Elmwood Ave. Where should I begin? I guess at the beginning. But certainly not at the very beginning of Buffalo. Elmwood Ave did not exist then. It wasn’t part of Joseph Ellicott’s design of our city streets. Nor was it planned the way other, larger streets were. Think Main Street or Delaware Ave. Those streets were carefully planned out. Elmwood Ave? Not so much.
Originally, it ran from North Street to just beyond Amherst Street. And at the time, it was more like a series of smaller streets connected up together. There was talk for years about making it one coherent street but it didn’t happen until the city was readying itself for the Pan Am Exposition in 1901. Even then, it didn’t extend into the downtown core (Niagara Square) or north to the growing suburb of Kenmore. It only ran from Allen Street to just beyond Amherst. It was, however, at this time named Elmwood Ave.
It would not be fully extended into downtown until 1912.
Let’s Take a Look
I’ve decided to cover the section of Elmwood Ave between Bryant and Summer Streets. I realize this stretch is not what you probably thought you were going to see today. But I have my reasons for making this my first post about Elmwood Ave. Okay, so I only have one reason.
One of my most faithful readers, Jo Anne, lived along this stretch back in the 1970s, and I’m writing this for her. We’ve become email friends over the past year or so (remember pen pals?). Jo Anne now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but visits on occasion (like a lot of readers of the blog), and enjoys these ‘hikes’ around the area.
This one’s for you Jo Anne. Surprise!
I’m going to begin at Summer Street on the east side of Elmwood. This is the first home I see. What a start to this hike! This Colonial Revival was built around 1888, and is made of Onondaga Limestone. Love the look of this house. Note the pedimented dormers, look at the curve of the center one, I believe that’s called a swan’s neck pediment. Sexy. Just look at the wide wooden trim, accented by the wreaths and ribbons. It’s just lovely. The front door and sidelights appear to be floating above the portico. It’s how they’re set into the limestone. Love it.
In the 1890s, William C. Warren lived in this home with his wife Clara (Davock). Warren was born and raised in Buffalo, attended Yale University and was the editor and publisher of the Buffalo Commercial, a newspaper well known in the area for its progressiveness tempered with sound conservatism. William Warren was very well respected in both Republican and progressive circles, but he never ran for public office. Interesting. If only we could find someone with that kind of balance today – and if we could get him/her to run for public office. That would be great! Just sayin.
This Home, in 1915
In 1915, Judge Charles B. Wheeler was living in the home, and this is what it looked like then, below. It appears there used to be a widow’s walk at the roof, a balustrade on the roof of the portico, and the wreaths and ribbon on the trim are painted a darker color, probably black. Wish the old girl still had some or all of this. I can’t say for sure, but it looks like the front door is recessed just a bit, and I think the modern door is flush with the building. Which may account for the ‘floating’ look. I like it both ways.
The building is now home to a wealth management company. Interesting history here though.
I always wonder how critical I should be when looking at homes. I realize sometimes owners are up against it to keep up these old treasures. The work is so expensive, and can be difficult to keep up with, so I hesitate to be negative. This one, below, has seen better days, but is obviously a diamond in the rough. Would love to see it brought back, even just a bit.
The roof appears sound to my eye. Some paint and then maybe some work on the windows would go a long way here. Look at that bullseye window at the peak. Could be beautiful, but it also looks like not just anyone could fix that. Same with some of the shingles. It’d have to be a skilled craftsman. And those don’t come cheap, with good reason.
This one could come back better than ever. And so I’m going to call it ‘one to watch’.
Take a Look at This One
Next, is this absolute beauty.
The colors are perfect and are perfectly executed. The ionic columns on the porch match the ones on the second and third floor windows, and are amazing, as is the broken pedimented dormer with its half moon window, which on closer inspection has spider webbed leaded glass. Cool!
These Next Few
The word that keeps coming to mind is amazing. Simply amazing.
This first one has been maintained so well. Love the ribbon windows in the peak with the shell trim above – so pretty!
I love everything about this next one, below. The use of Roman brick is spectacular. And the Medina sandstone foundation is very practical, but its use as keystones is fabulous! It ties it all together. Also note the original wrought iron at the front of the home. I see the shape of that railing foundation all over Buffalo, but there are usually no longer railings attached. Most people add newer railings to the actual stairs. Love that these are original!
