Just after Labor Day 1975, the Republic Steel Plant on South Park Avenue was finally starting to hum with the sounds of steel making again, after the plant had shut down in mid-July.
It meant a call back to work for about 500 steelworkers after a six week layoff. Another hundred were expected to be called back in the coming weeks.
New steel orders from the auto industry for the new 1976 model year cars was mostly responsible for the increase in steel production.
The photo below shows the build out of both National Aniline and Republic Steel in 1949. The single drawbridge at the top of the photo went over South Park Avenue. As you can see in the Google Maps image below, most, if not all of the buildings pictured are now gone, but new buildings with new jobs are coming up in their place.
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.
Buffalo Stories archives
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.
Bethlehem Steel’s Lackawanna plant was at one time the largest in the world and employed 20,000 workers in the manufacture of steel.
It was the same sort of work happening a few miles away on South Park Avenue along the Buffalo River at Republic Steel. Thousands worked at that plant as well, and the hope was that, with changes announced 65 years ago this week, the plant would be able to churn out 900,000 tons of steel each year.
The plant was closed and demolished in the mid 1980s and is currently the site for the state-funded RiverBend project, set to be home to SolarCity.