Top Five Things to be Grateful for in Buffalo, 2020

Top Five Things to be Grateful for in Buffalo, 2020

Every year in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I get thinking about all that I am grateful for.  This year is no different.  I know, I know.  It’s 2020.  What is there to be thankful for this year? 

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I am a grateful person. I tend to put my energy towards positive things, and I think being grateful is one of them. It works for me. And studies are starting to show that it works for most. Even people who seek counseling for mental issues. Regularly listing the things you are grateful for, writing thank you letters, or writing in a gratitude journal is becoming more and more common these days. And it’s working.

‘Much of our time and energy is spent pursuing things we currently don’t have. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and the things we do have.’ * – Joshua Brown, Joel Long

The idea here is that if we spend more time thinking about things we are grateful for, we’ll spend less time on negative thoughts, thereby improving our general outlook on life. Makes sense. It’s a practice though. It takes time to reverse your way of thinking. But over time you get better at looking for the good, or the silver lining as it were, eventually changing your way of thinking to a much more positive thought process.

Chestnut Ridge Park, in the fall.

So, let’s give it a whirl. Let’s be positive in this pandemic year that’s been fraught with problems for everyone. Here’s my list of things we, as Buffalonians, can be thankful for.

Number Five – Location, Location, Location

I know I’ve said this before and I’m probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but I can’t leave this off the list! We take it for granted, but not that many people can walk out their doors and see what we have the ability to see within just a few minutes. Okay, twenty. Haha. We’re the twenty minute city, remember? We can get just about anywhere we need to go within a twenty minute drive. But really, it would probably take less than that for any of us to get to some sort of water in Buffalo and the surrounding areas. It doesn’t have to be Lake Erie, or the Niagara River. There are a lot of other smaller lakes, creeks etc. to see.

And the views are spectacular!

Being near the water, even in winter (bundle up!), calms us. It’s been studied over and over again. If you haven’t taken the time to go and be near the water in or around Buffalo, whether it be Lake Erie or Ontario, the Buffalo River, the Niagara River or any one of our smaller lakes, streams, or creeks, please make the time to go. You don’t even need to get out of your car and make it an active thing. Just spend time there. Look at it. And breathe. I think you’ll agree, it’s something to be grateful for.

Number Four – Our Parks & Parkways

I’ve talked about our parkways quite a bit in my posts. Great urban hiking spots! And I did write a post about Delaware Park quite a while ago. Our parks are magnificent! They really are! And there are more than our Olmsted Parks, not that we would need more, because the Olmsted Parks are enviable to be sure!

They are Delaware Park, MLK Park, Front Park, Riverside Park, Cazenovia Park and South Park. All amazing in their own way! If you get to any of these on a regular basis, then you know that they are all something to be grateful for! And they’re something that we do tend to take for granted. They’re just always there.

But imagine Buffalo without them. If those city leaders back in the day had passed on building a park and parkway system, we’d have just the one park. Probably Delaware Park. And while it’s pretty spectacular, I like it that there are more than one. It gives more of us the chance to get to them regularly.

And the parkways! How glorious to have these to walk through in all four seasons! They are beautiful. It’s as simple as that! I am grateful for our parks and parkway system.

Number Three – Architecture

Seriously, our architecture is second to none! Okay, maybe not the best in the world, but Buffalo has truly become an architecture destination! We’ve got examples of the best and the brightest architects in the country. H.H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan, and Minoru Yamasaki. We’ve even got an incredible hotel designed by the first woman architect in the country, Louise Blanchard Bethune! She was a Buffalonian!

Take a look at these.

We’ve also got incredible homes! We’ve got numerous examples of incredible architects who designed some pretty amazing homes here in the Queen City! Frank Lloyd Wright, Green & Wicks, Essenwein & Johnson, and more! Take a look at some of them.

I am grateful to have all the beautiful architecture that we regularly enjoy here in Buffalo! Without all that to look at on my urban hikes, what would I do with my time?

Number Two – Food

Yes, food. Buffalonians know how good the food is here. We’ve always known. Just ask our ex-pats. When people leave Buffalo, they miss the food! And the world is taking notice! Not for the first time, (2015 was the first) Buffalo was put on National Geographics list of best city’s to eat in, specifically for our chicken wings. We are ranked third in the world. As a side note, the second place city, Chennai, India, was named for it’s equivalent of the Buffalo wing! In my opinion, that means we get the number two spot as well! Ha!

Photo courtesy of Bar Bill Tavern

But we are much, much more than chicken wings. We have amazing ethnic food as well. About a year ago, I toured some people from Indianapolis around Buffalo and one of them was from the Dominican Republic. They asked if they could find authentic Dominican food in Buffalo. I did a quick google search, and found La Casa de Sabores, on Letchworth Street over on the West Side. They went after the tour and texted me later to tell me that it was some of the most authentic Dominican food they’ve eaten in the country! Not surprised.

Buffalo has to be on some list somewhere, for authentic ethnic food. We’ve got the West Side Bazaar, the Broadway Market and many Mom & Pop restaurants serving up authentic food from all over the world! Greek, Soul Food, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Ethiopian, Chinese, Polish, Italian, French. The list goes on and on.

