The Old Post Office – Erie Community College City Campus

The Old Post Office – Erie Community College City Campus

Thomas Jefferson appointed Erastus Granger as the first Postmaster General of Buffalo when we were just a small village.  Buffalo’s first post office opened in 1804, the same year Joseph Ellicott laid out the unique radial streets design of the city of Buffalo.

Granger set up shop at a desk in Crow’s Tavern, located at the southwest corner of what is now Exchange and Washington Streets.   Remember that at this time a tavern was more than just a place to grab a drink and a quick bite. To a small frontier town, the tavern was the place to get the latest news or pick up much needed items for frontier life.   The tavern even acted as a polling place at times and in this case, it was a post office as well.   We didn’t have a dedicated building for our post office until 1837, when a building was purchased at the corner of Washington and Seneca Streets.

Between 1804 and 1890 Buffalo grew by leaps and bounds.    The opening of the Erie Canal brought incredible amounts of commerce to the city. And there were plenty of entrepreneurs in Buffalo who capitalized on the opportunities that came our way in the forms of shipping, grain processing and trade, brewing, railroads, and eventually automobiles and aeronautics.  Not to mention the smaller industries that supported all of those giants. Our population soared from just over 1,500 in 1810 to over 255,000 in 1890. That’s an enormous amount of growth in a relatively short period of time.

By 1890 we were ready for a larger post office, and it was also decided that Buffalo needed a federal building here in the city.  Jeremiah O’Rourke, who was a federal architect, made the initial design for the building.

Before it was even built however, our post office caused quite a stir among architects in the U.S. at the time.  The Tarnsey Act, which went into effect in 1893, required an architectural competition for any major federal project.  The act was seen as a way for private architects to have a shot at large federal contracts.   Our post office was the first building to begin construction after the act became law, although it was already in the works beforehand.    

Private architects were up in arms at having lost the chance to compete for a project of this magnitude. The federal government asserted that O’Rourke’s plan was submitted and had been approved prior to the enacting of the law, and therefore the building of the Post Office moved forward as planned.

They broke ground in 1894 amid the controversy.  Daniel Burnham, president of the American Institute of Architects at the time, reportedly called the plans for the building “inferior and unworthy”, and maintained that stance even after it was built.  Some say his opinion was clouded by the fact that private architects were not allowed to bid on the project. What do you think?   Inferior?   Unworthy?

Photo credit Buffalo News

In 1897 William Aiken and James Knox Taylor (both government architects as well) came on to the project and helped see it to completion.

The Post Office opened in March of 1901.  

The style of the building can be described as Victorian Gothic/Richardsonian Romanesque, and it was built with Pink Maine Granite.  Look closely in person and you’ll notice the pink hue. There are 400 windows, and the roof is Spanish green tile laid in concrete.  The tower rises 244 feet above the street. Hand carved gargoyles, pinnacles, finials, animal heads and eagles are on each of the facades.  Note the bison heads that are included on the facade, obviously a nod to our fair city.

When I stand outside the main entrance on Ellicott Street, to me it looks like a federal building.  A very grand federal building. Maybe it’s that eagle standing watch over the doors, I don’t know, but what I see is grand. I know I definitely do not see inferior or unworthy.

And the inside.  Wow.   I could not have been more surprised the first time I walked in. One of those times you instantly become a tourist in your own city.  

There is  a six story atrium.  The immense skylight was originally intended to allow light onto the mail sorting floor directly underneath.  The hallways on the first floor form a Gothic colonnade with clustered marble columns. The effect has me awestruck every time I see it. There are holes in the arches for light bulbs to aid with lighting.  Everywhere I look there is evidence of the effort put in during this time period to light up a building. The massive atrium with its skylight, the arched open hallways on the upper floors which are reminiscent of a Venetian Palazzo, the glazed white tiles on the walls designed to reflect light, the large windows above the office doors.  So much care was put into this effort at the turn of the 20th century.   It’s something we take for granted now, the ability to cast light whenever and wherever we choose.

The terrazzo and marble floors are impressive, and are charmingly worn in front of the mail windows just inside the main entrance.  Once can almost imagine people coming and going to drop off and pick up mail during the building’s heyday, standing in front of the windows conducting their business.  Across the way there are handsome wooden desks used, I’m sure, for addressing mail and the like. Running my hand along them, the wood is worn smooth from all the years of use, and the floor is similarly worn in front of these as well.  This of course, causes me to daydream about all the people who’ve stood here before me.   Have I mentioned how these old buildings cause daydreams?

The president of the school has an office in the southwest corner.  The door is surrounded by the window below, featuring emblems of the federal departments that were once housed in the building.  The Department of Justice (courts), Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, and the one the building became known as, the U.S. Post Office.

Slowly over the years the different branches of the government moved out of the building to other buildings in the city, or out of Buffalo altogether.   The last to go, the Post Office, left in 1963 to move to a more modern facility on William Street.  The building sat empty for some 15 years.    

Enter Joan Bozer & Minnie Gillette, members of the Erie County Legislature.  (It is notable that Minnie Gillette was the first African American to be elected to this office.)  The two women worked together to propose that Erie Community College’s City Campus be moved from its location on Ellicott Street in the Masten District to the Old Post Office Building right in the heart of downtown.

Minnie Gillette. Photo credit Buffalo Stories Archives & Blog

Joan Bozer, Photo credit unknown

 

The two women worked tirelessly to ensure that this treasure did not fall victim to the (at the time) rampant demolition of historic buildings in Buffalo. There were many who wanted the building demolished as an ‘eyesore’.   Can you imagine?

“Indeed, in a 1969 letter urging Rep. Thaddeus Dulski to tear down the structure, former Erie County Democratic Chairman Peter Crotty ”“ a politician of sweeping influence ”“ called the post office “a mongrel structure of no authentic period, dungeon-like in its aspect, repellent to the visitor and lacking in the convenience suitable for habitation.”  The building, Crotty argued, was “a monstrous pile of death-like stone.”” *

Wow.  Tell us what you really think Mr. Crotty.

The argument continued into the 1970’s, while Gillette and Bozer formulated their plan to bring ECC students into an historic building in the heart of the city.

As Gillette and Bozer persevered, they enlisted the help of former Legislature and State Senator Mary Lou Rath in the struggle to save the building.   After a long battle, when the final vote came in 1978, in favor of saving the building and renovating it for Erie Community College City Campus, it was a pivotal moment in Buffalo’s preservation movement.  Along with the saving of the Guaranty Building just a couple of years earlier, some feel that it was at this point that the city turned a corner, from demolition to preservation.

The renovation was done by Cannon Design (who also restored the Guaranty Building) and is perhaps one of the best examples of adaptive reuse in the city.  It’s functional, respectful of the original design, and beautiful all at the same time!   I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

It was completed in 1982, and the school re-opened in its new home for the 1982-83 school year.    Roughly 2,000 students pass through its doors every semester.

