A few months ago, my sister-in-law, Brenda, mentioned that her Mother (Sandy) grew up on Summit Ave in Parkside. Now, I’ve known Sandy ever since I’ve known Brenda, which is going on 37 years now. (Wow!) Sadly, we lost Sandy (we all called her Grandma Sandy) back in 2017. And somehow, I never knew she grew up just up the street from one of Buffalo’s most famous homes.
A few weeks ago now, I found myself on a bike ride through the Parkside Neighborhood. As I turned off of Amherst and on to Summit Ave, I was awestruck once again by the homes on this gorgeous street. I decided it was time to write about Grandma Sandy’s street.
Wait till you see what I learned here. You’ll be amazed.
A Quick History of the Parkside Neighborhood
The history of the Parkside Neighborhood is long and very interesting, dating back to the early 1800s. Buffalo’s first postmaster was Erastus Granger. He built his house on Main Street near West Delevan. Granger’s property extended north almost to West Oakwood Place off of Parkside, and west to just about where Elmwood Ave is today.
Dr. Daniel Chapin owned north of Granger’s land just about all the way to UB on Main Street, and also west to Elmwood. Many homeowners in this neighborhood will find one or both of these names on their deeds.
In 1876, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the existing neighborhood as a buffer between Delaware Park and the rest of the city. The homes were added slowly through roughly 1910. As you would expect from Olmsted, the streets resemble a ‘park outside the park’, if you will. Gently curving streets that don’t lead too far therefore discouraging too much traffic. Beautiful homes in a beautiful setting.
I should mention that the Parkside Community Association was created in 1963 to combat blockbusting and redlining that was taking place all over the country at the time. I’m happy to say that the community pulled together and was pretty successful in this endeavor. Today, the area is a diverse and stable neighborhood anyone would be proud to call home.
Let’s Take a Look
So, today I’m going to cover the stretch of Summit between Amherst Street and West Oakwood Place, with a couple of other homes of interest thrown in for good measure. I’ll take a closer look at two local architects. They’re not as famous as Frank Lloyd Wright, who I’ll talk about too, but they’re what I call ‘Buffalo famous’. And if you read my blog with any kind of regularity, you’ve heard me refer to them many times over. Of course, I’m talking about Green & Wicks. Edward Brodhead (E.B.) Green and William Sydney Wicks.
But, let’s start with all the other homes. I should mention that I won’t be able to put every single home in this post. There are so many on this street. But it is a spectacular street. What a place to live!
Look at this fabulousness, below. Love the wood on the ceiling of the porch, the pilasters that match the columns, and that entryway! It’s been maintained perfectly. This house has got it going on!
These two, below, are right next door to each other, and are essentially the same house with subtle differences. Pretty.
Check out the bold red trim on this home, below. The paint job is perfect. And you know what else is perfect? The symmetry. You know how I love a home to be symmetrical. This one is. The dormers are interesting too, kind of low slung and wide. Beautiful home.
Grandma Sandy’s Home
This is the home Grandma Sandy grew up in, at least for part of her childhood. It’s a double, and Sandy’s mother owned it. There are a couple of stories associated with this house.
The first is that there was a fire here in 1947, in Grandma Sandy’s flat. Only her mother was home in their apartment, and two people in the other. No one was hurt, and the family’s two cocker spaniels survived. But unfortunately, the family canary did not survive. Aww.
The second is that two of the occupants of the home in 1945, PFC James Clare, 21, and his brother-in-law Sgt. Raymond Hens, 27, were both injured in World War II, during the same period. Clare in Germany and Hens in Belgium. James Clare lived in this home with his mother. Hens, who was related to the family who owned Hens & Kelly, (more about that later) lived here with his wife and two sons. It is unclear whether they all lived in one flat (I could picture that happening in a wartime situation), or if they had separate flats. It appears that both men came home safely from Europe.
If you’re familiar with the area, you know I’m getting close to the Darwin Martin House on the corner of Summit and Jewett. I often wonder what it would be like to live across the street from that property. Here are some of the homes across the street. All of them remarkable in their own right. I think it’d be pretty wonderful to live in any one of these homes!
Moving Right Along
Crossing over Jewett, and these homes are just as nice as all the others! Aren’t they wonderful?!
