Clarence (New York)

Main Street in Clarence Hollow, Clarence's main business district and historic center.

A second-ring suburb of Buffalo, New York, affluent Clarence is a haven for antique shopping. Main Street in Clarence Hollow, the town's adorable, quaint business district, is where you'll find many of the antique stores that draw visitors to Clarence from all over the region—as well as a wide range of other charming shops, restaurants, and other attractions.

Understand

At the 2010 census, Clarence had a population of 30,673 citizens living on 53.5 square miles (138.6 km²) of land that's mostly flat, but bisected by the Onondaga Escarpment (known locally as "the Ledge") which runs in a roughly west-to-east direction through the southern part of town. With a median household income of $83,281 per year (in that same census), Clarence is the wealthiest town in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area. In addition to its upper-middle-class and somewhat snobby reputation, Clarence is known as a town that is politically conservative and overwhelmingly white (the 3.6% of the population that is Asian represents by far the largest visible minority in Clarence, with other groups making up no more than 1% of the population each).

Clarence's development pattern is typical of Buffalo's second-ring suburbs: the parts of town nearest the city—principally Harris Hill and the Transit Road corridor—are fully suburbanized with (respectively) leafy residential subdivisions and a massive commercial strip of shopping centers, stores and restaurants, while its outer fringes are still largely rural and agricultural, looking much as they did a century ago. In the transition zone is found some of the toniest real estate in the Buffalo area, with McMansions in exclusive communities such as   Spaulding Lake selling for $750,000 on average—and often much more. Like many second-ring suburbs, over the past few years Clarence has sought to impose limits on suburbanization and particularly on the encroachment of new development onto agricultural land.

The Onondaga Escarpment runs through Clarence in a roughly east-to-west direction; outcroppings of flint like those seen here were used by the local Indians to make arrowheads and were quarried by early townspeople. This photo was taken at the Escarpment Sanctuary, which is described later on in this article.

History

Of all the cities, towns and villages in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area other than Buffalo itself, Clarence has the longest history. Like all of New York State west of the Genesee River, what is now called Clarence was, in 1793, purchased from the Seneca Indians and opened for settlement by the Holland Land Company, a syndicate of thirteen real estate investors from The Netherlands. Asa Ransom was the first white resident of what is now Clarence; he opened a tavern in 1799 in the southeast corner of the town, along the Great Iroquois Trail (today's Main Street) in an area first known as Pine Grove or Ransomville and which later came to be called Clarence Hollow. He was followed a few years later by Joseph Ellicott, a Holland Land Company agent who operated a branch office near the Ransom homestead beginning in 1801. Ellicott's presence encouraged more settlers to buy land in the vicinity; in 1808, the Town of Clarence—named after Prince William, Duke of Clarence, third son of Great Britain's King George III—was founded as one of the three original towns of Niagara County, of which Erie County was a part until 1821.

At the time of its foundation, Clarence—whose borders then also included all the land that today comprises Buffalo, Tonawanda, Grand Island, Amherst, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, West Seneca, Lackawanna, Newstead, Alden, and part of the towns of Elma and Marilla—had a population of perhaps 100 or 150 residents. Though Clarence's land area steadily decreased over the ensuing decades as new towns were cleaved off of it, its population increased steadily, particularly beginning in the second quarter of the 19th Century as a considerable number of Germans settled on the fertile, loamy soil of Clarence. The industriousness of these Germans, part of a wave of emigration from Germany to North America that peaked around the 1840s, eventually made Clarence one of the most prosperous towns in the county. Aside from Clarence Hollow—then as now, the town's population center—several hamlets coalesced in Clarence during the 19th Century. These include Harris Hill, which was centered around Asa Harris' homestead in the southwest corner of the town; Clarence Center, originally known as Van Tine's Corners and located near the geographic center of the town, adjacent to the New York Central Railroad's "Peanut Line"; a number of hamlets along Transit Road including Snearly's Corners, Swormville, Transit Station and Millersport; as well as the hamlets of Wolcottsburg and Hunt's Corners in the north and northeast parts of the town, which remain rural today.

