Old Bergman Tools Building, Buffalo, NY

I sent this as a private message to KD, but he thought it could warrant a post. This is very much a "work in progress" (sorry, my brain thinks in puns, it's a curse), but if anyone would like to contribute, I can provide some boots on the ground.

This building is located very close to my house. It's right along the Niagara River on Niagara Street, which is a very historic area in Buffalo. The destruction of the Buffalo "community" and Black Rock in the War of 1812 allegedly occurred all along this stretch. The YouTube channel Bushwhacking History in Buffalo has some detail on this stretch, though I'm not completely familiar with all his content. Not enough hours in the day...

Anyway, the property is being renovated:
The current building is a two story, 12,000 sf, brick and block building and our plan is to put a two story 12,000 sf addition alongside of the existing structure. Our plan for the existing façade is to remove all existing paint, expose existing brick, tuck point and repair, as well as seal existing brick. We plan on infilling boarded up window openings and keeping with the colors and integrity of the existing neighborhood. Our addition will be comprised of brick and metal panels to order to complement the existing brick building.
1569niagara.jpg

Naturally, when I walked by it, I wanted to snap some pictures. There's been a lot of construction going on lately that seems to reveal subterranean levels underneath existing structures, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (survivor of the Pan American Exposition) renovation has been interesting to see, with what you can actually make out from the road anyway. That's just one example, there are countless in my area.

Anyway, here's what I got for the Niagara St building:

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I'd like to get some more pictures from around the back, but I had to sort of climb up a small knoll by a fence to get these, they're taken from the left hand side of the building from the perspective of the picture I posted from the Buffalo Rising site.. and getting closer would have been trespassing on an active worksite (there were people around). I might go back later in the evening some day. Regardless, it seems like the "basement" half-windows were in fact full windows and possibly there's another level even under that. I also was wondering what exactly is the large cube that they're installing(?) is. As the article says, they're expanding the building and putting in a parking garage, so I assume it has something to do with that, but it's very odd looking (like a vault). My wife suggested it's something with central heating and air that they're putting in, which seems possible, but odd too. It wouldn't be for a parking garage obviously and if you had to do that for the renovation, seems like you're approaching a point where you should just tear the building down and start over (as they did to another one somewhat nearby to put in an urgent care, which is located rather hilariously where the hospital was located on the Pan American exposition map).

I'm going to dig back into some maps of Buffalo (this is a bit north of the city center and might appear on Black Rock maps instead), but so far, I found a couple things on the history of this building, including this picture:

Bergman.jpg

Source
There is not much early information at all on this company. We do know it was located at 1569 Niagara Street, Buffalo NY 14213 in 1908 and prior, before the move to Niagara St.. The picture of the Bergman factory below is from the website Preservation Ready.

We found this article from Domestic Engineering and the Journal of Mechanical Contracting, Volume 47 and dated May, 1909 noting that Bergman has moved from 102 Seneca St. to it's new factory at 1573-75 Niagara St.
So, if you're interested in helping me "dig," please feel free. I probably ought to head down to the history museum at some point... I've been wanting to follow-up on the Exposition construction photos (and whatever else they have) for years. In the meantime, any thoughts on:
  • How many levels are we looking at here?
  • Why do we have full windows that are subterranean? Aside from mud flood theories, is it plausible this is the result of some sort of prefabricated kits?
  • What is the object they are working on?
 

jd755

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In the seventies my history 'education' at a grammar school delivered the story that the Dutch had taken or were in possession of the land where New York now sits had built a town named New Amsterdam. "The British" rolled up kicked the Dutch out or negotiated the Dutch out and took over the control of the area and renamed the town New York in honour of the Duke of York.

On that map where it says New Amsterdam and New York Reservation thee is a gridded village/town being shown. Gridded town layouts are peculiar to the United States so perhaps, just perhaps, the people laying out the town of New Amsterdam were United States citizens of Dutch descent as I feel sure just as today the 'defeated' don't actually all get killed, deported or run away they get integrated more often than not.

