"The New Suburb on the North"
History of Kenmore
1889 - 1899
Settlement and Early History SETTLEMENT
The Village of Kenmore, in the Town of Tonawanda, Erie County, N. Y., "the fastest growing residential community in the country", and "The center of the Niagara Frontier Industrial District", was first settled in the spring of 1889.
Louis P. A. Eberhardt, who is fondly called "Daddy Eberhardt", was the original pioneer and realtor. He built the first house during the winter of 1888-9 on the site now occupied by his real estate office No. 2749 Delaware Avenue; it was burned down in March 1894. FIRST HOUSE
The next house built by Mr. Eberhardt was the brown stone house on Delaware Avenue now occupied, with the frame on W. Hazeltine Avenue by the Y. W. C. A. The other brown stone house at the corner of Delaware and Kenmore Avenues was built at the same time by Fred B. Eberhardt and is now occupied by the Wheel Chair Home. These durable and handsome twin structures have long stood as sentinels at the approach to our village from Buffalo, admired by all and prophetic of Kenmore's stability and future prosperity. The second house built in Kenmore was the residence of Myron A. Phelps, still standing on the original site at 2798 Delaware Avenue corner of Tremaine, now owned and occupied by Harrison H. Bury. Other houses were soon built, and the foresight and enterprise of the first settlers was readily admitted. In 1890 nearly three hundred people lived in the village. It requires some stretch of the imagination to visualize the awful roads, absence of sidewalks, lack of lighting, dearth of potable water, and other inconveniences in the newly settled village. The beautiful and busy thoroughfare which is now, next to Main Street, Buffalo, the main artery of traffic north and south was, at that time, an ordinary dirt road. All around Kenmore were fields of clay soil, none too fertile for farming, with a few scattered farm houses in the Township of Tonawanda in which the growing village is situated.
It was proposed calling the village "Eberhardt"; but firmly and modestly Mr. Eberhardt said, "No, they might nickname it "Dutchtown." But the real reason was Mr. Eberhardt's aversion to personal publicity and display. The Erie Railroad was building a station at this time in the north-east section of Buffalo near Main Street and had chosen the name "Kenmore", but the alert Mr. Eberhardt with an ear for euphony, appropriated the name for the fast growing community and the name "Kensington" was attached to the Erie Station. A sign bearing the name "KENMORE" was placed at the intersection of Delaware and Kenmore Avenues, where all who ran might read. There are several places called Kenmore in the United States, notably Kenmore in Fairfax County, Va., the home of Washington's sister, and a village in Ohio. Probably both these places, our own village, and other places so named, took their name from a small island on the south-west coast of Ireland; or from a village in Scotland, each of which bears the name of Kenmore.
Among those who were first attracted to Kenmore as a desirable place of residence and the location for a village were Louis P. A. Eberhardt, Fred B. Eberhardt, Myron A. Phelps, A. B. Crary, O. K. Horning, A. W. Olmstead, A. B. Floyd, G. W. Peck, John A. Miller, F. W. Drake, L. L. Briggs, Ephraim Funk, Frank Stillwell, John J. Bernd, Virgil M. Hunter, Henry Tremaine, C. M. Aiken, Arthur Hall, Andrew Frank, Jabesh Harris, J. B. Zimmerman, and others. Among those living in the town of Tonawanda at the time Kenmore was founded, and not far from the Buffalo city line, were John Winter, Henry Winter, Jacob Busch, John Bleyle, Fred Bleyle, Fred Ebling, Isadore Keller, Frank Mang, Isadore Mang, and others.
Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, was paved as far north as Forest Avenue. From that point to Kenmore there was an ordinary country road which was badly drifted with snow in winter, and covered with alternate dust and mud in summer. The people who ride through the well paved streets of our village, or walk along our shady avenues little realize the problems of transportation in the village in 1889.