And we are not just all about the meat anymore either! Several vegan and plant-based restaurants have opened up in the past few years, and they are thriving! Even meat eaters go there, because the creative chefs are killing it!

And our pizza? Forget about it! Buffalo’s pizza is the best! I’ve had pizza all over this country, and none can even compare to Buffalo pizza. The pepperoni cups…just sayin.

Let’s suffice it to say that that the variety of amazing food available in Buffalo is truly something to be grateful for!

And…Number One – the People!

The number one reason to be thankful in Buffalo, in 2020, is….drumroll please! (Picture Clark Griswold on the front lawn about to plug in the Christmas lights!)

Us! Yep! That’s right. Us.

We were voted America’s Friendliest City by Travel & Leisure Magazine in 2018. Why? Because we smile at each other and say “hello” when passing on the street. It’s sound hokey, but it’s true. I can attest to it. I always say hello, every time I pass someone. Here in Buffalo, most smile and say hello back. Not all, but most. Some even strike up a conversation. Some of those conversations result in making friends. I am not kidding. To me, that’s a small-town, friendly kind of thing. But that’s Buffalo. Friendly.

But we are also resilient. Strong. Tough. We are loyal, steadfast and true. To the end.

Just look at our history. (You know I couldn’t do a post without history!) The village of Buffalo was burned to the ground in 1813 and only four structures survived. The people rebuilt. We came back stronger than ever, and grew to be the eighth largest city in the country by 1900.

We suffered after World War II. Businesses left the area. We became a major part of the Rust Belt cities who lost their steel industries, which were major employers here in Buffalo.

But the people. Brilliant, innovative, inventive, creative, steadfast people stayed and helped see us through the tough times. Buffalo is now emerging stronger and more community-minded than ever. Because of the people. Us. And that’s right, we say ‘hello’ to each other on the streets.

For us, I am grateful!

My Impressions

Whether it be massive job losses, a crippling blizzard, or the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of Buffalo support each other. That’s what we do, when someone in Buffalo needs something, we step up and take care of them. And we will prevail this time too, throughout the Covid crisis. Because of us. The people of Buffalo.

Look, we have so much to be thankful for, living here in Buffalo. So much more than I have mentioned here. The arts. Our galleries. Our theaters. Outdoor concerts. The Bills. The Sabres. The list could go on and on.

But the only thing that really matters is people. Human beings helping each other to thrive. That’s what really matters in the end. Like in 1813, if we lost everything tomorrow, we, in Buffalo would rebuild. And come back better than ever. We are Buffalo strong. We got this.

That’s what I am grateful for in Buffalo, in 2020.

City Living – Chapin Parkway

City Living – Chapin Parkway

A few weeks back when I wrote about Lincoln Parkway, I started extending my walks to include Chapin Parkway. It’s not a route I would normally take, but I somehow knew I’d be writing this post eventually. I’m glad I made myself more familiar with it. The other day, I was out for a walk and was so blown away by the beauty of fall on the parkway, that I decided it was time. Is it just me, or does that happen to everyone? Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the beauty of something that I’ve seen a hundred times before. This time it was the gorgeous yellow leaves that brought it on.

So, here I am, writing the post.

As Usual, I’ll Begin with the History of Chapin Parkway

Buffalo’s Parks and Parkway System was put in during the late 1800’s, after some of Buffalo’s most wealthy citizens decided that Buffalo needed a ‘central park’ like New York City’s Central Park. So, naturally, Frederick Law Olmsted (the man who designed Central Park) was brought to Buffalo.

When Olmsted was taken on a tour of Buffalo’s streets he and his partner, Calvert Vaux, decided that what would suit this city best would be a park system instead of just one central park. City leaders agreed. They had the money to do it, and so began the largest landscape architectural project the country had seen to date. Our city was described by Olmsted as the best planned city in the world.

It’s easy to see why when you stroll down the center of one of our parkways.

Getting Back to Chapin Parkway

Chapin Parkway runs between Soldiers Circle and Gates Circle. It is, indeed, 200 feet wide and is stunning.

It was named for Edward Payson Chapin, born to Ephraim and Elizabeth Chapin in Waterloo, NY in 1831. He was a well known Buffalo attorney when the Civil War broke out. Chapin served at the rank of captain and was injured at Hanover Court House, Virginia on May 27, 1862. He convalesced here in Buffalo. In September of the same year he was made Colonel of Erie County’s 116th NY Volunteers. He was killed in action on May 27, exactly one year after he was first injured. He was posthumously made a Brigadier General on the day he died.

Chapin Parkway is as beautiful now as it was when it was first created. Of course, I haven’t had the pleasure of time traveling to the late 1800s yet. But the parkway is so beautiful now, I cannot imagine it could have been any better back in the day!

Most of the property on Chapin Parkway was originally owned by Civil War General John Graves, who built a home here in 1885. Bronson Rumsey purchased the property at some point, and demolished the Graves home in 1907. Rumsey built himself a relatively modest home (lost) on the property, and subdivided the rest of Chapin Parkway. He sold large lots at his leisure over a period of about twenty years. Which probably accounts for how many movers and shakers lived on Chapin. Rumsey, of course, would have been choosy about who he sold to.