I for one am grateful that Joan Bozer and Minnie Gillette were successful in their struggle to save this treasure and that they persevered when the cards were stacked against them.   Especially as I sit at a table in the open courtyard of the Old Post Office, now Erie Community College City Campus, sipping a cup of tea, and basking in the sunlight that is streaming through the enormous skylight.  I look up at the courtyard itself and for a brief moment, I feel as if I’m in an outdoor cafe in Italy.   A very brief moment, because the building itself is full of students coming and going, grabbing a quick bite between classes, studying for exams, meeting up with friends.  Planning their futures.

I wonder if the students realize how close they came to never seeing the inside of such an American treasure right here in their own city.  

If you have a chance, stop by to see this awe-inspiring building, both the outside, and in.   It’s on the corner of Swan and Ellicott Streets. There are a few ½ hour free parking spots on Swan Street across from the building (on the ball park side).  Go on in and take a look at the way our federal government used to build their buildings. You’ll be delighted with what you see!

Subscribe here and never miss a post about Buffalo!   Comment below with Buffalo buildings/homes you’d like to read about!

 

*The Buffalo News, November 30, 2018  https://buffalonews.com/2018/11/30/sean-kirst-40-years-ago-buffalo-fought-a-trend-saved-some-history-and-created-its-future/

 

Circle Living – Soldiers Circle

Circle Living – Soldiers Circle

I’ve been admiring Soldiers Circle, or Soldiers Place, since well, I guess since the first time I really noticed it. I used to work for the Government of Canada here in Buffalo, and the Consul General’s official residence was on Soldiers Circle. The Canadians purchased the mansion in 2009. There would be parties held there on occasion and I remember it being a beautiful home that was surrounded by other beautiful homes.

For some odd reason, I never really noticed this circle before that time. I mean, I had driven through it many times. But after the first party at #196, I started extending my walks in Delaware Park to include Lincoln Parkway and Soldiers Circle. We are so fortunate to have so much gorgeous architecture to look at on our daily walks. And to be fair, this circle is wide. Might be why I never noticed the homes until I went in one. What I mean is that the homes are a good distance from the circle itself, with lots of green space and trees in between. And when you’re driving or biking through, you really have to pay attention to traffic.

Let’s get to it.

 

On this particular walk I met Auggie, who lives on Inwood, but walks the circle on his daily constitutionals! So cute!

 

A Bit of History at Soldiers Circle

 

When Frederick Law Olmsted designed our parkway system, he put Soldiers Circle at the center of the three main parkways, Lincoln, Bidwell and Chapin. These three parkways lead to all the others, which lead us to all the other parks. Sadly, not all the others have survived. But we’re not here to discuss that today.

Today, it’s all about the circle itself. Originally, Soldiers Circle was meant to be home to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument which ended up being placed downtown in Lafayette Square. History isn’t clear how or why that happened, but here we are. Instead the circle originally had three Navy Parrot Guns, which were Civil War cannons, and stacks of cannonballs.

Word on the street says that from the beginning, Buffalonians couldn’t resist stealing the cannonballs. I guess some sold them for scrap, some sold them to collectors, and some simply kept them. Still others would roll them up and down the parkways. Oh, Buffalo…

 

Photo Credit: New York Heritage Digital Collections – Olmsted Parks Conservancy

 

Either way, all of it was removed in 1937 by then Parks Commissioner Frank Coon, who said they were traffic hazards. Apparently, more than once, people ran their vehicles into the cannons. (Was this a precursor to people driving into buildings in Buffalo?) Seriously though, this is not the first time I’ve heard that early drivers had trouble maneuvering through traffic circles. Anyway, and ironically, the cannons and their accompanying cannonballs were sold for junk at that time.

 

The Homes on Soldiers Circle

 

I headed over to Soldiers Circle on an absolutely beautiful October day. The sun was shining, the sky could have been a bit more blue, but it was a crisp, pretty, autumn day nonetheless.

 

 

I entered the circle at Chapin Parkway heading towards Bidwell. The first thing I see is this building (above) that was originally a hotel, built for the Pan American Exposition in 1901. It’s since been turned into townhouses and apartments. I’ve seen photos of the interior of a couple of the townhouses and they’re beautiful!

I’m not sure what’s going on with the brick though. I doubt it was originally a mix of yellow and red, which shows at some point there was at least some neglect, but it appears to be well maintained now. I love that almost every window still has the original leaded glass transoms above. And there are so many windows!

On this particular day, I noticed a lot of things I’ve never noticed about this building before. Like what are those openings in the peaks? Are they patios? If they are, how lovely! And I love the transoms and sidelights at the main entryways! Gorgeous!

 

 

The Oldest Home on the Circle

 

The very next house I come to I meet the owner on his way out with his dog. He tells me his is the oldest home on the circle. It’s an 1885 Eastlake Victorian, and I daresay it’s one of the nicest examples of the style I’ve seen.

An Eastlake Victorian differs from other Victorians, from what I understand, by the ornamentation. Named for Charles Locke Eastlake, the Eastlake style home has more subdued ornamentation than other Victorians. Charles disdained flamboyant decoration, and it showed in his designs. The use of color is more subdued as well. In this case it makes for a gorgeous home. To my eye, the colors are spot on, and the ornamentation is a perfect compliment to the home. The windows are original and open out from the bottom, see photo. I find the whole house to be very charming. I’d love to see the inside.

But alas the owner and his super cute Labradoodle have already left for places unknown.

 

 

Am I in Allentown?

 

This whole section here has a real Allentown feel. It’s quite different from the other ‘sections’ of the circle. Now that I think about it, each section of this circle has its own distinct feel. You’ll see what I mean as I move along.

This one is Allentown. Lovely homes that have a real comfortable feel. Like that feeling I get in Allentown. Look at this house below. Doesn’t it just look comfortable? Like you want to be on that second floor porch reading away the afternoon. Or sipping wine with friends into the late hours on a summer evening. How about that? Sound good? You know it does.

Yes, this section is gorgeous and unpretentious.

 

 

Update 3/14/2024

I received an email this morning from James Gardner Barnard, whose great-great-grandparents lived in the home below at #5 Soldier’s Circle.  His great-great-grandfather was also an early amateur photographer, and took a photo of the home sometime around 1900.  See below. 

Although it’s been awhile since I’ve written a post, I still regularly hear from readers, and I am always thrilled when I do.  James is working on his ancestry, and found this post while trying to figure out if the home still stood, and if the black and white photo he had, was indeed the one that stood on Soldiers Circle.  I’m so happy to have connected the dots for this reader.  And thank you James, for allowing me to write this update and include your ancestor’s photo.

 

 

Photo credit: Freeman Worthington Butts, circa (about) 1900

 

 

Lipke House, Jody Douglass House, & Niscah House

 

Next I came to one of several homes in this area that Buffalo Seminary owns. Most of the homes are used to board students, but a couple are home to Head of School, Assistant Head of School and the like. Pictured below, are three in this stretch owned by Buff Sem. They are Lipke House, Jody Douglass House, and Niscah House.

