Like a lot of Buffalonians, I spend a good amount of time in Delaware Park. It’s easy to get to and I enjoy the beauty of it. About twenty years ago or so, I headed over to the park for the Corporate Challenge, a 3.5-mile road race that begins and ends at the meadow side of the park. Coming directly from work, I searched for parking and ended up on Tillinghast Place. It was my first encounter with the street. On the way to the park, I didn’t even notice the beautiful homes as I hurried to make it to the start line in time. It wasn’t until a few hours later, while I was leaving, that I noticed them. Wow. I made a mental note to find out more about these gorgeous homes.
I have the best of intentions. Really, I do. It had to be five years later before I looked into anything on Tillinghast. Why is it we spend so much time not doing the things we want to do? I guess life just gets in the way sometimes.
Recently though, I read a short article about Sears Homes. Yes, Sears sold homes through their catalog! I admit that when I read it, I was blown away! We’ve all heard of kit homes. I just never realized that they were being sold via the Sears catalog in the early 1900s!
Sears began selling kit homes in 1908 and continued until 1940. They offered many different styles and a variety of amenities to go with each home. They could be as simple as three-room houses with no plumbing or heating, commonly built as summer cottages, to large, grand homes with french doors, elaborate bathrooms, and many bedrooms. Most kits had a price range instead of a set price. The customer was able to customize flooring materials, kitchen cabinets and hardware, bathroom fixtures, as well as the building materials themselves (ie stone, cedar shingles, brick, etc.).
Sears offered the very latest in home trends as well, including central heating when it first became available. For some buyers, these homes would offer their first experience with indoor plumbing. When drywall was a new product, Sears offered that too, as an option. It made construction easier and less expensive than hiring a skilled plasterer. But if you wanted plaster, Sears would figure out exactly what you’d need, and ship the materials necessary along with the rest of the house. The homes were very customizable.
Tillinghast Place has four Sears homes, and I wanted to see them up close.
Meeting Some Neighbors on Tillinghast Place
At the very first house I stopped to admire, I ran into a woman pulling a few weeds and generally ‘checking the place out’ like homeowners often do. I commented on the beauty of her gorgeous colonial home. She was very friendly and we got to talking about the home and the neighborhood in general. Having lived on Tillinghast for 40 some years, she knows the street quite well.
I told her I was writing a post for my blog and that I was interested in seeing the Sears homes. She hadn’t heard of them. I told her a bit about them, explained that there were four of them on the street, and mentioned a couple of house numbers. Just then, I looked across the street right at a Sears home. She immediately motioned for me to follow her, and we walked over to it. We were talking for a minute about them and the neighborhood when, by chance, the homeowner came out to walk his dogs.
The two neighbors knew each other and we got into a conversation about the Sears homes. This homeowner is very happy with his. He reports that it’s very well built. The limestone was from a nearby quarry, but the rest of the house was shipped from Sears. Here’s a photo (below) where you can see more of the home, and how it’s built. Very solidly I must say. Note how the limestone pillars go right to the ground. Makes for a good, solid porch. And looks great too!
I love the look of this house. The homeowner has done a fantastic job with the landscaping and upkeep. And, he seems like a genuinely nice guy, who quite obviously loves where he lives.
More Sears Homes…
Our little group of three went our separate ways after discussing a few other homes on the street, and some neighbors as well. It seems that most neighbors know each other on a social level in addition to waving when passing each other on the street. I love that in a neighborhood. It makes for a real sense of community and a feeling of belonging.
Here are some more photos of the other Sears Homes. You can see the similarities, but also the differences. Ribbon windows on the front dormers on two, none on one. One appears to be the same layout, but in reverse with no side dormer. These would have been to the buyer’s customizations. Note the stone pathway leading away from the porch in the lower photo. Nice touch.
All three are well built and beautifully maintained.
Frank Lloyd Wright on Tillinghast
Of course, we have to talk about the Frank Lloyd Wright home on Tillinghast. As Buffalonians, we all know about the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Wright also designed several other homes in the area as well. 57 Tillinghast is one of them. It was designed and built in 1908 for Walter V. Davidson, who, like Darwin Martin, was a Larkin Company executive. The similarities between the two homes are evident. Both are examples of Wrights’ prairie style, but the Martin house is more lavish in both its building materials and size. I’ve always heard Isabelle Martin, Darwin’s wife, never cared for the Martin House because of the lack of natural light.
This is not at all an issue at the Davidson home on Tillinghast. The addition of clerestory windows and that incredible bay window on the east side of the house allow for plenty of natural light. Below is a photo I found on Wikipedia of the living room at number 57. No problem with light here.
I admit that when I had that conversation with the two neighbors earlier in my walk, I said that I thought the inside of this home was more impressive than the outside. Well, I take it back. I must have forgotten what it looked like from the outside. The home is stunning. Inside and out. Absolutely stunning. There’s no other way to describe it.
What Else is on Tillinghast?
A lot. There are Craftsman Bungalows, Colonials, Tudors, and Victorians. Here are some of my favorites.
I Should Also Mention…
There is a new build on Tillinghast that has stirred up controversy on the street, and in both design and preservation circles across the city. In 2016 there was a fire at 29 Tillinghast Place. The owners ended up demolishing the home and rebuilding.
