History of Kensington/Bailey,
Kensington: Centers on Kensington Avenue from Main Street to the city line at Cheektowaga. Bailey Avenue is an important north-south street in the neighborhood. The "33" (Kensington) Expressway cuts this large district in half.
By James Napora
The text below is reprinted with permission from
Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York, by James Napora.. Master of Architecture Thesis. Pages 335, 351, 380, 394. Found at Buffalo Central Library NA5235 B8 N37 1995
Maps 1 ... 2 ... 3
East of the Belt Line Railroad
As the population of the city continued to grow at the close of the nineteenth century, people began to settle further from the downtown core. Continuing their eastward push towards the city line, the area along Genesee, east of the Belt Line Railroad, became home to a substantial German community. No longer the home to recent immigrants, first and second generation Germans developed the area.
The large tract of land east of the intersection of Genesee and Walden was the first to be developed by the Buffalo Land Company. Wasmuth Avenue, named for the developer Caroline Wasmuth, a partner in the company, remains a testimony to the work of one of the city's earliest woman developers.
Paul Goembel, developer: By the mid 1880s, the Walden/Bailey area no longer contained the open farmland it had just ten years previous. Paul Goembel, a German immigrant, arrived in Buffalo in the 1840s. Upon his arrival, he purchased a large tract of land west of the intersection of Genesee and Bailey from the Holland Land Company. From his home at Broadway and Spruce Street, he would travel to the country to tend his farm, providing animals for his slaughterhouse and meat market on Chippewa and Franklin Streets. In the 1880s, he cut Goembel Street through the center of his farm, opening the land for development.
Henry E. Briscoe, developer: During the same period of time, Henry E. Briscoe began developing a large tract of land on the east side of Bailey. One of the first settlers in the area, he built his home at 28 Briscoe in 1880. A flagpole, which stood in front of his home, was originally capped by a bronze eagle carried by the Fenians during the Battle of Ridgeway. Working with Joseph Gavin, Lawrence Wex, ' Val Hoffman and Dennis Conners, he developed the land east of the New York Central tracks between Walden and Doat Streets.
Frederick Boehm, developer: Frederick Boehm arrived in Buffalo from Bavaria in the 1880s to work for Hersee and Company, manufacturers of fine furniture. While employed there, he acquired a tract of land near the intersection of Genesee and Bailey. Around 1900 he began to farm this land. After a successful growing season, the prices brought for produce plummeted, prompting him to convert his barn into a home. The following year, he built another home next to it and within. ten years had constructed over 400 homes in the area.
Fred W. Jehle, developer: Fred W. Jehle,a dealer of poultry, butter and eggs at the Washington Market, accumulated extensive land holdings in the area by the age 30. Owner and developer of much of the land in the Schiller Park area, he sold the city the land on which the park is located. Long a center of German leisure, the park is best noted for its annual Oktoberfest celebrations.
Running along the eastern border of the park, Sattler Street was originally part of the farm owned by the John G. Sattler, founder of the department store. (See also: The Sattler Theatre, Photo of Sattler Mausoleum in Forest Lawn.)
Around 1904, he developed his country estate for housing.
Andrew Domedion, developer: Prior to 1907, the area north of Schiller Park remained as open farmland. Andrew Domedion, who operated a famous celery farm there, began to develop this section adjacent to Pine Hill. His initial attempt to construct homes on the street which bears his name met with financial failure, as by 1907 he was able to construct only eight dwellings. But with the passing of time, the population soon reached and passed the area, spreading further east into the suburban areas of Pine Hill and Cheektowaga.
Kensington, the Jammer-thal
Long ago referred to as the Valley of Tears or the Valley of Woe, the Jammer-thal district remains a testament to the strong will and desires of a hardened group of German and Irish immigrants.
Failed farming attempts: The original settlers to the area arrived to farm the earth but their attempts met with only marginal results. As the area is covered by only a thin layer of soil, the early farmers often found bed rock laying one-foot below the surface. These conditions proved extremely detrimental to farming.
Onondaga limestone quarries: The bed rock later turned out to be a blessing in disguise when young entrepreneurs began to quarry the stone. One such quarry supplied the stone used for the construction of the outer harbor breakwall. Attracted there by the availability of work in the stone quarries, people desired to settle here and the failed farmlands were soon replaced by residential development.
