I’ve been admiring Soldiers Circle, or Soldiers Place, since well, I guess since the first time I really noticed it. I used to work for the Government of Canada here in Buffalo, and the Consul General’s official residence was on Soldiers Circle. The Canadians purchased the mansion in 2009. There would be parties held there on occasion and I remember it being a beautiful home that was surrounded by other beautiful homes.
For some odd reason, I never really noticed this circle before that time. I mean, I had driven through it many times. But after the first party at #196, I started extending my walks in Delaware Park to include Lincoln Parkway and Soldiers Circle. We are so fortunate to have so much gorgeous architecture to look at on our daily walks. And to be fair, this circle is wide. Might be why I never noticed the homes until I went in one. What I mean is that the homes are a good distance from the circle itself, with lots of green space and trees in between. And when you’re driving or biking through, you really have to pay attention to traffic.
Let’s get to it.
A Bit of History at Soldiers Circle
When Frederick Law Olmsted designed our parkway system, he put Soldiers Circle at the center of the three main parkways, Lincoln, Bidwell and Chapin. These three parkways lead to all the others, which lead us to all the other parks. Sadly, not all the others have survived. But we’re not here to discuss that today.
Today, it’s all about the circle itself. Originally, Soldiers Circle was meant to be home to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument which ended up being placed downtown in Lafayette Square. History isn’t clear how or why that happened, but here we are. Instead the circle originally had three Navy Parrot Guns, which were Civil War cannons, and stacks of cannonballs.
Word on the street says that from the beginning, Buffalonians couldn’t resist stealing the cannonballs. I guess some sold them for scrap, some sold them to collectors, and some simply kept them. Still others would roll them up and down the parkways. Oh, Buffalo…
Either way, all of it was removed in 1937 by then Parks Commissioner Frank Coon, who said they were traffic hazards. Apparently, more than once, people ran their vehicles into the cannons. (Was this a precursor to people driving into buildings in Buffalo?) Seriously though, this is not the first time I’ve heard that early drivers had trouble maneuvering through traffic circles. Anyway, and ironically, the cannons and their accompanying cannonballs were sold for junk at that time.
The Homes on Soldiers Circle
I headed over to Soldiers Circle on an absolutely beautiful October day. The sun was shining, the sky could have been a bit more blue, but it was a crisp, pretty, autumn day nonetheless.
I entered the circle at Chapin Parkway heading towards Bidwell. The first thing I see is this building (above) that was originally a hotel, built for the Pan American Exposition in 1901. It’s since been turned into townhouses and apartments. I’ve seen photos of the interior of a couple of the townhouses and they’re beautiful!
I’m not sure what’s going on with the brick though. I doubt it was originally a mix of yellow and red, which shows at some point there was at least some neglect, but it appears to be well maintained now. I love that almost every window still has the original leaded glass transoms above. And there are so many windows!
On this particular day, I noticed a lot of things I’ve never noticed about this building before. Like what are those openings in the peaks? Are they patios? If they are, how lovely! And I love the transoms and sidelights at the main entryways! Gorgeous!
The Oldest Home on the Circle
The very next house I come to I meet the owner on his way out with his dog. He tells me his is the oldest home on the circle. It’s an 1885 Eastlake Victorian, and I daresay it’s one of the nicest examples of the style I’ve seen.
An Eastlake Victorian differs from other Victorians, from what I understand, by the ornamentation. Named for Charles Locke Eastlake, the Eastlake style home has more subdued ornamentation than other Victorians. Charles disdained flamboyant decoration, and it showed in his designs. The use of color is more subdued as well. In this case it makes for a gorgeous home. To my eye, the colors are spot on, and the ornamentation is a perfect compliment to the home. The windows are original and open out from the bottom, see photo. I find the whole house to be very charming. I’d love to see the inside.
But alas the owner and his super cute Labradoodle have already left for places unknown.
Am I in Allentown?
This whole section here has a real Allentown feel. It’s quite different from the other ‘sections’ of the circle. Now that I think about it, each section of this circle has its own distinct feel. You’ll see what I mean as I move along.
This one is Allentown. Lovely homes that have a real comfortable feel. Like that feeling I get in Allentown. Look at this house below. Doesn’t it just look comfortable? Like you want to be on that second floor porch reading away the afternoon. Or sipping wine with friends into the late hours on a summer evening. How about that? Sound good? You know it does.