For clarity, Buffalo Seminary is a non-denominational, day and boarding school for college bound girls. It has its roots in early Buffalo history (1851), and is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning for females in the country.

First up, Lipke House (1896). This one is home to the current Assistant Head of School. What a great example of the Colonial Revival Style. Just look at those four pedimented dormers complete with dentil moldings. Also, notice what is called pebbled dash inside the triangular section of the dormer. I don’t believe those would have originally been painted, but I can’t say for sure in this case. Most were simply mortar with medium size ‘pebbles’ placed at irregular intervals throughout. Interesting!

 

 

Next, are Jody Douglass House (1905) and Niscah House (1910), respectively. Both are for students boarding with Buff Sem. Indeed, as I came upon them, a handful of teenage girls came out of the houses, and headed over to the school. What an idyllic setting for this school. It helps that all of their buildings are incredibly well maintained.

The building below the two houses is Buff Sems’ West Chester Hall. It faces Soldiers Circle. Another beauty and it’s perfectly maintained.

 

 

As I Cross Bidwell Parkway

 

As I cross Bidwell, I get distracted by a house I see, and I’m not sure whether it’s on Bidwell or Soldiers Circle. So I walk up to it, and I find it’s not either. Check it out.

First of all, this is one of the best gates I’ve ever seen! It’s awesome! Second, note the address above the door. Lincoln Woods? It’s then that I remember seeing a small lane off Bidwell Parkway on a map several weeks ago. I make a left to see if I can find it.

 

 

I pass this…another home with a Lincoln Woods address.

 

 

Sure enough, there it is…

 

 

So, even though it appears private, it doesn’t say so. I make a right and I start walking up Lincoln Woods Lane. I don’t go far, out of respect, and because of the fact that there is no city street sign. In fact, there’s a concrete driveway out onto Bidwell. This is what I’m thinking as I take photos of one more Lincoln Woods Lane home.

 

 

It was at that point that I felt like I was intruding on people’s privacy, and I always try to respect that, so that’s as far as I went. When I came home, I looked at a map. There’s at least two more homes back in there. Maybe more. Secrets off Bidwell. Well, I guess it’s not really a secret. I mean, there’s a sign there announcing it! The things you notice when you’re walking!

 

Back to Soldiers Circle

 

As I head back into Soldiers Circle, these are the homes I see. All lovely. A bit newer than I expected, (1960-ish) but just lovely. The backyards of these homes are on Lincoln Woods Lane. Nice.

 

 

 

 

And Then, There’s This

 

Yep. Frank Lloyd Wright is represented on Soldiers Place with this stunner! This home was built for William Heath, who, like Darwin Martin, worked for the Larkin Company. Heath was an office manager, and eventually a vice-president, and was able to engage Frank Lloyd Wright to build this home on Soldiers Place at Bird Ave.

 

 

Here’s what I know about it. Like Darwin Martin’s house, it was built in 1905. It’s one of Wright’s Prairie School designs, shaped to fit on this narrow, long lot. Wright achieved privacy for the Heaths by building up the lot so that the first floor windows are above street level. Indeed, when you walk by, you cannot see inside the home. But still, it draws your attention to the art glass windows, the low slung, hipped roof with projecting eaves, that large, private porch, and just the sheer perfection that this home is.

 

Photo Credit to: Ernst Wasmuth, 1911

 

There is an apartment above the 5+ car garage that has the sweetest second floor patio you can imagine. You know how I love a second floor patio. The home itself is still a private, single family residence, with the exception of that apartment above the garage. This home adds a lot to the appearance and ambience of the circle.

And it’s unique that a Frank Lloyd Wright home sits on a Frederick Law Olmsted designed traffic circle. We are fortunate to have such an amazing design among our Buffalo homes, on one of our historic parkways.

 

 

The Other Side of Bird Ave.

 

As I cross Bird Ave, this is what I see. I don’t even know where to begin! This house is just so – pretty. It’s in impeccable shape. While I’m snapping photos, the owner comes out with his morning coffee and a newspaper. We start to talk and I tell him how much I admire his home.

The symmetry of this Georgian style home is what does it for me. I’m an admirer of symmetry. When things don’t match up, I get uneasy. Not really, but when they do, it pleases me. The bay windows on the Bird Ave side of the house are perfect, and the Palladian windows both on the front and the sides of the house are spectacular. And that entryway! Classic!

 

 

If I have one criticism of this house it would be lack of access to the front porch from the outside. It’s one of my pet peeves. I understand why people do it. Especially on property such as this, where the home faces a circle. But it’s somehow, unneighborly. That being said, the owner was very friendly and willing to chat for a few minutes. And to be fair, he did not build the porch. So, please understand that I mean no disrespect to him. I still love the house regardless, save for that one thing.

 

Two More Homes on This Stretch

 

This slice of Soldiers Circle is set up a little bit differently. Instead of facing the circle on an angle, the homes all face what would be the continuation of Lincoln Parkway, and are stepped somewhat. In the photo below, to the left you can see the previous home set back somewhat from this home, placed further away from Lincoln Parkway. And the next one to come is closer still to the Parkway. The feeling here is one of privacy, and peace.

So, there are just three homes in this section.

This one welcomes you right up to the front door.

 

 

I love the use of Flemish brick bonding on this home. It’s a way of arranging the bricks in each row so that the bricks alternate which side of the brick itself faces the outside. With one being laid the long way, and the next is laid the short way. In the case of this house, a darker brick is used for the bricks with the short end facing out. I love the effect. In fact, all three homes on this section of the circle use this technique of Flemish bonding. It’s fabulous on this particular home.

I also love the entryway. It’s simple, but stately and elegant. The leaded glass sidelights are perfect for this house. And finally, the use of black paint really allows the architectural details to pop. Love it. Why isn’t that done more often?

 

 

And then there’s this one, below. I love how the front walk curves out to the common sidewalk. I admit I wanted to walk up it. Love the brick pavers. The landscaping is beautiful, if a little overgrown at this point in the year. Understandable.

And the house itself. To me it’s a unique design that has great arts and crafts details. The hipped roof with wide, un-enclosed eaves, the exposed roof rafters (these may be decorative). And the rounded porch with its exposed beams and square columns. Love the whole effect.

I picture this as a family home. Unassuming and well lived in. Just as a home should be.

 

 

Moving Right Along

 

As I cross Lincoln Parkway, I notice that this section of the circle is the only one with a separate road on the circle side of the homes. Convenient, if a little less private I guess. Google Maps calls it Soldiers Place. And all the addresses of the homes on the circle are listed at “Soldiers Place”. I should take a moment right now to say that Soldiers Circle is sometimes called Soldiers Place, Soldiers Way and Soldiers Walk. I have no explanation or reasoning for this, except that in Buffalo, we tend to call things whatever we want, and sometimes we end up with a little confusion. This is one of those times.

