City Living – Summit Ave.

City Living – Summit Ave.

A few months ago, my sister-in-law, Brenda, mentioned that her Mother (Sandy) grew up on Summit Ave in Parkside. Now, I’ve known Sandy ever since I’ve known Brenda, which is going on 37 years now. (Wow!) Sadly, we lost Sandy (we all called her Grandma Sandy) back in 2017. And somehow, I never knew she grew up just up the street from one of Buffalo’s most famous homes.

A few weeks ago now, I found myself on a bike ride through the Parkside Neighborhood. As I turned off of Amherst and on to Summit Ave, I was awestruck once again by the homes on this gorgeous street. I decided it was time to write about Grandma Sandy’s street.

Wait till you see what I learned here. You’ll be amazed.

A Quick History of the Parkside Neighborhood

The history of the Parkside Neighborhood is long and very interesting, dating back to the early 1800s. Buffalo’s first postmaster was Erastus Granger. He built his house on Main Street near West Delevan. Granger’s property extended north almost to West Oakwood Place off of Parkside, and west to just about where Elmwood Ave is today.

Dr. Daniel Chapin owned north of Granger’s land just about all the way to UB on Main Street, and also west to Elmwood. Many homeowners in this neighborhood will find one or both of these names on their deeds.

In 1876, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the existing neighborhood as a buffer between Delaware Park and the rest of the city. The homes were added slowly through roughly 1910. As you would expect from Olmsted, the streets resemble a ‘park outside the park’, if you will. Gently curving streets that don’t lead too far therefore discouraging too much traffic. Beautiful homes in a beautiful setting.

I should mention that the Parkside Community Association was created in 1963 to combat blockbusting and redlining that was taking place all over the country at the time. I’m happy to say that the community pulled together and was pretty successful in this endeavor. Today, the area is a diverse and stable neighborhood anyone would be proud to call home.

Let’s Take a Look

So, today I’m going to cover the stretch of Summit between Amherst Street and West Oakwood Place, with a couple of other homes of interest thrown in for good measure. I’ll take a closer look at two local architects. They’re not as famous as Frank Lloyd Wright, who I’ll talk about too, but they’re what I call ‘Buffalo famous’. And if you read my blog with any kind of regularity, you’ve heard me refer to them many times over. Of course, I’m talking about Green & Wicks. Edward Brodhead (E.B.) Green and William Sydney Wicks.

But, let’s start with all the other homes. I should mention that I won’t be able to put every single home in this post. There are so many on this street. But it is a spectacular street. What a place to live!

Look at this fabulousness, below. Love the wood on the ceiling of the porch, the pilasters that match the columns, and that entryway! It’s been maintained perfectly. This house has got it going on!

These two, below, are right next door to each other, and are essentially the same house with subtle differences. Pretty.

Check out the bold red trim on this home, below. The paint job is perfect. And you know what else is perfect? The symmetry. You know how I love a home to be symmetrical. This one is. The dormers are interesting too, kind of low slung and wide. Beautiful home.

These beauties.

Grandma Sandy’s Home

This is the home Grandma Sandy grew up in, at least for part of her childhood. It’s a double, and Sandy’s mother owned it. There are a couple of stories associated with this house.

The flowers here are gorgeous!

The first is that there was a fire here in 1947, in Grandma Sandy’s flat. Only her mother was home in their apartment, and two people in the other. No one was hurt, and the family’s two cocker spaniels survived. But unfortunately, the family canary did not survive. Aww.

The second is that two of the occupants of the home in 1945, PFC James Clare, 21, and his brother-in-law Sgt. Raymond Hens, 27, were both injured in World War II, during the same period. Clare in Germany and Hens in Belgium. James Clare lived in this home with his mother. Hens, who was related to the family who owned Hens & Kelly, (more about that later) lived here with his wife and two sons. It is unclear whether they all lived in one flat (I could picture that happening in a wartime situation), or if they had separate flats. It appears that both men came home safely from Europe.

And More

If you’re familiar with the area, you know I’m getting close to the Darwin Martin House on the corner of Summit and Jewett. I often wonder what it would be like to live across the street from that property. Here are some of the homes across the street. All of them remarkable in their own right. I think it’d be pretty wonderful to live in any one of these homes!

Moving Right Along

Crossing over Jewett, and these homes are just as nice as all the others! Aren’t they wonderful?!

It’s here that I met the most amazing, friendly couple, Jane and Frank. We got to talking and they told me they’ve lived in their home for 56 years! Tim and I have been in our home 28 years and I thought that was long! Anyway, Jane and Frank are big proponents of the Parkside neighborhood and seem to know everyone who lives on Summit now, as well as everyone who used to live here too!

What a great conversation we had! They filled me in on the neighborhood (which is apparently full of professors from Buffalo’s various colleges) and they told me about their children and grandchildren as well.

Frank mentioned that he wishes he had gotten the front steps finished before I came by to take photos. I think Frank said this was the third time in 56 years he was re-doing them! As with all homes, theirs is always in need of care. I love that at 83, he’s redoing the steps again, himself.

Jane and Frank live in the upstairs flat of this house, which they bought as a starter home. Friends and family thought they were a little crazy to live upstairs and rent out the lower level. Most people do the opposite. Jane said she liked the upstairs and so that’s where they lived. Frank thinks it’s one of the reasons they’re both so spry – going up and down the stairs. That and great jazz music. I agree.

Obviously, they never bought another house. When you love the neighborhood and your neighbors as much as these two do, why would you go anywhere else?

Take a look at this house. Jane and Frank tell me this is where the Hens family lived, owners of half of the Hens & Kelly stores. What a great upper porch! Actually, the main porch is spectacular!

Green & Wicks

It’s here that I’d like to talk about the men behind the architectural firm of Green & Wicks. You’ve heard me refer to them as the most prolific architects in the city back in the day. And it’s true. Both of them are represented on Summit Ave and Jewett Parkway. But it’s really E.B. Green that was so prolific. Let me explain.

So Green & Wicks entered a partnership together in 1881, in Auburn, NY. They both graduated from the Cornell School of Architecture. Cornell was one of the first schools to offer degrees in architecture. Previous to that time, it was considered more of a trade, with architects going through an apprenticeship.

But with degrees in their talented hands they came to Buffalo at a time of fantastic growth and change. Money was being made and those who were making it were not afraid to spend it. And they spent a lot of it on building. Homes, buildings, churches, etc.

Green & Wicks were kept very busy from 1881 until William Wicks retired in 1917. For 36 years they created many Buffalo icons, including the Market Arcade, Buffalo Savings Bank (Goldome), the Fidelity Trust Building (Swan Tower), and the Albright Art Gallery (Albright Knox). They also designed practically every other mansion on Delaware Avenue’s Millionaire’s Row. The Goodyear Mansion, the Foreman Cabana House and the Clement Mansion (American Red Cross). Just to name a few. And there are many, many more. These are all buildings and homes that are at least familiar to many Buffalonians.

After Wicks Retired

After William Wicks retired in 1917 (he passed away in 1919) E.B. Green worked with his son. After his son’s death Green worked with several other architects until his own death in 1950. The firm itself continued on under the name James, Meadows & Howard until 1971 when it was finally dissolved. It is generally accepted that some of Green’s greatest work was done while he was working with William Wicks.

E.B. Green was so popular in Buffalo that there’s a story that goes like this. When John J. Albright’s home on West Ferry Street burned to the ground, Albright encountered Green on the property, watching the fire. He immediately said to him, “Well, Green, have you brought the plans for the new home?”

E.B. Green worked up until his death, creating over 370 buildings in all, two-thirds of which are in Buffalo. Of those, roughly 160 remain, several of which I have written posts about (see the above links).

Green & Wicks on Summit Ave

Let’s get to some of their work on Summit.

There are five homes on Summit Ave that Green & Wicks designed, and one on Jewett. The one on Jewett Ave was the home of William Wicks.

Let’s start with the five on Summit. This first one is a Tudor influenced home, that I think used to be a brighter red, but I like this color better. It’s more like a brick red, and more in keeping with the style of the home.

And this, below. I love this one, and would live in it, right here on Summit. Thank you for this Green & Wicks. It’s perfect for me. I love everything about it. Not too big, not too small. Love the eaves, the porch. All of it.

This home actually reminds me that William Sydney Wicks published a book in 1899 about how to build and furnish cabins and cottages. It was quite popular and went through five printings. Wonder if this one is from the book. This house would be so great on a lake in the Adirondacks, wouldn’t it?

This Colonial Revival, below, is so pretty, set back a bit from the other homes on the street. It’s beauty is in its simplicity.

And then there’s this one. Again, I get that cottage-y feel. I can picture this in the woods, near a pond. It’s got a screened in porch for those warm summer nights. The huge eaves and brackets! And look at the railings, how they splay out over the wide staircase. How unusual! This house is fantastic!

And this. Again, here’s that cottage feel. Although the gingerbreading makes me thing of Austria or Bavaria. Love it.

The Home of William Sydney Wicks

Finally, let’s take a look at William Wicks’ home on Jewett Parkway, at the corner of Summit. I absolutely love this home. It features red Medina Sandstone on the lower half and the upper half is the exact same brick as used in the Darwin Martin House, which is directly across the street. It’s Roman brick, which are longer and narrower than most bricks you see everywhere else. The upper half also features half timbering which is purely decorative in this use. The roof and dormers are both slate.

This home is just lovely. And the landscaping fits in well.

Like I’ve said before in other blogs, I’m always interested to see what an architect would build for himself. Now, this home was built in 1890. The Darwin Martin house across the street was completed in 1905. I’ve often wondered what Wicks thought of the home going in across the street. Did he love it, and speak to Frank Lloyd Wright during the design and construction phases? Or did he not appreciate the new prairie design? Oh, to time travel and be able to see for myself!

