Discover Buffalo, One Street At A Time

Discover Buffalo, One Street At A Time

Buffalo is experiencing a Renaissance of messaging right now. The stories told about the city right now are vivacious, demonstrating its vibrant history and highlighting its current potential. I understand that this city was the punchline of many jokes during my childhood, but I do not remember. Buffalo is a city of current potential and a rich history. The marketers are on the first, and the historians are on the second.

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite blogs about Buffalo’s history. It’s about the history behind the city’s foundation: the STREETS.

Discovering Buffalo, One Street At A Time

Angela Keppel, an urban planner and history enthusiast, thoroughly documents the history behind some of Buffalo’s streets. It’s a fascinating blog, complete with lots of lovely images of Buffalo in her yesteryears. Keppel thoroughly researches each street. Recently Ms. Keppel finished a series about Canalside and I recommend checking it out.

I had the chance to discuss the blog with Ms. Keppel. The backstory is as interesting as many of the streets’ stories

Positive Buffalo: Where did you get the idea for the blog, or the idea to make this bit of history into a blog?

Angela Keppel: It all started because I really want to know the origins of Keppel Street, a street off of Seneca Street.  Since I was young, I wanted to know why it was called Keppel Street.  When I started to research the streets, I realized that there were a lot of neat stories.  I started the blog because some of my friends would roll their eyes when I’d tell them stories, so I’d write the blog post so as not to bore them.  I’ll be going on three years of researching streets, and I somehow STILL have not figured out who Keppel Street was named after!  

PB: What is the most difficult part about researching a particular street?​

AK: Sometimes, there’s just a lack of information.  I spend a lot of time tracking down primary sources.  There’s a lot on the internet these days, and that’s really great, but it doesn’t mean that it’s always correct. There’s lists of “Streets In Buffalo Named After Presidents” that include Wilson Street as named after Woodrow Wilson, but the street had it’s name when Woodrow was just a boy.   I try to be as factual as possible, tracking down as many primary or published secondary sources as possible.  I list my sources in the post, so I hope people appreciate that.


PB: Have you been surprised by anything in the process of creating this site?

AK: One thing that surprises me is how popular some of my posts are! [PB: We’re not surprised!]  I have learned some really neat stories about Buffalo’s history.  I find it interesting that some influential men have very short streets named after them and some less influential people have very long streets named after them.
One thing that is not necessarily surprising, but very interesting about the street names, is that in many cases, you can tell how the city grew outword by the namesakes of the streets – important pioneer settlers have names closer to downtown and people from the 1920s are closer to the outskirts and city-line.
PB: Which is your favorite neat story?

AK: One of my favorites is John Scatcherd (Scatcherd is this little bitty street off of Peabody Street near Seneca). [PB: It is so small that you can’t even find it on Google maps, but it’s here.] John and his dad had a large lumberyard, and were prominent Buffalonians. When President McKinley died, Theodore Roosevelt was rushed to Buffalo to be inaugurated.  He got to town without a hat, and proper ettiquitte would have a President wear a hat, so Mr. Scatcherd loaned Teddy his hat.  
I’m also a big fan of the Mineral Springs information.  There actually is a mineral spring near there, and in the 1830s and 40s, it operated as a spa.  The library actually has a copy of the booklet the spa put out to tell of all the diseases and ailments the mineral springs would treat and what methods to use to treat them using the sulpherated water.
PB: Which posts have been your most popular?
AK: My most popular post is Zittel Street – he’s the guy who decided the post office should be called “South Buffalo” when it was still a hamlet, so a lot of people shared it.  My posts about South Buffalo tend to get the most shares – I’m not really 100% why, but I think they have a lot of neighborhood pride – my grandparents were South Buffalonians, so it makes me happy that they get a lot of shares too.
My Canal Street post has a ton of views as well – it’s my 4th most viewed post, and it’s only a month old!   I think the Canal Street story is fascinating, and it’s something that a lot of people don’t know, so that one is popular b/c of that.
I notice that anytime the Skyway is mentioned in the news, my post about the Skyway gets a lot of views too.  Also Central Park plaza redevelopment news stores send people to my post about Central Park.
PB: Have you ever thought of publishing your findings in a book?
AK: I do have plans to put out a book eventually.  It’s hard to find time, but hopefully someday!  If that never pans out, I plan to at the very least give my research to the Buffalo Library, so a record can be saved for the future.
So there you have it! I highly recommend blocking off an hour or two and reading Discovering Buffalo, One Street At A Time. The time will pass quickly and you’ll have a richer sense of the city we live in.

One thought on “Discover Buffalo, One Street At A Time

  1. I just found your blog through Facebook. I grew up in the Shiller Park area on Sattler Street. I’d love to read about that area. I’m so sad about how it’s fallen.


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