A couple of days ago, I found myself walking along Bidwell Parkway. What a gorgeous piece of real estate. Seriously. Of course, it helped that it was a stunning day. 80 degrees, sunny with just a smattering of wispy clouds in the sky. People everywhere, but still not crowded. A perfect day for an urban hike along one of Olmsted’s most celebrated Parkways, in what he himself called the best-planned city in the world. That’s us Buffalo. Come walk it with me.
Bidwell is a shining example of what Olmsted intended when he created our Parks and Parkway System. With plenty of room to roam, it’s about 200 feet wide. It’s got a tree-lined grassy median, and runs from Soldiers Circle through the heart of the Elmwood Village and on up to Richmond at Colonial Circle. And if you walk that median, you feel like you’re in a park. Exactly what Olmsted intended.
Let’s take a look around.
The Parkway itself
As I walk on the north side of the road, heading towards Elmwood Ave, the first thing I notice is the homes. And really, Bidwell Parkway is all about the homes from start to finish. Add to them the spacious median, the one-way traffic with both parking and bike lanes, within easy walking distance to Elmwood Avenue, and Bidwell becomes the perfect place to live.
Look at this beautiful home below. I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want to live here? This craftsman bungalow was built in 1904 and was designed by Esenwein & Johnson, a very well respected architectural firm here in Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century. Note the diamond motif is repeated in the windows and the shingles. Also, check out the tie rod and anchor securing the chimney. I wish I had gotten a better shot of it. This house is so well kept, it’s amazing.
A Couple More Along This Stretch…
Here are two Colonial Revivals – but executed very differently. Love that round porch on the one on the left, and that row of dormers on the right!
And below, yet another Colonial Revival, different still. This one designed by none other than, wait for it…Esenwein & Johnson. They were very busy along this stretch. This one is from 1906. Now, if you know me, you know I’m not a huge fan of columns. But these are great.
And here’s an interesting one (below). This is what a builder builds for himself. This is the home of Charles and Margaret Mosier. Charles was a partner in the contracting team of Mosier and Summers. They built a lot of buildings for Esenwein & Johnson, including the first Statler Hotel. Oh, and by the way, Esenwein & Johnson designed this home too. Apparently Colonial Revivals were hot in 1905.
I think this is a particularly handsome apartment building just across from the Bidwell Farmers Market near Elmwood Avenue. I’ve never been inside, but in my daydreams, it’s got all the original woodwork, hardwood floors, and tile work. And it’s in fantastic shape! Ha! One can hope.
Actually I’ve heard that they’re nice, but nothing special. Oh well, the building looks good from the front anyway, and the location doesn’t get much better!
Love the Neighbors Here Too
You know I never turn down the chance to talk with people on my walks. Some people are willing to chat, others, not so much. Some of them I write about, some I don’t.
So, this is about the time I got chatting with a lovely woman, who lives here (below) in this Tudor Revival. She was outside playing with three very cute kiddos who also live here. The woman agreed that this stretch of Bidwell is a wonderful place to live. In her words, “I love it here.” Who wouldn’t?
And here are a couple more I saw on my way to Colonial Circle. Lovely.
Colonial Circle & Daniel Bidwell
We’ve all seen the soldier on the horse in the center of the circle, but who is he? Well, he’s Brigadier General Daniel Davidson Bidwell. Born in Black Rock in 1819, Gen. Bidwell was heir to a very successful shipping company founded by his father. He was very well known in Buffalo, and when the Civil War broke out he joined New Yorks’ 65th Infantry. Bidwell fought in several famous battles, including Gettysburg, and was promoted to Brigadier General in the summer of 1864. He was killed in action in October of that same year at the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia. Bidwell Parkway is named for him.
St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church
As I head out of the circle and back over to Bidwell, I see St. John’s Grace Episcopal Church. It’s so pretty. I love the delicate cross atop the bell tower. 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. The large window above the main entrance was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Seymour H. Knox, in memory of Mr. & Mrs. Lewis Northrup. It’s quite beautiful.
And Still More Great Homes
As I continue down Bidwell back towards Elmwood Ave, I notice this side of the block has a whole different feel. There is more shade because there are more trees. I swear it’s 10 degrees cooler. Here’s some of what I saw.
And then, I come upon this one (below). I really love it. I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve never been a big fan of Tudor design, with its stucco walls and half-timbering. I don’t know why, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. This house though, with its mix of Tudor and Craftsman design really catches my eye. I do love a good Craftsman design though, and maybe that’s it. This home makes even me appreciate the Tudor elements in this design. My favorite part of all though has to be the Craftsman style porch and those brackets! I like this one!