I don’t know all of them, but you’ll definitely recognize some of the names I mention.

Let’s Start the Hike

I decided to begin at Gates Circle facing Soldiers Circle, on the right side of the parkway. It’s the opposite of what I usually do on my walks, but I like to shake things up a bit once in a while. Haha. Takin’ a walk on the wild side…

This first house I know a bit about. It was built in 1924 for Samuel Risman. And the only thing I know about him, is that he moved to Miami a year after building this home. He moved to take a job developing and managing a ten-story apartment building. His wife joined him a year later. Sadly, their story does not have a happy ending. Samuel passed away in 1927 after either falling or jumping to his death from that same apartment building.

The home itself is Colonial Revival in style, with Georgan influences. The slate roof extends to the sides of the dormers which is not uncommon. It’s got two sunrooms. The one on the front is original, the one on the north side was added at some point later on. There is also an upper patio on the Chapin Parkway side. And I love those quarter round windows on either side of the chimney.

It’s lovely. And ready for the holidays.

Next Up on the Parkway

Next up is this gem. It is a pretty good example of the Italian Renaissance style. It’s got rounded windows on the first floor, and rectangular windows above. And that recessed porch on the right, with the archways that are supported by columns. Fantastic! The brick pilasters topped with Corinthian capitals and the cornice is just lovely. It all comes together just right.

Very well done.

What really interests me about this home is the back yard. It splays out to the right behind the home next door (the first one in this post). It’s huge and private, despite the gas station on Delaware Ave just behind it. The gardens appear to be lovely too!

As a matter of fact, that same gas station backs up to all the homes on this block, but you would never know it. City living. Love it.

This One!

This is another Georgian Revival Style home. And is it ever beautiful!

I love everything about this house. The symmetry is perfect. Right down to those tall trees on either side of the front walk, and the chimneys on either side of the home. The side-by-side two-story pilasters on either side of the entryway with small, tasteful capitals. Perfection. The stone lintels and sills on the windows. Perfect for this house. The Flemish bonding on the brickwork with the same color mortar joints. Perfect. The classic stone surrounding the front door with a pediment above.

Finally, the icing on the cake. The wrought iron awning at the side entrance. It’s the perfect scale and design for this home. Did I say I love everything about this house? Because I do.

More Beautiful Homes

Another Colonial Revival

Next, I come upon this home. This is also a Georgian Colonial Revival style home. Note the first floor windows. You see how the top part of the window is smaller than the bottom section? These windows are referred to as 8/12 (there are eight sections on top, and twelve sections below). The windows on the second floor and dormers are 8/8s. The sidelights on either side of the door are 6/6. See? The reason I mention it is because this house is all windows! Must be a very bright home inside!

I love the stone sills and keystones on the windows and the slate roof that continues on the dormers. The Flemish brick is enhanced by the use of different colored bricks. The portico supported by Corinthian columns gives the design a slightly Georgian feel. Very well done.

Queen Anne

Next, we come to my husband’s favorite. He loves this type of home. It’s a Queen Anne stick style home. It’s set on a triangular piece of property, with a small circular driveway inside and on the East Delevan side. There are so many little details on this home that I don’t know where to begin.

It was built in 1888 for John J. Crawford (of John J. Crawford Monument Company), who passed away in 1894. Mr. & Mrs. George Clinton (DeWitt Clinton’s grandson) moved in in the mid-1890s. Mrs. Lucia Shoellkopf Modet was living here in the late 1930s. So, it’s a star studded home. These were all names that built Buffalo.

How about the wrap around porch with the unusual columned posts? Fantastic. The upper patio above the side sunroom with the arched windows. Love that. The paint job is classic. Take a look at the photos below to note some of the details. That black pyramidal roof, (I can’t tell what it’s made of) the carved wood designs in the pediments and dormers are all just what most people look for in a Victorian era home. I even like the poured concrete fence posts.

A Craftsman on Chapin

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you know I’m a fan of the Craftsman style of architecture. So, naturally, I love this amazing home. I love the wide chimney, the tri-colored tile roof, the windows, 6/6s most of them, appear to be original. The trim color on the house matches the wrought iron fencing, which is spectacular with all those gold tips. Note the fencing that surrounds the side porch also has the same tips. I love it when a home has a very wide, covered porch. Makes the porch seem open, but somehow private. Extra points for the canvas awning. (I’ll have to go back and take photos next summer when the awning is back up.)

To get a good nap, the hammock is a little close to the sidewalk for me, but I love that they have it. What you can’t see is the pool in the back, side yard. This house is all I’ll ever need or want.

Except This One

Oh, but this one. I might need this one. It reminds me of one I love over on Tillinghast Place. Has the same lines, but with a more Spanish influence. I could be comfortable here.

Another Georgian Revival

Georgian Colonial Revival seems to be the style of choice here on Chapin. Must have been what was popular at the time. This one is beautifully symmetric (you know I love symmetry).