Getting back to the homes on the circle, check this out. This home is of the American Renaissance Style, and it’s one I’m not very familiar with. It appears to be a precursor to the Arts & Crafts movement. This particular home has that central dormer with a hipped roof, the terracotta, keystone lintels at the windows and the Doric columns on the offset porch. The wrought iron on the upper patio is fantastic! Right down to the landscaping, this home is perfect. To me anyway.

 

 

As I move to the next home, this is what I see (below). It’s official. I’m a fan of the Tudor style. I don’t know why I ever thought I wasn’t. Going out on a limb in this election year, and changing my mind. I like Tudors. Especially this Tudor Revival. It features half timbering over shingles, and a brick first level. Love the chimney.

It was built in 1906 for Albert de La Plante and his wife Margaret, who came to Buffalo from Canada in 1898. Albert worked for Twin Cities Lumber Company. Their son Walter, was Treasurer and Manager of the Peace Bridge later on. Cool! As far as I know they were the first Canadians to live on the circle. But not the last.

 

 

Did Someone Say Statler?

 

Then, suddenly and without warning I’m looking at a 1961 Cape Cod Ranch (below). Here’s another style I wouldn’t have known offhand. Apparently the pitched roof elevation and dormer windows are typical of the Cape Cod style, while the horizontal lines, and large windows lend themselves to the ranch style. Hence, a blending of the two. I never knew ‘Cape Cod Ranch’ was a thing.

This home was built on part of the property previously occupied by the estate of Ellsworth Statler. There is a low-slung wall on the far right of this photo that still exists from the Statler era, and the Medina Sandstone paving was reclaimed from elsewhere on the property. While I inwardly mourn the loss of the Statler house, I absolutely love the look of this home. I think it’s a nice compliment to the more modern homes on the opposite side of the circle.

 

 

The Last Section of the Circle

 

As I cross Bird Ave (again), I see this beauty. I love the symmetry here. The three dormers with broken pediments are lovely. I wish the windows were original, but I fear that they are not. Note the curved arches above the windows, and the keystones. I love when a second floor window copies the front entryway door with its sidelights, like this one does with a smaller version of the surround. I also love, love, love this porch. The curved roofline is just so nice to look at! It softens the rest of the straight lines of this house. Lovely.

 

 

And these two. I love the wrought iron on the front door and sidelights of the first house. And the one below that, is just beautifully built. It appears perfect in every way, with the exception of the complete lack of landscaping. It strikes me as odd in this neighborhood. I’d love it if the walls could talk in this house, because I wonder what’s going on inside.

 

 

 

The Government of Canada on Soldiers Circle

 

Like I mentioned earlier, the Canadians purchased this mansion on Soldiers Circle in 2009. I say the Canadians purchased the property because the Consul General at the time, Marta Moszczenska, always said that the home did not belong to her, but to the people of Canada and their locally engaged staff.

 

This one needs landscaping too, but it’s obviously being worked on.

 

Here’s a funny story. A friend of mine was at the home for a holiday party. While at the party she spilled red wine on white carpeting in an upper hallway. She was mortified and didn’t mention it that night. But by the following Monday, she felt so bad about it, she went to Marta’s office to confess. True to her word, Marta told her not to worry, that it didn’t bother her in the least, and that she would take care of it. It was, after all, not her home. She was only the caretaker. By the end of the conversation, they had made arrangements for the wine spiller to house-sit the following week. That, in a nutshell, what it was like to work for the Government of Canada here in Buffalo.

 

Let’s Take a Look at the Interior

 

Elizabeth and Stephen Hays now own the home, and they were gracious enough to invite me inside and into the backyard. My memory was correct. It’s a beautiful home that’s got great flow from the front foyer all the way around the interior and back again. It’s spectacular!

 

I thought perhaps that over the years, I had built the home up in my mind to be something more than it really is. But no, it’s genuinely a great home. It’s got wide open rooms that are great for big gatherings, and small little nooks to hide away and read a book in peace.

Liz and Stephen have five children and I have to tell you that I like that a large, busy, fun-loving family now fills these rooms. It’s what big homes should be about. Where nobody cares (too much) if you leave a blanket and pillow on the floor. Or forget to pick up your socks. Basically, who cares if someone actually sees that people live here? That attitude seems alive and well here. And I love it. Here’s the family.

 

The Hays Family. Photo Credit: Shaw Photography Co.

 

The Backyard

 

Oh the parties I could give in this backyard. Just sayin. Only thing that bothers me here is all the utility wires criss-crossing it. Sort of annoying in the yard of a mansion. I’m sure that could be remedied though.

 

 

My Impressions

 

I hardly know where to begin with my impressions this week. From the history of this circle including Frederick Law Olmsted, to Frank Lloyd Wright himself, to the Government of Canada, this circle has so much going on.

 

 

Between the three circles I’ve written about now, Soldiers Circle, Symphony Circle and Colonial Circle, this one by far feels the most affluent. Most of the homes are mansions. But there are also the humble Eastlake Victorian, the 1960s Capes and the smaller homes on Lincoln Woods Lane, which are probably larger than they appear.

This circle is also the only one surrounded by Parkways, and that makes it feel affluent as well. Right in the middle of Lincoln Parkway, Bidwell Parkway and Chapin Parkway. Three of the most sought after addresses in the city.

 

 

And Soldiers Circle takes up a lot of real estate. Seriously. From the circle itself, it’s difficult to see any of the homes lining it. I both like that, and don’t like that. Know what I mean? It does make it park like for the homeowners.

 

 

And to be fair the sidewalks do run pretty close to the homes. So, I guess Soldiers Circle, or whatever you prefer to call it, makes a great argument for urban hiking. If you want to see stuff, get out and walk. But isn’t that what I always say?

Take a walk over at Soldiers Circle. You’ll love what you see just like I did!

 

*Get the book! They make great keepsakes, or gifts for friends and family. Click this link to order, or click on the photo below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**Special thanks to Elizabeth and Stephen Hays for sharing your home with us! Follow Liz on Instagram @lovelizhays

***All photos in this post are mine, unless otherwise noted.

 

 

Old County Hall

Old County Hall

Several years ago I worked in the Seneca One Tower (then the HSBC Building).   One lunch hour I walked over to city hall for a tour with my sister, who had her office there at the time. On the way I passed by the Old County Hall.   The last time I even noticed this building was when I had Erie County jury duty roughly a month after 9/11/2001.   While waiting to be called for selection, there was a bomb threat and we had to evacuate the building.   Probably why I never noticed the incredible architecture the building holds.   And since then, I’ve learned a lot of the equally incredible history of the building as well.

The story of this building begins in Buffalo’s earliest days.