The Kenmore omnibus line started in December making regular trips between Belt Line station on Delaware Avenue and Kenmore. Passengers were carried free of charge as an inducement to home-seekers, and fifty or more people made the trip daily. There was no shelter in inclement weather at the Buffalo end of the line. A petition signed by eighty men and women residents of Kenmore was sent to the Sup't of the N. Y. Central Railroad asking for a station, if nothing but an old box car.
THE WHITE HOUSE
The "White House" familiar to the early settlers in Kenmore was the Ackerman farm house situated on the north-east corner of Delaware and Kenmore Avenues on a seventy-four acre farm. Near the house was a fine well of water sixty feet deep. This was the "Village Pump"; and from it the residents secured plenty of clear, cold water. The "White House" was later removed giving place to a more modern dwelling. A part of it was moved so as to face East Hazeltine Avenue and was made over into a two family flat by William Rowland, and is still standing at 17 East Hazeltine Avenue. The "White House" served a beneficent purpose in its day. It was the only hostelry where transients could find a night's lodging, and those waiting for houses to be built could find accommodation. It was also used for the first social, and religious meetings in the new village.
The first store to supply the people of Kenmore with groceries and "Yankee Notions" was opened in the building now standing on the south-east corner of Kenmore Avenue (No. 1412-1420) and Toledo Place, on the Buffalo side of the line. It has been used for mercantile purposes as late as 1916, and is now a two family flat. The first drug store to meet the needs of Kenmore residents was commenced in April and opened for business in June 1894. The building still remains on the southeast corner of Delaware Avenue (No. 2660) and Sessions Street Buffalo, and is used as a store and residence. Dr. R. S. Hambleton was the proprietor. The first store within the present village limits was kept by John Johnson, and afterwards by F. B. Fulton, in 1897; and still later by D. A. Phelps. It is now occupied by H. H. Bury, Furniture and Undertaking, No. 2838 Delaware Avenue. Mr. Bury has the double distinction of living in the oldest house and trading in the oldest store in Kenmore.
The first joint meetings of the Town Board of Tonawanda and the officials of the village were held in the rear of the old Presbyterian Church which stood on the site of the present new structure. On the south-east corner of Delaware and Hertel Avenues stood an old log house in which a Sunday School was conducted by the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Buffalo. Both children and "grown ups" attended religious services there before there were any churches in Kenmore.
As late as 1918 Kenmore was facetiously described as, "A place of 5000 population, without a Post Office, Railway Station, Hotel, or Express Office". Many a 'Tour Corners" of 300 people in the rural districts have these advantages, and although the proximity of Buffalo supplies all these needs, yet the name of "Kenmore" N. Y. does not appear in the U. S. Postal guide. That it is due our large and busy village none can deny. The conditions required by the proper authorities will soon be met however. Kenmore had a Post Office for a number of years. It was first established February 28th, 1891. P. A. Eberhardt received the appointment as Post Master. The salary was $200 a year. Dreams of a Federal Building were dreamed in those by-gone days. All dreams do not come to pass; and many come true long years afterward. The vision may yet be fulfilled. Mr. Eberhardt's successors in office were as follows:
Wellington B. Tanner, May 25th, 1896
Francis B. Fulton, Jan. 17th, 1898
Aaron Lamont, July 30th, 1907
Henry Tremaine, July 26th, 1910
Stephen R. Williams, July 25th, 1913
Henry J. Ebling, (Acting) Nov. 23rd, 1917
Discontinuance effective, March 31st, 1918
After the latter date Kenmore's mail was delivered by carriers from Station H., Buffalo, and later from Hertel Station, Buffalo. Sub-station No. 12 is maintained for the sale of stamps, registration and parcel post at 2809 Delaware Avenue.
In striking contrast with the prevailing prices of real estate in 1924-1926 were those of 1888. In the latter year "West Bros, of Syracuse, N.Y. sold to Eberhardt and Sanborn through Phelps & Barnes, twenty-five acres on the west side of Delaware Avenue for $300 an acre." Eight acres located 800 feet east of Delaware Avenue on Villa Avenue sold for $21,700. The Myron A. Phelps residence on the corner of Delaware and Tremaine Avenue cost $4500. The Herbert A. Zimmerman house No. 2808 Delaware Avenue, cost about $8000. The estimated cost of the Fred B. Eberhardt Medina sandstone residence erected in 1893 was $15,000. Very desirable lots just off Delaware Avenue on any of the side streets could be bought for $250.
