Circle Living – Symphony Circle

Circle Living – Symphony Circle

I’ve been wanting to write about Symphony Circle ever since I wrote about the Birge Mansion back in February. History swirls around this circle like a lake effect snowstorm. And you all know how I feel about history! (pssst…I love it!)

Symphony Circle was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted when he designed our Parks and Park System in the 1860s and 70s. Back then, it was simply called The Circle. The name was changed after Kleinhans Music Hall was built. But, we’ll get into that later. When it was completed in the early 1870s it was small, simple, and had a gorgeous light standard in the center. Take a look at the postcard photo below. Looks like something right out of The Music Man in River City, Iowa, say about 1912! This was Buffalo!

Photo Credit: Unknown

I’ve read that Buffalonians used Richmond Avenue to race their thoroughbred horses. In the winter, they raced their cutters (sleighs). The Circle served as the finish line in these races. Can you imagine doing that today?!

The Circle has changed over the years, and at one point it was removed altogether because it was thought to impede automobile traffic. I have to laugh at that because today circles are being put in all over the Western New York area with the hopes of moving traffic along more safely and smoothly. Anyway, it wasn’t returned to what we see today until 2002! That’s a long time! I am grateful that they did replace it though. Symphony Circle is such an iconic part of our city at this point.

And it’s busy too! On this walk on a random Tuesday morning, I had to wait several times to take photos. Nobody likes photos of Symphony Circle with cars driving through!

There are wide expanses of grass and trees between the buildings and the circle, with park benches to sit and relax. And indeed, it is park-like. While I was there that Tuesday the benches were getting used on all four grassy areas. There was a group of teenagers passing through and they stopped for a few minutes on one bench. On another, two men sat talking. On the third several friends met up on a walk and decided to sit and visit before going their separate ways. And just as I was leaving, two women sat down on the bench in front of the Birge Mansion after what appeared to be a power walk. To me, this means the neighbors are comfortable here. I like that.

Let’s Start

We’ll start at #1 Symphony Circle with the First Presbyterian Church. First Pres should be first. See what I did there?

Named First Presbyterian because it is Buffalo’s first religious congregation of any denomination (1812!). The congregation was originally downtown where the Main Place Mall now stands at the corner of Main and Church Streets.

First Presbyterian Church on at the corner of Main and Church Streets.
Photo credit: First Presbyterian Church website.

When the downtown area became crowded with business and industry, many of the congregants moved north of the city core. Delia Austin Avery donated the land the church now stands on. The Austin family owned a good portion of the land surrounding The Circle. We’ll talk more about the Avery family later.

First Pres was designed by none other than E.B. Green. It’s Richardsonian Romanesque in style and was completed in 1897. He created this design to complement the state hospital (now the Richardson Olmsted Complex) at the other end of Richmond Avenue. There’s a reason everyone wanted Green to design their buildings. The man was a genius.

First Presbyterian is very active in both religious and social causes in the city. It’s a true beacon in the neighborhood, both architecturally and socially. It’s an amazing addition to Symphony Circle.

Let’s Cross the Street

As I cross over Wadsworth I’m struck by how much I don’t dislike this building. I mean, it was originally a nursing home (Grace Manor) built in the early 1950s. Ellicott Development bought the facility in 2013. Gateway-Longview anchors the building utilizing the first two floors. The third and fourth floors are studio, one and two bedroom apartments.

It could use just a little sprucing up, but I like it. And the grounds are amazing!

Show Me a Good Old Fashioned Mansion

As I cross North Street, the Birge Mansion slowly comes into view through the trees. What a great time I had touring this home (now offices) back in February. Built in 1897, it was modeled after a Georgian Revival style villa the Birges had seen in the Riviera. And is it ever gorgeous! My favorite part is the loggia and the terrace. Not sure what a loggia is? I wasn’t either. Head over to the post here to learn more about this amazing Buffalo treasure.

Thanks again for the tour Lori!

Beautiful Homes

As I cross over Richmond, I immediately notice the porch on this house. How inviting.

This home is just lovely! Actually, I should say these two homes are lovely. Let me explain.

Brothers, Captain Thomas and Edward Maytham built these adjoining homes (one on Richmond Ave and one on Symphony Circle, in 1894. The homes were separated by double walls for privacy. The two owned a tug line and interestingly enough, the three river ferry steamers that ran between Unity Island and Fort Erie. Cool!

The homes are beautiful. I especially like the dormers, the ocular windows, and the tower with its unusual bell-shaped roof. In fact, the whole house is unusual. But there’s something about it that draws you in. You can’t help but like it.

Then there’s this. I absolutely love this one. It was designed by Franklin Caulkins, who also designed two more in this stretch. It’s an eclectic mix of styles, but it works! Check out that fence! Not sure it’s original, but wow!

See the home Caulkins designed for himself here.

And these Three

This next one is perfect in every way. Colors. Details. Landscaping. All perfect. This Queen Anne was designed by Franklin Caulkins, designed for a Mrs. Frances Bennett in 1883. Look at all the details. The porches! This home is superb!

I could be very happy here. What do you think? Could you be comfortable in this home? I would love to see the inside of this house. It must be fantastic!

Actually, it is fantastic. Check out some interior photos at this link. Sometimes I love the internet.

And the Last of the Homes

And last but not least is this home. I’ve said it before about this type of home, it’s perfect for a big family. I hope there are at least four kids living here. It looks like a storybook house, one that I would have seen in my dreams as a child. It appears there’s some work being done on the porch. Even that goes along with my vision for this house. Big, old family homes are always in need of some repair or other.

Maybe not as grand as the one next door, but it’s got a certain charm that you can’t ignore.

As I wait for traffic to clear so I can cross Porter Ave, I look towards the circle and see this. Nice!

The Pièce de Résistance On Symphony Circle

And finally, we come to Kleinhans Music Hall, home to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

As I mentioned earlier, Delia Austin Avery donated the land used for the First Presbyterian Church. Her parents, Stephen and Lavinia Austin, heavily invested in real estate here in Buffalo. Her mother is credited with the purchase and renovation of the Universalist Church at 110 Franklin Street, converting it into a stylish office building. Coincidentally, both of the architectural firms of E.B. Green and Franklin Caulkins had their offices there.

Delia inherited the Symphony Circle land. She and her husband, Trueman Avery, built a mansion on Symphony Circle where Kleinhans stands today. It’s pictured below.

After Trueman and Delia both passed away, their daughter, named for her maternal grandmother, Lavinia, no longer needed or wanted the mansion on The Circle. When she heard the city was looking for a place to build a music hall, she sold the home to them for half of what it was worth.

And we thank her for it!

