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.
Fractured to Fabulous
This HR Life…HR What?
Holly’s Birds Nest
Travel and Hike with PCOS
Cindy Goes Beyond
The Short Order Cook
My Eleven Questions for Them
- Where were you born, and tell us a bit about it?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is your favorite part about blogging?
- What do you like to do when you aren’t blogging?
- Do you travel? What is your dream trip?
- All time favorite book/movie/tv show?
- What is your favorite holiday?
- Do you have any family traditions?
- What makes you happiest?
- Where do you want to be five years from now?
- When you are on your death bed, what will you say was most important to you in your life?
Sunshine Award Rules
- Thank the blogger who nominated you in your blog post and link back to their blog.
- Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger that nominated you.
- Nominate 11 new bloggers and write 11 questions for them.
- List these rules and display the sunshine blogger award and logo in your post.
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.
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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!
Subscribe and never miss a post. Enjoy your city Buffalo!
Buffalo is fortunate enough to have three residential parks within its boundaries. They are Day’s Park, Arlington Park and Johnson Park. This post is the first of my three part series on these parks.
I’m going to begin with Day’s Park, simply because it’s the first one I experienced. My husband and I volunteer at Friends of the Night People, and on our way there one Sunday afternoon, years ago, I happened to catch a glimpse of the park while driving by. My husband is a patient man and he pulled over so we could go explore. I remember thinking to myself, this must be a great place to live!
Photo Credit to Day’s Park Facebook Page.
The park is named for Thomas Day. Although designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Day’s Park was not originally part of Olmsted’s plan for Buffalo’s Park System. In 1886 (well into the building of our park system) the responsibility of the Board of Park Commissioners was expanded to include all public green spaces in the city. The Board requested from Olmsted designs for several new small areas, one of which was Day’s Park. He submitted plans for all of them. So, Day’s Park is an Olmsted design. Cool.
But let’s go back to the beginning.
After the burning of Buffalo in 1813, and after several more fires leveled numerous homes in the city, Buffalo’s fire code was changed (sometime around 1820-21) to stipulate that residences could no longer be built entirely of wood.
Thomas Day arrived on the scene in Buffalo in early 1823, and if you think about it, his timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It was just after the fire code changed, and just before the opening of the Erie Canal and all the incredible growth Buffalo underwent immediately following.
Thomas Day, you see, was a brick maker. When he arrived, he opened Buffalo’s first brick kiln. The need for brick was there, and so was the money. Day of course, made a small fortune. Smart man.
Day’s Park entrance from Allen Street.
Like many who possess an entrepreneurial mind, Day’s next step was to invest in real estate. He used his brick money to invest in land just north of the city. He anticipated that the city’s growth would move northward as the city became more and more industrialized. He was right. That’s exactly what happened. Smart move.
Lewis Allen had a farm adjacent to Day’s land just north of the city, and when his herd of cattle grew too large for his own acreage, he used Day’s pasture. He did this by driving his herd west from what is now Main Street. The well trod path to Day’s pasturage became what is now Allen Street, in Allentown. Named for, of course, Lewis Allen.
In 1859 Day donated the green space where Allen’s cattle pastured, to the city as perpetual green space, Day’s Park. Yet another smart move.
He then built the first two homes on the space for his sons. They are Nos. 25 & 33. They were built with Day’s own bricks and both homes are still standing today.
Left to Right, Nos. 25 & 33 Day’s Park. Homes built by Thomas Day.
Interestingly, Olmsted included a fountain in the Days Park plan. In the entire park system he created for Buffalo, this was the only fountain included in any of his plans. Regrettably, the original fountain was removed in 1923. Fountains can be difficult and expensive to maintain over time, so one can only assume this was the reason for the removal.
The park itself was enjoyed and beloved for many years. Unfortunately though, it fell on hard times in the mid twentieth century, much like Buffalo itself. Sadly, homeowners moved out and rented the properties. Care of the previously well used and well loved park fell off, and so did the care of the homes adjacent to the park. The park deteriorated and the homes became dilapidated.
