"The Fastest Growing Community in the Country"
The Decade of Growth and Incorporation 1899 - 1909
Ten years had now passed by since the settlement of the village, and it was known that the population met the legal requirements for incorporation. The real object of this action was to secure the advantages of water, sewers, lighting and other necessary improvements which could not be otherwise obtained. There was no discord whatever between the village, and the Township of Tonawanda, but the town authorities had not the power that a village board would have.
On July 14th, a list of 313 names were secured - "Names of the inhabitants of the territory in the Township of Tonawanda and described in the proposition for the Incorporation of the Village of Kenmore hereto attached."
PROPOSITION FOR THE INCORPORATION OF THE VILLAGE OF KENMORE
"The undersigned adult residents freeholders of the territory hereinafter described propose the incorporation thereof by the name of the Village of Kenmore."
"The territory proposed to be incorporated does not exceed one square mile and is bounded and described as follows:
"Beginning at a point in the Easterly line of Delaware Avenue at its intersection with the southerly line of lot thirtytwo (32) in the Twelfth (12) Township and Eighth (8) range of the Holland Land Company's Survey, running thence Easterly along said Southerly line of lot Thirty-two (32) being also the north line of the City of Buffalo Two Thousand nine hundred thirty-one and 7-10 (2931.7) feet to the center of the Niagara Falls Boulevard.
"Thence North Easterly along said line of the Niagara Falls Boulevard Two Thousand Thirteen and 4-10 (2013.4) feet to an iron post. Thence North Easterly along said center line of the Niagara Falls Boulevard One Thousand five hundred thirty-eight and 25-100 (1538.25) feet to an iron post.
"Thence Westerly at an angle of Ninety-one degrees and forty-four minutes (91.44) with said center line of the Niagara Falls Boulevard Two Thousand and four hundred sixty and 36-100 (2460.36) feet to an iron post in the center of the old Delaware Road.
"Thence North Easterly along said center line of Old Delaware Road Four Hundred Forty and 9-10 (440.9) feet to the intersection of the center line of Old Delaware Road with the Northerly line of said lot thirty-two (32). Thence Westerly along said Northerly line of lot Thirty-seven (37) at an angle of seventy-five degrees and Twenty-four (75° 24") with the center line of Old Delaware Road Three Thousand eighty-five (3085) feet to the center line of Elmwood Avenue.
"Thence Southerly along said centerline of Elmwood Avenue Three Thousand Nine Hundred Sixty-Eight and 5-10 (3968.5) feet to the Southerly line of lot Thirty-seven (37).
"Thence Easterly along said line to lots Thirty-seven and Thirty-two (37 and 32) Two Thousand four hundred eighty-six and 5-10 (2486.5) feet to the point of beginning. Such territory containing a population of Three Hundred Thirteen (313) as appears from the enumeration hereto attached.
Dated July 14th, 1899."
The following notice was then issued from the Supervisor's office -
To all whom it may concern
That a proposition for the incorporation of the Village of Kenmore has been received by the undersigned John K. Patton, as Supervisor of the Town of Tonawanda, that at the Public School House situated at the junction of Delaware Avenue and Old Delaware Road in such territory and on the 28th day of July 1899 at 10 o'clock in the forenoon of the said day, a hearing will be had upon such proposition and that such a proposition will be open for public inspection at the store of Francis B. Fulton situate on the west side of Delaware Avenue in such territory, until the day of such hearing.
Dated July 17, 1899
John K. Patton, Supervisor of the Town of Tonawanda.
The minutes taken at this meeting are filed with the decision of the Supervisor, in the Town Clerk's Office (Vault of the Village Hall, 1926) and also the original petition and a copy of the above notice and Mr. Bryant's (Town Clerk) affidavit.
"Calvin E. Bryant on the 17th day of July 1889 and ten days prior to the hearing posted a copy of the notice: One, Front door of Public School House, Delaware Avenue and Delaware Road; One, Front of store of Francis B. Fulton, West side of Delaware Avenue; One, between telephone Pole East side of Delaware Avenue and city line. These were posted "conspicuously" and in a "substantial" manner."