This home was once a lighting store called Schneider’s Lighting Studio, and was advertised as Buffalo’s largest display of lamps and shades. Neat! Later, in the 1940s, it was broken into several small apartments. It now serves as law offices.
The home below was built for Elbert B. Mann, who was the manager of Flint & Kent, a large dry goods store, located on Main Street.
Below is the home as it appeared in 1915. The original windows really add something, don’t they? Love the splayed lintels above the windows! Also, note the chimneys have been removed (above), as has the balustrade on the portico. Would love to see the windows on the dormers returned to something close to the original windows.
These Next Two
The next two homes are law offices. And the first one is an E.B. Green design! For that reason, I’m going to show it to you as he designed it in 1899, first. And is it ever lovely! It’s everything I would expect from E.B. Green and more! Love this home!
It was built for Philip G. Schaefer, a Buffalo brewer. And as we’ve learned in the past here on the blog, in general, brewers do okay for themselves here in Buffalo! Wink, wink…
And here it is today – every bit as beautiful! Love the dormers and balustrade at the top of the home. Note the sidelights to the windows on the first floor – nice touch EB!
The transition between the two.
And the second home included in the same address. Love the color continuity between the two.
This home, below, once belonged to Dr. A. L. Benedict and his wife. In 1943, he spoke to the Buffalo Courier Express about his family coming to Buffalo via the Erie Canal from Schenectady over 100 years before. His grandfather, the Rev. Stephen van Rensalaer arrived with his wife and nine children on a packet boat, to make their home on Carroll Street, which ran between Washington and Ellicott Streets. Benedict told of stories he had heard throughout the years about the family walking to The Terrace and Main Street to get water (it was the closest pump).
Van Rensalaer came to work as pastor of the First Universalist Church, then at Washington and Swan Streets. Cool story. It seems like Dr. Benedict did alright for himself with this home on Elmwood Ave. It’s a beautiful Tudor. Love the entryway and the porch! Very inviting!
This next one, below, is interesting too. A woman named Alice G.R. Owen lived here when she passed away in 1951, at the age of 80. She was born in France in 1871 to English parents. At 16, she moved to Toronto, and shortly after that Alice came to Buffalo to stay. She studied at Buffalo General Hospital, and completed her studies in 1896. She then worked as a surgical nurse for Dr. Roswell Park! Cool!
During World War I she worked as an Army nurse at Veterans Hospital in the Bronx. After the war, Alice went back to school to become a medical technologist. She came out of retirement to work as a nurse and laboratory technician in the field during World War II. I think I would have liked Alice. And she lived for much of that time in this apartment building (above), on Elmwood Ave. Cool.
These next two photos will be Musical Suites (the name is a nod to the Community Music School which used to be housed in the second photo). The project is being undertaken by Schneider Development. Read more about it here.
Crossing the Street
Here is the first home I come to on the west side of the street near Bryant. This is one I’d love to get into and check out. I’d especially love to see the yard – it’s a double lot! This home is beautiful! In my mind’s eye, there should be a covered patio coming off the north side of the house, and plenty of greenery and colorful flowers in the yard. And take a look at the side entryway with porch above! Wow!
Jo Anne’s Former Home
Now we come to it. The home that Jo Anne lived in during the 1970s.
The structure itself appears to be in really great shape. It’s got good bones, as they say. It wouldn’t take too much effort to get the landscaping cleaned up a bit to bring this house back to its original glory. Love it that the upper porch is still usable, so many aren’t anymore.
Like with almost every home, there is interesting history here too. In the 1950’s, this house was home to the Queen City Chess Club. I found an article in the Buffalo Courier Express from 1970 about a 12 year old boy (described as almost 13) who plays chess against 25 people simultaneously! He won 16 of the games, lost 2, and tied in 7. Young Peter Winston did this while holding a bottle of soda in one hand and making his moves with the other. And the other players were mostly adults who were champions themselves! Wow! Anybody thinking of The Queen’s Gambit right now? Many championships were won and lost in this house! These two brothers, below, were featured in an article in the Buffalo Evening News on October 10, 1955.
During the 1960s and 70s (including when Jo Anne lived here) the building was home to at least two bridge clubs. As in the card game. One was the Buffalo Whist Club and one was a chapter of the Frontier Bridge Club. I found many articles in several local papers about bridge, winners and their scores, where the games were held and who beat whom… It was a big thing, and Buffalo is still host to bridge tournaments. Jo Anne remembers the games going on into the night when she lived at 410.
