Parkside’s City living constants, places of worship, and places to learn

       By Steve Cichon

Keeping a Thumb on City Living Constants

While maintaining the value and physical appearance of housing stock is of critical importance, so too, were a number of other battles the PCA has fought along the way. The Parkside Community Association has led many charges over the years in keeping the community one of the city’s most envied, as “Parkside’s voice” as the city evolved.

As Buffalo hemorrhaged population, and the city made infrastructure changes and consolidations, Parksiders and the PCA fought to maintain a fair share. When Buffalo’s neighborhood Police precincts gave way to the plan dividing the city into 5 much larger districts, PCA was there making sure that Police protection wouldn’t drop off when the Precinct 17 House at Colvin and Linden was closed in favor of the D District house on Hertel Avenue.

The PCA was also there a decade earlier in 1982 as Councilmatic districts were re-drawn, with one proposal cutting Parkside in half. This plan was quickly abandoned by city planners with the voices of Parksiders heard.

The Association also played a major role in the development of School 54 first into a Center of Excellence School, and then as an Early Childhood Learning Center, riding the changes of the Buffalo Public Schools over the last several decades. Through the 1970s and 80s, the PCA went after funds to help in a defined preservation and restoration program for the homes of the community and the neighborhood at large.  Ruth Lampe, once the PTA President at 54 has taken great pride in the positive change at the school saying, “the magnet school concept and Buffalo’s successful desegregation efforts made the community more attractive because families moving to Parkside could choose from a range of options.”


Since the building of the Scajaquada and Kensington Expressways in the 1950s and 1960s, the streets of Parkside have become heavily traveled by the people of North Buffalo, Kenmore, and Tonawanda as the quickest way to get to the expressways to get downtown or to get back home.

Among the early proposed solutions to congestion, a 1965 investigation into the feasibility of an underpass where Parkside Avenue and the Scajaquada Expressway meet. It was the first of many times the community would become involved in traffic patterns in the neighborhood.

It was the work of people living in the neighborhoods that brought 4-way stop signs, and all of the traffic signals along Parkside Avenue to the area as traffic calming measures.

The first block of Russell became one way at the request of residents; the traffic signal at Parkside and Russell Avenues was added at the behest of residents and the zoo in 1987.

A decade earlier, it was a much more intense battle for the traffic light at Parkside and Florence Avenues. Even after deaths occurred in traffic accidents at the dangerous curve and intersection, it took years of fighting to have the device finally erected.

Residents argued that the signal wasn’t just necessary for drivers, but for pedestrians looking to get into the park. In 1976, the light was deemed unnecessary by the City Commissioner of Transportation Daniel Hoyt, despite that sharp curve and the numerous reports of damage to trees and homes at the intersection as motorists left the road.

A compromise was agreed upon with Commissioner Hoyt, as he promised to erect a traffic light at Parkside and Florence Avenues if neighbors agreed to allow a playground on park land near the intersection. $23,000 in block grants built the tot lot, which stands today; very near the still standing traffic light.

The Parkside Bar Scene

Like most city neighborhoods, traffic wasn’t the worst of it. At one point in the not too distant past, a handful of bars and taverns dotted the Parkside neighborhood, especially on Main Street and Parkside Avenue.

The PCA investigated and wrote letters on behalf of neighbors near the Casa Savoy Bar at Main Street and Orchard Place in 1968. In the late 1980s, neighbors and the PCA fought against efforts to turn the former Parkside Candy Shoppe at Main Street and West Oakwood Place into a bar. The Parkside Sweet Shoppe was open for several months selling desserts and booze, but didn’t last. 

However, since the advent of the Parkside Community Association, there has been no one single business to receive more complaints, from more neighbors, than the Park Meadow Restaurant.

The Park Meadow, early 80s.

Located at the corner of Parkside and Russell Avenues, The PM was originally a restaurant where many parishioners of St Marks and St Vincents grabbed their Friday fish fry, and left the neighborhood swathed in the inviting classic Buffalo smells of grease-soaked beer batter.

All during the 60s and 70s, the Park Meadow was a big hangout for Canisius College students, as well as several area high schools. At night it would get pretty rowdy, lots of beer drinking; not illegal activity per se, just a public nuisance for the folks right around the bar.

In the mid 70s, Dennis Brinkworth purchased the property, removed the kitchen, put in a full bar, and the problems amplified. Neighbors had more complaints about drunken youths, tossing beer cups and tossing their cookies onto lawns for blocks around the gin mill.

Neighbors and the PCA viewed Brinkworth as hostile towards their concerns. Brinkworth always claimed he was just trying to run a business. Before the conversion to a full bar, Brinkworth said he “was lucky to make $40 a night and practically had to give away the fish fry.”      

In 1979, three young men who’d been drinking all night at the Park Meadow, broke into the zoo and began attacking the polar bears, throwing large stones and trash cans into their pit. One of the young men was injured as, in a drunken stupor;  he fell into that bear pit. 

This and other incidents lead to the eventual revocation of the bar’s liquor license. The PCA has fought numerous attempts since to sell alcohol at the building, and has let subsequent restaurant managers know from the outset, that the community wouldn’t support the sale of any spirituous beverage on the premises.

The experience also hardened PCA activists to other business in the neighborhood as well, making sure that business plans, and plans for keeping the peace were clearly spelled out.

In 1983, neighbors fought an attempt by one-time Buffalo State basketball star and Buffalo Braves great Randy Smith from opening a video arcade on Main Street near the corner of Vernon at 2612 Main. The Common Council twice rejected a bid for license from the on-time NBA iron man because of concerns the Buffalo News reported as potential “loitering and minor crimes.”

Violent Crime

While Parkside has dealt with petty crime just as any other city neighborhood has, violent crime – even random murder – has also scarred the neighborhood on rare occasions. In 1961, Delaware Park took on a very sinister feel. Young Andrew Ashley was kidnapped from his family’s Jewett Parkway home, his body later found in the artificial lake in the quarry behind the Lodge (at Parkside and Florence Avenues) in the park.

Some remember a liquor store owner was murdered inside his Parkside store in a holdup in the early 1970s, and around the same time, three teens were stabbed in an apparently racially motivated attack near Main Street and West Oakwood Place.

In the early to mid 1980s, a string of rapes occurred in and around the Delaware Park area, close to the David statue. A West Side man, Anthony Capozzi was convicted for several of the attacks. However, it was only two decades later that a task force convened to catch a serial killer collared the actual Delaware Park Rapist.

Through DNA analysis and the man’s own admission of guilt, these rapes were properly connected to the man who had become known as the Bike Path Rapist and Bike Path Killer, Altemio Sanchez.  Capozzi, who bore a striking resemblance to Sanchez at the time, was exonerated and set free from prison.

Greenfield Street was rocked both literally and figuratively when, in 1987, an explosion and fire gutted the 46 Greenfield Street home of Gerard Ciccarelli. This, the fourth arson at the home, coincided with the day Ciccarelli was to be released from prison after serving a year for luring a 16 year old Cheektowaga girl to his home and molesting her.

Though Judge John Dillon denounced Ciccarelli as a “reprehensible lecher” who’d been arrested 14 times on 35 charges, neighbors told the Buffalo News at the time of the fire that they “resent the implication that anyone in the neighborhood was involved in anyway.”

Unfortunately, homicide isn’t foreign to the area, either.

In 1984, 89-year-old Alma Strasner was raped and viciously beaten to death at her Willowlawn Avenue home. The case went unsolved for 24 years, until 2008, when Buffalo Police Cold Case Detectives ran evidence from the scene through the national DNA databank. They came up with a hit. 

Edward Richardson, who was in jail in Seattle on misdemeanor charges, was once a handyman who had done work for and lived on Crescent Avenue, around the corner from Mrs. Strasner. 

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark credited Detectives Charles Aronica and Mary Gugliuzza with reopening the investigation and submitting blood evidence for a DNA analysis. Richardson eventually pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison.

More recently, on Good Friday 2006, 41 year old George Pitiliangas was gunned down as he closed up his 2285 Main St. Restaurant.  The long-time owner of Tony’s Ranch House was closing up the popular Parkside eatery– was once home to Henry’s Hamburgers– when 23 year old Amhir Cole gunned him down in the store. 

Cole is serving life without parole, plus 25 years. Judge Michael D’Amico leveled the unusually heavy sentence after Cole had convinced a mentally challenged man to admit to the murder. 

