City Living – Norwood Ave

City Living – Norwood Ave

A couple of weeks ago, Tim (my husband) and I headed over to a friend’s house on Norwood Ave on the spur of the moment to say hello. Well, she (Lori) wasn’t home. As we walked away from her house, we noticed several homes along the street that are fantastic. I thought, “Why haven’t I written about this street?” So here we are.

Norwood is a long street that runs from Summer all the way to Lafayette Ave. Because of the length of the street, I’m only going to cover Lori’s block, which is between Summer and Bryant.

Let’s Begin at Bryant

We started on the West Side of the street at Bryant. I took this particular hike with Tim and David, our grandson, who is about to turn 12. These are the first homes we see.

Then we came to this, below. This is when I pointed out the three columns at the corners of the porch, and what was (and I guess still is) a Palladian window, with the woodwork surrounding it. When I told David that the glass in the center window would have originally been rounded at the top, he said, “Oh, I see what you mean. So we’re looking for details like that!” Yes, exactly.

As we walked, we talked about architectural detail. The woodwork surrounding windows. Whether the glass is leaded, what sidelights are that flank the front doors. Whether a front door was painted or not etc. I love the windows at the top of this home, below, and the French doors on the upper porch. Would be great to throw those open in the summer for a nice breeze!

Of course, I also mentioned to David that you can’t notice these things when you’re driving.

This is the first one that really made us take notice. David admired the scrollwork in the pediment and above the recessed windows in the peak of the house. I pointed out the leaded glass in the window just to the right of the front entry. This is a beautiful home.

Check out the shingles above and below the windows, which are different from the rest of the home.

Next…

We came upon this home, below, across from Lori’s house. And, lo and behold, Lori was coming down the driveway, wondering what in the world we were doing taking pictures on her street. Haha! Urban hiking, of course!

She was apparently on her way out, and caught sight of us, did a double take, and realized it was us, acting like tourists on her street! We chatted for a few minutes, and she promised to hook me up with a neighbor or two, including her mother and step-father, who own the house she lives in.

Take a look at this amazing home. That peak! Those windows! That sweet diamond! The owner has been in this home over 40 years and has done a great job maintaining it! Love it!

And This

Next, we come to this, below. This is one of three on this block designed by architect H. H. Little. He was a well-known architect in Buffalo from 1878 until his death in 1917. Little’s own home was on this block and we’ll come to it soon. But this home was built in 1894 for John Kronenberg, who was the Secretary and Treasurer of Machwirth Bros. Company. It was built as a single family home, but is now three apartments.

And it is spectacular! All the details! David said he thought it had “too much going on”. He might be right that there are a lot of different colors going on, but they’re well chosen and executed well. Very eye catching! To say nothing of the headless, handless mannequin on the upper porch…what is that about? Probably better that we don’t know. Haha! With that one exception, H.H. Little would be happy with the fate of this home.

If there is “too much” going on with the last house, perhaps it is the opposite going on right next door, below.

The Next H. H. Little on Norwood

This home was built in 1898 for F. Behn and Carl Behn, who owned Buffalo Refrigeration Company. It was built as a two-family home with identical floor plans for the first and second floors. There are a lot of lovely details here, the bay window on the second floor with its curved glass, all the woodwork around the windows and at the peak. Very pretty.

Election Fraud?

Next, we come to the home of William Gaertner, below, who ran for Delaware District Councilman in 1939, and lost. By the end of the year, he was indicted for making false affidavits designating himself as a candidate, to which he pleaded innocent. Apparently he produced a list for his staff, and had them each take turns writing in two or three names at a time, including contact info, on the affidavit. They had no idea they were doing anything illegal. (?) By January, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. It’s unclear what his sentence ended up being, but more than likely, he paid a fine if it was reduced to a misdemeanor. Oh Buffalo.

Anyways, William Gaertner’s former house is gorgeous, although I look forward to seeing it without the plastic surrounding the porch. Assuming it’ll be removed soon. I really like the canopy (is that the right word?) around the inside of the porch. Gives the home a classic look.

And these. They all have their own look and great details.

This one, below, appears to be going through extensive renovations. I believe I heard there was a fire here a while back. Alas, no one was there to talk to when we went by. This is one to watch though.

And one of my personal favorites. Just look at that upstairs room on the left and that super narrow window at that same corner of the house. Sweet! Not to mention the sun room on the front. Those windows appear to be original, and the front entry is just fantastic! The landscaping. Everything looks perfect here. The colors are spot on, the trim is done correctly. I love everything about this home.

The Third H. H. Little

Another favorite. This one, below is the home of H. H. Little. Designed by him, for him. My favorite part? The metal cresting along the roof line ending in a curlicue at two of the peaks. I’ve never seen anything like it. It shows Little’s whimsical side. I also secretly envy this type of recessed patio on the front peak. I would sleep out there in the summer! And I wonder if, and how, the owner uses the patio on the second floor corner? It’s such a private little spot.

The first floor is also red medina sandstone that’s been painted over. I wish it wasn’t painted, but this is definitely a cool house. It’s alway interesting to see what an architect builds for himself.

I’ve heard stories that the elderly gentleman who lives here now, used to drive a Pierce Arrow well after 2000. Now, that would have been a sight to see!

Society Woman…

This next one has a bit of a sad story.

The home was once occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Charles N. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was a partner in an insurance firm, and very well-to-do. His wife, Florence, was the daughter of former Buffalo mayor, General William F. Rogers. Both Charles and Florence moved in high Buffalo society. After Charles’s death Florence continued to entertain and was frequently written up in the society pages.

On January 1, 1932, Florence left her home, above, for a walk before dinner. She never returned. She was last seen at the foot of Porter Avenue near the canal. Police searched for almost three months, before her body was found near the end of March in the canal. What a terrible end for anyone! And for her family, a daughter and son-in-law.

I don’t usually like to talk about sad stories like this in my posts, but this was so strange and unexpected, that I had to include it.

AM&A’s Connection?

This next home is another favorite (I have many on this street). I heard from a neighbor that this home was owned by the Adam family from AM&A’s. There is some evidence to corroborate, but it’s not definitive. I am, however, willing to say that the home was probably owned at one time by Robert B. Adam, or his son of the same name.

The home sold in 2020, and was listed as a single family home. But after perusing the photos in the listing, there are at least two apartments, possibly more, in this house. From the sweet wrought iron gate, to the little patio above the carport, to the two dormers in the roof with their amazing windows, this home is fantastic. I wonder, however, if the room in the front with it’s leaded glass windows was always enclosed, or was this a porch at one time. No matter, this home has it all!

Bob & Susan’s Home

This is when we met Bob & Susan. What a home they’ve got! They’ve been in this house since 1976, and boy have they maintained it well. That door! So perfect! The leaded glass, the curved leaded glass and all the other details, including the red Medina Sandstone front. I’ve noticed several on the street that used sandstone. This home is fantastic.

Bob told a story that I have to share! One year on Christmas Eve, at about 10pm there was a knock at their door. Bob and Susan assumed it was a family member but when they opened the door, it was a man who introduced himself. He told them his grandmother used to live in the home, and he had with him a box filled with old photographs of the home, some framed! He gave them to Bob and Susan. Merry Christmas! What a gift. Who wouldn’t love for this to happen to them?! I sure would.

