Torn-Down Tuesday: Freddie’s Doughnuts, 1989

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The name Freddie’s Doughnuts conjures mouthwatering memories for generations of Buffalonians, many of whom will tell you they’ve never tasted a better doughnut than the ones they ate at the corner of Main and Michigan in Buffalo.

Buffalo News archives

Very quietly in 1989, 82-year-old Fred Maier — Freddie himself — closed up the shop and retired. The day he tacked a sign on the door that said that’d be the last day they were open, word spread quickly and somewhere between 300 and 500 dozen doughnuts were sold as fast as anyone had remembered in the more than 50 years the store was open. The last-ever batch of Freddie’s Doughnuts was wiped out by 10 a.m.

Born in Ukraine, Freddie came to Buffalo as a teen, opened his first bakery in 1924, and opened at Main and Michigan in 1935. Thirty years later, 25 million doughnuts a year were being churned out of the shop. It wasn’t just folks stopping in to buy a dozen — millions of dollars were collected by Boy Scouts and school kids selling Freddie’s as fundraisers.

Freddie’s is long gone, but the name Frederick Maier lives on in hundreds of doughnut shops around the world. In 1940, he was awarded a patent doughnut machine that he later licensed to Krispy Kreme.

In every Krispy Kreme shop, there’s a label on the back of the machine that produces the donuts, and on that label is Frederick Maier’s name.

What it looked like Wednesday: City Centre/Nemmer Furniture

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

By 1975, the Main Street building that was the longtime home to Buffalo’s long-vaunted Nemmer Furniture had fallen on hard times. Years’ worth of back taxes were owed on the building. Once “the home of nine floors of furniture,” the building just north of Chippewa was mostly vacant save “Smiley’s Adult Books, Films & Magazines.”

Nemmer Furniture began selling the upholstered items it manufactured at its Genesee Street factory in 1924, but didn’t move its showroom to the 600 block of Main Street until 1957. Before that, the building was the home to Select Furniture.

After Nemmer closed in the early ’70s, the building sat mostly vacant until the late ’80s when plans emerged for the addition of several floors and it the new condo development was dubbed “City Centre.” Work began in 1991, but ground to a halt in 1995 when the project wound up in bankruptcy.

After a decade of stops and starts, by the early 2000s, City Centre was acknowledged as Buffalo’s first successful downtown condominium project.

A 1992 News editorial summed up the building’s story quite well. “As the Nemmer building, it would have hurt downtown. As a vacant lot, it would have marred the street vista. As City Centre, it can sparkle as a gift to better days in downtown Buffalo.”

Torn-Down Tuesday: Make way for the Main Place Mall

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

From the roof of AM&A’s in 1960, very few of the buildings seen here would still be standing a decade later.

Buffalo News archives

While the venerable Buffalo retailing names like Tanke and Ulbrich, which dated back to the 1850s and 1870s, would hold on until the 1980s, the buildings they’d called home for generations would not. Most of the block was torn down to make way for the Main Place Mall.

The buildings on the other side of Pearl Street the next block over would eventually be replaced by the Rath Building, the Family Court Building, and the Fernbach parking ramp.

Among the buildings in the footprint where the Rath Building now stands was the Hotel Niagara. Through the ’40s and ’50s, the piano bar at Ryan’s Hotel Niagara was one of the Queen City’s most frequented and well-remembered gay night spots.

One building still standing: Old County Hall, which was just County Hall then, but it was still almost 90 years old.

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Main approaching Chippewa, 1950

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A glistening nighttime shot of Buffalo’s “Great White Way,” better known now as the Main Street Theater District.

Buffalo News archives

The most famous lights of the strip would have been captured had the photographer turned around. Behind him are the neon and incandescent glows of Shea’s Buffalo, Laube’s Old Spain, the Hippodrome, the Town Casino and more.

All of the signs and most of the buildings visible near the corner of Main and Chippewa in this photo from 66 years ago were replaced by banking high rises in the ’80s and ’90s.

Torn-down Tuesday: Main and Summer, 1965

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The summer of 1965 brought much excitement for the area we’ve come to know as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. While at least a half-dozen current projects are combining to make the area a bastion of hope for what is to come for our city and our region, then it was only one big project — the expansion of Buffalo General Hospital — that was making people excited.

Buffalo News archives

The new high-rise structure was offering new vistas like this one, looking north from near the corner of Main and High.

Two churches jump out of the photo.

In the foreground at Main and Best, the former Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church is currently owned by Ellicott Development, and along with recently purchased surrounding property, was slated for some manner of mixed business and residential space.

The larger church in the distance is St. Joseph’s New Cathedral at Delaware and West Utica. From 1912 until 1976, the church was the Cathedral of the Diocese of Buffalo. The poorly designed church deteriorated before the eyes of the diocesan faithful, and Bishop Edward Head ordered it razed in 1976. The Timon Towers apartment complex now fills the site.

The brick building with the Plasti-liner sign in the foreground is now the site of Wendy’s. The roof in the immediate foreground belongs to Frank and Teressa’s Anchor Bar where, about a year before this photo was taken, Teressa Bellissimo fried up what legend has deemed the first Buffalo chicken wing.