Speaking of the Darwin Martin House

It seems to me that just about everyone reading this pretty much already knows about the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Darwin Martin House, and so I won’t go into any detail about it. If you’d like more in depth info, check out this link.

Here are a few of my own photos of this fabulous Buffalo treasure. Please note that some of these were taken in early spring 2020, and some were taken just a few days ago. I believe the historic gardens are now complete, and they are stunning.

My Impressions

I started out writing about this street for my sister-in-law Brenda, and the whole connection with her Mother, Sandy. And her childhood home is beautiful! I’ll also add, it’s one of the largest on the street!

But I ended up learning a lot about the area. I spent a good amount of time on the Parkside Association website learning about the history of the area. Check it out if you’re interested. There’s a lot of good information there.

I knew about the William Wicks house on Jewett, and I really have wondered what he thought of the Darwin Martin House. But I didn’t know there were other Green & Wicks houses on Summit. You learn something new every day. And I was glad to finally have a good reason to write a bit more about them and their incredible impact on Buffalo’s architectural scene.

As I’ve said many times before, I am not, nor do I pretend to be, well versed in the academics of architecture. But I know what I like, and I have a good feel for what people like E.B. Green and William Sydney Wicks have done for this town. It’s part of what makes Buffalo great!

To be a good, friendly neighbor is a big part of what makes Buffalo great too. Jane and Frank have an innate understanding of that. I knew it immediately when Jane started chatting with me from their upper porch. She didn’t have to talk to me. But years of experience have taught her that knowing your neighbors is key to what kind of experience a neighborhood will give you.

They talked to me about how they stayed here on Summit because they loved their home and their neighbors. I bet there are many people who stayed on Summit because of the two of you. Jane and Frank, you are absolutely lovely people. Thank you for spending time with me. I loved every second of it.

RIP Grandma Sandy. Loved ya to pieces.

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City Living: Bryant Street + St. Georges Square

City Living: Bryant Street + St. Georges Square

After I wrote the post about Norwood Ave, I received an email from a reader asking me to write about Bryant Street. It was already on my list, but that email made me put it on the actual schedule. This is why I love getting your emails!

So I set out with a friend to take a morning walk around the Elmwood Village and to check out Bryant Street up close. I admit, driving it is usually how I see it. Which we all know means I don’t really see it.

Bryant Street runs between Main Street and Richmond Ave. I’m going to concentrate on the section between Delaware and Elmwood. I’m not even going to discuss the former Women and Children’s Hospital Building or the new build at the northeast corner of Bryant and Elmwood. Mostly because there is so much going on this street, that I have to limit what to talk about.

That’s probably the hardest part of my job as a blogger. Deciding what not to talk about. Almost every time I publish a post, someone will contact me with additional information about the subject. Most of the time (not always!) I already knew about the info, but had to choose not to include it, because I am under no illusions here.

Basically, if the post is too long, no one will read it. Not joking.

Back to Bryant

Anyways, back to Bryant Street. Bryant has quite a collection of homes from the late 1800s, which is relatively old as the Elmwood Village goes. It’s also got a cul-de-sac that was added in the 1950s with newer homes built between 1956 and 1962! Which is relatively new as the Elmwood Village goes. There are E.B. Green designed apartment houses too! And finally, we’ll visit a family we’ve visited before, back in September of 2020. Come hike with me.

Let’s Take a Look

The corner of Delaware and Bryant is anchored on both sides by apartments, and the addresses are both on Delaware. Both appear to be nice places to live. They’re on one of Buffalo’s best streets in the middle of Millionaire’s Row. The building on the south side of Bryant is simply called 900 Delaware, pictured first. The building on the north side is called Bryant Apartments, shown in the second grouping.

Lovely, both of them. The landscaping at 900 Delaware is stunning and park-like.

At the Bryant Apartments, the wrought iron hooks me! And those lions facing Delaware, wow!

More Homes Along Bryant

There is some question as to when this home (below) was built. The city has it at 1850, but the Elmwood Historic District Registration Application lists it as 1877. That’s a big difference. Makes me wonder if the 1850 home was torn down at some point, and this home built? Real estate ads list it as 1850. Either way, this home has now been broken up into apartments. But you can see what a lovely one family home it must have been. The exterior retains all of the charm of the late 19th century.

According to an article in the Buffalo Courier in March of 1907, E.B. Green purchased this house “to be used as a home”. Regular readers of the blog will recognize that name as one of Buffalo’s most well respected and prolific architects of his day. Cool. I always love to see the kind of homes an architect would choose to purchase.

Please note that I don’t know for sure that ‘the’ E.B. Green moved into this home himself.

And this one, below. Isn’t it great with that bay window that flows right from the first floor into the second floor, in the mansard roof! Sweet. I also really like the window next to it. How unusual!

Next – E.B. Green – Again!

And just across the street are these. When my friend and I came upon them, we were absolutely enchanted. I mean, come on! These are the stuff secret garden stories are written about!

I love everything about these. Including the fact that when I went home, I did a bit of research and learned they were designed by E.B. Green in 1916! It shows. They’re spectacular. And I wonder who does the landscaping – that’s what really makes these stand out. Although, the landscaping provides quite a bit of privacy, you’d really never notice them unless you were on foot!

They were built as townhomes, and all three are still fantastic today! I especially love the wrought iron and the entryways. They make me want to go inside!

Moving Right Along

This home, below, is a double – having separate addresses.

There are a couple of familiar names associated with this house. Buffalo Attorney William B. Hoyt Sr., for one. I found evidence that he was living here in 1894. But here’s another discrepancy. Buffalo city records list this house as being built in 1896. Maybe those records are not exactly accurate, sometimes they’re off a bit, depending on recordkeeping and tax records etc.

Check out this tower with its conical roof and detailing! Lovely!

Also associated with this home is the Hascal Taylor family. Hascal Taylor was the man who commissioned Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan to design the Guaranty Building. But Taylor passed away just before the actual building began, in 1895. The Guaranty Construction Company (the builder who was hired to build it) secured financing and went ahead with construction. Lucky for us they did. Can’t really imagine Buffalo without it!

Anyway, the Taylor family, including Hascal, his wife Louise and three children, Kate, Emory and Jessie, at one time lived on Delaware Ave. However, by 1911 all three children were living in this home on Bryant. Louise had passed away by then as well. Kate passed away in 1911, and Emory and Jessie both followed her in 1913, just a couple of months apart. What a sad story!

And More

This home, below, has an interesting story. One couple who lived here was Mr. & Mrs. John R. Munroe. They came to Buffalo in 1850, from Coniston, England. This home was built in 1900, but it is unclear whether they actually built the home. You see, John was in the construction business, and built many of the Delaware Mansions. So he lived very close to all the homes he helped build. Cool.

When Mrs. Munroe passed away in 1907, the pair were the only living charter members of Westminster Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1854!

This home, below, was built in 1870! It was listed for sale in 1874, stating that it was nearly new, had marble fireplaces, gas lights throughout, a parlour, a sitting room, library, a large dining room, a kitchen and a wood shed on the first floor, and six sleeping rooms upstairs. Also, a ‘splendid well of water’, and a basement under it all. Sweet!

The lot was listed as ‘102 foot frontage, 192 feet deep with all kinds of the choicest fruits growing’. There’s something you wouldn’t see in a real estate ad today!

Also, if this lot was that wide in 1874, it would make sense that this was the first home in this little section. There are three other homes that are probably also on the original lot, which were sectioned off and sold at some point. Very, very interesting.

Next, below, which I believe to be on the original property of the Monroe family, is interesting indeed. This is where my friend said, “I have never even noticed the driveway, or the garage! I need to slow down and start noticing things!” This is why walking is good. You see more!

It’s at this home that I met Jill, who has lived here for eighteen years. She loves the house, and the neighborhood. She says the garage addition was added in the late 1950’s or possibly 1960. I’m sure it’s a very convenient addition to the home! Love your rock collection, Jill!

And These Three

This home is charming. Check out the arched window in the pediment on the porch! The oval leaded glass window, and the dormers add even more charm!

This is the last home on the north side of the street, above, before running into the former Women and Children’s Hospital, which was moved to the Medical Campus on Ellicott Street and renamed Oishei Children’s Hospital. The former hospital is slated for massive renovations, including residential, educational, retail, hospitality and public spaces. The Elmwood Village and the residents of Bryant and Hodge Streets await this project moving forward.

Crossing the Street

Crossing the street at Oakland Place I notice a home on Bryant, to my left, below. I’ve never noticed this house before. It’s a double that appears to be in fantastic shape. It’s got everything you could possibly want, including that upper deck to watch the sunset while grilling up something scrumptious. Just sayin. It’s a great house!

This home, below is actually on Oakland Place and is almost completely private thanks to the trees!

Across Oakland Place is a home that has it’s address on Bryant Street, according to the city. But used to have an Oakland Place address, and appears to still have that address affixed to the home. It’s visible in this photo below. To me, it faces Oakland Place, and I believe it’s the address that is currently being used. Not sure why this kind of thing happens, but I’ve seen it before. It is a beautiful home, yes?!

And a set of triplets, below. I’ve seen this before too, where there are three homes built in a neighborhood like this, and they’re all the same house. Executed somewhat differently, but essentially the same. Take a look. All three are very well done and have been maintained well!

Next Up, Two Apartment Buildings

I would live in either of these. Reminiscent of New Orleans, these apartment buildings are fabulous. They’ve both had their porches restored, and they’re magnificent! Yes, I’d live in either one, but only if I could have one of the front apartments that include a porch! You all know how I love a good porch! And these are some of the best in Buffalo!