A memorial for Pitiliangas in the restaurant’s parking lot drew hundreds from Parkside, Central Park, and the Fillmore/Leroy neighborhoods, with more than one observer commenting that George’s tragic death brought folks from all walks of life, and both sides of Main Street together, just as his restaurant did. Pitiliangas’ mother reopened the restaurant 45 days after the shooting.

Parkside’s Houses of Worship Today

After 129 years on the same block of Main Street, Parkside’s first church, St. Vincent de Paul was closed. In 1992, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo began announcing plans to reduce the number of parishes on the Central East Side of Main Street from ten to five.

Despite consternation and the heavy hearts of many in the financially sound parish, St. Vincent’s was merged with Blessed Trinity, several blocks away on Leroy Street. The buildings of St. Vincent de Paul were sold by the Diocese to Canisius College for $250,000.  Many St. Vincent’s parishioners harbor a deep anger and resentment about the process to this day.

At the final mass on the Feast of Pentecost, May 30, 1993, a remembrance booklet was handed out to parishioners. It’s fitting closing quote, as noted by Michael Riester, “the physical structure may not last forever, but the love and spirit of St. Vincent’s will live on in us… These things of God indeed do not perish.” The prayers of many Parkside residents were answered when the church was not torn down, but given a $3.4 million face lift and opened as the 515-seat Montante Cultural Center in October, 2000.

St. Vincent’s was known for it’s Latin mass, seen here in 1992, Fr. Valentine Welker officiating.

The closure of St. Vincent de Paul leaves St. Marks as the neighborhood’s lone Catholic church. Msgr. Francis Braun and Sr. Jeanne Eberle have spent more than 25 years at the helm of St. Mark Church and School. Dubbed the “Dynamic Duo” of St. Mark’s by Bishop Edward Kmiec, he awarded them The 2009 Bishops Medal for 60 combined years of faithful and dedicated service to the parish.

Both have lent their names to buildings on the St Mark campus. In 2004, as the community celebrated his 24th anniversary of service to St. Mark’s, his Golden Jubilee as a priest, and his 75th birthday, The Rev. Francis Braun Auditorium was dedicated.  Upon completion of improvements at the school in June 2008, the lower level classroom wing was named The Sr. Jeanne Eberle SSJ Wing of Academic Excellence.

Upon receiving the area-wide recognition of the Bishop’s award, neither Msgr. Braun nor Sr. Jeanne wanted to speak about themselves, but did want to talk about the school and the community.

“We want to feature the school,” Msgr. Braun told the WNY Catholic. “People in North Buffalo already know about it, but (the award) is a means of letting the rest of the city know about the school.”

“Father (Braun) is very interested in the school, which is great,” said Sister Jeanne. “He boosts the school all the time.”

“Because it’s good for the neighborhood,” added Msgr. Braun. The school has been good for the neighborhood, and vice versa. While many parish schools closed through the 90s and 00s, people moved to Parkside because of St Mark’s School, and St. Mark’s School stayed open and healthy because of the health and vitality of the neighborhood.

Over the years, many have made comments about the pair working together for so long, a rarity in this day and age, that one of them, let alone both, would stay in the same post for so long. “They said it’s like being married,” joked Msgr. Braun. “I said, ‘No, no. We send notes to one another and see each other every few weeks.’ And they said, ‘That’s like being married!'”

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd continues on as well; searching for a rector at the time of publication. Whoever takes the job will be filling the large shoes of Rev. David Selzer, who was at Good Shepherd for over 13 years. 

Selzer always made sure that his church was part of the larger community, and vice versa. 

“In the same way the founders of this church, as a memorial chapel to Rev. Ingersoll of Trinity Church in Downtown Buffalo, envisioned both a church and a community center, we are continuing that tradition of being a presence in the Parkside Community. We obviously do worship, and are a part of that sense of a worshipping community, but were also doing outreach in terms of community service. AA meetings, dog obedience classes, ballet classes, PCA meetings, planned parenthood meetings, being the home base for the Parkside Home Tour, any number of activities in which the community is involved. 

“Part of the result is you have people who see themselves as members here by virtue of their worship, but there are also people who are members by participating in any one of those activities. 

At the same time, there’s the outreach function of this congregation. We’ve had a viable food pantry for the past 15 years, on Monday morning, a lot of folks who see people coming and say, ‘They don’t look like Parkside people,’ but they see themselves as a part of the community because they receive food.

“Church is both a place to worship, and a place to be a part of. The Halloween Party has been here 25 years plus. So now we have parents, who came here for Halloween bringing their kids here. This is their Halloween party. It doesn’t belong to the church or the Parkside Community Association. It’s a place to be safe, and place to get treats that they know won’t have something awful in them, and it’s also a place where the fire department, and the police department can bring canines and do their stuff with the kids as well. “

Central Presbyterian, Main & Jewett

Just up Jewett Parkway, Central Presbyterian had been experiencing a steady decline in membership for years. At its height, there were over 3,000 members at Central.

By 1985, membership had shrunk to about 800; by the mid-2000’s, it was in double digits. The huge costs of maintaining the buildings overwhelmed the congregation’s ability to support them, and a buyer was sought for the whole campus. After two years of leasing its buildings to a charter school, the grounds were sold to Mt. St. Joseph Academy in 2007. 

In May 2008, the 30 members of Central Presbyterian officially merged with First Presbyterian Church. Ironically, it was approximately the same number, roughly thirty, that left First Presbyterian over 170 years earlier to form Central.

Since 1971, just outside the boundaries of Parkside, at the corner of Amherst Street and Parker Street, stands Masjid Taqwa, a mosque owned by The Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier. 

While still maintaining the Parker Street building, An-Noor Masjid was built established in Amherst 1995 and is one of the largest Masjids (the Arabic word for mosque) in Western New York. Currently, ISNF is supervising the complete renovation of the interior of the Parker Street Masjid.

After having spent most of the last half century as a funeral home, Parkside’s oldest home, The Washington Adams Russell house, is now the home of The Church in Buffalo. On its website, The Church writes,” We are Christians who frequently meet together at 2540 Main Street in Buffalo, as well as in our homes.

“The building in which we meet on Main Street is our meeting hall; it is not the church. We, the believers in Christ, are the church. The word church in the original language of the Bible, and in its true meaning, simply stands for the believers themselves, the called-out congregation. We are not any special kind or group of Christians, but simply those who believe in and love the Lord Jesus and meet together in one accord with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:46).

“We do not really have a name, although some have tried to give us one. We are simply believers in Jesus Christ who desire only to hold and honor the precious Name of our Lord Jesus. In the first century, believers were simply Christians (1 Peter 4:16), and that was a name given to them by others (Acts 11:26).”

Refreshing Springs Church is in the building that was built as the Park Presbyterian Church on Elam Place, between Crescent Avenue and Jewett Parkway, in 1897.  Refreshing Springs vision is “Helping men, women and families from multiple economic and ethnic backgrounds to truly know Jesus, making disciples throughout W.N.Y. , and the world, through evangelism, planting churches, equipping workers, and establishing leaders.” 

Institutions of Learning

Aside from bringing a certain air to the neighborhood, the many institutions of learning in Parkside, including two of the three largest private colleges in the area, have also brought many real, tangible positives to Parkside as well.

Canisius College actually financially encourages its employees to live in Parkside. Its Employer Assisted Housing Program began in 2002, and faculty and staff can receive up to $7000 for buying a home in Parkside or another eligible city neighborhood.

But even more tangible, Canisius, as well as the other neighborhood schools, have been at the forefront of reusing buildings that, in other parts of the city, might have gone abandoned. Since the mid-80s, Canisius College has grown from 12 acres to 30 acres, with much of that growth in Parkside.

Indeed, Canisius has purchased and invested millions of dollars in many buildings mentioned in this narrative. In Parkside, the college purchased the former Streng Oldsmobile Dealership. The former Sears Store, more recently the Western New York Headquarters for Blue Cross/Blue Shield is now the Canisius Science center.

All of the buildings that were once a part of the St. Vincent de Paul parish are all now Canisius buildings. Many of the Sisters of St. Joseph buildings on the west side of Main Street have been sold to Canisius, including, the most recent home of Mount St. Joseph Academy, which has been raised by Canisius to make way for future development.

