Share this article

print logo

What It Looked Like Wednesday: Fire at Western Auto on Main Street

This What It Looked Like Wednesday first appeared on Chronicles on March 23, 2016.

Western Auto began as a catalog concern in 1909 — selling to the niche “horseless carriage” market. As cars became more popular, so did Western Auto, which began operating storefronts as well as the catalog.

The 1940 fire at Buffalo’s Western Auto caused $65,000 in damage, but allowed the store to be modernized in a rebuild.

The fire, which was blamed on a short in an electrical circuit, routed workers when it broke out before 11 a.m. and raged for two hours. Workers fled clutching store receipts or groped their way through blinding smoke, fed by the store’s inventory of paint, ammunition, antifreeze, motor oil, batteries and tires.  An hour after the fire was discovered, a "hose bridge" –  steel tracks with holes that protected hose lines and allowed trolley service to continue during the three-alarm fire – was placed on the Main Street trolley rails, enabling street cars to resume operations.

The building also housed a barbershop, a commercial photography business, the Esquire Ballroom and United Dental Laboratory.

When Western Auto opened at Main and Tupper in 1928, it was one of 46 Western Auto stores. But as the No. 9 Parkside Zoo Peter Witt street car ambled along the tracks of Main Street heading for the DL&W Terminal at the foot of Main Street, the store was one of 250.

[GALLERY: Devastating fires of Buffalo's past]

By the 1950s, car parts were taking a back seat to an array of items meant to capture the imaginations of men and boys, as Western Auto was carrying a wide range of products beyond car parts and accessories.

This isn’t the first time this intersection has been featured in the BN Chronicles. In 1981, the Ansonia Building at Main and Tupper was being considered for a $500,000 facelift with the thought that locations along the coming MetroRail route would be increasing in value.

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo News archives

More on the corner here.

Story topics:

There are no comments - be the first to comment