Of course, the view from these porches is the old hospital. Would have been okay back in the day, but now? Not so much. (Let’s go Ellicott Development Company and Sinatra Real Estate.)

And Three More

This first one is having work done on the porch. It seems they’re having structural issues. I like to see a homeowner taking care of this kind of thing before it’s too late to save it. This is a great home, curious little railing over the second floor window. Love the shingles and detailing on the peak. The landscaping is pretty nice too!

This one is pretty, below, but I wish we could see more of it. I like the large eaves, and look at the details above the double hung window. Beautiful!

And this one, below, is intriguing. I love the wrought iron, especially on the windows at the front. From the street, the (former) openings on the side of the building itself don’t appear to have been wide enough for carriages, but then, what are they? And if they were originally for carriages, why four of them in addition to the two garages?

After a little research, I found that this home used to be a dress shop which opened in 1928. It was Tucker’s Dress Shop, owned by Frank Tucker. The openings were most likely display windows! The shop catered to ‘a higher class’ according to their advertisements and held their own with the likes of the JN Adam Co., The Sample Dress Shop, and Flint & Kent. Cool!

I’d love to time travel to shop in any one of those stores in 1928. When, oh when, will time travel be a thing?!

This is the last home on the street before Elmwood Ave and is across from a new, mixed-use building going up on the northeast corner of Bryant and Elmwood. I like the look of the plan for this building, but I’m not sure the Elmwood Village needs many more of these. Time will tell.

Now, let’s get to that family I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

The Goodyears

Back in September of 2020, I wrote a post about the Goodyear Mansion on Delaware Ave. Bryant street is just around the corner from that home/turned school/now turning into an apartment building. Here on Bryant, we’ve got the chance to meet up with our old friends the Goodyears and their various homes. It’s a great story.

Remember Ella Goodyear, wife of lumber/railroad tycoon Charles Goodyear, and their four children, A. Conger, Esther, Charles Jr and Bradley? Well, Ella arranged to purchase or build homes for three of the four that backed up to her own home and extensive grounds on Delaware Ave. I couldn’t find any evidence that Bradley (the youngest Goodyear child) ever lived on Bryant or Oakland Place. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t.

Photo Credit: Bogalusa Story by C.W. Goodyear

First Up

Let’s start with this one, below. It’s not actually on Bryant. It’s on Oakland Place around the corner. But it used to be on Bryant. Specifically, at 178. (That number is no longer used on Bryant.) Ella purchased the house in 1911 or 1912. She had it lifted up, turned, and moved into its final resting spot on Oakland Place, where she already owned a plot of land adjacent to her own home.

Yard work being done here at the former Goodyear home.

Charles and Grace (Rumsey) Goodyear Jr. spent the first part of their marriage in Louisiana, while Charles oversaw Goodyear lumber interests there. But Grace insisted on returning to Buffalo in 1911. Her family was also a prominent Buffalo family and she wanted to return to her roots here. They moved into the Oakland Place home, above. Ella had it transferred into Grace’s name. There, they stayed for ten years.

When Charles and Grace moved into a newly completed home on Bryant Street (below), Grace returned the home to Ella, who rented it out for a while, before transferring ownership to her daughter Esther in 1936.

The new home on Bryant is beautiful. The Tudor styling is unique on Bryant, and the use of stone here is fantastic! I love the windows!

Sad to Report

Sadly, the home on Bryant Street (above) was not a happy one for Charles Jr. and Grace. Charles had an affair with Marion Spaulding, wife of Stephan Van Rensselaer (SVR, as he was known) Spaulding Sr., also members of Buffalo ‘society’. By 1935, the two had divorced their spouses, and married each other. Needless to say, this was cause for great scandal among the upper echelon of Buffalo society at the time.

Whenever I think of it, I wonder how Ella felt about it. I’d like to have known her actual personality. It’s so hard to know by just reading about a person.

A. Conger Goodyear Home on Bryant

Anson Conger Goodyear, eldest son of Ella and Charles, lived in this home (below) with his wife, Mary Foreman. The couple bought and tore down a home on Bryant Street, and in its place built this home in the photo below, in 1908.

A. Conger is perhaps best known as a founder and the first president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. He and Mary divorced in 1928. Both ended up near, or in New York City, and both eventually remarried. But this was their home for many years.

It’s a duplex now. It’s certainly large enough! The brick wall that runs the length of the property is imposing as you walk by. The irregular shaped openings in the brick reveal it is three bricks wide. Which is actually four bricks wide, when you take into account the Flemish bonding, the turning of some of the bricks in a pattern. Seems like a bit of overkill, but I do like the wall!

Arnold and Esther Goodyear Watson’s Home

Ella’s daughter Esther married Arnold Watson. Together in this home, below, they raised three daughters, Ellen Portia (Ella), Esther, and Ann. This is quite a large home, and according to census records it was used, at least in later years, by Esther and Arnold as a boarding house. It appears that this is now a two, or possibly three family home. It’s certainly large enough. Very interesting.

It sure is beautiful. The entryway is gorgeous! The windows are great, with their splayed brick lintels and keystones. I love a good row of dormers with original windows as well. And look at the wrought iron above the entryway. Love it!

Let’s talk about the backyard of this home. You see, Ella got her wish to surround herself with most of her children and even some of her grandchildren. Her granddaughter Ellen Portia (named for her) moved into the home on Oakland Place, with it’s property backing up to Ella’s mansion on Delaware.

Just a side note: Ellen married SVR Spaulding Jr, son of SVR and Marion Spaulding, who had the affair and eventually married Charles Jr. Wonder if Ella went to the wedding. I hope she did.

So anyway, the backyard of Esther and Arnold’s home was extensive and connected with Ella’s mansion on Delaware and the Goodyear home on Oakland Place.

St. Georges Square

But that all changed in the 1950s. I haven’t been able to discern when or how the Goodyear ‘estate’ that the family created by piecing together all these properties was broken up and eventually changed hands. But in the 1950s, developer Hugh Perry teamed up with architect Gordon Hayes to create St. George’s Place.

St. George’s Place is a cul-de-sac that runs south of Bryant in between A. Conger Goodyear and Esther Goodyear Watson’s two homes. It fills the area that was Esther’s extensive backyard, which was massive by city standards and now that I think about it, most suburban standards as well.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most people don’t even know that this place exists. It’s like walking off a city street and into a far flung neighborhood in Clarence. I say that because the Colonial Style homes that are on St. George’s Place remind me of the home of a friend of mine from high school, who lived in Clarence. And the homes on her street were just like the homes on St. George’s place.

Let’s See Them

When you look at these photos, remember that you’re in the middle of the city.

Pretty.

And it’s quiet here. You feel as if you’re in a little development in the country.

Stately.

A little vanilla for my taste. All the homes but one, are white. Almost all have black trim.

Like a country farmhouse.

I’m told by a workman nearby that these homes and three others on Bryant (the Goodyear homes?) are all part of a homeowner’s association (HOA). All the landscaping is included. The landscaping for the summer is not yet completed, at least not last week when I shot these photos. The landscapers were there working on the homes on Bryant though, and St. Georges Square was to be next. If the homes on Bryant were any indication, it will be a beautiful summer here.

It sort of makes me wonder though. I didn’t see anyone out on St. Georges Square. Wish I could have met a few neighbors. Then again, this is such a private area, maybe they want it that way, and wouldn’t like to meet me. Hope I’m wrong.

This Dutch Colonial is my personal favorite on St. George’s Place.

Colonial Williamsburg

Hugh Perry and Gordon Hayes designed this cul-de-sac to capitalize on Colonial Williamsburg as a popular vacation destination of the 1950s. The purchasers of the properties had to agree to build some variety of a Colonial dwelling on the land. They’ve succeeded. This certainly seems like what I know to have been extremely popular among white, upper middle class people in the 1950s and 60s.

In this case though, there was no need to actually leave the city to keep the riff-raff out. They only needed a “Private Road” sign. It seems to be still working today, because you know I’m not afraid to go anywhere. But I asked my friend to come with me specifically on this walk to give me the confidence to walk past that private road sign and on to that city street and take a look around. (I’ve never actually seen anyone walk in there.)

I’m trying to be positive here. But I would much, much rather live on Bryant Street than in St. Georges Square. That’s just me, though. I know there are an awful lot of people who would love to live here, and that’s good, I guess. Like my Grandmother used to say, “If we were all alike, think how boring life would be.” Indeed.

My Impressions

Did I say at the beginning of this post that there’s a lot going on here? So much! Between E.B. Green buying one of the homes and the townhomes he designed here, all the amazing apartments, some of the homes and their stories, and the Goodyears! Wow.

I admit I’ve become fascinated with the Goodyear family. When I wrote the piece back in September about the Goodyear mansion on Delaware, I got a little taste of the family. After coming here to Bryant, I feel like I’ve gone down the proverbial rabbit hole. Somehow, I’m going to have to fit in some more reading about them. My interest is piqued!

I met several people on the street while hiking here. Two homeowners who were friendly and love the street. A few people who were walking, or walking their dogs, who don’t live on Bryant, but live nearby. One of them, I actually walked the length of the street and chatted with. Very nice lady. Two men who were working on the porch of the yellow house. They’re the ones who told me that the apartment houses just had their porches re-done (they did the work, and a fine job they did!). And one very friendly landscaper who told me what he knew about the old Goodyear land and St. Georges Square.

St. Georges Square

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been wanting to see this street for so long now, that I have to admit, it was a bit of a letdown. I expected it to be fantastic, because of the “Private Road” sign near Bryant Street. That type of thing evokes visions of a fabulous “private estate” or some such thing. As if wishing for privacy means there is something worth keeping private. Are they nice homes? Yes. To be sure.

