Jefferson & Best: Lang’s Brewery and The Rockpile

       By Steve Cichon

In 1880, the spot where Johnnie B. Wiley Stadium – once known as War Memorial Stadium – stands, was on the far outskirts of the city.

The big landmark along Jefferson Street between Best and Dodge wasn’t “The Rockpile,” but was across the street from the stadium where the Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center now stands.

War Memorial Stadium – the old “Rockpile.”

The school was built on what was once the campus of the Gerhard Lang Brewery. Built in 1875, the brewery was marked as No. 57 on the 1880 map.

It would be another 10 years before there was any activity on the land on the other side of Jefferson Avenue.

Gerhard Lang Brewery.

In 1880, the Prospect Hill Reservoir was still Buffalo’s primary source for drinking water. Located at Niagara and Connecticut streets, the original reservoir spot has been the home of the Connecticut Street Armory for more than 100 years.In 1893, the new Prospect Reservoir started serving as Buffalo’s stand-by water source on Jefferson Avenue.

The Old Prospect Reservoir stood where the Connecticut Street Armory now stands, on Niagara between Connecticut and Vermont.

A generation later, that second reservoir would be replaced by War Memorial Stadium as a Depression-era WPA project.

The second Prospect Reservoir stood where War Memorial Stadium was built on Jefferson Avenue between Best and Dodge.

Buffalo in the ’30s: Benny Goodman swings into Western New York

By Steve Cichon


Bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman was known as the “King of Swing.”

In 1938, his band was the most popular in the world, and his brand of swing jazz helped pave the way for nearly every form of popular music that has followed since.

Goodman and his orchestra played in Buffalo twice in 1938.

A month after Goodman played the first jazz or popular music concert ever at Carnegie Hall, he was at the Connecticut Street Armory.

The newspapers were filled with sponsors trying to associate with one of the early mass-media pop music stars. Buffalo-brewed Stein’s Beer took out ads reminding people that it was the exclusive drink at the armory. Goodman’s appearance in the sixth-floor record department at JN Adam was advertised for days in advance.


Benny Goodman plays at Glen Park, Williamsville, in 1938.

A brass band and a caravan of several hundred fans — “Goodmaniacs,” according to The News — escorted Goodman from the New York Central Terminal to his room at the Statler.

Rod Reed wrote up Goodman’s appearance in The News the next day.

Benny Goodman and his orchestra are playing in a Detroit theater today after giving the Jitter bugs a delirious night in the 174th Armory, winding up at 1:30 this morning. I am no good at sizing up a crowd and never believe what promoters say, but the consensus of my staff of estimators is that there were between 5,000 and 6,000 people drawn out on a rainy night to watch the gum-chewing (drummer Gene) Krupa, the hammer-pounding (vibraphone playing Lionel) Hampton and the clarinet-clicking Goodman in action.

If the orchestra’s principals are not suffering from writers’ cramp today, it is only because they have long been used to the arduous business of writing their names.

A swell swing night it was.

Goodman was back six months later in July, this time at Williamsville’s Glen park, where the first half-hour of the show was beamed around the country as a part of a national network broadcast.

Mr. Goodman will do his WKBW 9:30 killer-diller, ripper-dipper, whooper-dooper, floy-doy direct from Williamsville’s Glen Park, where he will play for dancing, jeeping, trucking, kicking, hopping, howling and listening from 9 to question mark.

Watching Benny Goodman perform at Glen Park, 1938.

Buffalo in the ’40s: The West Side prepares for war

By Steve Cichon

The Connecticut Street Armory is an imposing presence on the West Side, known for decades more as a home for car shows, punk rock concerts, and proms.

But of course, it’s primary function remains as a home of the New York National Guard and the longtime home of the 174th Regiment. It was also there on Niagara Street where the 174th was activated to train for service as the country readied for World War II.

Armed men protected the gates of the armory 75 years ago today, July 13, 1940.