NIAGARA FALLS – Teresa “Terry” Lasher Winslow has held many titles in her six decades. A former Niagara County historian, she also has been a museum director, elementary school teacher, librarian and consultant.
Equally enthusiastic about each of her careers, she is visibly passionate about her latest calling, exuberant promoter of the LaSalle section of Niagara Falls.
Lasher Winslow heads LaSalle PRIDE, a nonprofit, civic organization dedicated to documenting and preserving the rich history of the area, while also securing its future by promoting its redevelopment.
LaSalle, once a part of the Town of Niagara, became an official village in 1897 and then was annexed into the City of Niagara Falls in 1927.
Lasher Winslow gives frequent lectures on various aspects of this roughly 3-mile-by-1-mile parcel, and her group hopes to start giving historic tours beginning this summer.
What’s your personal history with LaSalle?
My great-grandparents lived near a farm on Cayuga Island in the 1890s, and my father [Jerry Lasher] lived on what is now 92nd Street as a young boy – which was Strassberg Avenue when he was young. Although I was the first child in my family to be born in the Town of Niagara [she’s the third of eight children], we spent a lot of time in LaSalle – it was my second home.
We knew all of the neighbors. We’d walk down to the playground on 91st Street and skate on the ice rink in the winter. We’d walk to a penny candy store near the corner of South Military Road and 91st Street, Swiezy’s store. The original Town of Niagara’s Town Hall (built in the late 1800s) was on the corner, which also housed the LaSalle Village Hall. The offices had to be moved when the village was annexed – the building belongs to the Ancient Order of Hibernians now.
Only three of the eight of us don’t live in LaSalle now, and I have a nephew on 63rd Street and a niece on 81st Street. That’s why we call it “Lasherville.”
Where did you develop your love of history?
I majored in elementary education at Buffalo State College, but that’s when I really got interested in history, big time. I was offered a work-study job, and I could either type for the math department – and I didn’t like math and couldn’t type – or be a tour guide at the Buffalo Historical Society across from school. My dad had done tours around the Falls as a second job and loved it, so I thought, “I could do this.” They also put me in the library, and the librarian, Mr. Sass, always told me, “Lasher, you should go to library school.”
What was next?
My first job was with Miss (Marjorie) Williams, the Niagara Falls city historian. Her father, E.T. Williams, had been the first city historian. She was a mentor to me. They wanted to document all of the old buildings before they were torn down, because this was the time of urban renewal, and she introduced me to Niagara Falls history. In 1974, they opened the new Earl W. Bridges Library, and they were establishing a new local history department, and she suggested I be hired to help develop it. They also sent me to the UB for my master’s degree in library science.
I also taught off and on through the years and was the librarian at the Niagara Falls Gazette for a few years. Then the Niagara County Planning Department hired me to do a historical resource survey of all of the buildings in the county – except in the three cities. I literally drove down every road in every town in the county and looked at every building and mapped out its historical importance. I also had to do a lot of historical research on the good ones.
When the Niagara County historian, Richard Reed, was going to retire, he asked me if I wanted the job. I did that job from 1984 to 1986. I was only there a few years because a man from Albany wanted me to move there.
That sounds like a good story.
For years I had been writing back and forth to Edmund Winslow, who was the New York State senior historian, but we had never met. I knew of him because he had helped charter a lot of different historical societies in this area. I finally met him when we were both speaking at a conference. When I went back to Albany to do some research, we went out to dinner. Now, I had asked my (late) dad to help me find a husband and to give me a sign when I met the right man. I had always wanted someone who would give me flowers.
So Ed brought the car around to the back door of the museum to pick me up to go out to dinner, and there on the backseat was a dozen carnations in florist’s paper. We went out to dinner and talked, and he said, “You know, we have a lot in common. We should get married.” I said, “OK,” and told him about the sign with the flowers. We were married a year from that date.
We were married 4½ years when he died, but it was a really good 4½ years. It was just meant to be. It was short, but it was sweet. And I had to move to Albany when we got married, away from my family and friends, and it was difficult. I was the one with roots who thought I’d live in the same place forever. So we decided that I would move to Albany, but that when he retired, we would move back to Niagara Falls, because I wanted to live in LaSalle. But Ed died before he could retire.
I stayed another 15 years in Albany and worked for an industrial history museum in Troy and then as a consultant for an environmental law firm from Washington, D.C., researching the Superfund site in Troy. I also taught a couple of years and was an elementary school librarian.
But then I got sick and came back here in January 2006. I was very sick for five years and had five surgeries. I had lupus. I couldn’t even walk and had to get around in a scooter. But I got better.
I was 60 and decided I had to do something with the rest of my life and decided to work on LaSalle.
What do you do to promote LaSalle?
I give lectures for LaSalle PRIDE on the first Tuesday of the month, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the LaSalle Public Library. I talk about the historical value of the Village of LaSalle, but I also pick the brains of the people who show up who have lived there all of their lives. I give a PowerPoint presentation, and we give the people coffee and cookies, and it’s like a little neighborhood reunion.
Every month, at least one group of people comes who hasn’t seen each other in decades. They’ll bring photos, and my friend and colleague, Elaine Timm, will scan them and do research for us. We’re also going to try and do tours this year, probably starting in June. And this is the third year we’ve created the LaSalle calendars, with pictures all donated by people. They’re very popular and sell for $10 around town at our restaurants. We’ve used that money to refurbish a reading room at the LaSalle Library, and this year, we hope to put up a historic marker in front of the library because it was the village hall, and we want it to continue to serve as a community center.
We are trying to redevelop Buffalo Avenue as a commercial district, based on the historical structures built there from the 1890s to 1940s. I’ve met with most of our local government officials to tell them what we’re doing and see what they can do to help us.
Growing up with eight kids in the family, you learn to share. History belongs to everyone. That’s my legacy.
Teresa Lasher Winslow will speak on “Picnic Groves and Parks of LaSalle” at 6 p.m. Tuesday and “Farms of LaSalle” at 6 p.m. March 18, both in the LaSalle Public Library, 8728 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls. Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.