It’s here that I met the most amazing, friendly couple, Jane and Frank. We got to talking and they told me they’ve lived in their home for 56 years! Tim and I have been in our home 28 years and I thought that was long! Anyway, Jane and Frank are big proponents of the Parkside neighborhood and seem to know everyone who lives on Summit now, as well as everyone who used to live here too!
What a great conversation we had! They filled me in on the neighborhood (which is apparently full of professors from Buffalo’s various colleges) and they told me about their children and grandchildren as well.
Frank mentioned that he wishes he had gotten the front steps finished before I came by to take photos. I think Frank said this was the third time in 56 years he was re-doing them! As with all homes, theirs is always in need of care. I love that at 83, he’s redoing the steps again, himself.
Jane and Frank live in the upstairs flat of this house, which they bought as a starter home. Friends and family thought they were a little crazy to live upstairs and rent out the lower level. Most people do the opposite. Jane said she liked the upstairs and so that’s where they lived. Frank thinks it’s one of the reasons they’re both so spry – going up and down the stairs. That and great jazz music. I agree.
Obviously, they never bought another house. When you love the neighborhood and your neighbors as much as these two do, why would you go anywhere else?
Take a look at this house. Jane and Frank tell me this is where the Hens family lived, owners of half of the Hens & Kelly stores. What a great upper porch! Actually, the main porch is spectacular!
Green & Wicks
It’s here that I’d like to talk about the men behind the architectural firm of Green & Wicks. You’ve heard me refer to them as the most prolific architects in the city back in the day. And it’s true. Both of them are represented on Summit Ave and Jewett Parkway. But it’s really E.B. Green that was so prolific. Let me explain.
So Green & Wicks entered a partnership together in 1881, in Auburn, NY. They both graduated from the Cornell School of Architecture. Cornell was one of the first schools to offer degrees in architecture. Previous to that time, it was considered more of a trade, with architects going through an apprenticeship.
But with degrees in their talented hands they came to Buffalo at a time of fantastic growth and change. Money was being made and those who were making it were not afraid to spend it. And they spent a lot of it on building. Homes, buildings, churches, etc.
Green & Wicks were kept very busy from 1881 until William Wicks retired in 1917. For 36 years they created many Buffalo icons, including the Market Arcade, Buffalo Savings Bank (Goldome), the Fidelity Trust Building (Swan Tower), and the Albright Art Gallery (Albright Knox). They also designed practically every other mansion on Delaware Avenue’s Millionaire’s Row. The Goodyear Mansion, the Foreman Cabana House and the Clement Mansion (American Red Cross). Just to name a few. And there are many, many more. These are all buildings and homes that are at least familiar to many Buffalonians.
After Wicks Retired
After William Wicks retired in 1917 (he passed away in 1919) E.B. Green worked with his son. After his son’s death Green worked with several other architects until his own death in 1950. The firm itself continued on under the name James, Meadows & Howard until 1971 when it was finally dissolved. It is generally accepted that some of Green’s greatest work was done while he was working with William Wicks.
E.B. Green was so popular in Buffalo that there’s a story that goes like this. When John J. Albright’s home on West Ferry Street burned to the ground, Albright encountered Green on the property, watching the fire. He immediately said to him, “Well, Green, have you brought the plans for the new home?”
E.B. Green worked up until his death, creating over 370 buildings in all, two-thirds of which are in Buffalo. Of those, roughly 160 remain, several of which I have written posts about (see the above links).
Green & Wicks on Summit Ave
Let’s get to some of their work on Summit.
There are five homes on Summit Ave that Green & Wicks designed, and one on Jewett. The one on Jewett Ave was the home of William Wicks.
Let’s start with the five on Summit. This first one is a Tudor influenced home, that I think used to be a brighter red, but I like this color better. It’s more like a brick red, and more in keeping with the style of the home.
And this, below. I love this one, and would live in it, right here on Summit. Thank you for this Green & Wicks. It’s perfect for me. I love everything about it. Not too big, not too small. Love the eaves, the porch. All of it.
This home actually reminds me that William Sydney Wicks published a book in 1899 about how to build and furnish cabins and cottages. It was quite popular and went through five printings. Wonder if this one is from the book. This house would be so great on a lake in the Adirondacks, wouldn’t it?
This Colonial Revival, below, is so pretty, set back a bit from the other homes on the street. It’s beauty is in its simplicity.
