If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know that my husband Tim and I are both bikers, as in cyclists. In the summer, we ride four or five days a week. We have ridden through Cazenovia (Caz) Park several times. The last time, Tim suggested I write about it. I said what I always say, “I’ll put it on the list.” And I did. Full disclosure, my list is now pages long with something like 80 ideas waiting to be written.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard it was peak time to see fall colors in Buffalo. So I struck out for Caz Park to see what I could see. I admit, I am not very familiar with the park except for those bike rides through it on Warren Spahn Way, and a couple of road (running) races. But this day I drove over and parked at the Shelter House to get a closer look. I see things more clearly on foot.
A Bit of History, of Course
Let’s start with a bit of the history of Buffalo’s Parks and Parkway System.
In the mid 1800s, Buffalo was booming. We were growing as fast as a city could at the time. Commerce flourished along the waterfront with shipping, railroads, cattle, grain and all the smaller industries that supported these giants. Buffalo had money, and by 1860, city leaders wanted to create a park similar to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in New York City. So, they brought Olmsted to Buffalo to design our own Central Park.
After touring the city through its radial streets design, laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804, Olmsted declared Buffalo to be “the best planned city, as to streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.”* He then proceeded to improve upon it, by proposing and creating a park system to compliment the already beautifully designed city we call home. It would become the first park system in the United States, where the parks are connected through a series of parkways, giving the illusion that, when travelling from one to another, you haven’t left the park.
Take a walk down the center of Lincoln, Bidwell or Chapin Parkways to get that feeling. It’s real. Olmsted knew what he was doing. He is perhaps the greatest landscape architect our country has ever seen, even now.
Cazenovia Park and South Park were designed to serve the rapidly growing neighborhood that came to be known as South Buffalo. You know the place. These parks were to become part of the elaborate park system I mentioned just a moment ago.
Caz Park was built between 1892 and 1894, by Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot, including Frederick Law’s son, John. It sits on an 83 acre site roughly bounded by Abbott Road, Cazenovia Street, Potters Road and Seneca Street. Cazenovia Creek ran through the park, and was dammed to create a 20 acre lake near the Cazenovia Street/Abbott Road area. This was news to me. And it made me think. It’s an 83 acre park, so that means the lake took up just about a quarter of the whole park.
Wish I could have seen it. Apparently it was a popular spot for canoeing and boating in summers as well as ice skating in the winter. Which I could totally see. I get that it’s a safety thing, but I wish skating was allowed in the parks again. I suppose we have skating at Rotary Rink and Canalside. Which is fun, but it doesn’t seem quite the same as gliding out onto a lake, or even a creek.
What would we have to do to bring this back? Hmmmm. Not holding my breath.
In 1902, the Shelter House was built to accommodate the boaters and skaters. And for that matter the picnickers too, because this was becoming the place to be evenings and weekends in South Buffalo. The Shelter House was smaller than Olmsted had originally designed it, but where else do you see public restrooms like these, except in an Olmsted park? They’re amazing.
In 1912, funds were available, and the Casino was built. The architectural firm of Esenwein & Johnson was chosen to design it. The firm was well known, and quite popular in Buffalo, having designed many buildings and homes here, including the Temple of Music at the Pan Am Exposition, the Niagara Mohawk Building, the Elephant House at the Buffalo Zoo, the Calumet Building, and more.
The casino was located right along the lake and the lower (basement) level had room for 100 boats and canoes, both private and rentals. There were restrooms, an ice cream shop and a candy counter, with plenty of seating both inside and out on the expansive patios overlooking the lake. The upper floor was used for offices and storage. Must have been something back in the day when the lake was still there, sitting out on the patio sipping a cool lemonade on a hot summer day, watching the boaters. Or hot cocoa in the winter after skating.
The casino is still there, and the views are absolutely lovely today of a meadow with plenty of trees, a playground for kids, baseball diamonds and the creek off in the distance.
What Happened to the Lake?
Because the lake was created by damming the creek, there were all sorts of drainage issues throughout its history. Silt built up often in the (only) 4 -6 feet deep lake, and flooding occurred many times. Over the years, the lake was dredged and redesigned in the hopes that the flooding issue would be rectified, but it was no good.
The lake was eventually removed. I’ll add that I’ve read many different versions of when it was finally removed. I guess there was a small lagoon area that was created during one of the redesigns that was there until 1969 or so, but most of the lake was gone in the 1950s. I won’t quibble about the exact date, because it’s pretty clear that it was completely gone by 1970. It’s sad that they couldn’t make it work, but you can’t fight Mother Nature. She always wins in the end.
On a Personal Note
My Dad recently told me a story about asking his father to drive him out to Caz Park to do some fishing. He was about 12 years old and had heard the fish were biting. He asked to be dropped off and then picked up three hours later. Normally, he’d have ridden his bike, but it was March and was snowy. My father grew up on the East Side, and rode his bike all over Western New York as a 10 or 12 year old, to fish. Including to a lake out in Clarence. And once he rode to Chautauqua Lake without telling his parents where he was going. But that’s another story for another day.
So my Gramps dropped Dad off at Caz Creek in the park. He was absolutely freezing by the time he got picked up, three hours later. Apparently, the casino was closed that day. When I asked if he caught anything, he replied, “Oh yeah, we ate fish for supper that night, but I don’t remember what kind or how many, I just remember how cold I was.” This was a kid who delivered 120 newspapers every morning, and more on the weekends, so he was no stranger to being out in the cold. But that memory sticks out in his mind about Cazenovia Creek to this day.
Today, the park is chock full of amenities. There are baseball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, a playground, a splash pad, a community center, complete with a swimming pool, an indoor ice rink, and a senior center. Oh, and a golf course! There is also a neighborhood library on the grounds, although it’s temporarily closed. And let us not forget the numerous events that would be taking place throughout the year, if it weren’t for covid. (When will I get to write a post that doesn’t include that word?)
And the foot paths. They are used daily by South Buffalonians of all ages. There are always people walking here. With their dogs. Alone. In pairs or small groups. And why not? It’s a beautiful park, with gorgeous, old trees chosen and placed, quite possibly by Olmsted himself. And It’s what I did on this crisp, sunny day at the end of November.
The Shelter House was renamed in 2016 for Robert B. Williams, a former professional baseball player, and longtime Buffalo cop. He also coached and mentored thousands of children while active in the Buffalo Police Athletic League. Very cool.
I am so happy I ‘got to know’ Caz Park. And there is more to see! I’m going to make it a point to get out here in all four seasons to really get to know this park. The foot (bike) paths are just lovely, with lots to see, including wildlife. There are a lot of trees in the park, both old and new. That’s always a good thing. And some of the old ones, boy, are they ever beautiful.
Here’s something I couldn’t help but notice while walking around the park. The park is residential in several areas. Meaning that there are homes that face the park, on Potters Road, Cazenovia Street and more. And guess what? They’re not million dollar mansions like the homes that line Nottingham Terrace, or Rumsey Road. That hits me like a breath of fresh air. They’re great homes to be sure. I might have to return to get some photos on a street or two, and write a post…yes, I think I will. I’ll put it on the list. You know, that list that’s got 89 (I went back and counted) ideas on it, haha!
This park is steeped in history. While walking around, I couldn’t help but wonder about the many, many people who have come before me. What were they like? Did they freeze here in the winter like my Dad did? Did they score the winning goal at a soccer game, or basketball game? Or did their team win the softball championship in 1976?