It’s caused somewhat of a domino effect, with Mount St Joseph’s Academy then moving into the former Central Presbyterian church at Main and Jewett. No longer directly affiliated with the Sisters, the students of Mount St. Joe’s Elementary enjoy a 7:1 student to teacher ratio.

At the heart of the Buffalo area’s third largest private college is another former Mount St Joseph’s structure. The main building at Medaille was until the mid-80s, the home of Mount St Joseph High School.

Medaille saw a 138% increase in enrollment 1995-2003, and its over three thousand students ranks the school just behind neighboring Canisius and Niagara in size. Medaille owns many of the beautiful homes on Humboldt Parkway near the school.

Another institution started by the Sisters of St. Joseph still going strong in Parkside is St. Mary’s School for the Deaf. SMSD carries on the traditions brought to the corner of Main Street and Dewey Avenue over 110 years ago. 

The school’s efforts to reach out to the neighboring communities continue with plans for a student-run coffee house in Parkside.  Hoping to capitalize on the explosive popularity of the Darwin Martin House, plans to open The Elam Jewett Café in Jewett Hall at the Church of the Good Shepherd continue to progress.

While not an educational institution, the Tri-Main Center is perhaps the area’s most creative re-use of a building. A year after Trico abandoned its factory at Main Street and Rodney Avenue, in 1988, Tri-Main began offering its mixed-use office, studio and light industrial facilities.

But whatever you call Tri-Main, don’t call it a plant. Matt Wolfe has helped market the complex over the years, and told Business First in 2002, “It’s funny because if you can get them away from thinking of this place as a factory, most people walk around here and say ‘Geez, I didn’t know all this was here’,” Wolfe said. “Besides, I guess by calling it the ‘old Trico plant’, it does give them a point of reference and an idea of where we are.”

Tri-Main is also Parkside’s best link to the current White House. Kittinger manufactures its fine furniture at its Tri-Main factory and workshop. In the same space where Ford Model-Ts and America’s first jet plane were manufactured, Kittinger artisans design and build furniture for the White House, including the “fireside chairs” both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush sat in during their inaugural ceremonies.

This page is an excerpt from The Complete History of Parkside by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online. 

The original 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2009, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon


Shifting Ideology in Parkside and Buffalo’s oldest community association

       By Steve Cichon

Ideological Shift

Parkside’s long-standing reputation as a politically conservative area predated the carving out of the neighborhood by Frederick Law Olmsted. The Granger Family, the first long-term white settlers in the area, was originally sent here with political patronage jobs from Thomas Jefferson.

The Granger family’s stone mansion on property that it now a part of Forest Lawn Cemetery was long known as the site of dozens of Republican fundraisers from the time of Lincoln up to the 1930s.

Elam Jewett was a close friend of the Buffalo’s Whig President Millard Fillmore. Before moving to what is now the corner of Jewett Parkway and Main Street, Jewett was the publisher of the very conservative and staid Commercial Advertiser, Buffalo’s most influential newspaper.

As one might expect, the neighborhood that sprung from the farm lands owned by Granger and Jewett became a very conservative Republican stronghold for well over half a century, aiding in electing Republican North, and later Delaware District Common Councilmen, as well as Republican Mayors of Buffalo. As late as the 1950s, Parkside was a predominantly Republican district.

In the 1960’s, however, the pendulum began to swing back. The election of John Kennedy to the White House, and a very likable Democrat, Frank Sedita, as Buffalo’s mayor, was making it easier to win over hearts and minds all over the city.

The home at the center of the Hoyt Mansion, shown here in the 1920s, was built at the corner of Main and High Streets in 1828 for the man who first planned Buffalo– Joseph Ellicott. In 1890, John Glenny moved it to Amherst Street and added on to it. William B. Hoyt purchased the home in 1910, making several additions. The Hoyt Family sold the home in the 1940s, when it was torn down to make way for the United Church Home Senior complex; which stood there until 2005, when Nichols tore the building down to make way for athletic fields.

And in 1970, Parkside joined with the rest of the Delaware Councilmatic District in electing the first Democrat ever to represent the area on Buffalo’s Common Council. William B. Hoyt II was the namesake and grandson of a lawyer who worked for New York Central Railroad, was an early Pierce Arrow investor, and was integral in pulling off the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. The elder Hoyt lived in a mansion on Amherst Street; now the site of the soccer and football fields of Nichols school.

The Younger Hoyt served on Buffalo’s Common Council from 1970 until 1975, and then continued to represent the northern half of the Parkside neighborhood in the New York State Assembly from 1975 until 1992, when after decades of tireless work for the Parkside area, he died after suffering a heart attack on the floor of the Assembly.

Since 1992, William B. Hoyt III, known to everyone as “Sam,” has served in the same seat as his father in Albany. That father-son duo represents 40 years of uninterrupted elected public service for the people of Parkside.

Emblematic of the larger clash of cultures issue were the goings on at the heart of Parkside one weekend night at the height of the counter-culture movement. At the corner of Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue, where Elam Jewett built his church “Good Shepherd,” and from where the neighborhood sprung, two worlds collided.

The William Sydney Wicks mansion, Jewett and Summit.

The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Darwin Martin house had, by the late 1960s, become the official residence of the President of the University at Buffalo. Across Jewett Parkway, in the home noted Buffalo Architect William Sydney Wicks designed and built for himself, lived one of the University’s most “infamous” dissident professors, Dr. Elwin H. “Ed” Powell.

Ed Powell called the house “The People’s Pentagon.” Powell was an early opponent of the Vietnam War, holding “teach-ins” about the conflict in 1964. He led war protests through the 60s and 70s, and sheltered war resisters at the house in 1971.

His son, Jim Powell, remembers growing up in the house during that time. “The FBI and other law enforcement had the house watched for many years and the phone lines tapped. Sometimes my friends and I would go out in the middle of winter and offer the agents hot drinks while they sat there in the snow watching our house. They never accepted.”

The federal agents also did their best to make sure the neighborhood knew of the subversive activity going on in their neighborhood. “Sometimes they went door to door showing pictures of naked hippies… taken through the fence of our back yard where, at any given time during parties, there’d be dozens of naked hippies splashing around. Never a dull moment.”

The photos were likely unnecessary. The younger Powell remembers his status in the neighborhood rising, as parents told their children they weren’t even allowed near the home Jim Powell calls “a commune of Charlie Manson look-alikes with a rag-tag bunch of teenagers hanging around.”

He writes of the night the UB establishment clashed with the counter- culture in what he saw as “The bright shiny Cadillacs and Buicks versus the VW bugs and buses, Mavericks and Valiants.”

The University was having a fancy party at the
Frank Lloyd Wright house and invited everyone to attend the Gala Formal Event
at the magnificent UB President’s house at 125 Jewett Parkway on the corner of
Jewett and Summit. As luck would have it, Dad was throwing a Hippie-Laden
Moratorium Day blow-out party at 124 Jewett.

Dad’s counterculture parties at our house were legendary, yet another reason parents forbade their kids from going near the place. There were usually massive amounts of beer, often in kegs and the gallons and gallons of cheap wine flowed like the Great Niagara a few miles away. Yet that wasn’t the half of it, there was so much grass and LSD, there was absolutely something for everybody.

The music was amazing, the bands would set up in the large formal dining room that faced out across Jewett to the FLW house and the music was so loud it could be heard for blocks. Hundreds of people would show up for Dad’s parties and by 9 PM there was usually a whole pile of hippies swimming naked in the pool.

Dr. Powell lived in the Wicks House until his death in 2001, but before then– he was able to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act, portions of his over 30,000-page FBI file.

Powell’s son Stephen noted in a eulogy for his father that “they had taken the great pains to go through every page and cross off the names of the informants that had contributed to this great work. Some had even lived at the house with us. He was aghast and incensed when he read the conclusion of the summary report of the file when they decided he was ‘actually a pretty nice guy’ and was not a terrorist threat.”

7: The Parkside Community Association

The Parkside Community Association owes its foundation in part to another group, HOME, Housing Opportunities Made Equal.  According the HOME website, in 1963, the founding members of HOME came together from a variety of racial and religious backgrounds to address the ever present problem of discrimination in the Buffalo housing market.  

The two men who founded the PCA met at a HOME meeting. “Dick Griffin and I both lived in Parkside,” remembers Jack Anthony, “and met at a HOME meeting. We said HOME is good, but what about our neighborhood?