The windows are five across on the second floor, with the first floor two and twos directly below. Very typical of a Colonial style. The Georgian features are the columned front portico with ionic style capitals (at the top of the columns) at the main entry, and the stone sills and keystones. Flemish bonding brickwork was pretty popular on this street as well. This house is especially beautiful with a carpet of orange and gold leaves.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

This home (below) is different from any other on the street. This is an English Manor style home, designed by Essenwein & Johnson in 1912. Genevieve Schoellkopf Vom Berge moved into the home that same year. Genevieve was the granddaughter of Jacob Schoellkopf, one of the most successful German immigrants in Western New York. Having lost her first husband, Henry Vom Berge in 1911, she and their only son Henry Schoellkopf Vom Berge moved into this home together.

Genevieve remarried and had another child while living in this home, but sadly passed away in 1919 at the age of 35. The cause of her death is not known.

James and Harriet McNulty moved into the home in the 1920s. James was the president of Pratt & Lambert. The McNultys were very active in their community, both socially and philanthropically. When James passed away in 1926, Harriet, along with their three daughters, made several large donations in memory of him. After his death, Harriet took over for James on the board of directors of Pratt & Lambert, which lasted 23 years. Good for her – definitely not the norm in those days. Harriet stayed on in the house until her death in 1956.

Interesting history in this home!

And More Homes Along Chapin Parkway!

The home below was completed in 2016. The home that was there before was built in 1950, and reportedly held no historical significance. In addition, the home was set too low on the property, causing chronic water issues in the basement. Major foundation issues followed. Read more about it at this link.

While I’m not usually a fan of tear downs, I must say that I am happy with its replacement. It’s the right style and scale for the street, and pretty nice to look at too. I love the porch, which I think ended up being larger than originally planned. All in all, it fits in very well with the neighborhood. I like it.

Look at the driveway at the house below. It draws me in, and makes me want to walk up it!

Let’s Cross the Street

Directly across the street, at Soldiers Circle is this building. We talked about it when I wrote about Soldiers Circle a few weeks ago. It was originally built as a hotel for the Pan American Exposition in 1901. It has since been turned into townhouses and apartments. Nice building in a fantastic location!

Next, I came upon another Georgian Revival (below). This one differs from the others in that it is brick and stucco, with brick window sills and lintels. It appears the front portico was enclosed at some point. Makes me wonder what the front entry looked like originally.

The home is decked out for the holidays already! Looking forward to seeing this in the snow. But not too soon.

I bet you can guess the style of this next home (below). So many interpretations of the Georgian Revival style, but really, they’re pretty similar. This one is so grand I wanted to include several photos. When you look at the side view of this home, it seems to go on forever. I love that every window, large and small have stone sills and splayed lintels, with the exception of the dormer windows, and that window on the side with the rounded fan window above it, including brick and stonework? I’ve never seen anything like it. But it works.

This next home (below) was designed by architect Edward Kent, a well known Buffalo architect who, strangely enough, lost his life aboard the Titanic. When I was walking by taking photos on this particular day, I heard children playing and laughing inside this home. Love that!

And this one. You know I love the wrought iron awnings! And I’m also partial to all of these side sunrooms!

The Homes Along Here Are Fabulous!

This next home (below) is great. It reminds me of an old church rectory or something. But at the same time, it’s cool. I love those two dormers. But my favorite part? That second-floor bay window on the side. Fantastically done.

Help me out here. Look at this next home (below). Now, I’m certainly no expert, but I don’t really understand the balustrade just hanging out there on the roof. Why? I’ve never seen anything like this either.

I will say though, I love the side entryway and the original sandstone driveway! Although I wouldn’t want to clear snow from it. But truthfully, I wouldn’t want to clear snow from any driveway!

These next few are all dazzling in their own way.

And this magnificence! Now, this paint job is on point! All the right colors in all the right places! To me anyway. I even love that someone has pitched a tent on the front porch!

And these.

And This Beauty!

So many Georgian Revivals on this street! On this home (above), I love the use of the different colored bricks in the Flemish bonding and the windows in the dormers. I also like that they have two different types of columns on the entryway. And that they are repeated, as both columns and pilasters in the sunrooms on the side of the home (below). Double decker sunrooms I might add. What a classic entryway this is too. Love it.

At this point you could tell me about all the details here. We’ve seen so many of this style today.

My Impressions of Chapin Parkway

Well, today was the Georgian Revival show! I have to say that when I walk, I look at homes and notice little things. But it wasn’t until I sat down to write today that I realized how many Georgian Revival homes were on this street. That style must have been really, really hot between 1905 and 1920. Seriously.

There was the one English Manor house (the Shoellkopf home), and a couple of other styles, but this street is pretty full up with the Georgian Revival Style. I like the style, the symmetry and all. And it’s still popular, because there are people living here and showing love to their homes. Every one is cared for impeccably. They’re beautiful to behold.

Friendliness on the parkway. Didn’t catch this guy’s name, but we’ll call him Mike. 🙂 Super cute dog!

With winter and snow just around the corner, I found myself wondering during this walk, what it would be like to live here in the winter. I’ll come back for walks to see it of course. But to sip my morning tea in one of the sunrooms. Looking out over the mall, covered with a fresh blanket of snow. Sun shining on it like a million little diamonds. Yes. That’d be real nice.