Lucky

This is where we met Lucky and his owner Paul. Paul says he lives on the other side of Richmond, but walks Norwood with Lucky because it’s such a great street. Love it. Lucky was, perhaps the calmest, most relaxed dog I’ve ever met. That’s my kind of dog!

And these

So pretty!

Technically on Summer, I’ve heard this used to be the Elmwood Music School, and is now a B&B. I hope they serve the breakfasts on the patio over the garage!

Crossing the Street

We see this. Just gorgeous! Very well done.

And these.

Nichols School on Norwood?

Yes, that’s right. This is the first permanent home of the Nichols School, below! Originally an all boys college prep school, this is where the Nichols School was located in 1892, until it’s present location was completed on Amherst Street, in 1910. Incidentally, the school was almost closed for good, when John Albright spearheaded the saving of the school, and donated part of the present grounds.

The original front porch was enclosed and additions were added to the second floor, to finally arrive at the look of the present home. Which I believe has at least four units, possibly five. How do you like the look?

Then there are these.

When I saw this house, below, I couldn’t help but notice the carriage house in the back. Now, this is a carriage house I’d like to live in!

This home below is part of a growing trend that I’ve noticed. Starting to see more homes painted black (along with the use of black trim paint). I like it. I like it a lot!

This green one, below, has so much to like. Both dormers are great, but the one on the right, how it leads right down to the bay window on the second floor. Almost all the windows are original, including the 9 and 1’s in that dormer! Awesome.

Lori’s House. No, Linda and Kevin’s House

Now we come to Lori’s house. More correctly, Linda and Kevin’s house. And I don’t know where to begin. This home is monumental!

I’ll just start with the current owners, Lori’s Mother, Linda, and Step-Father, Kevin bought the home in 2004. There are four apartments in all. Lori moved into the second floor front apartment five years later. And Tony (now Lori’s husband) moved in a while after that.

How about those porches? Perfect! Great spot for a wedding.

Lori & Tony taking their vows!

Or Halloween, or Christmas. Or just a casual dinner with friends in the summer. If you live in the area, you know what I mean. Wink, wink.

Anyhoo. I sat down with Linda and Kevin last week to talk about the house.

The Diamond Connection

Lance Diamond was a long time resident at this home. As a matter of fact, he lived in all four apartments at one time or another. He lived here when some, or all of the Goo Goo Dolls lived here. They became friends, which apparently Lance did with everyone. Robby Takac was a regular visitor to the house to see Lance until his death in 2015.

Lance Diamond, baby! Photo credit: unknown

While Linda and Kevin were telling me about Lance, they talked about the many meals they shared together, and about just hanging out with him on the porch. It’s obvious they both miss him very much. Goes to show that homes are always about the people who live in them.

Last spring, Robby asked Linda and Kevin to host a band on their porch during Porchfest in honor of Lance. Perfect porch for it. They agreed, but the pandemic hit, and Porchfest was cancelled. This year, maybe? Time will tell.

Kevin, Linda – you’ve got a fantastic home.

Moving Right Along

This next home shares a driveway with Kevin and Linda’s house. It’s really gorgeous too.

This home, below, was apparently in really, really rough shape. Flippers bought it, and did what they do. Looks like a brand new house. Wish I knew what it looked like before.

And oh my gosh, this sweet thing. I love the new paint job here! Very bold, and it’s so cheerful. My favorite part? The wrought iron on the two front windows – it makes the whole house make sense. H. H. Little would approve of this bit of whimsy.

And these. Aren’t they lovely?

Blown Away Again on Norwood

Just as I started to think things were winding down, we came across this. And it’s signed Tingley/Ogre 2012! In Buffalo street art, it doesn’t get any better than this. They are two of the most talented artists in Buffalo. So, what a find! And it’s been here since 2012? Never noticed it before.

I guess that’s because I’m usually in a car on this street. Here’s a case for urban hiking. Love this.

But, actually, it’s not quite what it appears to be. When I spoke with Newell Nussbaumer, founder of Buffalo Rising, and owner of the garage that is really a house, he explained that the original painting on the garage door was in fact done by Chuck Tingley and Ogre (Matthew Grote). And that garage door was damaged by a car, so Newell and his wife, Amelia took the door down and hung it inside their home. They then had the replacement door painted with what you see here (above) by mural artists Vinny Alejandro and Mark Madden. It is inspired by Danish mid-century modern pottery. Awesome.

Love their persistence. Most people would have just put up a new door and left it with the surround that belonged to the first mural. But Newell and Amelia wanted their yard to bring beauty and joy to their neighbors, so they had the new door painted as well.

A Little Background on the ‘Garage’ House and Yard

The home is a converted garage, or more precisely, a carriage house. It was where some of the neighbors kept their carriages (this is a late 1800s neighborhood remember). They would ride their horses over, hitch them up to their carriage and go on their way. I’m sure in some cases, their drivers did all of this, as we already know this street was home to some of Buffalo’s wealthier residents.

Then the building became a livery, and later still, a taxi company called The Norwood Garage. Wow! What a history!

Newell explained that his mother originally told him about the place coming up for sale. A friend of hers converted it into a home, and when Newell went to see it, he liked it well enough to make the decision to buy it that same day. And he wasn’t even looking for a house! Brave.

A Shared Driveway and Yard

Living in a home behind another home is something that I would say most people would be unwilling to do. Newell and Amelia’s home has a shared yard with three other homes. The people who live here share and share alike. Newell talked about how they watch out for each other, they keep an eye on each others’ homes if someone is not around. They all take care of the place together in a casual sort of way.

The home that shares a driveway with Newell & Amelia’s home

A lot of people wouldn’t care for this type of arrangement. But Newell says it works very well. In my opinion, this is what city living is about. People being true neighbors. Working together for the common good, and being there for each other. Newell referred to it as a sort of safety net. I like that.

These next two photos are the other two homes that share a yard with the ‘garage’ house. They’re twins, with minor differences.

Then we saw this! At this point it took every ounce of strength I had to not walk up the driveway to see what exactly was going on in there. Later, Newell filled me in on this one too. It’s in part of their shared yard, and was painted by Mark Madden. It’s the face of Elektra, a Tesla-inspired electrified sculpture. Cool!

Next time, Newell, I’m going in. Haha!

A Couple More

This home, below, is very much like a lot of the homes on this street. That is to say, a Victorian era, or Queen Anne, or shingle style home. It could be grand again. Look closely at the details. The double columns at the back of the porch, the scroll work under the eaves, the shingles…if they’re not damaged. The right paint could make all the difference in the world for this house. Let’s keep an eye on this one.

My Impressions

Where to begin with my impressions of Norwood Ave? I have to say that this street blew me away. The homes, the history, the people! Nichols School! Lucky and Paul! Bob and Susan. Lori, Linda and Kevin. Newell and Amelia! And Lance Diamond, a Buffalo Icon!

I mentioned earlier that Lance made friends with everyone. He made friends with me many years ago as I headed up the sidewalk to meet Lori on her porch. He was sitting on the little stoop just up from the sidewalk. I didn’t know who he was, although I had heard of him. He introduced himself, and told me that any friend of Lori’s was a friend of his.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met who’ve said that to me about Lori. She’s good people. She is without a doubt, the absolute salt of the earth. And so are Linda and Kevin. 100 percent. Happy to be considered their friend, and have been for a long time. True Buffalo people.