Kleinhans Music Hall

Edward Kleinhans was one of the founders of the Kleinhans men’s clothing store located in the Brisbane Building. He met and married Mary Seaton, an accomplished pianist and singer. They moved to Buffalo in 1901. Having no children, when they passed away three months apart in 1934, they left their entire estate to the city to be used to erect a proper music hall, dedicated to the memory of Mary Seaton Kleinhans, and Edward’s mother, Mary Livington Kleinhans.

Kleinhans Music Hall was built between 1938 and 1940. Designed by the father and son architectural team Eliel and Eero Saarinen, in the International style. I’m sure it was considered very modern for its day. The unique design, which loosely resembles a stringed instrument, is lauded all over the world for its acoustic perfection. If you’ve ever been there, you know why. The sound in this building is perfection. In 1989, Kleinhans Music Hall was named a National Historic Landmark.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

From its opening, Kleinhans has been home to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The BPO was founded in 1935 and has been entertaining Buffalonians ever since. The Kleinhans stage has hosted such greats as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Aaron Copeland, and Yo-Yo Ma. The grammy-winning BPO has toured abroad on more than one occasion and has released more than 50 recordings.

If you haven’t gone to see the BPO perform, try to make it a priority. They do everything from Classical, Pops and Rock, to Kids and Youth concerts. They truly have something for everyone! JoAnn Faletta is the Music Director, and in a normal year would preside over 120 shows. During the shutdown, the BPO has been broadcasting archived concerts on WNED-FM, on Tuesday nights, as well as keeping the music going through their daily Facebook posts. As of this writing, the BPO is planning its re-opening for September 26. Like all of us, they will be back.

Of course, it’s because of Kleinhans Music Hall and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra that The Circle was renamed in 1958 to Symphony Circle.

My Impressions

To me, Symphony Circle is one of those places that is steeped in history. When I’m there I try to imagine the horse races and cutter races. Must have been a sight to see. And I will admit to you that I was unaware that the circle was removed for as long a period as it was. But still called Symphony Circle? I somehow always knew it had been removed, but didn’t realize it wasn’t returned until 2002!

While there, I had a feeling of community. I chatted with several people on that particular day. Two lived there, two did not. But all four use the circle daily. And all four were friendly and willing to chat. I love that about a neighborhood.

Every time I walk around Symphony Circle, I feel lucky to live in a city where history and architecture are treasured and preserved. And where people truly appreciate the past, and are willing to work together to build Buffalo’s future.

Look around. Take a walk. I think you’ll find Buffalo is a beautiful city, with beautiful people. What are you waiting for?

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

City Living – North Pearl Street

City Living – North Pearl Street

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware Avenue. After I did, a reader contacted me and told me about the rowhouses on North Pearl Street. I didn’t even know they existed! A week or so later, I did one of my favorite things and took a walk, specifically to look for them. And, wow! They are unbelievable! More about those later.

On this walk, I also noticed the rest of the block as well. I’m pretty familiar with the stretch of North Pearl between Virginia and Allen Streets, but my travels hadn’t yet included the ‘north’ end of North Pearl, between Allen and North Streets. (That’s a lot of norths!) Funny how these things happen, I’ve actually spent a lot of time just around the block on Franklin, between Allen and North, but never on North Pearl.

So, I’ve decided to bring you the whole of North Pearl today. Seems like I keep ending up in Allentown. Hmmm.

North Pearl Background

Most of the homes on North Pearl were built in the second half of the 19th Century. It’s where we can see many of Buffalo’s brick Italianate style homes. They were built by and for Buffalo’s upwardly mobile class who had a bit of extra money but couldn’t afford the larger homes we saw on Franklin Street. Instead of large, Italianate homes with all the trimmings, these homes are smaller. But a lot of them are built of brick instead of wood and do contain some of the trimmings, showing a more modest budget, but very good taste. My father would refer to them as ‘very nicely appointed’.

The homes along North Pearl weren’t built in any particular order. Instead, homes were added only as people bought up lots, over a period of 50 years or so.

Also, I should note that not all of the homes are in great shape, but it was obvious on my walk that several are being renovated.

Take a Look at This!

So, this is one of the first things I saw on North Pearl. Why, thank you. Thank you very much. What a beautiful home.

Let’s Get Started!

As I walk I notice the quiet of the street. There’s a slight breeze, and I hear leaves rustling in the trees and birds singing. It always amazes me that in the middle of the city walking on a street like North Pearl, it can seem so serene. Quiet. As if I’m walking on a side street in a small village somewhere in middle America. Love it.

I’ve chosen to start with number 1. This house was built by Henry Hellreigel, who was a grocer. Like most successful businessmen, he didn’t keep all his eggs in one basket though. He built at least seven houses on this street, to be used for rental income. He lived in one of them with his family while waiting for his mansion on Main Street to be completed.

As I move up the street, I see this one. It’s one of the older homes on the street – 1869. It has amazing detail at the top and around the windows and front door, but the picture window in the front is not original. Look at the brickwork above it. It appears something is missing. But those details below the cornice! Very pretty! Wish I could have seen this house before the window was replaced.

This one below is 1854, and is wonderful! It was built for a bookkeeper but was bought in 1882 by John Dingens, another grocer. He added on to the original house around 1890-92 adding a lot of the details you see here. Love the curved glass in the turret windows, and the second story inset windows with double columns on either side.

And These…

Apartment Living

Just in case you prefer apartment living, North Pearl’s got you covered with The Ardmore. There are 22 apartments ranging from studios to an ‘elegant’ three-bedroom unit. It was built in 1905 and is just lovely to look at. I’m told almost all the hardwood floors are intact, along with the natural woodwork.

Apparently it’s a favorite among college students, being that it’s so close to UB’s medical school and the Buffalo Medical Campus. Would love to have spent my college years living in the middle of Allentown, in a place like this! Especially in one of those front units with bay windows and balconies! Yes, please!

Moving Along…

This next one strays from the Italianate design and is Second Empire, evidenced by the Mansard roof with the dormer windows, in this case, one of them is oval. Look at the details above these windows as well. So beautiful. The front entry is actually Italianate in design. But it works.

When I see an oval window like this one, I wonder what the room on the inside looks like. Is it a child’s bedroom? One where the child looks out and watches snow gently falling in winter? Or fireflies twinkling in the summer?

And Still More

Back to the brick Italianate style. What a great example of what I mentioned earlier when I said ‘nicely appointed’. Love the details at the peak that so beautifully frame the gorgeous double windows! The scrollwork on the wrought iron is spectacular!