In 1890 the "Kenmore Oil, Natural Gas, and Fuel Company, Limited" was organized. Capitalization $2500 to be increased if the venture was successful. A test well was drilled on the Park Land Company property on Kenmore Avenue near Myron Avenue At a depth of 736 feet a rich vein of gas was struck at 500 lbs pressure. Such was the force of the escaping gas that it could be heard a mile or more away. The gas was piped to several dwellings for fuel. To properly finish the well as a producer it was "Shot" with Nitro-Glycerine. Many were of the opinion that it was "Overshot" as the flow thereafter greatly diminished. A. B. Crary, now living at No. 1337 Kenmore Avenue bought the lot on which the well was located for $500. After all the years since this venture was made, the well is still producing gas which is used by Mr. Crary in his kitchen stove. The well may still be seen, covered by a small shanty, padlocked, in the rear of 1303 Kenmore Avenue and rear of Mr. William Dicks residence 10 Myron Avenue. The officers of the Company were M. A. Phelps, Pres; S. J. Dark, Vice Pres; W. F. Strasmere, Sec'y; L. P. A. Eberhardt, Treas. The geologists were right. While there can be no doubt that natural gas exists in Kenmore and Tonawanda, the quantity is not enough to pay for development.
During the fall of 1891 the first trip of the new omnibus was made to Buffalo, when about a dozen people went to a revival meeting at the Emanuel Baptist Church in Rhode Island Street. Building lots advanced $2 and $3 a front foot and the village took on a lively aspect. A. B. Crary broke ground for his new house on Kenmore Avenue, and O. K. Horning moved into his new house on the same street. A building boom was now on. Among the interesting events of the winter "Mr. L. P. A. Eberhardt gave a Euchre Party in honor of his brother Fred."
The religious and social life of the village kept pace with the building development. On September 22nd, 1892 the corner stone of the Methodist Episcopal Church was laid with interesting ceremonies. Ground was broken for the Jabesh Harris residence still standing at 2771 Delaware Avenue and occupied as the Kenmore Tea Room Mr. Harris died soon after moving into his new home. The Rev. George Marsh one ' of Kenmore's earliest and most influential ministers delivered a temperance lecture illustrated with stereopticon views. Rev. Mr. Marsh was the pastor of the Presbyterian congregation. Mrs. A. Frank sold her house on Sanborn Avenue (now LaSalle Ave) to the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Buffalo, which stood sponsor for the local society, for a parsonage, and a box social was held for the benefit of the organ fund. A petition was circulated to pave Delaware Avenue with asphalt.
Prospects of an electric railway enlivened the village as carloads of material were unloaded at the Lackawanna switch on Delaware Avenue in the spring of 1893. The streets presented a lively appearance during the summer. More than a hundred workmen were engaged in laying the tracks of the Kenmore & Tonawanda Electric Railway through the village. The track was laid before Delaware Avenue was paved, at the rate of 500 feet a day. The route to Buffalo was by way of West Kenmore Avenue on the Kenmore side of the city line to Military Road, and Grant Street. The service was every twenty minutes. After the line was completed, Delaware Avenue was paved with vitrified brick through the village and town to city of Tonawanda. This outlet for traffic to and from Buffalo was a great promoter and speeded up the building of more houses.
A subscription was circulated to connect the village with Buffalo by telephone. A sewer was laid for a distance of one mile north of the Buffalo city line. The crying need at this time was for a water system. The Buffalo water mains in Delaware Avenue were completed to the City Line in September. The people of Kenmore said, "Why not extend a six inch main 1000 feet further north and give us service?" it was an easy thing to ask questions, but to obtain service from a separate municipality was a difficult matter.
