Historic Polonia District

The area around Broadway and Fillmore Avenue became the main quarters for Polish immigrants who arrived between the 1870's through the 1920's. Located two miles east from downtown Buffalo, Polonia is home to a beautiful collection of churches and architectural landmarks. With the founding of St. Stanislaus Parish in 1873, the area became the second largest Polish-American colony in the world outside of Poland. 
Below is a series of photographs from the neighborhood. Although preservation efforts are in full force to save the remaining elements of this once bustling community, neglect and demolition are quickly eating away at the fabric of the district. In March 2018, a proposal to name this area a historic district went before the Preservation Board and the Common Council. Let's hope progress is made on this proposal so we can continue to preserve the buildings, worker's cottages and churches from future threat of demolition!

Corpus Christi Church is a Romanesque designed church, made of medina sandstone, with two signature towers and space for some of the largest stained glass in the city of Buffalo. Built in 1909, the bell towers stand over 170 feet tall. 

In the far distance is Church of St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr at 123 Townsend Street. The Church is the oldest Polish church in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and holds the distinct title of "Mother Church of Polonia". By 1873, the Polish community grew to over 500 members and the need for their own parish grew quickly. To attract these Polish immigrants to stay in Buffalo rather than continuing their journeys to western cities like Chicago and Detroit, a group of 55 Poles met to form the Spolka Polska, otherwise known as the “St. Stanislaus Society” which became the nucleus of the future parish. 

A view of buildings along Fillmore Avenue with Corpus Christi RC Chuch in the background at 199 Clark Street.

The Historical Eckhardt Building at Broadway and Fillmore. Designed by local firm Bley & Lyman for John H. Eckhardt and built in 1940, this corner building is one of the most significant early Art-Moderne retail buildings surviving in Buffalo.

St. Adalbert’s Basilica at 212 Stanislaus Street. St. Adalbert’s was the first parish to be carved out of St. Stanislaus church in 1886. Before that time, all of Buffalo’s Polish Roman Catholics attended St. Stanislaus parish, headed by Father John Pitass. Some of the parishioners at St. Stanislaus were less than pleased with Father Pitass and how he ran the church. They first appealed to the bishop to start another Polish parish, but he denied their request. Then on their own they tried to form a church. At this point, the Vatican intervened and allowed for the new parish of St. Adalbert’s to be established. Details from "Polonia Trail".

A view down Lombard Street next to the Broadway Market. Notice the steeple in the distance from Church of the Transfiguration on Sycamore Street.

A view down Gibson Street from the parking ramp of the Broadway Market.

The Union Stock Yards Bank Building at 949 Broadway. The historic Eckhardt Building in the background. Built in 1910, this building is the second home to the Union Stock Yards Bank which was established to manage the finances for he Union Stock Yards, located along William Street and the tracks of the New York Central Railroad, which at the time was the second largest stock yard operation in the country and third in the world. The historic clock on the corner of the building is still in wonderful shape - check out my other post talking on historic clocks in Buffalo here!

Fire House Hook & Ladder No. 11 located at 636 Fillmore Avenue. Built in 1908 by architect Howard L. Beck. 

A view down Wilson Street with St. Stanislaus in the background. Polonia is filled with cottage style homes that were commonly added onto from the rear, gaining the nickname of "Telescope Houses". I blogged about Telescope Houses in this other post here!

The Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle at 612 Fillmore Avenue. For the last 119 years, this sentinel of Polonia has preserved Polish literature, history, theater, music and culture here in the new world. The Circle was born October 13, 1895 in the upstairs apartment of Mr. Joseph Slisz an employee of the newspaper Polaka w Ameryce. Joseph invited 15 of Buffalo’s most influential Poles with the hopes of starting “an organization that would appeal to the Polish youth”. After the group agreed to sponsor such a mission, one of the members spontaneously suggested that it should be named after the great Polish bard, Adam Mickiewicz which received a resounding approval. It was then proposed that the Club should offer theatrical performances, educational lectures and have a library. Today Mickiewicz still has a 12,000 volume library, serves Polish beer and spirits, and holds Polish events including a St. John’s Eve party, a reading of the May 3rd Constitution, and one of Buffalo’s largest Dyngus Day parties.Details taken from Polonia Trail.

662 - 686 Fillmore Avenue, once home to Schreiber’s Brewing Company that started in 1899. Well known for it's famous Manru beer, Schreiber's Brewing lead the way in many modern production practices, including it's well documented reserve machinery which would be deployed in case the main production line machinery broke down. This ensured that production was never delayed while repairs on main machinery were taking place. During Prohibition, Schreiber survived by producing coffee and other products. It permanently closed its doors in 1950.