Next, there’s this. This Queen Anne style home is so lovely. The paint job is spot on, in my opinion. The colors are perfect for what I picture this style of home to be. Would love to sit on the porch in the evenings chatting with neighbors as they pass by.

Who am I trying to kid? I’d be one of the neighbors passing by. Ha!

And another Second Empire. Beautiful entryway! Love that the rounded windows haven’t been replaced with less expensive squared-off ones. I sometimes wonder if the owners have just been lucky, or did someone have to spend the extra dough to replace the rounded glass windows properly?

Recently, I learned from the owner of a historic Second Empire home about the astronomical cost of replacing/repairing windows in a home such as this one. I have a new appreciation for people who restore properly.

On this particular home, I even like the Dr. Seuss-like evergreen growing up the left hand side of the house. It works somehow.

Take a Gander at These

And that leads me to Allen Street. But first, check out this home attached to the back of Cathode Ray. That entryway! (Hope the window gets replaced soon.) Also, I picture someone writing (a blog perhaps?) just inside the open French doors on the second floor. My daydreams are alive and well on North Pearl!

Continuing up North Pearl

As I cross Allen Street, I notice, not for the first time, but with fresh eyes, this building. Because it’s painted, you have to look close to see the details. I love the entryway (I have a thing about entryways). This is another one I wish I could have seen right after it was built. Is anyone working on that time travel thing? Because I’m ready for it!

Here is the next house that catches my eye. Even though I am not a fan of the bunting, I can overlook it to see the nice paint job and solid design of this home. To me, it’s the quintessential family home. Love those upper windows, something you’d never notice if you were driving.

This is where it gets interesting. The next few are very unique. This one is two homes connected in the center and presided over by the center dormer. The two are mirror images with the exception of the entryway stairs. Love the uppermost windows and the first-floor tri-part windows with semi-circle transoms. Very well designed.

Lots of great features and details here, but overall it lacks something. No flowers, no garden to speak of, and general overgrowth of that small garden (?) near the driveway. It’s so great architecturally, I wish there were some love and care going into this place.

Next, I came upon something really unique, almost strange. Two homes joined together. Take a look. You wouldn’t notice this in a car either.

Here’s the Best Part!

Right about now I come upon those rowhouses I talked about at the beginning of this post. I’m taken in by them all over again. I start snapping pictures just as a woman came out her front door. I introduce myself, and we begin to chat. Her name is Carly, and she tells me a bit of what she knows about the rowhouses. Two are single homes, the other three are doubles. She and her husband own one of the doubles. She also tells me each one has a rooftop terrace! Excellent.

She offered to take me inside her house to look around, solidifying Buffalo’s reputation as one of the world’s friendliest cities. I mean, who does that? We do.

Well, she does have her place listed on Airbnb so that may have something to do with it. But I prefer to think she would have invited me in any way. In we went, and here is some of what I saw. Love the fireplace. The light fixture at the front door. Well, I loved all of it!

The view out the front window isn’t even that great, but isn’t it great?! That wrought iron!

From the terrace – it’s small, but larger than it looks in this photo.

Share and Share Alike

I shared with Carly some of the info I learned in the past couple of weeks about the rowhouses.

The five rowhouses were built in 1888 as boarding houses (tenement). In each home, there was a kitchen, dining, and living room, to be shared by gentlemen tenants who had their own sleeping quarters. Through the years, the rooms for let were divided up, made smaller, and were neglected.

By the 1970s, the rowhouses had really deteriorated. They were in rough shape. Really rough. They were seedy, dirty, disgusting rooming houses and were set for demolition by the city.

They were saved by architect E. Bruce Garver in 1972. Garver set about to clean out the homes, redesigning and transforming them back to their original charm. The accounts I’ve read state that most of the woodwork and original features were remarkably intact but were badly in need of restoration.

We owe it to Bruce Garver for saving one of Buffalo’s most unique sets of historic homes.

What Else?

Just a few more shots of the street.

My Impressions

I love learning new things about Buffalo, and it happens constantly. Like when I received an email from a reader telling me about the rowhouses on North Pearl. Like I said earlier, I’ve spent a good amount of time right around the block from them, but never had occasion to head over there.

Buffalo is a beautiful city. Every building, every street, every home has a story. When I look at a broken down, dilapidated building, I wonder who the people were who lived there. Loved there. Spent time there. Had dreams there. Went after those dreams there. I think the same thing when I see a beautiful mansion. Who were the people who lived there? I mean, who were they really?

In the blog posts I write, it’s easy to talk about the ‘movers and shakers’ and the ‘captains of industry’ who built this building, or that home. But I wonder who these people really were. What they were like. How they spent their days. How they treated each other. It’s what keeps me learning, going into these buildings and neighborhoods, and homes. I hope I never lose the willingness to learn new things. To see new things. To meet new people.

It’s the reason I’m the neighbor passing by on an urban hike, rather than the one sitting on the porch. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for sitting on the porch, and I’ll be there eventually. But not yet.

Take the time to get over to North Pearl Street and walk it. When you do, imagine the people who’ve spent time in the beautiful homes there.

* Special thanks go out to Sam, for telling me about the North Pearl rowhouses; and Carly, for being so friendly and open about your rowhouse. Appreciate it!

**All photos in this post are mine.

Blessed Trinity Church

Blessed Trinity Church

Blessed Trinity Church has been on my list of things to write about for quite some time. And recently, I’ve received several emails asking me to write about it. Because I love this church so much and because it’s one of Buffalo’s greatest treasures, how could I refuse?

It was my husband’s Grandmother’s church when they lived around the block on Kensington Avenue. I knew Grammy Z, as we called her, for many years before she passed away. She wasn’t an easy person to get to know, didn’t open up very often. But she did talk to me about her years at Blessed Trinity. She didn’t give me very many details, (it simply wasn’t her way) but I got the idea she was comfortable there. So that made me want to see it.

When my husband and I decided to visit a different church every Sunday during lent, based on the tradition to visit seven churches on Holy Thursday, Blessed Trinity went on the list.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Early History of Blessed Trinity

In June of 1906, Bishop Charles Colton established Blessed Trinity Parish in the mostly German and Irish neighborhood on the East Side. The first pastor was Father John Pfluger. The first mass was held on the third floor of a building at 175 Dewey, at the corner of Sanford. The building also housed a grocery store and apartments on the first two floors.

A very humble beginning when you think of the magnificent church that was to come.

Photo Credit: Glenn Ferguson

The church was legally incorporated by the end of 1907 and had acquired land on Leroy Avenue. A combination of church, school, and social hall was erected. The basement walls were built from the stone that had to be excavated in order to build. Also, the architects didn’t wire the building because it was thought that power would never be brought this far out of the city.