This was sworn to before Howard Winship
NOTICE OF ELECTION
"To be held in the Public School House 5th day of September 1889 between the hours of 1 P. M. and sunset of said day for the purpose of determining the question of incorporation upon such proposition.
John C. Webb, Town Clerk
of the Town of Tonawanda."
The notice was posted in eleven conspicuous places ten days before the date fixed for the election. The whole number of ballots cast was 32: for incorporation 31; against incorporation 1. Frank E. Hall was appointed Village Clerk September 16th, 1889 by John C. Webb, Town Clerk of Tonawanda until his successor was chosen.
So one-sided was the election that there was no excitement whatever. The fact that only 32 votes were cast not mean that only that number of people were interested in the proposition, for not all who are entitled to vote at regular County, State and National elections can vote on the question of incorporation. The Crystal Springs Water Co., anticipating favorable action on incorporation, had already made application for the privilege of supplying Kenmore residents with water.
FIRST VILLAGE ELECTION
Notice of the election of village officers was called for the third day of October from 10 A. M. to 4 P. M. at the Public School House by Frank E. Hall, acting Village Clerk. The total number of votes cast for the office of President was 30; of which, Myron A. Phelps received 29, and Jacob Heimiller 1. The Trustees, long term, 31 votes were cast; of which Wellington B. Tanner received 24, George A. Besch 3, Calvin E. Bryant 2, Frank Mang 1, Fred Ebling 1. For Trustees, short term; Calvin E. Bryant received 16 votes, George A. Besch 11, Wellington B. Tanner 2. Francis B. Fulton was elected Treasurer receiving 27 votes. Frank C. Stillwell was elected Collector, Virgil M. Hunter, Harvey Sperry, and George A. Besch were chosen Inspectors of Election.
FIRST BOARD MEETING
The first meeting of the Village Board was held at the home of the President, Myron A. Phelps, October 4, 1899. Frank E. Hall was appointed Village Clerk, George A. Besch, Street Commissioner. A village seal and stationery were ordered. The City National Bank of Buffalo was named as depository for village funds. George H. Frost was appointed Village Attorney. The Board was authorized to borrow "upon the credit of the village not to exceed $500 for the purpose of raising funds to defray the expenses of incorporation".
Such were the small beginnings of the political life of Kenmore. The first "Village Fathers" were men of upright character, breadth of vision, and deeply interested in the welfare of the growing community. Encouragement was given to everything that would build up the village on a substantial basis and make it attractive to home seekers. Anything likely to debase the moral and social life was vigilantly excluded.
NAMES AND TERMS OF VILLAGE PRESIDENTS
Myron A. Phelps, 1899-1901 Fred B. Eberhardt, 1901-1902 George A Besch, 1902-1904 Myron A. Phelps, 1904-1906 R. D. C. Rudhard, 1906-1910 Robert L. Kimberley, 1910-1911 R. D. C. Rudhard, 1911-Resigned E. B. Olmstead, Vacancy-1912 Matthew D. Young, 1912-1919 A. R. Atkinson, 1919-1921 Walter Ducker, 1921-1924 R. R. Brockett, 1924-1926
THE INFANT VILLAGE
Incorporation having been secured the village entered upon a new life. It felt like a boy wearing his first pair of long trousers, or better let us say, like a young man who has reached his majority. The new born village gave a note to W. Harris Day, of Batavia, N. Y. for eight months in the amount of $500, October 20, 1899, and thus secured funds for running expenses until taxes could be levied.
Village Treasurer, F. B. Fulton was bonded in the amount of $1000. Immediate attention was given to sidewalks, water, lighting, and sewerage. The Village Board voted unanimously for a system of water supply from Buffalo, giving bonds for $6000 to pay for the same.
Thirty street signs were placed for $9.45. Property owners on Hazeltine Ave were notified to lay board sidewalks, the cost to be 16 cents per lineal foot. How very small these expenses seem, and how low the cost as compared with the sums that are now annually expended for the up-keep of the village. The Tonawanda News carried all printed proposals, bids, and notices, as no newspaper was then printed in the village.
