Circle Living – Colonial Circle

Circle Living – Colonial Circle

With all the traffic circles popping up all over Western New York, it got me to thinking about circle living. Symphony Circle is an incredibly busy and friendly place, and there’s a lot of great history there, but I couldn’t help but think that there’s not very many houses. And I do love a beautiful home. That was when I decided to write about another one of Buffalo’s Circles. Colonial Circle.

Now, Colonial Circle has houses. Lots of them. And they are close together. But the circle feels spacious! Like there’s plenty of room to spread out. And the homes are large and for the most part, very well kept. In my head I picture the view out the front window of any one of these homes, with a few inches of freshly fallen snow and maybe there’s still some flakes in the air. Gorgeous! Or with all the fall colors in the trees! Gorgeous again! You get the idea.

But back to reality.

A Bit of Background about Colonial Circle

Colonial Circle was created by Frederick Law Olmsted when he designed our Parks and Parkway System. This circle serves to connect Bidwell Parkway to Richmond Ave which leads to Porter Ave and Front Park. Our Parkways, including Bidwell, were meant to be an extension of the parks, so that you could travel from one to the other, and never feel like you actually left the park. The plan is ingenius and indeed, when traveling along Bidwell Parkway, you feel like you’re in a park.

Olmsted originally called Colonial Circle ‘Bidwell Place’ after Brigadier General Daniel Davidson Bidwell. He was a very active Buffalonian, and is credited with starting the first police force in the city. He fought in the Civil War, in famous battles including Gettysburg, and was named Brigadier General in August of 1864. That was just two months before being mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek, in Virginia. Bidwell Parkway is named for him. That’s him astride his horse in the center of the circle.

Residents petitioned for a name change to ‘Colonial Circle’, and in 1909 the parks department made the change official.

So, come on, let’s hike.

I approached from Richmond, and headed east onto the sidewalk. The first house I came to is a Green & Wicks design, it was built in 1900 and what a perfect Colonial Revival home. I love the side lights (windows) on either side of the front entry door. This is repeated in the window above the entry porch, and it works. But of course it does, it’s E.B. Green!

Check this one out…number 9. This was built in 1910, and I’m told still has most of the original woodwork and leaded glass. My favorite part about this house? The windows. I can’t tell if all of them are original, but there are so many. Talk about natural light. And I’m a sucker for curved glass. Just imagine the view of the circle through those front windows! I also love the overhanging eaves, and I was also told there is an in-law apartment on the third floor with a separate entrance. Not sure if it’s being used, but I like it.

And this. I don’t know about you, but I am loving the new paint job here. It used to be that country blue, and it was nice, but this is much more classic and fitting with the arts and crafts style. This home was designed by Essenwein & Johnson who are, in my book, number two in historical architectural firms in Buffalo (second to Green & Wicks). It was built for Emily Swift and stayed in the Swift family until 1959. Wish I knew what color it was to begin with. This is the kind of stuff I think about when I go on an urban hike.

My Personal Favorite

Moving right along, we come to my personal favorite on the circle. It’s not typically my style. You know I prefer an open front porch. But I just love the shape of this house! I couldn’t take my eyes off it! Although, the first thing I’d do if this were my house, is remove all the curtains in those amazing front windows (French doors?). Let the light in! In the side view, look at the windows in the dormers. Beautiful. And the transoms above all those French doors. It’s Friday, I’m in love.

Of course, those French doors don’t lead anywhere…but who cares? It’s gorgeous! I wanted to go in. But alas, it didn’t appear anyone was going to invite me in on this particular walk.

Here’s a link to some interior shots. I wouldn’t have painted all the woodwork, but what do I know?

And this. It’s fabulous. I love that center dormer on the third floor. Look at how it mimmicks the tripartite window on the second floor, which flows right down to the entry door with its side lights. I’m told this is a multi-family home with at least 4 apartments. It sure is well maintained.

And a Couple More…

Here are a couple of others I see along the way. Number 15 has a massive silver maple tree on the front lawn (visible in the photo). At some point someone put in a garden surrounding it, and it’s done very nicely. My photos of it didn’t turn out, I was battling the sun for photos this morning, as you’ve no doubt noticed.

And number 33 has so much detail! Look under the eaves, and at the details on the center second floor window with its triangular pediment. Look at the shape of the dormers, and the windows in the dormers! Yes, this one is lovely.

St. John Grace Episcopal Church

As I cross Lafayette, I come upon St. John Grace Episcopal Church. There’s something about this church that I really like. It’s……unassuming. And pretty. I love the cross atop the bell tower. It’s so delicate compared to most that you see.

