Williamsville - Table of Contents

Glen Park
5565 Main Street, Williamsville, NY

Color photos taken in October 2017






View from the bridge (note the railing shadow) looking down on Ellicott Creek as it flows north under Main Street into the park




View from the bridge: heron




View from the bridge




Park entrance on Main Street (bridge is to the right out of the photo) ...

The photos below were taken in order heading into the park toward Glen Avenue:




Signage along the brick path shown above

 





Ellicott Creek on the right



View from the path looking left (west) towards the Williamsville Water Mill   ...   Shown are the barn, c. 2016 reconstructed raceway, and 1905 vertical concrete presure chamber




Left (west):  Former site of the Glen Park Casino and Amusement Park (illustrations and history below)   ...
Right: Ellicott Creek



Looking on the right of the path towards Main Street:  Glen Falls on Ellicott Creek in the park




Glen Falls on Ellicott Creek in the park



Ellicott Creek beneath the falls






Ellicott Creek is on the right, but out of the photograph




Looking to the left of the path:  Two ponds on the previous site of the Glen Casino and the amusement park  



Pond on the previous site of the Glen Casino and the amusement park




Pond on the previous site of the Glen Casino and the amusement park   ...   The street is Glen Avenue




Glen Park Casino and Amusement Park
1920s A small amusement park built.
May 16,  1934 Harry Altman opened the Glen Park Casino, transforming a small amusement park with a diner serving dime sandwiches and pitchers of beer for a quarter, to an entertainment venue attracting big bands and numerous star performers.
Sept. 23, 1968 The Inferno, formerly the "Glen Casino,"destroyed by fire.
The Inferno remains number one in Amherst in terms of equipment used at the scene; an estimated 200 fire fighters manned 25 trucks before it was all over.
Sept. 8, 1973 The second fire in September 1973 destroyed several buildings, including the lower building called the "Underground."
1976
The Village of Williamsville and Town of Amherst acquired the 9.7 acre parcel for parkland.  The park was converted to its current state with the installation of several ponds and concrete walking paths.






Source: Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village display in October 2017  (Official website online October 2017)





Source
: Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village display in October 2017  (Official website online October 2017)

Glen Casino operated only during the summer.  It was not heated.  During the other months, Altman entertained at a City of Buffalo venue, the Town Casino on Main Street.




Amusement park bumper cars ride




Source: Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village display in October 2017  (Official website online October 2017)




Source: Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village display in October 2017  (Official website online October 2017)








 

The Town Casino

The best of them all was the Town Casino. Located on Main Street across from Shea’s Buffalo, the Town Casino billed itself as “the largest nightclub between Chicago and New York City.”  Its big wraparound marquee advertised three shows a night, at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., and 1:30 a.m. Dinners were served from 5:30 to 9 p.m. and included the show and dancing.

During the heyday of New York nightclubs like the Copacabana, the Town Casino booked many of the same stars—Sammy Davis, Jr., Danny Thomas, Julius La Rosa, Milton Berle, Mae West, Jack E. Leonard, Dorothy Dandridge, Perry Como, and Johnny Ray. Also appearing at the club were some of the top jazz players of the day including Charlie Parker (with strings), Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey, George Shearing, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Les Paul, Erroll Garner, Denzil Best, Carmen McRae, Dinah Washington, and John Coltrane, who played alto saxophone with Dizzy Gillespie and his Bebop Band at the Town in 1949.

The Town was founded and run by Harry Altman and Harry Wallens throughout its golden years from the 1940s through the ‘60s. WEBR-AM had a permanent radio booth in the nightclub where staff announcers Bernie Sandler and Ed Little conducted interviews and broadcast music and nightly activities from the club. After the Town Casino and much of downtown folded in the 1960s, the building was successively inhabited by the Studio Arena and Pfeiffer Theaters and later became the Sphere Entertainment Complex. In 2005, new owners restored the Town Casino bar and lounge to its former splendor, created a large concert venue behind it, and renamed it the Town Ballroom.
- Phillip Nyhuis, WNY's All Time Greatest Nightclub: The Town Casino. Pub. on Buffalo Rising, September 2012 (online October 2017)

In addition to owning the Town Casino in Buffalo, Harry Altman owned the Glen Casino located adjacent to the amusement park in what is now Glen Park.  It was a supper club just like the much larger version in the city and many notable show business luminaries appeared there. 

The Glen Casino was converted to The Inferno, more of a kids club and it was under that name when it burned [on Sept. 23, 1968].    

The Village of Williamsville and Town of Amherst split the $340,000 purchase price of the 9.7 acre park property including the parking lots north of Glen Avenue.  For the first year of ownership all work was done by volunteer labor – Amherst Jaycees, Sweet Home Central School special education students during summer camp and village residents  - and all equipment required and materials were donated.  All the fill material was donated by residential developers in the town looking for a closer location to dump their excess fill.  Village trucks were used on weekends and a town heavy equipment operator brought his town high lift on a town lowboy truck on the weekends to load the fill in the village trucks. 

I then obtained a Federal grant for “impoverished” communities in the amount of $556,000 which paid for the park that is there today.  Donald Ward was the landscape architect and Four Winds nurseries was the contractor.  The park is managed by the Glen Park Joint Board comprised equally of village and town residents.  They have managed the park in peace and harmony for over 40 years.  Both municipalities support the park and most labor is provided by the village with town reimbursement:  inter-municipal cooperation before it was popular.
- Richard Baer, Village of Williamsville Board Trustee in 1975 and 1976.  Comments from October 2017



Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2017
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