But, having been born a Mika, when someone tells one of us not to do something, we immediately want to do it. It’s in our genes. Like when we see a “private road” sign, we immediately think there’s something amazing to be seen on the other side of it. Turns out, in this case, it was somewhat anticlimactic. Nice homes, in an even nicer location.

Here’s what I’ve learned from Bryant Street, it’s much the same as I’ve learned on every other street I’ve written about. Go out and take a look for yourself. Don’t trespass on private property, but go see what you want to see. Talk to the neighbors on the street. Talk to homeowners you see outside while you’re walking. A long time ago, I heard a quote I’ll never forget. “Communication is the key to better understanding and mutual confidence.”

So true. The more we communicate with each other (in person) the better off we’ll all be. Take a walk. Do some communicating with your fellow Buffalonians.

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City Living – Woodley Road

City Living – Woodley Road

This post has been a long time coming, as blog posts go. I first became aware of Woodley Road when I was a kid. My best friend growing up had cousins that lived on Burke Drive off of Eggert Road. We spent a bit of time there riding bikes etc. Even as a kid, when we’d ride up and down the area streets, I admired the homes in this neighborhood.

Several months ago now, I saw a home featured on a facebook page that I follow. One of the owners of the home, Rick, posted photos of the new home he shares with his husband Leroy, and their adorable dog, Gunnar. In the post, he highlighted some of the changes and some of the original charm the home holds.

With the speed that life travels, I had forgotten about this neighborhood and wanted to go back and check it out. I contacted Rick, and it’s been months in the making, but he and Leroy opened their home to me. As a matter of fact, they invited Tim and I to visit on a day when the neighborhood gets together for a weekly cocktail hour. It’s something they started during quarantine more than a year ago. More to come about that later.

Cleveland Hill

Back in the 1920s, Cleveland Hill Properties began to develop this neighborhood (which they called, and widely became known as Cleveland Hill) and heavily advertised the homes for sale as “A Beautiful Park of Beautiful Homes”. They held extensive open houses where thousands walked through the newly built homes. Buffalo newspapers sponsored various homes. Decorators, furniture stores, florists and more, all contributed to staging the homes, making them look like the beautiful homes they advertised.

And they are beautiful. Modest maybe, when compared to the homes along some of Buffalo’s grand parkways, but these homes are very well appointed. The building materials were among the finest available. Many of the homes here still retain their original detail and charm. And like we talked about over at Windsor Ave, many of these homes were model homes as well. Making them the best quality possible.

Buffalo Evening News, October 1927

The ads stated that the American dream is within reach of nearly everyone at Cleveland Hill. They urged Buffalonians to take the trip out Kensington ‘Boulevard’ to see the homes. They touted ‘price and terms to suit your pocketbook’ and that ‘every home is different’. I can’t speak to the price and terms, but every home is, indeed, different. And they are beautiful.

Judge’s Row

To be honest, I always thought this neighborhood was in Cheektowaga. But at closer examination of a map of the city, it’s in Buffalo. There’s an odd ‘bump out’ if you will, that includes the area bordered by Huntley Rd, Century and Treehaven. This week I’ve heard a few stories about why the neighborhood is included in the city of Buffalo, and not the first ring suburb of Cheektowaga.

The most common is this. Remember, this is hearsay. The story goes that judges were required to live in the city back in the day, and there was an influential judge who wanted to buy a home in the area, so the city arranged to acquire the land. More judges followed suit, and moved into the neighborhood. Seems unlikely to me. But there have been, by all accounts, several judges who have lived in this neighborhood. So, hey, you never know.

There is but one judge left today. We’ll talk about that later. For now, come hike with me.

Let’s Begin

We’re going to do this hike in reverse of how I actually walked it. We’re going to start at the corner of Burke and Woodley with this rather large beautiful home. It comes with a bit of a mystery that I haven’t been able to solve. I found old newspaper clippings listing the address of 9 Woodley Road in advertisements for Cleveland Hill, see below.

From: Buffalo Evening News: June, 1929

And there is a number 9 on the home, at the door that faces Woodley Road. But both the city of Buffalo, and Google maps lists this home as being on Burke Drive. Number 28 to be exact. I don’t usually use house numbers when I write, but this was intriguing. For now, it’ll remain a mystery.

But what a house!

Looks like there’s at least one child living here, or at least an adult with a sense of humor. Haha!

Three Tudors in a Row

Next is this pretty thing. How very unusual! But it works, somehow. This is the first of three Tudors in a row, where rumor has it, different members of the Amigone family had built and lived in at one time. And one, Philip Amigone, owner of Chez Ami downtown, lived in number 16 across the street and then moved into one of these at one point. This is rumor, of course, and sometimes these stories get changed along the way somehow. I haven’t been able to confirm or debunk this story.

Number 2

Number two of the three Amigone Tudors, below. (It’s Jeff and Kathy’s home now.) This is the former home of Paschal Rubino, longtime Buffalo funeral director, below. Someone suggested that it may have been the Rubino family that lived in the three Tudors. Anything’s possible I suppose.

Anyway, Paschal Rubino, in addition to being president of Rubino Funeral Home, served at least three terms on the Buffalo Board of Education. In October, 1962, he was honored with a testimonial dinner at the Statler Hotel by the Buffalo Teacher Federation for his steadfast support of Buffalo Schools, teachers and school children. This was very rare, as they almost never honor someone who is not a teaching professional. Cool.

Buffalo Evening News: October 19, 1962

And Number 3

And here’s number three Tudor, below. This one’s landscaping is taking over a bit, but look at the bones of the place. Another slate roof. This home is a classic. And I do love the tulips! Would love to see this place in the summer.

Check out the roof here though. These slate tiles seem to be in perfect shape. Note that the size of the tiles themselves are larger at the bottom and get smaller as the roofline goes up. It’s planned that way to give the effect that the roof is taller than it looks, giving the appearance of a larger home. It’s done on homes like this one, and homes that are three times the size of this. Interesting.

Wish I had a slate roof. When I see them, I know that if the builder used slate for the roof, the rest of the home is good quality as well.

Moving Right Along

At this home I met Marcia. She seemed a lovely woman, a bit shy, but I could see a friendly nature beneath the shy exterior. If I lived here, I believe Marcia and I could become friends. I hope she would agree.

Looks like I just missed Marcia’s daffodils. Too bad, they were probably beautiful.

Then there is this Colonial, below, with its brick foundation. I wonder if there is brick behind the siding? Seems unlikely that the brick would extend to the ground, if there weren’t brick above it. So I searched, and did find an advertisement for a brick Colonial home at this address back in 1935. No photo to corroborate it though. Anyone know?

I love the wrought iron above that massive bay window. I can just imagine the light brought in through that window. Fantastic!

Spanish Influence

Next, I came to this Spanish influenced home. What a home! The tile roof seems to be in great shape, and I love how the balcony doors and window mimic the main entry at the ground level. The pillars with the rounded archways that also mimic both doors are perfectly executed.

I can tell you this. It wouldn’t take very much for me to move into this home. It’s got it all.

Onetime owner of this home was Christian Laube, who was the vice-president of Laube Restaurants. It was one of the largest family-owned chain restaurants in Buffalo and was started by Christian’s father in 1907 as “My Lunch” on Niagara Street, where the family court building now stands. It eventually was renamed Laube’s Cafeterias and at its peak served 2,000 lunches per day from this one location!

Laube Cafeterias grew to include Laube’s Old Spain, which was next door to Shea’s, a cafeteria inside the YMCA building downtown, and a full service restaurant inside the Lord Amherst Hotel on Main Street in Snyder. They were by their own motto, “known for food”.

Read more about the fate of Laube’s Cafeterias here.

The Corner Lots

Now we come to the homes at the corner of Woodley and Eldon.

First up, is the largest home on the street, with the possible exception of the first house we talked about at the beginning of the post. This home is a spectacular Tudor. My photo definitely does not do it justice.

The address here has changed as well. It used to be considered on Woodley, but now has an address on Eldon Road. Curious when the home obviously faces Woodley.

There are some big Buffalo names associated with this home. In the 30s, there were Amigones living here. I came across numerous articles ranging from 1936 through 1940 regarding newspaper sponsored holiday lights contests. They were apparently a pretty big deal in Buffalo at that time. The Amigones at this address won the contest in the ‘homes worth $9,000+” category one year.

In 1949, Raymond Haimbaugh lived in the home. He was written up in the Buffalo Evening News that year for being named the Division Manager at the Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda. Cool.

And Last, But Not Least

Alfred Durrenberger and family lived in this home in the 1960s. He was the founder of one of Buffalo’s other family-owned chain restaurants, Your Host. Right next door to the Laude family. What a coincidence! And they call this street ‘Judge’s Row’? Wondering if we’ll see any Decks from the Deco Restaurant chain on this street? Stay tuned.

Crossing the street now, this is a completely different style from any other house on the street. Although it appears to be on Woodley, this too is technically on Eldon Road. It’s a nice large ranch home, and from the angle I took this photo, it appears to be all garage. But it really isn’t. It’s what I like to call a ‘rambling ranch’. You know, one of those ranch homes that just keeps going…

It’s a lovely home, and is probably the newest on the street, built in 1940.

The Redcoats are Coming…

This next one is perhaps the most original home I’ve ever written about. Even though it’s not original at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. This home, below, is a replica of Paul Revere’s home in Boston.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I first read that! What an odd thing to do, in Buffalo, NY of all places! Haha! But, being the total history nerd that I am, I love it!