The building you see here was built in 1907, but the church was first located at the southeast corner of Washington and Swan Streets. Among its founders were William Bird (Bird Avenue), William Fargo (Wells Fargo & American Express), and Joseph Masten (Buffalo Mayor and later Buffalo Superior Court Judge).

The building itself is built of Onondaga Limestone from the quarry that used to be in Delaware Park! Two later additions completed the church we know today. I love that Medina sandstone is still leading up to the main entrance. Historic!

It’s while on the sidewalk in front of the church that I meet a nice neighbor who was willing to chat. We start talking and he told me quite a bit about the circle. Openly. He was humble, unpretentious, well dressed, and seemed like a nice guy. I’ll call him Mike, because he didn’t want me to use his name. He told me a few things I didn’t know. I’ve checked, and he was right on all counts. He doesn’t live in the circle but lives nearby, and walks and bikes the circle daily.

He’s not alone. In the hour or two I spent walking around taking pictures, a lot went on. There wasn’t as much car traffic here as there was on Symphony Circle, but there were more cyclists, runners and walkers. Come to think of it, most were headed towards Bidwell Parkway and all that Elmwood Ave has to offer. And who could blame them?

Moving Right Along

Between Bidwell and Richmond is this lone house at number 77. I love the front entry door, and the ellipse windows on the second floor. Although something tells me that at least one of those windows looks different on the inside than it does on the outside. Could use some updating, but this house has great bones.

And on the Northwest Side of the Circle

As I cross Richmond, I am struck by how I’ve never noticed that there is so much foliage on this section of the circle, and by how overgrown a lot of it is. I guess your eye is drawn to the things you can see as opposed to what you have to look for. But you know me, I go looking for things. Here’s what I found on the northwest side of the circle.

Love this beautiful Tudor Revival that’s first up, and I especially love its portico. Tudors are not usually my thing, but I love this one!

Mike is Right; I am Wrong

This next one, (below) Mike told me about. It was built for the Davis family, who were owners of a general type store on Niagara Street (the building is still there at number 1888). The home stayed in the family through 1949. The current owners bought it in 2000. Love, love, love the porch!

I saw a photo of this house from 2004, and it had ivy growing on the left side and up onto the roof. Exactly where you see the damage to the shingles. Coincidence? I don’t know. Either way it looks to me like the original roof might have been slate, because the sides of the dormers appear to be slate. I always thought slate roofs lasted practically forever, but I looked it up and I’m wrong. Apparently, a soft slate roof can last as little as 50 years. So, it’s plausible that this roof used to be slate, but soft slate. Interesting.

And next up, take a look at this! That gable with the fantastic windows, fifteen panes each! Love this entryway too. It’s very wide and the side lights are wide enough to walk through. And if you can, zoom in on the front door to see the family dog who came out to greet me! Love it!

The Tree House

I had a bit of trouble getting photos of this one. So much foliage. I can tell you that I love the Sycamore tree! But I also acknowlege that it needs care. From what I can see of the house, it appears to be my style and I like it. The dentil molding on the dormers, and under the eaves. The brick foundation for the porch which matches the first floor, and appears to be in decent shape.

It looks like there may be some work being done on the house at this point. This is one to watch.

Let’s Cross the Street

Coming back around now to the southwest side of Colonial Circle and this is what I see. Guess I’m starting to like Tudors, guys. But only if they have Arts & Crafts detailing apparently. The leaded glass is spectacular! This one really caught my eye because of the porches. I can see myself on either of these having my tea in the morning or cocktails in the evening. Nice.

Here are two more pretty ones along this section.

And then I come upon this one. New Orleans style! Of course, it’s apartments. Whenever I see it, I wonder what it would be like to live on the third floor. I’d be out on that porch all the time!

And last, but certainly not least, this stunner! It’s in great shape, and it was built in 1897! I would probably choose a different color scheme but it’s done properly. Mike tells me it’s apartments, but owner occupied. So that explains why it’s kept up so well. Just beautiful!

My Impressions

So, there you have it. Colonial Circle. I can’t help but compare it to Symphony Circle. They are both part of vibrant, bustling communities. But somehow, Colonial Circle seems more affluent. Maybe it’s just the feeling I get because the circle itself is larger and so much more spacious than Symphony Circle.

I can tell you this. If I had to choose which circle to live on, it would come down to the home itself. Because Symphony Circle is walking distance to Allen Street and all it has to offer in terms of shopping, restaurants, art, and night life. Not to mention Kleinhans. And Colonial Circle is walking distance to the Elmwood strip and all it has to offer in terms of the same things. Homes aside, you could flip a coin, since they’re just a quick bike ride apart, with great homes and more to look at in between.