It was very common back in the day to have this combination type of building as a ‘starter’ church while a congregation grew. That way, if the congregation didn’t grow, not too much money was lost on an elaborate church building.

Well, Blessed Trinity grew. There were 60 people in attendance at that first mass. By sometime in 1908, the Sisters of St. Joseph began teaching in the school on the second floor. By 1911, there were 400 families. Two years after that, a rectory was built. The growth continued.

Fr. Albert Fritton

In 1914, Father Albert Fritton came to Blessed Trinity as the new pastor. He concentrated his efforts on growing the school. By 1919 there were over 300 students in attendance. Pretty crowded for a second-floor school in a combination building! The need for a new church became apparent and Fr. Fritton began to make plans.

He knew what he wanted, and told the congregation it “will be one of the finest in Buffalo. We shall be proud of it, the city will be proud of it, and God will be proud of it.”

Photo Credit: Glenn Ferguson

By 1923, the architectural firm of Oakley and Schallmo had completed the plans and building commenced. It took five long years to build, and more than double the budget to complete. In the end, the final cost was $513,000, or just about $7.5 million today. The parish would not pay off the debt until 1953!

Let’s Take a Minute Here

I just want to take a minute to discuss the cost involved in building a church of this kind. I try to imagine how the congregation of my current church would react to the pastor asking for even half of $7.5 million.

In 1925 the average weekly income in the U.S. was $36.37. Remember that most households at the time had just that one income. For the people of Blessed Trinity’s parish to raise enough money to pay off a $513,000 debt was astronomical.

It happened all over the city though. At all the churches. Of all denominations. Maybe not to this extent, but these people made sacrifices to finance the great churches we admire today. Do you think these early Buffalonians understood what they were doing for us when they committed their hard-earned dollars to finance Buffalo’s churches?

More than likely, some did and some didn’t. Some gave freely, some reluctantly. Some gave for the glory of God, some for the glory of the architecture. Still, others gave to make themselves feel good, some did it to impress others.

For whatever reason, I am certainly glad they did! We have been blessed through their efforts.

Getting Back to Blessed Trinity

Let’s get into discussing the church itself. The design is Lombard-Romanesque, rarely seen outside of Italy. Buffalo’s own Jozef Mazur painted the murals in the dome, transept and choir loft. And they are fantastic! Many, many other artists and craftsmen contributed as well. The entire inside of the church is adorned with paintings, mosaics, sculptures, statues, reliefs, wood carvings, stained glass and tile work. It’s impossible to describe with words.

Jozef Mazur’s dome. Photo credit: Buffalo News – Derek Gee

Photo Credit: Derek Gee – Buffalo News

Photo Credit: Derek Gee – Buffalo News

Those Bricks…

The outside of the building is unique as well. The structure is made of Harvard brick, which is a medieval brick-making process that does not use molds to form the bricks themselves. The bricks here were made in New Hampshire by French immigrants who used antiquated tools and methods to create each brick by hand. The result is the appearance of a much older, rudimentary design. The process was used in more “modern” design as a handmade, artisan brick. They’re stronger than our more modern bricks, and the mortar adheres to them better.

It completely fascinated me when I saw it for the first time. It still does. I kept trying to figure out the pattern. I didn’t realize at the time, there was no pattern, and that’s the genius of it. That someone could use these bricks and create a level, precise, true building. And yet, this building is as straight and true and they come.

Photo Credit: Derek Gee – Buffalo News

Photo Credit: Blessed Trinity website

The Terra Cotta!

I’ve read that the terra cotta on this church contains the most colorful use of terra cotta in the country. I should also mention that it holds over 2,000 symbols of Christianity. Two thousand. There are the Ten Commandments, the Blessed Trinity, the Our Father, the Apostles Creed, and many more. The symbolism was designed by Father Thomas Plassman, who was the President of St. Bonaventure University and also happened to be a good friend of Fr. Fritton. The two were seminarians together in Austria and traveled to northern Italy where they learned about Lombard Romanesque design.

Photo Credit: Derek Gee – Buffalo News

What a stroke of luck for us that these two priests ended up here in the Buffalo area.

Blessed Trinity Through the Years

Blessed Trinity thrived as a parish through the 1950s, but went the way of most of Buffalo’s churches in the 60s and 70s. Attendance fell off, pews were empty and the school suffered. The Sisters of St. Joseph announced in June of 1975 that they could no longer staff the school. It closed in 1976.

Photo Credit: Glenn Ferguson

Fr. Walter Kern, who had become the pastor in 1974, researched and wrote an illustrated handbook about the church which attracted the attention of the Buffalo Preservation Board. The board recognized the building as a City Landmark. Two years later the church was accepted onto the National Record of Historic Places. It’s only right. This place is exceptional in every way.

The church is open now with Covid-19 limitations, like all churches in NY State. They continue as a close-knit community, small in numbers, but large in enthusiasm and faith.

One Last Thing

Current event at the church. From Blessed Trinity’s Facebook page:

“On Tuesday night, July 28, the recently rebuilt plaza in front of Blessed Trinity Church sustained substantial damage when a driver heading west on Leroy lost control of his vehicle and crashed through the retaining wall on the east (ramp) side of the church. The car became airborne, landing on its roof in the center of the plaza near the street-level stairs. By the grace of God, the driver and passenger were able to walk away and the church itself does not appear to have been damaged. The accident has been reported to the driver’s insurance carrier, and [the] masons who performed earlier work will be returning to estimate the time and cost involved in restoring the area once again.”

My Impressions

Blessed Trinity Church is such an impressive building. I cannot stress this enough. You could literally (or I could anyway) spend hours just looking at all the details that are everywhere inside and outside this place.

But on that day when I first experienced it, at a Lenten mass all those years ago, what impressed me the most was the friendliness of the congregation. We were obviously not parishioners. There were only about 30 other people in attendance, besides our little group. At both the sign of peace, and after the mass itself, people approached us and welcomed us with open arms. They asked about our home parish, talked openly about the neighborhood, and the church itself. One woman even took me into the sanctuary to show me a particularly beautiful icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I can tell you this. I don’t think Grammy Z felt the grandeur of Blessed Trinity was necessary. When we spoke of the church, she only talked about a couple of priests she particularly liked, and one or two friends she made there. Never mentioned the architecture. That’s why I was so blown away when I went there for the first time. This incredible masterpiece and she never mentioned it. Only a few people who made a difference to her. Keeps it all in perspective, doesn’t it?

Go see this church. If you don’t go to any other, go see this one. You will be as amazed as I was. Blessed Trinity offers tours by volunteer docents. Just call the rectory, or contact them through their website. You’ll love it!