And being a regular reader of Buffalo Rising for many years now, it was really fun to talk to Newell about his house and his neighborhood. Thank you for that Newell. You’re true Buffalo people too.

Norwood is a long street, I’ve only shown you about one third of it. And I apologize if your home didn’t make it in to the post. There were so many homes! Buffalo’s Garden Walk began on this street – the other end. If you can, you should come see this street. The whole street. It’s truly amazing. And so are the people.

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.

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City Living – Lafayette & Parkdale Avenues

City Living – Lafayette & Parkdale Avenues

I’ve been wanting to write about Lafayette High School ever since the first time I actually walked past it about a year and a half ago with a friend of mine. I, of course, had seen it before, but until you walk past a building, it’s easy to miss how incredible it can be. And the more I walk in the area, the more I notice all the spectacular homes and buildings along here too. Little did I know what I’d find once I really got into it.

When I first sat down to research the area, I remembered another friend of mine, Martha, grew up on Parkdale. I shot her a text to find out which house was hers at the time, and during a small flurry of texts, I thought that she might like to take a walk. She wanted to, our schedules happened to match up, and so we set out the next day.

Come Hike With Me

For this particular hike, Martha and I met up at the southwest corner of Grant Street, at Sweet_ness 7 Cafe. Martha tells me this was a bakery when she lived just around the block on Parkdale. More recently though, it was a beautiful little full service coffee shop, with amazing food, great service and original art. Yes, I said art. Both inside and out. But today I’ll just tell you a story of the mural on the exterior of the building.

A few years ago now, I sat down with Prish Moran, owner of the building, and talked about how Sweet_ness 7 came to be. She told me how she purchased the building and set about getting her vision for the cafe off the ground. The exterior first floor was covered with graffiti. And not the good kind. Lots of nastiness. When it proved to be much too difficult to remove, Prish painted that section of the building brown in an attempt to make it appear a bit better. Afterwards, people in the area began to ‘suggest’ she do something to brighten up the drab brown-ness of it all.

And Brighten it Up, She Did

One day Prish came across a page she had torn out of a magazine that was, basically, the mural that she ended up painting.

Wait until you hear this. Not long after painting it, Prish was sitting inside the unfinished cafe. She was going through bills, hoping she hadn’t made a huge mistake by buying the building, when someone knocked at the door. When she answered it, there was a man there with several women. He introduced himself, and told Prish he was taking the women, who were Burmese refugees, for a walk through the neighborhood. He was showing them around and when they came upon the building, the women became very excited. They began to cry tears of joy.

They explained that when they arrived in Buffalo they were uncertain about the future for their families and for themselves in a new country. Understandable. But when they saw the painting on the side of Prish’s building, they were reassured that they were exactly where they were meant to be. You see, the painting is of a Burmese Fertility Goddess.

Prish had no idea that’s what it was, she just liked it. But after meeting the women at her door that day, Prish knew that she too was exactly where she was meant to be at that time. Of course we all know the cafe turned out to be a huge success.

Sad, but True

Sweet_ness 7 is temporarily closed right now. In an email Prish tells me that both Sweet_ness 7 and the Tabernacle are currently available for rent. I’ll list Prish’s contact information at the end of this post. As for Prish, she has purchased an inn in the Adirondacks. She is, as usual, fearlessly following one of her many dreams.

We here in Buffalo are looking forward to the return of a cafe to this corner.

On With the Hike

Across Grant from Sweet_ness 7 is this little bit of sweetness, below. This home has been brought back to life in the last several years. Love it. My favorite part? The outdoor spaces. Both of the porches that face Lafayette, and the brilliant rooftop patio over the garage on Grant. That last one is perfect for this spot! Makes me want to sit up there with friends and family on a Saturday night in the summer, sipping cocktails. I’d also like to see what’s been done to the basement, I’m intrigued.

Everything here makes sense. From the commercial space in the garage to the solar panels on the roof of the house. It all just works.

Across the street is what used to be Annunciation Parish. Martha tells me that this was her church growing up. When I asked if she walked to church, she said, “We walked everywhere.” And the story began to unfold as we walked and looked at the homes along the way.

This is Our Lady of Hope Parish today, a merger of Annunciation, Our Lady of Loretto, and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a vibrant, multicultural, West Side, Roman Catholic Church. I’m going to have to check this one out some weekend.

Moving Right Along

Back on the other side of the street we see this. I love the dormer on this house!

And this. Check this place out! The style? Second Empire, with attitude. Okay, that’s not a real thing. But those awesome colors, and that monstrous red Medina sandstone porch. Wow. And you can’t see it in any of the photos I took, but there’s an entire house in the backyard! I’m not talking about an in-law cottage. I’m talking about a full house!

And there are others with homes in the backyard right along this stretch. At least five in this square block. It’s curious, but I think it’s cool in a way too. Wonder how that ever came to be? Full homes, in behind others. Interesting.

Sisters of St. Mary of Namur

These next few buildings are the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. I feel bad saying I’ve never heard of them. They taught at Annunciation School when it was open. And they are still here, busy as ever, ministering to the people of the West Side. Excellent.

As a matter of fact, in 2019, the sisters celebrated 200 years of ministry! From their website,

“In this century, as we have become a diverse, global community, the Sisters have been attuned to the changing times, extending themselves beyond the classroom. Parish ministry, refugee work, standing against human trafficking, teaching ESL, home visiting, counseling, spiritual direction and prayer groups are among the many works the Sisters have assumed as the Spirit has led.”

I have a lot of respect for sisters. They, unlike priests, give up all their worldly possessions, take a vow of poverty and agree to serve “as the Spirit has led”. It’s really amazing when you think about it.

The School

Annunciation School, that is. At one time it was K-12, serving the entire community. I knew there was a K-8 grammar school here, but didn’t realize it was a high school originally as well. Interesting. Martha went here for grammar school, along with many of the neighborhood children. The students used to (lovingly, I’m sure!) call the school “A Nun’s Creation”. I see what they did there! Haha. Love it!

The school is now closed, but the first floor of the building is a professional incubator office space, and the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center. There are 20 loft apartments of varying sizes above. It’s a great re-use, and if you look at the website, you can see that they’ve kept some of the old school fixtures, like chalkboards! Again, interesting!

The Discovery Trail

I should mention that throughout this hike, we came to stops on the Discovery Trail. It’s a one mile trail that starts at the West Buffalo Charter School at 113 Lafayette, and is marked on the sidewalks of Lafayette Ave between DeWitt and Baynes. The theme of this trail is ‘welcome all cultures’.

I love when a city/neighborhood has these kinds of things. It makes a child love getting out and taking an urban hike! It’s the type of thing they’ll reminisce about someday!

Seriously, if you live in the area, and you haven’t seen these, take a walk. They’re designed by school children at WBCS…and they’re inspiring!

I’ll drop photos of them in, here and there, during our hike so you can experience them just like we did…as we went along.

Parkdale Ave

Back to the hike. As we round the corner on to Parkdale, and as we pass the side of the old school, these are the homes we see.

There are so many things I notice about this home, below. Let’s start at the peak with the pebbled dash. I want to say that there’s a design to the pebbling, but from this angle, I can’t say for sure. The tiles that are set into the bricks are unusual. Martha and I agreed they’ve probably always been there. Note that the bricks directly above the tiles stand out further from the rest, probably to protect the tiles.

