Saturday, July 23, 2011

So Who Was, Hertel Avenue?

Courier Express ~ February 26 1939
   Hertel Avenue stretches from Niagara Street to Main Street across North Buffalo for four miles. It is named for John Stephen Hertel, former county supervisor from the old twelfth ward, one of three owners of the tract of land, now Riverside Park, and founder of the Black Rock Businessmen's Association, the first local organization for businessmen. 
   When John Stephen Hertel opened a hotel at Hertel Ave. (then Bird St.) and Niagara St. in the 1870's, the avenue that bears his name extended only from Niagara Street to Military Road. When the Niagara horse car line was extended to Hertel he ran out of his hotel, to ride the first horse car to pass his place.
Bird Street ~ Later Hertel Ave.
  Born in Edesheim Germany, he came to Black Rock with his parents at the age of two years. He attended the St. Francis School and learned the cooper trade. Through brewers and distillers for whom he made barrels, he became interested in the hotel business, and his first independent venture was his hotel at Hertel and Niagara Street. He made good in it, and later in partnership with John J. Esser and Frank Argus, Mr. Hertel bought what was known as Germania Park, and opened a Hotel there. That tract, bought by the City of Buffalo, became Riverside Park. After selling Germania Park, Mr. Hertel withdrew from the hotel business. With his partner John J. Esser, he entered the coal and wood business at Niagara and Farmer Streets, and also established the Tonawanda Street Planing Mill, at Tonawanda and Arthur Streets.
  Mr. Hertel's interest included directorship in the Erie County Insurance Co., one of the city's earliest insurance firms, and extensive real estate holdings. His property included most of the land now occupied by Peoria and Hartman Streets. He was instrumental in subdividing both streets, and named the latter for the family of his wife, who was before marriage Anna S. Hartman, of Rochester. 
John S. Hertel II
   A lifelong democrat, he was active in local politics and was nominated for Congress. His campaign was creditable, though unsuccessful. The large home at 362 Dearborn Street, where John S. Hertel lived for many years, is occupied by three members of his family, his son John Stephen Hertel II; his daughter, Mrs. Francis Healy, and his grandson John Hertel Healy.
   John Stephen Hertel died in 1917. Something of his initiative and self-confidence was inherited by his son and namesake John Stephen Hertel II.  After 20 years absence from Buffalo he returned to his home town in 1931, the gloomiest year of the depression, and went into business for himself.  Born on the street named for his father, he was educated at Canisius High School.  He learned the plumbers trade, and operated his own business, The John S. Hertel Plumbing Co., and had a hand in the construction of the country's largest and best known buildings, in New York, Chicago, and other principle cities of the Eastern and Midwestern states. He died in 1970.


Hertel Avenue As It Is - 1887

Old House On Hertel Avenue, Near Colvin Street
   Buffalo Express April 3, 1887 The public-spirited citizen of Buffalo in these days finds many questions, touching the prosperity of this city, well worth careful consideration.  One of them is building a sewer through Hertel Ave.  This avenue is nearly four miles long, and runs from the Niagara River at lower Black Rock across the extreme northern side of the city, to Main Street.  For the greater part of its length it is a country road.  The land through which it runs is largely held by land associations and others who anticipate a rapid development of the section as a residence neighborhood. 
Hertel Avenue, Buffalo -- Near Cornelius Creek
  These property holders are of course eager for improvements, and claim that many would follow the construction of the desired sewer, concerning which THE EXPRESS has said: "It is difficult to present any good reason for building the proposed sewer. No truthful man in his senses will maintain that the sewer is needed now, or likely to be needed many years to come. It's only present use would be to create a demand for outlying farm lands cut up into city lots, and that is only a personal and local reason which should have no weight whatever with the Legislature. The business of the Senate and the Assembly is to legislate for the public interest--and not for individual.  The proposed law to bond the City in order to make this local  improvement, which is not even needed, would be special legislation of the most glaring character."
Hertel Avenue Looking Through the Erie Trestle
  The accompanying illustrations well show the character and scenery of the Hertel Avenue District.  The old stone house, shown in the first picture, stands at the head of Colvin Street, and is uninhabited. The lintel over the front door bears a remarkable inscription in what appears to be misspelled Dutch, as follows: 18 { MACH - TAILENA - PEOHL - W } 45  The members of the Historical Society or any local archeologist who can render this into intelligible English, and concoct a theory to go with it will deserve the renown given by Dickens to the Pickwick Club. The interpretation may be "Magdalena Pfohl", or it may not. The reader may formulate a better translation if he can. The third illustration gives a view on Hertel Avenue, looking through the Erie Trestle near Cornelius Creek.

Editors Note:  Of course we all know now what Hertel Avenue has become, one of the most vibrant and active thoroughfares in Buffalo. But in 1887 it's potential was not as easily recognized, at least not by the Editors of the BUFFALO EXPRESS anyway.



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