Or was this the place to come on Sundays in your horse drawn carriage around the turn of the 20th century? With a picnic basket, filled with whatever was popular picnic fare back then? Possibly sitting out on the terrace overlooking the lake?
Who were these Buffalonians? What were they like? Were they happy? Were they kind?
When, oh when, will time travel be a thing? I will be first in line. I’d like to see Buffalo during its heyday. I’d like to see this park in 1915. And not as a woman of Polish/Irish descent who would have worked in service, but as the daughter of very educated parents, who happened to be very successful, and wealthy. Haha!
This place incites daydreams in me. I will definitely be back. And soon. I love walking in the snow…
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*The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System (Designing the American Park) Hardcover – June 7, 2013. by Francis R. Kowsky
Back in July, we went to a birthday party at Front Park. On the way there we passed by Columbus Parkway. On the way home, we decided to check it out. Wow! I’d heard good things and remembered reading a few articles about this street, but it’s always so much betterto see it in person!
A Little Bit of History, of Course
Prospect Park is bordered by Porter Avenue at the south, Connecticut Street on the north, and Prospect and Columbus Parkway on the east and west respectively. Hiram Pratt, Buffalo businessman and two time mayor of Buffalo, donated the land in 1836 to the City of Buffalo to be used as a park. At the time the property afforded unrestricted views of Lake Erie and the Niagara River. It was a perfect spot for a park.
Sometime before Olmsted designed our park system, homes were built along the perimeter of the park, blocking the beautiful views. This prompted Olmsted to design Front Park. Between 1855 and 1866, Niagara Street was extended north through the very center of Prospect Park. Albeit a smaller scale, this is just like the 198 cutting through Delaware Park! Why do we do these things?
In 1952, the western portion of the park was renamed Columbus Park. At that time, a statue of Christopher Columbus was placed on the grounds. The eastern half of the park continued to be known as Prospect Park. In July of 2020, it became known about the controversy and general negativity surrounding Christopher Columbus. The statue was removed. In November of the same year, the Buffalo Common Council voted to change the name of the west side of the park back to Prospect Park. Once again, Buffalo has one, cohesive Prospect Park, save for Niagara Street running through it, of course…
I’m told, and have verified, that there will be a new statue to be erected soon, to replace the Columbus statue. It will be of an Italian immigrant family arriving here for the first time. Very appropriate, because this area was once predominantly an Italian neighborhood. Can’t wait to see it.
Let’s Take a Look at Columbus Parkway
I’ll begin by saying that I didn’t take photos of every home on the street, like I usually do. I covered the three blocks between Porter Ave and Rhode Island Street. There are simply too many homes along this stretch to be able to include them all.
This first one was built for Abner Cutler, who owned A. Cutler and Son, cabinetmakers, manufacturers and dealers of furniture. The business was located at 164-176 Pearl Street, which would have been in the block where the Rath building is now located. They also had a factory in Black Rock. Abner Cutler was issued a patent for the design of the roll top desk in 1882. In fact, he was issued seven patents, all pertaining to the mechanics of the roll top. Cool. And a beautiful home to boot.
This home has had some fairly recent renovations. The working shutters have been removed, original windows were replaced, and sidelights and a transom were added to the front entryway. The sidelights and transom were an aesthetic change. But I was sorry to see the windows replaced (they were fantastic). I suppose I understand the cost involved in maintaining them though, and you’ll get no judgements from me. Just observations.
Across the street from the Cutler home is this beauty, below, currently receiving some love. And it looks to me like they are doing it right! I appreciate this. That upper porch is interesting with it’s ‘step up’ (maybe two) or down depending on how you look at it. Either way this place looks like cocktails on the patios to me. Let’s keep an eye on this one. I think it’s going to be fabulous!
I love the arched portico over the entryway with the fan design underneath on this one, below. And the ribbon windows in the dormer. This place has got little touches like the stone walkway, and the tiled stoop. Very nice! And, they’re Bills fans, so yeah, I like this one.
The brickwork is just great at this next home, below. And check out the wrought iron, unusual and beautiful. I’m so glad they’ve kept it!
Mama Mia! This one, below, is beautiful! But before I get carried away, a quick check with the city shows there are eight apartments here. Okay. Coming back down to earth. But it also says both the upper and lower patios are 10 feet wide by 36 feet long. Now, those are patios! This one is a real stunner.
This next home below, is where I met Alexander and his dog, Otis. Alexander, I apologize, but I cannot remember your beautiful Mother’s name. She was using a leaf blower and both Alexander and Otis were having a grand old time chasing the leaves around! Super cute family moment. All three were really enjoying themselves. Mom told me that she loves living on the street. The neighbors are great, and that most of the homes have original woodwork etc. That’s so great to hear!
And More Columbus Parkway
Here are a few more amazing homes.
This one below is really nice with the rounded porch. There are several of those on this street. Also, the rounded bay windows. There are a lot of those on this street too. Love it!
This Queen Anne style home was built for DeWitt Baker in 1883. Oh that gable! Most of the windows appear to be original. And I want to call that finish on the gable pebbling, but on closer inspection, I think it might actually be ‘roughcast’, which is a mixture of small stones, broken glass and cement. That second floor window is beautiful, and the sunburst detail above it is stunning.
Wait till you see this
This next home, below, is spectacular! It’s designed by August Esenwein, of the Buffalo famous Esenwein & Johnson Architectural Firm. (The Calumet Building, the Electric Tower and many, many more.) Just look at those amazing tall (tall!) windows on the driveway side. The scale of this home is incredible! This is one I’d love to go in. Just to see those windows! And what is probably fantastic woodwork and many more details! This one is special!
And what do you think of this beauty, below? I absolutely love it! This street continues to blow me away at every turn. This particular home is so unexpected. Let’s just say, you’re not going to see another like this one today, that’s for sure.
This one, below, is a lovely Second Empire design. I’m pretty sure all the windows (on the front anyway) are original, or at least have been replaced properly. They still have the rounded look and curved top. It looks so nice! The bay window on the first floor is beautiful complete with dentil molding. And I think the sidelights and transom are stained glass. Nice!
And Now This
This home was built in 1880 for Edgar B. Jewett. He was the president of the Jewett Refrigerator Company. And if you’re a regular reader of this blog you may remember that my husband, Tim, worked for Jewett Refrigerator Company early on in his career. Cool. Jewett served two terms as Mayor of Buffalo, became the Vice-President of the Cary Safe Company, and served as the President of the Columbia National Bank here in Buffalo. Busy guy. He lived here with his wife, Elizabeth and their four children before building a home at 210 Summer Street in 1900.
This three story home is incredible! It towers over the corner of Columbus Parkway and Columbus Parkway West. Like many on this street, the owner of this home is a fantastic steward of this true Buffalo treasure.
This Next One
Dr. John D. Naples and his wife, Anne, built this home in 1939. Including the extra wide lot which is 80 feet wide! That’s practically unheard of in the city! And of course, you know I love the wide porch on the driveway side of the house. Awesome place to sit and visit.
This home is absolutely massive! The city has it listed as a three-family residence. And I can see where all three could be very large apartments. The house seems to go on forever. I’m told that a woman named Carole lives here, and that she knows everything there is to know about the street. But alas, she was not home the day I was there. Although I’ll tell you I’m not altogether sure I knocked at the right doors. I do wish I could have met her. Carole, your home is beautiful.