It was built on the site of Franklin Square Cemetery, which was one of Buffalo’s first burial grounds.   The cemetery operated from 1804-1836, and primarily held the war of 1812 dead, but civilians were buried there as well.

It was also on this site on December 10, 1813, that Colonel Cyrenius Chapin surrendered the village of Buffalo to the British. The British rejected his authority to do so, and proceeded to burn the entire village, leaving only four remaining structures. They did this in retaliation for when American forces burned the British settlement at Newark (now Niagara on the Lake) in Canada.

The property at the northwest corner of Franklin and Church was purchased by the city in 1851 from Hiram E. Howard. The land was used for the Mayor’s office and other city offices until shortly before the City and County Building was completed in 1876.

Both photos are from:    “The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo,” Severance, Frank H., ed. Buffalo Historical Society, Vol. 16, 1912, 218

The bodies from the adjacent burial ground were moved to Forest Lawn Cemetery in 1852.

In 1857, Seth Grosvenor left the city $40,000 to be used for a library. The property was strongly, yet unsuccessfully, proposed for the library. Had that proposal been successful, I very possibly would not be writing this post.

The building was a joint effort of the City of Buffalo and Erie County to house all the government offices under one roof.    It was built between 1871-1876.

Photo source unknown.

The architect was Andrew Jackson Warner, who was arguably Rochester’s most famous architect. He was also the supervising architect for the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, now The Richardson Olmsted Complex.

Warner described the style as Norman, referring to Romanesque architecture in England. It is generally described as High Victorian Romanesque or simply Norman Romanesque. The style is evidenced here by the use of rounded arches in the windows and entrances, and the use of piers instead of columns.

The center of the building is dominated by the 270 foot tall clock tower. The clock itself was backlit by reflected gas light, which was lit each night by the clock mechanism itself. This was quite possibly the first use of an automatic pilot light. The tower reportedly became a destination for evening walks and carriage rides. You can imagine that seeing a clock tower lit up at night was a sight to see in 1876, especially 270 feet in the air! Think about it, when it gets dark today, we have so many lights that stay on. It never really gets too dark. In 1876, when the sun went down, it got dark. The clock tower must have been a real beacon in the night!

Resting on the tower are four, 16 foot tall, stylized female figures, each carved from 30 ton blocks of granite.   Each is slightly different, representing Agriculture, the Mechanical Arts, Justice and Commerce respectively.   They were sculpted at Clark Island, Maine, by an Italian immigrant, Giovanni F. Sala.

Interesting little tidbit about the sculptures.   In 1974 they were removed to repair their pedestals.   On the day Agriculture was scheduled to be hoisted back up to its spot, a crack in her base was noticed requiring additional repair time.   The team went ahead and put Commerce into the southeast corner, the spot where Agriculture belonged, because the placement of the crane that day necessitated it.   When Agriculture was properly repaired, she was placed in Commerce’s spot.   When the error was noticed, the public works commissioner at the time, Edward Umiker was very upset, but it was eventually decided that it wasn’t worth the time and money to switch them back.   There they will apparently stay.

Like the Ellicott Square Building, two sides of the Old County Building are mirror images, save for the imposing tower.   Unfortunately for us, in 1965 a four story addition was added to the Delaware Avenue side of the building with a hallway that joins the two, so you cannot see the Delaware Avenue side of this historic building.

In 1882 Grover Cleveland became the mayor of Buffalo.   He had his offices in the building, before moving on to become Governor of New York State and eventually the President of the United States.

In 1891, a tunnel was built connecting the Erie County Jail on Delaware Avenue and County Hall, providing safe and simple prisoner passage to the courts.   The tunnel is still in use today.

President William McKinley lay in state in the building after being tragically assassinated at the Pan American Exposition here in Buffalo in 1901. To commemorate this, there is a bronze plaque in the floor of the lobby where his body lay, and an American flag stands watch where the spot is cordoned off by ropes.

Also, McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was tried in this building. It seems likely that Czolgosz walked that tunnel between the Erie County Jail and the County Building. His trial was reportedly very quick, not more than a day or two, and he was also sentenced to death in the building.

In 1932, both the city and the county offices had outgrown the building, and the City of Buffalo offices moved into their new (at the time) and now current home on Niagara Square.

The Old County Hall Building is an official Buffalo Landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

It is still functioning as a County building to this day, housing Erie County Courts and Records. If you live in Erie County, and get called for County Jury duty this is where you’ll go. If you do, don’t make the same mistake I did.   Take a moment to take in your surroundings, and really look at the treasure that is Buffalo’s Old County Hall.   Check it out on Franklin Street at Church.

Hope you enjoyed my story of   The Old County Hall.   Subscribe here and never miss a post!

Castles of Buffalo

Castles of Buffalo

I have a confession to make. I don’t get downtown very often anymore. Working from home is great, but I admit I miss the action. I only get downtown a handful of times each month. Everytime I do, I get that old familiar feeling. That “I love this town” feeling. I don’t know how to explain it. Downtown Buffalo is just a part of me.

And I think I may be rubbing off on my granddaughter Aoife (pronounced ‘eefa’). To be fair, my son, Aoife’s father, works downtown in the Brisbane Building so that may have had an influence too, but either way Aoife loves downtown.

So, a couple of months ago I had one of my favorite photos of city hall (below) put on canvas. When it arrived, I showed it to Aoife and asked her if she knew what it was. With a big confident smile, she said, “Yes. It’s a castle!” She’s three. So I said, “You’re right, it’s a Buffalo Castle.”

Since then, Aoife loves to ‘go walking’ downtown to see all the Buffalo Castles. I was downtown this morning walking along Main Street, and thought of how Aoife looks with awe at our Buffalo castles. I was inspired to share them with you.

Let’s Get Started with City Hall

Buffalo City Hall. It’s one of the largest municipal buildings in the U.S, at 32 floors and over 560,000 square feet. That aside, it’s an exquisite example of Art Deco design. The architects are Deitel & Wade, and it was completed in 1932. I love this building.

When she’s a little older, I’ll teach Aoife about all the little details that are everywhere on this building. The frieze above the front entryway depicting the history of our city up to the year it was built. The details on the windows. The Native American designs at the top of the building. And the statues on either side of two of Buffalo’s presidents – Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. Those two may or may not be there when she’s old enough to learn about them. But for now, to Aoife, city hall is the original castle. We both love it.

I especially love the way the building presides majestically over Niagara Square and the McKinley Monument. And speaking of that…

The McKinley Monument

This monument is of course here in honor of President William McKinley who was fatally shot at the Temple of Music, an attraction at the Pan American Exposition in September, 1901. The architects were Carrere and Hastings, and the animals were sculpted by A. Phimister Proctor.

From all accounts, Buffalo deeply mourned the death of McKinley and great thought was given to the design of the monument. It has been said that the sleeping lions were included as a sign of strength, a nod to McKinley’s presidency and the turtles (yes, you have to look for them, but they’re there) were included as a symbol of eternal life, which is what the city at the time hoped for President McKinley.

