Bailey-Kensignton Area Sites

Bailey-Kensignton Area
Buffalo, NY
An excerpt from "Buffalo Architecture: A Guide." Cambridge: MIT Press, 1981

Throughout most of the nineteenth century the Kensington-Bailey area consisted of farms and timberland. Indeed, most of the territory south of Amherst Street belonged to the prosperous timber merchant William Bailey, for whom the road was named.

It was the coming of the electric streetcar that changed this neinhborhood, just as it did others throughout the city. The completion of the Kensington Avenue trolley line in 1895 opened up the area to the first generation Germans who had been living in the older, more centrally located ethnic enclaves on the East Side. It was these transplanted East Side Germans who in 1902 founded St. Gerard's Roman Catholic Church, a magnificent building which continues to dominate the streetscape as well as the social life of the district.

However, it was not until after World War I that Kensington-Bailey, like North Park and South Buffalo. the other outer-ring residential neighborhoods in Buffalo, really began to develop. In all cases it was the private decision of real estate companies rather than public city planning that shaped the urban environment.

A Chicago realtor named Louis Kinsey, who boasted that he had transformed a cemetery in that city into a residential community, was convinced that he could work wonders along Bailey Avenue between Delavan and Kensington. In 1919, Kinsey reported, property at the northwest corner of Kensington and Bailey was valued at $2500. One year later the same corner, to read the Kinsey Company's prospectus, was worth $25,000.

The East Side, it seemed, was emptying out. In 1920 the population of the Kensington-Bailey district was 18,000. Ten years later it had grown to 49,000.

Not only Germans but Poles and Italians came, too. In 1930 the last group formed their own parish on Edison Street and Roma Street: St. Lawrence's Roman Catholic Church.

The Kensington-Bailey district also contains the Main Street campus of the State University of New York at Buffalo. During the third decade of the twentieth century, the university began to centralize its hitherto dispersed facilities on the Main Street campus. However, by the middle 1960s state and SUNY leaders had decided to move the campus not to a downtown site, as so many Buffalonians preferred, but to suburban Amherst. This decision has not only increased the already huge task of downtown revitalization but also had an unfortunate impact on the economic health of the once vibrant commercial strip along Main Street between Bailey and Hertel Avenues.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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