In May 1900 an ordinance was passed forbidding any "horse, or mechanical device" to travel "faster than at a pace of eight miles an hour" within the village limits. Bicycles were placed under similar restraint, under "penalty of a $5 or $25 fine", and the village was not considered "slow" either, as might appear in contrast with the speed limits of today which seem slow at twenty miles an hour to the man driving a sixcylinder car. The total valuation of resident property holders at this time was $279,361. A resident of E. Hazeltine Avenue was notified not to let his horses run at large on that street. As this was in the month of June 1902, it is presumed that there was pretty good picking for the "Spark Plugs" on what is now a busy street with concrete pavement.
A special election was held May 14, 1902, at which the question of establishing a water system was submitted, at an estimated cost of $20,000. Forty-seven votes were cast all of which were in the affirmative. The bonds were bought by O'Connor & Kahler, 49 Wall Street, New York at 5%. Similar proceedings were taken August 5, 1902 to secure a lighting system for $5000, a unanimous vote of twenty-one ballots being cast. While the vote was light it was unanimous, and compares favorably with special elections held even twenty years later.
MR. SQUIRE AND THE "KIDDIES"
That the residents of Kenmore were alive to the needs of the children at the time of incorporation is evident from an item in the Buffalo News of October 16, 1899, which refers to Mr. W. F, Squire as the "gentleman with spectacles, plaintive voice, and courteous but determined never-to-let-go perseverance". Mr. Squire secured for that part of Buffalo which the genial "Al" Lockwood calls "South Kenmore" a two-room school house on Ramsdell Ave, to accommodate the forty or more children in and about Villa Ave, who were obliged to trudge to School No. 21 on Hertel Avenue, in all sorts of weather. The school house was afterwards used by the Baptist congregation of Kenmore, and a larger school house was built on Sessions Street. The original school house was partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt as a residence. No. 29 Ramsdell Avenue.
BUILDING BOOM AND JOLLIFICATION
The year 1903 witnessed a new impetus in building. Hundreds of people were seeking houses. Rents were $15 and $20 a month, but few were to be had. From the beginning Kenmore has been a village of home owners. This has been a factor in the trim neatness of the lawns, variety of shrubbery and shade trees which has gained for the village the title of "Buffalo's most beautiful suburb". The night of January 21, 1903 was a "Jollification". Kenmore was illuminated with gas for the first time. The Niagara Light, Heat, and Power Co. completed connections with the local system and piping of houses for light and cooking went on with a rush. On March 26, 1903 the first steps were taken toward the erection of a Village and Fire Hall. Five notices were posted for a public hearing to be held on March 30, "for the purpose of deciding on either renting or building a Fire Hall". The decision was for "building". A special election was held May 1, at which the village voted to issue bonds for $4000 for the purpose. Bids were opened June 1, and J. B. Rickert was awarded the contract. The building was formally accepted December 12, 1903, situate No. 2831 Delaware Avenue. May 16, 1904, the Village Trustees authorized the purchase of a 500 pound bell for the Fire Hall from the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, N. Y. for $235. The bell was suitably inscribed with the names of:
"Myron A, Phelps, President;
R. D. C. Rudhard, Trustee;
John L Keller, Trustee;
George H. Pirson, Clerk;
Frank C. Stillwell, Chief." After the installation of the Siren alarm the bell was placed in a concrete kiosk on the village green.
AN OLD TIME BRIDGE
When Kenmore was first settled a stream of water had its source in the north-eastern section of the village near McKinley Avenue and Colvin Boulevard. It flowed down Myron Avenue, across Delaware Avenue into the Scajacquada Creek, Buffalo. The stream was known as Cornelius Creek. A bridge spanned the stream, which in the spring of the year was a wide creek at Kenmore Avenue and Myron Avenue. The former bed of the stream may still be traced in the alluvial soil of Kenmore Avenue and Villa Avenue.
On July 11, 1904, the Town of Tonawanda was notified to either repair the bridge, or build a new structure. The residents of Myron Avenue found it necessary to make a deep ditch by the roadside to carry the surplus water to the bridge. Nearly all traces of this creek have disappeared; a small viaduct on Delaware Avenue near the ball grounds remained for many years after the water was drained into the sewer systems.
