Hertel Avenue - Table of Contents

Early History - Hertel  Avenue
Buffalo, New York

Source: George Thomas Apfel, Historic Waterways of Buffalo (online October 2018)

Partial reprint

Sell Land to City of Buffalo to Create Riverside Park, Get a Street Named After You
By Angela Keppel
Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time, August 29, 2013 (online October 2018)

Hertel Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare in North Buffalo running from Main Street to the Niagara River. The street was previously known as Cornelius Creek Road, named after the creek, which ran near the street. Hertel Avenue was named for John Stephen Hertel, former County Supervisor.

John S. Hertel, 1899

John Stephen Hertel came to Black Rock with his parents at the age of two, immigrating from Edesheim Germany. Mr. Hertel attended St. Francis School and learned the cooper trade, making barrels for brewers and distillers. He then became involved in the hotel business. He opened a hotel at the corner of what would become Hertel Avenue and Niagara Street. Before the 1890s, the Riverside area was primarily rural countryside. At the time, the street that would become Hertel Avenue only extended from Niagara Street to Military Road. When the Niagara Horse Car Line was extended to Hertel Avenue, the legend says that Mr. Hertel was so excited, he ran out of the hotel without a coat to be the first to ride on the first horse-car to pass the hotel.

Mr. Hertel was also the director of the Erie Fire Insurance Company and had extensive real estate holdings. The Black Rock Land Company was formed in 1888 and was one of the first development companies in the City of Buffalo. The Land Company included Mr. Hertel, Mr. Esser, Mr. Argus, Mr. Roesch and Mr. Ullman.

Mr. Hertel’s property included most of the land occupied by Peoria Street and Hartman Place. He subdivided the streets and named the latter for the family of his wife, the former Anna S. Hartman of Rochester. The hotel was successful for Mr. Hertel.

He then went into business with John J. Esser and Frank Argus to purchase what was known as Germania Park, which at the time was a private picnic grounds with a boat launch. They built a hotel at Germania Park. The City of Buffalo offered to purchase their property.  The City of Buffalo used this site to create
Riverside Park.

John Stephen Hertel was a life long democrat and was active in local politics. He was unsuccessful in a campaign for congress. For 27 years, he was a lieutenant colonel of the Knights of St. John. He was a member of St. Mary’s Commandery and an organizer of the commendary at St. Francis Church.  St. Francis Church is now the Buffalo Religious Arts Center. He was active in the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Men’s Benevolent Association, the Foresters of America and the Black Rock Businessmen’s Association.

He died in 1917 and is buried at the United German and French Cemetery in Cheektowaga.


So Who Was, Hertel Avenue?
Courier Express ~ February 26, 1939
found on the Buffalo History Gazette (online October 2018)

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.

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.
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
Buffalo Express ~ April 3, 1887
found on the Buffalo History Gazette (online October 2018)

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.

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."

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.

Hertel Avenue near Cornelius Creek

The third illustration gives a view on Hertel Avenue, looking through the Erie Trestle near Cornelius Creek.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2018
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