This is the home of Les and Ginny. Les is the last of the judges in Judge’s Row. On the day we joined the Wednesday afternoon cocktail hour, the group ended up here at Les and Ginny’s Paul Revere home. We chatted for just a moment (Les knows the complete history of the home.) before he invited us in to take a look around.

The interior is chock full of Arkansas soft pine wood paneling and doors. It’s rich, yet somehow casual too. Not long ago, the couple received in the mail a magazine from 1931, with a story about their home! The magazine came with a letter explaining the story of the home and how the sender came to have the magazine. They felt that the owners of the home should have it, so they sent it, without even knowing who lived there. What a great story!

Below are two photos of the home that appeared in the Buffalo Courier Express in November, 1929. The top photo is of the basement room, and the bottom photo is the living room as it appeared as a model home. All the same woodwork still exists today. And it’s pristine.

Buffalo Courier Express, November 1929

Humble Stewards

Les and Ginny are good stewards, indeed. And I will say, good and gracious hosts. They invited us in on the spur of the moment, and told us everything we wanted to know. They were at once proud, and yet humble about their much loved home.

I love that.

Moving Right Along

Right next door to the Paul Revere house is this beauty. This is another Tudor inspired design. Note the use of ‘clinker bricks’, which are overfired bricks with a sometimes irregular shape and surface. We first saw these on the blog on Lincoln Parkway. In this case, the bricks are added in a random fashion, along with traditional bricks. I think they give the home a very unique look.

Next, is this home. The flowering trees at this time of year are stunning! After seeing this home, I want to put one in front of my house!

The Call of the Bagpipes

This next home belongs to Dan and Carol, who we met at the cocktail party. Well, actually Dan beckoned us to the cocktail party by playing his bagpipes, calling the party to begin. He does it every week, precisely at 5pm. How fun…

Dan and Carol’s home is stunning. It could be just your ordinary, run of the mill Colonial. But the color, the custom shutters, the window boxes, heck, the windows themselves. The impeccable care with which this home is cared for is awesome. I’ll say it again. It’s a stunning home.

This next one also appeared in an ad in the Buffalo Courier Express in June 1935. I have never seen so many advertisements for a neighborhood as I have for this Cleveland Hill neighborhood. I think it was probably because this area of the city was considered further away from everything. The ads beckon the reader to ‘take the drive out’ to see the model homes. It’s interesting to see.

This home has new shutters and a front door, but otherwise appears pretty much original. Love it.

And this. Love the windows here. Just lovely.

Another Amigone on Woodley…

This gorgeous home, below, is the former home of Philip Amigone, who was the owner of Chez Ami. In 1939, his car was broken into outside the nightclub, for a loss of $750 worth of goods. Among them were furs, a silver mesh bag, pearls and more. Wow! In 1939!

Philipp was also the winner of the $100 grand prize in the holiday lighting contest in 1940. I’m telling you, these were popular back then. There were lengthy articles describing quite a few of the displays, and lots of winners! People were into it!

The owners of this house are Al and Barb, who we met at the cocktail party. With the awning up already, and the lawn so well tended, summer appears to have already arrived at their home! I also got to meet their dog, Lucy, when I came back a few days later to get a few more photos. Super cute!

And These

And Last, But Certainly Not Least…

Now, we come to Rick, Leroy and their fantastic home. Rick is the reason we came to Woodley. Let’s take a look at their house. All the photos in this first grouping were provided by Rick.

The windows are large and there are a lot of them, letting in tons of natural light into this home. I mean, who would mind washing dishes in front of this amazing window? I wouldn’t. At least, not the first couple of times anyway, haha… (This photo is mine.)

When this home was advertised, and it was heavily advertised, the ads boasted a rathskeller, which in this case, is a bar in the basement, and also that thousands came through this home when it was a model. Both of the photos below are from the Buffalo Courier Express, October, 1928.

Rick and Leroy have transformed the place in little more than a year into a veritable showhouse. And they’re not done yet. They have further plans for the basement, and the upstairs where there are three spacious bedrooms and a large cedar closet.

The fam. Rick (left), Leroy (right) and Gunnar. Isn’t Gunnar the cutest?!

My Impressions

When I first saw Rick’s photos on facebook several months ago, I never could have imagined the things I’d learn researching Woodley Road and these homes. Who knew that people built replica houses? That was totally unexpected, but so much fun.

And once again, I was blown away by the people we met on this street. Beginning, of course with Rick and Leroy, who opened their home to Tim and I, and invited us to the cocktail party, where we met many other neighbors. If I met you and failed to mention you in the article, it’s not because you didn’t make an impression (you all did!) it’s merely because I’m not as young as I used to be and I can’t remember all of your names! Haha!

But Les and Ginny also opened their home to us, and Al sent me some of his own research on the street. Fantastic, and I am grateful.

These parties are inspiring. I’m told they happened spontaneously last year, during quarantine. A couple of people happened to meet outside, and enjoyed a socially distanced visit, drink in hand. Other people began to notice and join in. And they did it all through the winter too, complete with campfires! And a hot toddy or two, I would imagine!

All Are Welcome

But you don’t need to drink, and there is no inviting that takes place for these parties. None are pre-planned. Some people choose to bring snacks. Some don’t. The yard they end up at isn’t pre-planned either. But all are welcome.

So if you live on the block and you’ve noticed the very talented Dan the bagpiper beckoning people out of their houses and into the street to meet up with neighbors, why not go over and say hello? I can tell you firsthand, they are friendly and very welcoming. You’ll enjoy yourself, and you might, no you definitely will, make a friend or two.

This is what a neighborhood should be. I mean, this past year has been trying, to say the least. With something simple like a weekly, social distanced, get together to look forward to, it eases the stress somehow. And it also lets people know there are other people who would be there for them if they needed it. I love it.

And I love Woodley Road. It’s an inspiring street. We should all start a cocktail hour (mocktails if you prefer) on our blocks. When neighbors know each other, the neighborhood grows strong, stays safe, and your quality of life is that much greater!

To the neighbors at Woodley, it was great meeting all of you. Stay close!

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City Living – Whitney Place

City Living – Whitney Place

When I hiked Parkdale and Lafayette Aves with my friend Martha, she mentioned that her Mother and Grandmother used to live on Whitney Place. I’ve heard of it, sort of knew where it is, but I had never hiked it or even driven it. Since then, I’ve heard from a few other people suggesting I write about it. When that happens, I know I’m missing something good.

And I was. Wait till you see this. It appears to be a perfectly preserved little neighborhood from the latter half of the 1800s. The homes and apartments houses have not really been altered at all. Maintained pretty well, but not really altered.

Let’s take a closer look.

A Little History of the Area

Whitney Place is located in the West Village Historic District of Buffalo. This district is one of only a few in the country to achieve three designations as an Historic District. In this case, it is under both the City of Buffalo and New York State, and it is also listed in the Federal National Register of Historic Places. Pretty amazing.

Whitney begins at the spot where West Chippewa and Georgia Street meet, and runs all the way to Hudson Street. As a matter of fact, it was originally part of the Village of Black Rock, before Buffalo became a city. I’ve talked on the blog before about how Joseph Ellicott laid out the streets of Buffalo, in 1804, in a radial streets design. In Black Rock, however, the streets were laid out much differently. When the two grids were joined together, it resulted in sometimes odd and wonderful angles that occur in our roadways today. Like the spot where West Chippewa and Georgia Streets meet, at Whitney Place.

Heading toward the corner where Georgia Street goes off to the left, and Whitney Place to the right.

Of Note

This street is part of one of Buffalo’s oldest neighborhoods. Most of the homes between West Chippewa and Carolina Street were built between 1860 and 1880. They’d have been built for tailors, meat packers, ship chandlers, painters, bankers, lake steamer captains, cabinetmakers, conductors, secretaries, and more. Everything middle to middle-upper class. These people had some money to spend, but not the kind of money that built the Delaware Avenue mansions. You’ll see what I mean when you see their homes.

These were also the people who built some of Buffalo’s first neighborhoods, the ones that were built to be neighborhoods. Previously, homes were built here and there. And the downtown core grew up around them. But these streets in the West Village were built to actually be residential neighborhoods.

Apartment building at the corner of Carolina and Whitney Place

I should mention that most of the West Village was originally part of the estate of Ebenezer Johnson, Buffalo’s first mayor. He owned a large estate on Delaware Avenue, between Chippewa and West Tupper, including what later became Whitney Place. After his death, the estate was broken up into Johnson Park (which became one of Buffalo’s residential parks) and other nearby streets, including Whitney. As a matter of fact, Johnson Park has homes even older than the ones I’ll show you today on Whitney Place.

I’m going to hike the portion of Whitney Place between West Chippewa and Carolina Streets. And we’ll start at that wonderful angle at West Chippewa and Georgia. Come hike with me.

Whitney Place

When I said I’ve never been on Whitney Place before, I probably should have mentioned that I’ve never been on this section of West Chippewa before either. I don’t know how it’s possible. I approached Whitney Place from Chippewa on foot. And the first thing I noticed was the feel of this section of the street. Taller buildings on the left, and the expanse of Hutch Tech on the right. I had a feeling of being drawn into the intersection where Whitney Place begins.

Here is the first home I come to, below. This is a two-family residence with 2 1/2 stories, built in 1871. Like most of the homes here, it is of the Italianate style, evidenced by the tall narrow rounded windows and bracketed cornice. This would have been pretty common in this sort of neighborhood, where most of the residents were middle to middle upper class. They had enough money to build with brick instead of clapboard, but not quite enough for elaborate ornamentation.

And good for them. This home has a simplicity that is attractive. It’s too bad the original windows didn’t survive, save for the small upper window, and possibly some of the side windows.