Yes, this section is gorgeous and unpretentious.
Lipke House, Jody Douglass House, & Niscah House
Next I came to one of several homes in this area that Buffalo Seminary owns. Most of the homes are used to board students, but a couple are home to Head of School, Assistant Head of School and the like. Pictured below, are three in this stretch owned by Buff Sem. They are Lipke House, Jody Douglass House, and Niscah House.
For clarity, Buffalo Seminary is a non-denominational, day and boarding school for college bound girls. It has its roots in early Buffalo history (1851), and is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning for females in the country.
First up, Lipke House (1896). This one is home to the current Assistant Head of School. What a great example of the Colonial Revival Style. Just look at those four pedimented dormers complete with dentil moldings. Also, notice what is called pebbled dash inside the triangular section of the dormer. I don’t believe those would have originally been painted, but I can’t say for sure in this case. Most were simply mortar with medium size ‘pebbles’ placed at irregular intervals throughout. Interesting!
Next, are Jody Douglass House (1905) and Niscah House (1910), respectively. Both are for students boarding with Buff Sem. Indeed, as I came upon them, a handful of teenage girls came out of the houses, and headed over to the school. What an idyllic setting for this school. It helps that all of their buildings are incredibly well maintained.
The building below the two houses is Buff Sems’ West Chester Hall. It faces Soldiers Circle. Another beauty and it’s perfectly maintained.
As I Cross Bidwell Parkway
As I cross Bidwell, I get distracted by a house I see, and I’m not sure whether it’s on Bidwell or Soldiers Circle. So I walk up to it, and I find it’s not either. Check it out.
First of all, this is one of the best gates I’ve ever seen! It’s awesome! Second, note the address above the door. Lincoln Woods? It’s then that I remember seeing a small lane off Bidwell Parkway on a map several weeks ago. I make a left to see if I can find it.
I pass this…another home with a Lincoln Woods address.
Sure enough, there it is…
So, even though it appears private, it doesn’t say so. I make a right and I start walking up Lincoln Woods Lane. I don’t go far, out of respect, and because of the fact that there is no city street sign. In fact, there’s a concrete driveway out onto Bidwell. This is what I’m thinking as I take photos of one more Lincoln Woods Lane home.
It was at that point that I felt like I was intruding on people’s privacy, and I always try to respect that, so that’s as far as I went. When I came home, I looked at a map. There’s at least two more homes back in there. Maybe more. Secrets off Bidwell. Well, I guess it’s not really a secret. I mean, there’s a sign there announcing it! The things you notice when you’re walking!
Back to Soldiers Circle
As I head back into Soldiers Circle, these are the homes I see. All lovely. A bit newer than I expected, (1960-ish) but just lovely. The backyards of these homes are on Lincoln Woods Lane. Nice.
And Then, There’s This
Yep. Frank Lloyd Wright is represented on Soldiers Place with this stunner! This home was built for William Heath, who, like Darwin Martin, worked for the Larkin Company. Heath was an office manager, and eventually a vice-president, and was able to engage Frank Lloyd Wright to build this home on Soldiers Place at Bird Ave.
Here’s what I know about it. Like Darwin Martin’s house, it was built in 1905. It’s one of Wright’s Prairie School designs, shaped to fit on this narrow, long lot. Wright achieved privacy for the Heaths by building up the lot so that the first floor windows are above street level. Indeed, when you walk by, you cannot see inside the home. But still, it draws your attention to the art glass windows, the low slung, hipped roof with projecting eaves, that large, private porch, and just the sheer perfection that this home is.
There is an apartment above the 5+ car garage that has the sweetest second floor patio you can imagine. You know how I love a second floor patio. The home itself is still a private, single family residence, with the exception of that apartment above the garage. This home adds a lot to the appearance and ambience of the circle.
And it’s unique that a Frank Lloyd Wright home sits on a Frederick Law Olmsted designed traffic circle. We are fortunate to have such an amazing design among our Buffalo homes, on one of our historic parkways.
The Other Side of Bird Ave.