St. Stan's Athletic Club located at 289 Peckham Street. In 1921, Rev. Alexander Pitass organized the St. Stan’s Athletic Club with the goal of bring together the Polish Catholic youth of the parish and protecting them from the dangers of “evil places and immoral companionship.” In addition to lectures about religious and national affairs, the Club provided supervised amusement including baseball, basketball, bowling and gymnastics. Details from Forgotten Buffalo

A view of old buildings along Fillmore Avenue near Broadway, displaying the magnitude of the once bustling business district. 

The “Welcome Wall” mural found at 751 Fillmore Avenue by Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez. The mural says "Welcome" in Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, English, Farsi, French, German, Polish, Seneca, Spanish, Somali, Urdu and Vietnamese.. 

Revelation Missionary Baptist Church at 833 Fillmore Avenue. 

801 Fillmore Avenue, built in 1905 for local lawyer Leon J.Nowak. Architect: Sidney H. Woodruff. In 1948 a brick storefront was added for Florence Tesmer, owner of Frances Bridal Shop.

In 1913 the Polish Union of America selected Wladyslaw Zawadzki to design its new national headquarters on Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo. Serving as the home to the PUA for over 80 years until the 1990s, 761-765 Fillmore has also been home to Polish business offices, the inter-war Polish Consulate, WHLD Polonia Varieties Radio studios, a library, a restaurant, the first headquarters of the Adam Plewacki American Legion Post, a printing company and a typesetting graphic art establishment. As a keystone in Buffalo's Polonia, the Polish Union of America building hosted presidents, top government officials of America and Poland, and many distinguished personalities in various fields. Details sourced from "Forgotton Buffalo"

A close-up view of the Polish Union of America Building with the words "Unia Polska" etched into the building.

647 Fillmore Avenue, home to the Chua Tu Hieu Buddhist Cultural Center. The building was originally home to the Buffalo 8th Precinct.

Another view of the Chua Tu Hieu Buddhist Cultural Center, the outdoor Vietnamese temple grounds. 

A new mural at 617 Fillmore Avenue designed by Polish born artist Otecki (Wojciech Kolacz). The mural is part of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s ongoing Public Art Mural projects. Wojciech Kołacz, a.k.a. Otecki (Polish, born 1984), is an illustrator, printmaker, painter, and mural artist working in Wrocław, Poland. Otecki finds influence in Cubism, non-Western art, and Slavonic folklore. He is fond of presenting dualistic worlds and characters; especially human-animal combinations that are “part majesty and part mystery,” as the artist puts it.

A view down Fillmore Avenue near Broadway.

The towers of Corpus Christi Church. The Corpus Christi R.C. Church Complex is a series of several buildings located on Buffalo's historic East Side within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. The oldest bells are believed to be from 1898.

Telescope houses and St. Stanislaus bell towers.

Lederman's Furniture Store at 239 Lombard Street. Next door to the former Victors Fine Furniture store and across the street from the Broadway Market. This four story Art Deco building was Built in 1929 by architect Louis Greenstein. 

Three significant buildings in one picture: Lederman's Art Deco building, Buffalo Central Terminal and Corpus Christi Church - all found in Buffalo's Historic Polonia District.

M&T National Bank Building located at 1036 Broadway. This building was built in 1923 and designed by Bley & Lyman, displaying a Roman Ionic style. Originally built as the bank's main office as the Federal Reserve's bank that once stood at Main and Swan Streets.

A view down Broadway with St. Adalbert Basilica in the background. 

A view down Gibson Street with St. Stanislaus steeples in the background.

A classic example of a Buffalo Telescope house. More examples can be found in my other blog post here!

After St. Stanislaus was established in 1873, a bustling Polish neighborhood developed in East Buffalo. To feed this populace, thousands of women made a journey to the Washington Street Market about two miles away. Because this trek was hard on the Poles, a push was made to build a market more centrally located for them. After a petition with 1,000 signatures was presented to the Buffalo City Council in favor of a market on Broadway, the Council Committee on Markets began looking for a prime location. After a number of proposals and debates, a location was found in 1888 and the outdoor market was born. It would take two years but on March 24, 1890, the market was formally opened with a full lineup of German, English, Polish, and Jewish vendors and the Poles began to shop. 