After a little digging, I found that Carole and her late husband Carl raised their children in this home. It was designed by an architect out of Rochester named James G. Cutler. Cutler is better known as the person who designed and patented the office building mail chute. Cool.
Love this next home. Take a look at the sunroom at the front of this house. It’s got leaded glass and I think some of the windows in this home may be original. Not all, but some definitely are. Nice.
This next home, below, is where I met Terry. He’s the one who told me Carole is the person to talk to about the history of the street.
Terry had heard at some point that a senator or a congressman lived in his home. He was right. His name was Anthony F. Tauriello, born in 1899. He was an attorney who served on the Buffalo Common Council from 1938-41, and again in 1948. He was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives and served from 1949-51, when he came home to serve again on the Buffalo Common Council from 1954-57. He finished off his career as an appointee to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority from 1961-73. Not too shabby. Here he is, below.
Terry, I especially love your entryway at the front of your home. Thank you for taking the time to chat. Appreciate it.
A Few More
There are a few more houses I’d like to share on my way back to Vermont Street before I head home again.
This home, below, is where I met Dave and Chantal. What a beautiful Colonial Revival home they’ve got here. Dave tells me they’ve been here a little less than a year and are in the middle of a kitchen reno. Chantal mentions that she’d like to do some research on the home and the area once the renovation projects are completed. Well, guys, I found that your home was built for Henry Hagen in 1907, but I’m afraid that’s all I was able to find before publishing. I’m sure you’ll be able to see that on your deed, and maybe you’ll find more clues as to the history of the home.
About the house. My favorite thing is that gorgeous rounded porch. Also, the palladian windows at the peaks. There are at least three that can be seen from the street. One at the front, and one at both the north and south sides. And those rounded bay windows on the second floor are beautiful.
And Last But Certainly Not Least
This incredible (and huge) home, below, was built in 1886 for George Sandrock, who was born in Buffalo in 1838. I believe Sandrock was in insurance (Sandrock & Baily, located at 24 Swan Street). He was one of 11 children born to George Sr. & Magdalena Daigler who both came to Buffalo from Bas-Rhin, Alsace, France. The home must have been stunning back then, with the red Medina sandstone lintels, details at the peaks and decorative terracotta here and there mixed in with the brick.
It needs a bit of attention, but looks doable. It’s impressive when you walk by. It’s the way it’s set on the property that is so perfect! The home is on a wide lot (92′ – in the city!) with a large side yard. Plenty of room to spread out. This is the kind of home that makes me want to explore the interior. Well, back in the day when it was a single family home that is. It would be cool to see the original plans. Now that would be something.
The wrought iron fencing out front just may be original. It would take some elbow grease, but it wouldn’t be too expensive to do. I’ll admit though, I wouldn’t want to be the one to do it! Very labor intensive!
All in all, it’s a beautiful Buffalo home.
Columbus Parkway is an almost unbelievable street, and makes me consider the whole of Buffalo. This street is unique in that the homes were built over a period of 100 years or so. Some were built in the 1860s and every decade after, up until the 1960s, and the townhouses were built in 1989. That’s kind of unheard of in Buffalo. There are a few that I can think of offhand, like Edge Park, where some homes were built in one era, and at the other end of the street some were built decades later. Or every once in a while you come across one really old home in the middle of all the others. But this street seems to have had continual building. Very unusual! And may account for the occasional very wide lots.
Historic & Present
The homes built here represented people like George Sandrock, who co-owned a small insurance agency, or the doctors and politicians. These were not the lumber barons or the captains of industry from Millionaire’s Row over on Delaware Ave. This street is representative of successful people like a lot of us, who work hard for a living but also enjoy some degree of ‘success’. I love this about Buffalo.
I have to say that it’s really good to see a young couple like Dave and Chantal moving into this historic neighborhood, taking an interest in restoring their home, and showing the desire to become part of the fabric of the neighborhood. That’s what makes a neighborhood great.
This one seems to be historic, but very present, if that makes sense. Let me try to explain. Everybody I spoke to on the street seems to be very aware of the history here, almost excited about it. But they also seem to realize that while being historic is cool, it’s also important to be present and involved in the here and now. That’s what’s so great about Columbus Parkway.
Next time you’re in the area, make it a point to go see this incredible street.
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Elmwood Ave. Where should I begin? I guess at the beginning. But certainly not at the very beginning of Buffalo. Elmwood Ave did not exist then. It wasn’t part of Joseph Ellicott’s design of our city streets. Nor was it planned the way other, larger streets were. Think Main Street or Delaware Ave. Those streets were carefully planned out. Elmwood Ave? Not so much.
Originally, it ran from North Street to just beyond Amherst Street. And at the time, it was more like a series of smaller streets connected up together. There was talk for years about making it one coherent street but it didn’t happen until the city was readying itself for the Pan Am Exposition in 1901. Even then, it didn’t extend into the downtown core (Niagara Square) or north to the growing suburb of Kenmore. It only ran from Allen Street to just beyond Amherst. It was, however, at this time named Elmwood Ave.
It would not be fully extended into downtown until 1912.
Let’s Take a Look
I’ve decided to cover the section of Elmwood Ave between Bryant and Summer Streets. I realize this stretch is not what you probably thought you were going to see today. But I have my reasons for making this my first post about Elmwood Ave. Okay, so I only have one reason.
One of my most faithful readers, Jo Anne, lived along this stretch back in the 1970s, and I’m writing this for her. We’ve become email friends over the past year or so (remember pen pals?). Jo Anne now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but visits on occasion (like a lot of readers of the blog), and enjoys these ‘hikes’ around the area.
This one’s for you Jo Anne. Surprise!
I’m going to begin at Summer Street on the east side of Elmwood. This is the first home I see. What a start to this hike! This Colonial Revival was built around 1888, and is made of Onondaga Limestone. Love the look of this house. Note the pedimented dormers, look at the curve of the center one, I believe that’s called a swan’s neck pediment. Sexy. Just look at the wide wooden trim, accented by the wreaths and ribbons. It’s just lovely. The front door and sidelights appear to be floating above the portico. It’s how they’re set into the limestone. Love it.
In the 1890s, William C. Warren lived in this home with his wife Clara (Davock). Warren was born and raised in Buffalo, attended Yale University and was the editor and publisher of the Buffalo Commercial, a newspaper well known in the area for its progressiveness tempered with sound conservatism. William Warren was very well respected in both Republican and progressive circles, but he never ran for public office. Interesting. If only we could find someone with that kind of balance today – and if we could get him/her to run for public office. That would be great! Just sayin.
This Home, in 1915
In 1915, Judge Charles B. Wheeler was living in the home, and this is what it looked like then, below. It appears there used to be a widow’s walk at the roof, a balustrade on the roof of the portico, and the wreaths and ribbon on the trim are painted a darker color, probably black. Wish the old girl still had some or all of this. I can’t say for sure, but it looks like the front door is recessed just a bit, and I think the modern door is flush with the building. Which may account for the ‘floating’ look. I like it both ways.
The building is now home to a wealth management company. Interesting history here though.
I always wonder how critical I should be when looking at homes. I realize sometimes owners are up against it to keep up these old treasures. The work is so expensive, and can be difficult to keep up with, so I hesitate to be negative. This one, below, has seen better days, but is obviously a diamond in the rough. Would love to see it brought back, even just a bit.