“So June, 1963, we moved my parents furniture out of their living room, we got some folding chairs from George Roberts Funeral Home, Main at Willowlawn, and we leafleted the neighborhood to say we were having a meeting about our neighborhood.

“We filled the living room, and a good crowd showed up. It was organized around blockbusting. So we organized, I was the first President. We had different committees. Traffic, trees.  Dutch Elm Disease killing off the trees was a really big problem. A lot of people were very upset by that.  We did a lot of things other than blockbusting.”

But, as previously outlined, much of the group’s initial effort went into preventing blockbusting. Word got out rather quickly that this wouldn’t be acceptable. Early on, Parksiders decided to build an integrated community and worked for racial harmony and diversity.

 “We had
one black real estate agent who was accused of blockbusting. We invited him
into my living room; he denied having ever done any blockbusting; and what’s
more, he promised he’d never do it again. That was the only real concrete
incident, but the word got out– If you trying blockbusting in Parkside, the
PCA’s going to be after you.”

PCA wasn’t just involved with keeping those that would destroy the neighborhood out; from its very beginning, the Parkside Community Association was charged with bringing new people into the neighborhood.

“We distributed plenty of literature, our first pamphlet was called, Who Needs Suburbia. It basically said we’re looking for nice neighbors no matter what color you are. So as far as most folks can see, it worked. “

David and Ruth Lampe were among the most vocal of the pioneers who helped develop the neighborhood back from its lowest point. As they were sending their children to School 54 in an effort to maintain and build upon the character of the school, the Lampes were reviving the dilapidated American Four Square they’d purchased on Crescent Avenue between Robie Street and Florence Avenue in 1970. It was one of a number of homes on the block that had seen better days.

Aside from being the PTA President at School 54, Ruth Lampe would go on to spent the next four decades as a stalwart member of the Parkside Community, acting as a block club organizer, PCA President, Housing specialist, and fighter for causes important in maintaining and growing the neighborhood.

In 1984, Lampe was interviewed by the Parkside News, 14 years after her arrival in Parkside. “(In the mid-70s), Parkside had all the trappings of a neighborhood in trouble. Its housing stock was beginning to deteriorate; it was next to a changing community; it was relatively isolated; its local school was in trouble. Few other communities have turned around so quickly and so impressively. Parksiders can take pride in their success.”

It was a major community effort, on many different levels, to make it all happen. The PCA fought against plans of The Trico Products Corporation to tear down a handful of structures along Greenfield Street near Main to build a parking lot for its plant (now the Tri-Main building).

In a 1970 formal letter to city officials opposing the plan, President Richard Griffin wrote, “One primary purpose of the PCA has been to promote and retain the residential character of our community…. One city official has aptly described Trico’s proposal as ‘blockbusting into a residential neighborhood.'”

The PCA has also, since the early days, attempted to preserve the character of the neighborhood by insisting on strict code enforcement for both businesses and home owners.

When the PCA’s Housing Committee was formed in 1967, the minutes of the Board of directors meeting said the committee should “determine what structures are (in a state of disrepair) and make efforts to persuade the owner to remedy the situation. Our purpose is not to form a vigilante committee.” 

After identifying poorly kept premises, they worked to figure out why work wasn’t being done, and helping when needed. The committee also worked to commend those who maintained their homes beautifully. 

As time wore on, and despite the thought by some that the PCA should “mind its own business,” the association began to take a firm stand on building codes, and encouraged the passage of codes and law which provided a legal basis to help keep the neighborhood from falling into the same condition as many other city neighborhoods.

This means painting and general upkeep, but also making sure, for example, the proper permits are in place before a lawn and greenery can be cemented over and a curb cut for a parking pad.

It also applies to building usage. PCA successfully fought Buffalo State College’s Sigma Tau Rho fraternity from opening 252 Crescent Avenue as a Frat House in 1970. UB’s Dental Fraternity had operated a house at the corner of Summit and Russell Avenues for many years. The frat was described in a 1970 Buffalo Evening News accounting as “terrible and disastrous” for neighbors. PCA Co-Founder Dick Griffin told one reporter of “students playing loud music and cavorting on the lawn with their girlfriends. Parkside wasn’t sorry to see them go.”

The PCA also generally tries to look at preservation and rehabilitation of a property, as opposed to demolition, to prevent the blighted “gap-tooth” look seen in some city neighborhoods.  One notable exception was the large apartment house which stood at the corner of Florence and Parkside Avenues in varying degrees of vacancy and vagrancy from the 1950s until the time it was torn down in the 1970s.

This house stood vacant at Parkside and Florence as a collection spot for dozens of political signs until it was taken down in the early 1970s. The “Welcome to Parkside” sign now stands about where the porch is in this early 70s shot. Among the names on the political signs plastering the house: Mayor Sedita, and Common Councilmen Chester Gorski and Anthony Masiello.

The Parkside Community Association was not, of course, the only community group active in Parkside.

St. Vincent de Paul Roman Catholic church, which operated just south of Humboldt Parkway on Main Street for 125 years,  was very much interested in the future of the city neighborhoods it served.

The church paid particular interest in, as a 1979 Courier-Express article described it, “an aging but elegant North Buffalo apartment building. Michael Riester wrote about it in the March 2000 edition of Parkside News:

With the advent of the 1960’s, St. Vincent’s bravely confronted the great social changes underway. Under the direction of Msgr. Paul Valente, parishioners turned their attention to concerns facing her neighborhood. St. Vincent’s joined the fight to oppose redlining, the illegal banking practice of refusing to loan money for inner city home purchases.

Describing the changing mission of the traditional parish, Msgr. Valente is quoted as saying, “What it’s becoming is more of a community center. We are trying to become more community conscious and less missionary in the old sense of going out to make converts. We simply want to indicate by our concern and action that we feel a part of the community, and that we have the interests of the community at heart.

Encouraged by Msgr. Valente, an enthusiastic group of parishioners became a part of the Community Action Organization. This grassroots organization involved 16 catholic parishes who decide to try to fight redlining by peaceful means… 

During the summer of 1975, a group of parishioners began an in-depth study of slumlords within the (Parkside) neighborhood. They focused their attention on the owner of the Crescent Apartments at 196 Crescent Avenue. Having gained the support of the tenants, committee members actually accompanied city housing inspectors through each apartment, making a list of needed repairs.

At one point, over seventy-five neighbors demanded a meting with Mayor Makowski and city housing inspectors to address a list of over seventy-five code violations within the building. A meeting did take place at the St. Vincent’s Parish rectory, and through repeated exposure in the Buffalo News, the building was sold to a new owner.

Ruth Lampe has been a stickler for housing and building code compliance, and has served as the PCA’s Housing Specialist. 

In a 1984 interview about housing, Lampe said, “PCA’s controversial and largely successful housing program ensured that the area’s housing stock was well maintained, even in cases where owners would not have otherwise afforded to make improvements.

“We often take this community for granted. We need to have some historical perspective. (In 1974), housing prices were depressed and we had real problems. Now (in 1984), while everything is not perfect, we have solved the number one problem– the stability and attractiveness of the community. “

94 Jewett Parkway stands as a testament to mixed use in Parkside. A state-run group home site since 1986, the home was designed by well regarded Buffalo firm Esenwein and Johnson, and built by Mr. Sinclair, who made millions in the millinery business; making the ornate sort of women’s hats that were in style in the 1890s. The last private owner of the home was very intrigued about a large walk-in vault below the back porch, so he paid a locksmith rather handsomely to open the obviously long locked safe. There was great suspense as the door creaked open, with hopes of some long-forgotten riches. Suspense turned to great hope as there was, to everyone’s surprise… a single box in the safe. The box was excitedly cracked open to find… A stash of girlie magazines.

Parkside’s efforts to “Preserve a Neighborly Neighborhood” became the title of an article published in The National Observer, in 1972, which acted as a weekend edition for the Wall Street Journal. PCA Co-founder Richard Griffin takes a reporter on a tour of the neighborhood which had just undergone a decade of momentous change. The mood of the piece is, we’re hopeful, working on it, and hoping for the best.

The hoping and the work paid off. “Parkside inspires more confidence than it did four or five years ago. One real estate broker confided that one of the reasons for the Elmwood-Delaware Area’s resurgence was the number of people fearful of investing in Parkside,” Real Estate Reporter Phillip Langdon wrote in a 1979 Buffalo Evening News larger piece on the “comeback” of the city as a whole. The article continued:

 (Richard) Mabee (of Gurney,
Becker, and Bourne Realty) confirms what Parkside residents say — that
“Parkside has gained a lot of appeal. It’s become a very successful
integrated neighborhood.”

