When Amherst Street between Delaware and Elmwood was farmland, 1900

       By Steve Cichon

On the 1880 map, it’s a bit difficult to distinguish Amherst Street between Elmwood and Delaware avenues because in 1880, two out of three of those streets barely existed.

Delaware Avenue was already a route between downtown Buffalo and the Tonawandas, but Elmwood Avenue stopped at Forest Avenue. And while plans for Amherst Street to the east of Black Rock were drawn onto maps, the actual creating of the road all the way to Main Street and beyond had not yet been completed.

The Electric Tower at the Pan-American Exposition stood in the middle of Amherst Street.

In 1899, Amherst Street was carved into the farmland north of the Park Lake and south of the New York Central Beltline tracks in anticipation of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition.

The line of trees in this photo represents about where Amherst Street was laid as the center of the Pan-Am. The Electric Tower stood at what is now Amherst Street and Lincoln Parkway.

Elmwood Avenue was extended from behind City Hall on through into Kenmore through 25 years of wrangling, eminent domain and absorbing and remaining parts of other streets.

Voelker’s bowling alley has been a fixture on the corner of Elmwood and Amherst since the days of Prohibition.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Pan Am’s Electric Tower

By Steve Cichon

What a difference a year makes.

1901: The Electric Tower from the north. 1902: The Electric Tower from the south. Buffalo Stories archives.

Buffalo spent years getting ready for 1901’s Pan American Exposition, but after a presidential assassination and financial ruin, there was little thought of trying to preserve what was promised to be a temporary wonderland built mostly on property owned by the Rumsey family.

The visual focal point of the Pan-Am was the Electric Tower—but by spring 1902, it was the place where wrecking crews were piling lumber and refuse as the expo was dismantled.

Eventually, the tower came down, too. The spot in these photos is now a residential area. The 1902 photo was taken by someone standing about where Amherst Street and Lincoln Parkway intersect today.

A map of the Pan-Am grounds.

Buffalo in 1901: Pioneering woman author captures Buffalo’s feelings about the Pan-Am

By Steve Cichon

“The city which woos and wins a great exposition gets considerably more than it bargained for,” wrote Mary B. Hartt in October, 1901. In the wake of Buffalo’s Pan-Am she saw “rampant commercialism on the one hand, and an awakened civic consciousness on the other.”

Mary Bronson Hartt spent the first half of the 20th century as a trailblazing freelance magazine writer and editor of a handful of women’s magazines and scholarly journals, but her first widely disseminated work were reflections of Buffalo during the time of the Pan-American Exposition.

mary hartt in chicago tribune

From the Chicago Tribune (Buffalo Stories archives)

The 1890 graduate of The Buffalo Seminary captured the flavor of the Pan-Am and the thoughts of Buffalo’s old guard crowd about the event with her detailed and colorful prose. Not only did she graduate from Buffalo Sem, her mother, Mrs. Lucy Lynde Hartt, was principal of the school for 13 years.

They moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1903, but while still living on Park Street in Buffalo, Hartt wrote for several national magazines and Buffalo newspapers about life during the Pan-Am. For the Buffalo Express, she wrote about how to eat well but inexpensively near the Pan-American grounds.

For the Buffalo Courier, she looked at some of the less desirable changes in the city during the exposition, and examined whether or not they might become permanent. She imagined Buffalonians of a previous generation rolling over in the graves as cheap souvenir stands “disgraced with cheap tawdriness and tinsel futilities.”

Pan Am street vendors

Pan Am street vendors

Neither did she favor the billboards and signs plastered and erected seemingly everywhere, which she called “an epidemic of shameless, flaming signboards, big, and bold, and bad.”

Main Street, downtown Buffalo

Main Street, downtown Buffalo

One lasting effect, wrote Hartt, seemed to be the cheapening of Buffalo.

“A little city of quick-lunch kiosks sprang up… soft drink wagons and fruit stands, and shabby booths for the sale of beer and sandwiches and the irrepressible souvenir, filled the whole countryside, obliterating the view of the Exposition. Temporary hotels and perhaps even outside restaurants were a necessary evil. But Bohemian beer gardens were not. The city groaned in spirit as two mighty pavilions of the latter class were run up within a thousand feet of the main gate of the fair. Despite the attraction of beer served among mummied palms, one of these places failed to draw, and it has been whitewashed and relabeled with a more attractive name. The other, orchid-like, lives on air.”

Near the Pan-Am

Near the Pan-Am

Hartt writes almost mocking the expectations that Buffalo could remain the way it was before the Pan-Am started. “These are the mortifications of the Buffalonians. They are only a part of the trying by-products of the Pan-American. Expositions come high. If you want one you must not only subscribe for stock and buy unlimited tickets for yourself and your family, but you must pay an extortionate rent for your house, an extortionate price for your bread and butter.”