The roof appears sound to my eye. Some paint and then maybe some work on the windows would go a long way here. Look at that bullseye window at the peak. Could be beautiful, but it also looks like not just anyone could fix that. Same with some of the shingles. It’d have to be a skilled craftsman. And those don’t come cheap, with good reason.
This one could come back better than ever. And so I’m going to call it ‘one to watch’.
Take a Look at This One
Next, is this absolute beauty.
The colors are perfect and are perfectly executed. The ionic columns on the porch match the ones on the second and third floor windows, and are amazing, as is the broken pedimented dormer with its half moon window, which on closer inspection has spider webbed leaded glass. Cool!
These Next Few
The word that keeps coming to mind is amazing. Simply amazing.
This first one has been maintained so well. Love the ribbon windows in the peak with the shell trim above – so pretty!
I love everything about this next one, below. The use of Roman brick is spectacular. And the Medina sandstone foundation is very practical, but its use as keystones is fabulous! It ties it all together. Also note the original wrought iron at the front of the home. I see the shape of that railing foundation all over Buffalo, but there are usually no longer railings attached. Most people add newer railings to the actual stairs. Love that these are original!
This home was once a lighting store called Schneider’s Lighting Studio, and was advertised as Buffalo’s largest display of lamps and shades. Neat! Later, in the 1940s, it was broken into several small apartments. It now serves as law offices.
The home below was built for Elbert B. Mann, who was the manager of Flint & Kent, a large dry goods store, located on Main Street.
Below is the home as it appeared in 1915. The original windows really add something, don’t they? Love the splayed lintels above the windows! Also, note the chimneys have been removed (above), as has the balustrade on the portico. Would love to see the windows on the dormers returned to something close to the original windows.
These Next Two
The next two homes are law offices. And the first one is an E.B. Green design! For that reason, I’m going to show it to you as he designed it in 1899, first. And is it ever lovely! It’s everything I would expect from E.B. Green and more! Love this home!
It was built for Philip G. Schaefer, a Buffalo brewer. And as we’ve learned in the past here on the blog, in general, brewers do okay for themselves here in Buffalo! Wink, wink…
And here it is today – every bit as beautiful! Love the dormers and balustrade at the top of the home. Note the sidelights to the windows on the first floor – nice touch EB!
The transition between the two.
And the second home included in the same address. Love the color continuity between the two.
This home, below, once belonged to Dr. A. L. Benedict and his wife. In 1943, he spoke to the Buffalo Courier Express about his family coming to Buffalo via the Erie Canal from Schenectady over 100 years before. His grandfather, the Rev. Stephen van Rensalaer arrived with his wife and nine children on a packet boat, to make their home on Carroll Street, which ran between Washington and Ellicott Streets. Benedict told of stories he had heard throughout the years about the family walking to The Terrace and Main Street to get water (it was the closest pump).
Van Rensalaer came to work as pastor of the First Universalist Church, then at Washington and Swan Streets. Cool story. It seems like Dr. Benedict did alright for himself with this home on Elmwood Ave. It’s a beautiful Tudor. Love the entryway and the porch! Very inviting!
This next one, below, is interesting too. A woman named Alice G.R. Owen lived here when she passed away in 1951, at the age of 80. She was born in France in 1871 to English parents. At 16, she moved to Toronto, and shortly after that Alice came to Buffalo to stay. She studied at Buffalo General Hospital, and completed her studies in 1896. She then worked as a surgical nurse for Dr. Roswell Park! Cool!
During World War I she worked as an Army nurse at Veterans Hospital in the Bronx. After the war, Alice went back to school to become a medical technologist. She came out of retirement to work as a nurse and laboratory technician in the field during World War II. I think I would have liked Alice. And she lived for much of that time in this apartment building (above), on Elmwood Ave. Cool.
These next two photos will be Musical Suites (the name is a nod to the Community Music School which used to be housed in the second photo). The project is being undertaken by Schneider Development. Read more about it here.
Crossing the Street
Here is the first home I come to on the west side of the street near Bryant. This is one I’d love to get into and check out. I’d especially love to see the yard – it’s a double lot! This home is beautiful! In my mind’s eye, there should be a covered patio coming off the north side of the house, and plenty of greenery and colorful flowers in the yard. And take a look at the side entryway with porch above! Wow!
Jo Anne’s Former Home
Now we come to it. The home that Jo Anne lived in during the 1970s.
The structure itself appears to be in really great shape. It’s got good bones, as they say. It wouldn’t take too much effort to get the landscaping cleaned up a bit to bring this house back to its original glory. Love it that the upper porch is still usable, so many aren’t anymore.
Like with almost every home, there is interesting history here too. In the 1950’s, this house was home to the Queen City Chess Club. I found an article in the Buffalo Courier Express from 1970 about a 12 year old boy (described as almost 13) who plays chess against 25 people simultaneously! He won 16 of the games, lost 2, and tied in 7. Young Peter Winston did this while holding a bottle of soda in one hand and making his moves with the other. And the other players were mostly adults who were champions themselves! Wow! Anybody thinking of The Queen’s Gambit right now? Many championships were won and lost in this house! These two brothers, below, were featured in an article in the Buffalo Evening News on October 10, 1955.
During the 1960s and 70s (including when Jo Anne lived here) the building was home to at least two bridge clubs. As in the card game. One was the Buffalo Whist Club and one was a chapter of the Frontier Bridge Club. I found many articles in several local papers about bridge, winners and their scores, where the games were held and who beat whom… It was a big thing, and Buffalo is still host to bridge tournaments. Jo Anne remembers the games going on into the night when she lived at 410.
A Pan American Exposition Connection
In addition to all of this, the Honorable William Buchanan who was the Director General of the Pan American Exposition lived in this home during and after the exposition.
He was charged with the construction, the operation and the dismantling of the exposition. I saw several ads in newspapers offering various expo buildings for sale. Interested parties were to come to this home to sign the necessary paperwork. These were run in local papers all through 1902. I guess I never really thought about who took care of all of that after the expo closed at the end of October. But someone had to, and that someone lived in Jo Anne’s house!
Another Apartment Building
This building had some construction work going on in the courtyard between the two sides, but normally when I walk by, it looks like a lovely place to live.
And one more apartment building.
It’s around here that I met Ron and his dogs. I should say his Mother’s dogs. Sadly, she passed away about five months ago. Ron just moved into this apartment, (home pictured below) a month ago, because his last place didn’t allow pets. He says his apartment is beautiful, and he’s enjoying being back in the Elmwood Village. We’ll have to take your word for it on the inside. We can’t see much of the outside, but the second floor makes me want to see more!
You’re a good son, Ron.
And one last house.
And there’s just one more building I’d like to show you. It’s the Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club. I’ve been past this building a million times and I have to say, I’ve never really noticed it. It’s beautiful. I love how original it is. I mean, those windows and for that matter, the shutters all look original. Love that.
This was a very different hike for me. It’s an area I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in. For me, it’s a pass through spot. You know, the areas that you pass through to get to a specific place. I’ve noticed the big old homes here, but never really looked at them. For this, I have Jo Anne to thank, by letting me know she used to live at 410. After that, my interest was piqued!
Knowing the history of Elmwood Ave really makes me think. It’s one of Buffalo’s busiest, best urban thoroughfares, and yet it wasn’t planned that way. It sort of evolved as the city evolved. And our city is still evolving. The conversation of just exactly how to do that is still a hot topic! And that’s a good thing.
