With all the traffic circles popping up all over Western New York, it got me to thinking about circle living. Symphony Circle is an incredibly busy and friendly place, and there’s a lot of great history there, but I couldn’t help but think that there’s not very many houses. And I do love a beautiful home. That was when I decided to write about another one of Buffalo’s Circles. Colonial Circle.
Now, Colonial Circle has houses. Lots of them. And they are close together. But the circle feels spacious! Like there’s plenty of room to spread out. And the homes are large and for the most part, very well kept. In my head I picture the view out the front window of any one of these homes, with a few inches of freshly fallen snow and maybe there’s still some flakes in the air. Gorgeous! Or with all the fall colors in the trees! Gorgeous again! You get the idea.
But back to reality.
A Bit of Background about Colonial Circle
Colonial Circle was created by Frederick Law Olmsted when he designed our Parks and Parkway System. This circle serves to connect Bidwell Parkway to Richmond Ave which leads to Porter Ave and Front Park. Our Parkways, including Bidwell, were meant to be an extension of the parks, so that you could travel from one to the other, and never feel like you actually left the park. The plan is ingenius and indeed, when traveling along Bidwell Parkway, you feel like you’re in a park.
Olmsted originally called Colonial Circle ‘Bidwell Place’ after Brigadier General Daniel Davidson Bidwell. He was a very active Buffalonian, and is credited with starting the first police force in the city. He fought in the Civil War, in famous battles including Gettysburg, and was named Brigadier General in August of 1864. That was just two months before being mortally wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek, in Virginia. Bidwell Parkway is named for him. That’s him astride his horse in the center of the circle.
Residents petitioned for a name change to ‘Colonial Circle’, and in 1909 the parks department made the change official.
So, come on, let’s hike.
I approached from Richmond, and headed east onto the sidewalk. The first house I came to is a Green & Wicks design, it was built in 1900 and what a perfect Colonial Revival home. I love the side lights (windows) on either side of the front entry door. This is repeated in the window above the entry porch, and it works. But of course it does, it’s E.B. Green!
Check this one out…number 9. This was built in 1910, and I’m told still has most of the original woodwork and leaded glass. My favorite part about this house? The windows. I can’t tell if all of them are original, but there are so many. Talk about natural light. And I’m a sucker for curved glass. Just imagine the view of the circle through those front windows! I also love the overhanging eaves, and I was also told there is an in-law apartment on the third floor with a separate entrance. Not sure if it’s being used, but I like it.
And this. I don’t know about you, but I am loving the new paint job here. It used to be that country blue, and it was nice, but this is much more classic and fitting with the arts and crafts style. This home was designed by Essenwein & Johnson who are, in my book, number two in historical architectural firms in Buffalo (second to Green & Wicks). It was built for Emily Swift and stayed in the Swift family until 1959. Wish I knew what color it was to begin with. This is the kind of stuff I think about when I go on an urban hike.
My Personal Favorite
Moving right along, we come to my personal favorite on the circle. It’s not typically my style. You know I prefer an open front porch. But I just love the shape of this house! I couldn’t take my eyes off it! Although, the first thing I’d do if this were my house, is remove all the curtains in those amazing front windows (French doors?). Let the light in! In the side view, look at the windows in the dormers. Beautiful. And the transoms above all those French doors. It’s Friday, I’m in love.
Of course, those French doors don’t lead anywhere…but who cares? It’s gorgeous! I wanted to go in. But alas, it didn’t appear anyone was going to invite me in on this particular walk.
Here’s a link to some interior shots. I wouldn’t have painted all the woodwork, but what do I know?
And this. It’s fabulous. I love that center dormer on the third floor. Look at how it mimmicks the tripartite window on the second floor, which flows right down to the entry door with its side lights. I’m told this is a multi-family home with at least 4 apartments. It sure is well maintained.
And a Couple More…
Here are a couple of others I see along the way. Number 15 has a massive silver maple tree on the front lawn (visible in the photo). At some point someone put in a garden surrounding it, and it’s done very nicely. My photos of it didn’t turn out, I was battling the sun for photos this morning, as you’ve no doubt noticed.
And number 33 has so much detail! Look under the eaves, and at the details on the center second floor window with its triangular pediment. Look at the shape of the dormers, and the windows in the dormers! Yes, this one is lovely.
St. John Grace Episcopal Church
As I cross Lafayette, I come upon St. John Grace Episcopal Church. There’s something about this church that I really like. It’s……unassuming. And pretty. I love the cross atop the bell tower. It’s so delicate compared to most that you see.
The building you see here was built in 1907, but the church was first located at the southeast corner of Washington and Swan Streets. Among its founders were William Bird (Bird Avenue), William Fargo (Wells Fargo & American Express), and Joseph Masten (Buffalo Mayor and later Buffalo Superior Court Judge).
