Heacock Park

Heacock Park, sometimes referred to as Heacock Place, predates the Olmsted park system of Buffalo. A roughly three acre plot of land was deeded to the city of Buffalo in January, 1854, by Reuben B. Heacock (1787-1854) and his wife, the former Abigail Peabody Grosvenor. It is located at the northern end of McKinley Parkway, and was originally triangular in layout. McKinley Parkway (formerly South Side Parkway) connects Heacock Park with South Park, and, via Red Jacket Parkway, with Cazenovia Park. When the South Side Parkway was laid out in 1891, its northern terminus was proposed to pass through Heacock Park and join the intersection of South Park Avenue (now Southside Parkway) and Abbott Road. As plans for the parkway were being finalized in 1895, the Board of Park Commissioners determined that the portion of the parkway passing through Heacock Park would be more appealing if it could be realigned. Rather than cut through the existing wooded park, they decided to create a pair of access roadways bearing to the west and east of the original line of the parkway. One would end at then South Park Avenue and the other at Abbott Road. The new configuration would separate parkway traffic from the main intersection, and allow the landscaping of Heacock Park to buffer the view up McKinley Parkway. The revision to the plan required that privately held parcels on either side of the new parkway be acquired. The city council agreed, and the acquisitions were accomplished, increasing the size of the park to about four acres and permitting the desired termination of the parkway.

The park itself was was used to host regular band concerts and picnics. When fervor for tennis swept the country about 1910, a tennis court was installed, with a second added in 1915. Organized matches, as well as recreational play, were held for serveral years.

As vehicular traffic continued to increase over the years, the alignment of parkway access drives created problems for traffic flow, causing delays and backups between the parkway access drives and the main intersection. To ameliorate this congestion, in the early 1980s the easterly drive connecting with Abbott Road was closed off and replaced with turf. That is the configuration in place today.

The park derives its name from its original donor, Reuben Bostwick Heacock. He was a banker and merchant prominent in the business affairs of the young city. His most prominent endeavor was as a founding member of the Hydraulic Business Association in 1827, predating the city’s incorporation. That company constructed a canal in the bed of Little Buffalo Creek, running some three miles from what is now West Seneca to Lake Erie, to provide water power as an enticement to industries to locate along its banks. The canal’s terminus was the “Commercial Slip” on the Erie Canal, which has been recreated at the present Canalside on the Buffalo Waterfront. The Hydraulic Canal lay largely within the territory of the Buffalo Creek Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians, who were paid a nominal rent for the privilege. A disputed treaty in 1838 attempted to extinguish Seneca rights to the land and force their relocation to Wisconsin and to Kansas. In 1842, that treaty was renegotiated and subsequently ratified by the United States Senate. By that instrument, the Buffalo Creek reservation was surrendered and vacated, and the lands were sold to the Ogden Land Company; the Seneca Nation retaining the Allegheny and Cattaraugus reservations. Heacock had speculated in the lands made available by the forced relocation, the ground of Heacock Park being a small part of the property he had thus purchased.