Next, is this pretty home. It’s a two story Queen Anne style built in 1868. The details on this house are lovely. Starting at the top with the dentil molding, which is repeated on the second story bay window on a smaller scale, the window surrounds and the shingles at the top. I really like the varnished wood at the base of the porch, which matches the front entry doors.

A Word About Painted Brick

I like the look of this house, below. The rounded windows appear to be intact above, and you know how I love that. The ones on the first floor were probably altered to make way for the porch when it was added sometime after the house was built (?) in 1860. As for the paint, that’s the thing about painting brick, it can give you the look you want, but you have to keep up on it.

I really like this house.

Next is this one. Another Italianate design, similar to the others we’ve seen so far. It needs a little bit of work, including paint, but it wouldn’t take much to make this house stand out! I wonder what it would take to put glass in that ocular window in the peak. That would be sweet, wouldn’t it?

Next is a Pocket Park

This is probably better looking in the summer. Most people are not working on their gardens just yet this year, and I’m not sure who is responsible for keeping this one up, but this little pocket park is dedicated to Office Patricia (Patty) Parete, who was shot in the line of duty in 2006, not far from Whitney Place. She was left paralyzed from her wounds, and passed away from complications in 2013. I remember when this happened. The whole city mourned her death.

This spot has the makings of a sweet little park. I’ll have to come back in the summer to see it in full bloom.

The First Apartment Building We See

Next is the first apartment building on the street. There are three more to come. In the late 1800s it became fashionable to live in luxury style apartments, even for the wealthy, and Buffalo has some pretty great ones. This one was probably not ever considered ‘luxury’ but I’m sure it fit right in with this upper middle class neighborhood. Nice details.

I looked the place up, and it appears there are 6 apartments here and it’s owned by a company in New Jersey. But there are no photos of the interior, and no reviews. Think of that what you will. Anyone been inside? Let me know what they’re like!

I did see this sweet chalk drawing outside on the sidewalk – looks like there’s a budding artist living here. Love the little hand tracings!

This one was built in 1875, is an Italianate style double and has an Eastlake style porch. I’m not sure if this is something that was common, the blending of these two styles in this way, but there are three or four on this street with that same mix. The paint is in great shape, as is everything else here. Love this one!

This next one is an Italianate with tons of details. The dental molding, the brackets (double) and that cast iron (?) detail atop the upper floor windows. I think the porch was added or changed at some point, and could use just a little attention, but this house is lovely. I also noticed that this one still has some red Medina sandstone in the walkway and at the base of the stairs. Sweet – I love this.

A Couple More

And this. It’s a very neat home, yes? By now you know this is Italianate, circa 1875. I believe the first floor window has been replaced, but I don’t dislike it. I’m usually a fan of sunlight in a room.

And this one. Always blows my mind when homes are this close to each other. Or in this case, homes and apartment buildings. How in the world do they build them? Not to mention maintain them? And why bother with windows?

This is different from the others on the block in that it has a side entry that faces the street, with a small porch.

Twin Apartment Houses + One House in Between

Here I came across two Italian Palazzo style apartment houses. And they both need work, but you can tell they were once fantastic! You can see that they clearly used to have all the same details. The molding near the top, the splayed brick arches over the lower windows, and splayed brick lintels above. Identical entryways. Clearly though, the first one has had the door changed out.

Also, this first one has six, two bedroom condos and each are privately owned. “The Whitney”, however, is owned by the same company in New Jersey that owns the first apartment house we saw earlier.

Here’s something that bothered me the whole time I was on this street. Now, maybe it was garbage day when I was there or something, but it seems to me that an awful lot of the homes seem to store their garbage cans right up in front of the house. That type of thing does nothing for the look of the house. If it was garbage day, then, the totes were not at the street in almost every case. You can see above that the one apartment house tried to conceal them with a boxed in garbage tote situation, but it’s pretty ineffective. Is there absolutely no room out back? And like I said, this is not the only spot where I noticed this.

The Space Between

In between the twin apartment houses, is this, below. The more I look at this house, the more I see. It is, at first glance, a typical Buffalo home. But then I notice the Shingle style detail, the porches have been redone, and very well in my opinion, and check out the pediment above a window on the right side. Must have been lovely when first built, which was 1890. That was about eight years before the two buildings that sandwich it. I wonder how the owners felt about it when it happened. Imagine what it was like to live here during the construction?! Wow.

All in all though, it’s a really nice home!

And this Second Empire style home rounds out this side of the street. Built in 1880, it is for sale. Check out the listing here, but be prepared, this listing is not for the faint of heart. It’s massive, has many of the original fireplaces, the roof is new, the exterior is recently painted, and I love the old style fire escape (if you can love such a thing), but, what a job this would be. Would you buy it?

Crossing the Street

Check this place out. This building dominates the southeast corner of Carolina and Whitney. It’s Romanesque Revival in style and was built in 1892. There is a lot of really nice brickwork here, from the brick corbels, to splayed brick arches, to sweet dormers and bay windows, to rounded windows (that are still there!) and recessed porches. This apartment house has got a lot going on, and it is fantastic!

That’s not to say that it couldn’t stand some attention. It’s owned by that same New Jersey Company that owns the other two apartment houses on the block. This one’s never been painted, but still, it could use a good cleaning. One of the rounded windows in the dormer appears to have been replaced with the lid of a plastic tote.

Again, no photos of the interior are listed online. I believe this place was renovated in the mid 1970’s when the street was going through the historic designation process. My guess is, it needs some work inside. What other reason could there be for no photos being listed online at the website?

Moving Along

Here is another Italianate style with an Eastlake porch. Note the detail at the peak as well, and the bracketing. Love the double front door. When you see wide front doors, remember that these homes were built at a time when most people still waked their family members in their homes. The wide entryways allowed room for a casket to fit through.

On this house, the arched windows above have been replaced. Sorry to see them gone. And at first glance, I thought the first floor windows had been altered from arched windows to these, but the stone lintels appear to be in place and original, so I think they were simply replaced at some point. There also appears to be some detailing missing from the porch.

This house has great bones. With just a little bit of TLC, this house could really shine!

And this. This is a fantastic example of Second Empire design. Look at the mansard roof, those stone arches above the windows, the bracketing and the molding just below it. The little side porch at the entry and the bay window beyond. This house reminds me of the Mansion on Delaware, although on a much smaller scale. But this must have been considered one of the most grand homes on the street when it was built. Love this one.

Another Apartment

Here we come upon one of Tim’s favorites on the street.

It’s an apartment house with at least 6 residences (possibly 8), and was purchased in 2020. The Greek Revival columns need a little attention as does some other things (see interior photos in the previous listing here). But they’re mostly easy fixes. One question, are those old windows that have been filled in with brick on the ‘third’ floor? Interesting. Which is what I usually say when I don’t know what to say.

Then There Are These

This is another one with an Eastlake porch. In my opinion, which I realize you didn’t ask for, this is the best executed of the Eastlake porches on the street. It fits perfectly with the Queen Anne style of the house. Love the shingles on the protruding gable, and check out those brackets supporting it! Note the little curlicue at the very peak. Sweet! This house is fantastic.

These next Italianate style homes are probably not far off from the way they were when they were first built, on the exterior anyway. Looking at them gives us a good feel for the way this street probably looked originally. Love their gardens with the wrought iron fences. The homes are lovely.

A Few Second Empires

This one, below, reminds me of one that is on Franklin Street in Allentown. This one is in amazing shape, and done just right. Not too much, not too little. It’s perfect. And those windows in the Mansard roof, wow!

This one is stately, and the windows appear to be all original! Love that!

This Last One

This is the third Second Empire style home in a row here. All three the same style, but different. This one is smaller than the other two, but it stole my heart anyway. There is a porch out back visible from the street. The bay window is different from any I’ve ever seen, with so much ornamentation. Love it! My favorite part though? The awning over the front door. I want to say it’s original, but I have no way of knowing that. And it’s pretty unusual for the style of the house. Either way, it’s a great touch.

I read an article in the Buffalo Courier Express from 1978, where the residents of this street attended a block party at this home to celebrate ‘neighborliness’. Nice! More about that article in my impressions.

My Impressions

My thoughts about Whitney Place are a bit all over the place. Let me explain.

When I started researching this neighborhood, the first thing I did was to look it up on google maps. When I saw the homes and how well maintained and unaltered they were, I was intrigued and wanted to find out more right away. I found that the whole street, and in fact the surrounding neighborhood had gone through a huge revitalization in the 1970s. This was at the time the West Village was going through the designation process for historic status. And well deserved it is. This is the oldest collection of private residences (and brick Italianate style cottages) in the city. With the possible exception of North Pearl Street, but I haven’t counted.

However, I read many articles about the residents here who were accused and many times found guilty of numerous crimes. Driving without a license, DWI, illegal betting, petit larceny, grand larceny, assault and battery…the list goes on and on. Even for card playing on a Sunday! Most of these took place in the 1950s and 60s. But the articles of this kind dated back to the 1910s.

Back to that Article

Anyway, I mentioned earlier an article in the Courier Express that recounted the story of a party on Whitney Place celebrating ‘neighborliness’. Basically, the article also talked about the changes in the neighborhood in the four years since the West Village Community Association began their designation process. One of the people interviewed talked about what the street was like before the changes. He said it was loud, with people yelling to, and at, each other all the time. There were drunks in the streets, and it was an awful place to live. All of that changed with the work being done to improve it. The street had apparently achieved ‘neighborliness’. In 1978.

Photo of the party on Whitney Place Photo credit to: Buffalo Courier Express, August 14, 1978.

What About Now?