The building itself is built of Onondaga Limestone from the quarry that used to be in Delaware Park! Two later additions completed the church we know today. I love that Medina sandstone is still leading up to the main entrance. Historic!
It’s while on the sidewalk in front of the church that I meet a nice neighbor who was willing to chat. We start talking and he told me quite a bit about the circle. Openly. He was humble, unpretentious, well dressed, and seemed like a nice guy. I’ll call him Mike, because he didn’t want me to use his name. He told me a few things I didn’t know. I’ve checked, and he was right on all counts. He doesn’t live in the circle but lives nearby, and walks and bikes the circle daily.
He’s not alone. In the hour or two I spent walking around taking pictures, a lot went on. There wasn’t as much car traffic here as there was on Symphony Circle, but there were more cyclists, runners and walkers. Come to think of it, most were headed towards Bidwell Parkway and all that Elmwood Ave has to offer. And who could blame them?
Moving Right Along
Between Bidwell and Richmond is this lone house at number 77. I love the front entry door, and the ellipse windows on the second floor. Although something tells me that at least one of those windows looks different on the inside than it does on the outside. Could use some updating, but this house has great bones.
And on the Northwest Side of the Circle
As I cross Richmond, I am struck by how I’ve never noticed that there is so much foliage on this section of the circle, and by how overgrown a lot of it is. I guess your eye is drawn to the things you can see as opposed to what you have to look for. But you know me, I go looking for things. Here’s what I found on the northwest side of the circle.
Love this beautiful Tudor Revival that’s first up, and I especially love its portico. Tudors are not usually my thing, but I love this one!
Mike is Right; I am Wrong
This next one, (below) Mike told me about. It was built for the Davis family, who were owners of a general type store on Niagara Street (the building is still there at number 1888). The home stayed in the family through 1949. The current owners bought it in 2000. Love, love, love the porch!
I saw a photo of this house from 2004, and it had ivy growing on the left side and up onto the roof. Exactly where you see the damage to the shingles. Coincidence? I don’t know. Either way it looks to me like the original roof might have been slate, because the sides of the dormers appear to be slate. I always thought slate roofs lasted practically forever, but I looked it up and I’m wrong. Apparently, a soft slate roof can last as little as 50 years. So, it’s plausible that this roof used to be slate, but soft slate. Interesting.
And next up, take a look at this! That gable with the fantastic windows, fifteen panes each! Love this entryway too. It’s very wide and the side lights are wide enough to walk through. And if you can, zoom in on the front door to see the family dog who came out to greet me! Love it!
The Tree House
I had a bit of trouble getting photos of this one. So much foliage. I can tell you that I love the Sycamore tree! But I also acknowlege that it needs care. From what I can see of the house, it appears to be my style and I like it. The dentil molding on the dormers, and under the eaves. The brick foundation for the porch which matches the first floor, and appears to be in decent shape.
It looks like there may be some work being done on the house at this point. This is one to watch.
Let’s Cross the Street
Coming back around now to the southwest side of Colonial Circle and this is what I see. Guess I’m starting to like Tudors, guys. But only if they have Arts & Crafts detailing apparently. The leaded glass is spectacular! This one really caught my eye because of the porches. I can see myself on either of these having my tea in the morning or cocktails in the evening. Nice.
Here are two more pretty ones along this section.
And then I come upon this one. New Orleans style! Of course, it’s apartments. Whenever I see it, I wonder what it would be like to live on the third floor. I’d be out on that porch all the time!
And last, but certainly not least, this stunner! It’s in great shape, and it was built in 1897! I would probably choose a different color scheme but it’s done properly. Mike tells me it’s apartments, but owner occupied. So that explains why it’s kept up so well. Just beautiful!
So, there you have it. Colonial Circle. I can’t help but compare it to Symphony Circle. They are both part of vibrant, bustling communities. But somehow, Colonial Circle seems more affluent. Maybe it’s just the feeling I get because the circle itself is larger and so much more spacious than Symphony Circle.
I can tell you this. If I had to choose which circle to live on, it would come down to the home itself. Because Symphony Circle is walking distance to Allen Street and all it has to offer in terms of shopping, restaurants, art, and night life. Not to mention Kleinhans. And Colonial Circle is walking distance to the Elmwood strip and all it has to offer in terms of the same things. Homes aside, you could flip a coin, since they’re just a quick bike ride apart, with great homes and more to look at in between.
Take an urban hike (or bike) over to Colonial Circle and check it out. If it’s a Saturday morning, head to the Bidwell market afterwards, then on to Elmwood Ave. for a bite to eat and some shopping. Some of our best locally owned restaurants and shops are there. And if you see Mike, tell him I said hello!
*All the photos in this post are mine. I’m not proud of all of them, but they are, indeed, mine. 😉