There have been reports that there was a lot of debate among the neighbors, and indeed all over the city, about whether demolition was necessary to replace the 1908 prairie style home. The neighbors I spoke to happen to be okay with the new design. We didn’t discuss whether the demo was necessary. The homeowners at number 29 stated in their demolition application that work was done for several months to bring the home back to its pre-fire state, but continual issues caused their insurance company to finally deem the building a total loss.
The new home, pictured below, is completely different from any other house on the street. In my humble opinion, it would fit better on Nottingham Terrace or Lincoln Parkway in terms of both scale and design. I’d also like to see more attention shown to the landscaping. The way it is now, it appears to have been an afterthought.
Look, none of us know for sure what is in the hearts of these homeowners. And everyone has their own opinion on design. Some are educated opinions. Some, like mine, are just a matter of what is pleasing to the eye. But, like it or not, this home is part of the neighborhood. And will be for a long time to come.
More Tillinghast Treasures
Never one to end on a controversial note, I’m going to share a few more shots from my walk. There is so much to see on this street!
I certainly lucked out on this walk. I met up with three residents who were very friendly and also very willing to discuss the architecture, the street itself, and the neighbors. Sometimes, I run into one person who’ll chat a little bit, but these people were friendly. What a neighbor should be. They also know a lot about the other homes on the block, and they know their neighbors. And they also showed a healthy amount of pride in their neighborhood. I like all of that.
This wasn’t a newfound “Oh, I recently met that guy and he seems really nice.” This was more like, “There was a family in that house with six or seven kids, and one of the sons and his wife just bought the house from his parents” type of thing. Everybody knows everybody. People who know each other tend to help each other. That’s a good thing.
I enjoyed getting to know Tillinghast Place better. I fell in love with it all over again during this latest walk. And that Walter V. Davidson house by Frank Lloyd Wright? I think I like it better than the Darwin Martin House. Gah! I’ll get emails about that remark! That’s okay. I never mind getting emails.
Design is a matter of taste. And like I said earlier, some opinions are based on education, some are based on what is pleasing to the eye. Beauty is after all, in the eye of the beholder.
If you’ve never been to Tillinghast Place, take a walk. It’s off of Colvin, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Delaware Park. If you see any neighbors, say hello. You may make a friend.
*Get the book! They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase.
**All the photos in this post are mine, unless otherwise noted.
A couple of days ago, I found myself walking along Bidwell Parkway. What a gorgeous piece of real estate. Seriously. Of course, it helped that it was a stunning day. 80 degrees, sunny with just a smattering of wispy clouds in the sky. People everywhere, but still not crowded. A perfect day for an urban hike along one of Olmsted’s most celebrated Parkways, in what he himself called the best-planned city in the world. That’s us Buffalo. Come walk it with me.
Bidwell is a shining example of what Olmsted intended when he created our Parks and Parkway System. With plenty of room to roam, it’s about 200 feet wide. It’s got a tree-lined grassy median, and runs from Soldiers Circle through the heart of the Elmwood Village and on up to Richmond at Colonial Circle. And if you walk that median, you feel like you’re in a park. Exactly what Olmsted intended.
Let’s take a look around.
The Parkway itself
As I walk on the north side of the road, heading towards Elmwood Ave, the first thing I notice is the homes. And really, Bidwell Parkway is all about the homes from start to finish. Add to them the spacious median, the one-way traffic with both parking and bike lanes, within easy walking distance to Elmwood Avenue, and Bidwell becomes the perfect place to live.
Look at this beautiful home below. I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want to live here? This craftsman bungalow was built in 1904 and was designed by Esenwein & Johnson, a very well respected architectural firm here in Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century. Note the diamond motif is repeated in the windows and the shingles. Also, check out the tie rod and anchor securing the chimney. I wish I had gotten a better shot of it. This house is so well kept, it’s amazing.
A Couple More Along This Stretch…
Here are two Colonial Revivals – but executed very differently. Love that round porch on the one on the left, and that row of dormers on the right!
And below, yet another Colonial Revival, different still. This one designed by none other than, wait for it…Esenwein & Johnson. They were very busy along this stretch. This one is from 1906. Now, if you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of columns. But these are great.
And here’s an interesting one (below). This is what a builder builds for himself. This is the home of Charles and Margaret Mosier. Charles was a partner in the contracting team of Mosier and Summers. They built a lot of buildings for Esenwein & Johnson, including the first Statler Hotel. Oh, and by the way, Esenwein & Johnson designed this home too. Apparently Colonial Revivals were hot in 1905.
I think this is a particularly handsome apartment building just across from the Bidwell Farmers Market near Elmwood Avenue. I’ve never been inside, but in my daydreams, it’s got all the original woodwork, hardwood floors, and tile work. And it’s in fantastic shape! Ha! One can hope.
Actually I’ve heard that they’re nice, but nothing special. Oh well, the building looks good from the front anyway, and the location doesn’t get much better!
Love the Neighbors Here Too
You know I never turn down the chance to talk with people on my walks. Some people are willing to chat, others, not so much. Some of them I write about, some I don’t.
So, this is about the time I got chatting with a lovely woman, who lives here (below) in this Tudor Revival. She was outside playing with three very cute kiddos who also live here. The woman agreed that this stretch of Bidwell is a wonderful place to live. In her words, “I love it here.” Who wouldn’t?
