Broadway/FillmoreNeighborhood - Polish-American History in Buffalo, NY
On this page, below:
- History, Excerpts from Broadway-Fillmore Intensive Level Historic Resources Survey
- Overview, by Polish-American Heritage on the Niagara Frontier
- Population Statistics
- Scott Eberle and Joseph A. Grande, Polish Jews in Buffalo
- Mark Goldman, The Belt Line Railroad and Assumption Parish
- Mark Goldman, The Johnson Immigration Restriction Law
- Mark Goldman, Michael Pasczek
- Fred Jablonksi, East Buffalo Stockyards
- James Napora, "Polonia": Joseph Bork and St. Stanislaus Church
- The Polish Community of Buffalo and the Pan-American Exposition, by The Libraries, University at Buffalo
See also on Buffalo History and Architecture Website:
Plaque on Corpus Christi Church: The Father Justin Rosary Hour
Leon Czolgosz, Pres. McKinley's assassin
Mayor Joseph Mruk
Francis E. Fronczak
Unia Polska w Ameryce, 761 Fillmore Ave.
Unia Polska w Ameryce, 761 Fillmore Ave.
Broadway-Fillmore, Buffalo, NY
Intensive Level Historic Resources Survey
Olmsted and Vaux anticipated that their park system would be eventually extended to benefit the southern part of the city. Fillmore Avenue (named for Millard Fillmore, who, as a resident of Buffalo after his presidency, aided the park movement) was eventually designated a parkway leading south from The Parade [Martin Luther King, Jr. Park today] to South Park, the plans for which Olmsted, who had terminated his partnership with Vaux, outlined in 1887. Although not as grand as the earlier parkways such as Lincoln and Chapin, Fillmore Avenue was laid out through the Broadway-Fillmore area with double rows of elms on either side of a wide roadbed.
- Section 3, page 9From its earliest days as an urban neighborhood, the Broadway-Fillmore area was home to a large community of Polish immigrants. Known in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the “Polish colony,” it embraced as many as 100,000 Polish- Americans in the early twentieth century. Buffalo, in fact, had the sixth largest Polish-American community in the United States at the time.
Serious Polish immigration to America began in the 1850s. At the time, there was no formal nation of Poland, for since 1772, Germany, Austria, and Russia had partitioned the country into three areas. Despite attempts by Polish patriots to throw off outside domination in 1830, 1846, 1848, and 1863, Poland did not become an independent nation until 1918. The immigrants of Polish extraction who eventually settled in Buffalo came here as German, Austrian, or Russian citizens.
During the 1880s a wave of Polish settlers arrived in the city, and the area around Broadway and Fillmore Avenue became firmly established as the main Polish quarter. “Most of the men were working as street laborers, and many of them were employed in sewing for dealers in ready made clothing,” observed John Daniels, a local physician who took a serious interest in Buffalo’s Polish community.
- Section 3, page 15
Polish-American Heritage on the Niagara Frontier
The Polish influence in Western New York can be traced back to Pieter Stadnitski, one of the partners of the Holland Land Office Company; the Dutch company which purchased and brought settlers to the area in the early 19th century.
More specifically, Polish settlers of Jewish heritage began arriving in the area before 1860, while Catholic Poles began arriving in large numbers soon after. Between 1873 and 1922, Polish Americans established 34 church parishes in Greater Buffalo and Western New York.
By 1940, there were 76,465 Western New Yorkers of Polish ancestry, and in the 1990's a great number of people from this area claim to be of some Polish descent. Many of them still live in the areas of the city that their grandparents and parents first settled: Broadway-Filmore, Clinton-Bailey, Black Rock and Riverside as well as Cheektowaga, Depew and Lackawanna.
Jews in Buffalo
"Second Looks: A Pictorial History of Buffalo and Erie County," by Scott Eberle and Joseph A. Grande.
Donning Co., 1993, p. 85
The census of 1850 lists only
fifty people born in Poland, and these were not the Roman Catholic
peasants we most often think of as Polish immigrants, but
Yiddish-speaking Jews who fled persecution and discrimination in the
Russian-Polish pale of control. Czar Nicholas I broke his covenant not
to draft Jews into the Russian army before they were granted civil
rights, and this prompted others to leave.
