Goldman, Hamlin Park .....................................
Mark Goldman -
The destruction of Humboldt Parkway: based on a roundtable interview with people who lived in the neighborhood during the 1950s and ‘60s.
By Mark Goldman
WD. You know there was nothing east of Jefferson in the 19th century. I mean not til late in the century.
RK: He’s right….I’ve seen those maps,,,,,they have them at the Hamlin Park Taxpayers’ office on Hedley…There was nothing there…Just an empty field from Jefferson to Humboldt Parkway.
DM. Humboldt Parkway was built up and beautiful. Looped around the whole city. Just check out the map.
RK: Hamlin…Cicero Hamlin..he was a successful businessman in East Aurora. He had a fabulous stable of racing horses. He wanted a place for them to race in Buffalo so he bought up all the land between Jefferson on the west, Puffer on the north, Humboldt in the east and Ferry in the south. In 1858 he turned it into a race track. They had real big events there too. It was a big deal.
BF. Let me read this to you. It’s from an old article in Spree Magazine: “At one of them, held in 1878, an event billed and widely promoted by Hamlin as the "Kentucky Derby of the North," 40,000 people descended on the park. Following the extravaganza, throngs of people walked across Frederick Law Olmsted's grand Humboldt Parkway to The Parade for three cent pints of beer and hours of music played by The Turnverein band.” That was quit a place.
RK: They used it for fairs and for exhibitions. Take a look at the photo of the incredible wooden exposition building at sat at the eastern boundary of Jefferson. It’d be nice to have that around now.
WD: So what happened?
BF: Well our research at the Hamlin Tax Payers tells us that in around 1903 a Canadian developer named John J. Cook came to Buffalo and bought up all 300 acres of the where the racing park was and began to subdivide it into building lots. Humboldt Parkway was fast becoming one of the best addresses in Buffalo and Cook wanted to create something as nice but a bit more modest. He was thinking of the older immigrants, the Germans and the Jews who were moving off the old East Side, looking for newer and nicer places near the park way.
RH. Yup, and that’s just what he built. Modest, but beautiful homes, on streets---Hamlin, Goulding, Butler and the rest—with tree lined medians down the middle. They were kind of like bungalows. My family, and a few of their Jewish neighbors, moved here together in the mid 1920s. By the late ‘forties these streets were filled with Jewish families.
DM. He’s right. School 74 on Donaldson was almost all Jewish kids. We all went there and then to Fosdick-Masten.
DB: And how about Temple Beth David, right across Humboldt Parkway. We walked across the parkway for Friday night and Saturday morning services. Saturday was fun….there were always people on horseback trotting down the parkway. Had to dodge them.
WD: Oh yeah, your right. Didn’t they start at the old stable on Amherst Street, trot down Lincoln Parkway and around Delaware Park?
DB: Yup…and then from Delaware up to Agassiz Circle and onto Humboldt Parkway….watchout guys…..here they come.
RK: . Great times…..I remember that.
MM: You know what else we did on Humboldt Parkway? I lived on Brunswick and my friends and I would ride our bikes down Humboldt to the Albright. As kids we used to bike there every Saturday. I took my first art class at the Albright School…left my bike outside,,,,unlocked!
GC:. Well, all that didn’t last too long.
2. What do you mean? The expressway?
MM:. That is exactly what I am talking about. Cut right through the parkway. They couldn’t do it fast enough? Know how many trees were cut down; how many tons of concrete were poured…for what?
BF: Well, it’s a lot easier to get to the airport and to Amherst than it was.
GC. That’s a pretty big price to pay. Not sure it was worth it.
WD. We sure did lose a lot….a whole way of life was lost when the Kensington was built through Hamlin Park.
RK: I mean, talk about your terrible decisions….that was the worst of all of ‘em
RH. It was pretty much downhill from there. But you know there’s lots of folks talking about covering it over. The ROCC group has a great plan. It’s not cheap but that, at the end of the day, just might be worth it.
BF. We’ll let’s see what happens.
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