And here are a couple more I saw on my way to Colonial Circle. Lovely.
Colonial Circle& Daniel Bidwell
We’ve all seen the soldier on the horse in the center of the circle, but who is he? Well, he’s Brigadier General Daniel Davidson Bidwell. Born in Black Rock in 1819, Gen. Bidwell was heir to a very successful shipping company founded by his father. He was very well known in Buffalo, and when the Civil War broke out he joined New Yorks’ 65th Infantry. Bidwell fought in several famous battles, including Gettysburg, and was promoted to Brigadier General in the summer of 1864. He was killed in action in October of that same year at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia. Bidwell Parkway is named for him.
St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church
As I head out of the circle and back over to Bidwell, I see St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church. It’s so pretty. I love the delicate cross atop the bell tower. 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. The large window above the main entrance was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Seymour H. Knox, in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Lewis Northrup. It’s quite beautiful.
And Still More Great Homes
As I continue down Bidwell back towards Elmwood Ave, I notice this side of the block has a whole different feel. There is more shade because there are more trees. I swear it’s 10 degrees cooler. Here’s some of what I saw.
And then, I come upon this one (below). I really love it. I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve never been a big fan of Tudor design, with its stucco walls and half-timbering. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. This house though, with its mix of Tudor and Craftsman design really catches my eye. I do love a good Craftsman design though, and maybe that’s it. This home makes even me appreciate the Tudor elements in this design. My favorite part of all though has to be the Craftsman style porch and those brackets! I like this one!
And One of My Old Favorites
But then. Then I come to this one. This house I’ve admired for years! When I was a child I thought it was a giant gingerbread castle, with that tower and conical roof! Even as an adult, I’ve wondered what the room looks like behind that palladian window with the two ocular windows on either side. I pray it’s not an attic. That would be horrible!
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen many shingle style homes here on Bidwell, but this home reminds me of one I know in North Tonawanda, the Humphrey House.
This home, however, is slipping a bit. There used to be these really sweet wrought iron ‘shutters’ that gave this place a storybook house look. I see that they’re now missing. Perhaps the current owner didn’t like them, and that’s okay, but some of the regular shutters are missing as well, and some of the shingles are in need of repair. Let’s hope it doesn’t slip too far.
Here’s the view from the sidewalk at the corner of Bidwell and West Delevan. It’s one of those views that draws me in. So, in I went.
And a few more on the south side of Bidwell.
The home on the upper left has a brand new copper roof – impressive. The one next to that – those eaves! And the two beneath that are fabulous to look at as well.
Two More by Esenwein & Johnson
Can you believe how many homes Esenwein & Johnson designed on this street? The home on the left was built in 1909 for Charles M. Heald who was the Commissioner of the City of Buffalo. The Craftsman Style five-sided porch is what makes this Tudor Revival/Craftsman style home. The house on the right was built one year later for William Statler (brother of Ellsworth Statler) and is a true Craftsman (Arts & Crafts) Style home, so you know I love it! (It’s also pictured as the lead image at the beginning of this post.)
As I stopped to check traffic to cross Potomac, something caught my eye. I looked up and this is what I saw, hanging on a tree. Boy am I glad I looked up! This just goes to show, you never know what you’re going to see on an urban hike! Certainly wouldn’t notice this driving by in a car. The artist is Pulitzer Prize winning, editorial cartoonist, Adam Zyglis. Cool.
As I cross over Potomac, I see The Buffalo Seminary. This is a school that was founded in 1851 as the Buffalo Female Academy in the former home of Ebenezer Johnson, in what is now known as Johnson Park. It was the first institute of higher learning for women in the country! Buffalo Seminary is an all-girls day and boarding high school. It’s an institution almost as old as Buffalo itself, and it’s been here on Bidwell Parkway since 1909. Like all schools in NYS, they’ve finished up the school year conducting their classes online.
Public Art on the Parkway
“Birds Excited into Flight” stands at the far east side of the median on Bidwell Parkway. The bronze plaque states “Sculpture by Griffis”. This is one of those times that, as I walked over to take this photo, I realized that although I’ve seen this sculpture a thousand times, I’ve never really looked at it.
The people at the base raise their hands, which morph into birds taking flight. I love how I (accidentally) caught that top bird heading straight up to the sky. It’s a beautiful sculpture.
Soldiers Circle is the spot where Bidwell Parkway, Lincoln Parkway and Chapin Parkway meet. I admit, I’ve wondered why it was called Soldiers Circle.
That was until I looked it up a few years back and learned that Soldiers Circle was originally meant to have the Soldiers and Sailors monument that now stands in Lafayette Square. When it was erected downtown instead, the circle was given several cannons and stacks of cannonballs as ‘decoration’.
But apparently, people kept stealing the cannonballs to sell as scrap. Oh, Buffalo. As a result, all of it was eventually removed. Soldiers Circle has been renovated several times since. But in my humble opinion, it remains unremarkable to this day. How about some trees at least? It’s so unremarkable that I didn’t even think to take a photo of it during this walk. The photo above is from the Buffalo parks website.
How about a good old fashioned design contest to spruce up Soldiers Circle? I’d love to see what the designers come up with. I bet they’d include trees. Just saying.