But for now, I’ll stick to my walks, and be grateful that we have such beautiful, historic streets to wander, wondering about the people these beautiful homes have known and sheltered.

Get out there if you can and get to know your city, Buffalo. You’ll love it!

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

What’s Happening at the Edward M. Cotter?

What’s Happening at the Edward M. Cotter?

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of suggestions for blog posts from readers. My schedule is booked well into January, 2021. But just a couple of weeks ago my brother made a suggestion that made me change the schedule in order to fit it in. He suggested I write about “the Cotter”. Good idea, brother.

I always thought that most Buffalonians knew what you meant when you said “the Cotter”. I mean, it’s as much a part of the fabric of our city as say, the Bills. Well, okay, maybe not that much, but it certainly plays an important role on Buffalo’s waterfront, and most Buffalonians have at least heard about it. When I told a friend I was writing this post, he didn’t know it. But when I showed him a photo, he said, “oh, that boat. I’ve seen that around forever!”

He’s right about one thing. The Edward M. Cotter has been around forever. Well, practically.

The side wall at Engine 20, at 155 Ohio Street

Let’s talk about it.

A Little Bit of History

I’ve talked in other posts about Buffalo’s location at the convergence of the Buffalo River, Lake Erie and the Niagara River. Back in the day, most of Buffalo’s industry was built on the waterfront utilizing those natural resources. I’ve also talked about the fact that fires were all too common in cities throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s. Buffalo was no exception. Although we had two fireboats in service already (working out of Engines 23 & 29), they did not have ice breaking capabilities rendering them essentially useless in the winter. So, at the turn of the century, it was decided that Buffalo would benefit from a third fireboat.

The Edward M. Cotter was built in 1900, and was christened the William S. Grattan, named for the first paid fire commissioner in Buffalo. Thus, Engine 20 in the City of Buffalo was born. She is the oldest active fireboat in the world. That’s right, in the world! She is 118 feet long and originally had two steam engines and coal burning boilers. Her prow (or front of the hull) is 1-1/2 inch thick steel, making her perfect for ice breaking. Now, an inch and a half doesn’t seem like much but the current Captain of the Cotter, John Sixt, compared the thickness of the Cotter’s hull to that of the Little Rock, which is 1/8 of an inch thick. Woah. Okay, that puts it into perspective.

Disaster Strikes!

In July of 1928, while fighting an oil barge fire in the Buffalo River, the Grattan caught fire and was severely damaged. The firefighters on board were forced to abandon ship and swim to shore. The boat’s chief engineer was killed, and seven crew members were injured.

The boat then sat for eighteen months while the city decided what to do. They had two choices, replace the Grattan at a cost of $225,000, or completely rebuild her for $99,000 ($8,000 more than the original cost to build). All I can say is that sometimes these decisions go our way. This is one of those times.

The Grattan was rebuilt at the Buffalo Dry Dock Company in 1930. It was at this time her boilers were converted from coal to oil, foam fire retardant firefighting capabilities were added, and her engines were rebuilt.

Some of the Cotter’s Updates

In 1952, the William S. Grattan was sent to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for some much needed modernization. Her steam engines were replaced with two diesel engines, twin props replaced the single propeller, and the firefighting platform was outfitted with hydraulics. She was now capable of pumping 15,000 gallons of water per minute! I once read that this boat could fill an average backyard pool in roughly 40 seconds! Holy smokes, that’s a lot of water!

She was returned to Buffalo in 1953, and was given a new name, the Firefighter. In 1954 she was renamed again, and became the Edward M. Cotter. This time she was named for a Buffalo firefighter who was a very popular leader of the local firefighter’s union, and had recently passed away.

In the spring of 2019, the Edward M. Cotter was sent to Toronto for two months, to receive much needed repairs to her hull and the installation of two new propellers. These repairs were paid for with grants received through the Cotter Conservancy. And speaking of which…

The Fireboat E.M. Cotter Conservancy, Inc.

The Fireboat E.M. Cotter Conservancy, Inc. was formed in January of 2016 to raise money so that the Cotter will be with Buffalo for a long time to come. It’s a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, committed to raising $25,000 a year in order to continue keeping the Cotter in the water.

The Cotter was named a National Historic Landmark in 1996, joining less than ten other National Historic Landmarks in Buffalo. This opened up the Cotter to much needed funds to maintain the aging boat. The conservancy takes the lead in securing these funds.

The Conservancy is run by volunteers, and is led by Sandford Beckman. The group is also supported by the Buffalo Fire Historical Museum, the Fire Bell Club of Buffalo, the Local Union 282, and WNY Retired Firefighters. See the conservancy’s website for more information regarding donating to the Fireboat E.M. Cotter Conservancy, Inc.

The Cotter and the Canadian Connection

About 15 years ago, my husband and I were in Port Colborne, Ontario which is located on Lake Erie at the Welland Canal. Every August, this port town celebrates a Canal Days festival. While there, walking along the canal, we suddenly came upon the Cotter. At first we questioned whether it was actually ‘our’ Cotter. But as we got closer we realized we were indeed correct. It was. We spoke to some of the crew, and were welcomed aboard for a tour.