A Pan American Exposition Connection
In addition to all of this, the Honorable William Buchanan who was the Director General of the Pan American Exposition lived in this home during and after the exposition.
He was charged with the construction, the operation and the dismantling of the exposition. I saw several ads in newspapers offering various expo buildings for sale. Interested parties were to come to this home to sign the necessary paperwork. These were run in local papers all through 1902. I guess I never really thought about who took care of all of that after the expo closed at the end of October. But someone had to, and that someone lived in Jo Anne’s house!
Another Apartment Building
This building had some construction work going on in the courtyard between the two sides, but normally when I walk by, it looks like a lovely place to live.
And one more apartment building.
It’s around here that I met Ron and his dogs. I should say his Mother’s dogs. Sadly, she passed away about five months ago. Ron just moved into this apartment, (home pictured below) a month ago, because his last place didn’t allow pets. He says his apartment is beautiful, and he’s enjoying being back in the Elmwood Village. We’ll have to take your word for it on the inside. We can’t see much of the outside, but the second floor makes me want to see more!
You’re a good son, Ron.
And one last house.
And there’s just one more building I’d like to show you. It’s the Buffalo Tennis and Squash Club. I’ve been past this building a million times and I have to say, I’ve never really noticed it. It’s beautiful. I love how original it is. I mean, those windows and for that matter, the shutters all look original. Love that.
This was a very different hike for me. It’s an area I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in. For me, it’s a pass through spot. You know, the areas that you pass through to get to a specific place. I’ve noticed the big old homes here, but never really looked at them. For this, I have Jo Anne to thank, by letting me know she used to live at 410. After that, my interest was piqued!
Knowing the history of Elmwood Ave really makes me think. It’s one of Buffalo’s busiest, best urban thoroughfares, and yet it wasn’t planned that way. It sort of evolved as the city evolved. And our city is still evolving. The conversation of just exactly how to do that is still a hot topic! And that’s a good thing.
Go See It
For me, when I see these old, grand homes that are now apartments, or offices, I end up daydreaming about the families who once lived in them, as single family homes. They make me want to time travel back to the days when Buffalo was experiencing the so-called ‘gilded age’. These homes make me want to see the stories first hand. But, until someone perfects time travel, I’ll have to be content with the written word, and sometimes a photograph or two.
Like I always say, every home, every building, every neighborhood’s got a story to tell. The buildings are nothing without knowing the stories of the people who built them, lived, loved, laughed and cried in them. That’s what I’m after. Go see your city, Buffalo. Get the stories.
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The books make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
The other day, I spent about three hours doing what I love best. Just walking around the city. You’d be surprised at how much ground you can cover in three hours. But this day, I spent almost the whole time concentrated in one area. Allentown – one of my first loves. And I walked slowly. I didn’t want to miss anything. Today I’m writing about Mariner Street, the stretch between North and Allen Streets. But first, let’s talk briefly about Allentown itself.
There’s so much history here in Allentown. I find myself thinking about Lewis Allen. (Josh Allen came later!) A lot of Buffalonians know Allentown is named for Lewis Allen. Some even know that he was Grover Cleveland’s uncle. But you may not know that Allen’s wife was the one who was related to Grover Cleveland. Isn’t it funny that we never hear about Margaret Allen in that context? I think it’s important enough to mention.
It is true though, that when Cleveland was passing through Buffalo on his way to Cleveland, Lewis Allen persuaded him of the merits of staying in Buffalo. Buffalo was, after all, a thriving, growing, important city at the time. Cleveland, of course, stayed, studied law, went into politics, and well, the rest is history.
What you also may not know, is that Lewis Allen came to Buffalo (with Margaret) in 1827, at a time where Buffalo was just beginning to experience the immense growth to come. Opportunity was everywhere.
A couple of years later, he purchased 29 acres of land that is now almost all of Allentown. You see, one of his endeavors was as a cattle rancher. It is said that his cattle trod a path from Main Street over to what is now Days Park. And that path has become our modern day Allen Street, a beacon in the city for shopping, dining and nightlife.