Bidwell Parkway is one of those city walks I take occasionally. Just to see it again. I will certainly miss the Bidwell Concert Series this year as we all embark upon our ‘new normal’ social distancing lives. This is the only series left in Buffalo, where it has stayed a neighborhood event. You can bring your own food, drinks, blankets, chairs, chandeliers for the trees, etc. Or, if you choose, you can purchase drinks and food from the vendors and food trucks in attendance. It’s one of the best and I hope they pick up next year right where they left off last summer.
This time when I walked the parkway, knowing I was going to write about it, I couldn’t help but wonder what Frederick Law Olmsted would think of how we’re using it today. I’d like to think he’d love it. Olmsted had a gift for bringing a real sense of peace to an outdoor space. Strolling along the center median, sitting on a chair or blanket to relax on a summer day here, certainly brings peace. All the people scattered about here know it. It’s why they’re here.
I think that’s why all the homes here enchant me so much. Just to know that the people who live inside them, look out over such a peaceful place makes the homes that much more fascinating.
Thanks for coming along with me this week. Take a walk Buffalo. There’s so much to see, so much to learn. So much stress to shed. Go shed it.
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They make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
As most of you know by now, I love my city walks. Today I want to show you the Albright Estate.
Last summer my husband ran a 5k race that started on West Ferry. 780 West Ferry to be specific, now the home of Buffalo’s Ronald McDonald House. Since it was a beautiful summer evening, I decided to take a walk through what used to be the Albright Estate, or the Albright Farm some people called it.
Without getting super into his life and work, that’s a very long story for another day, let’s just say John Albright was a mover and shaker in Buffalo’s gilded age. Everyone who was anyone knew John Albright. His estate was one of the catalysts of society here in Buffalo.
Now, his home did not survive to be preserved with some of our other great architecture. And that is truly a shame, because it was designed by Albright’s close friend, E.B. Green. And it was pretty spectacular. Green fashioned it after a manor house at St. Catherine’s Court of England.
If you follow architecture of any sort in Buffalo, you’re no doubt already familiar with E.B. Green. He was one of Buffalo’s most prolific architects. Many, many of E.B. Green and Associates buildings and homes are still around. He was born in 1855 and died at 95 years old. And was actively designing up until shortly before he passed!
Anyways, on with the walk about.
Tudor Place Style
As I round the corner from West Ferry onto Tudor Place, I’m not sure where to look first. So many gorgeous homes. Here is some of what I saw.
And this home, that I happen to know a little bit about.
This house was built by Louis Greenstein on a piece of land bought from John J. Albright in 1925. Greenstein was an architect, and he purchased the land in his wife Shinah’s name. The property was previously on the grounds of Albright’s estate that faced West Ferry, just around the block. In fact, all of Tudor Place and a good part of Cleveland Ave. was built on the former Albright estate.
The brick wall on the north side of this particular property originally surrounded the entire Albright estate. My photos do not do this house justice. My father would call this home ‘very well appointed’. It means that the person who built it did it in the best way possible, using the best materials, while showing great attention to detail. That definitely describes this house.
While on Cleveland Ave., I came upon this gem. Last week, a woman asked about it on a facebook page I follow. She was looking for photos because she had grown up in the house back in the 60’s.
It’s an E.B. Green home as well.
This one is fantastic! If you’d like a look at the inside see this link. It’s beautiful, but I don’t love the kitchen, and I don’t think the whole house should be grey and white. Don’t think either fits with the era of the home. But that’s just my opinion. And it does make for a blank slate for the new owner…it was sold in 2019.
Here are a few more interesting homes on Cleveland Ave.
Chemical No. 5
This building was built in 1894 to accommodate horse drawn fire equipment. The first floor had space for the equipment and horses, and the second floor was for the crew. It was designed by Edward Kent, a well known Buffalo Architect, who by the way, was the only Buffalo resident to perish on the Titanic. Read my post about him here.
St. Catherine’s Court
Here’s one you may not have heard of, and several years back I didn’t go down this street because it appeared too private. But I’ve been through it a couple of times since, but really, it is private. And full of trees. And quiet. Real peaceful. You would have no idea Elmwood Ave is just one block over.
On a side note, the name of this court was inspired by the fact that E.B. Green used a manor house of the Court of St. Catherine of England for the inspiration for John Albright’s home, which I mentioned earlier. I love that the street name is historic. Thank you, whoever is responsible for that.
The Canadian Angle
Back out on Cleveland Ave. I head towards Elmwood Avenue just to see a house that used to be owned by the Canadian government. That may seem random, but I used to work at the Canadian Consulate when they had an office here in Buffalo. They owned several properties in the area, including an absolutely gorgeous home on Soldiers Circle, a ranch on Nottingham Terrace, a couple of condos on the waterfront, and a home on Cleveland Ave. It’s the last house on the north side of the street, right next to Spot Coffee.
If you think about it though, a home on Tudor Place or St. Catherine’s Court would have been more in keeping with all the other residences they owned.
Funny story, the first (and only, I believe) diplomat to live in this house absolutely hated it. You see, she was very private. She hated the location, right next to a very lively coffee shop with outdoor seating. And right around the corner from Elmwood Ave. There were stories of her calling Spot Coffee nightly to complain about patrons laughing and talking on the patio. How dare they? Ha!