Streets teeming with visitors. Hartt saw it as good and bad.

Streets teeming with visitors. Hartt saw it as good and bad.

“It hurts their feelings, too, to have the city trolleys filled with outlandish foreign folk, and to have the lips of the best as well as the worst of Buffalonians tainted with select Midway slang. It’s “Have a look!” and “You’ll have to hurry!” from newsboy and golfer alike.

But not everything the exposition brought was bad. “It must not be supposed that the

Exposition by-products are all unfavorable to Buffalo. Her trolley cars run in trains of four. Real crowds surge through her streets. The theatres put on plays to run throughout the summer, instead of for, at most, a single week.”

Buffalo is just about to find herself. Hitherto she has had no adequate idea of what she could do if she tried. The summer has been a complete revelation. Better still, the rich, full life of the past six months, the abundance of music and superb sculpture and splendid architecture and painting; the rush and vigor of a thoroughly thriving town, are going to leave behind them a divine discontent with the old order of things. And that means civic regeneration.”

Mary Bronson Hartt was a staff writer at the Boston Transcript and Chicago Tribune, and then the editor of Museum News. She died in New York City in 1946. Her obituary appeared in The New York Times.

The Buffalo You Should Know: Eight obscure tidbits from the Pan-Am

By Steve Cichon

Over the last 115 years, plenty has been written about Buffalo’s Pan American Exposition and all the exciting and interesting events that happened on the grounds — up to and including a presidential assassination.

The map below shows where the exposition took place in the larger City of Buffalo.

This map shows the specific grounds.

I’ve always been interested in what Buffalo was like to live in during the Pan-Am. Here are eight quick glimpses at what Buffalo was like during the exposition and, perhaps, some lesser-known facts about it.

1. The Pan-Am drew plenty of criminals

The transient nature of the crowds coming through Buffalo for the Pan-Am allowed those of lower intentions to blend in with the crush of new people in town.


Almost daily, laundry lists of petty crimes and break-ins were written up in the papers. While the thefts of gold-filled watches from the wrists of women on the midway of the Pan-Am were clearly Expo-related, other stories seemed to have strained ties at best to the Pan-Am.

There was a story about the burglar who sat at a piano and played music “so sweet that it would have soothed the most savage beast,” but wound up stealing some clothes and an umbrella from a home on Orange Street.

There was also a mysterious woman in a black dress who was credited with several robberies – the theft of several hundred dollars, as well as, it was assumed, a solid gold watch from the coat pocket of the Expo superintendent. The coat was hanging on a nail in the toilet room of the Canadian Building when the $75 watch was swiped.

It was at the Pan-Am where Buffalo earned the nickname “The City of Light,” but with no thanks to the criminal element. As quickly as crews put up electrical light standards on the Pan-Am grounds through the month of May, souvenir fiends were busy swiping the beautifully globed fixtures.


2. Tesla and Edison visited … twice

Those lights were firmly in place for Thomas Edison’s second visit to the Pan-Am in August.

“This is the apotheosis of the incandescent light,” “exclaimed the great Edison as he stood on the Esplanade last night, looking right and left at the overwhelming and dazzling radiance about him.”

While Edison enjoyed the light show, it was the use of another invention – his moving picture camera — that captured forever some of the sights of the Exposition and Buffalo in general.

Edison may have looked with wonder at the lightbulbs, but they were being illuminated by Nikola Tesla’s Niagara Falls Power Station.

Like Edison, Tesla visited Buffalo’s Pan American Exposition twice. Also like Edison, he was less interested in the electrical display he helped create and more interested in one of his other pet projects: electrical communication with Mars.



“Mr. Tesla is at work on some of the greatest sensations known to modern electrical science,” wrote the Courier in 1901. “He will endeavor to make good his promise to communicate with the planet Mars.”


3. The Pan-Am wasn’t necessarily cheap

According to official guides, to visit all the attractions offered and pay the 50-cent admission to the Pan-Am grounds would have cost about $12 per person. One online inflation calculation says that’s about $323 in 2016 dollars.

Some visitors said it cost them $75 to see the all the sights, which is more than $2,000 in 2016 dollars. While $75 sounds high, it is plausible that some of the less scrupulous independent operators might have tried to charge more than the posted price.



4. On Delaware Avenue, a dining car for ‘ladies and gents’

One of my obsessions with the Pan-Am is finding photos of the area immediately surrounding the Exposition site. At the time, this portion of the city was only very sparsely developed, which is what made it perfect for the mostly temporary structures of the great event.

This diner car stood about where a 7-Eleven now stands on the corner of Delaware and Amherst.



5. Elmwood and Amherst: the most popular trolley stop

The corner of Elmwood and Amherst is now a rather average city corner, with a drug store, bowling alley and gas station.