*Lead image photo credit unknown.

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Two Buildings Nobody Talks About

Two Buildings Nobody Talks About

You’re in Niagara Square, downtown Buffalo. You’re with friends from out of town, showing them around. What are you looking at? My guess is it’s not the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse or the Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building. Am I right?

You know I am. You’re looking at those ‘other’ buildings. And why not? They’re gorgeous!

It’s just that these three buildings get all the credit for being the big draws in Niagara Square. And they are all great. Even the 2011 Robert H. Jackson U.S. Courthouse; it’s beautiful! I’ll admit when they first announced it was being built, I was skeptical. I mean, you can’t blame me, Niagara Square goes way back in Buffalo’s history. Back to 1804. It’s where Joseph Ellicott began when he set out to design our city streets. But this new build fits in nicely here. And of course, the Statler and City Hall have always been welcome in our streetscape.

But there I go, ignoring the two buildings I’m here to talk about. It’s easy to do. In Buffalo, we’re surrounded by such great architecture, that it’s easy to get hung up on all the greats and forget about the others that are exceptional in their own right.

The Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building

Let’s start with the Buffalo State Office Building. It’s opposite city hall, on the north side of Court Street. It’s on the site of Buffalo’s first Central High School, which was built in 1854. That’ll give you an idea of what this neighborhood was like back in the 1850s. It was a good mix of industry and residences. Enough residences to warrant the school anyway.

Central High School Building – Niagara Square is off to the left in this photo.
Photo Credit: Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

By 1914 the industry had taken over enough that the school merged into the Hutchinson building on South Elmwood Avenue, and the school became Hutchinson Central School.

A sidenote…

Incidentally, in 1918 during the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Central High School Building was put to use as Buffalo’s pandemic hospital. It was open to flu victims from October until December that year. From September when Buffalonians first started getting sick, until the end of the year over 2,500 people in Buffalo lost their lives to the Spanish Flu. Many of them in the building pictured above.

Back to the Building

The Central High School Building was torn down in 1926 to make way for Buffalo’s State Office Building. The building is a Neoclassical Monumental design, but it’s got some cool art deco details. It was built between 1928-1932. The architects were E.B. Green & Sons, with Albert Hopkins. In 1930 the cornerstone was laid by then Governor Franklin Roosevelt.

Photo Credit: NYS Office of General Services

In 1982, the name was changed to the Walter J. Mahoney State Office Building. Walter Mahoney was a local state legislator, a Canisius College and UB School of Law graduate. He served for almost 30 years in the State Senate, before becoming a NYS State Supreme Court Judge.

Note from the photos below the use of owls, to signify wisdom and the reliefs of the seals of both the city of Buffalo and the State of New York. And the bison of course. Love, love, love this entryway.

And all of that is just the outside. Enter the building and this is some of what you will be treated to! There are murals all over the ceilings, but are so faded (faint?) that they don’t photograph well.

The Walter J. Mahoney NYS Office Building is, and will remain one of my favorites in the downtown core.

The Michael J. Dillon United States Courthouse

Moving across the street to a building that compliments the NYS Office Building very well, is the Michael J. Dillon United States Courthouse.

This building was built in 1936 as part of the New Deal Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932. In a nutshell, the bill authorized the construction of federal buildings across the U.S. in order to put construction workers back to work. It also recognized the impact of the depression on architects, and in some cases, local architects were used for federal buildings.

This is one of those cases. Bley and Lyman worked with E.B. Green and Sons on this building. It’s a perfect complement to the Walter Mahoney building across the street. Then-President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated this courthouse in October of 1936.

And THIS entryway! Wow!

This building is the same style as the State Building, Neoclassical Monumental with Art Deco ornamentation. This one, however, is pentagonal in shape, to accommodate the odd-shaped lot, due to Ellicott’s radial street design. It also has more ornamentation. I absolutely love the art deco touches on this building.

The courthouse was re-named in 1987 in honor of Michael J. Dillon, who served as a longtime IRS agent who was murdered in the line of duty.

And now, it’s Buffalo’s new public safety complex, housing both Police and Fire Headquarters. The city acquired the building in 2016, renovations were made and both organizations were completely moved in by November 2018.

The building represents everything the people using them should be, strong, solid, fair. Let’s hope it’s used well in the future.

My Impressions

When I’m out on my urban hikes, I like to look at things I wouldn’t notice if I were in a car, or even on a bike. I’ve admired these buildings for so long now, and I sometimes wonder if other people see them the way I do. I see the intersection of Niagara Square at Court Street as one of the most architecturally cohesive spots in the city. The perfect complement to Niagara Square itself.

Sitting right at the apex of one of Buffalo’s most recognized views, these two buildings largely get ignored. Probably because when you’re looking at that coveted view, the two are on either side of you as you gaze out at the famed McKinley Monument and City Hall.

And the reason these two buildings complement each other so well is thanks to E.B. Green. I like to think he knew exactly what he was doing on that corner. City Hall and the State Building were recently completed when the courthouse was being built. The McKinley Monument was already there, and knowing that everyone would be looking at City Hall, Green designed these buildings to be understated, but fantastic just the same. And the Art Deco ornamentation on them is hard to beat, and a lot of it is similar and even matches on both buildings. I cannot say enough about the ornamentation!

Next time you find yourself near Niagara Square, take a moment to look at these two buildings nobody talks about. Seriously, you’ll be glad you did!

Oh, and p.s. – Scenes from the movie “Marshall” were filmed in the Michael J. Dillon U.S. Courthouse!

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

Buffalo’s Rowhouses – The Midway on Delaware Ave.

Buffalo’s Rowhouses – The Midway on Delaware Ave.

I’ve been wanting to write this post about the Delaware Midway Rowhouses for some time now, and since I was literally around the block last week learning more about Franklin Street, I decided this was a good time.

Over the past several years, I’ve learned quite a bit about these rowhouses, been in a few of them, and have read quite a bit about them. I’m not even sure why they fascinate me so much. I don’t think I’d like to live in one. I like my patio and my yard too much for that. But I get it that a lot of people don’t want a yard. Let me explain.

You see, in the 1890s, the city of Buffalo was getting crowded with both industry and residences. The wealthiest among us were moving north of the city to escape the soot of industry and overcrowding. They were beginning to build grand estates along Delaware Avenue. You’ve seen them. All those big beautiful homes along Millionaires Row. We’ve lost some of them, but quite a few are still there today.

What you may not know is that most of them had extensive real estate attached as ‘green space’, or yards. For example, the mansions along the west side of Delaware had yards that extended all the way to where Richmond Avenue is today. This was, of course, before Elmwood Avenue existed.