In the free land of America, these formerly oppressed people treated the Broadway Market as a Roman Forum where they could discuss anything including politics and soon they had formed into a sizable political base. Today, Easter Week fills the market with customers looking for Polish sausage, bread, horseradish, and butter lambs for their Easter basket, perpetuating traditions that extend back over 100 years. Details taken from Polonia Trail

Camellia Meats in the Broadway Market. Camellia Foods was founded in 1935 by Mr. Edmund Cichocki Sr., a Polish Immigrant who was a butcher for the Slawinski Meat Stand in the Broadway Market. In 1935 he began his own butcher shop at 725 William Street making his traditional family polish sausage and ham recipes with his wife, Gertrude. Edmund Sr. moved his business to 1333 Genesee St. to expand into a manufacturing plant and named his business after his daughter, Camille. His son, Edmund Jr., grew up in Buffalo and went to St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute. He joined his father in the meat business after High School and took over in 1974. Edmund Jr. and his wife Kathleen had six children, three of which, entered Camellia with their Father in the 80's. Peter, Patrick and Erik now continue to run Camellia Foods after Edmund passed away 2007. The third generation Cichocki family continues to carry on the tradition of delivering quality sausages and hams to the Buffalo area. Taken from Camelliafoods.com

Another view of the Camellia Meats station in the Broadway Market.

A post about Polonia wouldn't be complete without the Clark Kent street sign photo!

This often photographed Polonia District landmark is a fine example of a mixed use tavern/residential structure built in the 1890s. Located one block west of Buffalo Central Terminal, it housed Strusienski's Restaurant and was home to generations of the Strusienski’s family. The business closed in the mid-80s. The building was last occupied in the early 90s. After being boarded up for over a decade, the building was purchased from the City of Buffalo in 2009 before being added to the City’s demolition list. Details from Forgotten Buffalo

A view down Paderewski Drive towards Buffalo Central Terminal

R & L Lounge at 23 Mills Street. 

The Church of Transfiguration is a Gothic Revival church that was built in 1896 on the corner of Mills and Sycamore Street. 

Former Lipowicz Grocery and Burnham's Furniture stores at 1201 - 1209 Broadway. Current Francis John Apartments. Renaissance style 5 story brick commercial building and original 3 story brick commercial grocery store. Built in 1912 by architect Wladyslaw Zawadzki. 

A view along Broadway.

The Buffalo Central Terminal opened in 1929 to serve more than 200 trains and 10,000 passengers daily, the iconic Buffalo Central Terminal operated for 50 years, until the Art Deco masterpiece officially closed as a train station in 1979.

A view of an old Polonia neighborhood with Corpus Christi Church in the background.

At first glance, 1170 Broadway might remind you of a more famous Buffalo building (Hotel Lafayette), with it's corner balcony design and ornate details. Designed by Wladyslaw H. Zawadzki of the Polish community, this 3 story building became the home to the Polish Singing Circle which formed in 1897. The building was built in 1907 and is a registered local landmark by the city of Buffalo.

A view down Rother Avenue.

The Romway Building at 1334 Broadway. Built in 1909 by the prolific Polish-American architect Władysław H. Zawadzki. 

A view down Broadway.

St. John Kanty’s Church located at 101 Swinburne Street. During the late 19th century St. Stan’s Parish was the center of religious life for the Polish immigrant. As immigration dramatically increased during the 1880’s the Polish community in Buffalo continued to grow. As the neighborhood expanded St. Stan’s Parish grew larger, with many of the faithful making a long and difficult walk to come to church to worship. The journey to St. Stan’s became increasingly more dangerous since the faithful needed to pass the N. Y. Central Rail Terminal and cross the dangerous central train lines. The train tracks took many lives before St. John Kanty was established to serve the needs of the expanding Polish immigrant community. Rev. Jan Pitass decided to divide St. Stan’s and form another faith community. Although he feared it would weaken the ties among immigrants, Fr. Pitass realized the great need for another parish since the membership of St. Stan’s had reached over 20,000. - Details from saintjohnkanty.com

Arty's Grill, a staple tavern of Polonia at Peckham at Memorial Drive.

Just down Memorial Drive from Arty’s Grill and across the street from the vast complex of former Railway Express buildings that are part of Buffalo Central Terminal, can be found another "Classic Buffalo Tavern.

The former Victor's Department store on Lombard Street.

Engine 22 at 1522 Broadway, built in 1890. 

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

Dyngus Day parade, 2015

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