Off to the left, you can see that the entry door is on the side of the enclosed porch. But the front of the house has another door, with large sidelights. I like that in the good weather both doors can be open to allow plenty of fresh air.

And this one below, is in great shape! It looks like the upper porch was re-done at some point. I probably wouldn’t have thought to do it, but they saved some of the wrought iron when they did the porch. Really nice touch.

Martha’s Family Home

Next is the home Martha grew up in. She lived here with her parents, three brothers and one sister. It’s a really pretty house. But to get the full effect, check out this listing from a couple of years ago.

Martha and I have to stop ourselves from going into the back yard to look around. I can see the curiosity in her face. She notices that there’s a chimney on what used to be a back porch. If you click on the link above, it’s not just a fireplace that someone’s added, it’s an oven. Maybe a pizza oven? It’s a fantastic porch and yard all around!

The Neighborhood

As we hike Parkdale Ave Martha is peppering the conversation with names of the people who lived in this house or that. So many that I could never be able to match up the house with the family names. But here’s a few. Guzzetta, LaDuca, Missana, Ciffa, Cavalieri, Lagatutta and Callari.

Some of these families may have lived on Lafayette… But you get the idea. This was a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Martha mentions that she never thought of it that way when she was a child, but telling me all the names really drives it home for her. And it sure does seem like she knew everyone!

As we approached this one, Martha says she thought it used to have an apartment out back, and sure enough, there it is… Note the details around the windows and front entry. I’d never have noticed that if I were just driving by.

And these.

At this house below, Martha tells me that when she lived across the street, there was an older couple that lived in this house that didn’t have any children. But they ‘adopted’ all the kids on the street. They must have made an impression, and quite possibly a difference in some of the children’s lives. Sweet story.

This last one is still in great shape. Or back in great shape, I can’t be sure. But it looks good.

On this section of Parkdale (between Lafayette and Auburn) I noticed that a lot of the homes are still the original clapboard. Some have been covered with vinyl siding, but I want to say that most of them are still original. I like this.

Back to the Corner of Parkdale and Lafayette

The first thing I see is this huge, gorgeous old home. Needs a bit of work, but it appears that all the original detail is still intact, most of the original windows are still there, and it could be brought back. I’d love to see it happen. Same color, with white and black trim. Yes, please.

Kitty corner from that home is the Buffalo Dream Center. These buildings are fantastic and appear to be in great shape!

Martha tells me this used to be the Lafayette Baptist Church ‘back in the day’. The Buffalo Dream Center has been headed by Pastors Eric and Michelle Johns since 1993 and now calls these buildings (above) home. The church is very involved in outreach services to Buffalo’s community, serving children, the poor and the hungry. If you are looking to get involved in any of these ministries, take a look at their website. This is one busy place!

The Homes

As we continue up Lafayette, Martha starts rattling off names again. Castiglia, Battaglia, Cannizzaro, Severino, Cipolla. We stroll on, and this is some of what we see. Fantastic! The two last homes in this grouping are twins!

And this one, back in the day, was home to one of Martha’s friends, the Missana family home. Martha remembers it being beautiful inside. I’d love to see it now.

Along here, they just keep getting better.

Love the paint job here, there’s that black trim again!

You could almost imagine this is a cabin in the woods. Love it!

Love the rounded porch, and the curved leaded glass!

And still, Martha is mentioning names, Palumbo, Falcone, Rubbino, Falzone. As we approach Colonial Circle at Richmond, she remembers a family on Richmond Ave named Gulino. She remembers them being very nice.

Here’s a quick story about one of the previous residents of this house, below. Born in 1881, in Italy, Anthony Carnavale came to Buffalo when he was a child. He learned to play the saxophone when he was young, which was considered a pioneering instrument at the time. He played as a member of the 74th Regiment Band, who played at the Temple of Music at the Pan American Exposition. Cool! Carnavale went on to play at many downtown theaters, including the Olympic and the Lafayette.

In 1927, he opened Carnavale’s Spaghetti House on Niagara Street. It became very popular with local politicians and members of the entertainment community in the city. He continued to be active in the music scene in Buffalo until his retirement. Interesting guy. He lived in the house with his wife, Rose, his son and two daughters.

These. Are. Awesome.

And this one is fantastic. Check out the windows in the dormer.

Lafayette High School

This is where we come to Lafayette High School. Can you imagine going to high school in this building?!

This building was completed in 1903 and designed by Esenwein & Johnson, noted Buffalo architects. Their firm designed the Temple of Music that I mentioned earlier, the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Calumet Building, the iconic Electric Tower, numerous homes, and many, many more!

For whatever reason, Martha didn’t attend Lafayette High School (or Annunciation HS for that matter). So I phoned a friend. Actually, I texted a friend, Lori. When asked what her favorite part about going to Lafayette High School, Lori immediately responded with “Teachers and friends!” I love that about Lori. When I pressed her about the building, she said she always knew how special it was, and always thought it was beautiful. Even as kids, they respected that. Cool. Thanks Lori.

The school is now Lafayette International Community High School, serving the multicultural community that the West Side has become throughout the years. I love this too.

I know a woman who came to Buffalo when she was 16, from Germany, many years ago. She didn’t speak English, and had to spend an entire year sitting in a high school classroom learning English by listening and observing. She felt awkward and, in her words ‘stupid’. It should make all of us happy that Buffalo has schools like this where children can ease into life in a new country more comfortably than in years past.

The Home Stretch

As we pass the high school, we come upon a lot of really great houses.

This one is awesome, below. Martha mentions she loves this kind of sunroom. Me too, Martha! The plaque on the front says 1877, and I daresay that most of those small windows are original! Would that column of windows to the right of the door be considered a sidelight? Either way, I like it. And sweet that there is a literal bell in the place of a traditional doorbell. I love this one.

And this one, below. Like when I hiked Woodward Ave., I’m noticing again that I’m a bit drawn to the orange color of this house. Never would have thought to choose this color, but it works. That said, I’d love it if there were a little more uniformity, maybe the first floor the darker orange, and the second floor and peak the lighter color? It’s possible the owner is working on that. Love the green too!

The entryway is perfection for this house. Goes to show, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Just right.

Guercio’s and More

When we arrived back at Grant Street, we headed over to Guercio and Sons to pick up a couple of things. Martha tells me that she walked over here every Saturday with her Mother to get groceries for the week. Her brother still comes every other week or so. I haven’t been in here in a couple of years, so I took a good look around and if I lived within walking distance, I’d be in here all the time. Great produce, staples, and gorgeous imports. Still love this place.

Photo credit: Unknown

As Martha and I go back out onto Grant, she mentions again that Sweet_ness 7 was a bakery when she was a kid. After Guercios, she and her Mom would go to the bakery, and then to the Meating Place for, well, meat. Haha! That’s a little up Grant on the east side of the street just before Auburn. You could throw a stone at it from Sweet_ness. Martha says that if they really needed something they couldn’t get at those three places, her Mother would head over to Super Duper, which was further south on Grant.

There were other stores and shops along here as well for all their other needs. I love this.

My Impressions

When I first set out to write this post, I thought I’d research some of the homes along Lafayette and see what I could learn. It’s kind of how I usually start a city living post. But every post evolves in it’s own way, and when I texted Martha about her childhood home, I saw a completely different post taking shape. She was so enthusiastic about the neighborhood, I found I couldn’t wait to see it through her eyes. Sort of like when I hiked around downtown with my 3-year-old granddaughter, and wrote Castles of Buffalo. It’s always good to see things through someone else’s eyes. It gives you a whole new perspective.

