William J. Conners, Sr. - Table of Contents

Courier Express Building / Catholic Diocese Chancery
785-795 Main Street, Buffalo, NY

Completed:

1930

Architects:

Monk & Johnson, with H. D. A. Ganteaume

Style:

Art Deco

Present owner:

Catholic Diocese of Buffalo since 1985. The Courier Express ceased operation in 1982.

Location:

Theatre Historic District

The text below is excerpted from "Buffalo Newspapers - Since 1870," by A. Gordon Bennett, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, 1974

Foreign language papers appeared early in Buffalo. The German "Demokrat" began about 1850, but by 1890 its publisher, William B. Held, could see his readers melting away as a new generation turned to a new language. He decided to invade the evening field with the ""Enquirer".". Competition was hot, so hot that late in 1892 he sold the paper to E. G. S. Miller and William J. Conners, who moved the office to 250 Main Street.

TEXT CONTINUED BELOW ILLUSTRATIONS


Click on illustrations for larger size -- and additional information

William J. Conners

To right (south) of the Courier Express Building is the Sidway Building

East elevation on Main Street

Glazed terra-cotta facade ... ... Spandrel panels

Celtic motif glazed terra-cotta

Christophe Plantin, 1514-89. Leading printer in second half of the16th c.

First Amendment in bas relief. Celtic motif glazed terra-cotta

Celtic motif glazed terra-cotta

Art Deco style light fixture

Cast bronze printer's mark

Cast bronze printer's mark

Bas relief of historic printing process

See also:
William J. Conners, Sr. - LINKS

Bas relief of historic printing process


The Washington Block, the home of "The Express"


William James Conners was born in Buffalo January 3, 1857, the son of Peter and Mary (Scanlan) Conners. He left school at 13 to seek employment on the ships and wharves near his home. This was the period of post Civil War development of Great Lakes commerce, and the docks were piled high with freight. He soon attracted the attention of ship captains, whose responsibility for fast unloading and reloading of freight meant the difference between profit and loss to ship owners. (See also two photos from The Buffalonian: Conners's Hurley's Hotel and Conners's first saloon.)

Conners organized the casual dock gangs into well ordered groups and contracted with the captains for the work, becoming so successful that his contracting business spread to all large Great Lakes ports, and he became a power in the shipping world. As his fortune grew, he turned to other investments, but his desire to own a newspaper grew.

The "Enquirer" continued to struggle. In 1896, W. J. Conners assumed full control, changing it to morning publication. About this time he hired William S. Bennett as bookkeeper, starting an association that was to last forty years. On May 9, 1897, Mr. Conners bought the Courier from Charles W. McCune and changed the "Enquirer" back to the evening field.

In 1916, W. J. Conners organized the Great Lakes Transit Corporation, which eventually owned 85% of the package freight ships on Great Lakes. The line also owned three large passenger ships serving Lake Ports from Buffalo and Chicago to Duluth.

William J. Conners, Jr.

William J. Conners, Jr. joined the newspaper upon his discharge from the Navy Flying Corps in December, 1918. After graduating from Yale University in 1917, he had enlisted military service immediately. Mr. Conners, Sr. was involved in roadbuilding and real estate in Florida at this time, and his son took over direction of the Courier and "Enquirer".

Radio news had just begun to take the edge off the printed word at this time when the Courier and the "Express" found themselves sharing equally 100,000 readers. The Sunday Courier was running ahead of the "Times" and the "Express", but the evening papers, the News and the "Times", were circulating over 100,000 each. So it was that economics brought together the arch Democratic Courier and the arch Republican "Express"when the two papers merged into the Courier-"Express" on June 14, 1926.

W. J. Conners, Sr. acquired all the stock in the new corporation. W. J. Conners, Sr. was Chairman of the "Courier-Express"; W. J. Conners, Jr., publisher and President.

The paper prospered and a new building was planned at 787 Main Street, corner of Goodell.

Shortly after it was begun W. J. Conners, Sr. died on October 5, 1929, destined never-to know or enjoy the "Log Cabin" retreat built into the building's top floor secretly planned by his son as a surprise.

W. J. Conners, Jr., continued to direct the newspaper during the Depression. The building at Main and Goodell was completed, and the paper moved into its new home in December 1930.

William J. Conners, III

The sudden death of William J. Conners, Jr., in 1951, at age 56 shocked the newspaper world. His son, William J. Conners, III, succeeded his father as President and Publisher.

(See a short biography of his wife, Rita.)


Sources:


Special thanks to the Buffalo Preservation Board for their assistance
Photos and their arrangement 2003 Chuck LaChiusa
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