One more thing you also may not know is that Lewis Allen never actually lived in Allentown. He lived over on Niagara Street in a home previously occupied by Peter Porter. The home (estate, really) was between West Ferry and Breckinridge (see below) with a view of the river. Grover Cleveland lived here with his Aunt and Uncle for a short time when he first came to Buffalo.
Let’s Check Out Mariner Street
I was so taken with Mariner Street! The colors of the homes! Not to mention the ages of them. There are quite a few from the mid 1800s. The gardens! And later, when I did a little digging, the people who lived in them! Let’s see this street.
As I rounded the corner from North Street on to Mariner, I notice this Georgian Revival apartment building designed and built by E.B. Green in 1914. It is certainly something to look at. And it’s luxurious inside with features like marble entry halls and intricate plasterwork ceilings, not to mention servant’s quarters!
It’s fitting that when the movie Marshall was filmed in the E.B. Green designed (former) federal courthouse downtown, Thurgood Marshall’s apartment was filmed here, in one of these apartments designed by Green as well. This was, by the way, Green’s only foray into real estate speculation.
There’s another gorgeous apartment building, right next door, on a smaller scale, but no less beautiful! Love, love, love the entryway here! Great brickwork!
Music Lessons Anyone?
This next house is one I think most would love to call home. In 1894, a gentleman by the name of Mr. E. H. Ferguson was teaching guitar, banjo and mandolin out of this home, which he called the Buffalo School of Music. I’d love to see this street in 1894!
When, oh when, will time travel be a thing?
Take a look at these next homes.
Dr. Ruby Butler
This next home was the home of Dr. Ruby Butler. She graduated from the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri in 1914. Dr. Butler practiced for a short time in Jefferson, Ohio before opening a practice in this home, below. She stayed here until around 1950 when she moved to Springville to live with her sister, where she practiced on a limited basis until her retirement. Very progressive woman! And a lovely home!
It’s tough to see the tops of these houses for the trees! But just look at the entryway on the blue home, below. So charming!
A Sad Story
This was once the home of Staff Sgt. John W. Haney, below.
Sadly, in 1944, Haney was killed during maneuvers in a medium bomber during an electrical storm over Hartselle, Alabama. He was 33 and left a wife, Alice, both his parents, one sister and four brothers. Haney entered the service in 1942, studied as a mechanic at a bomber school in Baltimore and was stationed in Hunter Field, Georgia. What a sad, sad story. One heard all too often during wartime.
Right next door to Sgt. Haney’s home, I have three stories to tell you. One was from World War I, and one from World War II. One of the owners of this home, Cornelius A. Wild passed away in 1948 at the age of 75. He worked on the great lakes as a marine engineer until World War I, when he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. After the war Wild worked as chief engineer at Sheas Great Lakes, Lafayette Theater, as well as Majestic Theater. He was also chief engineer on site when our great City Hall was being built. Cool!
Just three years earlier, Wild’s son, Cornelius D. Wild, returned home in 1945 from a German prison camp. He was injured a year earlier and spent time in a military hospital in France, before being taken to the camp. The young Wild graduated from Canisius College and worked at General Motors before enlisting in 1942. The photo below is from the Buffalo Evening News, May 25, 1945
Okay, so I have one more story about this house. This warrants another photo to clear our minds of war, before moving on to bookmaking.
That’s Right, I Said Bookmaking
So, in 1970, a woman living in this house, above, was arrested for bookmaking. Gladys Oates was reportedly a tavern keeper, and ran a bookmaking ring out of this home, taking in $3,000 a week. But that was not all, she had others working with her. A total of 14 people were arrested and the total take was $8 million. That’s a lot of bread! Ha! There are times when I cannot believe the audacity of some people!
Update: Sept. 22, 2021
I received an email from the nephew of Gladys Oates who sent me the following photos. The first is a calling card that belonged to Jimmie(y) Oates, who was married to Gladys. Jimmie was an entertainer and was known as “the Pennsylvannia Nightengale”. He and Gladys met while performing with the same traveling troup. They married in St. Louis in 1927.
After coming to Buffalo, the couple lived on Mariner Street, which we already discussed. What we didn’t know is that they owned “The Jimmie Oates Grill” which was at the corner of Allen and Mariner Streets (now The Old Pink!). Jimmy passed away in 1970, presumably before the arrests for bookmaking, but clearly, he was involved.