As you can see from the screen grab there was a creek named Canal Creek already in existence before the village was laid out and it was part of the boundary of two gratuity's. I reckon it was this creek that was 'straightened out' and properly canalised to make it navigable by barge sometime after this map was drawn out and became the disused portion of the Erie canal. I don't know but get the impression the existing Erie canal is nothing like the one that was first brought into being of which Canal Creek was part.
Don't know where the op building features or is placed on the New Amsterdam map though. In one of the gratuity's perhaps?

canal creek.jpg
 
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  • Banta

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    On that map where it says New Amsterdam and New York Reservation thee is a gridded village/town being shown. Gridded town layouts are peculiar to the United States so perhaps, just perhaps, the people laying out the town of New Amsterdam were United States citizens of Dutch descent as I feel sure just as today the 'defeated' don't actually all get killed, deported or run away they get integrated more often than not.

    Well, yes. I believe it's just these guys:

    Holland Land Company - Wikipedia

    Don't know where the op building features or is placed on the New Amsterdam map though. In one of the gratuity's perhaps?

    Sorry for the confusion, this map I just posted to show the name of the town at the time. The OP building would be located far off to the upper right.

    Schimmelpennick St..jpg

    Just as a sidenote, noting that Niagara Street was once called Schimmelpennick St., since it's foundation (which is "whenever", as you can even sort of tell from the Buffalo, NY wiki), there have been over 500 changes to the names of roads. If you look, you can see that many names were changed and then reused in a different part of town later. I'm sure part of the answer is that this was done slowly over time, but that doesn't really give me any glimpse into motivation (not suggesting anything nefarious... necessarily...).

    The OP building itself is in an awkward area I'm finding for many maps, because it's essentially right on the border of what would be Black Rock. I would think the Scajaquada Creek was the demarcation point between communities and the OP building IS on the Buffalo side, but it's literally right at the edge.

    Speaking of the Creek (I promise to bring this back to the OP building, hang on), the more I look, the more I'm amazed at how many creeks/canals have been filled in. As wiki says, "while the Scajaquada once flowed into Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, it was buried by 1921 in response to pollution and urban development." For as much digging as the canals must have involved, there's been equally as much burying. The entire southern section of Buffalo by Buffalo Creek looks vastly different now, with miles of former hydraulic canals now buried (and the creek itself looking quite different:
    The canal has long since passed into history, leaving the remains of the Hydraulics neighborhood, the site of the earliest manufacturing district in the city.

    With the completion of the Erie Canal, a group of local business people desired to capitalize on its economic potential. In 1825, a number of them banded together and raised $25.000 with which they desired to develop an industrial area utilizing water power. Within two years, they had placed a dam on Buffalo Creek in the Kaisertown area and constructed a passage to connect it to Little Buffalo Creek.

    Utilizing this additional water, they built a millrace from Little Buffalo Creek along a route paralleling Seneca Street. At approximately Hamburg and Seneca Streets, the millrace took a sharp turn and the water was directed over a cascade, after which it flowed into the Hamburg Canal, present day Exchange Street. At this falls developed a small industrial area which initially contained a flour mill, tanneries and metal shops.

    In 1850, additional power was created when the height of the millrace was increased resulting in further industrial development of the district. Attracted by the prospects of work in the nearby industry, German and Irish families began to settle the neighborhoods bordering on the canal. With increased settlement, the nature of the neighborhood began to change.

    By 1875, the Hydraulic Canal was filled in, ending the earliest chapter in Buffalo's industrial development. In the 1880s, the city incorporated the millrace into the sewer system and filled what was left of a ravine for the construction of Seymour Street.
    Anyway, while writing this, I realized that I missed a section of that 1872 Atlas when I was going through maps a couple weeks ago. I had been looking at this section for our OP building, which does show the intersection of Forest Ave and Niagara St, but without any real structure detail. Turns out, this area is better represented with this map of the 11th Ward (note, in all the images below, left to right is roughly south to north):

    11thward1.jpg

    11thward2.jpg


    This scan is really, really good. You can zoom in close enough to see the street numbers. Our OP building is 1569 Niagara St in the present day, but it's currently one lot away from the corner of Forest, which would make it 1579 (or even in the blank area of 1587) on the 1872 map.
    1631161221018.jpg

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    I'm not sure to what think here, because I can't be certain if the street is in the exact same place as it was in 1872, but what I can say for certain is that the exact lot was developed well prior to the Bergman Tools people moving in.