Time for a Quick Daydream

I’ve wished, more than once, that I could have seen the Rumsey Estate on Delaware Ave between Tracy and West Tupper back in the day. Take a look at the photo below. This is Bronson Rumsey Sr.’s backyard on Delaware Avenue. And this isn’t even one-tenth of the property. It must have been an amazing sight to see!

View from the yard of Bronson Rumsey Sr. at 330 Delaware Ave. (South of Delaware Midway) Photo Credit: WNY Heritage

But think of this. A tremendous amount of time and effort goes into caring for all that property and everything that went along with it. I mean, we’re talking extensive patios, gardens (both flower and vegetable), orchards, woods, creeks, ponds, and more. And sure, the wealthy employed small armies of people to manage and maintain the properties, but the buck stops with the owner in the end. And there had to be constant issues relating to all that responsibility.

That brings me back to reality. End daydream.

Enter the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware Ave.

The building of these remarkably upscale rowhouses was an incredible idea. These homes allowed wealthy socialites to enjoy life in a mansion, but without all the property to maintain. I always thought that back in the day, one of these homes would be perfect for a single man, or a single woman, or maybe the widow of a wealthy businessman. It would allow them easy access to their socialite friends, genteel living, and also that coveted Delaware Avenue address.

If that’s what matters to you of course. And back when these houses were built, those things mattered to almost all the movers and shakers in Buffalo. These rowhouses gave that to them, without all the hassle of the upkeep.

And, these homes were designed by some of the best architects our city had to offer. Green & Wicks, Marling & Johnson, George Cary to name a few. They were all built in the 1890s. The architects showed amazing talent by working within the constricts of the other designs to create a cohesive, beautiful row of some of Buffalo’s best homes.

Let’s get into talking about some of these homes.

The One We Lost

On the south end of the block, there was originally a home where there is now a parking lot. It was at number 469. It was torn down in the late 1980s after the building suffered a small fire. Such was the way back then. Got a problem with a building? Just tear it down. This one was a real loss in my book. In my humble opinion, it anchored the entire row. What a shame to make it a parking lot.

Circa 1896. Photo Credit: Buffalo Illustrated Courier

Thankfully though, this kind of thing is not really happening in Buffalo anymore. We’ve come to appreciate the architectural treasures that grace our streets, and steps are taken to preserve them. For this, I am grateful.

471 Delaware Ave. – Dr. Ernest Wende House

This house was built for Dr. Ernest Wende and his wife Frances Cutler. They lived in the home with their children, Margaret, Hamilton and Flavilla until 1910, when Dr. Wende’s brother, Grover (Dr.), his wife Elizabeth and son David moved in. They stayed in the house through the 1920s.

Scott Croce purchased this building in 2016 and his plans were to renovate the first three floors as office space, with residential space on the top floor. Oh, and a possible rooftop patio. That would be sweet!

Looks like Croce has moved forward, on the outside as least. I don’t know about you, but I love the new paint job. Remember the mustard-y yellow some of the trim was before? The white really allows the details to pop!

475 Delaware – One of My Favorites

So this amazing example of a Renaissance Revival home was built for John Strootman. It is now owned by Scott Croce as well. He bought it in 2018, and plans were to build two large residential units on the upper floors, with office space below. With just over 9000 square feet to work with, there’s certainly room for it.

Love the lions!

This one is, by the way, available for lease at the writing of this post.

Next Up – the Birge-Horton / DAR House

This home was built in 1896 (the last rowhouse to be completed) for Henry Birge, one of Martin Birge’s sons who came into the wallpaper business with him. Although there is evidence that the actual purchaser was Henry’s wife, Fanny. The Birge Wallpaper Company was a hugely successful Buffalo business, so it is fitting that one of the Birge family members built one of the Midway Rowhouses. For some reason, this house gets called the George K. Birge House quite often. Not sure why. George was Henry’s older brother and built a mansion for himself on Symphony Circle.

Anyway, this house was designed by none other than Green & Wicks. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know they were perhaps the busiest and most popular architects in Buffalo at the turn of the 20th Century.

The Birges did not live in the house long. Henry’s health was failing and had to leave his position with the wallpaper firm in 1900. Henry and Fanny moved out of town, and shortly after, divorced. Henry passed away in 1904, leaving most of his estate to Fanny.

The home was rented to prominent Buffalonians for several years, including Peter Porter, Mrs. Frances Wolcott and her son Lyman Bass (a well-known attorney). In 1906, Katharine Pratt Horton moved in. She rented for 16 years before finally purchasing the home from Fanny. She stayed for the rest of her life. When she passed away, she left the home to the Daughters of the American Revolution. So, this home has only had three owners. City records still show Katharine and DAR as the current owners.

Interesting history on this one.

479 Delaware Ave – Harlow C. Curtiss House

This beauty right next door to the DAR home was built for Harlow and Ethel Curtiss. Harlow was an attorney and real estate developer. The couple only lived in the home for two years! They went on to live in a much larger mansion further north on Delaware Avenue and later on Lincoln Parkway. These two were certainly movers and shakers!

481 – 489 Delaware Ave – Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant

This Colonial Revival was built for Dr. Bernard Bartow, who was one of the founders of our Children’s Hospital.

Which is cool, but the real story here is that amazing window! It was added in the 1930s and was designed by interior designer Frederick Pike. It was probably added because the building was going to be used for some type of commercial use. The two cast-iron figures are a craftsman and an artist. The whole window just works. It was done very well, and to my untrained eye, looks fabulous!

This home is one of four rowhouses purchased by the owners of the Rowhouse Bakery and Restaurant (closed). The group spent several years joining three of the four homes and renovating the interior. It was a beautiful space for a very upscale bakery and restaurant.

I relished my time there, sipping tea and eating scones in the most beautiful bakery in Buffalo. I must admit though, every time I was there, I wondered if they hadn’t spent too much time and money on the interior. Wish they could have made a go of it.

It was lovely while it lasted.

The fourth home is apartments and an antique shop. The antique shop is run by the owners of the bakery, and it’s unclear whether it will survive. I tried to reach the owners for comment, but their phone numbers are no longer in use. These four homes are ones to watch.

491 Delaware Ave – Charles Miller Morse House

As far as I can tell, this is a single-family home that had deteriorated pretty badly before being purchased by two businessmen, Walter McFarlane and Lenny Alba in 2013 for just over $302,000. It was originally built for Charles Miller Morse. McFarlane and Alba worked to restore the structure to its former glory even adding a custom stained glass window above the circular staircase with the Morse family crest in the center. Nice touch.

They then sold the home for $787,000 in 2015. I believe the new owner, the Newberry Construction Company, added the orange trim to the front facade and that it’s still a single-family home. Whether or not it’s being used as such, is unclear.