The monument was dedicated in 1907, six years after McKinley’s untimely death. It underwent its first restoration in 2017. The square itself has changed around it many times, but the monument is here to stay. Not necessarily a castle, but Aoife loves the animals and the fountain, so it’s going on the list!

The Statler Building

In the shadow of the McKinley Monument, it’s easy to see the Statler Hotel, one of my other grandchildrens’ favorites. Apparently Miles learned about it in first grade in a social studies class and was awed that one man owned a building so giant (his words). I talked about Ellsworth Statler in another post, including what’s going on in that building now. He had great influence on downtown life in Buffalo back in the day. I guess you could say that he helped to create the downtown vibe that I love so much.

The hotel itself is definitely one of our castles.

Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse

Just west of the Statler building, is the U.S. Courthouse. Not all of our ‘castles’ are old. This one was built in 2011. At that time, I worked in the Seneca One tower on the 30th floor, and my office overlooked Main Street. So I watched the courthouse being built. Robert H. Jackson is a Western New Yorker who served as a Supreme Court Justice, so it is fitting that the building is named for him.

Not normally a fan of very many modern buildings, I didn’t expect to like this one. But I do. There’s something very pleasing about the design. The architects are Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates out of New York City. The lower glass wall visible in the photo has the entire U.S. Constitution etched into it. Pretty cool. Castle worthy.

Old County Hall

And then there’s this. This building speaks to me, like some do. It gives me a real feeling of history in Buffalo. Built in 1876, it’s the oldest of the downtown ‘castles’. The center clock and bell tower is 270 feet tall – must have been an amazing sight to see in 1876! Especially since the clocks were back lit by gas lamps at night.

Picture this. It’s 1876. When it gets dark at night, it gets really dark. Not like today with street lights ablaze and illuminated buildings everywhere. It got really dark back then. The nightly lighting of the clock tower became an evening destination for the citizens of Buffalo. Rich and poor alike would take their evening walks or carriage rides to the Old County Hall to behold this clock tower. It still impresses today.

I devoted an entire blog post to this building because it’s one of those that makes me wish time travel could be a thing so that I could shoot back to 1880 or so to see the clock tower lit up without the distraction of all the other lights in the area.

While walking near this building Aoife asked me who the ‘people’ were on top of the tower. Good question. They respresent Justice, Agriculture, Mechanical Arts, and Commerce. That explanation, of course, meant nothing to her, but it meant a great deal to the people of Buffalo in 1876. Enough that they would put them high above us on pedestals to guard over the city. This, is a Buffalo castle.

The Guaranty Building

As we walked away from the Old County Hall, Aoife looked up and said, “Oh Nana, I like those circle windows.” She was, of course, looking at the Guaranty Building. Good eye, kid.

As we approached the Guaranty Building on the opposite side of the road, on Church Street, I started to tell Aoife the story of this building. How it was built in 1895-96, how it was the tallest building in Buffalo at the time, and how it was designed by a very famous architect named Louis Sullivan. Aoife couldn’t have cared less about that. Did I mention that she’s three?

In the meantime, we had crossed Church Street and stood at the base of the corner of the building looking up at the tree of life carving which drew our eyes up to the cornice. That she was interested in. Along with the other Art Nouveau details in the terra cotta exterior, and she was also impressed with the gargoyles. We went into the lobby, where we gawked at the Tiffany-like ceilings, the mosaic walls, and the bronze elevator cages. All are simply gorgeous.

As we walked away from this Buffalo treasure, Aoife said, “That was definitely a castle.” I agree.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Right across the street from the Guaranty Building is St. Paul’s Cathedral. If all those spires don’t make you think of a castle, I don’t know what would!

This church was built in 1851 and was designed by Richard Upjohn, who was well known for his English Gothic church designs. Beautiful inside and out, it is definitely one to go take a look at. I am always struck by how, no matter where on the street you are looking at this building, it appears that you are looking at the main entrance (which is actually on Pearl Street).

The Ellicott Square Building

Now, I don’t really think the Ellicott Square Building resembles a castle, but Aoife sure does enjoy all the faces on the facade. I’ll admit that after I pointed out the Medusa heads lining the cornice of the building, they scared her a little bit. So I told her they were little girls welcoming her into their building. She accepted it.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The architect was Charles Atwood of Daniel Burnham and Company, one of the most prestigious architectural firms in the U.S. What a fantastic example of Italian Renaissance design this building is!

But to me, it’s the interior of the building that puts it on Aoife’s list of Buffalo castles. Whenever I walk into the atrium, I can’t help but look up and around the room. The staircases, the Italian marble mosaic floors, the elevators! It’s still stunning after all these years. 124 to be exact, having been completed in 1896. At that time it was the largest office building in the world. In the world!

It’s definitely castle worthy.

The Old Post Office / ECC City Campus

Back out on the street, I take Aoife through an alley over to the Old Post Office. She takes one look and states, “I think this one is a castle, Nana.” I agree. What do you think?

It was completed in 1901, and had three government architects, Jeremiah O’Rourke, William Aiken and James Knox Taylor. It’s a mix of styles between Victorian Gothic and Richardsonian Romanesque.

And to a kid this one is perhaps the most castle-like of all. It’s a real stunner! And like city hall, there are a lot of details to look at here. Gargoyles, eagles, lynx and bison. And, like the Ellicott Square Building, the inside is amazing! In Aoife’s words, “Woah…”

One M&T Plaza

As Aoife and I head back to Main Street, we see One M&T Plaza. She tells me she doesn’t think this one is a castle. But the closer we get, I can see the wheels turning. And I think she’s changing her mind.

Then we see it. The fountain. That puts her over the edge. It goes on the list. It’s a castle to Aoife because of the fountain. Ah! To be three and have your only responsibility be the discovery of everything around you. That fountain made her so happy.

I’m beginning to think Aoife does have a great eye, because this fountain was designed by Harry Bertoia, and I’ve heard his larger sculptures now sell for upwards of a million dollars! It is a beautiful fountain, and its curves are a nice contrast to the modern, straight lines of the building.

So One M&T Plaza was designed by Minoru Yamasaki and was completed in 1966. He was finishing up this building while starting his next job, the World Trade Center (Twin Towers) in New York City. I don’t have to tell you what happened to that building. Let’s suffice it to say that I am grateful that we still have this building to show off to our grandchildren.

One M&T Plaza is the Buffalo Headquarters of M&T Bank here in Buffalo. And I gotta tell you, they have been Buffalo boosters since their inception in 1856. They’ve stayed true to Buffalo all this time. And they continue to do so. No, I do not work for M&T. I just happen to think that they’ve been good to Buffalo.

The Hotel Lafayette

As we head into Lafayette Square, Aoife points out the Hotel Lafayette and says, “I pick that castle, Nana.” I was wondering what she meant, when she went on to say, “It’s a good one! Just look!”

