HAMBURG — The Route 62 project of 2006 was a time of reconstruction for the village of Hamburg. It was a moment of serious change, which led to the creation of something unique and historically reflective of the village itself.
Among the condensed business and restaurant section of the area, five wrought iron archways can be found careening over alleyways. Each one has a story.
The very first archway was a brainchild from the minds of Route 62 Committee members Mary Ellen Glass, Laura Hackathorn and Chris Snyder.
“It’s been really fascinating,” Glass said.
With the upheaval that was going to come with the reworking of Main and Buffalo streets, there was a concern among the group about how to allow patrons to tend to local businesses, even though the road would be completely torn up.
In their headquarters, within the basement of the Hamburg Village Hall, “We talked about how we didn’t want our central business district to go under. It’s something we valued very much,” Hackathorn said.
She described the area as a “traditional Main Street” adding that they did not want to even briefly lose touch with that ambience.
The women discussed how there were parking lots located behind each business on both sides of Main Street.
A central question that sparked the archway project, according to Hackathorn: “How do we highlight and let the community know that you could get to your favorite business through the back door and access the front through alleys?”
Striving toward creativity, the first archway project began approximately 10 years ago, directly across from the Bank of America, which is located at 43 Main St.
It was an “ugly driveway with bad drainage, just asphalt and no lighting.” The group talked to property owners on either side of the alley, pitched the idea and told both that it would not cost a thing. Volunteers were hired for time, materials and expertise.
The Russo family, particularly Joe Russo Jr. of Russo Development, donated much of the excavation work.
“If not for their generosity, we would never have been able to do our first and best alley,” Glass said.
All of the paving work was performed by Imagine:Hamburg volunteers, under guidance from Matt Lanfear.
Craftsmanship for the arches was done Cesare Fabrizi of Kraft Iron Inc., located at 3602 Big Tree Road in Hamburg.
The New York State Department of Transportation, inspired by the project, created a “bump out” and incorporated it into the road plan at the entrance of the first alley. This constructional term identifies an area that allows those who are crossing the street to step out slightly into the road “so you can walk safely,” Hackathorn said.
A sketch on a napkin soon came to fruition in real life, and Kronenberg Alley was born.
“We decided to add historic interest in the project by naming the alleyway after a historic figure in the village history,” she added.
As a liaison for the Hamburg Historic Preservation Commission, Hackathorn worked with the village of Hamburg to develop informational plaques to be put at the entrance of each alleyway, which explain a bit of history behind it.
The Kronenberg Alley is an honorary monument for Joseph Kronenberg and his 1848 tin shop. In 1884, his son Joseph partnered with Newton Fish and opened the Fish and Kronenberg Store.
“It was truly a community project,” Hackathorn said. The great thing about it, she added, was that the idea caught on and more archways developed throughout the village and also in other communities.
In 2007, Smith Alley was established as a monument for the family of Ezekiel Smith, who settled at the area of Abbott and Newton roads in 1806. The plaque delves into the familial history’s establishment of grist mills and even describes Richard Smith, his son, who became one of the first supervisors of the town of Hamburg in 1814.
Issac Long Alley, established in 2005, is dedicated to the namesake of Long Avenue in the village. He owned the water-powered mill on Eighteen Mile Creek, which is located at the foot of present South Buffalo Street.
“This mill and other similar water-powered mills on the creek were the foundation of the early-1880s,” the plaque reads. Two of the five archways were created independently from the project, however, were still donated historical plaques.
The Little Italy arch serves as an entrance to the outdoor dining patio at Tina’s Italian Kitchen; the alley is owned by Tom Denisco. The plaque tips its hat to the Grange Building and John H. Salisbury, who built that building in 1892. It’s plaque tells about the unique architectural design and the use of it. Justin Takas crafted that arch.
The Espenscheid Alley, built in 2007, is the only archway located off Buffalo Street, right next door to Buffalo Street Grill; the others are all located on Main Street in the village. That building was previously the Adam Espenscheid wagon shop, in the era before the creation of automobiles. Takas crafted that arch, as well. After the group’s efforts concluded, the Route 62 Committee regrouped into what is today Imagine:Hamburg. Hackathorn said “because we all worked so hard together all during the planning, after the project was complete” they thought, “How can we keep meeting and stay together and keep doing good for the village?”
Now, that nonprofit volunteer citizens’ group works to promote and maintain the commercial, aesthetic and historical vitality of the village of Hamburg.