Take an urban hike (or bike) over to Colonial Circle and check it out. If it’s a Saturday morning, head to the Bidwell market afterwards, then on to Elmwood Ave. for a bite to eat and some shopping. Some of our best locally owned restaurants and shops are there. And if you see Mike, tell him I said hello!

What is that on General Bidwell’s heel? Oh, Buffalo…

*All the photos in this post are mine. I’m not proud of all of them, but they are, indeed, mine. 😉

The Life & Times of 888 Delaware Ave

The Life & Times of 888 Delaware Ave

Sometimes a building seems to take on a life of its own. The Goodyear Mansion at 888 Delaware Ave is one of those buildings. Its history includes one of Buffalo’s wealthiest families. It also includes Presidents, First Ladies, royalty, a health insurance company, and two schools. Its future is set to include both corporate and market-rate apartments.

Now, focusing on one home is usually not my style, although I did it with the Humphrey House, but I had a handful of people ask me to write this one. Each person had a different reason for asking me to do it. And I have my own reasons for agreeing.

You see, my mother is a graduate of Bishop McMahon high school, class of 1957. Back in December, our family moved her into a memory care unit. When I visited her (pre-COVID) Mom would always ask me to read my latest posts to her. Just before the nursing homes closed down, she asked if I would ever write about “someone’s high school”. I said, “Oh, sure. why not?” And the conversation moved off in a different direction. Communication is often difficult for dementia patients. Actually, it’s always difficult.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Several weeks later, I received an email from a woman asking me to write about her old high school, Bishop McMahon. It was then that I realized my mother was talking about her own high school that day. Mom remembered that I knew a lot about it already and that I would enjoy learning more. She was right.

Since then, I’ve had three more requests to write about this mansion.

So here I am, all my reading is done and I’m ready to tell you about my Mother’s high school building. The Goodyear Mansion.

Charles Waterhouse & Ella Portia Goodyear

Charles Goodyear was born in Cortland, NY in 1846 and came to Buffalo to study law in 1868. He practiced at a few different firms, one or two of them he himself started. He had a good reputation and served as Assistant District Attorney, and later as District Attorney. Things were going well for Charles.

In 1876 he met and married Ella Portia Conger. Ella attended Nardin Academy (Miss Nardin’s at the time) and the Female Academy (now Buffalo Seminary). Her father, Anson Griffith Conger, a banker, purchased the couple a home at 723 Delaware Avenue (lost). It was here that they raised their four children, Anson, Ester, Charles, and Bradley.

Photo Credit: Bogalusa Story by C.W. Goodyear (Charles’ grandson)

When Grover Cleveland became governor of NYS, Charles Goodyear joined the firm Cleveland founded, Cleveland, Bissel & Sicard. The firm then became Bissel, Sicard & Goodyear. He practiced law with that firm for four years.

Charles and Ella were very good friends of Grover & Frances Cleveland and were in fact, the first guests the Clevelands entertained at the White House after their wedding. Cool!

In 1887, Goodyear retired from the law for good when he went into the lumber business with his brother Frank. The brothers eventually owned extensive timberland in Pennsylvania and Louisiana. They started a railroad company, The Buffalo and Susquehanna Iron Company. They pioneered the use of railroads to move lumber.

These two businesses earned the Goodyears immense wealth.

The Home

It was during this time of great prosperity that the Goodyears decided to build a home suitable for a family of such affluence. And build it they did.

The home was completed in 1903 and is an exquisite example of the French Renaissance Style. We would expect nothing less from Green & Wicks (E.B. Green was the principal) who were the architects. Just look at that mansard roof, the dormers with semi-circular pediments and keystones above the windows. And above those are porthole dormers! Love these! Tuscan columns surround the brick enclosed portico which was originally wide open. See above.

So much to look at on one house!

Inside there were 11 bedrooms, each with a marble fireplace, and adjoining bathrooms. On the first floor was the main hall, a dining room, a breakfast room, a library, and a loggia which opened up to the terrace and garden out back.

The Goodyears enjoyed this home together from it’s completion until 1911 when Charles passed away.

During World War I, King Albert of Belgium, Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria, and their son, Prince Leopold visited the United States, including Buffalo. This was back when Buffalo was a mover and a shaker on the national scene. While here, they were guests of Ella’s and were entertained in this home. Amazing! Royalty! In Buffalo, and in this home!

Ella lived in the home until her death in September of 1940. I love this photo below of Ella on her patio in her beautiful garden.