In 1957, the city announced plans to split the park into a playground and a parking lot. Warren Day Ferris, a descendant of Thomas Day, produced an original deed which stated the land was donated with the stipulation that the land be kept a park, or it would revert to Day’s heirs. When the city balked, Ferris sued. The case was taken to the State Supreme Court, which ruled the space had to remain as one space, and as a park.
In the 1970’s, a college student, David Urgo convinced a farmer to donate 60 wild oak, maple and ash trees and the parks department arranged for planting. These replaced the elm trees that were lost to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1960’s. (Buffalo lost hundreds of Elms at that time.)
The hard times however, continued for the park, as they did for the city. At one point there were drug deals going on in broad daylight right out in front of the school that resides on the park (now Elmwood Village Charter School). Police intervention was slow at best.
Elmwood Village Charter School on Day’s Park
In 1987, the Day’s Park Block Club was formed. At this point more than half of the homes (both one- and two-family) were either owned by absentee landlords or stood vacant. Just 30 trees remained. The Block Club began extensive renovation of the park.
They pushed the city to deal with the drug problem, and also assisted the city in prosecuting the absentee landlord situation, getting the owners to either sell, or make the necessary improvements to their homes on the park.
The movement was under way. The fountain was replaced in its original spot in the park surrounded by a wrought iron fence, as Olmsted had designed it. But almost unbelievably, the fountain was stolen in 1995 by thieves posing as city workers. It wasn’t until 1999 that funds were made available to replace it. With the fountain in place once again, the park looks much as it did on Olmsted’s original design.
When I visited Days Park again recently to snap a few photos for this post, I couldn’t help but notice the ongoing problem the Block Club has been experiencing with getting grass to grow in the park. The trees shade the park so much that it’s difficult for grass to grow. They’ve held fundraisers specifically for this project. It is ongoing. The fountain appears to need work as well, although this might be what it looks like every spring after a long hard Buffalo winter! Mental note to check it out in a month or so”¦
I hesitated to even include this photo in the post, but when I check back, I’ll hopefully get a great shot of a beautiful working fountain. I’ll keep you posted.
Update: A recent visit to Day’s Park shows the park in full bloom of summer. I am happy to report that the fountain is up and running and looking great, surrounded by a plethora of wildflowers about to burst open! A couple of other shots show the struggle with the grass continues, but you can also see the widespread shade provided by the trees, causing some of the problem. Still, the park is a peaceful oasis, and I found myself wishing I had brought a chair and a good book.
You could say that the story of the park parallels the history of Buffalo. Both built during great prosperity, both fell on hard times, and suffered struggles along the way. But both are emerging victorious through hard work and perseverance.
Day’s Park is located just west of Allen Street at Wadsworth in Allentown, on a piece of property that used to be an open pasture. Can you imagine it? I can. But you know what a daydreamer I can be.
Incidentally, residential parks are perfect for urban hiking. Next time you find yourself yearning for a little urban exploration, get yourself to Day’s Park. Explore it and the surrounding neighborhood reminding yourself of the history this park has seen. From farmland to numerous homes, a school, and a park. It all used to be pasture land owned by a brick maker, Thomas Day. A smart man, who made several smart moves in his lifetime. One of which we benefit from still, our own Day’s Park.
Look for my second and third posts on Buffalo’s residential parks over the next two weeks.
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Thomas Jefferson appointed Erastus Granger as the first Postmaster General of Buffalo when we were just a small village. Buffalo’s first post office opened in 1804, the same year Joseph Ellicott laid out the unique radial streets design of the city of Buffalo.
Granger set up shop at a desk in Crow’s Tavern, located at the southwest corner of what is now Exchange and Washington Streets. Remember that at this time a tavern was more than just a place to grab a drink and a quick bite. To a small frontier town, the tavern was the place to get the latest news or pick up much needed items for frontier life. The tavern even acted as a polling place at times and in this case, it was a post office as well. We didn’t have a dedicated building for our post office until 1837, when a building was purchased at the corner of Washington and Seneca Streets.