I must say, I like what they’ve done with the place. Can you picture yourself sitting out on that terrace in the morning with a cup of tea, or in the evening watching the sun go down behind the Cornell Mansion? I can. But then, you know my propensity for daydreams.

Take a look at photos of the interior before the home was sold in 2015 here.

493 Delaware – Herman Hayd House

This home was built for Herman Hayd but is now owned by Paul Jacobs Jr. It appears the building has two commercial tenants. It’s actually better looking in person, the photos I took don’t do it justice.

497 Delaware Ave – Stella Lowry House

This home was built for Mrs. William H. (Stella) Lowry, who moved in with her two daughters Stella and Lily. The three moved in and out of the home several times, moving to The Lenox Hotel, The Trubee (now The Mansion on Delaware), and the ‘Niagara’. All the while maintaining a heavy social schedule and leasing the property to various wealthy Buffalonians along the way.

Mrs. Stella Lowry passed away in 1914. Daughter Stella ended up back at 497 and lived out her days here, passing away in 1942. She is thought to be the last original occupant of the Midway to live there.

Now, the current owner. This is where it gets interesting. His name is Michael Meade, and he’s a Buffalo native. Last September he was named CEO of Sullivan’s Brewing Company USA. The brewery is a Kilkenny, Ireland based brewery that is expanding into the US, beginning with Buffalo!

What’s the Big Deal You Ask?

It may not be a big deal to everyone. But to me, it is. Bear with me, please.

The reason I’m so happy about this is because my husband and I visited Kilkenny, Ireland a couple of years ago. It’s a small, but historic town. We took a bike tour and got talking with our guide, Ronan. He was a retired Smithwick’s brewer. Ronan told us about how the Smithwick’s Brewery in Kilkenny was closed by Guinness in 2013 (Guinness bought Smithwick’s back in 1965) and how many people lost their jobs and were still struggling in the small town. Long story short, we met up with Ronan at a pub later in the day and got to know him a bit. We kept in touch for a while.

I’m hoping some of the displaced workers from the wide layoffs in 2013 have been put back to work by Sullivan’s Brewing.

And, Michael Meade, the new CEO here in the US, launched the brewery’s USA debut from the Stella Lowry House! Meade intends to make it his permanent home.

And Buffalo has been chosen to debut all the brewery’s beer that they choose to export to the USA. It’s available now at several bars in town. Cool.

Sullivan’s and Smithwick’s breweries both started out as family-owned businesses, and Sullivan’s is family-owned again. By members of both families. The history of these two breweries are intertwined, as are their future. It’s just a great story. I guess that’s why I’m so happy their US CEO bought this house. Read details about the breweries here, and here.

Plus, this kind of thing fits in so well with Buffalo’s extensive brewing history, and the thriving craft beer industry in Buffalo today.

499 Delaware Ave – Bryant B. Glenny House

Back to the houses. This one was built for Bryant Glenny, son of William H. Glenny, the namesake for the Glenny Building on Main Street near Swan. Not too shabby for the son of an Irish immigrant, to live at one of the most prestigious addresses in the city back in the day. And in one of the most unique architectural treasures in the city.

The home is now 5+ apartments. It’s still a great northern anchor to the row.

My Impressions of the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware

Writing this post has given me a chance to take a fresh look at the Midway Rowhouses. I guess I got so used to riding past on my bike or driving by in my car, that I’d forgotten to notice the wonder of them. Another architectural masterpiece hiding in plain sight. It’s amazing how each home is completely different from the one next to it, and yet it works. It just does.

Now, is every one of them in perfect shape? No. But none of them are falling down either. I like that some are a mix of offices and apartments, but I also like that a couple are still single-family homes. I’d like to see rooftop terraces on one or two of them too. You never know, it could happen.

And, as a city, we’re getting better at saving our great homes and buildings. Like I said earlier in the post, for this I am grateful.

Next time you’re out and about, plan a walk past the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware Avenue. See it from both sides of the street. Look at the homes with fresh eyes and enjoy the brilliance of the architecture. Really see your city. It’s beautiful. And you never know what you might learn!

City Living – Franklin Street

City Living – Franklin Street

I intended for this week’s post to be about the Hamlin House. But they’re doing work inside, and I haven’t been able to get in to get the photos I want, so I decided to take a walk on Franklin Street anyway. My husband Tim and I walked along Franklin Street, between Edward and Allen. It’s such an interesting street historically speaking. Let me give you a little background on the street itself.

The land that Franklin Street is on was once owned by Ebenezer Walden, an attorney (Buffalo’s first), who came to Buffalo in 1799. So he was here from the very beginning. Walden went on to become Erie County’s first judge. He was also part of the committee that drafted the charter incorporating Buffalo as a city. In 1838 the Common Council chose Walden as mayor of Buffalo. Back in the day, Buffalo residents didn’t vote for mayor, the common council chose one!

In the early years, Walden lived at the corner of Main and Eagle. Later he and his family moved to a home at the corner of Edward and Main. This was considered the “suburbs” at the time. Where people could enjoy estate like living, while being close enough to the ever growing business district downtown.

Throughout his career, Walden invested heavily in real estate, and Franklin Street was part of his estate. Incidentally, so was a good portion of Allentown. Louis Allen purchased his original five acres from Ebenezer Walden. Eventually, Franklin Street was parceled out as well.

So that’s the background info. Let’s talk about what Franklin Street is like today. There’s a lot going on here. From historic homes to restaurants, to storefronts and more.

Let me show you what I mean.

Buffalo’s Oldest Tree

As Tim & I round the corner coming off of Edward heading north on Franklin, the first thing we see is what is generally accepted as Buffalo’s oldest tree. It’s a Sycamore, and it is huge. It’s believed to date back to 1710! That’s well before any Europeans settled in the Buffalo area!

Thinking about it now, it’s amazing that the tree survived, considering that the city grew up around it!

Buffalo’s oldest tree?

Now, the reason I said this tree is ‘generally accepted as the oldest tree in the city’ is that there is another contender for this title. It’s in Delaware Park, inside Ring Road on the golf course. It’s easily visible from the section of the road nearest the 198. (Pictured below.)

Dan Cadzow has a master’s degree in archaeology, is a full time stay at homeschooling father of four. He’s got over ten years of experience in all facets of archaeology. He believes there is a tree just as old as the Sycamore on Franklin. Dan makes his case for the White Oak in Delaware Park here.

Buffalo’s (other) oldest tree.

Care is being taken to preserve both trees. I like that we do that as a city. And I’m okay with having two “oldest” trees.