Photo Credit: Buffalo, the City Beautiful, Hubbell, Mark H.

Blue Cross Corp moves into 888 Delaware

Shortly after Ella’s death, the Hospital Service Corporation and Western New York Medical Plan, better known as the Blue Cross Corporation, purchased the home. They made small changes to the kitchens and pantries and partitioned off one or two of the bedrooms, but largely left the mansion intact. It remained this way for the next 10 years.

Bishop McMahon High School

In 1950, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo purchased the building to be used as the all-girl Bishop McMahon High School. This is where my mother spent her high school years. The school itself had a business focus. Mind you, not what we think of today as the study of business. Back then, the girls were taught typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping. They learned the fundamentals of business and business law. They were also taught high school Social Studies and English.

Most of the first floor rooms were converted into classrooms, and later all of the bedrooms on the second and third floors were converted into classrooms as well.

Photo Credit: Laura VR – Bishop McMahon’s Facebook page

My mother loved it. She graduated in 1957 and growing up, I only heard good things from her about the school, the building, and grounds. She made lifelong friends here, Beth and Judy, and remembers fondly the garden parties in the yard of the school.

The girls (in the 1950s anyway) were taught the history and architecture of the building and I know that my mother appreciated being able to attend such a school, in a former home such as this. She told me once that she and her friends thought the Goodyears lived ‘fairytale’ lives in the house. And that she enjoyed ‘living’ there for four years herself.

The skills that my mother learned while attending Bishop McMahon, (including typing 90 words a minute on a manual typewriter!) served her well throughout her career. She worked for Monroe Abstract & Title Company and Dupont, before spending 28 years as a school secretary. She loved her work at the school.

McMahon added the gymnasium at the back of the property, and years later the classrooms in between, finally removing Ella’s gardens completely. Wish there was some way to bring them back.

888 Delaware Is Sold Again, and Again

In 1988, the building was purchased by Women and Children’s Hospital (then) and was run as the Robert B. Adam Educational Center. It housed several children’s programs including an early childhood center.

In 2005 the school was sold and again used as a school. This time, it became Oracle Charter School. Oracle did extensive renovations creating new classrooms and offices.

But I heard whisperings as early as 2017 about whether the school wanted to continue in the historic building. The way it was put to me was that the school was in the process of discerning whether they wanted to be in the historic building business or the education business.

You see, housing your business (or school) in a historic building like the Goodyear Mansion is not easy, nor is it cheap. There are rules which must be adhered to when making any changes to the home, and it can cost quite a bit of money for regular upkeep alone.

The Future of 888

With that in mind, I wasn’t surprised to hear that 888 Delaware LLC (Priam Enterprises) acquired the property in October of 2019. The original plan for the property was the development of a boutique hotel in the old mansion and to create market-rate apartments in the rest of the property, including the classrooms and the old carriage house.

Then Covid-19 happened.

And as is the case with every other facet of our lives, this project had to be adapted to our ‘new norm’. The hospitality industry has taken a particularly hard hit. Priam, recognizing these conditions, has adapted their plan and will continue with the market-rate apartments, but has put aside the boutique hotel, for now. In the mansion itself, they plan to create furnished corporate apartments. Fifty-one apartments in all. It’s a good idea. I like it.

Amy Downing, Business Development Manager for Priam Enterprises, tells me their team is working to restore original woodwork, most of which is still there, and will keep as much of the interior intact as possible. They will remove walls and partitions that have been added over the years, returning at least some of the rooms to their former glory. And I’m happy to say that the plan includes the re-opening of that front portico. That alone will go a long way to make this building look like a home again. Love it.

Here are a few photos of some of the original charm that Priam has uncovered from behind sheetrock and drop ceilings thus far.

Photos of a Bygone Era

The photos below are all from the Goodyear era, and are courtesy of Priam Development, who obtained them from the Diocese of Buffalo when they purchased the property. I like knowing that Priam cares about what used to be here, and are taking pains to restore as well as renovate. They plan to have the apartments ready by the first quarter of 2022.

Here’s a look at what some of the interior looks like now. First up, is some of the stained glass. Note the block just outside the one window. That happened when the loading dock was added to the south side of the building. I’m told while it will not be able to be removed, the loading dock will be renovated into an attractive patio.

This is the woodwork in the Hall. The frieze above the mantle was sold at one point during a sale of Goodyear pieces, but the sale was cancelled when experts found that the foundation for it extended to the basement, and that it would be impossible to remove it from the house without knocking down the house itself! The frieze is called “Life” and it is by Karl Bitter.