Well. Now I have a whole new perspective on the West Side. I’m not a stranger to this area, but I’ve never lived here. I also understand my old friend Martha a little better. That seems to happen when you learn about where someone comes from. Martha became so animated as we turned onto Parkdale! It was pretty cool to watch. I only regret that I was enjoying her talking about the homes and the families who used to live in them so much, that I didn’t get a photo of her ‘in her element’ so to speak.

I had to settle for using this photo of Martha (center) from the Shamrock Run, 2020, pre-quarantine. It was the last time we socialized together, until our urban hike last week. That’s Martha’s husband, Mike, on the left and my husband Tim between Martha and me.

Idealistically Speaking Though

This neighborhood was a fantastic place to grow up. Martha tells me how they walked or rode bikes everywhere. They’d walk to Front Park near the Peace Bridge to ice skate. They’d walk to church, to school, to their friend’s homes. To relatives nearby. It seems like there were a lot of relatives nearby. Martha and her friends would even ride bikes over to Canada to “this little beach we called the Baby Hole.” Haha. Sweet.

To me it seems idyllic. What more could you ask for?

It’s Thought Provoking

You know, there is a lot of talk around Buffalo about creating livable spaces. Places where people will want to live. This neighborhood is the kind of thing we should want to build. But honestly, I don’t know that you can build it. You can put the infrastructure there, and hope it happens. But I think it has to happen organically. You can’t force it.

Martha and her family could get everything they needed on Grant Street. On the East Side, where my father grew up, his family got everything they needed on Fillmore Ave or the Broadway Market.

It’s a gamble every developer takes. They create from a vision of something they think will be good for the city, or a neighborhood. Then they hope other people see it too. Like when Guercio and Sons first opened their doors on Grant Street sixty some years ago. They took a chance that the people of the neighborhood would want what they had to offer. It turns out that in this case, the neighborhood wanted exactly what they had to offer.

In this little neighborhood, where Martha grew up, what do the people living here now, want (and need) next? The area is coming back, that’s for sure. But what will it take to make it a really idyllic place to live again?

There are people meeting, discussing and planning exactly that, as I write this.

Look for another post on the West Side soon to discuss. This place has got more to say.

Get the Book!

They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!).  Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!

*Special thanks to Lori Mroz, Prish Moran, and especially Martha Emiliani. Thanks for everything guys!

Interested in renting either Sweet_ness 7 or the Tablernacle spaces at 220 Grant Street, email Prish Moran at 220grantstreet@gmail.com.

City Living – Edge Park Ave.

City Living – Edge Park Ave.

I’ve recently become aware of Edge Park Ave off of Amherst Street near Delaware Park. You might say it’s at the edge of the park. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Honestly though, it’s a couple of blocks away from the park.

This street is a bit different from others I’ve done in that most of the homes were built after 1925. I have it on good authority that Edge Park Ave is part of the land that was once part of the Hoyt estate on Amherst Street. Parts of the estate were developed slowly into the neighborhood we see today. The Hoyt mansion in the photo below sat right where the Nichols soccer field is now, on Amherst Street across from Nottingham Terrace.

The mansion itself has a fascinating history, but that’s for another day. Today, I’d like to concentrate exclusively on Edge Park Ave. Come hike with me.

Let’s Get Started

I approach Edge Park Ave by walking from Delaware Ave down Amherst Street. This last home on Amherst, like so often happens, has the side of the house (and address) on Amherst, but the best side of the home is on Edge Park. It’s a lovely Tudor with subtle Craftsman details. And a tile roof. I even like the garage. In the summer, the landscaping is gorgeous!

Here’s an interesting little tidbit, Charles Hahn Jr. lived here in the late 1930’s. His job? He was the Vice President of Sattler’s Store at 998 Broadway, a very famous store (in Buffalo anyway) directly across from the Broadway Market. Nice!

It’s a beautiful home, don’t you think?

Next…

Next I come to the first home that is actually on Edge Park. I love the brick details around the front door here. Pretty unusual. And the wrought iron above the door is a nice touch. This home was built in 1917, so it’s one of the earlier homes on the street. Just lovely.

There is so much that I like about this one (below)! Those windows, and especially the entryway with the columns. Again I am reminded that I thought I didn’t really care for columns, but it turns out that I do, when they look like these! This is a very stately yet understated home. And it looks to me like there may have been awnings over the two first floor windows. Would love to have seen them. I’m picturing striped canvas…

This one’s on a corner lot, and is impressive. I especially love the awning over the front door, and the charming side entry. I love all the dormers popping out here and there. Makes me really wonder about the interior. I also like the use of black in the trim paint. It’s becoming more and more popular, and I like it. I think I could be quite comfortable in this house.

Now Crossing Delham

I know a couple of people who really love this next one. At first glance, I didn’t think it was anything special. Not super partial to the barn style home. But the more I see it, the more I fall in love. It’s well maintained, and I like the new(er) color. Really makes this house noticeable! Looks like a true family home. And you know I love that! I can picture myself sipping tea on the upper porch, watching the sunrise.

It was built in 1927. I wonder what this area looked like back then. Were these side streets paved? Were there sidewalks? This is the type of thing I wonder about when I’m hiking around the city.

And Then…

Then there’s this Tudor style home. Look at the row of windows on the driveway side of the house. Makes me wonder what’s on the inside. It looks to me like at least some of the windows are original, including those, but I like the ones on the second floor best. 24 panes on the one on the left. Wouldn’t want to clean them (I don’t do windows), but I sure do like the way they look!

There are several homes on the street that have double lots. This appears to be one of them. I read that a handful of early owners on this street acquired the adjacent lots in order to enlarge their yards. Makes for beautiful properties.

Mid-Century Modern on Edge Park!

And this home (below). My son, Matt, pointed it out to me recently. It’s so unusual to see a mid-century modern home in this neighborhood.

As it turns out, the owner, Brenda, arrived home just as I was passing by. We got to talking and she told me that the home was built in 1952 and that soon after the owners (the Freedmans?) put a large addition on. The curved roof was added later as well. That’s a good thing because flat roofs in Buffalo are not the best idea, just in case we get a storm…

Anyways, Brenda, being a friendly Buffalonian, invited me in to see the interior. Brenda lives here with her husband, daughter, and two adorable dogs. What a cool house! Take a look.

This home is everything I thought it would be and more! The red fireplace wall! And those ceilings! Fantastic! I’m sad to say that my photos of the yard out back didn’t turn out well. It’s small, but very charming. Great place to hang out in the summer.

Brenda, thank you so much for sharing your house with us! And good luck to your husband, John, in his bid for Erie County Sheriff!

Look at this beauty right next door to Brenda. Classic. The entryway is beautiful, I like that the door hasn’t been painted over, and the sidelights really make it!

Wait Till You Hear This

Next, I come to the two homes on Edge Park that straddle Rand Avenue. I have a story about these two homes.

But first let’s talk about the actual homes. First, the house on the south side of Rand Ave, home to Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Schwartz. The entryway here is fantastic. Check out that marble surround over the door with the house number carved into it. Nice touch. And I could be wrong, but I think the bay windows are original. So cool.