As I cross Bird Ave, this is what I see. I don’t even know where to begin! This house is just so – pretty. It’s in impeccable shape. While I’m snapping photos, the owner comes out with his morning coffee and a newspaper. We start to talk and I tell him how much I admire his home.
The symmetry of this Georgian style home is what does it for me. I’m an admirer of symmetry. When things don’t match up, I get uneasy. Not really, but when they do, it pleases me. The bay windows on the Bird Ave side of the house are perfect, and the Palladian windows both on the front and the sides of the house are spectacular. And that entryway! Classic!
If I have one criticism of this house it would be lack of access to the front porch from the outside. It’s one of my pet peeves. I understand why people do it. Especially on property such as this, where the home faces a circle. But it’s somehow, unneighborly. That being said, the owner was very friendly and willing to chat for a few minutes. And to be fair, he did not build the porch. So, please understand that I mean no disrespect to him. I still love the house regardless, save for that one thing.
Two More Homes on This Stretch
This slice of Soldiers Circle is set up a little bit differently. Instead of facing the circle on an angle, the homes all face what would be the continuation of Lincoln Parkway, and are stepped somewhat. In the photo below, to the left you can see the previous home set back somewhat from this home, placed further away from Lincoln Parkway. And the next one to come is closer still to the Parkway. The feeling here is one of privacy, and peace.
So, there are just three homes in this section.
This one welcomes you right up to the front door.
I love the use of Flemish brick bonding on this home. It’s a way of arranging the bricks in each row so that the bricks alternate which side of the brick itself faces the outside. With one being laid the long way, and the next is laid the short way. In the case of this house, a darker brick is used for the bricks with the short end facing out. I love the effect. In fact, all three homes on this section of the circle use this technique of Flemish bonding. It’s fabulous on this particular home.
I also love the entryway. It’s simple, but stately and elegant. The leaded glass sidelights are perfect for this house. And finally, the use of black paint really allows the architectural details to pop. Love it. Why isn’t that done more often?
And then there’s this one, below. I love how the front walk curves out to the common sidewalk. I admit I wanted to walk up it. Love the brick pavers. The landscaping is beautiful, if a little overgrown at this point in the year. Understandable.
And the house itself. To me it’s a unique design that has great arts and crafts details. The hipped roof with wide, un-enclosed eaves, the exposed roof rafters (these may be decorative). And the rounded porch with its exposed beams and square columns. Love the whole effect.
I picture this as a family home. Unassuming and well lived in. Just as a home should be.
Moving Right Along
As I cross Lincoln Parkway, I notice that this section of the circle is the only one with a separate road on the circle side of the homes. Convenient, if a little less private I guess. Google Maps calls it Soldiers Place. And all the addresses of the homes on the circle are listed at “Soldiers Place”. I should take a moment right now to say that Soldiers Circle is sometimes called Soldiers Place, Soldiers Way and Soldiers Walk. I have no explanation or reasoning for this, except that in Buffalo, we tend to call things whatever we want, and sometimes we end up with a little confusion. This is one of those times.
Getting back to the homes on the circle, check this out. This home is of the American Renaissance Style, and it’s one I’m not very familiar with. It appears to be a precursor to the Arts & Crafts movement. This particular home has that central dormer with a hipped roof, the terracotta, keystone lintels at the windows and the Doric columns on the offset porch. The wrought iron on the upper patio is fantastic! Right down to the landscaping, this home is perfect. To me anyway.
As I move to the next home, this is what I see (below). It’s official. I’m a fan of the Tudor style. I don’t know why I ever thought I wasn’t. Going out on a limb in this election year, and changing my mind. I like Tudors. Especially this Tudor Revival. It features half timbering over shingles, and a brick first level. Love the chimney.
It was built in 1906 for Albert de La Plante and his wife Margaret, who came to Buffalo from Canada in 1898. Albert worked for Twin Cities Lumber Company. Their son Walter, was Treasurer and Manager of the Peace Bridge later on. Cool! As far as I know they were the first Canadians to live on the circle. But not the last.
Did Someone Say Statler?
Then, suddenly and without warning I’m looking at a 1961 Cape Cod Ranch (below). Here’s another style I wouldn’t have known offhand. Apparently the pitched roof elevation and dormer windows are typical of the Cape Cod style, while the horizontal lines, and large windows lend themselves to the ranch style. Hence, a blending of the two. I never knew ‘Cape Cod Ranch’ was a thing.