And then there’s this one. Again, I get that cottage-y feel. I can picture this in the woods, near a pond. It’s got a screened in porch for those warm summer nights. The huge eaves and brackets! And look at the railings, how they splay out over the wide staircase. How unusual! This house is fantastic!
And this. Again, here’s that cottage feel. Although the gingerbreading makes me thing of Austria or Bavaria. Love it.
The Home of William Sydney Wicks
Finally, let’s take a look at William Wicks’ home on Jewett Parkway, at the corner of Summit. I absolutely love this home. It features red Medina Sandstone on the lower half and the upper half is the exact same brick as used in the Darwin Martin House, which is directly across the street. It’s Roman brick, which are longer and narrower than most bricks you see everywhere else. The upper half also features half timbering which is purely decorative in this use. The roof and dormers are both slate.
This home is just lovely. And the landscaping fits in well.
Like I’ve said before in other blogs, I’m always interested to see what an architect would build for himself. Now, this home was built in 1890. The Darwin Martin house across the street was completed in 1905. I’ve often wondered what Wicks thought of the home going in across the street. Did he love it, and speak to Frank Lloyd Wright during the design and construction phases? Or did he not appreciate the new prairie design? Oh, to time travel and be able to see for myself!
Speaking of the Darwin Martin House
It seems to me that just about everyone reading this pretty much already knows about the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Darwin Martin House, and so I won’t go into any detail about it. If you’d like more in depth info, check out this link.
Here are a few of my own photos of this fabulous Buffalo treasure. Please note that some of these were taken in early spring 2020, and some were taken just a few days ago. I believe the historic gardens are now complete, and they are stunning.
I started out writing about this street for my sister-in-law Brenda, and the whole connection with her Mother, Sandy. And her childhood home is beautiful! I’ll also add, it’s one of the largest on the street!
But I ended up learning a lot about the area. I spent a good amount of time on the Parkside Association website learning about the history of the area. Check it out if you’re interested. There’s a lot of good information there.
I knew about the William Wicks house on Jewett, and I really have wondered what he thought of the Darwin Martin House. But I didn’t know there were other Green & Wicks houses on Summit. You learn something new every day. And I was glad to finally have a good reason to write a bit more about them and their incredible impact on Buffalo’s architectural scene.
As I’ve said many times before, I am not, nor do I pretend to be, well versed in the academics of architecture. But I know what I like, and I have a good feel for what people like E.B. Green and William Sydney Wicks have done for this town. It’s part of what makes Buffalo great!
To be a good, friendly neighbor is a big part of what makes Buffalo great too. Jane and Frank have an innate understanding of that. I knew it immediately when Jane started chatting with me from their upper porch. She didn’t have to talk to me. But years of experience have taught her that knowing your neighbors is key to what kind of experience a neighborhood will give you.
They talked to me about how they stayed here on Summit because they loved their home and their neighbors. I bet there are many people who stayed on Summit because of the two of you. Jane and Frank, you are absolutely lovely people. Thank you for spending time with me. I loved every second of it.
RIP Grandma Sandy. Loved ya to pieces.
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This post has been a long time coming, as blog posts go. I first became aware of Woodley Road when I was a kid. My best friend growing up had cousins that lived on Burke Drive off of Eggert Road. We spent a bit of time there riding bikes etc. Even as a kid, when we’d ride up and down the area streets, I admired the homes in this neighborhood.
Several months ago now, I saw a home featured on a facebook page that I follow. One of the owners of the home, Rick, posted photos of the new home he shares with his husband Leroy, and their adorable dog, Gunnar. In the post, he highlighted some of the changes and some of the original charm the home holds.
With the speed that life travels, I had forgotten about this neighborhood and wanted to go back and check it out. I contacted Rick, and it’s been months in the making, but he and Leroy opened their home to me. As a matter of fact, they invited Tim and I to visit on a day when the neighborhood gets together for a weekly cocktail hour. It’s something they started during quarantine more than a year ago. More to come about that later.
Back in the 1920s, Cleveland Hill Properties began to develop this neighborhood (which they called, and widely became known as Cleveland Hill) and heavily advertised the homes for sale as “A Beautiful Park of Beautiful Homes”. They held extensive open houses where thousands walked through the newly built homes. Buffalo newspapers sponsored various homes. Decorators, furniture stores, florists and more, all contributed to staging the homes, making them look like the beautiful homes they advertised.
