(by Thomas Tarapacki) It’s that time of year again – thousands of shoppers are coming into Buffalo’s East Side and packing the Broadway Market during the Easter season. It’s also the time when people ask the question: “Why don’t some of these shoppers come back to the Broadway Market when it isn’t Easter time?”
In the old days, the Broadway Market was frequently crammed with shoppers. Now, it will likely never again become what it was during its heyday, but we should be grateful that this historic community institution has managed to survive more than a hundred years of ups and downs.
In the late 1800s, with Polish immigrants flocking to the East Side of Buffalo, civic and community leaders met at St. Stanislaus Church to discuss the establishment of a public market to serve the needs of that population. As a result, the city donated a parcel at 999 Broadway and the Broadway Market was launched in 1888. It was one of several municipal markets that sprang up around that time, including the Washington (or Chippewa), Black Rock, Elk, and Clinton-Bailey markets, but it is the only one that survives.
The Broadway Market drew numerous shoppers from the surrounding areas with a wide variety of fresh goods, including Polish specialties. It also served as a daily gathering place for local residents to discuss the events of the day, frequently in Polish. Special events were held there, like a speech by Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in 1900. Bryan, who was campaigning against President William McKinley, drew a huge throng estimated at over 25,000 to the Broadway Market and surrounding streets.