The Canadian Government had central air installed, bought her a white noise machine, and I guess that was the end of it. Never would have had this issue on St. Catherine’s Court!
As I head back over to West Ferry by way of Elmwood Ave, I passed through the grounds of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which was also designed by architect Edward Kent, whom I mentioned earlier. Here’s the one shot I took.
On this particular evening, I wanted to check something out that I heard about after I wrote about Mayfair Lane in my last City Living post. I was told by a reader there was a copycat Mayfair Lane on West Ferry near Elmwood. And not a very good copy. Let’s see.
Yep, it’s right there, with a city street sign on the road proclaiming it’s a city street. And yet the road is marked a private lane. Here’ what I saw. Similar idea. But I think you’ll agree it’s not at all like Mayfair Lane. Nothing against anyone who lives in this perfectly great location, just that it’s no Mayfair Lane. The reader was right.
Back to West Ferry
After passing by Brittany Lane, this is the first thing I see that peaks my interest on the north side of West Ferry. I love trees, and this is a particularly nice one, so I’ve included it. Note how hidden the home is, and I’m sure it’s a beautiful one too. Oh well.
This is the next thing I notice on West Ferry. It’s now called Queen Anne’s Gate, and was the original gate that stood outside the Albright Estate. It appears to my eye anyway, to be very original. The opening was not made for large vehicles. I would think a pickup truck might not fit, that’s how narrow it is. Wish the estate house was still there.
I did not enter the gates on this visit. Maybe next time.
Just Two More Things…
I wanted to mention just two other noteworthy buildings on this side of the street. Both are technically outside the original Albright Estate boundries, but both eventually became part of it, if even for a short time. The first is at #780. It is the Dr. Alexander Main Curtiss home and was built in 1895. The reason I mention it is because the second owners were Mr. and Mrs. Evan Hollister. And Mrs. Hollister was Ruth Albright Hollister, John J.’s daughter! Are you surprised? No, I’m not either.
It must have been a lovely place to live. Now, it’s the home of our local Ronald McDonald House. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
And I can’t get away without a few shots of 800 West Ferry. The famed apartment building. Here’s what I know.
Albright bought the property in August of 1905, when it was the home of William Hengerer, well before the apartment building was there. Just two months later, he sold it to William Gratwick. So, he only owned it for, probably less than, two months!
The building that is there now was a million dollar apartment building, built by Darwin R. Martin. He was the son of Darwin D. Martin, who was responsible for the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway over in the Parkside Neighborhood.
Originally, on the ground floor, there were four one floor apartments. On the next eight floors there were 16 two-story apartments, and the top two floors were for Darwin Martin himself. There is parking underneath the building. During the depression, the apartments, which were originally quite large, were broken into smaller apartments and remain so today. I’ve never been inside, but boy would I love a tour of this place! And that entryway! It looks like an altar!
I love the history of this block. The estate is fascinating. I mean, most of us cannot even begin to imagine owning the kind of land that Albright owned back in the day. At one point, he owned almost the whole city block contained within the boundaries of West Ferry and Cleveland Ave, and Delaware and Elmwood. Save for the land at 800 Ferry, and a plot over on Cleveland Ave. He donated the land for the Unitarian Universalist Church at the corner of Elmwood and West Ferry (pictured above). He was also the benefactor of our Art Gallery here in Buffalo, and many other buildings as well, both here and in Pennsylvania, where his parents were from.
This is one of those places I go back to again and again. I get a feeling of comfort and genteel living on and among these streets, with the possible exception of Brittany Lane! But almost all of the homes that are within the walls of what was Albright’s land have that ‘this is how the other half lives’ feel that most of us cannot even imagine. It is indeed, the stuff of daydreams.
**Lead image is on Tudor Place – love the trees! Nobody ever puts trees that close to their houses today!
I found myself in Allentown the other day with no rush to be anywhere in particular, so I decided to take a walk. It was a beautiful day and there were a lot of people out and about, so I donned my mask, and off I went.
I was on Allen Street at Rick Cycle Shop and started walking towards Delaware. I turned left onto Irving Place. If you haven’t been on this street, you’re in for a treat. It’s like a little oasis. Named for the poet and short story writer Washington Irving, each home is different, the gardens are at times spectacular, and best of all, it’s quiet. Only the rustling of leaves (in summer) and the birds singing. Hard to believe it’s just a short block from Delaware Ave. and off Allen Street, albeit the ‘quiet end’ of Allen.
You should know, I have a thing about front doors. They draw me in. Love it when a homeowner puts a little bit of effort into theirs. Going to include the front doors alongside some of the homes on Irving Place for you to enjoy, because I know I’m not alone in my fascination with them.
29 Irving Place – A Bit of Allentown History
I had a couple of destinations in mind when I set out. The first of which is right on Irving, at number 29. It’s the home where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived for a short time when his family lived in Buffalo. You know, the same F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote such classics as Tender is the Night, The Great Gatsby and more. It’s a pretty house from the street, and is much larger than it appears from the front. I like that it’s been kept up so nicely.