The homes show definite signs of having been restored and renovated. Some people kept up with the maintenance, some did not, and some simply moved on, as people do. But there are definitely people here who care. About the homes, about the street, and the neighborhood. You can tell by the care they put into their homes.

But, I will tell you that I experienced first hand the yelling to, and at each other. Not in a friendly way either. And thankfully, not in my direction. Although, several people turned their heads and their backs away from me as I hiked the street. That is never good for a neighborhood.

I did, however, meet one polite person on Whitney. She was coming out of the large apartment house at the corner of Whitney and Carolina, just as I raised my camera to take a photo. She apologized and hurried away so I could get my shot. It’s usually me who does the apologizing when stuff like this happens, and rightfully so.

But that was it, no one else spoke to me at all that evening. It is, however, possible that at a different hour, I’d have had a different experience.

The Future

So yes, I have mixed feelings about Whitney Place. I read the article from 1978 after I hiked the street, and the man’s remarks about the yelling struck me. Because it was the yelling that had given me an uneasy feeling on Whitney. And I don’t get ruffled very easily. But there it is.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that I happen to be there at an odd time. But my gut is telling me that this is not the case. I will come back again soon, and maybe my experience will be different. I really hope so!

In my heart, I know that there are people living here who care about this street, and I sincerely hope for their sake, that things quiet down a bit. It’s too beautiful an area, and historic an area, to let it slip.

City Living – Windsor Ave.

City Living – Windsor Ave.

Last week I headed over to Chapin Parkway to check out a street that a reader mentioned to me. While hiking around the area, I happened upon the south end of Windsor Ave. I wrote about a few of the Larkin homes between Rumsey and Forest Ave, but I’ll admit, I’ve never been on this end of the street. Well, that’s not exactly true.

Years ago, while I was still working for the Canadian Government here in Buffalo, I did leave the official residence (which is on Soldiers Circle) through the backyard once with a friend to head over to her house, which was nearby. You see, there are a few homes on Soldiers Circle whose properties extend to Windsor Ave, and have their garages facing Windsor. To be fair though, we headed toward Chapin Parkway, and didn’t see much of the street.

But this day, on foot, walking from Chapin Parkway down to Forest Ave, I saw the street through fresh eyes. Come hike with me.

Let’s Begin

This is the first home I came to when I turned off Chapin Parkway. And what a home this is. It was built in 1910, and is that the original hardware on the windows? You know, the kind that held the storm windows/screens in place? Love the diamonds in the upper windows and the front porch is lovely. I especially like the three columns with their details at the capitals. The paint is perfect here.

And this pretty home, below. There is so much going on here. I love the Palladian window on the second floor. All the windows for that matter. I think they may be original. And the trim colors are fantastic. Look at the details in the eaves! Goes to show what you can do with paint. Fantastic!

These Next Three

Next I came to these. This first one looks beautiful now, but in the summer it must be stunning with the trees in bloom. I’ll have to come back to see it. The other two make my point about color making all the difference in the world.

There’s a start with the blue and white trim on this one. It would be great if the blue were extended onto the balustrade or balusters, around the windows and maybe the peak. That would really make this house pop, as they say.

The green with the mustard yellow and dark red trim has been painted within the past, oh, 10 years or so. Looks very different from how it used to look, it’s beautiful!

Mary Carr (Mrs. Robert U. Carr) was living in this home, above, in 1945 with her husband Robert and mother-in-law Anna. Mary took up a very unusual hobby. She wrote books for the children of the family, about the childhoods of their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Often telling funny stories of a bygone age, amusing anecdotes, and poetry written by her mother-in-law, Anna, Mary would compile the books. She’d use magazines, greeting cards and advertisements to illustrate them, type them up on loose leaf, and cover them with different material for children, and sometimes leather covers for adults.

Photo Credit: Buffalo Courier Express

She did one for each child in the family. Word got out and the requests started pouring in, and she ended up making over 100 of them for friends and friends of friends. It was said that she was fascinated by history and days gone by, especially when that history included friends and family. What a unique hobby. I think I would have liked Mary Carr.

The Larkins on Windsor

In November of 1929, the Buffalo Courier Express reported that Mr. & Mrs. Charles Larkin moved into this home, below. They had previously moved to California about ten years before. I was unaware they came back ten years later.

The home is a beautiful two family though. If you want to see what that room above the front entryway looks like on the inside, take a look at this recent listing. Very charming. That would be my reading nook/sleeping porch. Because everyone needs a good sleeping porch.

This one, below, was once owned by Harvey D. Blakeslee, Jr., a Buffalo attorney who founded Mortgage Service Corporation. He was a 1902 graduate of UB Law School, and served on several boards in the city. He lived here with his wife, Eleanor, his son and two daughters.

Model Homes

This next home was built in 1910 or 1911, by R.W. Goode and Company (developers) but it doesn’t appear that it was sold until 1918 (that’s when city tax records begin for this house). This is the case with many homes on this street, where they were built in or around 1910, but not sold until several years later.

This house, above, is great! It’s almost as if everyone on this street consulted with designers when choosing the colors of their homes. Because they’re all spot on with the colors of the period. This one included. Love it.

I wondered about the date discrepancies though, and had a theory, but it was only a theory. Until I met Nancy on my hike (you’ll see Nancy’s house soon). She mentioned that she had heard from a neighbor on Soldiers Circle that this section of Windsor Ave was a “model” street. This is where the developers built a variety of homes on one street, and used them as model homes, showing them to potential buyers. This enabled the developers to fill in the neighboring streets with homes that were already sold. This street definitely has a variety of styles. Where you see two homes with similar styles, you’ll see a different style porch on each, or an offset front entryway on one, etc. Definitely makes sense with this street.

I gotta tell you, it makes for a beautiful, architecturally diverse street.

Just Look at These!

This first one, the navy blue with white trim, wow! Now, that is my style! I love the front porch with the glass sides. So pretty!

Moving Right Along

This next one was owned at one time by Spencer Kittinger, President of the Kittinger Co. Inc. The Kittinger Company was a very successful local furniture maker. Nice!

This next one is interesting. It was formerly owned by Daniel L. Rumsey and his wife, Luella Mary Nitterauer Rumsey. Of note, this whole area was once owned by the Rumsey family, and they sold it off slowly from the 1890s through 1920 or so.

It’s an interesting house too. From what I can gather, the brick section, although it appears to be an addition, has been there from the beginning. Very different.

Check out these next several homes…they’re spectacular!

These next two are the same house, but photographed from two different angles. The third is the same style house, but executed quite differently. I am reminded that this street may have been a ‘model street’.

Crossing the street, I come to this magnificence. I have always admired the side entry to this home, and everything else about it for that matter.

And these…

Cara H. Wheeler

This home, below, has one of the sweetest stories of all. But before I get to that, note the side porch and how it has windows on the windy side, and the colors are spot on. Very pretty house.

Cara H. Wheeler lived here with her daughter Mary and Mary’s husband. Cara lived to be 102 years old! She appeared in Buffalo papers several times, twice for voting in every election since women won the vote (when she appeared in the paper for it, she was 93 and 94 respectively). Once for being a frequent airplane traveler (when she was 93!). And she appeared one last time when she passed away in July of 1960 in her obituary. That makes her birth year 1858. Amazing!

At her 100th birthday dinner.
Photo Credit: Buffalo Courier Express

At her 100th birthday dinner, Cara’s son presented her with a bound book (seen in photo above) of birthday greetings from all over the world, including then President Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Billy Graham, the Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, Rocky Marciano, Mickey Mantle, Edward R. Murrow, Helen Hayes, Bing Crosby, Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk and more.

Cara Henry Wheeler is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Going to have to look her up next time I’m there.

Continuing On

Spectacular!

Love the whimsical lights on the porch!

And then I came upon this gorgeousness! This is where I met Nancy (I mentioned her earlier). She’s been living here for 17 years and absolutely loves the neighborhood. She grew up on Lancaster Ave so she knows a thing or two about city living. Nancy pointed out something that I noticed as well. On Windsor Ave, there is space between the homes. Every home has a driveway. Honestly, that may have something to do with the ‘model’ street thing. If it looks perfect, it will sell quickly and easily. And this street certainly looks perfect.

About the house. There is so much to love about it. The original windows, the colors are muted but classic, the sunburst balusters in the balustrade. The fan window in the pediment, the natural wood front door flanked by leaded glass sidelights. It’s all these little details that make you look twice when you pass a house.

Nancy was open and friendly, despite the fact that I interrupted a visit with her friend, Liz. Sorry about that ladies, I was just so taken with the house. Thank you both for your Buffalo friendliness.

The Stone Wall

There is a stone wall that ends at Nancy’s driveway. It is left from the estate of Ellsworth Statler, which was at 154 Soldiers Place. The wall runs along this section of Windsor, turns the corner at Bird, and ends just before Soldier’s Circle. Take a look.

There are two homes on Windsor within the Statler walls. I can tell you that the wrought iron in this wall is among the most substantial I’ve ever seen. The houses are lovely, but I would love to see what was originally here.

This last proper house on the street boasts former residents such as Mr. & Mrs. David D. Kennedy, and David W. Rumsey (Sr?). Big names.

My Impressions

I am very glad that I happened upon Windsor Ave that afternoon. It really is a wonderful street, with very friendly neighbors. Nancy was lovely, and because it was a warm sunny day, I met a few others along the way as well, out for walks themselves. All say they love living here. And what’s not to love?

There are beautiful homes with ample yards. If you compare the lot sizes here to other streets nearby, and I’m talking about other comparable streets (Clarendon, Berkley, Granger), Windsor has the largest lot sizes around. This enables the residents to have driveways to park their cars. I know there are people who think that city dwellers shouldn’t need to have a car, but the fact remains that in Buffalo, we still need our cars. And having a decent place to park them is a huge bonus.

