Moffat’s Brewery at Elmwood and Mohawk

       By Steve Cichon

Buffalo was incorporated as a city in 1832. The next year, John Moffat opened a brewery at the corner of what was then Mohawk and Morgan streets – Morgan was later renamed South Elmwood Avenue.

Moffat was known for producing ale and was the only brewery so close to the core of Buffalo’s downtown – only a block north of Niagara Square. On the small plot of land was all the infrastructure necessary to brew beer – from a grain elevator, to a malt house, to a small bottling works.

Moffat’s Brewery, located at Mohawk Street and Morgan Street, which is now South Elmwood Avenue.

Simple ingredients in their product made for a simple brew. Moffat used only malt and barley in the brewing of their ales. They used the simplicity as a necessary selling point, because by around 1900, Moffat was the only brewery in Buffalo that didn’t own taverns where its beer was sold.

Unlike many of the more financially successful taverns which controlled exclusive pouring rights at many neighborhood gin mills, Moffat relied on being the second or third option at independent bars, as well as on sales in grocery stores and home delivery.

“If you never experienced the independence feeling that comes over one who draws his own ale from his own barrel just as he wants it, our advice for you is to try it,” reads one ad for Moffat’s Cream and Old Mellow ales. A Moffat’s barrel could be delivered to your home for $2 when that ad was published in 1903.

Moffat operated as Buffalo’s longest continuously operating brewery until Prohibition, when it closed up shop. The buildings were used for storage until they were torn down to make way for the Statler Hotel’s 1,000-car parking ramp.

The brewery never reopened after Prohibition was lifted, but Buffalo’s Phoenix Brewery sold ale under the Moffat name through the 1930s.

Extending Elmwood Avenue to growing Kenmore

       By Steve Cichon

This is another in a series looking back at an illustrated map of Buffalo from 1880 and examines how the features on that map have — or haven’t — changed over 138 years. 

Most of the major streets through Buffalo haven’t changed too much since the 1880 map of Buffalo was printed about 140 years ago. One major exception is Elmwood Avenue.

Elmwood Avenue looking north from Allen Street in 1910.

In 1880, on paper Elmwood ran from North Street to the Beltline Railroad tracks just after Amherst Street. But that Elmwood was a series of smaller streets connected together as the city grew — it wasn’t a planned thoroughfare like Delaware Avenue or Main Street. It also didn’t extend all the way downtown.

Elmwood extension north of Hertel, 1912

For decades, there was talk of extending Elmwood to Niagara Square and widening the older parts of the street to make it the equal of Delaware or Main for north-south travel in the city.

Parts of the northernmost stretch were improved as a part of the Pan-American Exposition, but still, Elmwood only ran between Amherst and Allen streets.

Extending Elmwood at Virginia, 1911

The new part of Elmwood Avenue would cut through beautiful property of the Rumsey family, which was adjacent to Johnson Park. Crews worked for more than a decade to connect Niagara Square with growing suburban Kenmore.

Torn-down Tuesday: Elmwood at Summer, 1986

       By Steve Cichon

The area shown in this Stuyvesant Plaza photo has changed much over the last 32 years.

Torn-Down Tuesday: Elmwood at Summer, 1986

No longer standing are the Safeway locksmith and Fotomat kiosks, and the Mister Donut store was a Bakerman Donuts location in the ’90s, and has been a Just Pizza location since then.

The Your Host sign still stands, but for 20 years or so has advertised Chinese Kitchen instead.

The sign box holding the Stuyvesant Plaza sign in the photo also still stands, but was switched out with a KeyBank sign when Key moved into the plaza, following the Lexington Co-op’s purchase of Key’s former location at 807 Elmwood Ave. The old building was torn down to make way for Lexington’s current store that opened in 2005.

H.H. Richardson’s Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane

By Steve Cichon

Scarce few landmarks on the 1880 map are recognizable in today’s Buffalo.

We no longer call it the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, and it’s no longer alone in the most rural outstretch of the city before Elmwood Avenue extended that far north, but H.H. Richardson’s Romanesque Medina sandstone masterpiece remains one of Western New York’s most identifiable landmarks.

Until the $102 million in renovations that made the opening of the Hotel Henry possible, it seemed that for nearly 150 years, no matter what was happening at the rambling series of buildings — whether it was cutting-edge and humanitarian treatment of the mentally ill or attempts to preserve the history of the architectural treasure — was chronically underfunded.

