Standing in this spot today, you get a good view of a gas station and a Family Dollar in front of you and the Commodore Perry Housing Complex at your left. Today, it’s the corner of South Park Avenue and Louisiana Street.
In 1890, South Park had not yet been built. Parts of the street now called “South Park Avenue” were then known as Triangle, Abbott and Elk, among others.
This Elk and Louisiana streets intersection was the crossroads of the Old First Ward. A block or two in either direction were canals and the homes of scoopers teeming with the Irish immigrants who were the foundation of Buffalo’s milling and grain industry.
While nothing but the streetscape remains today, some of the stories remain.
While half the storefront was replaced by the Marine Trust Company by 1925, the name Charles Lamy is clearly visible in the 1890 photo.
Lamy was a grocer, saloon keeper and state senator. Born in Eden, he opened a small shop at 305 Elk as a teenager in 1873 and stayed in business until his death in 1929.
He was instrumental in helping the people of the First Ward find a unified political voice. Among his accomplishments was to help shatter the “saloon boss” control of the livelihoods of Buffalo’s grain scoopers. Into the first decade of the 1900s, owners of lake shipping concerns would turn over the wages of scoopers to saloon owners who would make sure the men’s bar bills were paid before there’d be any money left for their families to eat.
Lamy was one of eight trusted men elected by scoopers to speak on their behalf to the shipping companies in Detroit. He’s buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.