Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Harbison Brothers and Buffalo's First Gas Station

There was a great article in Sunday's Buffalo News regarding the Vitascope. This was the first motion picture theater actually designed for this purpose. It was located in the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo, and the area still exists at the bottom of a spiral staircase.

This reminded me of a photocopy of an article I had laying around from Business First of Buffalo, week of February 24, 1997. It is of Buffalo's first gas station (according to family history), located at 179 Ellicott Street. That number on Ellicott no longer exists and is probably part of a larger parcel owned by the NFTA.

The picture was taken in 1917. The founders of the business were Irish immigrant brothers - (as pictured) Andrew, Adam, and John Harbison (my grandfather). Their names grace the walls of Ellis Island.

Harbison Brothers Inc. was originally founded as a maker and re-builder of wooden barrels in 1893 by Adam and Andrew. John, a younger brother, joined them at a later point in time. Harbison Brothers now reconditions and recycles steel drum barrels and is operated by the descendants of Adam Harbison.

In later years Andrew would be involved with a lawsuit against the City of Buffalo (Harbison vs Buffalo) . It seems he had been operating a cooperage on Cumberland Avenue since 1924, which was then an industrial area. Years later people built homes around him and wanted him out. The farmers in "rural but becoming residential" areas can probably empathize with his position.

One of the attorneys on the case was William J. Ostrowski, father of attorney and writer Jim Ostrowski, founder of Free New York. This case is still cited in various existing non-conforming land use cases throughout the country.

Eventually Adam and John would move their families from Buffalo to Clarence, while Andrew moved his to East Aurora.

No word on what the price of gas was in those days.

(**Update** I wrote a correction/addition on January 8, 2008, as some of the dates don't quite jibe)


Nancy said...

I am researching Adam Harbison and his decendants. I am related through his wife Annie Morton. I'd love to exchange information with you.

Becky said...

Sorry - none of our Adams married a Morton, as far as we can tell.

My email address is in my profile.

Nancy said...

Tried to send you an email (address from your profile) but it bounced back.

Becky said...

It must have bounced back again - got it :)

Allison said...

All from a conversation started on FACEBOOK.

Tiina Englar Beaver August 9 at 3:19pm Reply a little something I dinkin' around the internet~

Kristin Spindler Benk August 9 at 9:06pm Reply it says that john is HER grandfather...was sarah's husbands name adam?

Allison Spindler-Olsen August 9 at 10:23pm Kristin, ask Mom but I'm pretty sure, Grandpa Harbison's parents were named Adam and Sarah.

Sharon E Richardson
Adam Harbison came over from Ireland with $27 in his pocket. At that time in his life, children like Adam, left Ireland due to difficult times. Grandpa lived in a thatched roof house on a farm with very little to substain the family. Adam did start a gas station with his brother and saw the need for the recycling of barrels way back then. His started reconditioning and reselling them. Thus, Harbison Bros. was born. Adam came through Ellis Island. After he was settled he brought Sarah Thom Harbison over. They married and the rest is history. Adam and Sarah lived on Appenheimer Street next to the barrel yard. They bought a farm out in Clarence on Genrich Road. Then relocated to the farm on Clarence Center Road. Adam sponsored his brothers, Sarahs brothers, Annie Buick,& Meta over. He was head of the family and you went to him for everything.

Allison said...

Tiina is my cousin on my mother's side. Kristin is my sister and Sharon is my Aunt on my mother's side.