I’d love to see the shutters, the gutters & downspouts, and the light painted brown to match the front door. It would pull it all together and be spectacular. But that’s just me. Unless all that will be black one day, to match the gutters and downspouts. That’d be great too! And, it is beautiful just the way it is!

The Schwartz home. Part of the scene of the Starling Affair of 1959.

The home on the north side, below, was owned by Mr. & Mrs. Howard Boasberg. I really like the entryway here too, and the extra trim around the windows adds a certain charm. This is a great family house!

The Boasberg home. The other scene in the Starling Affair.

Anyway, Back to The Story

It takes place in 1959. I’m calling it the Starling Affair. Haha…

Picture this street, like so many others in Buffalo, full of elm trees. There were apparently six elms in particular, some on the Schwartz property, some on the Boasberg property, where hundreds of starlings roosted one summer. And I do mean hundreds.

This was much to the chagrin of the homeowners, who reported that the birds returned to their nests every night a little before 8pm, and made quite a large mess on the sidewalks and the street. People couldn’t walk down the street in the evenings for fear of being splashed!

What to do?

Mr. Schwartz took to hosing down the sidewalks and the street every evening after work. Mr. Boasberg stated that friends were afraid to come to his home because of the mess, and that finding a safe place to park was becoming an issue. He also said that it wasn’t safe for his three year old daughter, and other neighborhood children to play anywhere near the two homes because of the birds.

The birds were also early risers, who began their squawking at 4:30am! Mr. Boasberg estimated there were 325 birds in all! Seriously, that’s a lot of birds. And not only that. They were apparently quite nasty. Mr. Boasberg said that both yards were littered with feathers on a daily basis and that he was burying at least one bird a day! Yikes!

The City Gets Involved

Boasberg complained to the city more than once. And this is where the story takes an ugly turn. From the Buffalo Evening News, August 26, 1959, “City employees turned a fogging machine loose Tuesday evening on a horde of noisy starlings who have set up housekeeping in six big elm trees on Rand Ave. at Edge Park. For two hours the clouds of rising white fumes reportedly chased the pesky black birds up Rand and back down Delham Ave. and along Edge Park. The chemical warfare was ordered by Victor F. Bartkowski, supervisor of vermin and animal control…”

The feel of the story was that the problem had finally been eradicated. Don’t get me wrong. It genuinely sounded like the people of this neighborhood were weary of the weeks long issues with the starlings. But chemical warfare? Yes. This was 1959. Remember DDT? This is not long after that. I don’t know what they used in this case, but pretty sure it wouldn’t be used today.

This is a pretty interesting insight into what life was like in the late 50s! And still could be considered a funny story, as long as no one suffered from the fumes!

Several Surprises!

These next several houses really surprised me! Take a look…all were built in the 50’s. Really not what I expected to see on Edge Park. Wish there were more shade trees on this end of the street. It strikes me as I walk along, that these homes are very well maintained. Still, it’s not what I expect to see in this part of the city.

A person my age, looking to downsize in a few years, might love one of these. They’re not really small, just quite a bit smaller than a big old city home! And you wouldn’t have to give up any of the convenience of living in the city. Something to think about.

The East Side of the Street

And a few more along the east side of the street. Three of these are all basically the same house, but executed very differently.

This next home has an interesting story. It was built in 1920 and it used to be home to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, George L. Grobe. He had a reputation as being a very fair man, who did his best to help everyone who asked for it.

Grobe is one of the residents of Edge Park who first leased and then purchased the lot adjacent to his own in order to expand his garden. Gardening was apparently his favorite hobby. As a matter of fact, he was written up in the Courier Express in 1947 for his eclectic garden in the side yard of his house. Neat!

To me, there is something about a bright yellow house. It’s…cheerful somehow. This one is spectacular with its black and white trim. I picture the two French doors in the front thrown open to let the summer breezes in. Lovely.

And Then…

Then I came to this one. This is the one that made me want to write about this street. A lot of work has been done to this home recently, and it shows. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

But there’s history here too. Remember in the beginning of this post when I said that at least some of this property was most probably part of the Hoyt estate? There are three homes on this street that were advertised as having been built by Hoyt & Hamilton Builders. I also read an article by the Buffalo Evening News in 1937 stating that John D. H. Hoyt, of the realty concern of Hoyt & Hamilton, Inc., was announcing that three homes on Edge Park would be some of the first of Buffalo’s Gold Star Homes.

This home has changed quite a bit over the years (see the advertisement for #39, below). The center dormer and the embellishments to the front entry were added at some point, not to mention two additions to the south side of the home, and one around the back. All fantastic improvements if you ask me (and I know that you didn’t). I love everything about this home, including the history behind it.

What’s a Gold Star Home?

Good question. Check out the advertisements that appeared in the Buffalo Evening News, December 11, 1937. My favorite line is “one carefully planned to give you all the comfort and convenience science has contributed to modern living.” I love it. That is fantastic advertising copy!

The photo of the home with the pilasters is from the Buffalo Courier Express, August 29, 1937.

The Other Two Gold Star Homes

This first one was the very first Gold Star Home sold in Buffalo. Nice. It’s a lovely Georgian Style with a brick front, and a really great front entryway. Although the yard appears level, this home seems to sit up above the others on the street. Maybe it’s the height of the house, I don’t know.

It appears this one’s been added on to as well, at least once in the back, and possibly above the garage as well. But the one below, makes me think that the room above the garage was there from the beginning. It’s difficult to tell from the older photos in the ads. Love this one.

And here’s the third and final Gold Star Home, below. It’s so pretty, and are those windows original? They almost match exactly with the house above. I’m thinking they both still have the original windows. That’s awesome.

This one has a quite large addition out back. With those trees behind the house, it must be a lovely yard.

Home Stretch

Just two homes left, but I promise you, these two will not seem anticlimactic.

Check this house out. It’s the same style as the yellow one we saw earlier. Which is Colonial Revival. But the look is completely different. The enclosed porch in the front and the color really change it up.

This home had two brushes with the law during prohibition. One was in 1927 when a man who rented the home was arrested for bootlegging. Ten gallons of liquor and a 75 gallon working still were confiscated.

The second was in 1929. When police were called in connection to a burglary in the home, they discovered two 300 gallon stills, nearly 700 gallons of mash, and sugar and cracked corn in the attic. The owner of the home, Mrs. Mary Walkiewicz said that she rented the attic to a Mr. Julius Kukawski. She claimed to have no knowledge of the still being there.

Sounds an awful lot like the story we heard over off of Agassiz Circle, on Meadowview Place.

From all that I’ve read recently about the prohibition era in Buffalo, these two (three, if you count the operation over on Meadowview) were not all that unusual in Buffalo’s history.

And Last, But Not Least

We come to a home that is actually on Amherst Street, but most of the home faces Edge Park Ave. And what a house!

I like the Spanish influence in the tiled roof, the wrought iron on the patio and even the solid wall for privacy makes me think of a Spanish style home. The property is long and narrow. The garage is to the left of this photo and there’s quite a bit of room in between. I think the color is perfect, that creamy yellow with white trim. It’s just a really lovely home.

It was built for Merrill B. and Ethel (O’Dea) Meyer in 1925. But the real story here is Ethel. Born in 1897, she received her law degree from the University of Buffalo in 1917, making her the youngest woman to do so to that date. She practiced law until her marriage.

