Timeline of Polish-Americans in Western New York



 

1850s–60s

Poles begin to arrive in Buffalo; many are escaping political oppression and poverty in Germany, Austria, and Russia, as there is no formal nation of Poland at this time; it had been partitioned between the three countries in 1772. (The Republic of Poland is restored in 1918.) Many early immigrants come from a region known as western Galicia. One of the first Polish settlers may be Karol Barnicki, a shoemaker who arrives in 1852 and dies in 1901.

 

1870

Census indicates that 150 natives of Poland live in Buffalo.

 

1873

St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, Buffalo’s first Polish church, is founded at 123 Townsend Street. Father John Pitass is the organizer of this parish. The present St. Stanislaus is completed 1882–1885.

 

1870s–80s

Joseph Bork, who owns a large tract of land in what is now the Broadway-Fillmore (bounded by William, Fillmore, and Smith) district, constructs single-story and then two-story homes meant for Polish immigrants.  By 1886, he builds 1100 houses.

 

1886

St. Adalbert’s Basilica is founded at 212 Stanislaus Street. 

 

1888

The Broadway Market is founded as an open air market at 999 Broadway. It quickly expands to become a block-long community meeting place. 

 

The first Assumption Church is completed at 435 Amherst Street. The Romanesque structure that stands there today is built by architects Schmill and Gould in 1914.

 

1890

St. Casimir’s Church is founded at 160 Cable Street; the current structure is completed in 1929, after two previous buildings and various remodels.

 

The Polish-American population of Buffalo is estimated at 20,000.

 

1892

St. John Kanty Church is founded at 101 Swinburne Street.

 

1893

A bread riot at the Broadway Market leads to martial law in the district.

 

1894

Francis E. Fronczak is the first Polish-American in Buffalo to graduate from college (Canisius). 

 

Father John Pitass is named dean of all Polish parishes in the diocese; by most accounts he is basically the creator of Polonia.

 

1895

Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle is founded at 612 Fillmore Avenue.

 

1896

The first Polish Falcons Nest, Nest 6,  is formed in Buffalo, first located on Broadway and then at Sycamore and Fillmore. The founding aims of this national organization are athletic training, sporting competitions, and military drilling. The Falcons relocates to Depew in the 1990s, where it is still active. 

 

1897

Transfiguration Church is dedicated at Sycamore and Mill Streets (closed as of 1992).

 

1898

Corpus Christi Church is established at 199 Clark Street; the current structure was finished in 1909, after two previous buildings were outgrown. The current church is by Schmill and Gould, who also built Assumption Church, St. Gerard’s, and Sacred Heart.

 

1899

The Chopin Singing Society is founded.

 

1901

All five Polish newspapers express horror at the assassination of President William McKinley by Leon Czolgocz and disown him as a member of the Polish-American community.

 

1906

Buffalo’s first Dom Polski (Polish Home) at 1081 Broadway opens to the public. Thousands of dances, wedding receptions, political rallies, and cultural events take place at this hub of the Polish-American community. It is designed by architect Wladyslaw H. Zawadzki, who is responsible for many structures throughout Polonia.

 

1910

80,000 Poles form roughly one sixth of Buffalo’s population. There are 800 Polish-owned businesses in what is then called East Buffalo. Most Polish-Americans (eighty-seven percent) work in manufacturing.

 

1911

Five Polish-language newspapers are published in Buffalo; a daily (Everybody’s Daily) is published until 1957.

 

1919

The Lackawanna Dom Polski (now closed) is completed at 283-289 Ridge Road.

 

1921 

A Dom Polski is opened at 179 Lake Shore East in Dunkirk; it burns and is rebuilt in 1924. 

 

The North Tonawanda Dom Polski Citizen’s Association opens at 576 Oliver Street. 

 

1923

There are 181,300 Polish-Americans in Buffalo, most of whom still speak Polish.

 

1924

A Dom Polski (now closed) opens at 828 Clinton Street.

 

1925

The Chopin Society commissions artist Joseph Mazur to create a bust of Chopin, which now stands near Kleinhans, in Symphony Circle. Mazur is equally well-known for his stained glass commissions at St. Stanislaus, St. Adalbert’s, and other houses of worship.

 

1927

A grand opening is held for a Dom Polski (now closed) at Gould and Manitour in Depew.

 

1945

The Polish Arts Club is formed for the study, promotion, and enjoyment of Polish culture.

 

1949

Joseph Mruk is the first Polish-American mayor of Buffalo. Three more Polish-American mayors follow.

 

1957

Everybody’s Daily, a Polish-and-English paper, is accused of being sympathetic toward Communist Poland and declares bankruptcy soon after. It has also been serving as a printing house for other publications. 

 

1960

The inaugural issue of the Am-Pol Eagle, the first English-language newspaper catering to the Polish-American community,  is published. 

 

1961

Buffalo’s first Dyngus Day celebration is organized by the Chopin Society; this celebration is still held at various locations.

 

1971

At 300,000, Polish-Americans are the largest ethnic group in Erie County; they comprise seventy-five percent of Cheektowaga’s population. 

 

1976

The Polish Community Center opens at 1081 Broadway in the former Dom Polski. This becomes the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center in 2001.

 

1985

David Franczyk, editor-in-chief of the Polish-American Journal is elected to the Fillmore Common Council seat. He is essential in saving the district from elimination. 

 

2007

A city-based Dyngus Day parade and festival is started by comedian and Broadway-Fillmore booster Eddy Dobosiewicz and others.

 

2007–2012

The Catholic Church’s “Journey of Faith and Grace” reorganization leads to the closing of Polish-American churches throughout the region, including St. Barbara’s (congregation merges with Queen of Angels and church is razed), St. Hyacinths (merged with Queen of Angels), St. Valentine’s (merged with St. Clare’s), Queen of Peace, Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (merged with St. Clare’s), Precious Blood (merged with St. Clare’s), St. Florian, and others. Some churches become oratories, with varying levels of activity, including St. Casimir’s and St. Adalbert’s. Holy Trinity in Niagara Falls is among the Niagara County churches that are closed.

 

2014

Eastern suburbs Cheektowaga, Marilla, and others now have the greatest concentration of Polish-Americans (twenty-five percent); most of Buffalo is ten percent and under.

 

 

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