And they are beautiful. Modest maybe, when compared to the homes along some of Buffalo’s grand parkways, but these homes are very well appointed. The building materials were among the finest available. Many of the homes here still retain their original detail and charm. And like we talked about over at Windsor Ave, many of these homes were model homes as well. Making them the best quality possible.
The ads stated that the American dream is within reach of nearly everyone at Cleveland Hill. They urged Buffalonians to take the trip out Kensington ‘Boulevard’ to see the homes. They touted ‘price and terms to suit your pocketbook’ and that ‘every home is different’. I can’t speak to the price and terms, but every home is, indeed, different. And they are beautiful.
To be honest, I always thought this neighborhood was in Cheektowaga. But at closer examination of a map of the city, it’s in Buffalo. There’s an odd ‘bump out’ if you will, that includes the area bordered by Huntley Rd, Century and Treehaven. This week I’ve heard a few stories about why the neighborhood is included in the city of Buffalo, and not the first ring suburb of Cheektowaga.
The most common is this. Remember, this is hearsay. The story goes that judges were required to live in the city back in the day, and there was an influential judge who wanted to buy a home in the area, so the city arranged to acquire the land. More judges followed suit, and moved into the neighborhood. Seems unlikely to me. But there have been, by all accounts, several judges who have lived in this neighborhood. So, hey, you never know.
There is but one judge left today. We’ll talk about that later. For now, come hike with me.
We’re going to do this hike in reverse of how I actually walked it. We’re going to start at the corner of Burke and Woodley with this rather large beautiful home. It comes with a bit of a mystery that I haven’t been able to solve. I found old newspaper clippings listing the address of 9 Woodley Road in advertisements for Cleveland Hill, see below.
And there is a number 9 on the home, at the door that faces Woodley Road. But both the city of Buffalo, and Google maps lists this home as being on Burke Drive. Number 28 to be exact. I don’t usually use house numbers when I write, but this was intriguing. For now, it’ll remain a mystery.
But what a house!
Three Tudors in a Row
Next is this pretty thing. How very unusual! But it works, somehow. This is the first of three Tudors in a row, where rumor has it, different members of the Amigone family had built and lived in at one time. And one, Philip Amigone, owner of Chez Ami downtown, lived in number 16 across the street and then moved into one of these at one point. This is rumor, of course, and sometimes these stories get changed along the way somehow. I haven’t been able to confirm or debunk this story.
Number two of the three Amigone Tudors, below. (It’s Jeff and Kathy’s home now.) This is the former home of Paschal Rubino, longtime Buffalo funeral director, below. Someone suggested that it may have been the Rubino family that lived in the three Tudors. Anything’s possible I suppose.
Anyway, Paschal Rubino, in addition to being president of Rubino Funeral Home, served at least three terms on the Buffalo Board of Education. In October, 1962, he was honored with a testimonial dinner at the Statler Hotel by the Buffalo Teacher Federation for his steadfast support of Buffalo Schools, teachers and school children. This was very rare, as they almost never honor someone who is not a teaching professional. Cool.
And Number 3
And here’s number three Tudor, below. This one’s landscaping is taking over a bit, but look at the bones of the place. Another slate roof. This home is a classic. And I do love the tulips! Would love to see this place in the summer.
Check out the roof here though. These slate tiles seem to be in perfect shape. Note that the size of the tiles themselves are larger at the bottom and get smaller as the roofline goes up. It’s planned that way to give the effect that the roof is taller than it looks, giving the appearance of a larger home. It’s done on homes like this one, and homes that are three times the size of this. Interesting.
Wish I had a slate roof. When I see them, I know that if the builder used slate for the roof, the rest of the home is good quality as well.
Moving Right Along
At this home I met Marcia. She seemed a lovely woman, a bit shy, but I could see a friendly nature beneath the shy exterior. If I lived here, I believe Marcia and I could become friends. I hope she would agree.
Looks like I just missed Marcia’s daffodils. Too bad, they were probably beautiful.
Then there is this Colonial, below, with its brick foundation. I wonder if there is brick behind the siding? Seems unlikely that the brick would extend to the ground, if there weren’t brick above it. So I searched, and did find an advertisement for a brick Colonial home at this address back in 1935. No photo to corroborate it though. Anyone know?
I love the wrought iron above that massive bay window. I can just imagine the light brought in through that window. Fantastic!
