Buffalo in the 1890s: Frederick Law Olmsted’s designs for Depew

By Steve Cichon

Chauncey Depew was one of New York’s U.S. Senators from 1899-1911, but that probably wasn’t the office from which he wielded the most power. Depew was the president of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad. It was in his capacity as a railroad tycoon that Depew bought up about 100 acres east of Buffalo in Lancaster for the building of railroad sheds and locomotive repair shops in 1893. From there, Depew sprung.

Town of Depew, 1893, Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot Landscape Architects (Buffalo News archives)

The Town of Depew was envisioned as a model town, and Frederick Law Olmsted — by then a legend in his own time — was contracted as the consulting architect in the designing of the town square.

The proof of Olmsted’s hand in designing Depew had been lost for generations — until a proposed changes to Broadway in 1991 sent historians to Olmsted’s archives, where they found as many as 40 maps of Depew.

It’s also no coincidence that today’s Depew has an Olmstead Avenue. Despite the misspelling, the street was named after the landscape architect. The extra “a” was added in error by a survey company in 1925, and the typo stuck.

There was talk of officially fixing the mistake as recently as 2011, but when Olmstead Avenue’s intersection with Transit Road was rebuilt to accommodate the new Tim Horton’s at the intersection the following year, new signs continued the typo-turned-fact.

Buffalo in the ’80s: Transit Road’s rooftop punch bug

By Steve Cichon

If you were a kid riding in the back seat on Transit Road in the 1980s, you quietly waited, hoping that your sibling forgot about the “sure thing” that was coming up.

Buffalo Stories archives/Buffalo News

Just past Cambria’s and Ralph’s Food Valu heading from the north — or just past Zorba’s and Lucki-Urban Furniture from the south — was a free, no-doubt-about-it punch for the kid who was paying attention.

Of course, nearly every set of siblings from the ’60s through the ’80s played the “punch bug” game with the original Volkswagen Beetles, produced for American drivers from the 1950s through 1977. Millions of Bugs meant millions of punches — as the game went, the first to see a “punch bug” was able to lawfully, under kids’ law, punch the person next to them as they exclaim “punch bug!”

It was about 1980 when Jim Abdallah, the Jim of “Jim’s VW Service” on Transit Road, took the engine out of a 1968 Volkswagen Bug and hoisted it up onto the roof of his repair shop.

From the small blurb in a 1985 Buffalo Sunday magazine, it’s unclear whether or not Abdallah was aware of the thousands of instances of physical violence he’d be precipitating in the back seats of family cars in the greater Depew/Lancaster/Cheektowaga area. There, however, the punch bug remained until some point in the ’90s — when the roof-borne bug was replaced with one painted on the side of the building. That still might be enough for some brothers to punch one another.

Remembering wonderful Depew weirdness: Mannequins

By Steve Cichon | steve@buffalostories.com | @stevebuffalo

For as long as I can remember, the front window of the old red house at the four-way stop on the corner of French and Cornell in Depew always had an epic display in the front window.

You can make out the outlines of the mannequins in the full-length windows in this Google Street View image from 2011.


Mannequins. 1960s or 70s looking mannequins. Right in the front window. Usually wearing some sort of lingerie, usually themed for whatever holiday or season was upon us. Santa hats and red silk teddies were always a yuletide highlight.

Heading east on French Road towards Transit at Cornell Drive. The former mannequin house is to the left. 2011 Google Street View image.


I never knew the story– there must have been a story– but it was always enough just to drive by and smile at the kind of interesting nut who’d fill his full-length parlor window with racy mannequins.

Driving by this past week, I noticed the mannequins were decommissioned and the house was up for auction.

The sad passing of another instance of wonderful, unique Western New York weirdness.


Parts of this story have been trickling in from social media. The homeowner passed away last year. Facebook friend Joy Carr shared this 2005 article from Lancaster/Depew Bee.