Real estate developers: Like all new neighborhoods in the city, numerous factors contributed to the development of the area. Primary to these is the resourcefulness of a real estate developer who could predict the needs of a group of people. Key to these needs was that of a church structure. Just as the construction of places of worship resulted in the development of other sections of the city, this area was no exception to that rule.
Recognizing the potential for accelerated growth, the Leroy Land Company was the first to donate land to a congregation. In 1888 the provided the land on which the Kensington Methodist Church originally stood.
The establishment of a house of worship, coupled with the 1895
extension of the Kensington Street car line to the area resulted in an influx of residents to the area. Quickly, developers such as the Fillmore Land Company, the Kinsey Real Estate Company and the East Delavan and Belt Line Land Company began to take notice of the area.
John Gesl, developer: John Gesl, one of the earliest settlers in the area, arrived in Buffalo in 1840 at the age of twenty-five. He quickly acquired a large tract of land along what is today Leroy Avenue. As noted, attempts to farm the land resulted in marginal success. Consequently, he saved his income and soon bought a share in a local stone quarry. Upon his death in 1900, his son developed the remainder of the farm, selling a portion of the land to Blessed Trinity Church.
Residential development of the southern portion of the Bailey/Kensington district had begun prior to the August, 1895 arrival of the trolley line to the corner of Bailey and Kensington. On land serving as a timber reserve for William Bailey, construction of homes had begun as early as 1893.
Bailey forest: Bailey Avenue, originally called Williamsville Road, functioned as a trail through the Bailey forest. As he began to haul lumber from the area, Bailey made improvements to the trail. Around 1890, high winds carried sparks from a fire on Jefferson Avenue to the area. The vast expanse of timber quickly ignited, denuding much of the forest. With the prospects of a livelihood based on lumber altered, Bailey turned to farming the land he owned in the area. Bounded by William and Dingens, Bailey Avenue and the city line, the New York Central Railroad later enveloped the farmlands for use as rail yards.
Flood control: Initial development of the area occurred quite slow. The early residents were often inconvenienced by floods as Scajaquada Creek frequently went over its banks. At the insistence of Rev. William Schreck of St. Gerard's RC parish, the city addressed this issue, resulting in an influx of people.
Rev. Schreck had a greater stake in the neighborhood than many others. In 1902, he had founded St. Gerard's RC Church with a handful of German families as members. Realizing that the repeated threat of floods would deter further settlement within his parish, he personally led efforts to eliminate the problem. The 1911 development of Schreck Avenue by John J. Sattler remains as a testimony to his impact on the area.
Initial Italian Immigrants: Prior the founding of St. Gerard's Parish, a small enclave of Italian immigrants had taken up residence on East Delavan near the city line. In 1888, Cesido Saltarelli came from his hometown of Pescasseroli in the Abbruzzi Province of southern Italy and settled in the area. Soon after, twenty men and three or four women joined him. The following year ten other families arrived and the neighborhood, separated from the city by open fields and orchards, grew to contain over 200 townspeople.
On streets developed by John G. Floss, owner of over 200 bowling alleys in Western New York and Pennsylvania, they established a distinctly Italian neighborhood.
Italian Churches: Here they founded the First Italian Baptist Church in 1894 as their neighborhood house of worship. Twenty years later, St. Lawrence Church opened as a mission to serve the Italian Catholics then residing in the area.
Further development: These two areas proved to be the exception for early development as the greatest influx of people to the area occurred after 1920. Largely the work of Lewis Kinsey and the Kinsey Realty Company, a Chicago based development company, the area grew as they worked developing the streets of the neighborhood. From a 1920 population of 18.000, the Kensington/Bailey area grew to contain 49.000 people by 1930 as second and third generation Irish and Germans migrated here from the Fruit Belt and Cold Springs areas.
The northern district of the Kensington/Bailey area was amongst the last areas within the city limits to be developed. Although trolley service was introduced to the area in August, 1895, the lands north of Kensington Avenue changed little for many years after.
As late as the 1920s, the area east of Bailey and north of Kensington retained its rural character. As with other sections of the city, it was often the house of worship which formed the first visible mark upon the landscape.
With the arrival of trolley service, the intersection of Bailey and Kensington began to change. The greatest impact was seen after World war I when the Kinsey Realty Company, developer of much of the area, noted that the value of property on the corner increased from $2,500 to $25,000 in one year's time.