She’s right. Just look at it.

Completed in 1904 (with two additions to follow), it’s an awesome building. And it was designed by the first working woman architect in the country, Louise Blanchard Bethune. She was a Buffalonian! And apparently she was quite a woman. She reportedly would be shouted at in the streets for riding her bicycle, something that was considered unseemly for a woman in the 1880s and 90s. Can you imagine? No, I can’t either. I would have been in trouble all the time back then!

Read my post here for more about Louise. She was really an interesting woman.

The Hotel Lafayette is now a mix of apartments and hotel rooms, banquet halls, a coffee shop, full service restaurant, and a working brewery. That’s a mouth full. The Lafayette is excellent, inside and out. Castle worthy.

The Rand Building

The Rand Building is, to me, a beautiful building that I don’t think gets enough respect. In fact, I wrote a post about it, where I give my humble opinion about why it doesn’t get the respect I think it deserves. Because I think this building is cool. Strong, solid, and true.

It was built for the Marine Bank and named for George F. Rand Sr., who was at one time the President of Marine Bank here in Buffalo. It was completed in 1929 and was the last commercial building to be built in Buffalo before the stock market crash and the depression began. True to its time period, it’s a decent example of Art Deco design. But you’ve got to really look at it to notice all the subtleties of the design.

I love it, and so does Aoife. Come to think of it, so does Aoife’s father, my son. All fans of the Rand. It’s a castle.

Coincidentally, the next commercial building to be built downtown post depression (1959!) was the Tishman Building, which is now the Hilton Garden Inn, pictured here, to the left of the Rand.

Buffalo Savings Bank / Goldome Bank / M&T Bank

This is probably Aoife’s least favorite Buffalo Castle. I don’t have a clue why. What child wouldn’t be impressed with that shiny gold dome atop this incredible neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style building?

Well, Aoife apparently. She told me that she likes it, but she doesn’t love it. To be fair, we didn’t go inside. That would have elevated its status, I’m sure. The inside is nothing short of magnificent. I love it.

It’s a Green & Wicks design and was completed in 1901 as the Buffalo Savings Bank. It was billed as the working man’s bank. You see, up until this point, banking was reserved for the rich. It gave regular people incentive to save their money for whatever it is they desired. Cool.

Interesting side note: the dome was not originally gold. 24-carat gold leaf was added when Goldome Bank took over the building. The cost to cover the dome with 140,000 sheets of gold leaf was $500,000. More than it cost to build the original building!

It’s a Buffalo castle! I don’t care what Aoife says!

My Impressions of Buffalo Castles

Well, I’m exhausted! Aoife wore me out ‘going walking’ looking at all the Buffalo castles. You know, there’s a reason why people have babies when they’re young! I’m just kidding. Aoife was exhausted too! But not too tired to pose with Daddy at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the center of Lafayette Square.

Photo Credit: Kristen Zelasko

Sometimes I think it’s a good idea to look at something through someone else’s eyes. And sometimes it’s great to see things through the eyes of a child. We walk, ride and drive around the streets of downtown Buffalo and totally miss the amazing architecture all around us.

These buildings that Aoife and I have deemed ‘castles’ are not by any means a complete list. These are just some of our favorites.

Take an urban hike. Look around. Really see our city. Choose your own castles. If you’ve got children or grandchildren, take them with you and look at the city through their eyes. It’ll be like seeing it for the first time. And they may surprise you with their insight and their opinions. Even Aoife, at three, offers these. The way she fell in love with the fountain, or the Hotel Lafayette. It was pretty cool to see.

Get out and enjoy your city Buffalo!

*Get the book! They make great keepsakes or gifts for friends and family.  Click here or on the photo below. They make great gifts!

*All photos in this post are mine unless otherwise noted.

Buffalo Women Who Made History – A Compilation

Buffalo Women Who Made History – A Compilation

Throughout the month of March, I have been featuring Buffalo women who have made history, in celebration of Women’s History Month. You all know what a history nerd I am, and so this was a labor of love for me. I’ve chosen six women who are vastly different from each other, but whom I respect immensely for various reasons.

In this post, I have compiled all of my social media offerings from the month, on this subject, into one post. And I have added to them extra snippets of information I thought you might enjoy.

My blog posts this month, however, told the stories of three fabulous Buffalo women making history in Buffalo right now, each in their own way. Links to those posts are at the end of this article. Grab a cuppa whatever you like to drink, sit back, and enjoy these stories. You’re gonna love this first one.

Minnie Gillette, Buffalo Woman

Minnie Gillette was a black woman born in 1930. She became the first African American woman to be elected to the Erie County Legislature when all women were just beginning to spread their wings as feminists. Imagine what she lived through to accomplish that!

Gillette led the movement to save the Old Post Office Building on Ellicott Street, so that it could be re-purposed as Erie Community College City Campus. She worked alongside Joan Bozer, who was also a member of the Erie County Legislature to do so, with much opposition from powerful men, at a time when men were in charge and weren’t used to women in government. I cannot imagine the downtown core without this building! This was just one of Minnie’s many, many achievements in Buffalo. She is memorialized with a plaque in the building.

Photo Credit: Buffalo Stories Archives & Blog

Obviously, Gillette was not your typical politician. Minnie was known as a feisty woman who crossed party lines in the interest of her constituents. She clearly wasn’t in it to win fame or fortune. Minnie only cared about what was right. She was a woman who saw something that needed to be done, and put her efforts into working toward achieving it. Even after her time in office she continued to work voluntarily for the poor, the homeless and the needy.

Sadly, she passed away at the young age of 62, leaving three children and two grandchildren. In this photo, I see a no bullshit woman, who has kindness and compassion in her eyes. To me, she is beautiful! Wish I could have met her.

Minnie Gillette is indeed a Buffalo woman who made history!

Francis Folsom, Buffalo Woman

Frances Folsom was born in Buffalo in 1864. When Frances was just 21 years old, she married Grover Cleveland (27 years her senior) becoming the youngest first lady in history. She still holds the title.

Here’s a fun fact, when Cleveland became president in 1884, the press speculated that he would propose to Emma Folsom, Francis’s mother! Her husband, Oscar Folsom, who was a good friend of Cleveland’s, had passed away some years earlier. In reality, Grover and Francis had been quietly courting since Francis entered Wells College, with Mrs. Folsom’s blessing.

When the two women left for Europe towards the end of 1885, the press assumed Mrs. Folsom would be shopping for her trousseau. So when the ship landed back in the states, the Folsoms were taken aback by the attention and questions. They said nothing. But the next day the White House issued a statement explaining that Cleveland was engaged to Francis Folsom, not her mother, Emma.

I should add that it was not all that uncommon at this time that a young woman like Francis would marry someone 27 years her senior.