And One of My Old Favorites
But then. Then I come to this one. This house I’ve admired for years! When I was a child I thought it was a giant gingerbread castle, with that tower and conical roof! Even as an adult, I’ve wondered what the room looks like behind that palladian window with the two ocular windows on either side. I pray it’s not an attic. That would be horrible!
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen many shingle style homes here on Bidwell, but this home reminds me of one I know in North Tonawanda, the Humphrey House.
This home, however, is slipping a bit. There used to be these really sweet wrought iron ‘shutters’ that gave this place a storybook house look. I see that they’re now missing. Perhaps the current owner didn’t like them, and that’s okay, but some of the regular shutters are missing as well, and some of the shingles are in need of repair. Let’s hope it doesn’t slip too far.
Here’s the view from the sidewalk at the corner of Bidwell and West Delevan. It’s one of those views that draws me in. So, in I went.
And a few more on the south side of Bidwell.
The home on the upper left has a brand new copper roof – impressive. The one next to that – those eaves! And the two beneath that are fabulous to look at as well.
Two More by Esenwein & Johnson
Can you believe how many homes Esenwein & Johnson designed on this street? The home on the left was built in 1909 for Charles M. Heald who was the Commissioner of the City of Buffalo. The Craftsman Style five-sided porch is what makes this Tudor Revival/Craftsman style home. The house on the right was built one year later for William Statler (brother of Ellsworth Statler) and is a true Craftsman (Arts & Crafts) Style home, so you know I love it! (It’s also pictured as the lead image at the beginning of this post.)
As I stopped to check traffic to cross Potomac, something caught my eye. I looked up and this is what I saw, hanging on a tree. Boy am I glad I looked up! This just goes to show, you never know what you’re going to see on an urban hike! Certainly wouldn’t notice this driving by in a car. The artist is Pulitzer Prize winning, editorial cartoonist, Adam Zyglis. Cool.
As I cross over Potomac, I see The Buffalo Seminary. This is a school that was founded in 1851 as the Buffalo Female Academy in the former home of Ebenezer Johnson, in what is now known as Johnson Park. It was the first institute of higher learning for women in the country! Buffalo Seminary is an all-girls day and boarding high school. It’s an institution almost as old as Buffalo itself, and it’s been here on Bidwell Parkway since 1909. Like all schools in NYS, they’ve finished up the school year conducting their classes online.
Public Art on the Parkway
“Birds Excited into Flight” stands at the far east side of the median on Bidwell Parkway. The bronze plaque states “Sculpture by Griffis”. This is one of those times that, as I walked over to take this photo, I realized that although I’ve seen this sculpture a thousand times, I’ve never really looked at it.
The people at the base raise their hands, which morph into birds taking flight. I love how I (accidentally) caught that top bird heading straight up to the sky. It’s a beautiful sculpture.
Soldiers Circle is the spot where Bidwell Parkway, Lincoln Parkway and Chapin Parkway meet. I admit, I’ve wondered why it was called Soldiers Circle.
That was until I looked it up a few years back and learned that Soldiers Circle was originally meant to have the Soldiers and Sailors monument that now stands in Lafayette Square. When it was erected downtown instead, the circle was given several cannons and stacks of cannonballs as ‘decoration’.
But apparently, people kept stealing the cannonballs to sell as scrap. Oh, Buffalo. As a result, all of it was eventually removed. Soldiers Circle has been renovated several times since. But in my humble opinion, it remains unremarkable to this day. How about some trees at least? It’s so unremarkable that I didn’t even think to take a photo of it during this walk. The photo above is from the Buffalo parks website.
How about a good old fashioned design contest to spruce up Soldiers Circle? I’d love to see what the designers come up with. I bet they’d include trees. Just saying.
Bidwell Parkway is one of those city walks I take occasionally. Just to see it again. I will certainly miss the Bidwell Concert Series this year as we all embark upon our ‘new normal’ social distancing lives. This is the only series left in Buffalo, where it has stayed a neighborhood event. You can bring your own food, drinks, blankets, chairs, chandeliers for the trees, etc. Or, if you choose, you can purchase drinks and food from the vendors and food trucks in attendance. It’s one of the best and I hope they pick up next year right where they left off last summer.
This time when I walked the parkway, knowing I was going to write about it, I couldn’t help but wonder what Frederick Law Olmsted would think of how we’re using it today. I’d like to think he’d love it. Olmsted had a gift for bringing a real sense of peace to an outdoor space. Strolling along the center median, sitting on a chair or blanket to relax on a summer day here, certainly brings peace. All the people scattered about here know it. It’s why they’re here.
I think that’s why all the homes here enchant me so much. Just to know that the people who live inside them, look out over such a peaceful place makes the homes that much more fascinating.
Thanks for coming along with me this week. Take a walk Buffalo. There’s so much to see, so much to learn. So much stress to shed. Go shed it.
**All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.