    I actually have more to say on jd's comment about the canal creek AND on the Niagara Falls hydraulic tunnel, but I have a bit more to figure out and I'm worried I'm making this thread completely impenetrable by having three or four distinct topics going on (the OP building, the canals, the Tesla/Niagara Falls and overall relation to the Exposition). I feel they're all very much related though...
     
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    jd755

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    I'm worried I'm making this thread completely impenetrable
    Don't be. It's crystal clear.
    The footprint of the Bergman building is different to the shape on the lot map. The building in lot 1676 is much more akin to the present day building in that aerial photo. Do they resize lots over there or are they set as per their original sizes?

    A slight aside. Streams and creeks and rivers have been culverted and buried for years on this little island home. Right across the road from this house there used to be, up until 1998 an open field one of the last flat lands of the valley through which a stream flowed. The stream was still there though a shadow of its former self so the 'developers' as they like to call themselves culverted the stream and built houses over the open field.
    I used to have a book here called The Lost rivers of London which was a fascinating read of the amount of culverting of once free flowing riparian river systems destroyed over the centuries.
    Point being this procedure continues today and for the same reasons, over here and over there.
     

    Banta

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    The footprint of the Bergman building is different to the shape on the lot map. The building in lot 1676 is much more akin to the present day building in that aerial photo.

    Agreed, for clarity, you mean 1576. Also, do you think that the street numbers were originally a part of this 1872 map or a later addition? The typeface is obviously different (I assume that it was maybe someone else's job to add the numbers after the map was drafted?).

    Here's a better comparison of the full block:
    1631204287247.jpg

    1631204224442.jpg
    Looking at that, it appears that the OP building is roughly located in the 1573/1576 lot area. It is also fairly apparent that, if we are to believe the 1872 atlas, that these structures were much smaller than what is currently on the block.

    Do they resize lots over there

    Definitely, there have been a lot of changes, both in dividing larger lots into smaller ones, and taking smaller lots and combining them. This has happened on this block and explains why the OP building is 1569 in present day.

    1631205058956.jpg

    source
    It looks like 1569 currently occupies the space that 1569/1573/1576/1579 took up in 1872.

    Streams and creeks and rivers have been culverted and buried for years on this little island home. Right across the road from this house there used to be, up until 1998 an open field one of the last flat lands of the valley through which a stream flowed. The stream was still there though a shadow of its former self so the 'developers' as they like to call themselves culverted the stream and built houses over the open field.
    I used to have a book here called The Lost rivers of London which was a fascinating read of the amount of culverting of once free flowing riparian river systems destroyed over the centuries.
    Point being this procedure continues today and for the same reasons, over here and over there.

    Indeed, I don't really think it's especially remarkable on the face of it (although, I think many would be surprised at how much terraforming our ancestors were doing), but I do think it's a bit amazing when over the course of 50 years (1825 to 1875), you don't have (hydraulic) canals, then you do have canals, then you not only retire them, but fill them up, also while filling in multiple sections of a large creek. Although, perhaps I shouldn't be impressed by this, given the tools and technology that appear to have been available in the 19th century (which have been largely discontinued and forgotten, like the canals themselves).

    It's always a balancing act comparing the general impression the historical narrative gives with the facts (as far as we can discern them). But it seems apparent that from at least the start of the so-called Industrial Revolution onwards that western civilization has had technology and techniques for "power" generation (at least for "practical tasks") that are roughly comparable to the modern day. In my opinion, this has been largely obscured through corporate propaganda, which draws commercial benefit from claiming to reinvent the wheel. The Tesla/Niagara Falls electricity business is a great example of this... the major question I have about all of this is how far back into history this really extends.

    Don't be. It's crystal clear.

    Glad to hear it, and I'll take that as permission to post this 1892 article on the construction of the previously mentioned mile long tunnel from Niagara Falls to the power station. It's the most detail I've found thus far on the actual process:

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    1631206420042.jpg

    source
    There are more articles, some that are reprinted throughout the country when the project started in 1890, with one that reports there was much skepticism that this project would ever actually be undertaken. It is quite amazing to think about, 800 men blasting away with dynamite for years... again, 28 fatalities, as is later reported, seems incredibly reasonable.

    EDIT: Also seems right (not in an ethical sense!) that they wouldn't report the deaths and injuries until much later on. From March 3, 1892:

    1631288831128.jpg

    source
    How "old" are those "timbers"?
     
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