Some nervous whites moved out, but Mabee says “those spots were filled
in not only by successful blacks but by university people, who are more
broadminded.”…”They’re active and they’re smart,” Mabee says
of (the Parkside Community Association).

A 1977 Parkside newsletter quotes a Community Planning Assistance Center (CPAC) study of the changes in Parkside, comparing the area in 1970 to the way it was in 1977.

Parkside community residential housing prices have increased on average from
$21,500 to $33,500 in 1977. The sales listings have decreased from a 1973 high
of 92 to a 1976 total of 46, which can be interpreted as a sign of confidence
in the area as viewed by its residents…. Owner occupied dwellings have
increased from 895 in 1970 to 925 in 1975, an increase of 30 units.

The same 1977 newsletter came with a page labeled “Thoughts on Our Neighborhood,” a sample of opinions offered up by members:

have young children, young married couples, old married couples, retirees,
grandparents, blacks, whites, others, blue collars, white collars, laborers,
professionals, liberals, conservatives, moderates, radicals, reactionaries,
anarchists, entrepreneurs, communists, all living together… one from many.

Many opinions also focused on the slowly upgrading housing stock, and the varied nature of the areas homes, and a still tempered hope for the future of the neighborhood.

The PCA would take a major role in bolstering those tempered hopes, but only with the active support of the people of the neighborhood. It was still a topic of great interest when written about in the February 1981 Parkside News

you might not be aware of it, the ‘renaissance’ of the Parkside community has
taken a lot of work by your neighbors over the past few years. Building code
enforcement, tree planting, zoning enforcement, solving small community
problems, and housing improvements have been among the main concerns of the

As the Parkside Community Association has progressed, the resident involvement it has stimulated has been the major force in the perception and creative dealing with newly emerging neighborhood needs.

Three years ago, in 1977, in response to the perception that the neighborhood was in need of a defined preservation and restoration program, the membership voted to open a formal office with the assistance of outside funding. PCA was awarded community development funds to help with its programs. In 1979, New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal funds were added to the PCA’s budget.

Despite all the successes, challenges continued. While blockbusting was corralled very early on, redlining has lasted in various forms even up to this day, and the fact that it is so institutionalized, makes it very difficult to fight.

When the term first came into usage, it referenced the practice of denying loans and insurance (or allowing loans or insurance but at incredibly raised rates) to people in communities that banks and insurance companies found undesirable (usually that meant poor or black.) The definition expanded to include other businesses that would deny basic services or adequate access to services based on geographic location. 

The Community Association’s annual spring meeting in 1976 was entitled, “Redlining and Disinvestment.  The Erie County Citizens Organization present their findings of ‘banking disinvestment’ in Buffalo.“ Finding loans to buy or renovate a home in the area was getting increasing difficult, as was finding reasonably priced homeowners insurance for many.  

Other societal changes made some other forms of redlining more apparent as well. Up until the mid ‘70s, a family’s groceries could, for the most part, be purchased within the confines of Parkside. Grocers like Red & White would have fruits and canned goods, one of the several delicatessens had smaller items. At various times there were butchers and bakers. But with the rise of supermarkets, came the fall of the Mom and Pop stores, and residents had to rely on the behemoth stores outside of the neighborhood confines for groceries.

Main & West Oakwood, 1950s

By the early 80s, many were beginning to question the variety at the area markets.  Most Parksiders shopped at the Bells in Central Park Plaza, the Super Duper on Great Arrow near Delaware, and the Tops on Delaware at Linden. It was observed that the fresh meats and produce weren’t as fresh or plentiful as in suburban stores, and that some staple items, like milk and bread, were priced higher for city shoppers.

Taking it on as an obvious quality of life issue, The PCA publicly campaigned for changes. The manager of each store was called out in editorials in the Parkside News and in the larger press, and it was insisted that such practices wouldn’t be tolerated. It’s just a small example of raising the quality of life in many different ways to make the area more attractive to people willing and able to invest.

Throughout the 1970s, one major investment Parksiders looked forward to was the building of the LRRT, light rail rapid transit, right along Parkside’s spine on Main Street.

For more than a decade, residents actively participated in deciding where the stops should be placed in the neighborhood. By the time the MetroRail plans were set in 1982, it was thought 10,000 people a day would be arriving and departing from the Amherst Street station every day. Many Parksiders (and City Planners) of the day saw this as the future of the neighborhood. All around the country, areas newly serviced by light rail had always seen property values escalate.

While in retrospect, the projected numbers fell way short of expectation, and the project wasn’t the panacea that many thought it might be, it still helped give Parkside a boost.

The June 1981 Parkside News headline read, Housing Values in Parkside Soar. Just as average home value increased and the number of sales dropped 1970-77, 1979-81 saw more stabilization, based in part of the impending opening of the MetroRail.

The 1979 MLS average for homes sold in Parkside was $27,800. A year later, it had jumped to $35,800. There were also 50% fewer sales. Area home values increased 28.5% 1979 to 1980, as compared to an only 8.3% increase in WNY as a whole.

In 1984, UB’s Department of Environmental Design conducted an analysis of the Parkside neighborhood, looking to see how the Comprehensive Code Enforcement program affected the community. As far as housing values, they rose 29% in Buffalo between 1978 and 1982. In Parkside, housing values rose 56% during the same period.

With the future of the neighborhood on a much more firm footing by the mid 1980s, many stopped worrying about treading water, and began looking to the future. Many looked at the past as a means to ensure that future.

By 1983, an initial survey of the Parkside neighborhood was completed by the Friends of Olmsted Parks, with the hope and expectation that the Olmsted-designed neighborhood might be recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Over the next few years, a complete survey was completed, with the efforts spearheaded by Erie County Legislator Joan Bozer, she a Parkside resident. The full document is over 1,000 pages, and includes a two page summary of every building within Parkside, and painstakingly inventories the historic relevance of every article of the neighborhood’s landscape:

Parkside… Historic District in Buffalo, New York is located approximately
four miles north of Buffalo’s central business district at the east and
northeast sides of Delaware Park. The district is characterized by an irregular
street pattern, which generally follows the contours of the adjacent park’s
edge, and by a large number of single family residences built for middle and
upper-middle class families during the nineteenth and early twentieth

The Parkside… Historic District covers a relatively flat, crescent-shaped area of approximately 226 acres. There are 1768 contributing buildings included in the district; 1109 represent principal buildings and 659 are outbuildings, usually garages. Three of the contributing buildings were listed on the National Register in 1975 as part of the Darwin Martin House Complex…

The district also includes nine contributing structures, representing historic streets and street segments significant for their association with Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1876 and c.1886 plans for the development of “Parkside.” These features comprise: Agassiz Circle, Amherst Street, Crescent Avenue, Greenfield Street, Humboldt Parkway, Jewett Parkway, Parkside Avenue, Summit Avenue, and Woodward Avenue. There are 22 non-contributing principal buildings in the historic district. Most of these are infill housing units or post-1926 apartment buildings; however, several represent severely altered buildings constructed within the district’s 1876-1936 period of significance.

In 1987, Parkside officially won the Historic Designation. PCA Board President Robert A. Kilduff wrote about it in the Parkside News:

The real benefit of the designation is more intangible,
more psychological than financial. It involves recognition of the value of what
we have inherited as well as a renewed commitment to preserve it….               

The Historic designation has also seen an increase in activism in the affairs of the Park. Parkside was designed around the Park, and was seen by Olmsted as an integral part of the Park System. Parkside was created as a built-in protector of the Park system, serving to buffer the Park from inappropriate uses.

Now, many Parksiders complain that Delaware Park is no longer seen as a part of the community by “the powers that be,” but as a regional entity… PCA’s watch dogging of conditions an usage of the park has seemed parochial to some, but the mission of Parkside is more than parochialism, but rather an historic mission.

That same year was watershed year for the Community Association, as in March 1987, a PCA was established with the purchase of a new headquarters building. The PCA committed to buy and renovate the former dental offices of Dr. Monreith Hollway at 2318 Main Street, which included the office as well as two units of low income housing. Initial renovation costs, to be provided by two state grants, were to total $71,000. “Owning the building is seen by PCA as a commitment to renovating a visible and deteriorating community resource.”

