The Signals That Started It All: Bailey Avenue at Holy Name of Jesus Church

Bailey Ave. at Holy Name of Jesus Church 1

As some of you may know, the inspiration to start this blog came from something that I posted on Facebook recently.  Last weekend, while driving down Bailey Avenue for the first time in a while, I was fully expecting to see the scene above.  Instead, I saw two poles, a span wire, three signal hangers, but no traffic signals.  This saddened me in a way that I thought few people would understand.  I posted the photo above, with the following comment:

Most people don’t notice them, but to me, vintage traffic signals are like old friends that I can wave at whenever I drive by. Time to say goodbye to these guys, who resided in front of the former Holy Name of Jesus Church on Bailey Avenue for many years. Their only purpose was to help children from the church’s long-shuttered school to cross the street. Now, the school building is vacant and rapidly deteriorating, the church (minus its steeple, which was removed a couple of years ago) is home to a different congregation, and the traffic signals are gone. At least the Bingo sign still remains, and probably will until the building is torn down.

Maybe it was because I was able to connect the signals to the church, people and neighborhood that they one served, but the post seemed to resonate with people.  It even made its way into the Buffalo News Buzz Blog!  After this, I resolved to make the blog a reality.  I will try to connect future signals that I write about to the neighborhood in which they reside, or point out something interesting about their surroundings, but ultimately, it is about the signals.  I’m not anticipating a widespread interest in the topic, but at least I’ll know that I have documented what I could; something I wish I had done for the many old signals that we have already lost in Buffalo.

Up until five or so years ago, Bailey Avenue between Kensington and Walden was a treasure trove of old traffic signals.  It was always a joy to drive down this long stretch of Bailey, and take in the many interesting signals.  At the intersection of Bailey and Langfield/Connelly was last remaining example of a particular signal configuration that had been used at numerous other Buffalo intersections with staggered side streets over the years, but has now completely disappeared.  Picture this, if you can:  You are waiting at a red light on a side street, making a left turn.  You are expecting the light to turn green, but it doesn’t; instead, there is a flashing yellow light where the green light should be.  You turn left onto the main thoroughfare, but wait!  Instead of proceeding, you are met with a flashing red light.  You stop, make sure no one is coming out of the staggered side street on the opposite corner, and then proceed.  If you are from North Buffalo, you may remember this setup from the intersection of Hertel and Virgil/Fairchild.  If this sounds at all familiar, know that you will never encounter this scenario again in Buffalo.

Holy Name of Jesus Church, with steeple.  Photo by  Karl R. Josker.

Holy Name of Jesus Church, with steeple. Photo by Karl R. Josker.

When they replaced all of the signals on this stretch of Bailey, they stopped at Doat Street, where once upon a time stood Clara Milas Bridal Shop, and a fire station with two very unique Crouse-Hinds Art Deco signals with 12″ red sections and 8″ yellow and green sections in front of it.  All of those things are gone now, but just past Doat, these unlikely signals escaped death for a few more years.  Holy Name of Jesus church was closed in 2005 as part of the Diocese of Buffalo’s devastating “Journey in Faith and Grace,” and in 2009, the church building was sold to New Life Harvest Church of God in Christ.  Somewhere in between, the steeple of the church was removed without discussion or fanfare.  I was hopeful that these old signals would continue to serve the new congregation, alas, it was not meant to be.

A little bit about the signals themselves: The main signal in the middle of this set-up was a Crouse-Hinds Model M fixed 4-way.  This was the successor to the Model DT “Art Deco” signal, was produced from the late 1950s to late 1960s, and is currently the most common model of fixed 4-way signal in Buffalo.  On either side is a single-face TSI signal, most likely from the 1960s.  These are some of the most unique single-face signals, as they have a very distinctive sculpted back design, and they are still fairly common in Buffalo.  TSI also made a fixed 4-way signal that can be found at a few remaining intersections.

Signals at Bailey and Hennepin Park

Signals at Bailey and Hennepin Park

On a side note, there is (was?) one other set of old signals on Bailey that missed the various waves of modernization.  These signals, at Hennepin Park, were put in place so that pedestrians could safely cross Bailey Avenue.  On the same drive, I noticed that the TSI 4-way cluster (center) was missing.  The two Crouse-Hinds Model M “Breadpan” single-face signals on either side were still up and running, controlled by an old-fashioned mechanical control box.  I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it is ever replaced, or if the remaining signals meet the same fate as their comrades down the street.

More Photos of Bailey Avenue at Holy Name of Jesus Church:

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