Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara
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.
© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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