I looked into the phrase ‘Walk Slow’ and my take is that in this particular use, it meant proceed with care. Interesting. Did Jimmie know the ‘heat was on’? Either way, he passed way before the arrests, including that of his wife, Gladys.
Incidentally, I found an article stating that all the charges in the case were dismissed in 1973. Apparently officials used wire tapping to compile their evidence. The defense claimed they used the wire tapping too broadly, listening in on private conversations, not just ‘business transactions’. Seems a pretty flimsy defense, but it worked. Below is a photo of ‘Jimmy’ and Gladys in happier times. Wonder if the photo was taken in the yard on Mariner?
Like I always say, every house holds stories. Most of which we’ll never know. But once in a while, we get a glimpse.
Let’s Move On, Shall We?
Let’s travel back to 1948 (the 40s were very busy on this street!). This is the story of a mother/daughter duo who came over from England to settle in Buffalo. Violet Russell, a partner in the Anglo-American Carbonising Corporation came to live in this home, below, with her daughter, Joan Russell.
Isn’t the house fantastic?!
Joan was a mechanical engineer. In 1948! She sought to come to Buffalo during a time when you could wait months for tickets for a transatlantic crossing. No worries, she and her mother both signed on to work as crew members on a cargo ship! Joan reportedly blew everyone away in the engine room, and was given the honorary title “Sixth Engineer” by the Captain.
After settling on Mariner Street, Joan then took her place as a mechanical engineer at Cherry, Cushing and Preble, a consulting engineering firm located on Delaware Avenue. She worked on heating systems. Cool.
Just a note: my husband works as a mechanical design engineer, and there are still not too many women working as engineers. So for 1948, this was amazing!
Both Violet and Joan loved Buffalo. When questioned though, Joan confessed to having an issue with our weather. She stated that our “nice, cold winters are fine, but that our summers are too hot!”*
That’s kind of hilarious!
Two very interesting women, wouldn’t you say?
Moving Right Along
And crossing the street, these.
This yellow magnificence below. There is so much that I like about this one. The window trim. The side entry appears amazing, but I’d have had to go up the driveway to really see it properly! The front doors appear to be original! Is that even possible?! I mean, this house is listed with the county as being built in 1865! If they were added later, boy are they done well! Love this place!
These next three are triplets!
Wait Till You Hear This!
So we’ve discussed World War I and World War II. Mariner Street also had a gentleman who took part in the Civil War, believe it or not. Actually, judging by the ages of the homes, I shouldn’t be surprised. There were probably several Civil War vets who lived here.
Fast forward to May, 1939. Buffalo was preparing for their annual Memorial Day Parade. The Grand Marshal of the parade was an 89 year old veteran of the Civil War named Edward Hurley.
He lived on Mariner in this house, below. Nice!
Who Was He?
In an interview with the Buffalo Evening News Hurley admitted that he was just 14 years old when he marched with General William Tecumseh Sherman through the south! Fourteen! And he said he was not the youngest. Talk about “boys in blue”! Hurley served for six months, and was on guard duty when Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Walbridge of Buffalo (same family that the Walbridge Building on Court Street is named for) rode in to tell General Sherman of the north’s victory signaling the end of the war.
He went on to say that those six months were both horrifying and exciting. I cannot imagine. At fourteen!
Hurley was apparently well known in Buffalo as a contractor. He worked on the state hospital in Gowanda, the Jamestown Post Office, and our own Erie County Hall (completed in 1876).
Pretty amazing man.
Let’s Keep Moving
Katherine Cornell on Mariner Street
This last home on the block, below, was the Queen Anne style childhood home of Katherine Cornell.
Now the Cornell name is very well known around Buffalo. Katherine’s grandfather was S. Douglas Cornell, of the Cornell Lead Works, located where the Delaware Midway Homes now stand on Delaware Avenue. In 1894, S. Douglas built a beautiful French Renaissance Revival mansion, designed by Edward Kent. Cornell had Kent build a theater on the fourth floor of the home. He had retired from the Lead Works in 1888, and wanted to pursue one of his passions, namely directing and producing plays.
The mansion became a popular place for Buffalo society and artisans alike to see plays among friends. Katherine Cornell spent a lot of time at this home, watching the whole process from casting, to rehearsals to full on production. It was here that Katherine caught the acting bug.