Between 1804 and 1890 Buffalo grew by leaps and bounds. The opening of the Erie Canal brought incredible amounts of commerce to the city. And there were plenty of entrepreneurs in Buffalo who capitalized on the opportunities that came our way in the forms of shipping, grain processing and trade, brewing, railroads, and eventually automobiles and aeronautics. Not to mention the smaller industries that supported all of those giants. Our population soared from just over 1,500 in 1810 to over 255,000 in 1890. That’s an enormous amount of growth in a relatively short period of time.
By 1890 we were ready for a larger post office, and it was also decided that Buffalo needed a federal building here in the city. Jeremiah O’Rourke, who was a federal architect, made the initial design for the building.
Before it was even built however, our post office caused quite a stir among architects in the U.S. at the time. The Tarnsey Act, which went into effect in 1893, required an architectural competition for any major federal project. The act was seen as a way for private architects to have a shot at large federal contracts. Our post office was the first building to begin construction after the act became law, although it was already in the works beforehand.
Private architects were up in arms at having lost the chance to compete for a project of this magnitude. The federal government asserted that O’Rourke’s plan was submitted and had been approved prior to the enacting of the law, and therefore the building of the Post Office moved forward as planned.
They broke ground in 1894 amid the controversy. Daniel Burnham, president of the American Institute of Architects at the time, reportedly called the plans for the building “inferior and unworthy”, and maintained that stance even after it was built. Some say his opinion was clouded by the fact that private architects were not allowed to bid on the project. What do you think? Inferior? Unworthy?
Photo credit Buffalo News
In 1897 William Aiken and James Knox Taylor (both government architects as well) came on to the project and helped see it to completion.
The Post Office opened in March of 1901.
The style of the building can be described as Victorian Gothic/Richardsonian Romanesque, and it was built with Pink Maine Granite. Look closely in person and you’ll notice the pink hue. There are 400 windows, and the roof is Spanish green tile laid in concrete. The tower rises 244 feet above the street. Hand carved gargoyles, pinnacles, finials, animal heads and eagles are on each of the facades. Note the bison heads that are included on the facade, obviously a nod to our fair city.
When I stand outside the main entrance on Ellicott Street, to me it looks like a federal building. A very grand federal building. Maybe it’s that eagle standing watch over the doors, I don’t know, but what I see is grand. I know I definitely do not see inferior or unworthy.
And the inside. Wow. I could not have been more surprised the first time I walked in. One of those times you instantly become a tourist in your own city.
There is a six story atrium. The immense skylight was originally intended to allow light onto the mail sorting floor directly underneath. The hallways on the first floor form a Gothic colonnade with clustered marble columns. The effect has me awestruck every time I see it. There are holes in the arches for light bulbs to aid with lighting. Everywhere I look there is evidence of the effort put in during this time period to light up a building. The massive atrium with its skylight, the arched open hallways on the upper floors which are reminiscent of a Venetian Palazzo, the glazed white tiles on the walls designed to reflect light, the large windows above the office doors. So much care was put into this effort at the turn of the 20th century. It’s something we take for granted now, the ability to cast light whenever and wherever we choose.
The terrazzo and marble floors are impressive, and are charmingly worn in front of the mail windows just inside the main entrance. Once can almost imagine people coming and going to drop off and pick up mail during the building’s heyday, standing in front of the windows conducting their business. Across the way there are handsome wooden desks used, I’m sure, for addressing mail and the like. Running my hand along them, the wood is worn smooth from all the years of use, and the floor is similarly worn in front of these as well. This of course, causes me to daydream about all the people who’ve stood here before me. Have I mentioned how these old buildings cause daydreams?
The president of the school has an office in the southwest corner. The door is surrounded by the window below, featuring emblems of the federal departments that were once housed in the building. The Department of Justice (courts), Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, and the one the building became known as, the U.S. Post Office.