This scene is typical of the northern and eastern portions of Clarence, which are still mostly farmland.

Over the course of the 20th Century, Clarence remained predominantly farmland, with development limited almost exclusively to Main Street (a major route to Buffalo from points east in the days before the Interstate Highway System) and the aforementioned hamlets. However, a harbinger of the future for Clarence came in 1955, when construction began on the Transitown Plaza, a suburban-style shopping center located at the southeast corner of Main Street and Transit Road in the area that had once been called Snearly's Corners. Ten years later, a considerable number of residential tracts had since sprouted in Harris Hill, and the Clarence Mall (now more properly known as the "Shops at Main & Transit") was under construction across Main Street from the Transitown Plaza. The Eastern Hills Mall, at that time the largest shopping center in the Buffalo area, followed in 1972.

Tragedy struck Clarence in the early morning hours of February 12, 2009 when Continental Connections Flight 3407, en route from Newark to Buffalo in icy conditions, stalled due to pilot error on its approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport. It crashed into a house in Clarence Center killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. The disaster inspired a rush of inquiries into the operation of regional air carriers in the United States, and spurred Congress to strengthen regulations affecting the airline industry.

Climate

Clarence's climate is similar to that of Buffalo and the rest of Western New York. Essentially the only variation within the Niagara Frontier region that is major enough to be notable to visitors is that northern Erie County, including Clarence, generally sees far less lake-effect snow than the hillier terrain of southern Erie County. But, of course, this is not to say that Clarence does not still see plenty of snow in the winter.

Visitor Information

The Clarence Hollow Association maintains a website that boasts up-to-date coverage of attractions, restaurants, antique shops, other business listings, events, a historic walking tour, and other items of note to visitors not only to Clarence Hollow, but also to other areas of Clarence and neighboring towns.

Get in

By car, Clarence can be accessed most easily by Exit 49 of the New York State Thruway (I-90). After exiting the highway, turn left on NY 78 (Transit Road) and proceed north to NY 5 (Main Street), then turn right. Clarence Hollow—the focus of most of the town's attractions—is located along Main Street about 5½ miles (9km) east of Transit Road.

As a suburb of Buffalo, travelers arriving from outside the immediate area via plane, train, or bus should follow the directions listed in the corresponding section of the Buffalo article. Specifically, train and bus passengers should opt for, respectively, the Buffalo-Depew Amtrak station (BUF) and the bus stop at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport terminal—both of which are located relatively closer to Clarence than their counterparts in downtown Buffalo.

Get around

By car

For all practical purposes, a car is an absolute necessity for traveling around Clarence.

Clarence's main street is, appropriately enough, Main Street. Also known as NY 5, Main Street runs in a roughly east-to-west direction at the southern edge of the town, passing through the suburban neighborhood of Harris Hill and the quaint business district of Clarence Hollow.

The most important north-south route in Clarence is Transit Road, or NY 78, which serves as Clarence's western boundary with the Town of Amherst. Transit Road is the only place in town where large shopping malls and plazas, chain restaurants, and other large-scale suburban retail can be found.

Other major roads that run through Clarence include:

East-West Routes: From south to north: Wehrle Drive, Sheridan Drive (NY 324), Greiner Road, Roll Road, Clarence Center Road, County Road, Tonawanda Creek Road.

North-South Routes: From west to east: Harris Hill Road, Shimerville Road, Goodrich Road, Strickler Road, Salt Road.

Rental cars

Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty have facilities at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. In addition, the following agencies also have offices directly in Clarence:

By public transportation

Buffalo and its surrounding area, including Clarence, is served by the NFTA Metro System, which comprises a network of buses and a light rail line. However, the affluence of the town's citizenry has meant that out of all Buffalo's major suburbs, Clarence is the least well-served by public transit. In fact, only three bus routes enter the Clarence town line—and these three buses only serve Transit Road!