Go See It
For me, when I see these old, grand homes that are now apartments, or offices, I end up daydreaming about the families who once lived in them, as single family homes. They make me want to time travel back to the days when Buffalo was experiencing the so-called ‘gilded age’. These homes make me want to see the stories first hand. But, until someone perfects time travel, I’ll have to be content with the written word, and sometimes a photograph or two.
Like I always say, every home, every building, every neighborhood’s got a story to tell. The buildings are nothing without knowing the stories of the people who built them, lived, loved, laughed and cried in them. That’s what I’m after. Go see your city, Buffalo. Get the stories.
Get the Book! Click the link to see a preview!
The books make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
The other day, I spent about three hours doing what I love best. Just walking around the city. You’d be surprised at how much ground you can cover in three hours. But this day, I spent almost the whole time concentrated in one area. Allentown – one of my first loves. And I walked slowly. I didn’t want to miss anything. Today I’m writing about Mariner Street, the stretch between North and Allen Streets. But first, let’s talk briefly about Allentown itself.
There’s so much history here in Allentown. I find myself thinking about Lewis Allen. (Josh Allen came later!) A lot of Buffalonians know Allentown is named for Lewis Allen. Some even know that he was Grover Cleveland’s uncle. But you may not know that Allen’s wife was the one who was related to Grover Cleveland. Isn’t it funny that we never hear about Margaret Allen in that context? I think it’s important enough to mention.
It is true though, that when Cleveland was passing through Buffalo on his way to Cleveland, Lewis Allen persuaded him of the merits of staying in Buffalo. Buffalo was, after all, a thriving, growing, important city at the time. Cleveland, of course, stayed, studied law, went into politics, and well, the rest is history.
What you also may not know, is that Lewis Allen came to Buffalo (with Margaret) in 1827, at a time where Buffalo was just beginning to experience the immense growth to come. Opportunity was everywhere.
A couple of years later, he purchased 29 acres of land that is now almost all of Allentown. You see, one of his endeavors was as a cattle rancher. It is said that his cattle trod a path from Main Street over to what is now Days Park. And that path has become our modern day Allen Street, a beacon in the city for shopping, dining and nightlife.
One more thing you also may not know is that Lewis Allen never actually lived in Allentown. He lived over on Niagara Street in a home previously occupied by Peter Porter. The home (estate, really) was between West Ferry and Breckinridge (see below) with a view of the river. Grover Cleveland lived here with his Aunt and Uncle for a short time when he first came to Buffalo.
Let’s Check Out Mariner Street
I was so taken with Mariner Street! The colors of the homes! Not to mention the ages of them. There are quite a few from the mid 1800s. The gardens! And later, when I did a little digging, the people who lived in them! Let’s see this street.
As I rounded the corner from North Street on to Mariner, I notice this Georgian Revival apartment building designed and built by E.B. Green in 1914. It is certainly something to look at. And it’s luxurious inside with features like marble entry halls and intricate plasterwork ceilings, not to mention servant’s quarters!
It’s fitting that when the movie Marshall was filmed in the E.B. Green designed (former) federal courthouse downtown, Thurgood Marshall’s apartment was filmed here, in one of these apartments designed by Green as well. This was, by the way, Green’s only foray into real estate speculation.
There’s another gorgeous apartment building, right next door, on a smaller scale, but no less beautiful! Love, love, love the entryway here! Great brickwork!
Music Lessons Anyone?
This next house is one I think most would love to call home. In 1894, a gentleman by the name of Mr. E. H. Ferguson was teaching guitar, banjo and mandolin out of this home, which he called the Buffalo School of Music. I’d love to see this street in 1894!
When, oh when, will time travel be a thing?
Take a look at these next homes.
Dr. Ruby Butler
This next home was the home of Dr. Ruby Butler. She graduated from the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri in 1914. Dr. Butler practiced for a short time in Jefferson, Ohio before opening a practice in this home, below. She stayed here until around 1950 when she moved to Springville to live with her sister, where she practiced on a limited basis until her retirement. Very progressive woman! And a lovely home!
It’s tough to see the tops of these houses for the trees! But just look at the entryway on the blue home, below. So charming!
A Sad Story
This was once the home of Staff Sgt. John W. Haney, below.
Sadly, in 1944, Haney was killed during maneuvers in a medium bomber during an electrical storm over Hartselle, Alabama. He was 33 and left a wife, Alice, both his parents, one sister and four brothers. Haney entered the service in 1942, studied as a mechanic at a bomber school in Baltimore and was stationed in Hunter Field, Georgia. What a sad, sad story. One heard all too often during wartime.
Right next door to Sgt. Haney’s home, I have three stories to tell you. One was from World War I, and one from World War II. One of the owners of this home, Cornelius A. Wild passed away in 1948 at the age of 75. He worked on the great lakes as a marine engineer until World War I, when he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. After the war Wild worked as chief engineer at Sheas Great Lakes, Lafayette Theater, as well as Majestic Theater. He was also chief engineer on site when our great City Hall was being built. Cool!
Just three years earlier, Wild’s son, Cornelius D. Wild, returned home in 1945 from a German prison camp. He was injured a year earlier and spent time in a military hospital in France, before being taken to the camp. The young Wild graduated from Canisius College and worked at General Motors before enlisting in 1942. The photo below is from the Buffalo Evening News, May 25, 1945
Okay, so I have one more story about this house. This warrants another photo to clear our minds of war, before moving on to bookmaking.
That’s Right, I Said Bookmaking
So, in 1970, a woman living in this house, above, was arrested for bookmaking. Gladys Oates was reportedly a tavern keeper, and ran a bookmaking ring out of this home, taking in $3,000 a week. But that was not all, she had others working with her. A total of 14 people were arrested and the total take was $8 million. That’s a lot of bread! Ha! There are times when I cannot believe the audacity of some people!
Update: Sept. 22, 2021
I received an email from the nephew of Gladys Oates who sent me the following photos. The first is a calling card that belonged to Jimmie(y) Oates, who was married to Gladys. Jimmie was an entertainer and was known as “the Pennsylvannia Nightengale”. He and Gladys met while performing with the same traveling troup. They married in St. Louis in 1927.
After coming to Buffalo, the couple lived on Mariner Street, which we already discussed. What we didn’t know is that they owned “The Jimmie Oates Grill” which was at the corner of Allen and Mariner Streets (now The Old Pink!). Jimmy passed away in 1970, presumably before the arrests for bookmaking, but clearly, he was involved.
I looked into the phrase ‘Walk Slow’ and my take is that in this particular use, it meant proceed with care. Interesting. Did Jimmie know the ‘heat was on’? Either way, he passed way before the arrests, including that of his wife, Gladys.
Incidentally, I found an article stating that all the charges in the case were dismissed in 1973. Apparently officials used wire tapping to compile their evidence. The defense claimed they used the wire tapping too broadly, listening in on private conversations, not just ‘business transactions’. Seems a pretty flimsy defense, but it worked. Below is a photo of ‘Jimmy’ and Gladys in happier times. Wonder if the photo was taken in the yard on Mariner?
Like I always say, every house holds stories. Most of which we’ll never know. But once in a while, we get a glimpse.
Let’s Move On, Shall We?