This home was built on part of the property previously occupied by the estate of Ellsworth Statler. There is a low-slung wall on the far right of this photo that still exists from the Statler era, and the Medina Sandstone paving was reclaimed from elsewhere on the property. While I inwardly mourn the loss of the Statler house, I absolutely love the look of this home. I think it’s a nice compliment to the more modern homes on the opposite side of the circle.
The Last Section of the Circle
As I cross Bird Ave (again), I see this beauty. I love the symmetry here. The three dormers with broken pediments are lovely. I wish the windows were original, but I fear that they are not. Note the curved arches above the windows, and the keystones. I love when a second floor window copies the front entryway door with its sidelights, like this one does with a smaller version of the surround. I also love, love, love this porch. The curved roofline is just so nice to look at! It softens the rest of the straight lines of this house. Lovely.
And these two. I love the wrought iron on the front door and sidelights of the first house. And the one below that, is just beautifully built. It appears perfect in every way, with the exception of the complete lack of landscaping. It strikes me as odd in this neighborhood. I’d love it if the walls could talk in this house, because I wonder what’s going on inside.
The Government of Canada on Soldiers Circle
Like I mentioned earlier, the Canadians purchased this mansion on Soldiers Circle in 2009. I say the Canadians purchased the property because the Consul General at the time, Marta Moszczenska, always said that the home did not belong to her, but to the people of Canada and their locally engaged staff.
Here’s a funny story. A friend of mine was at the home for a holiday party. While at the party she spilled red wine on white carpeting in an upper hallway. She was mortified and didn’t mention it that night. But by the following Monday, she felt so bad about it, she went to Marta’s office to confess. True to her word, Marta told her not to worry, that it didn’t bother her in the least, and that she would take care of it. It was, after all, not her home. She was only the caretaker. By the end of the conversation, they had made arrangements for the wine spiller to house-sit the following week. That, in a nutshell, what it was like to work for the Government of Canada here in Buffalo.
Let’s Take a Look at the Interior
Elizabeth and Stephen Hays now own the home, and they were gracious enough to invite me inside and into the backyard. My memory was correct. It’s a beautiful home that’s got great flow from the front foyer all the way around the interior and back again. It’s spectacular!
I thought perhaps that over the years, I had built the home up in my mind to be something more than it really is. But no, it’s genuinely a great home. It’s got wide open rooms that are great for big gatherings, and small little nooks to hide away and read a book in peace.
Liz and Stephen have five children and I have to tell you that I like that a large, busy, fun-loving family now fills these rooms. It’s what big homes should be about. Where nobody cares (too much) if you leave a blanket and pillow on the floor. Or forget to pick up your socks. Basically, who cares if someone actually sees that people live here? That attitude seems alive and well here. And I love it. Here’s the family.
Oh the parties I could give in this backyard. Just sayin. Only thing that bothers me here is all the utility wires criss-crossing it. Sort of annoying in the yard of a mansion. I’m sure that could be remedied though.
I hardly know where to begin with my impressions this week. From the history of this circle including Frederick Law Olmsted, to Frank Lloyd Wright himself, to the Government of Canada, this circle has so much going on.
Between the three circles I’ve written about now, Soldiers Circle, Symphony Circle and Colonial Circle, this one by far feels the most affluent. Most of the homes are mansions. But there are also the humble Eastlake Victorian, the 1960s Capes and the smaller homes on Lincoln Woods Lane, which are probably larger than they appear.
This circle is also the only one surrounded by Parkways, and that makes it feel affluent as well. Right in the middle of Lincoln Parkway, Bidwell Parkway and Chapin Parkway. Three of the most sought after addresses in the city.
And Soldiers Circle takes up a lot of real estate. Seriously. From the circle itself, it’s difficult to see any of the homes lining it. I both like that, and don’t like that. Know what I mean? It does make it park like for the homeowners.
And to be fair the sidewalks do run pretty close to the homes. So, I guess Soldiers Circle, or whatever you prefer to call it, makes a great argument for urban hiking. If you want to see stuff, get out and walk. But isn’t that what I always say?