A photo I took while researching Chapin Parkway. To the left is Chapin, to the right is Windsor Ave.

In this month of March, when we celebrate women who made history, I find it fitting that most of the interesting history here on Windsor involved women. One who was a history buff herself, and one who took the right to vote so seriously that she never missed an election once women fought for and won that right.

Of course, in their time and in the articles I read, they were referred to as Mrs. Robert U. Carr and Mrs. Clarence L. Wheeler. I actually had to really dig to find out what Cara Wheeler’s given name was, and I only found it because I found a copy of her obituary. And even then, I learned her middle name was Henry! We’ve certainly come a long way.

Every house, every street, every neighborhood has a story to tell, and it’s because of the people. The people are the story. We love to look at the amazing homes they’ve built and lived in, but it’s really about the people. The people of Buffalo.

Get the Book!

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The Beck Family Home

The Beck Family Home

After writing and publishing a post about an urban hike I did in the Medical Corridor, I received an email from a reader regarding a home that used to be at 923 Washington Street, now an empty lot (photo above). What a story it turned out to be! 

I had originally reported in the post, that word on the street told me that there was a home on Washington Street at the corner of Carlton. And that the city had tried to take ownership for development. There were two sisters who were in their 90’s living there. They fought the city in court to keep their home. But eventually the sisters and the city came to an agreement to move the house. The person who told me the story didn’t know where the house had supposedly been moved to.

The address at 923 is now a vacant lot. I lamented that the two elderly ladies went through an awful lot of grief to make way for a vacant lot.

After publishing, I received an email from a reader revealing the real story. I did a little research on my own, and decided to write a whole new post about the Beck family home, because I think it’s important that we learn from our mistakes. And I believe that what happened in this case was a mistake. This is what I’ve learned.

The Original Home

The home in question was not moved off of the property on Washington Street, but had been moved to that location. But, let’s go back and start at the beginning.

The home was built sometime around the Civil War, by the grandfather of sisters, Anna and Veronica Beck. It was built on Ralph Street, or Ralph Alley as it was known at the time. Ralph Alley used to run parallel to and one block west of Michigan Avenue near Goodell.

Who Lived There?

Most of the people living on Ralph Alley throughout the late 1800s and into the 1900s were either German immigrants or descendants of German immigrants. Most of the men worked in some way, shape or form in Buffalo’s brewing industry.

Homes on Ralph Street (Alley), since torn down. Photo courtesy of Steve Cichon
Torn-Down Tuesday: Ralph Street has been wiped off the map

The occupation of Anna and Veronica’s grandfather is unknown. As is the occupation of their father, Frank Beck. I believe Anna lived in her grandfather’s home and took care of it on a full time basis. Veronica, however, according to census records, worked as a bookkeeper for Marine Bank. All of the family members, including Frank’s wife Lillian (mother of Anna & Veronica) lived in the home at 42 Ralph Alley. They were members of St. Louis Church on the corner of Main and Edward Streets.

Funny to think of that now. But back then, extended family members lived together much more often. Anna and Veronica lived with their parents, and probably their grandparents until the elders passed away. Think about that for a minute. I love my kids and everything, but I’ll admit I’m glad they don’t live with us anymore. And I’m pretty sure they’re happy about it too. Just sayin.

So, What Happened?

In the 1970’s most of the neighborhood around the Beck home at 42 Ralph Alley was razed as part of the Oak Street Urban Renewal Project. The project included the building of the McCarley Gardens apartments. The neighborhood was very densely populated with homes. Over a hundred were torn down. Anna and Veronica took the city to court in order to save theirs.

McCarley Gardens as they appear today at the corner of Michigan and Goodell.

It was a lengthy court battle, roughly two years, but the sisters won. Well, sort of. The city agreed to move the house from its original spot on Ralph Street, to the corner of Washington and Carlton, aka 923 Washington Street. Through tough negotiation, the sisters were deeded the land as well, and it was stipulated (by the sisters) that upon the death of the last family member, the home would be torn down and the city was to be given an option to buy back the land for $100. Both the sisters and officials for the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency signed the agreement.

From a Buffalo News clipping. Original photo by Sharon Cantillon

The sisters were happy with the outcome. And by that I mean I’m sure they would have preferred that none of it had happened, but they didn’t lose their home. And they could still walk to their beloved St. Louis Catholic Church, which was apparently one of the sticking points in the negotiations. They had lived in the shadow of the great spire of St. Louis their whole lives and didn’t want to leave it. Now, they wouldn’t have to.

View of St. Louis Church from the lot where Anna Beck’s home once stood at 923 Washington Street.

The sisters lived out their days in the home (Veronica passed away a number of years before Anna).

Anna Beck Dies

In 1998, Anna Beck, the last surviving family member passed away. Per the agreement entered into with the city, her will stipulated that the home be torn down and the city be given the option to purchase the property for $100.  

Well, guess what?  The city changed its mind.  To be fair, the common council of 1998 were somewhat more preservation minded than those of the 1970s.  The common council felt certain that the home was historic (although it held no such distinction) and so the city took the Estate of Anna Beck to court to block the demolition.

Attorney for Anna Beck, Mary Kennedy Martin, argued that Ms. Beck was adamant the house be demolished.

It seemed the City of Buffalo and the late Anna Beck had unfinished business.

What About the Home Itself?

The home itself was a veritable museum at this point.  It was reported at the time that it appeared that no updates had taken place in the home after the 1930s.  The contents included cooking utensils, an early Hoover vacuum cleaner, a refrigerator that was not much more than an ice box, a wringer washing machine, a treadle sewing machine (run on foot power!) and vintage 1930’s furniture.  All still being used in the 1990s! Anna cooked on the same cast iron stove her mother used before her.  The home was painted the same yellow color with green trim.

Amazing.

The Final Fate of 923 Washington

But, in a court of law, the will stood up to the challenge.  Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina ruled for Ms. Beck, as her will was very clear and ironclad. In what he called a very difficult decision, he had to uphold the letter of the law (as he is charged) and ordered that the executor of Anna’s estate go through with the demolition. The ruling itself is a fascinating read. (Believe me, I know what that sounds like!) Read it here.

Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina examines the cast iron stove Ms. Beck cooked on until her death in 1998. From a Buffalo News clipping. Original photo by Sharon Cantillon.

The executor, by the way, was the Rev. Louis Gonter, who was a parish priest for the Diocese of Buffalo. The bulk of Anna’s estate, amounting to roughly $150,000 was left to St. Louis Catholic Church, which meant so much to Anna and her family.

What Else?

Throughout my research into this topic, I found myself wondering about Anna Beck. Wish I could have met her. She must have been the definition of a complete minimalist. I think I live pretty simply. But not like Anna Beck.

I have so many unanswered questions. Why would she have been so adamant about having the house razed? Was it out of spite because the city forced her and Veronica off Ralph Street and over to Washington Street? Or did she really feel that no one else should live in her family home? Also, the way she never changed or updated anything in the home. If she was really so attached to the stuff of her parents and grandparents, why demolish the house?

The only photo of Anna Beck I could find. From a 1998 Buffalo News Story.

Also, what would cause a person to never update anything in their home at all? I get the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But…geez. A wringer washer? Who knows? It may have been living through the depression that was at the root of Anna and Veronica’s thrift. I don’t think it was money. Anna left a residual estate of $150,000 in 1998. She wasn’t loaded, but she wasn’t poor either.

I guess we’ll never know.

My Impressions

I have mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, I’m a preservationist at heart. To be able to see this home now, as Anna left it in 1998 would be amazing. The fact that we lost a home, much preserved back to the 1930s, is a real shame from a historical standpoint.

I’m sure that all of the items inside, or ones like them, would be able to be gathered to create the museum that was 923 Washington Street. But it wouldn’t be the same, would it? Just the fact that they were all under that roof, being used regularly until 1998 would make it a museum worth seeing.

The sidewalk remains in front of a home that is no longer there.

That’s such a big part of what we history nerds love so much. It’s the stories behind the buildings we so admire. Wondering about the people and the places they inhabited. Where they lived, laughed, cried, and loved.

This simple home told the story of three generations of a Buffalo family. It lasted far longer than most of the mansions on Millionaire’s Row over on Delaware Ave. I’d love to be able to see Anna Beck’s home today, just as it was when she lived there.

Deep breath.

On the other hand, I understand the law, and in this case, it was upheld to the letter. Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina’s ruling was fair, thorough and brilliant. He saw both sides of the argument, and no stone was left unturned in his decision. From the ruling: “Valid contracts cannot be so cavalierly breached.”* The City of Buffalo (Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency) and Anna Beck entered into a binding contract. Anna Beck executed her agreement with her last will and testament. The city of Buffalo was forced to uphold theirs.

And with that, we lost the home at 923 Washington Street, formerly 42 Ralph Alley. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

Just One More Thing

There’s no real sense in spending a lot of time on it. What’s done is done. But at the beginning of the post, I said I thought that what happened here was a mistake. By that I mean that back in the late 70s, no one recognized this home for what it was. And in the twenty years following, still no one noticed. No move was made towards preserving the treasure that it was. To have a vernacular home from the 1860s, in the heart of the city, virtually unchanged since 1930…would be incredible.

The judge’s hands were tied in this case though.

We are better at this now than we used to be. We’re moving in the right direction. As a city, let’s not make this mistake again. Let’s move forward.

*Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mettina’s ruling

**Special thanks to Jerome Puma!

***Since the home was demolished, this lot has been owned by both Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. It is now owned by 927-937 Washington Street LLC.

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