2318 Main Street was slated for demolition before it was purchased and renovated by the Parkside Community Association. 1987 photo.

But it wasn’t as easy as initially thought. By January, 1990, difficult and costly renovations had dragged on, and the PCA was being evicted from its previous office space at 10 W Oakwood Place, as owner was trying to sell the building. The PCA had lost state funding to refurbish the building at 2318 Main Street, and the project was becoming entangled in a web of city, state, and federal regulations.

But the many problems were overcome, and, by mid
1991, as the PCA got ready to move into its building at 2318 & 2320 Main
Street, one longtime Parkside Resident was awash with memories. Milton Carlin
remembered his father’s jewelry store was on the right side of the two
store-front building. At that time, the left side was Russell’s Barber Shop, At
that point, the building’s dentist owner, Dr. Hollway, practiced upstairs. The
jewelry store existed in the space through the 1940s, when Dr. Hollway moved
his practice into the storefront. It remains today the PCA headquarters.

The offices of Dr. Monreith Hollway; now the PCA Office, 2318 Main Street

As the neighborhood and the focus of the community association changed, one man greatly credited with keeping neighbors on track was Derek Bateman; the Executive Director of PCA from 1982-1992.

As he left, he was lauded as greatly responsible for helping to turn around the attitudes about the neighborhood’s housing stock.

“He saw the neighborhood through its comprehensive code enforcement, a process that upset many homeowners, but brought about dramatic changes in the physical appearance of the area.”

Bateman wrote at the end of his tenure that plenty of what was seen and what was not seen in Parkside had been influenced by the PCA during his time as Executive Director:

There are no video arcades at the corner of Main
and Amherst or Parkside and Russell, and nor are there disruptive bars at
Parkside and Russell. There is a stoplight at the intersection of Florence and
Parkside, and many new trees along Parkside’s streets.

There is a newly renovated Parkside-Florence tot
lot, initiated by interested residents working with the PCA. The new historic
street lights, now being put up, would have been inappropriate suburban looking
fixtures had it not been for PCA intervention.

While neighborhoods around the city continued to deteriorate, Parkside, with its strong community, and strong community association prospered. But maybe too much, as a double edged sword came for the PCA in 1996: The State of New York’s Department of Housing and Community Renewal determined that the Parkside Community Association met its original goal of creating a stable and economically diverse neighborhood.

While this milestone came as great news, it also came with the state ending its yearly grant of $63,000, nearly immediately, as of March 1996.

It came as a shock, and caused the organization to change the way it had operated for many years. Three jobs, and one proposed job, were eliminated from the PCA.

The organization had long been open for housing assistance for low income homeowners. Those requests were being forwarded to the North Buffalo Community Center. New emphasis was put on membership and fundraising. The writing of grants and annual requests of city, county and state lawmakers became yearly events.

This page is an excerpt from The Complete History of Parkside by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online. 

The original 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2009, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon


Main Street: School 54, Cars, Pharmacies & Restaurants

       By Steve Cichon

When the Jewett and Russell farms were opened for building sites about 1890, among the first questions was of adequate schooling for the children of families coming to live in this new part of town. Many schools in the surrounding areas were old and filled to capacity.

In marking the 35th anniversary of the school, a 1927 Buffalo Sunday Times Article, stated, “The history of School 54 runs parallel with the history of the neighborhood surrounding it.” This brick building stood in the current school’s parking lot.

The year 1892 saw public education come to Parkside, when “The Parkside School,” a brick school house which was to eventually become Buffalo School 54, was opened on land donated for the purpose by Mrs. Elam Jewett. 

Originally a 16 room school, the building grew as the neighborhood did; additions came in 1905 and 1913. The later addition was really more of an encapsulation, with the original facade being enveloped completely by the new build.

Part of what made the school an institution was the continuity of the teachers and staff. The school’s first principal, Miss Clara Swartz, lived a few blocks away at 154 Woodward Avenue. Her tenure at the school ran from the school’s opening until her retirement in 1924.

Thirty years’ worth of Parkside youth all had the same principal at the Parkside School.  Toward the end of Miss Swartz’s tenure as principal, came Miss Mary Kirsch, who began teaching first graders in the early 1920s. She would teach generations of Parkside 6 year-olds before her retirement in the early 1960s.

While these two women, whose careers spanned 70 years in education, were both remembered for their warmth with the children, Miss Schwartz was also remembered for patrolling the halls with the rubber hose. She used it liberally on misbehaving children.

Part of School 54 Class of 1936, with Dick Willats’ Main Street car dealership in the background.

school has long had one of the strongest Parent-Teacher Associations in the
city, as early as 1920,  making sure that
the school was always among the finest in Buffalo. The group often won the
favor of city officials, winning upgrades for the school like a new cafeteria,
more classrooms, and an improved heat plant. 

As the years wore on, dress codes banned slacks for girls, and dungarees for everyone in the 1950s. The school day began with a morning prayer, and, even after Miss Schwartz hung up her hose, corporal punishment was still a means of making sure students fall into line.

But School 54 changed as Buffalo and Parkside did, and those changes, and how they were carried out, is a major part of Parkside’s identity through the 60s, 70s, and 80s. More on that part of the story is yet to come.

One big change came in the mid-1960s when ground was broken on the current School 54. In 1964, the last vestige of Parkside’s agrarian past was demolished; as Hagner’s Dairy was taken down to make way for a new state of the art school building.

As students past and
present gathered to watch the demolition of the old school that so many had
passed through, memories flowed of not only the school, but of old Main Street.

Hagner, whose family home and dairy gave way for the new school, remembered
when, the generation before, elegant residences of the Grieb and Berger
families were leveled to open up space for the Cadillac and Oldsmobile dealers
directly across the street, making car lots between the Tinney/Braun and Streng

In the early days of the Delaware Park Zoo, the directors decided any animals that died would be donated to the Buffalo Society of the Natural Sciences. In 1895, when an American Bison died at the Buffalo Zoo, experts from the Smithsonian Institution said no one in Western New York had the skill to mount the animal. Herman Grieb’s attempt was not only successful, but “Stuffy” the bison remains on display at the Buffalo Science Museum to this day. In 1915, Grieb moved his family and his taxidermy shop from Elm Street to the more rural block of Main Street between East Oakwood and Jewett. The building was next door to the Buttolph farmhouse, which was demolished in 1929 to make way for the Pierce Arrow Showroom. The Grieb Studio eventually made way for the adjoining lot.

Buying a Car in Parkside

The Parkside area of Main Street became home to many upscale motor car showrooms. They included the Hupmobile Showroom (soon to be Dick Willats Hudson Dealership, photo on previous page ) next to Smither’s Parkside Pharmacy at Leroy Avenue, as well as the popular Studebaker showroom between East Oakwood and Dewey Avenues.  One could also buy a Pierce-Arrow or even a venerable Ford in Parkside as well. The Ford Factory and showroom was at the corner of Main Street and Rodney Avenue, along the northeast side of the Beltline tracks.

While the factory on the north side of the Beltline was turning out cars for working men and women of the country, both metaphorically and literally on the other side of the tracks was the “Update Building” for the ultra-elegant Pierce-Arrow.

Built in Buffalo on Elmwood Avenue, The Pierce-Arrow motor car was the status-symbol car of choice for John D. Rockefeller, Babe Ruth, Presidents Taft, Wilson, Harding, and for dozens of Hollywood stars, like Carol Lombard. The siren girlfriend (and later wife) of Clark Gable, Lombard purchased a Pierce-Arrow in 1926.

Later, the company began to offer hydraulic brakes. Never wanting a starlet to be without, the company paid to have the auto shipped back to Buffalo by train, unloaded off the Beltline into the Update Center, new brakes were installed and the car shipped back all at Pierce-Arrow expense.

It was typical for Pierce-Arrow owners to ship their cars to Parkside for yearly maintenance and updating.

Parksider Milt Carlin remembered back to his teens, when the Shah of Persia’s Pierce Arrow was featured the showroom window along Main Street. Milt recalls the thrill of being one of many neighborhood kids who tagged along with the crowd invited to view the elegant black car with its opulent jeweled ashtrays and white bear rugs.

