Martin Luther King, Jr. Park - Table of Contents
History of Humboldt Park Area, Buffalo, NY
By James Napora
An excerpt from
Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York,
As the population bordering the commercial center of the city increased, many of the residents there elected to move further from the downtown core. Citing the undesirability of living in an urban setting where businesses were encroaching upon their once residential districts, they moved from the earliest settled areas. Relocating north of their former neighborhoods, to streets bordering on Fillmore and Genesee, were a large number of Germans. With the construction of The Parade in the 1870s and the completion of Humboldt Parkway in 1892, the area became very attractive as a residential district.
George Urban, developer: Amongst the first developers in the area was George Urban. Owner of the George Urban Milling Company, he arrived in Buffalo from Alsace Lorraine in 1835 at the age of fifteen. Instrumental in the development of the Buffalo Parks and Parkway System and the development of Niagara Falls electrical power, In 1872, he purchased a large tract of land bounded by Fillmore and Moselle from the then sheriff Grover Cleveland. Through it he cut Urban Street and in 1903 he constructed the mill which eventually became the Wonder Bread plant.
George Roetzer, developer: Slowly, the farmlands and open meadows were replaced by row after row of homes. George Roetzer, a Bavarian, arrived in Buffalo in 1870 at the age of twenty-nine. A printer by trade, he found employment as editor of the Volksfreund, the primary German newspaper. Shortly after his arrival, he lived in a home at the corner of Mills and B Streets. From there, he could look across the street through fields of oats stretching as far as the New York Central Railroad tracks. Realizing the opportunity for developing the area, he purchased the land, the former Ciegle Farm. As president of the Ciegle Land company, he developed Roetzer, La Tour and Keefer Streets. With that section complete he next purchased land on the north side of Genesee Street, developing Rohr, Marshall and Speiss Streets prior to his death in 1887.
Other property owners included Simon Fougeron, an immigrant from Alsace Lorraine, who cut Fougeron Street through the center of his farm as he developed it. Although Ebenezer Walden owned a large farm in the area, he used it merely as a real estate investment, never having lived on it. Also, Mathias Rohr, once president of the Volksfreund German newspaper; Gaius B. Rich, founder of Western Savings Bank; Guilford Reed Wilson, coal, dealer and member of the Buffalo Board of Trade, all owned large tracts of land reflected by the names of the streets cut through them.
Italian community: The area was also once home to a small community of Italian families. Known as the Pine Hill colony, Vincent Christiano became the first Italian in the area when the purchased property on the corner of East Ferry and Winchester Streets. Soon others followed him, residing on Fillmore, Sidney, East Delavan and Humboldt Parkway.
Jewish community: As they made their transition from their neighborhoods on the Lower East Side to North Park, the area along Humboldt Parkway became home to a small Jewish community. Temple Beth David stands as a monument to this brief period of transition.