But that’s not all. Even after her marriage she continued with a career in teaching. I read an article from 1933 that stated she was a teacher at Park School. Pretty progressive for her time. She passed away in January of 1942; she was only 45. Too young. I think I’d have liked her.

I know I love her house.

My Impressions of Edge Park Ave

Sooooo. There were several surprises on this street for me. One was all the ranch homes on the north end. So unexpected!

And the Starling Affair. I was cracking up reading it, until I got to the chemical warfare part. That was a stark reminder of mid-century ‘progress’.

And I was pleasantly surprised when Brenda invited me to see the interior of her gorgeous mid-century modern home. I’m telling you that she is the epitome of Buffalo friendliness. She welcomed me, and so did her dogs, Willa and Olive. (They were super excited to see me! Haha!)

Everytime something like this happens, now this is going to sound a little crazy, but it sort of renews my faith in humanity. It’s such a simple thing, to be neighborly. But at times it seems like as a society, we’ve forgotten how to do it. It’s good to know that here in Buffalo there are so many people who haven’t forgotten.

People like Brenda. They’re out there. You just have to look. Psssst…you’re not going to find them driving around. Take an urban hike. Say hello when you meet someone on the street. You might just make a friend.

*Special thanks to Sam Hoyt for the info about the Hoyt estate. Appreciate it! And to Connie Hoyt for sending me the photo of the Hoyt mansion a couple of months ago. I was finally able to use it! That home was an incredible loss for Buffalo.

Get the Book!

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City Living – Around the Block at Agassiz Circle

City Living – Around the Block at Agassiz Circle

A couple of weeks ago, as I drove on the 198 near Forest Lawn, I lamented to myself (again) about the loss of the once beautiful Humboldt Parkway. Yes, I do have occasion to use the controversial, but also well used highway that split our Delaware Park (and indeed a thriving neighborhood) through the middle. As do, I suspect, a lot of Buffalonians who wish the highway were still a beautiful ‘bridle path’ that ambled through the park and over to MLK Park.

But that’s not what I am writing about today. Suffice it to say that if the Scajaqada were torn out tomorrow, and returned to its former glory, I would rejoice right along with all the principled people who refuse to use it today. But for now, I occassionally need to, and do, use it. Just like I will when it’s returned to a tree lined two lane city street. (Hope!)

But on this day, it was the homes on Agassiz Circle that I was thinking about. Specifically the ones near Medaille College. Who lives along there now? And how does their view differ from the way it was back in the day? Curious, as usual, I decided to take a closer look.

Let’s Begin

As I left the house to head over to Agassiz Circle, I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t think I’d be able to continue my urban hikes posts through the winter because people are generally indoors at this time of the year. And let’s face it, the people I meet along the way are what makes these posts interesting.

Happily, I was wrong. On this hike, I met and spoke with four residents of this neighborhood who were friendly and willing to chat. Take a look.

The Homes on Burbank Terrace and Burbank Drive

I started this urban hike at the corner of Meadowview Place and Burbank Terrace.

Burbank Terrace

As I entered the street, this is the first home I saw. Just my style. Love everything about this house. I always marvel at how some homeowners get the color just right. The color of this house is perfect. Not fussy with the trim – just all one color and it looks like a classic craftsman style home. I especially love that the windows appear to be original. Love it.

As I start to move on, the homeowner comes out on the front porch to talk to me. Her name is Brittney (I apologize if that’s not the correct spelling) and she’s very friendly. I explain why I’m taking pictures on her street. We talk about her home, about the neighborhood, and about the cemetery. She tells me there have only been two owners of this home. And I believe she is correct. Well, two families that is. The first owner was A.J. Brady Jr, who worked for Brady Bros., which was run by his father and uncle, and was a lumber business located in North Tonawanda. His daughter Mary Louise was the previous owner to Brittney and her family. So two families.

Brittney invites me to the backyard to see their view of Forest Lawn and to take photos. The backyards are very small along this stretch. Here, it’s about having the wide open space of the cemetery on your border. Brittney says that her kids know Sarah Jones very well. At my look of confusion, she explains that Sara’s is the closest grave to their backyard. She speaks about Sarah almost affectionately. I find this to be very sweet, but also very realistic. It teaches children that death is a part of life. We’re all going there; am I right? Why shouldn’t we talk to our kids about it?

Moving On

Brittney also tells me that this home, below, was built on a bet. Apparently, the people who built it had it designed to fit into this tiny piece of property, because people bet it couldn’t be done. I think they did it very well. No yard here at all, just the wide expanse of cemetery out back.

I love this neighborhood already. Thanks Brittney!

As I walked away from Brittney’s home I took one more photo of it, and another of this one, below, when I met up with Patrick, who was walking his dogs. I handed him my card, and explained what I was doing. He seemed okay with it, but his dogs were definitely not interested in talking to me, so we continued off in opposite directions.

Patrick later emailed me and we’ve had a few back and forths, discussing the neighborhood and Buffalo in general. He loves living in the neighborhood. And why wouldn’t you?

More Homes

After walking to the end of Burbank Terrace, I turned around to head over to Burbank Drive. It was then that I met up with Jeff, and his super sweet dog, Trixie. She’s 15, but certainly doesn’t act her age! She’s a beautiful girl, isn’t she?

Isn’t she sweet?!

Jeff and I talked about how much he loves living on this street, he’s been here for 23 years. Everyone I meet mentions that everybody knows everybody in the neighborhood. I like that.

Burbank Drive

As I head on to Burbank Drive, I see a lovely Cape Cod. I have never seen this particular use of wrought iron on a porch, but I like it so much, I wonder why it’s not done more. I think this is one of the best Cape Cod style homes I’ve ever seen. It’s larger than it appears in my photo. It’s the kind of home that is grand, without being massive. Does that make sense? If there is such a thing, it’s a grand Cape. This is one that makes me think that I wish it were summer. I’ll have to come back.

There are a few more houses along here, but the owners expressed an interest in privacy, and always wishing to be respectful, I will not share photos of those homes. The homeowners were friendly, mind you. Just private, and I can understand that.

I decided to take a break at this point and head over to Medaille before starting up again on Agassiz Circle.

Medaille

The photo above is the main building of Medaille College, which is the former building that housed Mount St. Joseph’s High School.

As I walked towards Agassiz, the first home I saw was this one, below. This home is gorgeous. I love the little balcony above the front door. And the bay windows are really pretty.

It doesn’t, however, have it’s own address. It is (obviously) the office of admissions for the college though, so it probably shares the address of the college. It’s beautiful.

The Driscoll Home

Then I came to this house.

It was once owned by the Driscoll family. Daniel A. Driscoll was a member of Congress for four terms, beginning in 1908. He went on to serve as postmaster in Buffalo from 1934-1947. To that date, only one had served a longer term, Erastus Granger, who was our first postmaster.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Upon his retirement from government work, Daniel returned to active, full-time management of the family business, the Driscoll Funeral Home at 1337 Main Street, founded by his father in 1861. He was also the president of the Phoenix Brewery Corporation since its organization in 1934.

Driscoll was reportedly quite a character, was known for his quick wit, had a soft spot for Ireland, (his parents both arrived here from Ireland as small children) and was apparently not fond of the mortuary business. He never married, and passed away in the home (above) in 1955, after an illness of several months. He was 80.

Moving Along the Circle

The next few homes are stunners as well. This first one is lovely with that sunroom above the carport! Would love to sit out there on a sunny afternoon.