While we were there, the crew told us a piece of Cotter history we weren’t familiar with at the time. On October 5, 1960 an explosion and a massive fire broke out at the Maple Leaf Mills on the Welland Canal in Port Colborne. Two days later the fire still burned out of control, and the town requested help from the Buffalo Fire Department. The Edward M. Cotter, escorted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, made the nighttime voyage and within four hours of her arrival, the fire was out.

In appreciation of this, the Cotter is invited to Port Colborne every year to help the town celebrate their Canal Days Festival. Pretty cool.

The Edward M. Cotter on the scene of the Maple Leaf Mills fire in 1960. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls, Ontario Public Library

A Few Things

There are a few things that stand out for me in this Port Colborne story. The first is that the Cotter needed an escort for this trip because it was never outfitted with deep water navigational equipment, simply because it never needed it prior to this. Interesting. Captain Sixt assured me that an escort is no longer necessary!

The next is that the trip to Port Colborne, which on the lake is approximately 25 miles, took two hours. You see, the Cotter is not built for speed. As a matter of fact, the top speed of this vessel is 11.5 knots, which is just over 13 miles per hour. So two hours is just about right.

Lastly, this event is believed to be the first time a U.S. fireboat crossed an international border to assist with firefighting. Cool, Buffalo!

What Else?

Through the years, the Cotter has assisted with numerous fires both on the shore and on the water. She is, however, limited to where she can go and what she can do in and around Buffalo. Captain Sixt explained that when a relatively small craft catches fire, the Cotter cannot get involved. Her fire pumps are just too powerful, and would sink smaller boats. Sure, the fire would be out, but…

And because of her size, the Cotter has to be in 11 feet of water to stay afloat. Drafts at 11 feet, 13 or 14 feet is even better to be safe. For this reason she cannot travel very far into the Erie Basin Marina, because the water is not deep enough. For the same reason, she cannot enter the small boat harbor. So she simply cannot fight fires from those locations.

She does, however, have the ability to assist with other types of emergencies. For instance, in 1977 the Cotter assisted the U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Ojibwa. The cutter had lost her steering and was taking on water. The Edward M. Cotter helped by towing the Ojibwa to the base and kept her afloat while repairs were being made.

In 1978, the Cotter assisted the U.S.S. Little Rock (permanently docked at Canalside) when the ship began taking on water. The Cotter continuously pumped water from the Little Rock, keeping her afloat for five days during repairs.

There are more stories just like this. The Cotter towed a Polish tall ship (Zawisza Czarny) off a sandbar during a 1984 visit. She assisted an Army Corp of Engineers tugboat, the Nash, by pumping out water to stabilize the tug when it suddenly began to list to one side.

The list goes on and on.

A Typical Day in the Life of the Cotter

The Edward M. Cotter’s crew of two, Captain John D. Sixt, III, and Chief Engineer Jack Kelleher, work diligently to keep the Cotter in top shape. And it was clear they’re doing a fantastic job when we boarded the boat last week. Working aboard the Cotter is no small task. In addition to working a full daily schedule, the two are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you doubt the necessity of the Cotter, just think about all the changes on Buffalo’s waterfront. More and more people are living right on the waterfront, including the Buffalo River. In case of fire, it is as imperative now, as it always has been, that the fire department have access to these fires from the water.

Captain Sixt tells me that in summer, the Cotter is busy with various duties. There is constant maintenance on a boat like this. Daily maintenance. Weekly maintenance, and monthly maintenance. That is all year round.

In addition to that, and firefighting duties, the Edward Cotter is busy as an active museum. Pre-covid, the fireboat was open during regular business hours for tours of the boat itself. I would imagine those would typically last an hour or more each. In addition, also pre-pandemic, the Conservancy would set up tours of the Buffalo River and Lake Erie aboard the Cotter.

Every June, for a dozen or so years now, the Cotter travels to Dunkirk Harbor for their Spring Festival, where the Edward M. Cotter is a key attraction in the harbor helping to kick off Dunkirk’s summer season.

In August, it’s back to Port Colborne for a long weekend for their annual Canal Days Festival.

What About the Winter?

Remember earlier when I mentioned the thick prow of the boat? She was made that way in order to break through ice. Winters see the Cotter out daily breaking up ice in the Buffalo River, alleviating the chance of flooding both in the city and the neighboring suburbs. While also keeping the river open for any necessary winter traffic, whether it be for firefighting duties or ships coming in and out of port.

This is what the Cotter was built for, to cut through up to 2 feet of ice. It’s a slow, arduous process, but the Cotter is up to the task. I’m told six to eight inches is more common, but even that is not easy. It sometimes takes up to eight hours to travel the half mile from the Michigan Street Bridge to the Skyway while ice breaking! Eight hours!

Ice breaking is especially important when there is a chance of a thaw. That’s when the ice is likely to shift, move and then pile up in certain spots, causing flooding when the river can’t keep flowing. So, it’s incredibly important work. It’s a matter of watching the weather, and taking your time. And trusting that one and a half inch thick Swedish steel will get you through.

A Quick Personal Story

Here’s a quick personal story about the Edward M. Cotter. Remember The Pier restaurant/bar that was out in the outer harbor years ago? I was there with my husband, my in-laws, and a few other people for a party around St. Patrick’s Day. It was cold. And everything was covered with snow plus a thin layer of ice. My mother-in-law, Barb, saw the Cotter through the window, and decided to go take a closer look.