Back to Franklin Street

Right across the street from that Sycamore are these two homes. They were both built in 1880 and both are in very nice shape. Note the Medina Sandstone sidewalk in front of the one.

And here’s one from 1890 (below). The blackening of the bricks is not uncommon, but to me, it’s an issue. And wouldn’t it be great if the roof on the entryway were copper? With that copper roof and the brick cleaned, this home would be stunning. I love the way it sits on slightly higher ground. It’s lovely.

Franklin W. Caulkins Home

Next, we come upon this magnificent stick home. It dates to 1882 and was built by and for, Franklin Caulkins. He was an architect and the detail he put into this home is astounding. Even better though, is how well it’s been maintained through the years. Just look at it!

More of the Homes…

This home is beautiful. I’ve spoken to the homeowner and he tells me he is working hard to improve the home and property. I would love to see the inside. This is one to watch!

This home was built in 1877 for Frank Hamlin, the son of Cicero Hamlin. We’ll talk about Cicero in a minute. The home was designed by the architectural firm of Richard Waite who incidentally, hired the first woman architect in the country, Louise Blanchard Bethune. She was a Buffalonian! The home is beautifully maintained by the law firm that now owns it.

And this home! Beautifully restored in the past several years, it’s just gorgeous. The house, the gardens. It’s all so well done! Even the curb strip is fantastic, with a delightful mix of pavers, stone, and flowers. I especially love to see this place looking so great because it’s a Green & Wicks, one of the most prolific architectural firms in Buffalo.

Cicero J. Hamlin Home

This home (pictured below) was built in 1865-66 for Cicero J. Hamlin. He was to become the wealthiest man in New York State, outside of New York City. And by then he and his wife had moved to a Delaware Avenue Mansion. So, I suppose you could consider this their starter home.

Hamlin was a glucose sugar manufacturer. Now there’s a business you don’t hear about when you talk about the big businesses that were in Buffalo back in the city’s heyday. Usually, you hear about shipping, grain, railroads, automobiles, aeronautics, and steel. But here was Cicero Hamlin, the wealthiest man in Buffalo, the largest employer in the city at one point, and he was in glucose. Who would have thought?

It’s a beautiful home. It serves a dual purpose, it is home to the American Legion Troop I, Post 665. The American Legion owns it, and leases it to the people who run the restaurant and banquet hall, called of course, The Hamlin House. The inside is much the same as it was when the Hamlins lived here.

Here’s an interesting side note. Cicero was into thoroughbred horses and owned a farm in East Aurora. He donated the land that is now Hamlin Park in that town. He also owned and operated a horse racetrack, the Buffalo Driving Park in the city. The land that racetrack was on was sold by Hamlin’s descendants in 1905 to a developer. The Hamlin Park neighborhood was established there, which is now a historic district on Buffalo’s East Side.

Moving Right Along…

Here are some of the homes we came to next. Businesses in the grouping include Lace & Day; The Franklin Salon + Esthetics; and Fat Bob’s Smokehouse (red painted brick building).

This home (below) was purchased in 2003 by Don Gilbert and was in need of total rehab. The property was painstakingly transformed from the 32 room boardinghouse into 7 historic apartments and just look at it! It is absolutely stunning. The Allentown Association gave this home a beautification award when it was completed in 2008, and an award from Preservation Buffalo Niagara for Rehabilitation/Adaptive Reuse. Excellent!

This one below looks like a beautiful home but is in fact offices now. Love that they kept the charm of the house intact. Buffalo architect, George Cary lived in this home, although he didn’t design it. He made changes to the home though, including the addition of the front patio and the second-story porch. If you’ve been to the Buffalo History Museum, you’ve seen George Cary’s work.

I’d love to see the second story shutters put back where they belong on this house. Perhaps they are simply being repaired? Let’s hope.

Had to share this sweet gate at the Cary house with you!

Sisti Art Gallery

While photographing the home below, the owner came out to talk to us. We got into a conversation of course, about his home. He told us it was the former home of Tony Sisti and the Sisti Art Gallery. Tony Sisti was a well-known artist who was also, believe it or not, a boxer. As a matter of fact, he often boxed to finance his exhibits. It seems that art was his true calling, but sometimes, boxing paid the bills. Sisti was one of the founders of the Allentown Art Festival. Tony Sisti Park, at the southeast corner of Franklin and North, is named for him. Learn more about Toni Sisti here.

The home today. It needs shutters too.

Sisti Gallery – circa 1974. Photo Credit: The Grosvenor Rare Book Room online.

The owner took us along the side of the house to the private entrance to the apartment that he rents as an Airbnb and let us go in. I was so taken with the Sisti painting on the wall, it’s the only photo I took inside!

So simple, and yet so beautiful.

The room itself was very quaint. Photos of the Airbnb listing are here.

After seeing the 1974 photo above, I can’t help but wonder what the place looked like when Sisti lived here. When, oh when is time travel going to be a thing?

Take a look at the walkway and yard. I love the bones of it! The art pieces, of course, are gone. But all the wrought iron is still there. It wouldn’t take too much to get the yard in shape for get-togethers. All it would need is some elbow grease, some candles and twinkle lights, and re-arrange the furniture that’s already there. Gather up some good friends and family for some summer fun. I can see it now.

My Impressions of Franklin Street

Wow! I’ve been down this street so many times before. But I’ve never really looked at it with a critical eye. There is so much going on here. It’s amazing what you see when out on an urban hike. Or bike riding. You never see this stuff when you’re driving!

I’m even kind of glad I wasn’t able to get into the Hamlin House. I wouldn’t have experienced all the other homes on the street up close and personal!

Would you believe that I’ve never noticed the Franklin Caulkins home before?! That’s the incredible stick style home in the lead image. I can’t believe I’ve missed it all these years.

Not to mention the Sisti Art Gallery home. I mean, I’ve seen those enormous pillars out front, but never really looked at the home itself. I’ve never wondered what it used to be, or why those crazy pillars are there. I for one would like to see this house fixed up. But alas, I don’t own it, soooo. I’ll have to be content with my daydreams about parties in the yard under a summer sky, surrounded by twinkle lights and good friends.

When you can, walk or bike instead of driving. You’ll see new, interesting things. You’ll meet new, interesting people. And walking and biking are great for your health. Enjoy your city! There is good everywhere. Go find it!

*There are a few houses that I couldn’t get good photos of on the day we were there, because there were trucks parked in front of them. So if you’re looking for something in particular and it’s not here, that’s probably why.

**Here are two more photos from the Sisti Gallery Home

I love Medina Sandstone sidewalks!

Tony Sisti signed the concrete near the curb in front of the gallery!

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