Slowly over the years the different branches of the government moved out of the building to other buildings in the city, or out of Buffalo altogether. The last to go, the Post Office, left in 1963 to move to a more modern facility on William Street. The building sat empty for some 15 years.
Enter Joan Bozer & Minnie Gillette, members of the Erie County Legislature. (It is notable that Minnie Gillette was the first African American to be elected to this office.) The two women worked together to propose that Erie Community College’s City Campus be moved from its location on Ellicott Street in the Masten District to the Old Post Office Building right in the heart of downtown.
Minnie Gillette. Photo credit Buffalo Stories Archives & Blog
Joan Bozer, Photo credit unknown
The two women worked tirelessly to ensure that this treasure did not fall victim to the (at the time) rampant demolition of historic buildings in Buffalo. There were many who wanted the building demolished as an ‘eyesore’. Can you imagine?
“Indeed, in a 1969 letter urging Rep. Thaddeus Dulski to tear down the structure, former Erie County Democratic Chairman Peter Crotty ”“ a politician of sweeping influence ”“ called the post office “a mongrel structure of no authentic period, dungeon-like in its aspect, repellent to the visitor and lacking in the convenience suitable for habitation.” The building, Crotty argued, was “a monstrous pile of death-like stone.”” *
Wow. Tell us what you really think Mr. Crotty.
The argument continued into the 1970’s, while Gillette and Bozer formulated their plan to bring ECC students into an historic building in the heart of the city.
As Gillette and Bozer persevered, they enlisted the help of former Legislature and State Senator Mary Lou Rath in the struggle to save the building. After a long battle, when the final vote came in 1978, in favor of saving the building and renovating it for Erie Community College City Campus, it was a pivotal moment in Buffalo’s preservation movement. Along with the saving of the Guaranty Building just a couple of years earlier, some feel that it was at this point that the city turned a corner, from demolition to preservation.
The renovation was done by Cannon Design (who also restored the Guaranty Building) and is perhaps one of the best examples of adaptive reuse in the city. It’s functional, respectful of the original design, and beautiful all at the same time! I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
It was completed in 1982, and the school re-opened in its new home for the 1982-83 school year. Roughly 2,000 students pass through its doors every semester.
I for one am grateful that Joan Bozer and Minnie Gillette were successful in their struggle to save this treasure and that they persevered when the cards were stacked against them. Especially as I sit at a table in the open courtyard of the Old Post Office, now Erie Community College City Campus, sipping a cup of tea, and basking in the sunlight that is streaming through the enormous skylight. I look up at the courtyard itself and for a brief moment, I feel as if I’m in an outdoor cafe in Italy. A very brief moment, because the building itself is full of students coming and going, grabbing a quick bite between classes, studying for exams, meeting up with friends. Planning their futures.
I wonder if the students realize how close they came to never seeing the inside of such an American treasure right here in their own city.
If you have a chance, stop by to see this awe-inspiring building, both the outside, and in. It’s on the corner of Swan and Ellicott Streets. There are a few ½ hour free parking spots on Swan Street across from the building (on the ball park side). Go on in and take a look at the way our federal government used to build their buildings. You’ll be delighted with what you see!
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*The Buffalo News, November 30, 2018 https://buffalonews.com/2018/11/30/sean-kirst-40-years-ago-buffalo-fought-a-trend-saved-some-history-and-created-its-future/
One of my favorite haunts is the North Tonawanda Farmers Market. I love knowing where my food comes from, so I’ve been to many of WNY’s farmers markets. NT’s is one my personal favorites.
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t always take the same route to get to a place every time I go. I like to mix it up and look around a bit. I’ve noticed the beautiful old Victorian homes in North Tonawanda many times on my trips to the market. Like a lot of people, I’ve often wondered what they’re like inside.
This past Wednesday, I had my chance when a friend offered to take me through one.
Namely the Humphrey House. It was built in 1889, for Paschal Smith Humphrey as a wedding present. It cost $7500 to build. That may not seem like much but you have to remember that in 1900, eleven years after the house was built, the median family income in the U.S. was just under $450 a year.* So yeah, $7500 was a good bit of money in 1889.