The library and dining room need work but are largely intact. Note the modern lights visible in the mirror in the dining room. Also note the mirror and the door in the dining room have the same framing. Sweet.

And one of my personal favorites…This is the window in the billiard room. See what they did there? In the interior, the billiard room was broken up for smaller rooms, but Priam will be restoring it. Love it.

Tucked away is the safe room. I’ve never seen one of these before. There’s a rumor that the upper safe was for furs?!

And two guest bedrooms on the third floor. Pretty nice. That mantle with the ship painting! And the other mantle for that matter. Wow!

My Impressions of 888 Delaware

I’m not gonna lie, this was a tough one for me to write. Well, it was bittersweet. You all know how much I love history. But you may not know about my close and loving relationship with my Mother. So writing about 888 Delaware Ave has brought to mind many past conversations with her. Conversations we can no longer have.

But I am grateful we had them. As a matter of fact, I learned my attitude of gratitude from my Mother. She spoke about her high school days as if she were the luckiest girl on the face of the earth to be able to go to a school that taught what she wanted to learn, in a beautiful ex-mansion.

It’s with this in mind that I look forward to seeing the completed restoration and renovations that will take place at 888 Delaware Ave over the next year and a half or so. And I am grateful that there are people in Buffalo willing to invest in our future through investing in our past. The bones are there, and I have every reason to believe that this property will be beautiful again.

The Goodyear Mansion, not for the first time, is one to watch.

*A huge thank you to Amy Downing, Business Development Manager for Priam Enterprises, and Mark Tufillaro, President and COO for Priam Development, for the use of the black and whites, the tour, and just all around being fantastic to me. Thank you!

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

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

Circle Living – Symphony Circle

Circle Living – Symphony Circle

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

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

Photo Credit: Unknown

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

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

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

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

Let’s Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Cross the Street

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

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

Show Me a Good Old Fashioned Mansion

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

Thanks again for the tour Lori!

Beautiful Homes

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

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

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

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

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

See the home Caulkins designed for himself here.

And these Three

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

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

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

And the Last of the Homes

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

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

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

The Pièce de Résistance On Symphony Circle

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

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

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

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

And we thank her for it!

Kleinhans Music Hall

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

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

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

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

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

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

My Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

City Living – North Pearl Street

City Living – North Pearl Street

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

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

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

North Pearl Background

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

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

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

Take a Look at This!

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

Let’s Get Started!

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

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

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

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

And These…

Apartment Living

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

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

Moving Along…

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

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

And Still More

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a Gander at These

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

Continuing up North Pearl

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Best Part!

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

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

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

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

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

Share and Share Alike

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

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

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

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

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

What Else?

Just a few more shots of the street.

My Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

**All photos in this post are mine.

Buffalo’s Rowhouses – The Midway on Delaware Ave.

Buffalo’s Rowhouses – The Midway on Delaware Ave.

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

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

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

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

Time for a Quick Daydream

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

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

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

That brings me back to reality. End daydream.

Enter the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware Ave.

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

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

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

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

The One We Lost

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

Circa 1896. Photo Credit: Buffalo Illustrated Courier

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

471 Delaware Ave. – Dr. Ernest Wende House

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

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

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

475 Delaware – One of My Favorites

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

Love the lions!

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

Next Up – the Birge-Horton / DAR House

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

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

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

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

Interesting history on this one.

479 Delaware Ave – Harlow C. Curtiss House

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

481 – 489 Delaware Ave – Rowhouse Bakery & Restaurant

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

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

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

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

It was lovely while it lasted.

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

491 Delaware Ave – Charles Miller Morse House

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

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

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

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

493 Delaware – Herman Hayd House

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

497 Delaware Ave – Stella Lowry House

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

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

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

What’s the Big Deal You Ask?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

499 Delaware Ave – Bryant B. Glenny House

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

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

My Impressions of the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware

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

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

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

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

City Living – Franklin Street

City Living – Franklin Street

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

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

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

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

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

Let me show you what I mean.

Buffalo’s Oldest Tree

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

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

Buffalo’s oldest tree?

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

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

Buffalo’s (other) oldest tree.

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

Back to Franklin Street

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

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

Franklin W. Caulkins Home

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

More of the Homes…

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

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

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

Cicero J. Hamlin Home

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

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

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

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

Moving Right Along…

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

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

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

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

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

Sisti Art Gallery

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

The home today. It needs shutters too.

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

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

So simple, and yet so beautiful.

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

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

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

My Impressions of Franklin Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love Medina Sandstone sidewalks!

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

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