Photo Credit: George Prince

Frances was incredibly popular all over the country. Women and designers alike copied her clothing taste, and businesses openly used her likeness in their advertising (something that was legal at the time). Sort of a Jackie O kind of thing, but in the 1880’s. By all accounts Francis (Frank as she was called) was quite unaffected by all the attention.

Grover Cleveland died in 1908. After his death, Francis made history again by being the first widowed First Lady to remarry after the death of her spouse. In 1913, she married Princeton Professor Thomas Jex Preston, Jr. She remained popular and in the public eye until her death in 1947.

Born and raised in Buffalo, Francis Folsom was obviously a Buffalo woman who made history. To me, in this photo she appears very self assured and comfortable in her own skin. Wonder what she was really like?

Mary Talbot, Buffalo Woman

Mary Burnett Talbert was born in 1866 in Ohio. She graduated from Oberlin College when she was nineteen years old, no small feat for a black woman! Her first job was as a teacher in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1886. Just one year later she became the first African American high school principal in Arkansas, man or woman! Imagine that in 1887!

She moved to Buffalo in 1891 when she married Buffalonian William Talbert. Together they had one child, Sarah May.

Mary, William & Sarah May attended the Michigan Street Baptist Church (they lived next door) which was the first Black religious congregation in the city.

She served as a board member of several organizations that fought for civil rights for African Americans. She was a founding member of Phyllis Wheatley Club of Colored Women, which was the first affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs in Buffalo.

Photo Credit: University at Buffalo

In 1905, together with her husband, she hosted 30 people in her home (secretly) including W.E.B. Dubois, to start what they called the Niagara Movement, and later became the NAACP, of which she served as vice president.

Mary’s accomplishments are numerous, both here in Buffalo and abroad. The latter during WWI when she served as a nurse in France. Movers and shakers in Buffalo respected Mary’s intelligence and grace, and she was often an invited guest in their homes. As always, breaking down barriers in a quiet but intelligent way.

Mary passed away in 1923. She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

I am proud to call her a Buffalo woman who made history. In this photo she looks to be a pretty, proper lady. But there’s a gleam in her eye that tells the real story.

Abigail Fillmore, Buffalo Woman

 Although she wasn’t born and raised in Buffalo, Abigail and her husband, Millard Fillmore, settled in Buffalo in 1826.

Abigail was a teacher by profession, and get this, 19 year old Millard was one of her students! That would never fly today! In her defense, she was just one year older. Both shared a propensity for learning, which is reportedly what brought them together. The two married when Abigail was 27, and Milliard, 26.

They settled in East Aurora first, and Abigail continued to work as a teacher. She was the first wife of a president who did so. When Milliard became more established in his career, they moved to Buffalo. They had two children together.

Photo credit: thefamouspeople.com

Millard wrote to her often while travelling, filling her in on important matters of state. She would respond with advice. He often refused to make an important decision without first speaking to Abigail. She gave her opinion in all matters of politics, and by all accounts, Milliard treated her as an intellectual equal. This was really something in 1850.

When Millard became president, Abigail was shocked that the White House did not have a library. She appealed to Congress, and was given $2000 to purchase books for the establishment of an official White House library.

In a time where women had virtually no rights as we know them today, Abigail Fillmore was known by all to be a highly educated, intelligent woman, who worked after marrying, paving the way for other women.

And that, my friends, is why Abigail Fillmore goes on the list of Buffalo Women Who Made History. From the look of this photo, I cannot imagine any President looking for advisement from her. Clearly, you cannot judge a book by it’s cover.

Maria Love, Buffalo Woman

I first became aware of Maria Love when I read City of Light by Lauren Belfer back when the book first came out. If you’ve read the book, keep in mind that it was a novel. Some of the people were real, but the bulk of the story was fictional.

To tell you a little bit of her background, Maria (pronounced Mariah) was born in 1840, into a very wealthy family. But her parents didn’t completely shelter her the way most wealthy families sheltered their young daughters. She witnessed at a young age the difficulties of immigrant families, especially working mothers and their children.

Photo Credit: Buffalo Business First

Back in the day, unless they were wealthy, when a woman lost her husband, she faced a life of very hard work for very little money. In many cases they were barely able to get by.

Maria’s father told her about the concept of a creche, which had become common in France at the time. It was where working women could have a safe and loving place for their children to stay while they worked. Love arranged for Benjamin Fitch to donate a building on Swan Street to be used as the very first day care center in the U.S. This was in 1881!

She called it the Fitch Creche, and Maria, never having married, worked tirelessly for the next 50 years empowering other Buffalo women to create a better life for themselves. She didn’t only help by providing day care, she helped to put better opportunities in front of these women by arranging positions for them in her society friends’ businesses etc.

In 1903 she fundraised among her wealthy friends to raise funds for grants for women and children convalescing from illness. That part of her legacy lives on in the Maria M. Love Convalescent Fund, still operating today.

Maria Love most definitely was a woman who made history in Buffalo! It doesn’t get any better than a woman who empowers other women to succeed. She appears to be a loving (but tough) grandmother in this photo! Can’t judge a book…

Louise Blanchard Bethune, Buffalo Woman

Louise Blanchard Bethune was the first professional woman architect in the country! That’s right, Buffalo was home to the first woman who worked as an architect in the U.S.

Louise’s family moved to Buffalo when she was a child. She graduated from Buffalo Public High School in 1874. In 1876, Louise was offered an apprenticeship with Richard Waite, a respected architectural firm in Buffalo.

In 1881 she started her own firm, and Robert Bethune, a former colleague from Richard Waite, joined her shortly thereafter. The two were married later that year, and her firm became Bethune & Bethune. The 1880’s  was a perfect time to open an architectural firm in Buffalo.  The city was growing by leaps and bounds.

Photo Credit: Unknown

In 1888, Louise was accepted as the first female member of the American Institute of Architects, and one year later she was named the first woman Fellow of the AIA.    She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006. Louise was the principal designer of the Hotel Lafayette and it is considered to contain some of her best work. Read more about Louise and the Hotel in my post detailing both.

Quite obviously, Louise Bethune was a Buffalo Woman Who Made History. This photo looks so traditional, but is of a woman who was anything but.

What Else?

In case you haven’t seen my posts about women in Buffalo making history right now, they are:

Jennifer Zeitler from Let’s Goat Buffalo!

Kerry Planck from Alpine Made

Cathy Lanzalaco from Inspire Careers, LLC

There is another woman on deck who I’ve met with and have written a post about, but due to the Covid-19 virus, she is temporarily closed down. I’ll publish a post about her when she is back up and running. She’s overcome some incredible things in the past, I have no doubt she’ll overcome this as well!

I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts about women in Buffalo who have either made history, or are making history right now. I hope you have enjoyed reading them!

Know an amazing woman? Let me know about her in the comments below!

**Lead Image Photo Credit: Lakeside Women’s Hospital

Pin It on Pinterest