A beautiful example of Victorian Era Shingle Style residence.
Paschal Smith Humphrey got his start as a young man in the lumber business, a trade that was very common in North Tonawanda. He also went into banking and real estate, but was most well known as the principle of the insurance firm of Humphrey and Vandervoort. He went on to become a very prominent member of the town. He passed away, in the house, in 1937 at the age of 86.
The architect for Humphrey House was Charles Day Swan, a Buffalo architect who lived and worked in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood for most of his career. He was born in 1855 and when he was a teenager, his family moved to Jersey Street, to a large Italianate home. This home may have been what sparked his interest in architecture.
In the late 1870’s architect Richard Waite took him on as a draftsman in his very successful Buffalo architectural firm. This type of apprenticeship was the way most architects were still trained in the latter half of the 1800’s. Architecture was viewed more as a trade than a profession at this time.
Coincidentally, Louise Bethune, who was the first professional woman architect in the country and who designed the Lafayette Hotel, also apprenticed with Waite at just about the same time as Charles Swan.
Swan opened his own practice in 1880 and soon became very successful either working by himself or with a partner, John F. Falkner. He became especially adept at the Shingle Style home, which is considered to be a very American residential style that was popular in the 1880s. Put very basically, the Shingle Style is a Queen Anne home (Victorian Era) wrapped in shingles. Humphrey House is in fact, of the Victorian Era Shingle Style.
Interestingly, this style was largely popularized by H.H. Richardson, who is considered one of the top three architects our country has ever produced. Richardson designed several Buffalo buildings, including Hotel Henry (the Buffalo Psychiatric Center).
Charles Swan achieved some level of notoriety among Buffalo architects when he had two of his designs published in Scientific American Architects and Builders Edition, which published more house plans than any other publication of it’s day. It was considered quite an honor in 1890.
Together, Swan and Falkner designed many homes, buildings and churches on such sought after streets in Buffalo as Oakland Place, Delaware Avenue, Richmond Avenue, Linwood Avenue, North Street and Symphony Circle.
And Charles Day Swan also designed at least one incredible Shingle Style Victorian Era home in North Tonawanda.
And what a home.
Humphrey House itself is beautiful, inside and out. And unlike most homes from this time period, it is largely unchanged. Like the Coit House, it was used for a long time as a boarding house which probably accounts for it being largely intact. Had a family moved in during the mid 20th century, they probably would have changed it to fit their needs and their more modern tastes.
This leaded glass design is repeated in several windows in the house.
Like most Victorian era homes, this one has elaborate oak and cherry wood paneling in several rooms, including the hallways and the main staircase. Original working pocket doors abound, and some are oak on one side and cherry on the other, to match facing rooms. There are also several stained glass windows, including one on the main staircase located on the east side of the house. I’m told it’s magnificent when the morning sun reaches it.
The window on the east side of the house in the main stairwell.
Close-up of the same window.
Note leaded glass detail in the transoms.
Example of the woodwork on the main floor.
Wandering through the rooms on the first floor, it’s easy to imagine the Victorian Era parties that are rumored to have taken place here. The doors thrown open to the wide wrap around porch, the women in their elaborate dresses, the men in their top hats, the dancing. The Humphreys, you see, had a daughter, and Mr. and Mrs. loved to entertain both their daughter and her friends. When I think of things like this, I am certain I was born 100 years too late.
Front room with door to the wide wrap around porch.
We head out back to where the original stable still stands and now serves as apartments. It rivals the house in it’s beauty. All in all, both buildings are in incredibly good shape, a testament to the current owner, and her love and care for the property.
Stable out back, now apartments. Pretty nice stable.
Now, this is normally the time I would tell you where to go see this historic treasure, but I will respect the privacy of the owner, and just tell you to check out North Tonawanda sometime. There are some real hidden gems there. Thanks again Dave! Humphrey House is now in my top 10.
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