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

By Steve Cichon

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

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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.

Torn-down Tuesday: 1890s Buffalo in the footprint of Marine Midland Tower

By Steve Cichon

For many of us, imagining what Buffalo looked like before the urban renewal efforts of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s can be tough.

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Perhaps one of the most difficult ideas to grasp is that the area we now call “Canalside” and the area we think of as “downtown” were really a single continuous area without any sort of distinct border.

The massive Skyway/I-190 complex of elevated roadways and interchanges make far more of a statement than the previous few elevated railbeds in the same footprint did.

The several block imprint of the Marine Midland Tower also acts as a psychological “You Are Now Leaving Downtown” sign for anyone trying to walk from the business district to the inner harbor.

This 1890s photo was taken in the 100 block of Main Street. These buildings once stood in the massive area now filled with One Seneca Tower, which was known as Marine Midland Tower when it opened as Buffalo’s tallest building in 1970, and later known as HSBC Tower, when Marine Midland Bank was sold.

Some of the businesses visible in this photo include one still in operation.

Scheeler & Sons, at 145 Main St., became Buffalo Wire Works in 1903. The plant is now on Clinton Street in Buffalo.

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Two doors down at 139 Main is Russell & Watson. Founder William Russell came to Buffalo in 1830 at the age of 3 on a canal boat with his parents, settling on the outskirts of the city at what is now Huron and Franklin, a block south of Chippewa Street. One of his favorite memories of youth was hunting squirrels with his father around what is now Delaware and Huron.  He started selling ship and hotel supplies at this location in 1859. He died at 92 in 1919.

The saloon at 131 Main St. was a pretty rough and tumble place in the 1890s.

Following a brawl inside the gin mill in 1896, 16 men were arrested. First Precinct police needed two wagon trips to haul in all the offenders.  The men spent the night in lockup before being fined $5 apiece at sunrise court.

Buffalo in the ’80s: MetroRail ‘unpaves the way’ to downtown revitalization

By Steve Cichon

In 1981, the Ansonia Building at Main and Tupper was being considered for a $500,000 facelift with the thought that locations along the coming MetroRail route would be increasing in value.

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When this photo was snapped, the officer parking his Dodge Coronet police car would have to hike a block or so south on Main Street to get to the Third Precinct house in the old Greyhound bus terminal. An officer parking there today would only have to walk to the opposite corner of Main and Tupper to the new B District headquarters building.

Traffic returned to the block several years ago, after decades of being an auto-free zone.


Torn-down Tuesday: Before it was Buffalo’s most confusing intersection …

By Steve Cichon

If you’ve ever tried to get to the 33 from Main Street, you’ve probably wondered who designed it. The Main Street/Humboldt Parkway/Kensington Avenue intersection, meant to act as an access point for both the Kensington and Scajaquada expressways, is a nightmare.

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It’s a tightly nestled compound intersection with one traffic light and several stop signs with at least 14 head-spinning different ways to legally move through it.

City and state traffic engineers have acknowledged that this area of Main Street between Sisters’ Hospital and Canisius College is poorly designed and doesn’t work well, but citing cost, the same folks failed to make fixing it part of the 2003-09 reconstruction of Main Street from Humboldt to Bailey, as well as the coming redesign and downgrade of the Scajaquada Expressway.

 It wasn’t always that way, though. In the days when Kensington Avenue was known as Steele Street, there was a toll booth near that intersection, collecting money to help defray the cost of paving Main Street from downtown Buffalo to the Village of Williamsville.

The intersection became somewhat more complicated with the addition of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Humboldt Parkway, but not too much for most folks to handle.

This 1930s photo shows the intersection from Kensington Avenue. The spaces occupied by the gas station and the home owned by generations of the Culliton family are now occupied by MetroRail stations.  The large building was the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph for more than a century. It’s now filled with Canisius College offices and classrooms.

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By 1951, the gas station had come down to make way for a Robert Hall clothing store.

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While the Robert Hall building and small house next to it are gone, the larger brick building still stands with the same billboard structure in place—although Laube’s Old Spain is no longer being advertised there.

It was the 1960s construction of the Scajaquada and Kensington expressways, with Route 198 running under Main Street and leaving a series of bridges and overpasses in its wake, that left the intersection unwieldy to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and anyone with common sense.

Buffalo’s Western Savings Bank headquarters

By Steve Cichon

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

Known for generations as Western Savings Bank, in 1980, Western New York Savings Bank took an ad touting its history and showing off its still relatively new headquarters building on the corner of Main and Court. Today, this building has a CVS Pharmacy at street level.

