Ramblings from the past: Hertel Avenue

There I was, sitting in a local cafe in downtown Rochester, flanked by my Buffalo regalia, reading an old and crumpled Artvoice (I had been in Rochester for ten days) when a gentleman approached me and exclaimed, “It’s an amazing city, your Buffalo. Too bad I never got an opportunity to live there.”

“Yes, indeed. It is a gem of a city!” After graciously thanking him, I went back to my coffee date with the crumpled Artvoice.

Two minutes later, the gentleman came back, “So where did you say you live in Buffalo?”

North Buffalo.”

“I see, where in North Buffalo?”

“Hertel Avenue, it’s one of the oldest neighborhoods of Buffalo.”

“Oh, how fascinating. So what’s the history of this place?”

“Umm..well..” (I am sure there is a history, except that I don’t know.) “I am sorry but I don’t really know.”

As these words escaped my mouth, so did my North Buffalo pride.

Obviously, this blog post is an effort to nurse my wounded Pride and to give all of us NoBu’s a glimpse of Hertel’s past.

First Bus_Filmore-HertelStretching for four miles from Niagara Street to Main Street across North Buffalo, Hertel is named for John Stephen Hertel, former County Supervisor from the old twelfth ward. North Buffalo, and Hertel Avenue owed their habitation to the invention of automobiles around the 1900’s, becoming home to many Italian Immigrants who moved from the deteriorating lower west side of Buffalo (the Canal District), along with many Russian Jews, who relocated to Hertel Avenue from their original neighborhoods in the 1930’s.

Last Trolley Hertel-FilmoreWith the people, came their culture. Hertel Avenue became a hot spot for shopping, dining and entertainment. During the early 20th century, trolleys were a major source of transportation for Buffalonians- and these tracks crisscrossed Hertel. People came to shop and dine at places like Van Slyke’s Pharmacy and Klaiber’s Delicatessen.

Sample Dress ShopOne of the most famous businesses that Hertel Avenue ever saw was “The Sample Dress Shop” opened by Anne Bunis at 1635 Hertel Avenue in 1928. The store catered to women’s clothing and other fashions, and saw tremendous success, thanks to its excellent marketing strategies which included dropping brochures from airplanes throughout the city, and their immensely popular Pup Sale, which was considered one of the most coveted sales event by Buffalo shoppers.

Sample_Liquidation Sale circa 1993Sample Pup Sale Flyer circa 1944

While The Sample Dress Shop was definitely a feather in the crown of Hertel Avenue, North Park Theater was its crowning glory. Built in 1920, as a part of Shea’s chain of theaters, designed by architect Henry L. Spann, the building was adorned by a grand pipe-organ and Tiffany lights which have since been removed. The theater’s ownership has passed from Shea’s to Dipson Theaters to its present owners, who recently restored the theater to its formal glory, and reopened the crown jewel of Hertel to its people.

North Park Theater

This sums up the history of Hertel, friends! So next time when someone asks about this fascinating neighborhood of yours, go ahead and share the glory. You are welcome 🙂

This blog post is first in the series of blog posts which aim to shine light on aspects of Hertel – which are unique to this neighborhood. Stay Tuned for more! 

 


 

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A guy walks into a theatre…

I popped into the North Park Theatre this past weekend to inquire about partnering with the Advertising Club of Buffalo to screen a film. I walked away with much more than an answer to my inquiry.

I had a great conversation with programming director, Ray Barker, who was excited to discuss bringing a new film to the theatre. He also showed me around the lobby a bit. I quickly bought a bag of popcorn.

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I then was given a mini-tour of the theatre by co-owner, Tom Eoannou. It was incredible to hear what he had to say about the restoration work, but what was even better was seeing his enthusiasm about it all. It’s such an exciting time for the theatre and for Hertel.

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Check out what else I had to say about it in my blog written for Visit Buffalo Niagara, here.

Take Two: Is It %&!$#+@ Spring Yet?!

Just less than three weeks ago I wrote an “I’m at my wits end” blog about how it just won’t stop being cold and snowy and stupid outside.

I took an optimistic and motivational approach by ending that blog with a countdown to spring link.

Clearly, my optimism was ill-timed.

Today is March 12, seven days away from the start of spring, and we’re hanging out with our second blizzard of the year.

didn’t want one blizzard, but two? That’s just vulcan ridiculous.

So…here’s my second attempt at rallying us around the idea that the better weather is still within reach…albeit a little ways away.

The good folks at NorthBuffalo.org are doing a spring clean-up on our North Buffalo streets – which I’m guaranteeing will be snow, ice and salt free – on April 26.

Sign up here. Hope to see you there!

Oh, by the way…100 days to summer!

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It’s Fish Fry Season!

It’s Ash Wednesday. Or Ash Humpday as I’ve been jokingly and possibly annoyingly saying all day. To some, today marks the start of Lent; the beginning of the most sacred time in the Christian religions. To others, it’s simply the start of a weekly religious ritual of feasting on beer batted fish with a side of slaw and a potato of your choice.

We like to play in both sandboxes, so we picked something to “give up” for Lent, and we also picked up a couple fish fry’s on the way home from work.

I was told Sterling Place Tavern has a fish fry that rivals their burger, so I was planning on ordering from there. Surprisingly (or not if you know how Sterling’s hours work), they don’t have a phone! Cute. I wish I hadn’t violated the law the entire drive home searching the web for their phone number. I also owe Siri a few apologies.

So, we went to the old standby, Wellington Pub, and were not disappointed. You can’t go wrong with a fish fry from Wellington – huge portion, great flavor, not too heavy.

Wellington Fish Fry

Someday I’ll get to Sterling for a dine-in fish fry experience…but that’ll probably be the day I don’t have any cash on me!

Enjoy the food friends, have a blessed Lenten season.