The Belt Line Railroad and Assumption Parish
"High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." by Mark Goldman. Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983, pp. 178-183
It was industry and
the nature of
work in an industrial society that most influenced the development of
neighborhood patterns in Buffalo. By 1910 over fifty percent of the
city's work force worked in industry. Most of these workers were
immigrants, particularly Poles. Writing in 1910, a crusading reporter
and director of the Buffalo Social Survey, wrote in a local paper that
"if all the Poles in Buffalo would be taken away over night many of the
large factories in the city might as well go away also."
The Johnson Immigration Restriction Law
An Excerpt from
The"High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." by Mark Goldman. Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983, pp. 212-215, 279
In late 1923 and early 1924 it became increasingly clear that the Johnson immigration restriction bill, favored by die-hards throughout the United States, would become law. The bill, more so than the legislation of the early 1920s, threatened to end completely the whole character of American immigration. The bill was a direct assault on the eastern European Catholic and Jewish communities in cities throughout the Northeast. A major source of urban vitality was ending.
The number of Poles permitted to immigrate dropped from 26,000 to 9,000 a year, Italians from 42,000 to 4,000, Czechs from 14,000 to 2,000, Hungarians from 5,000 to 688, and Greeks from 3,000 to 235.
Families, neighbors, and villagers would far less frequently be united on the streets and neighborhoods of America's cities. And yet, for some unexplained and mysterious reason, there was little attempt within these communities, at least in Buffalo, to fight the bill.
"High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York." by Mark Goldman. Pub. by State U. of New York Press, Albany, 1983, pp. 183-184
The tavern augmented the church as the social and cultural center of the Polish community. And on the East Side no tavern was more typical than Pasczek's. One of close to two hundred saloons on the East Side, Pasczek's. was one of the most popular, making its proprietor, Michael Pasczek, a prosperous man.
Michael Pasczek lived with his wife and three of his children on the ground floor of a large, two-story house that he owned on Gibson Street, just off Broadway. Upstairs, in an identical eight-room apartment, lived his two married daughters and their families. Pasczek owned three other homes which he rented to six Polish families.
In addition to his tavern and real estate interests, Pasczek was extremely active in the affairs of his community. He was the treasurer of the Parish Committee of St. Stanislaus, and president of both the Society of St. Adalbert and the Young Men's Society of St. Joseph. In 1901, he became the first Pole in Buffalo who owned an automobile. But it was the saloon that he cared most about.
On the Polish East Side, this "terra incognita where saloons often occupy each of the four corners of every street," Pasczek's tavern was on the ground floor of a two-story frame building. On two large, plate-glass windows were heavy white letters which spelled out the name of the owner. Over these were two large canvas awnings that protected the benches that Pasczek kept in front of the tavern during the warmer months of the year.
Inside, a tile floor and tile walls reflected the low-burning gas light that lit the large room. The walls were decorated with religious icons, a picture of President McKinley, several calendars, and fliers announcing meetings of the Polish Cadets and the Parish Committee of St. Stanislaus. To the right of the door was a large bulletin board reserved for announcements: the Sokol Society baseball team practice, flats for rent and houses for sale, a subscription list for the Polish Relief Fund and the Polish Army Fund, departure and arrival dates of leading steamship lines, and other news related to the life of the neighborhood.
At the end of the room was a long wooden bar -- "The Longest Bar in Polonia" -- tended during the lunch hour and the after-work rush by both Pasczek and his wife. At other times, Pasczek's son, Michael, ]r., presided over the rows of wine, whiskey, beer, brandied fruits, hard-boiled eggs, pickled vegetables, packages of cheese, and bread all neatly arranged on the long wooden shelves.
Toward one end of the bar was a cash register and a small safe. Next to it was a counter where people could buy stamps and receive their mail.
To the far left of the bar was a narrow, short hall which led beyond to a closed door into a large interior office. It was here that Pasczek presided over his many diverse activities. Not only was he a ticket agent for two steamship lines, but he was also a registered real estate broker and a bona fide insurance salesman for the Hartford Life Insurance Company.
The first person in Polonia to own an automobile, by 1905 Pasczek had become the neighborhood's most worldly and mobile man in terms of his contact with the rest of the city. As such, his most important function in the neighborhood was to serve as the liaison man with the outside world.
In addition to his activities as a ticket broker and as an insurance agent, one of the more interesting services he performed was that of a local banker. In the absence of branch banks in the community, many people deposited their savings with Pasczek, and he in turn deposited the money in a trust account in a downtown bank.