She began acting and had her first break when she played Jo in the London production of Little Women. In 1921, she had her first big hit in the United States in Bill of Divorcement. She went on to become one of the country’s most sought after theatre actors. Cool!
And she grew up on Mariner Street.
It feels so good to get back into Allentown for one of these posts. The homes are old and mostly well kept. The colors are definitely the widest variety in the city. And the overall feeling here is one of serenity and peace. Maybe that comes with the overall Allentown attitude of freedom and acceptance.
That said, I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone who lived on Mariner while I was there. That’s always a disappointment, but there was so much history to be found here! The music teacher from the late 1800s. The veterans – from three wars! A book maker and a famous actress (not to mention that she was a Cornell!). And I ran into my old friend E.B. Green. This was an interesting street indeed!
And the homes are old! Many of them from the mid 1800s. As I walked along, I was struck by what good shape most of them are in. I could easily live on this street. Specifically, in the bright yellow home, or the blue one next door with all the window boxes. Love them both! Actually, I could name several more that would do nicely. Haha!
Next chance you get, take a walk around Allentown. Pay attention to details and take a moment to notice the feel of the area. It’ll bring your stress levels down. And we could all use a bit less stress now, couldn’t we?
*Special thanks to Tim Montgomery for providing family insight and photos of Jimmie & Gladys Oates.
Get the Book! Click the link to see a preview!
The books make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
Dorchester Road has been one of my favorites from the first time I noticed it. And I’ve been wanting to write about it since I first started blogging, actually. Last weekend, I went on a tour with Preservation Buffalo Niagara that highlighted some of E.B. Green’s work in Buffalo. All I could think during the entire tour was that it was time to write about Dorchester. So here we are.
I first became aware of this street about a dozen years ago. I’d seen it before from Bidwell Parkway, but had never had a reason to walk down it. One day I was in no particular hurry, and so I ventured in off Bidwell. Let me tell you what a sweet spot this street is. It’s one of my favorites in the entire city. It’s got everything! For a lack of a better way of saying it, Dorchester has a feeling of exclusivity while at the same time being extremely neighborly. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true.
I mean, the homes are spectacular and stunning, and yet everyone you meet is willing to chat about whatever comes up. And, it’s right next door to the intersection of Elmwood and Bidwell, which is one of Buffalo’s most walkable neighborhoods. Dorchester is quiet serenity, in walking distance to everything you need.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are six, yes six, E.B. Green homes on this street! If you’re a regular reader, you know about my admiration for E.B.! My history nerd personality knows no bounds, and I don’t care! Ha!
Let’s Talk About EB Green for a Sec
Edward Brodhead Green was born in 1855 in Utica, NY. He studied architecture at Cornell University and was the eighth person to receive a degree from that school in the study of architecture. Before that time, architecture was viewed as more of a trade than a profession, and architects were trained by other working architects in the field.
In 1881, he and William Sydney Wicks made their offices in Buffalo. It was the perfect place for an architect to live at the time. Buffalo was growing like mad, people had money, and they were building. Buffalo kept the pair busy until Wicks retired in 1917.
Green continued on working with his sons, who were both architects, and with other architects, until his death in 1950. In his career, he designed over 370 buildings, and two-thirds of them were in Buffalo! That’s a lot of buildings!
Green moved in high social circles in Buffalo. His closest friend became John J. Albright, largely through all the work Green did for Albright on various buildings and homes. There’s a story that was told by Albright’s grandson, that when the Albright mansion on West Ferry burned to the ground, Albright came across E.B. on the grounds during the fire. He greeted Green by saying something like, “Well, Green, have you brought plans for the new house?”
Green was, and still is, Buffalo’s most prolific architect. Partially because he lived to be 95 years old. But partially because of his passion for design, and his willingness to create the designs his clients wanted.
There are six E.B. Green designs on Dorchester.
So Let’s See Dorchester
I’m beginning at the northwest corner of Richmond and I’ll move west. This is the home I was in front of when I took out my camera to start snapping photos. I actually thought it was on Richmond (as the number 734 shows), but the city and the county both have it listed at 75 Dorchester. Who knew? And also, talk about porch envy! This home is fantastic, and a great start to my hike!