Here, below, I love the tile roof, and those low slung arched windows that match the arches on the porch.

This home, below, just sold in December of 2020, and interior photos can be seen here. My photo doesn’t do it justice. There is a storage Pod in the driveway presently which I tried to avoid in the photo. It appears to be a well lived in, lovely (large) home.

A Sad Story for Such a Beautiful Home

This home, below, is a quintessential city home, is it not? It’s got a sad story connected with it though. In 1933 the Albert Abendroth, Sr. family lived in the home. Their son, Albert, Jr. (19) attended Canisius College, and because he did well with his studies, his parents gave him a new car.

Shortly thereafter, on May 31, 1933, Al (as he was known) took the car, and along with his friend William (Bill) Shepard Jr. (18) headed over to Long Beach, Ontario, Canada, to a Canisius College class picnic.

At the picnic, the two headed out into Lake Erie in a canoe and were never seen again. The canoe was found during the search for the boys. It is presumed the two drowned. It is unclear whether their bodies were ever found.

In a cruel twist of fate, amid massive search efforts the day after the accident, there were reports that the boys were found alive, and were being brought into Detroit by a freighter. The families, and indeed the whole of Buffalo and Long Beach, Ontario, rejoiced!

But when the freighter arrived, the stunned crew knew nothing of the disappearance of the boys. The freighter did not even have radio equipment on board. (?) It would be June 23, before the obituary for Albert Jr. would show up in the Buffalo Evening News.

Nevertheless…

The home is beautiful and has been very well maintained. There is even a little free library out front, which you know I love. Note the wrought iron and glass crescent moon hanging above the library. Sweet.

And this amazing, gorgeous home!

Meadowview Place

This street was aptly named. When these homes were built their view was of a beautiful wood that overlooked the meadow side of Delaware Park. In fact, the view was Delaware Park. Let me tell you what I mean.

Before Humboldt Parkway was torn out and the 198 was put in, the Parkway ambled off to the northwest through Agassiz Circle and straight into what is now the Parkside entrance to Delaware Park. The parking lot at that entrance was much the same as it is today. The Parkway then veered off to the left and continued to amble through the park, over Delaware Avenue and along Hoyt Lake.

So, you see, Meadowview Place used to border Delaware Park. Now it is cut off from it. Essentially, all the space between Meadowview Place and Meadow Drive (what we all now call Ring Road) was a thinly wooded area, and meadow. Below is a view from Meadowview over into that parking area I just mentioned. Picture it, without any roads in between.

Must have been lovely.

The Homes

The homes are fantastic. Even with the 198. They’re mostly set back aways from the street, so there’s plenty of room.

Here’s the view from these homes, below. Not too bad in the middle of a Friday afternoon; I only see a couple of cars.

Then I came upon this home, below. It reminded me of one of the Sears homes that I found over on Tillinghast. But the dates don’t match up. This one was built in 1900, and Sears didn’t start selling kit homes until 1908. Boy, it really does look like one!

I keep thinking on this hike, I’ll have to come back to see this neighborhood in the summer when everything is in full bloom!

This one is lovely as well.

Perhaps the Most Interesting Home in the Whole Neighborhood

This home, below, probably has the most interesting story in the neighborhood. It looks like such a nice family home. And I’m sure it is. But it was not always the case, depending on your opinion, of course. I happen to revel in the history of this house. The audacity is awesome! Read on.

Back on January 4, 1933, there were two arrests made here for the illegal possession and manufacturing of, you guessed it, liquor and intoxicants. Remember this was the prohibition era. Harry H. Hall, owner of the home, and Joe Saco, renter of the ‘barn’ were both charged. Federal agents staked out the house for three weeks prior to the arrests and observed the business comings and goings during what was probably the busiest season for sales, the holidays.

Wonder if they waited until after the holidays to raid the place in order to let people have a good holiday (the customers, I mean), or would the charges be ‘greater’ with proof of so many sales? We’ll never know. But the scope of production was incredible. The government estimated that 500 gallons of 150 proof alcohol was being produced here daily. Daily! Moonshine anyone? Wow! That is a lot of booze!

How did they come to know about it, you ask? They smelled the mash while driving by one day. How could you not, with that much in production?

The ‘barn’ was built into the side of a hill. The upper floor held an apartment and lockers for the wealthy Buffalonians who rented riding horses from Mr. Hall. The horses were kept in the basement level where the still was kept and were brought up to the riders. The renters of the horses would have no idea that there was a large still in the lower level, unless they recognized the smell of the cooking mash.

The Operation

It was apparently quite the operation. There were seven vats that held 2,000 gallons each and one 5,000 gallon vat. Wow! The contents of the building, including 12,800 gallons of mash, and 2,000 gallons of syrup, and other distilling equipment were seized and taken to a government warehouse. Wow!

I believe the photo below is the “barn”. The road dead ends at this building. From the 198 a stone wall is visible on the side of a hill, constituting one wall of the lower part of the structure.

It is unclear if either of the two men arrested were found guilty or served any time. Mr. Hall maintained that he merely rented the “barn” to Mr. Saco. But he was the one renting the riding horses. How could he have not known?

Pretty interesting story, eh? Well, read on for another one.

Rock Stars on Agassiz?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this because it’s pretty cool.

In one of my conversations with Patrick, he mentioned that Gregg Allman and Cher stayed on Agassiz Circle back in the mid 70’s. Allman was going through rehab here at BryLin at the time and the couple, along with Chaz (Chastity, at the time) and the couple’s son Elijah Blue, stayed for several months. I knew they were here back then, but I didn’t know they lived on Agassiz Circle while they were here.

On a personal note, the doctor who treated Allman was the brother-in-law of a friend of mine (I am aware that this statement is so Buffalo!). My friend loaned the couple a crib for Elijah Blue, who was a baby at the time. Can you imagine? Loaning a crib to a mega star like Cher?!

You can read a very interesting story about Allman and Cher’s time here in this Buffalo News Article. It confirms they were living on Agassiz, but I still don’t know which house. Anybody?

Also, while reading about it, I found another article about Gregg Allman playing a concert for Canisius High School while the couple was in town. It’s a great story, and is from the Buffalo News as well.

My Impressions

So happy I looked into this area! I’ve been wondering about it for quite a while now, and I ended up meeting some pretty nice people on this urban hike. I saw a lot of beautiful homes, and learned some more about our city.

I love the history here. From the story of a family who lost a beloved son, to an interesting postmaster, to bootleggers!

I’ll admit the story of the Abendroth family hit close to home for me, having lost a family member in a similar way, complete with a 5 day search. I know the devastation a death like this causes a family. So my heart really went out to the Abendroth family while reading about it.

But, I have to also admit that I did not expect bootleggers in this neighborhood. As I said before though, the audacity of that crime was amazing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like a big operation. 500 gallons a day! Literally taking place just steps from the Buffalo Parks Labor Department, which I believe to have been there at the time. And even if it wasn’t there yet, anybody could have wandered up to it from Delaware Park, because remember, there was no 198 at the time! Oh Buffalo.

When I take these urban hikes, I always choose a neighborhood because of the homes. But on every hike, it always ends up being about the people. I met some really nice ones on this hike. And found some great stories about Buffalo as well.

Like I always say, take a walk Buffalo! You’ll see more of our city on foot than in a car any day! And you just may make a friend or two!

**Get the book! They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!).  Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!

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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