Telephones had been in common use for many years before Kenmore enjoyed the advantage. Enough subscribers were secured however in 1894 and an office was opened for public use and came at once into general use by the business men. The village was now growing so rapidly that eight families lived in four houses waiting for new homes to be finished. Evidently the "Speed Mania" existed even at this seemingly distant day. Senator Coggeshall introduced a bill in the State Legislature limiting the speed of trolley cars to "six miles an hour". The Kenmore Business Men's Association held a special meeting and adopted strong resolutions opposing the measure. It was too slow for Kenmore.
THE FIRST FIRE
The burning of Kenmore's first house, that of L. P. A. Eberhardt in March 1894, and the lack of water to subdue the flames, brought up the subject of annexation to Buffalo. The sentiment was almost unanimously favorable, as reported by a canvassing committee to the Business Men's Association. The question of annexation to Buffalo has been a perennial dispute in Kenmore. Like the flowers, it blossoms every year. Some day the fact will no doubt surprise us, like the Night Blooming Cereus which expands in a few hours - but not to fade. In responding to the alarm the Buffalo Fire Dep't had to abandon their apparatus on account of sewer pits near the city line. By means of blankets, and water carried by a "bucket brigade" from a hydrant at the city line, the barn was saved, but the house was a total loss. Neighbors passed water into the attic of the house with pails and dishes, but were forced by smoke and flames to discontinue their efforts; however, most of the contents of the house were saved. The Buffalo Express commenting on the fire said, "The only real remedy for Kenmore is to come into the city and get an engine and hook and ladder of her own. There is a limit to fighting fire with soup tureens and platters."
The Buffalo sewer from Hertel Avenue north to the city line was completed during the summer of 1894, and Kenmore had built a sewer to the Buffalo line, so that about twenty-five feet only separated the connection. But politicians were in the way and no contract for connections could be made. It was determined to brush this hindrance aside. About a hundred determined "Kenmorites" armed with pick and shovel, having cut the telephone line, attempted to make the connection during the midnight hours. But they were forestalled. "A man on horseback", an enemy, a la Paul Revere, alarmed the Buffalo Police Dep't, and a wagon load of policemen descended upon the crowd who were trying to cut the Gordian Knot of Kenmore's sewerage question, and officially broke the connection. This lively skirmish however, had the desired effect and soon brought relief. A contract was made for sewage disposal through the Buffalo sewer in June 1895. The completion of the Hertel Avenue electric line during the year greatly facilitated access to Buffalo by way of Main Street. The outstanding event of the year was the completion of the asphalt pavement on Delaware Avenue from the Belt Line, Buffalo, to Kenmore, and was celebrated with a general jollification and fireworks in the evening.
THE SEWERAGE PROBLEM
Again the sewerage problem came up in 1895. In locating a village, water supply, sewerage, transportation, and fire protection are among the first essentials. The problem must be met and solved sooner or later, and to keep pace with house erection and street building should receive first attention regardless of taxation. The problem still remains as our village expands on account of the level area surrounding us. Happily this important matter is being solved by skilled engineers. This time the cry came from residents in the north part of the village. The Business Men's Association petitioned the Town Board of Tonawanda to establish a sewer district for the relief of the situation. The Kenmore sewers were connected with the Buffalo System in January, and a bill was drawn by Cuneen & Coatsworth under direction of the Town Board of Tonawanda for the north district and presented at Albany. A delegation of men and women from Kenmore paid a visit to the Buffalo City Clerk's office during the spring to face the aldermen with their troubles, just as they do now at the Kenmore village hall. No quorum being present City Engineer Fields had to face the music. Said one woman, "If you don't think we need relief, I wish you'd come out to Kenmore and pay us a visit. You can have the use of my cellar for a few hours, and I think that will be enough for you; you can realize in that time what we are suffering. If you can stay in any one of the cellars ten minutes we won't say another word." With storm sewers in the village and a system now being perfected in the township, which is rapidly becoming a part of "Greater Kenmore," these long suffered troubles will be a thing of the past.
