Torn-down Tuesday: Before it was Buffalo’s most confusing intersection …

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you’ve ever tried to get to the 33 from Main Street, you’ve probably wondered who designed it. The Main Street/Humboldt Parkway/Kensington Avenue intersection, meant to act as an access point for both the Kensington and Scajaquada expressways, is a nightmare.

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It’s a tightly nestled compound intersection with one traffic light and several stop signs with at least 14 head-spinning different ways to legally move through it.

City and state traffic engineers have acknowledged that this area of Main Street between Sisters’ Hospital and Canisius College is poorly designed and doesn’t work well, but citing cost, the same folks failed to make fixing it part of the 2003-09 reconstruction of Main Street from Humboldt to Bailey, as well as the coming redesign and downgrade of the Scajaquada Expressway.

 It wasn’t always that way, though. In the days when Kensington Avenue was known as Steele Street, there was a toll booth near that intersection, collecting money to help defray the cost of paving Main Street from downtown Buffalo to the Village of Williamsville.

The intersection became somewhat more complicated with the addition of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Humboldt Parkway, but not too much for most folks to handle.

This 1930s photo shows the intersection from Kensington Avenue. The spaces occupied by the gas station and the home owned by generations of the Culliton family are now occupied by MetroRail stations.  The large building was the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph for more than a century. It’s now filled with Canisius College offices and classrooms.

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By 1951, the gas station had come down to make way for a Robert Hall clothing store.

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While the Robert Hall building and small house next to it are gone, the larger brick building still stands with the same billboard structure in place—although Laube’s Old Spain is no longer being advertised there.

It was the 1960s construction of the Scajaquada and Kensington expressways, with Route 198 running under Main Street and leaving a series of bridges and overpasses in its wake, that left the intersection unwieldy to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and anyone with common sense.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.