Take a walk over at Soldiers Circle. You’ll love what you see just like I did!
*Get the book! They make great keepsakes, or gifts for friends and family. Click this link to order, or click on the photo below.
**Special thanks to Elizabeth and Stephen Hays for sharing your home with us! Follow Liz on Instagram @lovelizhays
***All photos in this post are mine, unless otherwise noted.
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!
A few days ago when I wrote Titanic – The Buffalo Connection, I learned quite a bit about Edward Austin Kent, who lost his life when the Titanic sank. I was so intrigued that I decided to learn more and to bring it to you. This is still the anniversary week of his tragic death after all. And the whole story of the Titanic disaster is irresistible to a history nerd like me.
So here we go.
Edward Kent – The Early Years
Edward Austin Kent was born in Bangor, Maine in 1854. His parents, Henry Mellen Kent and Harriet Farnham Kent moved to Buffalo in 1865. Henry, a dry goods merchant, together with W.B. Flint, bought a large department store and renamed it Flint and Kent. Buffalo already boasted several great department stores, but Flint and Kent would become known as one of Buffalo’s finest.
Edward, like most sons of Buffalo society, attended the Brigg’s Classical School of Buffalo, an elite college preparatory school located within the park on the Rumsey Estate. He later graduated from Yale, and studied architecture at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where both Louis Sullivan (Guaranty Building) and H.H. Richardson (Richardson Olmsted Complex) studied. He also spent time studying in England. Pretty impressive education.
Kent came back to the states in 1877, settled in Syracuse, NY, and became a junior partner in the architectural firm of Silsbee and Kent. He then spent two years in D.C. as a government architect, which seems like an odd move. A step down? Or was government work like this viewed as prestigious back then? Doubtful. I suppose we’ll never know.
Back in Buffalo
Edward returned to Buffalo in 1884 and started his own Architectural firm and later located it in the Ellicott Square Building. The firm was quite successful. Here’s a fun and little known fact: together with his brother William, also an architect, Kent designed the much acclaimed mosaic floor in the Ellicott Square Building. People talk about the floor all the time, but not who designed it!
Kent was among those who founded the Buffalo Society of Architects in 1886, and was voted their first Secretary. In 1890, that group merged with the American Institute of Architects. Kent was elected their president three times. He represented the Buffalo Chapter of the AIA at an international conference in Berlin in 1909.
By all accounts, Edward Kent was the consummate gentleman. It doesn’t appear that he ever married, or had any personal entanglements of any kind. None that are recorded anyway.
Let’s take a look at some of his most notable designs.
Some of Edward Kent’s Notable Designs
In January of 1912, Edward Kent, a frequent traveler across the Atlantic, embarked upon a two month vacation that took him to Egypt and France. He also spent some time in England while delaying his return to the states in order to ‘sail’ aboard the Titanic.
He boarded as a first class passenger, enjoying all the comforts that came with that. He met frequently with a group of friends, among who were Helen Churchill Candee and Archibald Gracie, and mingled with other members of society on board. It is unclear whether Kent was asleep when the ship hit the iceberg, or whether he was with some others of his group in the smoking room. I’ve read accounts stating both.
But what is well documented are these two things: First, Kent encountered Helen Churchill Candee and helped her into lifeboat #6, but not until after she gave him an ivory and gold miniature of her mother, for safekeeping. And second, Kent helped to load many women and children into lifeboats before the ship listed heavily, and he was swept into the sea.
Edward Austin Kent’s body was recovered (body #258) and was returned to Buffalo. Incredibly, the miniature given to him by Helen Churchill Candee was still in his pocket and was eventually returned to her. Kent is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery here in Buffalo.
As I’ve spent time reading about Edward Kent it occurs to me that outside his body of work, and a few scant details of the Titanic disaster, we don’t really know much about him personally. He was from a family of both wealth and stature here in Buffalo, and his family was active in the Unitarian Church (as it was called back then). It is likely that when John Albright donated the land for the church in 1906, that Kent was chosen to design it partially because of that connection. To my eye, it’s his greatest work here in Buffalo.
Make one of your quarantine walks down Elmwood Avenue to the corner of West Ferry and check out that church. It’s beautiful from the outside. But when the quarantine ends, go inside. Like so many other churches in Buffalo, it’s true beauty lies within. Take a moment to search out the plaque to Edward Austin Kent, and think about the man who helped so many find safety that fateful night in April of 1912.