Before it was the old AM&A’s building…

By Steve Cichon

There is buzz and tempered excitement over the purchase the old AM&A’s department store building on Main Street.

The building was last occupied in 1998 by Taylor’s, a short-lived high-end department store better remembered for its dress code (no sneakers!) than its offerings.

In 1995, Bon-Ton closed what was the flagship store of the Adam, Meldrum, and Anderson Department Store chain. Bon-Ton bought AM&A’s in 1994.

The building is now best known as the AM&A’s building, as it was from 1960-94.

For the 90 years previous, AM&A’s was directly across Main Street from that location, in a series of storefronts which were torn down to make way for the Main Place Mall.

For most of the 20th century, the building we call AM&A’s was the JN Adam Department store. Adam was a mayor of Buffalo and the brother of AM&A’s co-founder Robert Adam. In 1960, JN’s closed, and AM&A’s took over the building.


This photo, probably from the very late 1950s, shows Woolworth’s (which remained in that location until the chain dissolved in 1997), JN Adam, Bonds Men’s store (famous for two trouser suits), Tom McAn Shoes, the Palace Burlesk at its original Shelton Square location, then the Ellicott Square Building.

All of the storefronts between JN Adam and the Ellicott Square building were torn down for the M&T headquarters building and some green space.

“The Main Street” near Parkside

By Steve Cichon

Of course, following the rail and the streetcar to Parkside soon enough was the automobile. King’s Official Route Book was the Mapquest.com of the early automobile era. It gave new drivers not only street names as far as getting from one place to another, but offered landmarks as well in an era when street signs may not have been the most reliable or varied. In the 1913 edition, the book makes notes of several landmarks you’d see driving on Main Street from downtown through Parkside on your way from Buffalo to Batavia.

Buffalo, N. Y., to Batavia, N. Y.,
38.6 miles, Road mostly all brick and state road.

  • 0 Leave Soldiers’ Monument and Park on right, go north on Main St., following trolley .
  • 0.7 Pass Teck Theater Bldg. on left
  • 2.3 Intersection of trolleys with car barns on right (Cold Springs Street Car Barn)
  • 2.6 Passing hospital on right (Sisters Hospital at original Main/Delevan location)
  • 2.7 and Forest Lawn Cemetery on left
  • 2.8 Pass Carnival Court Park on right (amusement park where Main and Jefferson meet)
  • 3.0 St Vincent of Paul’s Church on right (now Canisius College Montante Cultural Center)
  • 3.1 Mount St. Joseph Academy on left (now Canisius’ Lyons Hall)
  • 3.3 Providence Retreat on right       (current site of Sisters Hospital)                                                                                             
  • 3.4 U. S. Marine Hospital on right      (currently Benedict House)   
  • 3.5 Deaf Mute Institution on right, straight ahead through                        
  • 3.6 Parkside brick schoolhouse on left   ( in current School 54 parking lot)                                                                               
  •  3.8 Central Presbyterian Church on left   (now Mt St Joseph’s Academy)
  •  3.9 Cross cement bridge over R. R.

Between the businesses in the Parkside neighborhood itself, and the business along Main Street, it was possible, for much of the neighborhood’s history,  for someone living in the area to not have need to leave the neighborhood for months at a time.

Without Main Street, there would not have been a Flint Hill or a Parkside. While over the last two decades its become the re-invigorated Hertel and Delaware Avenues that are the local shopping and dining destinations for Parksiders, for the 200 years previous, it was Main Street that served most of the needs of the people of the area we now call Parkside.

Over a three year period, third generation Parkside Resident and Definitive Parkside Historian Michael Riester wrote a series of articles, published in the Parkside News, examining the history Parkside’s portion of Main Street and role the stretch of road played in the life of the people of the area through the two centuries since the path was first carved from the wilderness.

(I)n 1850, the city secured vast tracts of Erastus Granger’s farm on Flint Hill (as Parkside was then known.) This land, with its rolling hills, large open meadows, woods, and Scajaquada Creek was considered the most beautiful and scenic in the area. 80 Acres would become Forest Lawn Cemetery, but the land to the north and west of the then-proposed cemetery, including Granger’s meadow and quarry, would be reserved for parkland. It would be some years yet before the landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted would draw on its natural beauty to create Delaware Park. “

By the 1880s, once “The Park” was developed, and the modern streets of Parkside were laid out, the character of Main Street changed dramatically. Large homes, like the brick Victorian of the Garris Family at Main and Robie were being erected. The Garris family made their fortune in the Jammerthal quarries near Grider and Kensington.

©2009 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

This page is an excerpt from
The Complete History of Parkside
by Steve Cichon

The 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York.