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The Buffalo of Yesteryear: North Buffalo cement quarry formed Central Park area

Along East Amherst Street and adjacent to McCarthy Park are the remnants of a quarry that played a major role in the history of the Central Park neighborhood, Bennett High School and Buffalo in general.

The quarry, now on the north side of Amherst Street and the east side of the park, was owned by the Buffalo Cement Co., established in 1877 by Lewis J. Bennett, according to professional urban planner Angela Keppel’s Buffalo Streets blog. Bennett had used the money he earned as a toll collector and repairman on the Erie Canal to purchase more than 200 acres of land in North Buffalo, where he began extracting limestone to be used in a cement factory.

Bennett’s company provided free foundation stones for corner lot homes in the new neighborhood he was developing nearby, on the west side of Main Street, according to Keppel. That ensured large houses would be built.

Bennett deeded to the city the triangular piece of land now known as Burke’s Green, where a new fountain was installed in 2002 to replicate the original one that was dismantled in the 1920s, according to the website Buffalo Architecture and History.

Nineteen stone markers were originally placed around the Central Park neighborhood to delineate its boundaries – Main Street, Woodbridge Avenue, Parkside Avenue, Linden Avenue, Starin Avenue and Amherst Street, according to Buffalo Architecture and History. As the neighborhood developed, Bennett’s Buffalo Cement Co. transitioned from a cement manufacturing company to a real estate investment and development firm.

The development of the area was spurred by the completion of the Belt Line Railroad, a circular route in Buffalo that when it was installed in 1883 had 19 stops, each about one mile apart from the next.

He also donated the land that was used for Bennett High School, which was named for him, and All-High Stadium, which was famously filmed as Chicago’s Wrigley Field in the film “The Natural.”

Lewis J. Bennett donated to the city the land where Bennett High School was built. The school is named for him. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

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