I have been a full time blogger for a few months now, and I can honestly say that I really love it! I get to research and write about the things I love. I get to meet tons of great people, other bloggers, other tourists, business owners with a story to tell, artists. And I get to bring it all to you, the readers. The list of what I love about blogging goes on and on.
I am very honored that Michelle Bynum from My Fictional World nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Michelle is an incredibly talented writer and to be nominated by her means a lot to me. Thanks Michelle.
The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given to bloggers by bloggers. It helps fellow bloggers to be recognized for their hard work, for their creativity, and for the valuable information they put out to the world with every post.
This award also helps our readers and fellow bloggers to get to know each other better. This is what blogging is all about, creating community, learning about each other, making friends and supporting each other. It’s what I hope I am doing through my writing, creating a relationship with my readers.
So let’s get this party started
Where are you from? I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. I love it here and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else! Buffalo is rich in history, both good and the not so good. We’re so much more than chicken wings, the Buffalo Bills and snow. Don’t get me wrong, I love all three of those. I want to showcase ALL that Buffalo has to offer in the way of city life, architecture, history and the whole Western New York area. There are endless things to do and discover here!
Do you have any pets? I am sad to say that I no longer have pets. I’ve traditionally had cats (only one at a time!) but I am at a point in my life where I need to be able to take off whenever I want for whatever length of time I choose, and that’s not really fair to a pet. When my husband and I get our wanderlust out of our systems, we’ll get another cat. 🙂
What is your favorite part about blogging? I love the learning process. I love the writing process. Meeting and working with other bloggers. I also love that I can do it from virtually anywhere.
What are your hobbies? I love camping and hiking. I love to explore neighborhoods. I also love to cook! I eat a plant based diet (I know right?! In the land of chicken wings and beef on weck!) and so I cook most of my food from scratch.
Do you travel? If so where was your favorite place? Or dream to go? I love to travel! Seeing new places is so exciting to me! Two trips that stand out for me are Nova Scotia, and Ireland. We drove to Nova Scotia and treated it like a real road trip – taking our time visiting family and friends and seeing everything along the way. We were treated like royalty in Cape North, and just overall loved every minute of it! And Ireland, well, it’s Ireland! We toured around in a van, went on bike tours in Dublin, discovered Kilkenney (!) and visited friends in Cork. Continued on through the west coast and didn’t want to leave! Future travel plans: Greece, Italy, Spain and some giant road trips all over the US!
What type of books/movies/tv-shows do you like? My favorite books are historical novels (go figure!); Movies, I love old black & whites, and I always love a nice, light, romantic comedy. Favorite movie of all time: To Have and Have Not. Don’t watch a ton of tv, but I love This is Us; A Million Little Things, and I really miss Downton Abbey. Have got to make time to see the Downton Abbey movie!
What is your favorite holiday? Christmas! Love the whole excitement that surrounds it. The anticipation that kids feel, I love Christmas music too!
Do you have any family traditions? We have so many. But here’s my favorite. Getting our Christmas tree as a family every year. Ever since I was a kid, my parents took us to the country to get a tree. My husband and I very naturally fell into this tradition ourselves. It quickly became a ‘thing’ for our kids, and we all looked forward to it. We always bring Christmas music to listen to in the car. One year, we were several miles into the trip and realized we had no Christmas music in the car! Instead of letting it ruin the mood, we put Paul McCartney’s Ram CD on and we all sang at the top of our lungs! Needless to say, listening to Ram on Christmas tree day became our next tradition! We have many more traditions, but that one is my favorite.
What makes you happiest? I know it may sound corny, but when all my kids, daughters-in law and grandkids come over and we all just hang out talking, eating and listening to music. Just spending time loving each other. That’s it.
Where do you want to be five years from now? Simply put, blogging, traveling and spending time with my husband and kids.
When you are on your death bed, what is it that you want to be able to say that you did, and you did it well? or at least tried. I’d like to be able to say that I loved God, my family and my friends, and that they all felt my love.
Here are my nominations in no particular order:
When you have a minute, check these blogs out. They are all fantastic, hard working people with something to share. And they’re sharing it.