The update building remains, but for most, Pierce-Arrow in Parkside means the showroom. In 1929, the showroom moved from Main Street between Tupper and Edward to the Main Street at Jewett Parkway location, which until that time was the site of Floss’s Coal and Ice.

The $500,000 masterpiece building, along with the Central Terminal and City Hall, is one of a handful of fine Buffalo buildings built in the style that would become known as “Art Deco.”

Crowned by a 40 foot tower, the building’s exterior boasts windows friezed with polychromed terra cotta. Inside, the coffered ceiling is adorned with tire and hub medallions. The floor could accommodate up to 15 luxury automobiles.

While in 1929 there were 1,500 Pierce-Arrows motoring around Buffalo, the timing for the move to the brand new, state of the art showroom couldn’t have been worse.

The nation would soon be in the grips of an economic depression. Sales dropped off, and by 1936, the Pierce-Arrow showroom had become a Cadillac showroom.

Cadillacs would be sold from the spot for the next 62 years under 3 different names. First Maxson Cadillac from 1936-57, then Tinney Cadillac from 1957-81. Finally, from 1981-98, the dealership was known as Braun Cadillac. When Braun moved its showroom to Depew, Buffalo Savings Bank purchased and renovated the space as their headquarters branch.

In 2007, Buffalo Savings was bought out by First Niagara Bank, which continues to run a branch at the Jewett & Main location.

Pierce Arrow Showroom, later Maxson Cadillac.

Just to the south of the Pierce-Arrow showroom, stood Eagan & Streng Chrysler starting in 1923. The building of green marble became an Oldsmobile dealer in 1930, and when Eagan died in 1938, Herbert H. Streng’s name went up on the sign alone. The Streng family spent 75 years selling cars in Parkside at 2365 Main Street.

In 1973, the Strengs bought the property between their dealership and Tinney Cadillac to the north, adding room for another 60 Oldsmobiles, making the dealership the largest in WNY.

Only weeks after Braun Cadillac closed in 1998, Herbert S. Streng, the son of the founder of Streng Olds announced General Motors bought the dealership back from him, effectively ending the ability of Parksiders to buy a new car in the neighborhood. “I just sold one customer his 30th Streng Olds. GM isn’t just buying a dealership from me,” Streng said upon news of the closure, “They’re buying a life time.“

The Streng Oldsmobile showroom, from a 1980 ad.

Canisius College bought the Streng Dealership building, and in 2001 opened Demerly Hall there. The green-facaded building now houses the school’s health and human performance graduate programs.

In the 1940s, Saul’s Auto Sales was a Studebaker Showroom across from West Oakwood, and Don Allen Chevrolet was at Main and Fillmore.

Next door to City Chevrolet was the Central Park Theatre, right at the point of Main and Fillmore. Long time resident Marjorie Hagner remembered it as a true neighborhood movie house, with the latest great moving picture shows, along with vaudeville acts. Ads from the 1946 City Directory.

But Parkside’s first foray into the world of the automobile came decades before Streng or Pierce-Arrow.

The Ford Motor Company opened their sales, service, and assembly operations plant in 1915. It was designed by Albert Kahn and Ernest Wilby, who based the building on that of an earlier Ford plant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

You can still see “FORD” inlayed in the brick on the smokestack of the building as of 2009. The showroom was on the ground floor, manufacturing on the higher floors.

Ford Factory and Showroom– now the Tri-Main Center, Main Street, Buffalo.

From 1915 to 1923, 599,232 Model-T Fords were assembled at the Main Street facility. The last Model-T rolled off the assembly line in Buffalo in 1927.

Then from March 1928 to August 1931, Model-A Fords were built in Parkside until all Ford’s local manufacturing was transferred to the Fuhrmann Boulevard/Woodlawn plant.

After Ford moved its machinery from that building to a plant of Fuhrmann Boulevard in 1931, Bell Aircraft took over the plant through 1942. During that time, Bell produced the Airacomet P-59, America’s first twin-engine jet warplane.

Initially called the XP-59A and disguised with propellers on the jet engines, the plane never saw wartime service, but did provide the ground work for the US’s venture into the jet age. In May 1942, the CNX Corporation, a subsidiary of the Hercules Motor Corporation, churned out diesel engines for the US Navy, and did so through the end of the war. More to come on the war effort in Parkside.

Once the war was over, in 1945, Trico Products Company bought the structure and manufactured windshield wiper components at the building from the early 1950s through 1987 at what was known to Trico workers at Plant 2.

Trico Rain Rubber wiper ad

The old Ford plant became the multi-use Tri-Main Center in 1988 and continues to serve both sides of Main Street with dozens of offices, studios, light industrial plants, and shops of many different sizes.

Much sprang up around the
tracks laid down along, over and under Main Street. In 1905, The Highland
Masonic Temple was built by architect EB Green; predating the Central Presbyterian
Church and Presbytery Buildings next door to the south. The lodge got its name
from the Highland Station, the Beltline stop directly across Main Street, to
the south of the tracks.

Once train travel gave way to the automobile, the Highland Station was torn down in favor of a gas station. This photo dates from the 1940s, and clearly shows the Ford/Trico Plant as the backdrop. With the gas station torn down, in 1987 Broad Elm started construction on the site at the corner of Main and Jewett. In 2005, The Montante Family donated the plot of land to the north of the tire shop to the community as “The People’s Park.” It’s cared for and maintained by the communities surrounding it on both sides of Main Street.

The Backbone of Main Street

Gert and Ernie Schmitter were just two of dozens and dozens of small business owners who have made a living and a life along Main Street. And while the institutions written about thus far gave gravitas and stability to the area, it was the smaller mom and pop shops, where people did their day-to-day consuming, that are remembered so richly and warmly by the people who called Parkside home during Main Street’s heyday.

Schmitter’s Card Shop was a long-time tenant of the triangular building that stood where the Main/Amherst MetroRail Station stands today. Carl Schmitter photo.

The corner of West Oakwood Place and Main Street was the heart of the business district that served Parkside, and at the heart of that corner: One of the most warmly remembered shops to ever grace the Parkside section: Parkside Candy Shoppe.  

Parkside Candy, Main at Oakwood, 1980s.

shop delighted young and old alike at the corner of Main and West Oakwood for
generations. First opened by the Kaiser Family on St. Patrick’s Day,
1917, the Malamas Family took over the operation in 1944. Tom Malamas spent a
great deal of his young life at the soda fountain then owned by his parents and
his uncle.

“You walked in to two long cases of candy, we had 14 booths, and 6 stools at the soda fountain.” During that time, the noon time luncheon menu was very popular, as was ice cream in the evenings.

The exterior and the soda fountain were featured in the 1983 film “The Natural,” and Malamas says the scene was very reminiscent of what it was actually like inside Parkside Candy Shoppe in the 40s. “People would come from all over for our hot fudge sauce and chocolate syrup. I was too young then to think of it, but I wish I had those recipes now!”

But it
wasn’t just the candy and ice cream. Ted and Sandy Malamas were lauded when
they finally closed up the store in September 1986, after over 40 years of
operation. “They had strong religious and civic pride that made them an
integral part of the Parkside neighborhood. They weren’t just selling ice cream
and candy, they were selling quality and devotion.”

Sandy and Ted Malamas

From the front door of Parkside Candy, one could see car dealerships, including the Studebaker shop across the street car tracks, Central Park Bowling Lanes, the druggist, the hardware store, a delicatessen, a grocer…

Historian Mike Riester has done the counting: In 1915, three bakeries, several meat, poultry, and green grocers, a tailor, toy store, a bowling alley, barbers, dentists, a hardware store, dress and hat shops, and the Kaiser Candy Company (to become Parkside Candies in 1930) were all several steps from Main Street and Oakwood Place.

Santora’s was Parkside’s first pizzeria at 2500 Main Street– and was the location from which all of today’s incarnations of Santora’s sprang. Directly across Main from the Ford/Trico/TriMain building, it has served over the years as an American Legion Hall, a dance studio, and the United Auto Workers Union Hall. Since 1994, it has been the site of Buffalo OB/GYN Women’s Services, and is often surrounded by protestors as one of the regions last remaining abortion providers. Obstetrician Dr. Barnett Slepian practiced there until he was shot and killed in his Amherst home by anti-abortion extremist James Kopp in 1999.