Next, I came to this Spanish influenced home. What a home! The tile roof seems to be in great shape, and I love how the balcony doors and window mimic the main entry at the ground level. The pillars with the rounded archways that also mimic both doors are perfectly executed.
I can tell you this. It wouldn’t take very much for me to move into this home. It’s got it all.
Onetime owner of this home was Christian Laube, who was the vice-president of Laube Restaurants. It was one of the largest family-owned chain restaurants in Buffalo and was started by Christian’s father in 1907 as “My Lunch” on Niagara Street, where the family court building now stands. It eventually was renamed Laube’s Cafeterias and at its peak served 2,000 lunches per day from this one location!
Laube Cafeterias grew to include Laube’s Old Spain, which was next door to Shea’s, a cafeteria inside the YMCA building downtown, and a full service restaurant inside the Lord Amherst Hotel on Main Street in Snyder. They were by their own motto, “known for food”.
Now we come to the homes at the corner of Woodley and Eldon.
First up, is the largest home on the street, with the possible exception of the first house we talked about at the beginning of the post. This home is a spectacular Tudor. My photo definitely does not do it justice.
The address here has changed as well. It used to be considered on Woodley, but now has an address on Eldon Road. Curious when the home obviously faces Woodley.
There are some big Buffalo names associated with this home. In the 30s, there were Amigones living here. I came across numerous articles ranging from 1936 through 1940 regarding newspaper sponsored holiday lights contests. They were apparently a pretty big deal in Buffalo at that time. The Amigones at this address won the contest in the ‘homes worth $9,000+” category one year.
In 1949, Raymond Haimbaugh lived in the home. He was written up in the Buffalo Evening News that year for being named the Division Manager at the Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda. Cool.
And Last, But Not Least
Alfred Durrenberger and family lived in this home in the 1960s. He was the founder of one of Buffalo’s other family-owned chain restaurants, Your Host. Right next door to the Laude family. What a coincidence! And they call this street ‘Judge’s Row’? Wondering if we’ll see any Decks from the Deco Restaurant chain on this street? Stay tuned.
Crossing the street now, this is a completely different style from any other house on the street. Although it appears to be on Woodley, this too is technically on Eldon Road. It’s a nice large ranch home, and from the angle I took this photo, it appears to be all garage. But it really isn’t. It’s what I like to call a ‘rambling ranch’. You know, one of those ranch homes that just keeps going…
It’s a lovely home, and is probably the newest on the street, built in 1940.
The Redcoats are Coming…
This next one is perhaps the most original home I’ve ever written about. Even though it’s not original at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. This home, below, is a replica of Paul Revere’s home in Boston.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I first read that! What an odd thing to do, in Buffalo, NY of all places! Haha! But, being the total history nerd that I am, I love it!
This is the home of Les and Ginny. Les is the last of the judges in Judge’s Row. On the day we joined the Wednesday afternoon cocktail hour, the group ended up here at Les and Ginny’s Paul Revere home. We chatted for just a moment (Les knows the complete history of the home.) before he invited us in to take a look around.
The interior is chock full of Arkansas soft pine wood paneling and doors. It’s rich, yet somehow casual too. Not long ago, the couple received in the mail a magazine from 1931, with a story about their home! The magazine came with a letter explaining the story of the home and how the sender came to have the magazine. They felt that the owners of the home should have it, so they sent it, without even knowing who lived there. What a great story!
Below are two photos of the home that appeared in the Buffalo Courier Express in November, 1929. The top photo is of the basement room, and the bottom photo is the living room as it appeared as a model home. All the same woodwork still exists today. And it’s pristine.
Les and Ginny are good stewards, indeed. And I will say, good and gracious hosts. They invited us in on the spur of the moment, and told us everything we wanted to know. They were at once proud, and yet humble about their much loved home.
I love that.
Moving Right Along
Right next door to the Paul Revere house is this beauty. This is another Tudor inspired design. Note the use of ‘clinker bricks’, which are overfired bricks with a sometimes irregular shape and surface. We first saw these on the blog on Lincoln Parkway. In this case, the bricks are added in a random fashion, along with traditional bricks. I think they give the home a very unique look.
Next, is this home. The flowering trees at this time of year are stunning! After seeing this home, I want to put one in front of my house!
