Catherine Gildner’s memoirs capture local history in these two colorful books…

Too Close to the Falls

Too Close to the Falls

After the Falls

After the Falls

Too Close to the FallsAfter the Falls

“Welcome to the childhood of Catherine McClure Gildiner. It is the mid-1950s in Lewiston, New York, a sleepy town near Niagara Falls. Divorce is unheard of, mothers wear high heels to the beauty salon, and television has only just arrived. At the tender age of four, Cathy accompanies Roy, the deliveryman at her father’s pharmacy, on his routes. She shares some of their memorable deliveries-sleeping pills to Marilyn Monroe (in town filming Niagara), sedatives to Mad Bear, a violent Tuscarora chief, and fungus cream to Warty, the gentle operator of the town dump. As she reaches her teenage years, Cathy’s irrepressible spirit spurs her from dangerous sled rides that take her “too close to the Falls” to tipsy dances with the town priest.” www.goodreads.com

These two books follow the fascinating, and at times astonishing, childhood and young adulthood of Catherine Gildner. Gildner grew up just a few miles from D’Youville in Lewiston NY. She describes what it was like to grow up in Western NY in her relatively eccentric family during the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s. Her tales take you through many Buffalo area landmarks and various historical happenings including; Love Canal, The Albright-Knox, Amigone Funeral Home, Amherst High School and an encounter with Marilyn Monroe during the filming of Niagara (1953). They are both highly recommended reads for anyone interested in a fun and intriguing narrative describing day-to-day life in the Buffalo area during the mid century, or perhaps just looking to step back in time for a little while.

You can find several copies of Too Close to the Falls in the DYC library. Here is a link to the Too Close to the Falls catalog record. After the Falls has not yet been added to the collection but you can read more about it here.

Niagara Falls – Buffalo’s Wonder Neighbor

Top: Charles Blondin crossing the Niagara Gorge (while carrying his manager); Bottom: Whirlpool Aero Car.

Top: Charles Blondin crossing the Niagara Gorge (while carrying his manager); Bottom: Whirlpool Aero Car.

The Falls in winter.

The Falls in winter.

Map of Historic Niagara, made for Peter A. Porter, 1891.

Map of Historic Niagara, made for Peter A. Porter, 1891.

Top: Father Louis Hennepin at the Falls, 1697; Middle: Artist conception of beavers buiding dams below the Falls, 1702; Bottom: Early view, 1700-1750.

Top: Father Louis Hennepin at the Falls, 1697; Middle: Artist conception of beavers buiding dams below the Falls, 1702; Bottom: Early view, 1700-1750.

Horseshoe Falls.

Horseshoe Falls.

The Falls in winter.

The Falls in winter.

Top: Charles Blondin crossing the Niagara Gorge (while carrying his manager); Bottom: Whirlpool Aero Car.The Falls in winter.Map of Historic Niagara, made for Peter A. Porter, 1891.Top: Father Louis Hennepin at the Falls, 1697; Middle: Artist conception of beavers buiding dams below the Falls, 1702; Bottom: Early view, 1700-1750.Horseshoe Falls.The Falls in winter.

Source: This is the Story – in Pictures and Words – of Buffalo, One of America’s Truly Great Cities, published by Otto Retter, 1932.


 

What was there?

The website What Was There links historical images to locations on Google Maps, giving a snapshot of history wherever you are.  Users upload photos and provide a location and year.  Currently, there are over 100 current and historical images of Buffalo and its vicinity, including the D’Youville campus.

Try it!  Go to http://www.whatwasthere.com and enter a city, state, or country.


 

William G. Fargo

William G. Fargo mansion, 1872

William G. Fargo mansion, 1872

The William G. Fargo mansion at 51 Niagara was adjacent to what is now the D’Youville campus (Fargo Avenue is named after William Fargo).  Fargo was born May 20, 1818 in Pompey, New York, and “commenced life financially at the bottom of the ladder,”¹  working as a grocery clerk and express messenger.  In 1851, he started Wells Fargo and Company with Henry Wells.  He served as mayor of Buffalo, 1862-1866, and from 1868 to his death in 1881, was president of American Express.

Fargo built his mansion in 1872; it was demolished a mere 29 years later in 1901.  At over 20,000 square feet, the home was expensive to maintain.  Fargo’s wife died in 1890 and the house was vacant thereafter.  In today’s dollars, it is estimated to have cost almost $10 million to build and furnish the home.

For more information and interior images on the William G. Fargo mansion, visit the Western New York Heritage.

Sources:

1 “Close of a Busy Career,” The New York Times, August 4, 1881.
2 “Fargo Estate: Then and Now,” Western New York Heritage
3 Image of Fargo home, D’Youville College Archives, Picture Gallery: A02.