The “wows” evoked by photos of lost vistas are often maudlin or tinged with nostalgia. This lost vista might instead inspire satisfaction in the progress in Buffalo over the last three decades.
Thirty years ago, standing behind the Ellicott Square Building, at Washington and South Division looking south toward Swan Street, the view of the I-190, Buffalo News building, and General Mills elevator was virtually unabated.
The caption on the photo taken from a report on downtown’s retail core reads “View south down Washington toward the grain elevators.”
Significant development in this part of the city has placed useful civic buildings, including Coca-Cola Field and KeyBank Center, between South Division Street and General Mills.
Coca-Cola Field opened in 1988. For the previous 20 years, the southeast corner of Washington and Swan was a surface parking lot after the demolition of the Hotel Buffalo on the site.
The Hotel Buffalo was the first permanent hotel built by Ellsworth Statler and originally known as the Hotel Statler — until the more recent, larger hotel was built in Niagara Square. It was torn down in 1968.
Just a block away from Main Street, Washington Street has been the backbone of Buffalo’s backbone for parts of three centuries.
Buffalo News archives
This photo offers a real flavor for what Buffalo was like leading up to the Pan-American Exposition. Tightly packed buildings and tightly packed sidewalks with plenty of people rushing around one of America’s great modern metropolitan spaces.
The photo also shows a bit of presidential history. Eighteen years before this photo was snapped, Grover Cleveland — who was between his two nonconsecutive terms as president — got into a fist fight with a political rival who called him a liar.
The fight between Cleveland and Mike Falvey, it was said, started in the gutter at Washington and Seneca — the intersection pictured — and wound up at Gillig’s Wine Merchants for a makeup session of drinking. Gillig’s was right next door to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which can be seen in the distance to the right.
Today, the corner looks a bit different, to say the least.
First, Seneca Street now ends at Washington. There’s the complication of a ballpark having been built there. Gillig’s – where President Cleveland made peace after his pugilist exploits — stood about where the Mayor Griffin statue now stands at Washington near Swan.
The original Glenny Building — visible to the left — burned down in 1905, but was then rebuilt. That building has recently been the site of $6.9 million in renovations with plans for 36 downtown apartments to open there soon.