I once read an article that the people who bought the house in the early 1970’s had a big party when the movie The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford was released. This would have been 1974. They bought a block of tickets from the theater, invited friends and family to join them in the celebration, complete with period dress, and Gatsby themed cocktails and appetizers. The story goes that they boldly invited Robert Redford to join them! Apparently Hollywood offered up a much lesser known actor, but the owners of the house refused. Robert Redford or no one at all! Ha! I love it! I also love that the owners celebrated the history of the house like that. I’d like to time travel to that party…
The Lenox Hotel
So, Fitzgerald lived here in Buffalo off and on during his youth. His family first lived in the Lenox Hotel on North Street, at the corner of Irving Place. My second destination of the day. It’s Buffalo’s oldest continuously run hotel, opened in 1896.
At first it was a hotel with luxury suites that some Buffalonians used as apartments. Many of the ‘suites’ were large enough that they had servant’s quarters! It became a fashionable place to live, especially for the rich who wintered outside the Buffalo area. And why not? The Lenox was at the time, surrounded by elegant mansions. The lone survivor of which is the Williams Butler Mansion on the northwest corner of Delaware & North.
In 1900 the Lenox was transformed into a hotel exclusively, probably to take advantage of the visitors to the Pan-American Exposition, which took place in Buffalo in 1901. 2020 finds the Lenox being used as it was intentionally designed, as a hotel and suites combination. Perhaps not quite as grand but still, I’m happy with it’s modern day appearance. Although I would love to have seen that great cornice, and the front porch (for lack of a better word). It also appears in the photo above that there was an outdoor patio above the porch?
The Lenox Hotel & Suites also boasts a five star bar and grill, The Lenox Grill, with excellent reviews of the food, the atmosphere and the service.
As I turned from the Lenox I was immediately drawn to Mayfair Lane on the other side of North Street. Technically this is across the street from Allentown, but to me, this is one of Buffalo’s best kept secrets. I mean, every once in awhile, one of the homes goes up for sale, and there have been articles out there about the place, but it’s so private, it seems mysterious and elegant at the same time. There’s just something about this place.
Mayfair Lane was built between 1926-29 and was designed by E.B. Green, Buffalo’s most prolific architect. It was pretty innovative for it’s day, in that it was done condominium style, or townhouse-like, with a single parking garage for each home below. And while that may seem modern for the 1920’s, the upper level looks anything but modern. The Tudor homes face each other with a sandstone lane between resembling a very charming English garden.
The homes are spacious and comfortable and the lane leads away from North Street to the small castle at the end of the lane, complete with drawbridge. This is where E.B. Green Jr. lived. Mayfair Lane is perhaps the single most unique living space in the city! I never get tired of seeing it.
Back to Irving Place
I tear myself away from Mayfair Lane and head back down Irving Place. These are some of the treasures I saw along the way.
As you can see, there is no shortage of gorgeous homes on this street. Here are a couple of special ones though…it’s all in the details.
This. Note the matching bird house. Sweet! Check out the windows on the side of this house!
Below, note the close up of the windows just to the left of the sandstone arches. Cool! Plus, I want to go through those arches to see that building behind the house!
A Secret Garden
While on this quarantine walk, I headed into one of my favorite little pocket parks in Buffalo. I’ll share some photos, but it’s location shall remain a mystery. Too much traffic is bound to cause trouble in this secret little garden.
I love a good pocket park, especially when it’s an unexpected find. For me, this was very unexpected the first time I saw it! Shout out to the woman who showed it to me, you know who you are. 😉
My Impressions of this Hike in Allentown
For me, walking has become even more important during this time of quarantine. Without my daily walks I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in right now, both physically and mentally.
Hiking through this neighborhood has cheered me up. Allentown has great history, the escape of a secret garden for that little bit of magic, and the allure of the unique and mysterious Mayfair Lane. Not to mention the homes! It’s urban exploration at it’s best. And this was only one small part of Allentown. Pick a street, or two or three, and go for an urban hike. Or check out the Allentown Street Art, for some fantastic sights! (Note: Some of the art at the link is already gone, check it out!)
Enjoy your city Buffalo. Be safe and stay healthy.
Oh, if you’re interested in seeing the inside of that castle, here is an amazing glimpse.
This week I’m bringing you a pictorial post of one of my quarantine walks. This particular walk was to Larkland. I thought it would be fun to take photos while walking, and write a little something about what I see. Yeah, sure. Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve thought to yourself, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”? Well, this is turning out to be one of those times.
Let me explain, you see, I walk all over Buffalo, and where I go depends on a lot of things. My mood that day, if I’ve heard about something that I want to go see, and sometimes I get suggestions from you. But there are also places that I love so much that I go back over and over again. Like for instance, Buffalo’s residential parks. I go back to these a lot. Delaware Park, same. Actually, there are quite a few places that would go on this list.
Larkland is one of them too. It’s right near Delaware Park and I suppose you might consider it a residential park too, of sorts. The idea is still good. It’s my choice of walks that has me thinking twice. This walk may have been a little overambitious, to say the least. Not in terms of the walk itself, it’s pretty short. But in subject matter. To tell you about the Larkin family and their homes could take up a whole book! But that’s been done. (And I have just ordered one.) So in this post, I’ll just cover the basics for you.
Let’s start at the beginning of the walk.
107 Lincoln Parkway – The Heart of Larkland
I started at the corner of Lincoln Parkway and Rumsey Road. This is the northwest corner of Larkland, a city block purchased by John D. Larkin in 1909 for himself and his wife Frances, whom everyone called Frank. John was the founder of the Larkin Soap Company (later the Larkin Company) and was one of the most successful businessmen Buffalo has ever seen. It was at this corner that he built his mansion.
