Former Main Street institutions of the Parkside era now part of the Canisius campus

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Parkside Historian Michael Riester puts forth the thesis, “As goes Main Street, so goes Parkside.” The following pages will take a look at Main Street in three separate sections: The institutions of the area, the automobile showrooms, and, finally the small businesses; the shops and storefronts where most people did most of their spending and buying of goods and services.

Many modern Parksiders, who just think of the whole area as “Canisius College,” will be surprised to know that the block of Main between Delevan and Jefferson has been home to a brewery, an amusement park, and for over 50 years, a Sears & Roebuck store.

In 1842, Jacob Schaenzlin moved into a brewery built two years earlier at 1857 Main Street, near Scajaquada Creek. This is the present site of the Delavan/Canisius MetroRail station.

While the waters were visible in this photo of the Schnaezlin Brewery snapped circa 1900– today, Scajaquada Creek is underground from Forest Lawn Cemetery all the way to Cheektowaga. The photo was taken from the east side of Main Street looking west. That’s the Main Street bridge in the photo.

Further up the block, and a half century later, at the point where Jefferson Avenue and Main Street meet, stood an amusement park, which was known by at least 3 different names over the decades it was open. First known in the 1890s as Athletic Park, its name was changed first to Carnival Court, then to Luna Park, when it was purchased by the father of the modern amusement park, Frederick Ingersoll. He owned the park from 1904-1920.  Among the more popular rides was the “Shoot the Chutes” water ride, which Ingersoll built in all his parks, and was the basis for the modern water flume ride.

Looking north up Main from the From the Top of Shoot the Chutes. That’s Jefferson Avenue, St. Vincent’s, then Providence Retreat (now Sisters Hospital )

The midway of the Carnival Court was heavily damaged by fire in 1909. The fire was briefly mentioned in the New York Times, calling the place a “pleasure resort,” and mentioning the skating rink and the theatre suffered damage in the blaze.

Closed and abandoned by 1920, Sears and Roebuck purchased the property and built a store on the site in 1929. From that Sears store, generations of Parksiders were clothed, and kept in appliances, hardware, paint, and gardening supplies. Sears left in 1980, and four years later, the building became the headquarters for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of WNY.  The building, which once housed all that the Sears Catalog had to offer, is now Canisius’ Science Hall.

George Zornick lived on Russell in the 1960s. “Sears was very convenient to the neighborhood. As a kid, I remember the big escalator in the middle of the store. We’d go there for clothes and my dad for hardware; the place seemingly had everything.

©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.