When I was a kid, my Aunt was somewhat of a local celebrity in military circles here in Buffalo. She was one of the first women in the country to become a U.S. Navy Seabee. So whenever anything happened of Naval importance in Buffalo, she was always involved, and was almost always invited as an honored guest.
So when I read about the Tall Ships coming to Buffalo, one of my first thoughts was that if she were still with us, she’d definitely be in attendance. Not only to visit each ship, but she quite probably would have been among the VIPs attending the after hours receptions as well. And she’d have enjoyed every minute of it. She loved all things to do with ships and open waters.
My Aunt Ann. We affectionately called her Major Houlihan.
So it was with this in mind that I chose to volunteer for this event. I attended one training session in the beginning of June and I contributed a very small amount of time (six hours) on the 4th of July working with guest services selling tickets, answering guest questions, and handing out pamphlets & maps to arriving guests. By now you all know how much I love Buffalo. I was happy to be involved in such a monumental event at the waterfront, a place that has played such an important role in our city’s history and will hopefully be an even greater part of our future.
The event was run by the Buffalo Lighthouse Association, under the leadership of Mike Vogel, the Association’s President. He, along with his committee has been working tirelessly for years to bring this event to Buffalo. The title sponsor for the event was the Basil Automotive Family. There were many, many more sponsors. From a volunteer perspective, the event ran pretty smoothly, although I’m sure the people running the show were more stressed than the volunteers. I had a great time getting to know a couple of my fellow volunteers, and talking to numerous guests as they came through the gates and had questions about the event. It was overall a lot of fun for me, and for most volunteers.
Photo Credit: Glenn Ferguson. The Niagara, a brig from Erie, PA, and a frequent visitor to Buffalo.
Photo Credit: Glenn Ferguson. The Empire Sandy, a tern schooner from Toronto, Ontario, the longest of the twelve.
Photo Credit: Glenn Ferguson. The Bluenose II, a Gaff topsail schooner from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the tallest in the fleet.
I did have the opportunity to take a break from my post, just in time to see a bit of the parade of ships coming into the Buffalo Harbor (admittedly a bit later than they were expected, a stroke of good luck for me).
The parade was…exciting. I couldn’t have been more surprised. I didn’t expect exciting, but it truly was. A few of the ships shot their cannons and that added a bit of drama to the whole scene. I was glad I was there, and happy for the organizers. Because everyone around me was excited too. I could see it in their faces, how they reached to get photos, heard all their comments. The crowd was happy to be witness to this magnificent display of some of the most beautiful ships in the world.
I went back the next day with my husband as a tourist in my own city, one of my favorite things, to get a closer look and to board the ships.
It was hot and humid. Almost oppressively so.
We entered the secure zone with our ‘passports’ at Canalside to see the three ships docked there, the Niagara, the Pride of Baltimore, and the Denis Sullivan. There was one line to see all three ships, and it was long. Very long. It spanned more than the entire length of the boardwalk, and we decided to just get a close up look from there, and to swing back around and see those later. It was while we were doing that, that we heard there were virtually no lines along the riverwalk to see the three ships docked there, the Bluenose II, the Empire Sandy, and the Picton Castle.
We walked right up and boarded the Bluenose II immediately. No waiting on this side. If only we could have gotten the message back to Canalside, and told the people to spread out to all the ships, no one would have had to wait very long at all. As a matter of fact, the only other line I saw was at the Santa Maria, which I think was due to its overall uniqueness.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate on Saturday. A friend who volunteered on that day, reported that the rain was monsoon-like. But she also said it was so hot, she didn’t mind getting wet. Attendance was reportedly down due to the weather, but people still came out. The Buffalo News reported 15,000 or so that day. Reports said the near perfect weather on Sunday brought the event to expected numbers.
All in all, I think it was remarkable. I’m sure the Lighthouse Association is happy with the outcome.
Were there things that could have been done differently? Yes. But I’m confident that the organizers have paid very close attention and will make adjustments for next time. There was the water issue for the first two days. People need to have access to water in the secure areas to stay hydrated in the scorching heat. Easy fix. There were also the long lines at Canalside. Possibly could be solved by increasing the access to the lower part of the boardwalk, or docking some ships elsewhere in the area to alleviate the long lines. But either way there will always be long lines whenever you have that amount of people in one place trying to see the same thing.