The address of this mansion was 107 Lincoln Parkway, and it was set back from the road in the midst of many trees. Must have been magical to see in person.
When I turned away from the street signs, this is what I saw, where the mansion used to stand. Not a bad house. Actually it’s a pretty great mid century modern design. But I can’t help wishing I was looking at that mansion.
Note the low slung wall set just a few feet from the sidewalks. This wall runs all the way around the block, and is the boundary to Larkland. Which is what the family called their ‘compound’, for lack of a better word. And I guess residential park doesn’t really fit the situation here, because this was private. Anyways, I decided to follow the wall up Lincoln Parkway to see what I could see.
The Many Gates of Larkland
This is the first of many gates in the wall. It originally would have led to John Sr. & Frances’s home pictured above. This place always gives me a real sense of history. I wonder about all sorts of things when I walk here. For instance, what was the relationship between John Sr. and Frances like? They got married in 1874, and John probably spent most of his time building an empire. But what did Frances do with her spare time? Did she love having her children living this close? I mean, was it her idea? Or was this all the brainchild of John Sr., who was in his 60’s when they built this place? (John was about 10 years older than Frances.) Sort of a lasting family legacy? And on and on. This is how my mind works.
Next up is this gate.
Buffalo Seminary now owns two pieces of property within ‘the walls’. In the mid 1950’s they acquired John Jr.’s house, which was used as their headmaster’s residence, and for social occasions. They sold the house itself to private owners in 2007, but retained use of their two practice fields. This gate looks into the larger of the two fields.
This field would have been the location of the carriage house, garage, and greenhouses for John Sr.’s home. The carriage house and garage had an apartment over it where a chauffeur lived with his family. In fact, all the homes on this property had garages with apartments above for the chauffeurs, and basements below which housed the boiler systems for the respective houses. There are tunnels underground that carry the pipes from the garages to the houses. Cool.
65 Lincoln Parkway – Home of John Larkin Jr.
Next, we come upon John Larkin Jr.’s home which he shared with his wife, Edna Crate and their three children. This is the house that Buff Sem acquired in 1954.
Just a quick note about this house. In 1981 it was the very first Decorators’ Show House in Buffalo. I was a high school student at the time and toured the house as part of a design class I was taking. I’m not gonna lie, I had never seen anything like it! I clearly remember the staircase and how huge front entryway seemed to me. And all the woodwork! The home seemed so spacious and open to me back then. Maybe that field trip was the spark that ignited my flame for grand, old homes.
Here’s a look back towards Delaware Park before rounding the corner on to Forest Ave. That wall!
And a quick look up Forest Avenue towards Windsor Ave.
As I round the corner and head up Forest, this comes into view at the side of John Jr.’s house. The conservatory is actually L-shaped but I would have had to go up the driveway to get a good photo of it. See that hedge at the right? It’s actually three times the size it looks here, and there’s another at the other side of the driveway that prevents good shots of the garage too. Since it’s a private residence now, I wasn’t comfortable walking up the driveway. If it still belonged to Buff Sem, I would have done it.
160 Windsor Avenue – Home of Harry Larkin
As I turn left onto Windsor Ave., this is the incredible view.
This home is beautifully maintained. It was originally built for Harry Larkin, and his wife Ruth. Harry’s younger sister, also named Ruth, and her husband Walter Robb lived here from 1939 – 1975. Ruth and Walter Robb moved into 107 Lincoln Parkway with John Sr. after the death of Frank in 1922. During the depression, Ruth and Walter were forced to demolish the mansion, and had to move into this home. Having never seen the mansion, I don’t see this as too much of a step down. Just sayin.
I love the entryway of this house. And I’m not really a column person.
In between this house and the next are the garages for both of them. These garages are also equipped with basement boilers and tunnels to the house to carry the pipes. The apartments above appear to be lovely. Nice.
176 Windsor Ave. – Harold and Frances Larkin Esty Home
A little further up the wall, I come upon the only home built for one of John Sr. and Frank’s daughters. Her name was Frances Elberta, but was called Daisy. She married Harold Esty, and their daughter Elberta Larkin Esty lived in the home until 1986. The home sold in 2016 for a cool $1 million. It’s appears less grand from the street than the home at 160, but we can’t see most of it from here. I especially love the enclosed patios on the north side of the house, and it appears there are more at the back.
175 Windsor Ave. – The Home of Charles Larkin
Although Charles was the eldest of the Larkin children, he appears to be the least involved in any family affairs. He moved into the home built for him (outside the walls on the other side of Windsor Avenue) with his wife, Mary Alice Whitin. But in 1919, they moved to California.
As I cross back over to the walled side of the street, I look back up Windsor toward Forest.
And down Rumsey Road in the direction of Lincoln Parkway.
These next few shots are of the newer homes that were built inside the walls, in the mid 20th century. I focused on the gates because I think it’s cool that almost all the owners kept them. Some appear to be original, some are obviously not. Either way, they’re awesome. And here they are.
And finally, I wanted to share this photo of an aerial view of Larkland, so you can get an idea what it looked like inside the walls back in the day.