Well, we were all having a good old time, when someone asked where Barb was. We were suddenly alerted to the fact that we hadn’t seen her in quite a while. Someone mentioned that the Cotter had left. My husband and I bundled up and went out to look for her. We caught up to her just as the Cotter was pulling back in. Imagine our surprise when we found her getting off the boat, laughing away and thanking the crew for the ride!

Apparently, when she went out to look at the boat, she started talking with some of the crew. They were going out for a quick run and asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. She said, “Sure, but let me tell my family where I’ll be.” The crew stated that they had to go, and they’d be gone by the time she got back. This was pre cell phone days, so Barb made the quick decision to go for it. She had a ball cruising around the outer harbor with the crew of the Cotter!

I love telling this story, because that’s who my mother-in-law was, in a nutshell.  She believed that if you have a chance to do something you want to do, you should do it.

My Impressions

The Edward M. Cotter is fascinating to me. The many crew members that have served with her. Who were they? What were they like? The small and the large disasters she has witnessed and assisted with, along with her crew of hardworking firemen.

And all that ice breaking! I’d like to go out on an ice breaking day, just to see what it’s like. I think I might love it. But maybe not in January. When the windchill is 30 below though.

Oh, who am I trying to kid? I’d go out on the Cotter in any weather. It’s a piece of Buffalo history. And, like my mother-in-law, I’d say why not? And climb aboard!

That’s one of the things that keeps me hiking around the city. Because I can. I recently heard from a reader who told me he can no longer walk for more than a couple of minutes at a time due to health reasons. And that he enjoys my posts so that he can see all the things he can no longer go out and see for himself. That’s enough to keep me going.

Be curious, Buffalo. And get to know your city, while you still can.

The crew of the Edward M. Cotter hopes to be able to go back to a regular tour schedule once we return to pre-pandemic conditions. Once that happens, if you can, get out to see the fireboat. You’ll be glad you did.

*Special thanks to Captain John D. Sixt, III, for taking the time to give us a tour, and for willingly answering our many questions! I appreciate it more than you know.

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

Village Life:  The Village of Hamburg

Village Life: The Village of Hamburg

Ever spend any time in the Village of Hamburg? I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days roaming around.

The City of Buffalo has a lot of distinct neighborhoods, each with their own personalities, even though on paper they appear to be similar. There’s Allentown, with its shopping, nightlife and galleries. The Elmwood Village, with its shopping, restaurants, and galleries. Hertel Avenue with its shopping, restaurants and bars. And Parkside, with the zoo, Delaware Park and the art gallery. Just to name a few. All sound similar, but are vastly different.

But if you travel to a couple of Buffalo’s suburbs, you can experience much the same thing. You could easily imagine you were in the center of the city, in one of our iconic neighborhoods. The Village of Hamburg offers the enjoyment of city life, with a small town feel. And it’s just a short drive away.

Here’s what I mean.

A Quick History Lesson

The Village of Hamburgh was being settled during the same time frame as the City of Buffalo. As a matter of fact, when the Village of Buffalo was burned by the British in the War of 1812, many Buffalonians took refuge in the Village of Hamburgh.

The Holland Land Company owned most of Western New York and in 1806, the first lot was purchased in the Village of Hamburgh. John Cumming bought a piece of property along 18-mile Creek and opened a grist mill, supported by the creek. Many, many people farmed the rich land in the area. Thomas White ran a tannery and a general store near the intersection of Main and Buffalo Streets. The area became known as White’s Corners.

Other businesses to come in the village included breweries (go figure), Kronenberg’s Tin Shop (the Kronenberg name is still around in these parts), a planing mill, Kopp’s Hotel and later an opera house was added to it (Kopp is also a name that’s still around). Not to mention churches, schools and taverns. Remember that at this point in history, taverns were not only drinking establishments, but also acted as trading posts, sometimes inns, post offices, polling places and where town meetings were sometimes held.

The Village Incorporates

The Village of Hamburgh wasn’t incorporated until 1874, effectively making the Village and the Town two completely different entities. In 1877 the name was changed dropping the ‘h’, to the ‘Village of Hamburg’. It appears that around this time the Village made a decision to stay small. Boy, am I glad they did. And, I’m not alone.

The Village Today

Today the Village positively hums with energy. You only need to walk down Main Street to see all the activity going on there. It’s a place where used book stores thrive, and corner cafes and restaurants abound. Everywhere you look, someone has created a lovely little relaxation space, where you can sit and work, or visit with friends. Everywhere I saw people enjoying these spaces and whatever delectable offerings that particular locally owned business offers. Creativity during Covid? Some of it, but some were already there.

Where you see empty chairs in the photos below, it was very early on a Saturday morning. I was there just before the businesses started opening up.

This is one of the sweetest flower shops I’ve seen. Very welcoming!

And, as is always the case, the many storefronts are decked out for the current season. I love that shoppers feel comfortable leaving their strollers outside without fear of it being stolen.

I’m suddenly in the mood for ice cream.

What Else?