Riester says without a doubt, the golden era of business along the Parkside section of the main thoroughfare was in the late 1920s and 1930s…. An incomplete list of businesses includes; Hawser’s Bakery, Clock’s Bakery, Red & White, Stokes Candies, Carillon’s Jewelers, Thomas Taylor Shop, Russell’s Barbershop, Ruchte’s Hardware, Wangler, Marion’s Ice Cream,  Rychert’s Florist, Bald’s meats, and the Bills’ Sisters Delicatessen at East Oakwood, which featured Stellar’s Almond Rings.

But it was places like Parkside Candies– places where a kid could satisfy a sweet tooth that seem to be remembered better than most. Unterecker’s served ice cream and candy near at the corner of Main Street and Orchard Place in the 1920s, and two Parkside Drug stores had complete soda fountains, Dwyer’s and Smither’s.

from 1967 St. Mark’s bulletin

Dwyer’s, later Woldman’s, was on the corner of Main
Street and Florence Avenue, and retained the feel of an 1800’s apothecary up
until it closed in the 1970s. Aside from the soda fountain, Dwyer’s is
remembered by many for the rainbow sherbet cones served there.

Knight Smither opened the “Parkside Pharmacy” in the 1880s at the
corner of Main Street and Leroy Avenue. There it, too, remained until the late
1970s. Many generations of Parkside residents got their first job at Smither’s,
where Karl Smither and Don Hill were the bosses.

Longtime resident Jack Anthony’s father owned a drug store at Fillmore and Rodney, but he also has fond memories of Smither’s.

“Merle Alderdise–  he grew up on Greenfield—  and I would skip out of services at Central Pres when the minister would start his sermon, and we’d go up to Smither’s at Main and Leroy, and eat a sundae, and get back before anyone noticed.”

But inside those dozens and hundreds of shops, were the shopkeepers. Real characters that helped make more interesting in an earlier time. When the following article on “Frank the Barber” was written for the Parkside News in 1981, he had seen virtually all the history talked about in this Main Street chapter unfold outside his shop window, in the section of store fronts just north of Central Presbyterian Church and the Highland Masonic Lodge, and to the south of Greenfield Street.

Almost 50 years have passed since Frank the Barber
came to Parkside to cut hair. Today, (April 1981) the oldest active businessman
in our neighborhood, Frank Notaro, 77 years young, doesn’t even seem ready to
quit! His shop, located on Main Street just north of Jewett, has served
generations of families, including some notable residents of our city…

Frank can go on and on telling of the many
customers and their sons and grandsons and even great-grandsons who he was
served. The shop, which opened in the 30’s, makes you think of days gone by.
The 1938 Zenith Floor Model radio is still used everyday. “I had the first
TV in the area for a barber shop,” Frank adds. The comic books and
magazines bring back many memories of the past. The shop has a delightful glow
of nostalgia.

Frank came to America in 1912, from Alimunusa, a
small town in Sicily. He began a shop across Main Street in 1932, and moved to
the present site in 1940…” He and his wife Genevieve were married and
have enjoyed 53 years together. The Notaros are residents of Parkside and have
raised two daughters. Pictures of his son-in-law and grandson in the service
hang on the walls of the shop. He was quite a bowler in his day, participating
in leagues at St. Marks and Central Presbyterian Churches. The Notaros attend
St. Mark’s Church.

Frank and Genevieve Notaro have made Parkside their
home and work. Their beautiful Christmas window display, featuring ceramic and
china figurines, is enjoyed by all who pass by during the season. The Notaros
have never returned to Frank’s homeland. Parkside has always been their home.

Frank Notaro retired in 1983, and took a piece of Parkside Americana with him. Al Villa was another longtime businessman. His Buffalo Lawnmower Service and Sales business was on Main Street, just north of West Oakwood Place, from 1963 to 2005. Al once shared with me his secret to good health: Chocolate milk. For years, Al says he’d get it ice cold right off the milkman’s truck, and it‘s good for anything from headaches to upset stomachs.

Just as it is today, but even more so in the past, one couldn’t walk too far along Main Street without running into a doctor’s office or an undertaker. One doctor, a dentist, in fact, had his office next door to Al Villa’s shop.

A 1970s look at the offices of Dr. Monreith Hollway, were also at various times a Barber shop and a jewelry store. Obscured by the tree in Buffalo Lawnmower, where Al Villa sold and repaired lawn mowers for over 40 years.

Dr. Monreith Hollway retired in the 1970s, leaving
the storefront (above) mostly vacant for nearly 2 decades, until March 1987
when the Parkside Community Association began the process of acquiring grants
to buy and renovate the property for the group’s offices, and low income
housing in the one-time dentist’s office upstairs.

Of course, there were places for adults to congregate as adults as well. Once prohibition was lifted, there were two long-time popular taverns. Grabenstatter’s, near Dewey Avenue, and Diebold’s red brick tavern, at the corner of Leroy Avenue, both serving to quench the thirst of Parksiders, and the German immigrants on the east side of Main Street.

Grabenstatter’s Restaurant became Margaret Kaufmann’s Copper Kettle. One of Parkside’s first Main Street businesses, in the days of the stage coach to and from Williamsville, was a gin mill.

 John R. Schardt, Jr. ran a tavern at 2095 Main Street (near Kensington), and was doing so in 1911. By 1915, the saloon’s liquor license was in the name of John J. Brinkworth, whose descendants ran the Park Meadow Bar and Grill at Parkside and Russell, as well as numerous other taverns and businesses around the city up to this day.

The building was vacant by 1930, and gone by 1940 (replaced by the Shell Gas Station in the Main/Humboldt photo on page 66.) This site, or close to it, had, in the 1830s, been the site of a toll gate, to help pay for the paving of Main Street.

View from the sidewalk in front of Dr. Hollway’s office. George Zornick remembers Henry’s Hamburgers, seen in the background in this 1977 shot. “It was a big deal when that opened (in 1967), especially within walking distance. For less than a dollar you could fill yourself up. It was kind of a destination for us, a full day for us. (Former Buffalo Bill and Channel 2 Sportscaster) Ernie Warlick owned it, he was a big sports hero for us, and he’d work the counter every once in a while. We’d also take our spare change and hike over to the Central Park Plaza. They had all kinds of great ‘5 and dime’ type stores there like Kresges, Murphys. We’d poke around in the stores all day, maybe grab something at the soda fountain, and that was a day for us.” The Henry’s Location is Tony’s Ranch House today.

Through the 60s, 70s and 80s, the block of Main Street between Vernon Place and Orchard Place, near where Main Street and Fillmore Avenue meet, was a hot nightspot for the young set, and for jazz fans.

Clubs and restaurants like The Casa Savoy, Dirty Dick’s Bathhouse, and the original Tralfamadore Cafe were well-known places for music and partying.

In 1972, three North Buffalo brothers bought a vacant bar with a leaky roof on Main Street. It was the birth of a Parkside institution. The Stuffed Mushroom was born at the hands of Jim, Dennis, and Donald Alfieri at the corner of Main and Orchard Place, and remained for nearly three decades.

They wanted to bring back the aura of the hot spot of the 40s and 50s at the same address, the “Park Casino.” The 1941 bar remained, and the brothers built out from around it. And they didn’t stop at the walls of the Stuffed Mushroom.

 The Alfieris were among the original organizers of the Main-Amherst Business Association, which is still active and partners with the Parkside Community Association as well as the Fillmore Leroy group, FLARE, and brother Jim was a director of the PCA. The Stuffed Mushroom closed in 1996.

Like many memories, the original home of the Tralf is probably better in memory than it ever was in actual practice. Though hundreds of the world’s finest jazz and off-beat music acts played the room, it was a cramped basement, accessible only by the steep staircase upon which workers are sitting during the club’s last night. WEBR Jazz in the Nighttime Host Al Wallack, bottom center, could regularly be heard broadcasting live from the Tralf.

For almost two centuries, Main Street– and the goings-on on Main Street– were inseparable from the goings-on in the Parkside neighborhood. 

As the 21st century enters its second decade, however, many who’ve lived in Parkside for a decade or more have never had reason to visit, walk on, or even drive through the portion of Main Street that has been the traditional backbone of the area.

The slow, often painful changes that Main Street and the City of Buffalo experienced, and how the people of the Parkside area came to deal with them, are the integral part of the Parkside story that makes the community so unique among Buffalo neighborhoods.

This page is an excerpt from The Complete History of Parkside by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online. 

The original 174-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2009, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC,, and Steve Cichon