Let’s travel back to 1948 (the 40s were very busy on this street!). This is the story of a mother/daughter duo who came over from England to settle in Buffalo. Violet Russell, a partner in the Anglo-American Carbonising Corporation came to live in this home, below, with her daughter, Joan Russell.
Isn’t the house fantastic?!
Joan was a mechanical engineer. In 1948! She sought to come to Buffalo during a time when you could wait months for tickets for a transatlantic crossing. No worries, she and her mother both signed on to work as crew members on a cargo ship! Joan reportedly blew everyone away in the engine room, and was given the honorary title “Sixth Engineer” by the Captain.
After settling on Mariner Street, Joan then took her place as a mechanical engineer at Cherry, Cushing and Preble, a consulting engineering firm located on Delaware Avenue. She worked on heating systems. Cool.
Just a note: my husband works as a mechanical design engineer, and there are still not too many women working as engineers. So for 1948, this was amazing!
Both Violet and Joan loved Buffalo. When questioned though, Joan confessed to having an issue with our weather. She stated that our “nice, cold winters are fine, but that our summers are too hot!”*
That’s kind of hilarious!
Two very interesting women, wouldn’t you say?
Moving Right Along
And crossing the street, these.
This yellow magnificence below. There is so much that I like about this one. The window trim. The side entry appears amazing, but I’d have had to go up the driveway to really see it properly! The front doors appear to be original! Is that even possible?! I mean, this house is listed with the county as being built in 1865! If they were added later, boy are they done well! Love this place!
These next three are triplets!
Wait Till You Hear This!
So we’ve discussed World War I and World War II. Mariner Street also had a gentleman who took part in the Civil War, believe it or not. Actually, judging by the ages of the homes, I shouldn’t be surprised. There were probably several Civil War vets who lived here.
Fast forward to May, 1939. Buffalo was preparing for their annual Memorial Day Parade. The Grand Marshal of the parade was an 89 year old veteran of the Civil War named Edward Hurley.
He lived on Mariner in this house, below. Nice!
Who Was He?
In an interview with the Buffalo Evening News Hurley admitted that he was just 14 years old when he marched with General William Tecumseh Sherman through the south! Fourteen! And he said he was not the youngest. Talk about “boys in blue”! Hurley served for six months, and was on guard duty when Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Walbridge of Buffalo (same family that the Walbridge Building on Court Street is named for) rode in to tell General Sherman of the north’s victory signaling the end of the war.
He went on to say that those six months were both horrifying and exciting. I cannot imagine. At fourteen!
Hurley was apparently well known in Buffalo as a contractor. He worked on the state hospital in Gowanda, the Jamestown Post Office, and our own Erie County Hall (completed in 1876).
Pretty amazing man.
Let’s Keep Moving
Katherine Cornell on Mariner Street
This last home on the block, below, was the Queen Anne style childhood home of Katherine Cornell.
Now the Cornell name is very well known around Buffalo. Katherine’s grandfather was S. Douglas Cornell, of the Cornell Lead Works, located where the Delaware Midway Homes now stand on Delaware Avenue. In 1894, S. Douglas built a beautiful French Renaissance Revival mansion, designed by Edward Kent. Cornell had Kent build a theater on the fourth floor of the home. He had retired from the Lead Works in 1888, and wanted to pursue one of his passions, namely directing and producing plays.
The mansion became a popular place for Buffalo society and artisans alike to see plays among friends. Katherine Cornell spent a lot of time at this home, watching the whole process from casting, to rehearsals to full on production. It was here that Katherine caught the acting bug.
She began acting and had her first break when she played Jo in the London production of Little Women. In 1921, she had her first big hit in the United States in Bill of Divorcement. She went on to become one of the country’s most sought after theatre actors. Cool!
And she grew up on Mariner Street.
It feels so good to get back into Allentown for one of these posts. The homes are old and mostly well kept. The colors are definitely the widest variety in the city. And the overall feeling here is one of serenity and peace. Maybe that comes with the overall Allentown attitude of freedom and acceptance.
That said, I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone who lived on Mariner while I was there. That’s always a disappointment, but there was so much history to be found here! The music teacher from the late 1800s. The veterans – from three wars! A book maker and a famous actress (not to mention that she was a Cornell!). And I ran into my old friend E.B. Green. This was an interesting street indeed!
And the homes are old! Many of them from the mid 1800s. As I walked along, I was struck by what good shape most of them are in. I could easily live on this street. Specifically, in the bright yellow home, or the blue one next door with all the window boxes. Love them both! Actually, I could name several more that would do nicely. Haha!
Next chance you get, take a walk around Allentown. Pay attention to details and take a moment to notice the feel of the area. It’ll bring your stress levels down. And we could all use a bit less stress now, couldn’t we?
*Special thanks to Tim Montgomery for providing family insight and photos of Jimmie & Gladys Oates.
Get the Book! Click the link to see a preview!
The books make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
A couple of months ago, I was thinking about a few of my favorite posts, and I decided to start a flashback series. The first one that came to mind is the one I wrote about the Goodyear Mansion. “The Life and Times of 888 Delaware Ave” is perhaps my favorite out of the 107 posts I’ve written to date. There are a couple more that rank right up there, but I’ll be writing about them soon. Stay tuned.
I’m fascinated with this house and with the Charles & Ella Goodyear family, with a particular focus on their 888 Delaware Ave years. I seem to keep coming back to them, and this house. (See my post about Bryant Street.)
Now, you might say it’s because my Mother went to school here when it was Bishop McMahon High School. Maybe so. Or my love of history and homes. That’s possible too. Or the way I admire and respect the work of Green & Wicks, the architects who designed the home. That’s certainly true.
It’s the People
While all of that is part of it, it’s mostly the people who left comments on that first post about the house, and the emails I received from readers, graduates of Bishop McMahon and Oracle Charter School, and others. They numbered in the hundreds and believe it or not, I even heard from a few Goodyear family members! I loved every minute of it. I also got to meet some of the writers of the emails. They were so wonderful! I got to hear all about their own ‘life and times at 888 Delaware’! Which you know I love, because while I like beautiful homes and buildings, what I do is always about the people who live, love, laugh and cry in these buildings.
The story of 888 Delaware Ave has been spectacular thus far. And it’s not over yet.
Progress at the Mansion
A few weeks ago, I headed over to 888 to meet up with Mark Tufillaro, President and COO for Priam Development. There is a lot more going on here than there was last summer!
As I mentioned in the first post, Priam Enterprises had a plan to develop this property into market rate apartments and a boutique hotel. The plan was to convert the additions and the carriage house out back into the apartments, and the actual mansion itself would become the boutique hotel.
When Covid hit, the plan changed to include corporate apartments in the mansion instead of the boutique hotel, along with the market rate apartments. We all know how the pandemic affected the hospitality industry. So Mark and Priam pivoted, and got to work. I continue to be impressed with the care Mark and his team at Priam show as they restore this historical home. As Mark walked me through the grounds, he peppered our conversation with things like, “This was Ella’s room, and Charles’ would have been here.” “We believe this to be where the servants would have slept.” “We’re not positive, but we think this is where the King and Queen of Belgium stayed while in town.” etc.
We also had a conversation where we debated the use of some of the third floor rooms (Priam doesn’t have copies of the original plans for the third floor.) I sensed a real interest on Mark’s part in this discussion. I like that about this project. This guy and this company have integrity, and they care about this home.