SNOW STORMS AND STRAY DOGS
The snow fall during the winter of 1905 was so heavy that traffic was "completely closed" on Delaware Avenue. "The deplorable condition making it physically impossible for children to go to school". The situation was aggravated by the use of a rotary snow plow on the trolley line, which piled the snow on the walks as fast as it was removed. A remonstrance was made, and snow fences were placed in the fields on the west side of Delaware Avenue. The drifts in some places reached nearly to the top of the telephone poles. The village had to deal with many "ancient wrongs" during the spring. The primitive custom of allowing chickens, cows, and horses to "run at large" became a nuisance. Crowing cocks disturbed the slumbers of late sleepers. On April 1, a resident being "greatly annoyed" complained to the Village Board. The date of the petition being taken into consideration, it was considered as an "April Fool" joke. Being assured to the contrary action was taken by the Board to "keep the chickens within the bounds of her own property", and notice was sent to the transgressor. "Stray" and "Biting" dogs, boys "meddling with street lamps," "pilfering books" from the school house, "driving on the sidewalks," "defacing signs," and other less weighty matters received attention during the meetings of the Village Board, as well as selling lots and issuing building permits. History always has and always will record the faults and foiables of the people; civilization will never outgrow them. The Village, itself, was like an irrepressible boy; as to its age, it was but six years old.
EXTENSION AND POLITICS
The watchword of 1906 was "Extension." At a special election on June 25, a proposition was carried by a majority of 25 votes, ten voting against it, to take in a large section on the north, from the Niagara Falls Boulevard to Military Road. $31,000 covered by bonds was expended in extending sewers and pavements. Men with vision saw that the trend of population was toward the north, and later years have proved the clearness of their vision. During this period of Kenmore's political history, continuing down to 1912 and beyond two organizations were striving for mastery; the "Greater Kenmore," and the "Good Government" parties; the latter nicknamed the "Goo Goos." The contention became so hot that newspapers throughout western New York carried stirring comments which put Kenmore "on the map."
NIGHT POLICEMEN AND SKATING RINK
On March 20, 1908 the Village Board appointed Charles Stephen Sr. "Night Policeman" at a salary of $600 a year. He was instructed to "wear proper and necessary uniform." Stationed at Delaware Avenue and Kenmore Avenue during the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning, as the trolley cars reached the terminal, all suspicious characters who could not give a satisfactory account of their business were turned back to Buffalo or sent on to Tonawanda. The residents rested more peacefully because of this vigilant and faithful officer of the law. Situated midway between Buffalo and the Tonawanda's, crooks of all kinds have been given through passage either way, so that the peace and quietness of the Village has rarely been disturbed during the night. During the year a license was granted the Palace Roller Rink Co., to operate in "Kenmore Convention Hall" for a fee of $10. This hall with so pretentious a name, rented to a company with so aspiring a name, was really a political "Wigwam," and was located on Delaware Avenue near the corner of Wabash Avenue, the site now occupied by E. R. Ashbery, No. 2968 Delaware Avenue. For many years previously the "craze" of roller skating had swept the country. Roller Skating Rinks could be found in every village and hamlet throughout the land. As this form of amusement became stabilized and occupied better buildings, these Rinks were used for Gospel and Temperance meetings accommodating large crowds. One fervent Prohibitionist comparing the two different uses made of these temporary structures was heard to exclaim, "How the devil must be gnashing his teeth." And no wonder, for the Village Board had to take action, after investigation of the conduct in the Rink, and impose strict rules and regulations as to opening and closing hours.
The first decade of incorporate life closed with a rapidly growing population. Farm lands were being subdivided into village lots. A bill was passed permitting the Village to collect taxes from delinquents who were non-residents. Many shade trees were planted. Streets were extended and paved. New business houses and offices were opened to take care of increased business.
SOURCE: History of Kenmore Erie County, New York; 1926; Frederick S. Parkhurst, Ph.D. Local Historian