In 1901, it was the main gate of the Pan-American Exposition. Amherst Street was the Midway between Elmwood and Delaware.

Just south of Amherst Street, on the west side of Elmwood, was the main streetcar exchange for the expo. Most visitors coming from downtown would have taken the streetcar and gotten off here, around the site of McKinley High School.


Buffalo Stories archives


6. Today, Voelker’s; then, a hip hotel

The building has been occupied by Voelker’s Lanes for generations, but during the Pan-Am, the structure at the northwest corner of Elmwood and Amherst was home to one of the city’s more popular hotels: the Alcazar.


I always try to imagine this view as I’m driving home to Parkside Avenue from Wegman’s: basically, the Pan-Am, looking east from Elmwood and Amherst.



7. A tent city accommodated visitors on a budget

In anticipation of the Pan-Am in early 1901, The News wrote, “Buffalo’s population will soon share the cosmopolitan character of the great metropolitan cities of the world.”

This was true, but not all visitors were “high society.” Many folks who couldn’t afford $2 to spend the night at a nice hotel instead spent $1.50 a night to stay at the tent city built just for the exposition in what is now the Parkside neighborhood.

“Camp Jewett” ran alongside Parkside Avenue at Oakwood Avenue.



8. Bacardi gets its American start

Like Bacardi?


The judges at the Pan-Am did. The now world-renown liquor won its first gold medal in Buffalo, beating out 11 other Cuban rums and starting a run at the top that continues through today.

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

By Steve Cichon

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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)

What It Looked Like Wednesday: A&P, Delaware at Great Arrow, 1948

By Steve Cichon

Buffalo News archives

Now known as Marshalls Plaza, the strip mall has also been known as Great Arrow Plaza and, when it first opened in 1948, the Delaware Park Shopping Center. The apartment buildings in the background are still recognizable.

The big tenants when this photo was snapped were the A&P market and the Western Savings Bank branch — which was opened after state law changed allowing savings banks to open two branch locations. Episcopal Bishop Lauriston Scaife was joined by about 6,000 onlookers when the bank location opened.

Buffalo Stories archives

The plaza was built on the northeast corner of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition — on the site of the 12,000-seat stadium.

Rum returns to the Historic Pan Am District

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

Rum making Pan Am medal winners, as printed in The Buffalo Courier.

In 1901, there were few things more important to the economies and livelihoods of the Caribbean and parts of Central America than the export of rum. It would stand to reason, then, that when all of the Western Hemisphere’s countries got together in Buffalo for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, that rum would be a showcased product… and it was.

Exhibitors from Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Honduras all won medals for rum.

Cuba had as many as 13 different rum (ron, in Spanish) exhibitors, including one still famous gold medal winner– Bacardi & Sons of Santiago. The gold medal showing in Buffalo was one of the primary forces in launching Bacardi to international renoun.


Both Mexico and Cuba had their own large buildings at the Pan Am, and both had large displays for liquors and rums.

cuban rum display
One of Cuba’s rum displays at the 1901 Pan American Exposition

cuban building
The Cuban Building, 1901 Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, NY

American printer and lithographer
Pan Am Map, Buffalo 1901. “M” marks Mexico, “C” marks Cuba, “Squirrel” marks squirrel. Click to enlarge.

This map shows the Pan Am grounds between Elmwood and Delaware as they looked in 1901. If you were to try to find the site of the Mexican building today (marked M on the map), you’d look near Great Arrow Street towards the back of the old Pierce-Arrow complex. The Cuban building (marked C) was probably in the vicinity of where the Statue of David now stands near the Scajaquada Expressway.

Today, The Black Squirrel Distillery stands near the West Amherst gate on the old 1901 map, about where the hospital was during the Expo, right between Mexico and Cuba.

For more than half a century, the address was a drive-in restaurant and sandwich shop known by names like “Daddy Don’s Drive-In” and “Karen’s Restaurant.” Today, 1595 Elmwood Avenue is home to the copper still where Black Squirrel craft rum begins it’s life in small batches, bringing a bit of the Pan-Am back as the City of Light seems to be finding new light in new places these days.

And while most of Buffalo seems happy with having Black Squirrel in the neighborhood, it might not have been the case for the rum makers here in 1901… especially when the infamous Carrie Nation was in town.

carrie nation


“The Hatchetwoman from Kansas,” best remembered as the temperance champion who was arrested several times for smashing apart liquor bottles– and entire saloons– with her hatchet, told Buffalo reporters on one of her two trips to the Expo that “all rum sellers should be electrocuted and their shops destroyed.”

The best part is, she likely said those words as she boarded a streetcar downtown  to catch her train out of Buffalo… on the tracks directly across Elmwood Avenue from what is now Black Squirrel Distillery.