BUILT A BARN
In these days when a garage is considered an essential part of a home, and public garages are so numerous, it seems strange to know that, in December, 1896, the Methodist Episcopal Church built a barn, in which to shelter the horses of the members during service who came from a distance. Ofttimes the sermon was so lengthy that whinneys from the restless steeds, and vicious kicks against the stalls resounded within the sanctuary, and brought the sexton out to quiet the disturbance.
The building of four houses at one time was spoken of as "great activities" Improvement in the business section of the village was noticeable during the year; yet it became necessary to inform the reading public through the press that Kenmore was separated from Buffalo on the north by a fifty foot street, and was not near the city of Tonawanda as many supposed. Houses for rent were scarce; it being the plan of the village leaders to make Kenmore a place of home owners.
MOONLIGHT VS GASLIGHT
For nearly ten years the people of Kenmore had rather a "spookey" time of it at night, depending on the moon for the illumination of the streets, and doing without it when the moon was "dark." One public spirited man maintained, at some personal expense, a kerosene lamp in front of his house, his neighbors occasionally contributing a new wick for encouragement. What an opportunity for some enterprising parson, to take for a timely topic in the pulpit, the text of Isaiah 60; 19. "Neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee." Perhaps this was what happened; for at a special meeting called for the purpose in the Presbyterian Church there were two propositions submitted. First, to lay pipes and provide lamp posts and burners at a cost of $5,000. Second, to bond the village for $5,000 to provide the money. The fear that some hold-up man would happen to come Kenmore way and part people from their valuables some dark evening was dismissed as idle talk. Fiat Lux.
In 1898 transportation loomed prominently into view again. Regular trips between Kenmore and the N. Y. C. R'ybelt line were made by a bus driven by Frank C. Stillwell, in whose memory Stillwell Avenue is named. From sixty to seventy-five persons made the trip each day. A 6 x 6 flagman's shanty was the only accommodation provided for passengers during stormy weather. Twenty-one persons were seen at one time waiting in the rain. The Business Men's Association took up the grievance with the Superintendent. The Buffalo and Lockport Railway Co., purchased a private right of way from the Kenmore village line through Virgil avenue, to Hertel avenue, and thus shortened and made more direct the trip to Buffalo; but they charged an extra fare over this short stretch of track. Many people walked to Hertel avenue, or the belt line in fair weather rather than pay this excess. Again the Kenmore Business Men's Association showed its merit by taking up the matter with the company, and presented the case before the Buffalo Aldermanic Council receiving plenty of applause. No other section of the city was discriminated against in this way. Why should "Kenmorites" pay an extra fare for riding a distance of three-quarters of a mile on Buffalo territory? Mr. Carl Ely, President of the Buffalo & Lockport electric line said that, the strip of track on Virgil Avenue was on private property (which is the case today) and if necessary to preserve their legal standing, they could stop running their cars at Hertel avenue instead of running them through to Main Street over the Buffalo Railway's tracks. The Lockport Company however, had no charter to run cars in the city. The threat was therefore idle talk. To cease to run only to Hertel Avenue, would be to surrender the right to operate at all. The five hundred people of a growing village had outgrown the stage coach and the belt line route and were insistent on fair play. By the end of the year Kenmore was smiling and jubilant. The Buffalo & Lockport Railway Company lost its case, and under the Buffalo Railway Company the extra fare was abolished.
Kenmore being just over the line from Buffalo, the village became somewhat of a rival for real estate deals and home finders as incorporation began to be discussed. The attitude of the big city was that Kenmore should "Blow its own horn," a privilege which it was not slow to accept. The first decade of her history was now about completed. Progress was assured. Modern houses all occupied were reaching out on the newly paved streets. A lighting system was to be installed. The boycott against the trolley road was called off. Everybody took a ride on one fare. "Boost Kenmore" was the slogan. Everybody was smiling. "Incorporation" was now the watchword. So closed the year 1898.
SOURCE: History of Kenmore Erie County, New York; 1926; Frederick S. Parkhurst, Ph.D. Local Historian