An early visit from a state official, in a August 1885 article in the Buffalo Courier, gave the Forest Avenue facility top marks for the care that was provided.

1978 photo.

Dr. Andrews is often more anxious to get rid of a patient than anybody else can be, and it is his interest as it is that of a private practitioner to have as many recoveries as possible.

Patients whom the superintendent deems to have recovered, or those who are incurable, are discharged under bonds.

The asylum statistics show a very large percentage of recoveries in the course of a year.  Dr. Andrews is, moreover, a good Christian man of broad sympathies, whose heart is in the work, and along with his staff makes a constant study of the welfare of every patient.

The Buffalo State Insane Asylum is one of the best managed and best adapted institutions for the treatment of the insane that I have ever visited.

More than 100 years later, News Critic Anthony Bannon was using the pages of Gusto to ask the question of whether the sprawling building could be saved from the ravages of decay.

By 1983, patients hadn’t roamed the halls of the complex in a decade, and though place was still a state-owned facility, it was suffering from neglect and disrepair.

Although support from each level of government is possible, the buildings are owned by the state and the state must bear final responsibility, (said preservationist John Phelan).

The greatest danger is a lack of commitment, a loss of energy, Phelan observed. “Much of what has been lost, many of our buildings, have been lost because of a lack of energy to preserve them. It is an attrition process that goes on inevitably.”

“If the community doesn’t generate positive energy, it is as great a danger (to a building) as the freeze-thaw cycle.” In this instance, though, Phelan “assumes that all parties will work in good faith to find a solution.” I regard these buildings as world class building in the community, for which it would be incomprehensible that the things necessary for their preservation would not be accomplished for our future.”

Part of that future was realized and secured with the 2017 opening of the Hotel Henry inside the Richardson complex, but that’s not the end of the story.

“We are ecstatic about the position we are in,” Paul Hojnacki, president of the Richardson Center Corp., told News reporter Mark Sommer weeks before the Henry opened. “Because we are doing about a third of the complex, we have a lot of work left ahead of us. It’s going to be a real challenge.”

Torn-Down Tuesday: South Buffalo’s Twin Fair, 1979

By Steve Cichon

While many of the former Twin Fair locations live on as Tops, Big Lots and other retail outlets, the former Twin Fair location probably remembered best by South Buffalonians was torn down only within the last couple of years.

The checkout area of the Seneca Street Twin Fair, 1979. (Buffalo Stories archives)

The sign from the Elmwood Avenue Twin Fair, now home to a plaza which includes Tops and PetSmart..

The sign from the Elmwood Avenue Twin Fair, now home to a plaza which includes Tops and PetSmart.

Cutting the ribbon on Twin Fairs tenth store, on Maple Road in Amherst. The site is now home to Tops. In the photo are Harold Egan, Twin Fair President; Edith McArdle, Twin Fair employee since 1958; Al Dekdebrun, Amherst Supervisor, sporting goods retailer, and 1946 Buffalo Bisons quarterback; and Andy Heferle, store manager.

Cutting the ribbon on Twin Fair’s 10th store, on Maple Road in Amherst. The site is now home to Tops. In the photo are Harold Egan, Twin Fair president; Edith McArdle, Twin Fair employee since 1958; Al Dekdebrun, Amherst Supervisor, sporting goods retailer and 1946 Buffalo Bisons quarterback; and Andy Heferle, store manager.

After serving as the home of Gold Circle, Hills and Ames, that South Buffalo/city line location had been eyed by different developers after years of vacancy. Plans for a Walmart on the site never materialized, but in 2014, the old Twin Fair was torn down, and a 100-unit building for those living with mental illness was built on the spot.

M&T shows off its new Elmwood office

By Steve Cichon

Thirty-five years ago this week, The News began celebrating the 100th anniversary of the paper’s starting a daily edition.

In the special section called One Hundred Years of Finance and Commerce, The News recounted the history of a handful of Buffalo’s financial and commercial industries and provided ad space for many companies involved in those industries to tout their own contributions.

M&T Bank had been keeping Buffalo’s money safe for 24 years by the time The News started its daily editions, but in 1980 the bank was solidly in growth mode — including in the Elmwood Village.

The bank’s new “Elmwood Plaza” office offered state-of-the-art bank technology as well as what they called a “mini-park.”

It’s easy to laugh at the idea of a mini-park — especially since the same bench and trees on concrete slab stand there today. But in 1980, the idea that a tree might be planted in a spot “where a car could park” likely seemed pretty radical.