Let’s Take a Look
I’m going to start by showing you a few of the things that have been uncovered since I wrote the first post. This first photo is out on the original portico, on the north side. It most likely had a light inside the arch, and I’m hoping it will again. The portico will be opened up and used the way it was meant to be used. Note the original tile floor.
The second photo is how the portico originally looked, at the front of the home. Can’t wait to see it when it’s completed!
Here are a couple of shots of the entryway and the rooms immediately to the right and left of the main entry on the driveway. The ‘Coat Room’ is immediately off to the right when you come in, and the ‘Receiving Room’ is off to the left, just up the stairs. I picture a butler or a footman answering the door, taking visitor’s coats and hats, walking them to the room on the left, and returning to the coat room to hang the wraps.
And the current view from the top of the stairs.
Below is a current photo of the elevator (that I neglected to include in the first post). That’s right, this home had an elevator, in 1903! Very forward thinking. I was in a well known Buffalo bar/restaurant recently, and there was no elevator for the third floor banquet room. What?! The Goodyears took care of this issue in 1903! Note the woodwork, and what great shape it’s in.
As I entered “The Hall” there were workmen about concentrating on the portico room. I was drawn to Karl Bitter’s frieze called “Life” above the fireplace. Look at the molding surrounding it. Spectacular! So grateful that almost all of the woodwork in this house is intact. The photo that follows the ‘today’ photo is from when the Goodyears lived here. The frieze is at the left.
More photos of the woodwork in the hall. Note the work being done to the ceilings. And, another stained glass window!
Speaking of stained glass, there is more stained glass in the library.
Check out these next four images. The first two are the library fireplace as the family enjoyed it. Wow! The third is from last summer, and the fourth shows the shelving after being restored to the original look, minus the leaded glass.
Current condition of the library, above. Note the cement block just outside the one window. Behind it is a loading dock that was added at some point. The loading dock will not be removed, but will be transformed into a patio. Sounds like a good plan.
The Dining Room
These are photos of the dining room. Then and now.
The Billiard Room
I’m not sure why, but I love this room. I mean, I most likely wouldn’t have been allowed into it back in the day! This would have been the gentlemen’s domain. I’d have been in the library after dinner with all the other women. Or more than likely, given my Polish/Irish roots, I’d have been in the kitchen! Haha.
But I do love this room. It’s the windows. I’m told there will be billiards played in this room again. Yessss! And women will be allowed!
As an avid fan of anything having to do with ‘upstairs/downstairs’ themes, I was very interested to see the kitchens. Of course, there are no photos of the kitchens from back in the day. Wish there were. But here’s what’s going on there now. The photo below with the dark walls is the room where the actual cooking was done. This room would have had a store room, a kitchen pantry and closets, in addition to the ovens, stove and other storage.
The other photos show the butler’s pantry, where all the china, silver, utensils, serving trays etc. would have been kept, and the servant’s dining hall. There was originally a wall dividing the dining hall and the butler’s pantry.
Let’s Go Upstairs
First, let’s take a look at the stairwell itself. In the first photo, the stairs were covered by carpeting, which is not original. The second photo was taken just a couple of weeks ago. Looking forward to seeing how the stairs turn out once Priam is finished with the restoration!
When you turn 180 degrees from the railing above, the photo below is what you’d have seen in the Goodyear days. Not bad for a hallway!
Let’s take a look at Ella’s room first. It was at the other end of the hall above, and on the left. Through the door to the left of the bed is Ella’s dressing room, pictured in the second photo. Her private bath would have been through the door that is visible between the mirror and fireplace in the dressing room photo.
Ella’s dressing room is one of my favorite rooms in the house, it’s so personal. Look at all the framed photos throughout, including above the fireplace and surrounding her vanity mirror. Wish I could have seen this room when it was like this. Just once, and preferably not because I had just turned down her bed and laid out her bed clothes.
Below is Ella’s room and dressing room today. The stairs were added when the home was being used as a school, in order to bring the building up to safety codes. What a shame. I mean, I’m really glad the kids were kept safe!! Haha!
This is Charles’ bedroom, below. Then and now. Through the door (closest to the bed) would have been Charles’ private bath and dressing room beyond. Through the door next to the fireplace is Ella’s room.
This room needed extensive work on the floor and ceiling. Water damage?
Guest Rooms and More…
In these rooms, everything has been stripped back preparing for the real finishing work to bring them closer to their original splendor. A lot of the work thus far has been behind the walls. Time consuming and quite necessary, but it’s not the beautiful stuff to look at. That’s coming.
This room, below, was the women’s sewing room. As you can see, it’s being prepared for finishing work. Check out that molding above the doorway!
This room is believed to be where most of the servants slept. It would have been set up dormitory style.
Charles’ office is not as large as you would think. All wood paneling, very manly. Inside, he also had a half bath, all marble. In fact, all the bathrooms in the house, one for each of eleven bedrooms, plus more, were marble. Each of the eleven bedrooms were all equipped with marble fireplaces as well.
The Part of the Property that is Not the Mansion
The market rate apartments are in the process of being converted. They stand directly where Ella’s garden was out back. From what I hear, they’re going to be beautiful!
It is so interesting to me to watch this project unfold. Again, I have to say that I am impressed with the integrity of this project and I am looking forward to seeing the finished apartments!
Like I mentioned earlier, up to now most of the work is being done ‘behind the walls’. So things aren’t starting to look pretty yet. But the pretty stuff is coming. And it’ll happen somewhat quickly when it does. The care with which this work is being done is amazing. Almost every room in the mansion itself is being restored to its former glory. Not all, of course, but seriously, a lot of it is. As much as we could hope for in an almost 120 year old home.
The project is on track to be completed within the first quarter of 2022. That means that soon, there will be a whole host of new people who will experience this home in their own way. Living, loving, laughing and crying their way through their own lives, and leaving their own personal marks on this home. And that’s really what it’s all about.
I’ve seen the Hewitt House (now Inn Buffalo Off Elmwood) many times over the years. It’s on Lafayette Ave between Delaware and Elmwood. Prime area. One of the most desirable streets in the city, in one of the best neighborhoods of the city. Low crime, friendly neighbors, beautiful homes. What’s not to love? I mean, the American Planning Association named the Elmwood Village one of the ten best neighborhoods in the country!
And why wouldn’t they? The Elmwood Village has Frederick Law Olmsted’s Parkway System, examples of both Frank Lloyd Wright and H.H. Richardson, and the Albright Knox Art Gallery. And let’s not forget the infamous (in Buffalo anyway) Elmwood Strip, where you can get just about anything you could possibly need or want from one of the 300 or so locally owned shops and eateries.
And the homes. Oh, the homes! About 76 of them on Lafayette, between Delaware and Elmwood! Holy smokes!
But for today, I’m going to concentrate on what I think was a hidden treasure in Buffalo, even back when it was built, in 1898. The Herbert H. Hewitt House at Number 619. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that when I see a beautiful home, I always want to see what lies within. Today I’m doing just that. Upon entering, I was overwhelmed in the first two minutes! Seriously. What lies within this house completely blew me away!
First Things First– History
Let’s talk about who had the home built. Herbert Hills Hewitt was born in Detroit in 1855. Like a lot of children did back then, he went to work at a very young age, in his case, for Michigan Central Station. He most likely started out working the most menial of jobs, but moved up the ladder a bit here, because by 1886 he had moved to Chicago and was the General Manager of the Pullman Company. Throughout his career, Hewitt was granted six patents, most of which had to do with railroads & railroad cars. This all means that he must have been a very talented man. To be able to invent useful mechanical devices, and be able to manage a major company is no small feat.
