I originally signed on to these weekly articles to let readers know of coming events. Somehow, I started on the historical trail and now receive many requests for these articles.

Today, we are going to the South End of the city in order to be fair to those who lived, worked and grew up in that area.

Not shown on my “map,” but near and dear to me was the Sample Shop on Niagara and Sixth streets where I worked during my high school years (mid-1950s). Sam Gellman, his sister Theresa (who we all called Tibey) and her husband Rabbi Sam Porrath operated the business, owned by the Gellman family for many years. This was an upscale ladies ready-to-wear shop, very popular with fashion-conscious women. I worked behind the counter sending out monthly statements and sometimes writing up sales and handling the register. Sam Gellman took me to lunch at Louis Restaurant on Falls Street for my 16th birthday. It was my first time at Louis and I sat at a large round table with all of his “horse betting buddies.” When we returned to the store, he sent me downstairs to the sportswear department to “pick out a present.” Many of us ate at DiLaura’s, a luncheonette and variety store across the street and on Friday nights, we would go to Travis’ Grill for fish and chips. I enjoyed the company of the sales girls.

North of the railroad tracks between Niagara and Third streets was a small cut-through street called Little Fourth Street. On Saturday I worked a full day and on my lunch hour I would head to Beirs (always a shopper apparently) and pass by the old Hydraulic Canal and the Niagara Falls Power Company. Construction began on the canal in 1860 and completed one year later. They knew how to get things done in those days. The canal measured 35 feet wide and 8 feet deep and carried water from the upper Niagara River to several mills and businesses below the falls, many of which were owned by Jacob Schoellkopf (1819-1903). He purchased the rights to the Niagara Falls Hydraulic canal in 1877 to power his businesses and took over the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company. In 1882, realizing the potential of Niagara for generating electricity on a commercial scale, he installed a small hydroelectric generation station, which provided electricity directly to the nearby town of Niagara Falls. In 1918, along came Edward Dean Adams, who purchased the Schoellkopf Company and retained the name. He also owned the Niagara Falls Power Company, which was the second enterprise to provide Niagara Falls with electricity. All of this was long before our time but important in our history.

On my way to Falls Street, along Little Fourth Street, I passed the Silver Dollar Saloon and the George H. Courter Office Supply Company. Our former state Sen. John B. Daly purchased the Courter Co. and moved it to Niagara Avenue in the North End some time after Urban Renewal. I never went inside the Silver Dollar Saloon but you could see men standing at the long bar through the open door.

Around the corner on Third Street were the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Road tracks and a small barbershop next to the famous O’Hara Cigar and News Store. I spent some lunch hours in the Radio Lunch, a small spot next to the railroad tracks across Third Street. There were many of these long counter type spots in those days. We still have two well known spots in the Pine Avenue area — The Marketside and Gigio’s across the street, and they are pure carryovers from the times I am writing about.

On the opposite corner, was the Power City Trust Company, the forerunner of Marine Midland Bank (now HSBC). During this period, Marty Travis was the manager and John DeSantis was in charge of credit. Tom Denn, Don Ridge, Roland Fleming and Queenie Bedrosian, were employed there. My sister worked at this branch right after high school in 1958, before relocating to DuPont. Following Urban Renewal, Marine Bank moved to the Carborundum Center and this building was purchased by Jeff Mahlstedt who operated it as a restaurant called J.P. Morgan’s. It is now a “walk up office building” owned by someone from somewhere in Texas according to the city assessor Web site. Behind the bank was the Old Falls Fire Station.

Across Third Street was the Crystal Bowling Alley, jointly operated by Joe Sacco Sr. and a Mr. Brew. They also operated the Victory Bar in the front of the bowling alley. Mr. A. Trapasso owned this building. Later, Brew sold his partnership and purchased Brew’s Taxi Co., and Joe Sacco Sr. moved the Victory Bar to lower Main Street. His son Joey works at Supreme Court and he often reminisced about the old Falls Street days with Justice Koshian and me as they both “grew up there” alongside their parents’ businesses. Joey was a big help in research for future stories about Erie Avenue and other spots.

Next time we will go back to Main Street.

Stay tuned for more Niagara Falls business history. If someone picks up some misinformation here, please call me to job my memory a bit. 282-3599.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council. Her columns appear Mondays in the Gazette.

Trending Video

Recommended for you