By all reports, it looks as though the event was a success, and this will become a triennial event, meaning that it’ll happen next in 2022, and again in 2025, which happens to be the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Erie Canal. That’s bound to bring with it many festivals and celebrations in Buffalo, possibly even throughout that entire year. At least I hope so. We do love our festivals. And by then, all the kinks will have been worked out, and it’ll be smooth sailing for the committee!
This weekend, in true Buffalo fashion, my husband and I tipped back a couple of cold ones to celebrate the Basil Port of Call Buffalo’s success. I think my Aunt would have done the same. In fact, I know she would have.
Several years ago now, I heard a story about a particular house in Arlington Park. The person telling it spoke about the architectural detail, the unique building process and the care that has been taken to keep the structure original. I had no idea where Arlington Park was. Of course I asked a few questions and the next chance I had, I took off to explore. Here’s a photo of that house. To my eye, it’s enchanting. And it sparked a real interest in residential parks.
In the beginning (1856), Arlington Park was designed and laid out as a private park on the estate of James Wadsworth. The estate was accessed from North Street and extended to Allen, bordering on Wadsworth Street. Private parks were quite common among the rich in Buffalo at the time. For us, that’s hard to imagine today, even among the rich.
Wadsworth was wealthy to be sure. He was from Durham, Connecticut, and was a Yale graduate who settled in Buffalo in 1845, to open a law practice. By 1850 he was chosen as the city’s attorney, and by 1851 he was elected Mayor of Buffalo. He served one term, which was one year at the time. He was then named president of Buffalo, Brantford and Goderich Railroad after his mayoral term ended, and also served as a New York State Senator from 1856-58.
Basically, you could say he was successful enough to have a private park on his estate. Wadsworth left Buffalo for New York City in 1859.
The city grew up around the park and through pedestrian use, the park was eventually ruled to be part of public domain in 1884.
Frederick Law Olmsted lived on Arlington Park while he was working in Buffalo designing our Park System. He actually designed the green space in the park, going off of his own notion of what a common city space should be. After experiencing the park, I have to agree with that notion. It is everything a residential park should be! Trees, shrubs, flowers, meandering walkways, pretty light posts. Enough space to throw a frisbee around or have a picnic, but not enough space for a baseball diamond. You get the idea.
Arlington Park is in Allentown just one block off of the busiest end of Allen Street. It’s a small 300’ x 100’ plot of land. But standing in the center of the park, you would never believe the shenanigans that go on one block over. The park is such a haven. It’s quiet (it really is!), it’s picturesque, and the homes. They are nothing short of spectacular!
The story goes that because Olmsted lived here, architects were attracted to building here, and they all tried to outdo each other. Whether it’s true or not, we’ll never know. But you have to admit, it must have been a rare opportunity to be able to build on a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the greatest landscape architect our country has ever seen. What we do know for sure is, the homes that were built here make living on Arlington Park quite a charming prospect.
They are all different styles and sizes. Some are apartments, some are single family homes. They are all well maintained. They are very close together. Some people think this lends itself to the sense of community here. My husband and I have always joked that the reason we have great parties is because our house is small and people are forced to mingle. There’s something to be said for that.
Same thing applies to this type of city living. There is a sense of community when you know your neighbors. Some neighborhoods have it. Arlington Park definitely does. I’ve wandered through many times, and each time, I get into friendly little conversations with residents and visitors alike. This is truly what a community should be.
There also appears to be an active block club in Arlington Park who keeps the residents in touch, the park in good shape, the flowers planted etc. The overall effect of all of it is serene, appealing and friendly.
If you think about it, Arlington Park is actually a microcosm of what Buffalo truly is. A warm, welcoming, friendly place to live.
As I mentioned in part one of this series, residential parks are a great place to do a bit of urban exploration. Arlington Park is no exception. Take some time this spring and summer to get out and experience it and the surrounding neighborhood. Fair warning, you may find yourself getting into some great conversations with the locals. Enjoy it!
Missed the first of three posts about our residential parks? Read about Day’s Park here.
Look for my third and final post about Buffalo’s residential parks next week. It’s going to be a good one!
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