Although the services which he performed on behalf of his neighbors were significant in the life of the community, as an individual Pasczek was still more important. Above all he was a model for the Polish-speaking day laborer who harbored dreams of one day becoming successful himself. The tavern, then, by serving as a social center where the workers of the area could seek the comforting company of their own kind, and the tavern keeper, who had achieved a degree of success far more visible than any other person in the neighborhood, solidified the ties that bound this peer group society together and kept alive the dreams of success which must often have been derailed by the difficulties of everyday life. By serving as a model of success while still retaining his deep ties to the community, Pasczek not only kindled faith in the future but provided a major source stability in the present.
East Buffalo Stockyards
East Buffalo 1846-1976, by Fred Jablonski
The early East
comprised one of the most important industries of the city. Livestock
was shipped here from many states as well as from surrounding farms.
This industry dates back to 1846. East Buffalo was the center of Polish
settlement in Western New York. The stockyards were often the first
place where Poles would be hired. Ironically, the Polish peasant
immigrants' only skills were animal husbandry and knowledge of the
land, which they were seldom to exploit in their new country.
"Polonia": Joseph Bork and St. Stanislaus Church
"Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York," by James Napora. Master of Architecture Thesis. Found at Buffalo Central Library, pp. 297-298
rior to 1870, a small community of Poles resided within the city. Centered in the area of Broadway and Sycamore between Pine and Walnut Streets, they numbered only around 150 people total. These immigrants, the majority of who were aristocrats and professionals, were drawn here by the sense of adventure the New World promised them. By 1873, this community had grown to include 500 people.
The majority of the immigrants did not stay in Buffalo longer than a few days, instead opting to travel further west to the already established Polish communities in cities such as Chicago and Detroit.
owner of a vast tract of land bounded by Smith and the Belt Line Railroad,
and Howard and Broadway recognized this trend. Noticing that the Polish
communities in other cities were centered around a house of worship, he
felt that more would stay here if they too, had a house of worship they
could call their own. Aspiring that his property serve as a newly
developed Polish Community, he donated a tract of land on Peckham
Street to the Diocese of Buffalo, intending it to be the location of a
new Polish parish.
To ease the
problems and assist in the transition to life in the New World, the
city arranged for the former army barracks on Fillmore Avenue near
Paderewski to be opened as an temporary living quarters for the
The period of
saw the largest influx of Poles arriving to the city with peasants,
seeking an improved economic climate in the States, constituting the
majority of these arrivals. By 1890 over 20,000 Poles resided in the
Polish East Side on land which twenty years previous had been
Other developers: Bork did-not stand alone as the sole developer of the east Side.Although he is responsible for the majority of growth to the area west of the Belt Line, the streets to its east reflect the influences of their German developers. Edward L. and Frank Koons, Robert C. Titus, and Frank Goodyear purchased and developed over 100 acres immediately.east of the Belt Line from Broadway to Genesee during the 1890s. August E. Rother, whose farmhouse stood at 129 Walden, cut Rother Avenue through land on which he once grazed cattle and raised vegetables.
Polonia, the East Side enclave of what was one of the largest Polish communities in the United States, is a pure demonstration of the power of the house of worship in establishing a distinctly cohesive neighborhood. It also constitutes the only neighborhood in the city where Catholicism reigns supreme. Out of the thirteen religious buildings remaining, only two were not affiliated with Catholicism.
Fronczak was born in Buffalo to Polish immigrant parents, was a young
and articulate doctor, who graduated both from Canisius College and the
University of Buffalo Medical School. Although only in his
mid-twenties, he took a leadership role in the Polish community,
encouraging participation in the Pan-American Exposition, and chairing
the convention of the Alliance of Polish Singers, which met in Buffalo
in 1901. Fronczak is still highly respected for his varied roles as
doctor, Buffalo's health commissioner (starting in 1910), journalist,
and supporter of Poland's independence.
Polish Press: The
most popular Polish-language newspaper in 1901 was the daily Polak w
Ameryce , which had circulation over 6,000 in a local population of
about 75,000 Poles. The paper began publication in 1885 under the name
Ojczyzna. By 1887 the name had changed to Polak w Ameryce,
which translates as "The Pole in America." Stanislaw Slisz and his
brother Jozef, both of whom came to Buffalo in 1885, became the
publishers of Polak w Ameryce. The Slisz's Polak Amerykanski
Press also published magazines and books for Polish-speaking people
throughout the United States.
The Polish-language press was apparently shocked and disgusted at the assassination. Police arrested a number of Polish residents, some of whom were held for questioning, as well as a number of Italians. However, no conspiracy was discoveredńCzolgosz had acted independently.