 

Buffalo in the ’70s: Swiss Chalet downtown

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo’s love of Swiss Chalet can be seen with a stroll through the parking lot of the Canadian rotisserie chicken chain’s restaurant in Niagara Falls, Ont. At any given moment, half of the license plates in the parking lot read “NEW YORK” across the top.

Buffalo News archives

After great success with three restaurants in Montreal and Toronto, a storefront next door to the Town Casino and across the street from Shea’s Buffalo became the home of the fourth Swiss Chalet Restaurant in 1957.

With all the hustle and bustle of Buffalo’s glitzy theater district and late-night hours for folks leaving shows and clubs hungry, Swiss Chalet, with its charcoal-roasted chicken, became an instant Western New York classic.

By 1965, Western New York’s second Swiss Chalet restaurant had opened on Niagara Falls Boulevard, followed through the years by a handful of other locations serving quarter- and half-chicken dinners with what former Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin called the city’s best French fries in a radio ad in 1996.

One of the new locations was right across the street from the one in the photo. After a 1984 fire at the 643 Main St. building — which for decades has now been the home of the Bijou Grille — Swiss Chalet opened across Main Street into the former Laube’s Old Spain building.

Swiss Chalet left downtown Buffalo after 39 years in 1996; the space eventually became Shea’s Smith Theatre.

The chain’s remaining Western New York stores — including the Niagara Falls Boulevard location — closed to packed seats in 2010, but the lingering taste of 53 years of chalet sauce has made international dinner travelers out of the hundreds of Buffalonians who are seen every week at the Swiss Chalet restaurants closest to the U.S. border.

The Swiss Chalet closest to the Peace Bridge is at 6666 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls, Ont.

Buffalo in the ’20s: Pierce-Arrow takes a test run through Parkside

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

At first glance, the back of this photo offers no clues to the precise location where this photo was taken.

Buffalo News archives

The only information offered is the names of the men in the car and the date (plus a stern reminder to put the photo back in The News archives.)

Dr. Dewitt Sherman was the president of the Erie County Medical Society. Edward C. Bull was an executive with Buffalo’s Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Co. and the longtime president of the Buffalo Automobile Dealers Association — not much help there.

The date, however, proves useful. Nov. 16, 1929, was the opening day of the Pierce-Arrow showroom at Main and Jewett.

While useful in placing this image, the date is also somewhat irony-filled. After spending decades as the preferred motorcar of the elite from New York City to Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, Pierce-Arrow’s new Art Deco showcase palace opened within days of the 1929 stock market crash. The crash helped precipitate the Great Depression and ended the good times and free flow of cash that helped usher the Pierce-Arrow brand to the top.

By the time the last of the Pierce-Arrows rolled off of Buffalo assembly lines in the mid-’30s, the building was a Cadilliac showroom. In fact, for parts of eight decades, the building was home to a Cadillac dealership— first Maxson Cadillac-LaSalle, then Tinney Cadillac and finally Braun Cadillac, before finding new life as a bank branch for Buffalo Savings Bank and now First Niagara.

Kitty-corner from the old Pierce-Arrow showroom, both then and now, is the English Gothic Central Presbyterian Church, which today is the home of the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School. The Main Street windows — which took the place of the building’s original front door — are seen in the photo as well as on the linked image below.

Buffalo in the ’30s: Nearly a blizzard on Main Street

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Snow-covered streetcars, buses, cars and pedestrians share the 400 block of Main Street with Hengerer’s, Shea’s Century theater and Buffalo Savings Bank’s gold dome in this shot from 77 years ago.

Buffalo News archives

On Jan. 30, 1939, Buffalo was dealt a surprise 8.5 inches of snow. Two people died as a result of the storm — both as they drudged through the weather on downtown sidewalks. The fact that news accounts mention that the weather event was not an official blizzard, leads one to believe the storm was wicked enough to use the shorthand of “blizzard” whether it strictly fit the meteorological definition or not.

Torn-down Tuesday: Main and Chippewa, 1946

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

The corner of Main and Chippewa has had different looks through the years, but perhaps none as urban and vibrant as this view in 1946.

Buffalo News archives

The now-gone building right on the corner, with its lunch counter and soda fountain, was one of 12 Harvey & Carey Drugs locations in the City of Buffalo in 1946.

Looking at the Main Street part of the corner, you can see Unger’s millinery and then the famous and well-remembered Mac Doel’s Drum Bar. Just out of the frame to the right is the marquee of the Paramount Theater.

Up Chippewa Street, we have a densely packed metropolitan scene, with the Great Lakes Theater, a Deco restaurant, no fewer than eight neon signs, double-parked delivery trucks and plenty of people.

The look is a bit more subdued these days.

Buffalo in the ’80s: Hengerer’s becomes Sibley’s

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

It was November 5, 1981, when the sign for the William Hengerer Company was replaced by Sibley’s.

Buffalo News archives

Hengerer’s had been in downtown Buffalo for 105 years when the name was changed. Buffalo’s Hengerer’s and Rochester’s Sibley’s had long been owned by the same parent company.

The downtown store in this photo was closed in 1987, and Sibley’s was eventually merged into Kaufmann’s in 1990. Most remaining Kaufmann’s locations became Macy’s in 2006.