The Village has a very active Economic Development Committee, busy with such projects as the conceptual design of 18-Mile Creek Greenway / Hamburg Outdoor Adventure Trail, to the development of fitness trails along Village streets, to the evaluation of historic structures in the Village, strategy for construction of alternative and affordable housing for seniors and young professionals, to a host of other concerns.

At the entryway to hiking trails along 18-Mile Creek right on Main Street

Hamburgh Holidays (spelled with the ‘h’) is a Village wide celebration of the holiday season with a collaboration between business owners and the Village. It includes a Santa Parade (sadly cancelled for 2020 due to Covid) that is usually a highlight for the Village children. The local business owners really go all out with decorations, sales and special events throughout the season. It’s well worth spending a day wandering in and out of the shops and restaurants during the shopping season. And I’m told that although the parade is cancelled, the decorating and sales will continue as usual, observing social distancing rules, of course.

Santa Claus Parade, 2019 – Photo courtesy of Hamburgh Holidays website

In the spring, there is the Hamburg Music Festival. Here’s how that works. You purchase a ticket (wristband) for just $10, and then you spend the day going to see live music. Some indoors in bars, some outside in several parks which are scattered throughout the Village. Proceeds go to “individuals, schools and organizations doing real and actionable good in our community”* This event has been happening since 2009, save for 2020 due to Covid. Let’s hope they’re back in 2021. I’ve been to it, and it’s an amazing day for music lovers of all ages.

A Bright Spot During 2020

New to the Village this year is “StoryWalk Hamburg”. It’s a fun, engaging, literacy activity for families to enjoy reading together while strolling through the Village. And it’s naturally socially distant, without seeming so.

Here’s the gist: A children’s book is deconstructed, page by page and displayed in sequential order in different storefronts in the Village. You read the book as you stroll. At each storefront, you are able to go inside and have your ‘ticket’ punched and in the end redeemed for a ‘take and make’ craft. In between pages, you discuss what you just read and what the kids think will happen next, engaging young imaginations along the way. The pages are numbered for counting practice as well, and I hear that some families are counting in several different languages!

It’s always a win-win when literacy is spotlighted in a fun, family friendly way. Right now, the featured book is “Room on a Broom” by Julia Donaldson, and the sponsor is Ss. Peter & Paul School. There are several Village businesses involved as well. The last day for “Room on a Broom” is November 1st. Several more StoryWalk Hamburgs are planned for the near future. What a great community event. For more information, and where to start the book, follow their facebook page here.

More to See in the Village

Just walking through the Village with a few of my favorite kiddos made me fall in love with StoryWalk Hamburg and the Village itself. During the short walk, maybe a half mile total, the little ones saw so much! I mean, they really noticed things! We talked, laughed, and read our way through the morning. (And we exercised!) We also found and re-hid several painted rocks throughout the walk, much to the kids delight! And mine. The whole experience unlocked a curiousness in all of us. Excellent!

What About the Homes?

You know I love to look at homes. Wondering what the homes are like in the Village? There are all different shapes, sizes and styles. Some of the homes are close together, some have a bit more room. These are some of my favorites. Take a look…

Look at this sweet house tucked back behind some of the main street shops. The fact that the yard is still intact is interesting. I like it, and next time I’m there, I’m going to check it out a little bit closer. Never would have noticed this driving by in a car, just saying.

And these. They even look good on a rainy day!

This is one of those homes that I hope has a big family living in it!

This one is fantastic!

Some Shots From Around the Village

Everywhere, there were people sitting and enjoying each other’s company.

My Impressions

I started this post because my sister (Katie Mika) started StoryWalk Hamburg. I thought it was a sweet idea, so I went along with her and her kids to check it out. I’ve spent time with her in the Village before, but this time I was moved to write about it.

Photo Courtesy of: johnnormile.com

This community is everything you want it to be. It’s walkable, the residents are engaged and involved. And friendly too. I spoke with several residents and shop owners, and all had nothing but good to say about it. They all seem to understand the importance of shopping locally, and the impact a good sense of community can have on the lives of their families and neighbors.

Within walking distance of Main and Buffalo Streets, I saw tons of shopping, restaurants, and bars. But I also saw dentists, doctors, insurance companies, real estate offices, and attorney’s offices. An old time movie theater, a bowling alley, salons, banks, at least one bridal shop, dollar stores, pharmacies, and a picture frame shop. And many more…too numerous to mention. Everything you could possibly want or need. It’s there.

And the people care. About each other, and the Village. Take a look at the photo below. I don’t even know who owns this building, but just look at that garden along the side where the parking is. Things like that are a good amount of work, but someone is willing to put in the time. And that makes a big difference. You see things like this all over the Village.

And the homes. I could have gone on for pages and pages of the incredible homes. They’ve got some amazing, historic buildings too.

You all know how much I love Buffalo, but sometimes it’s good to get out and enjoy other towns and villages as well. See what’s happening elsewhere, and support other local communities. Check out the Village of Hamburg on a sub-urban hike. You’ll love what you see!

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

**Hamburg Music Festival website

***Special thanks to Katie, Ambrose, Emerson (Sonny) & Aoife. Thanks guys.

****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.

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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