The Call of the Bagpipes
This next home belongs to Dan and Carol, who we met at the cocktail party. Well, actually Dan beckoned us to the cocktail party by playing his bagpipes, calling the party to begin. He does it every week, precisely at 5pm. How fun…
Dan and Carol’s home is stunning. It could be just your ordinary, run of the mill Colonial. But the color, the custom shutters, the window boxes, heck, the windows themselves. The impeccable care with which this home is cared for is awesome. I’ll say it again. It’s a stunning home.
This next one also appeared in an ad in the Buffalo Courier Express in June 1935. I have never seen so many advertisements for a neighborhood as I have for this Cleveland Hill neighborhood. I think it was probably because this area of the city was considered further away from everything. The ads beckon the reader to ‘take the drive out’ to see the model homes. It’s interesting to see.
This home has new shutters and a front door, but otherwise appears pretty much original. Love it.
And this. Love the windows here. Just lovely.
Another Amigone on Woodley…
This gorgeous home, below, is the former home of Philip Amigone, who was the owner of Chez Ami. In 1939, his car was broken into outside the nightclub, for a loss of $750 worth of goods. Among them were furs, a silver mesh bag, pearls and more. Wow! In 1939!
Philipp was also the winner of the $100 grand prize in the holiday lighting contest in 1940. I’m telling you, these were popular back then. There were lengthy articles describing quite a few of the displays, and lots of winners! People were into it!
The owners of this house are Al and Barb, who we met at the cocktail party. With the awning up already, and the lawn so well tended, summer appears to have already arrived at their home! I also got to meet their dog, Lucy, when I came back a few days later to get a few more photos. Super cute!
And Last, But Certainly Not Least…
Now, we come to Rick, Leroy and their fantastic home. Rick is the reason we came to Woodley. Let’s take a look at their house. All the photos in this first grouping were provided by Rick.
The windows are large and there are a lot of them, letting in tons of natural light into this home. I mean, who would mind washing dishes in front of this amazing window? I wouldn’t. At least, not the first couple of times anyway, haha… (This photo is mine.)
When this home was advertised, and it was heavily advertised, the ads boasted a rathskeller, which in this case, is a bar in the basement, and also that thousands came through this home when it was a model. Both of the photos below are from the Buffalo Courier Express, October, 1928.
Rick and Leroy have transformed the place in little more than a year into a veritable showhouse. And they’re not done yet. They have further plans for the basement, and the upstairs where there are three spacious bedrooms and a large cedar closet.
When I first saw Rick’s photos on facebook several months ago, I never could have imagined the things I’d learn researching Woodley Road and these homes. Who knew that people built replica houses? That was totally unexpected, but so much fun.
And once again, I was blown away by the people we met on this street. Beginning, of course with Rick and Leroy, who opened their home to Tim and I, and invited us to the cocktail party, where we met many other neighbors. If I met you and failed to mention you in the article, it’s not because you didn’t make an impression (you all did!) it’s merely because I’m not as young as I used to be and I can’t remember all of your names! Haha!
But Les and Ginny also opened their home to us, and Al sent me some of his own research on the street. Fantastic, and I am grateful.
These parties are inspiring. I’m told they happened spontaneously last year, during quarantine. A couple of people happened to meet outside, and enjoyed a socially distanced visit, drink in hand. Other people began to notice and join in. And they did it all through the winter too, complete with campfires! And a hot toddy or two, I would imagine!
All Are Welcome
But you don’t need to drink, and there is no inviting that takes place for these parties. None are pre-planned. Some people choose to bring snacks. Some don’t. The yard they end up at isn’t pre-planned either. But all are welcome.
So if you live on the block and you’ve noticed the very talented Dan the bagpiper beckoning people out of their houses and into the street to meet up with neighbors, why not go over and say hello? I can tell you firsthand, they are friendly and very welcoming. You’ll enjoy yourself, and you might, no you definitely will, make a friend or two.
This is what a neighborhood should be. I mean, this past year has been trying, to say the least. With something simple like a weekly, social distanced, get together to look forward to, it eases the stress somehow. And it also lets people know there are other people who would be there for them if they needed it. I love it.
And I love Woodley Road. It’s an inspiring street. We should all start a cocktail hour (mocktails if you prefer) on our blocks. When neighbors know each other, the neighborhood grows strong, stays safe, and your quality of life is that much greater!
To the neighbors at Woodley, it was great meeting all of you. Stay close!
Get the Book!
They make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
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.