Hewitt married Sarah Dutro in 1892, and in 1893 the couple moved to Buffalo. Hewitt began work on the construction of, and later the management of, the Union Car Company, which was organized by several prominent businessmen, including John J. Albright.
Like most successful men of the day, Hewitt didn’t stop there. By 1904, he had founded and was the president of the Hewitt Rubber Company, which manufactured tires and other rubber supplies. He branched out into brass, founding the Buffalo Brass Company, and eventually became part of Magnus Metals Ltd., which Hewitt and his brother Charles managed. He was also instrumental in the founding and managing of several other companies as well.
And, he had a lot to say about the building of this house.
And What A Home!
The architects of 619 Lafayette were Lansing and Beierl, who were very well known local architects. Both worked for Green & Wicks before striking out on their own. Can’t think of better teachers for an architect starting out in Buffalo in the latter half of the 1800s, than E.B. Green and William Wicks.
The home is an eclectic mix of styles, including stick ornamentation, arts & crafts style siding, a Richardsonian Romanesque porch (amazing porch!) and Queen Anne style stained glass (oh, the stained glass!).
Not only is the home incredibly beautiful, but for it’s time this home was probably the most innovative home in the city, if not the whole country. Dual lighting fixtures were installed in all the rooms, utilizing brand new, at the time, electricity with a gas backup just in case the electricity should fail. If you think about it, the electricity probably did fail quite often back then. Some of the fixtures still exist in the home. Love that.
It also had a central heating system installed, with at least nine separate thermostats! This was unheard of at the time. Pneumatic heat control thermostat technology was only patented a few years before this home was built. I have not come across any other house in Buffalo that was equipped with this many thermostats. They are identical, and beautiful to boot.
Of particular interest to me was a room at the driveway side of the home, where delivery persons could enter and leave deliveries, without having to enter the locked home. Inside this little room was a small, custom Jewett refrigerator built into the wall. You see, my husband Tim worked for the Jewett Refrigerator Company when they were still in Buffalo. So whenever we see an old Jewett refrigerator, he likes to check it out to see how it was made. The room is now a first floor powder room.
Let’s Skip Ahead a Bit
In 1943 the home was converted into a boarding house by Flora Baird, wife of industrialist Frank Burkett Baird. He was best known as being one of the driving forces behind the conception, the planning and the building of the Peace Bridge. Frank died in 1939, so it appears that by 1943 his widow was looking for some additional income. With eleven bedrooms, this home is perfect for that. And it appears that at some point even those bedrooms were divided up into even more.
In 2012, Joseph and Ellen Lettieri purchased the home through public auction. They opened Inn Buffalo Off Elmwood in 2015.
But before they could do that, they faced a restoration that would intimidate the most experienced renovators! But also, what a labor of love! That’s how it comes across. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Ellen when I visited, but Joe is absolutely in love with this place. And like the Elmwood Village itself, what’s not to love?
The mahogany, the cherry, the oak. Hand painted stencil work, gold leaf (lot’s of it!), silk damask and 100 year old tapestries. Cove ceilings, marble fireplaces, stained glass! It’s all here. And it is stunning.
Let me show you.
When I arrived there were a few guests on the porch enjoying a morning coffee and some breakfast. What a fantastic place to sit and fully wake up in the morning. You all know how I love a good porch. This one is probably the best I have ever seen! Can you see yourself here? Morning coffee or tea? Afternoon cocktails? Evening drinks? Yes, please.
I walked into the foyer, and almost immediately I was overwhelmed by the home. I didn’t know where to look first. There was so much gorgeousness all around me. I first shot off a quick text to Joe to alert him I was there. But then I was immediately drawn into the study. This room has been painstakingly restored to its original splendor. I don’t use the word splendor very often, but this is splendor. Take a look. It’s amazing! This is where the men would have gone after dinner to smoke cigars and discuss business. I could be comfortable here after dinner too. Just sayin.
The Front Parlor
On the other side of the foyer at the front of the house is the parlor. That’s silk damask on the walls. Just gorgeous. I can see Sarah and Herbert relaxing here in the evenings after dinner. Beautiful.
And the dining room…wow!
The music room – this is where the 100 year old tapestries are tacked to the walls. This is a first for me. So I looked it up and found that when the plaster is applied to the walls and is still wet, the tapestry is applied to the wet plaster and tacked in at the edges. This is how the silk damask would have been applied as well. You can see the tacks in the photo. Effective process, because this stuff is over 100 years old, and look at it! Might have faded a bit, but it’s still beautiful!
Joe restored the ceilings himself in this room, and he admits to mixed results. The whole thing was painted white over the beautiful stenciling. There oughta be a law.
Oh, and the Foyer
The sheer width of the foyer is so grand. Check out the mantle and the surrounding woodwork, and this is a great shot of those cove ceilings I mentioned earlier. I should mention that the Lettieris have found gold leaf under the white paint in both the foyer and the front parlor. This home is a preservation in progress. May take a lifetime to uncover all the hidden treasures here!
The Stained Glass
The stained glass in this house (starting to sound like a broken record) is among the best in Buffalo. Take a look for yourself.
And Last, But Certainly Not Least
The Rathskeller. And here I go again, this is one of the most unique rooms I’ve seen. I mean it! I’ve never seen anything like it. The tile work depicts small town life and is spectacular! And in such good shape considering that it’s over 100 years old! What a cool room!
Wait, maybe this is where the men retired to after dinner to smoke cigars and talk business…
Well! I don’t even know where to begin. Joe Lettieri has the perfect personality to run an inn. How many innkeepers do you know who receive gifts from their guests? There was a family leaving the inn on the morning I visited. Below, from left to right, are Josef, Amy, Daniel and Joe Lettieri (owner). The bottle in Joe’s hand was a gift to thank him for being such a great host.
Josef, by the way, is the artist of the new mural at 201 Ellicott Street. He and his family stayed at the inn while he was working on the mural. Glad to see you’ve enjoyed your stay here in Buffalo. It was great meeting you, and your mural will bring joy to downtown Buffalo for years to come. For that, we thank you, Josef.
Back to the House
This home was a real surprise to me. I’ve seen it many times passing by, but I never dreamed there would be so much inside the home that would fascinate me. The story here is how intact the place is, after all these years! And to be honest, the work that Joe and Ellen were willing to do to bring it back is nothing short of incredible. They’ve got a ways to go if they’re going to complete the entire house, but honestly, it’s stunning the way it is.
As Joe reminded me, he’s just a janitor. And the work that’s left to do would be best done by professional preservationists. I personally love the place just the way it is. I mean, I’m dying to see what’s under all that white paint, but there’s a lot to be said for enjoying the here and now. And that’s just what Joe and Ellen are doing. As a Buffalonian, I appreciate all that they’ve done for the city. When people come to stay with them, they make us look good.
This is a fascinating home, on a beautiful street, in a wonderful neighborhood! Got friends and family coming to visit? Take a look at Inn Buffalo Off Elmwood. You won’t believe what lies within!
*Special thanks to Rick Falkowski for hooking me up with Joe Lettieri. Appreciate it and looking forward to your new book!
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