By bike

There are many delightful opportunities in Clarence for fans of bicycling. Paramount among them are the Clarence Pathways, described more thoroughly below. In addition to the trails themselves, the Clarence Hollow business district—where the majority of the town's attractions are located—is compact and charming, and (leaving aside the sometimes heavy traffic on Main Street) quite amenable to bicyclists.

See

The Clarence Historical Society is seen here. At right is the Landow Log Cabin, dating to 1815.

Do

As mentioned earlier, by far the most popular activity for visitors to Clarence is antique shopping. For a comprehensive list of antique shops in and around Clarence, please see the "Buy" section below.

The Clarence Hollow Association's website includes a self-guided historic walking tour of Clarence Hollow. The tour recounts the historical significance behind about a dozen buildings along Main Street, some of which are among the oldest existing buildings in Erie County.

Bike trails

As mentioned in the "Get Around" section above, Clarence boasts a robust network of bike trails that are popular during the warmer months with joggers, cyclists and other outdoorsy types. Namely, the Clarence Pathways is a network of four multi-use trails that traverse Clarence and the neighboring town of Newstead; they were developed in conjunction with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and run along former railroad rights-of-way. Two of these trails are located partially or entirely within Clarence:

Festivals

Movies

Bowling

Billiards

Buy

Transit Road, which runs along Clarence's western town line, is the destination for suburban big-box retail in Clarence (indeed, it's possibly the busiest commercial strip in Erie County). In addition to the bevy of stand-alone big-box stores, chain restaurants, and other such establishments, there are four major shopping centers along this corridor:

In addition to shopping opportunities such as the above, a wide range of specialty stores are located throughout the town, catering to shoppers in search of a less mass-market sort of experience. The following sections list some of those options.

Antiques

As a destination for visitors, Clarence is perhaps best known for its large selection of antique shops. Most of these shops are located in Clarence Hollow, more specifically clustered around the intersection of Main Street and Davison Road at its east end, straddling the Clarence/Newstead town line.

The Niagara Emporium Olde Country Store is not only a charming country-style general store selling food and gifts, but also does double duty as one of many antique shops located at the east end of Clarence Hollow.

Farmers' markets

As one might expect from a place that is situated directly on the DMZ between farm country and the edges of upscale suburbia, Clarence is a place where fresh, locally-grown produce can be had throughout most of the year from an abundance of popular farmers' markets. Naturally, these establishments tend to be busiest from late spring through late autumn, but a few of the markets listed below are open year-round.

Art and art supplies

Specialty foods

Gifts

Miscellaneous

The Perfect Gift and Get Heeled are the two specialty boutiques located in the historic Eshelman Building in Clarence Center. Constructed in 1872, the building originally housed John and Andrew Eshelman's "Square Deal Store", which sold a wide variety of hardware and dry goods. At the time of its construction, this three-story Italianate was the tallest building in Erie County outside of Buffalo.

Eat

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under $20
Mid-range $20-$40
Splurge Over $40

Clarence Hollow

Mid-range

Splurge

Transit Road runs along Clarence's western border with Amherst. It is the only place in Clarence where shopping malls, big-box stores, chain restaurants, and the like are found. In fact, Transit Road is arguably the busiest suburban retail corridor in Erie County.

Transit Road commercial strip

In addition to the restaurants listed here, locations of pretty much every national chain imaginable can be found on Transit Road.

Budget

Mid-range

Harris Hill

Mid-range

Specializing in steak and seafood, the Old Red Mill Inn is a lovely restaurant situated in the 1858 Italianate-style farmhouse of John Hirsch.

Swormville/East Amherst

Budget

Mid-range

Clarence Center

Mid-range

Local chains

The following local chains have locations in Clarence. Descriptions of these restaurants can be found here.

Groceries

Drink

In keeping with its reputation as a quiet, conservative, quaint, and largely rural town, Clarence is not exactly a hotbed of nightlife. Most of the places on this list are friendly, unpretentious neighborhood bars patronized mostly by long-time regulars. An exception is Brennan's, which attracts a somewhat more youthful and energetic crowd. In addition to the places listed here, many of the chain restaurants on Transit Road—Applebee's, Chili's, and so forth—have bars.

