood entertainment and was a regular stop for acts as varied as Sammy Davis Jr. and the Three Stooges. Those too young to remember the music just might remember the rides.

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Up to 6,000 people or more would fill the tiny park on holidays in the 1960s. The Glen Park Casino, renamed Inferno, burned down in a $300,000 blaze in 1968. The area was developed into a park in 1975.

Glen Park. Buffalo Stories archives.

Glen Park. (Buffalo Stories archives)

Western New York children of the 1970s might remember Fun-N-Games Park just off the Youngmann in Tonawanda.

Buffalo Stories archives

Buffalo Stories archives

Another instance of amusement rides in a Twin Fair parking lot, the park’s most memorable feature might have been the unconnected roadside attraction in front of it—the whale car wash.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

The larger parks like Crystal Beach, Fantasy Island and Darien Lake were built and promoted as regional destinations, and likely remembered by almost anyone who grew up in Western New York, but these smaller parks are just as memorable in our own experiences or the stories or our parents and grandparents of days gone by.

Fantasy Island, 1960s. Buffalo News archives.

Fantasy Island, 1960s. (Buffalo News archives)

Torn-Down Tuesday: The Glenny/Hoyt House on Amherst Street

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

When it was torn down after World War II, the Amherst House was the last surviving structure in Buffalo with direct ties to city designer Joseph Ellicott, as well as one of Buffalo’s oldest surviving homes.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

Ellicott had the house built for his niece in 1823 on Main Street between High and Goodrich, in the footprint of what is today’s Medical Campus. The pillars on the front of the house were said to be selected from forests all around Western New York by Ellicott himself, who also supervised the trees’ being dragged back to the outskirts of Buffalo.

Tall locust trees filled the property, and peacocks were kept on the lawn. A mansion in the grandest sense, the basement was home to a Colonial baking oven in the kitchen and a well-used servant’s quarters.

By the 1890s, the formerly bucolic and rural feeling “Washington Park” area had been overrun by the trappings of Buffalo’s brewing industry. From the mansion’s stately windows, there was a view of the Empire Brewing Co. in the back on High Street and the German American Brewing Co. to the left on Main across High, not to mention Buffalo General Hospital a few blocks away.

In 1884, at the corner of Main and High. The home was owned by brewer Charles Gerber, who hosted Grover Cleveland and Mark Twain in the home. Cleveland was said to have visited Gerber frequently to drink Mr. Gerbers beer and enjoy the brewers jolly personality. Twain was said to regularly burst through the front door claiming to be a burglar during his time in Buffalo.

In 1884, at the corner of Main and High. The home was owned by brewer Charles Gerber, who hosted Grover Cleveland and Mark Twain. Cleveland was said to have visited Gerber frequently to “drink Mr. Gerber’s beer and enjoy the brewer’s jolly personality.” Twain was said to regularly burst through the front door claiming to be a burglar during his time in Buffalo.

John C. Glenny bought the house for $300 and wanted to move it — but city fathers denied the request. To skirt that denial, in 1891, he had the house broken down in to several pieces and moved to the then-more rural Amherst Street site that is now Nichols School’s Peek Field.

The pieces of the house were moved down High Street to Humboldt Parkway, then across the park meadow to the spot where it stayed for the next six decades. The move cost $10,000.

Only blocks away from the Pan-American Expo grounds, the Glennys played host to “many distinguished visitors” to Buffalo in 1901.

Following Glenny’s death in 1910, Buffalo attorney, Pan-Am organizer and Pierce-Arrow executive William B. Hoyt bought the home. The Hoyt family owned the home until Mrs. Hoyt’s death in 1945.

In 1941, Mrs. Hoyt — the grandmother of the late Assemblyman William B. Hoyt II — offered the property to the Buffalo Historical Society as a historic property, but the society couldn’t afford the upkeep. After her death, the property was sold to the Evangelical and Reformed Church, with the idea that the house would be torn down to make way for a new home for the aged. However, a provision in Mrs. Hoyt’s will was discovered that said the property could only be used for residential or education purposes until 1956.

In 1949, the Courier-Express described the once-grand home as “a ruin” in a story called “Death of a Mansion.” The home, which once hosted Presidents Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore and Cleveland, looked like “a southern mansion, abandoned after the Civil War.”

The photo shows the home in 1949, dismantled, awaiting court approval for a final demolition and the building of a home for the aged on the property. At the time, this core part of the house was the citys oldest surviving dwelling.

The photo shows the home in 1949, dismantled, awaiting court approval for a final demolition and the building of a home for the aged on the property. At the time, this core part of the house was the city’s oldest surviving dwelling.

The green light for a demo on Buffalo’s oldest surviving house was given in 1952, and in 1954 a home for the elderly opened on the site. In 2003, Nichols bought and razed the United Church home’s 1950s structure and replaced it with a state-of-the-art athletic field.