And these photos of the two who presided over Larkland.
If I had to choose my favorite of the five houses of Larkland, I’d have to go with the one at 160 Windsor. Something about it speaks to me. It seems like a true family home. And since there is a small playground visible from the street, I’m happy to know there is a family enjoying it at this moment in time. Which is your favorite? Comment below, I’d love your opinion!
The Larkin family fascinates me. From John D. and Frances, to the Larkin Soap Company, to Frances being Elbert Hubbard’s sister, to Larkland. And I know I’m not alone because every once in a while, part of their story pops up in the news, in a magazine or online. Their lives seemed to be one of Buffalo’s own Camelot stories. I know a fair bit about the Larkin Family, and the The Larkin Company. But after writing this, I am inspired to find out more. I have unanswered questions. Can’t wait for that book to arrive!
When you take your quarantine walks, really look at what you’re passing. You might be surprised. And if you find yourself at Delaware Park near the Rose Garden, take a quick walk around Larkland. But beware ensuing daydreams.
This is the last in my three part series about Buffalo’s Residential Parks. Click the links if you are interested reading about part one, Day’s Park, and part two, Arlington Park.
The West Village Historic District of Buffalo is a 22 acre neighborhood in one of the city’s oldest residential areas. It is one of only a few in our country to achieve three designations as an Historic District under both the City of Buffalo and New York State, and it is also listed in the Federal National Register of Historic Places. The jewel of the West Village Historic District is unquestionably Johnson Park.
It is named for Ebenezer Johnson. So who is he, and why is this park named for him?
Ebenezer Johnson. Photo from Buffalo City Hall photos.
Ebenezer Johnson was from Connecticut. He studied as a physician in Cherry Valley, New York, where he met and married his first wife, Sally. He came here in 1810 and opened his medical practice in what was just a glimmer of what he himself would witness Buffalo become during his time here. During the War of 1812 he accepted a position as an assistant surgeon with the volunteers of New York State.
After the war, he returned to Buffalo and opened a drug store as well as resuming his medical practice. After 1823 he became very active in business and eventually became well known for construction, real estate, trade and banking. No small feat. He became quite successful and next turned to politics. He held several posts and sat on many boards, and in 1832 when Buffalo was incorporated as a city he was elected by the common council as Buffalo’s first mayor. Ah, that’s why the park is named for him! That, and the following…
That same year Johnson broke ground on a grand home located on a large piece of property he owned on Delaware Avenue between Chippewa and West Tupper. It was completed in 1834. The home was referred to as “the Cottage” and was considered the most palatial home in Buffalo to date. On the property itself there was a man made lake, fruit orchards, a large vegetable garden and flower gardens. The 25 acre property and “Cottage” was a well known spot for socializing among the elite in Buffalo.
The “Cottage”. Photo from “Buffalo’s Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families”, by Edward T. Dunn.
Johnson served a second term as Mayor of Buffalo in 1834-35, after having turned down the nomination in 1833. Mayoral terms at the time were one year.
Sadly his wife passed away in 1834. He remarried a year later to Lucy Lord. Johnson continued to be an influential member of Buffalo society until selling his estate and leaving the city sometime around 1847, when he moved to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, where he owned an iron ore mine with his brother. He passed away there in 1849.
During the 1850’s Johnson’s property was divided up into one of the most elegant residential sections of the city at the time. The lake became part of Rumsey Park on the estate of Bronson and Evelyn Hall Rumsey. The Cottage was re-purposed as The Female Academy, the most elite, all girls school in the city. Incidentally, it was the first institute of higher learning for women in the country. (!) The Female Academy still exists today as Buffalo Seminary, now located on Bidwell Parkway.
The “Cottage” Photo credit to “History of the City of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.” Published by The Times, 1896.
An 1876 map of city parkland indicates that Frederick Law Olmsted redesigned the green space in the center of Johnson Park and incorporated it into his overall design of our Park System. And it shows. You only have to walk through the park to feel Olmsted’s presence here. The flow of the park is just lovely. No other way to describe it.
Many of the homes on Johnson Park that were built in the 1850’s still exist, and many have been recently restored to their former glory. They are close together, fostering that “neighborly, friendly” feel we discussed in the second part of this series. And like the other residential parks as well, Johnson Park is a great place to walk and to meet and talk to fellow Buffalonians, whether you live there or not. The people here are indeed friendly, and more than willing to discuss what they know of the park and the homes lining it.
Johnson Park has suffered through the socio-economic troubles that have touched our city, and indeed our whole country. Thankfully, Johnson Park and the city of Buffalo both have committed residents willing to stay the course. And like the city itself, the results in Johnson Park are showing. This is due in great part to the commitment of the Johnson Park Association and the Cary Street Association, both of whom lead the way in ensuring that both Johnson Park and the West Village Historic District will remain as an integral, thriving neighborhood in Buffalo for a long time to come.
Hutchinson Technical Institute which borders Johnson Park on South Elmwood Avenue
I get a feeling in this park. It’s a nostalgic feeling of days gone by. At the same time I feel a sense of future here, like the residents have a clear vision of what they hope for the neighborhood. It makes me want to stay. Live here. Experience city living at its absolute best. That, is Johnson Park.
Go see it, you will be enchanted!
I hope you enjoyed my series about Buffalo’s Residential Parks.