For more thorough descriptions of many of these places, see the "Eat" section, just above.

Coffee shops

Sleep

The Asa Ransom House. This luxurious country-style bed & breakfast and restaurant is considered one of the finest establishments of its kind in all of Erie County.

In addition to the lodgings listed here, travelers—especially those interested in a conventional chain-hotel experience—should consider the large group of establishments clustered around Exit 49 of the New York State Thruway, along Transit Road. Though these hotels are not located within Clarence per se, they are convenient to most major attractions in the town, as well as to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the Interstate, and restaurants and shopping.

Also, travelers along Main Street (NY 5) will note a large concentration of 1950s-style motels between Transit Road and Clarence Hollow. These motels are vestiges of the days before the construction of the Thruway, when Route 5 was the main road out of Buffalo from the east. Many of these motels have since been demolished or converted into apartments or offices, but some still cling precariously to life under their original purpose. Though perhaps interesting from a historical perspective, one would be hard-pressed (to say the least) to recommend most of these establishments to visitors.

Hotels and motels

B&B's

Connect

Like the rest of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, the area code in Clarence is 716. It is not necessary to dial the area code for local calls.

There are two post offices located in Clarence:

Additionally, many portions of western Clarence are served by ZIP Codes 14051 (East Amherst, NY) and 14221 (Williamsville, NY), whose post offices are located in the neighboring town of Amherst.

Stay safe

Ignore signs like this at your own risk!

Like anywhere else, common sense — lock up valuables, keep your wits about you, etc. — applies. However, the crime rate in Clarence is negligible, and realistically speaking, travelers have nothing to worry about in this regard.

Clarence is locally notorious as probably the only town in Erie County that actively enforces the "residents only" policy of its parks. Visitors to Clarence town parks who are neither residents of the town nor guests of a resident could theoretically face trespassing charges, though in nearly all cases police will send visitors on their way without incident. Of course, it is more likely that the police will not happen to be around at all. Still, visit town parks at your own risk.

Stay healthy

In case of medical emergency, Erie County, including Clarence, is well-served by a wide variety of hospitals and other medical facilities. The nearest major medical facility to Clarence is Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, located at 1540 Maple Rd in the neighboring town of Amherst. For non-emergency situations, Western New York Immediate Care has a facility at 7616 Transit Rd, across from the Eastern Hills Mall.

Cope

Broadcast media

Being located in Erie County, Clarence falls within Buffalo's sphere of influence in terms of radio and television.

Since June 2012, the business office and broadcast studios of WBBZ Channel 67 have been located at the Eastern Hills Mall.

Newspapers

The weekly Clarence Bee has served the town since 1937, and is the most comprehensive source of local news specific to Clarence. Also, as above, Buffalo-based print media—especially the daily Buffalo News and the alternative weekly Artvoice—regularly cover Clarence news and events.

Laundry and dry cleaning

Places of worship

The population of Clarence is overwhelmingly white and Christian, and the range of places of worship located there reflects those demographics to a great degree. South Asians, many of whom follow the Sikh religion, make up one of the largest visible minorities in Clarence.

Roman Catholic

Protestant

Community of Christ (Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)

Jewish

There are no synagogues within Clarence's borders, but the bulk of the Jewish population in Erie County—and their places of worship—are located in the neighboring town of Amherst.

Sikh

Go next

Buffalo is the nearest major city to Clarence, located an easy 20- or 30-minute drive west along Main Street or the Thruway. Buffalo boasts a full range of cultural institutions, world-class architecture, professional sports, fine dining, trendy neighborhoods, and other attractions in an urban setting.

Niagara Falls—one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the most popular tourist attraction in the region by far, and a genuinely awe-inspiring place to see—is 40 minutes from Clarence by car.


Routes through Clarence

Buffalo Amherst  W  E  Batavia Albany
Buffalo Amherst  W  E  Batavia Auburn
Newfane Lockport  N  S  Cheektowaga/Lancaster Gainesville
Niagara Falls Amherst  W  E  Merges with


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, January 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.