Coming around the corner and heading west towards Baynes, these are the homes I saw. This first one is lovely. Interesting how the front entry is enclosed in glass, right on the porch. I wonder if it’s original? The wrought iron railings make me wonder if they are original, or if the wooden balustrade is? It’s all very well done, and the porch is very inviting.
These yellow shutters appear to be original, and are real, working shutters. Nice!
This one, below, is the same color of the house I grew up in, and it gives me a good feeling. I especially like the brackets under the eaves on both the house and the dormers. With the morning sun shining in the sunroom, I picture myself sipping tea and reading in the mornings here. Love it.
This home below is the quintessential city home. The shingling on the peak, the palladian window, and the dentil molding. And the porch, with its brick columns, and this one also has windows on the weather side. Nice! Love the little lending library too!
The mix of styles on this house, below, works really well. Note the tie rod and anchor securing the chimney. There are several on the block, and this one is lovely. When I see shades on either end of porches like this, I know the people who live here actually use the porch. With the shades, they can relax here during more than just sunny, warm weather. Or maybe they’re trying for privacy from their neighbors, who knows? Haha!
Spectacular – each in its own way.
The First E.B. Green Home
As I approached the first E.B. Green home of the day, I immediately notice the tile roof, the brick lintels above the windows and the brick quoins at the corners of the house. Also, the obviously original wrought iron balustrade. Beautiful. This house was built in 1914 for Edmund Thomas.
Then I see two people working on the gardens out front. Lucky me! It’s here that I meet the owner, Megan (pronounced Meegan) and her friend Skip. Skip kept busy with the garden, but Megan was more than willing to chat.
She bought this home just over two years ago, after moving from Soldier’s Place, where she raised her four children.
Megan has done a lot of work to the home in those two short years and she showed me some of it. Let’s go out back.
Megan did extensive work in the sun room overlooking the patio. The windows are original. She added the patio on to the back of the house. Absolutely stunning! The craftsmanship here is beyond comparison. I looked pretty closely (like my father taught me!), and I couldn’t find one thing out of place. Everything is correctly scaled, all angles meet perfectly, it’s trimmed with copper, and it matches the style of the house. It even has a tile roof to match the house. In short, it’s perfect.
Megan is not done yet! She has plans to convert the two car garage into an entertainment space. It’s all original, brick, and has tons of potential! Megan is also looking for someone to work on the stucco on the house… Anyone?
I take a last look at this beauty before reluctantly moving on. Thank you Megan!
These next several are so pretty!
And this, below,…wow! The sun hit it just right as I was walking by. Beautiful!
These next door neighbors are very similar, but executed somewhat differently. Both are great homes!
Moving Right Along
As I move east towards Richmond and then Claremont, I notice this peaceful feeling has come over me. This street is an oasis. I hear only the sounds of summer. The crickets and birds singing. Gonna have to watch for one of these gems to go up for sale. Would love to live here.
After crossing Richmond, I came upon this stunner. And it’s where I met Faye, her two children and her Mother. Faye has been here six years and loves it. I’m happy to see a young family living on this street. For some reason, I’m always happy to see families filling these beautiful homes. I think it’s what they were built for. And Faye, love your gardens and yard. Just beautiful.
This is where I met Bonnie. She and her family are just moving in. They’ve moved here from a home they still own over on (I think) Ardmore. She tells me they love the area and wanted to stick close, but they needed more room. Great choice in this home, below, Bonnie. As she pointed out to me, the porch adds something extra to the Colonial look of the home. I agree. Love all the detailing here too.
This house was once home to Mr. & Mrs. Judson Rumsey. Big name in Buffalo. Their daughter, Dallas Eugenia Rumsey, was a graduate of Buffalo Seminary and Radcliffe College. She worked as the curator of the Keats Collection in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Nice!
Dallas married Richard Finn, a graduate of Nichols School and (you guessed it) Harvard University. He served as an officer in the Navy during World War II, and eventually was named to a post as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer (diplomat) to Japan. That must have been an interesting job in 1947!
Bonnie’s kids, and some others from across the street, have made an obstacle course on the road. I love this! (Although Bonnie didn’t look old enough to have kids who could do anything but scribble!)
A Few Others
This next house, below, used to be the home of Leo W. Stall, a long-time Buffalo pharmacist, who had his shop at the corner of Grant Street at Bird Ave. He was written up in the Buffalo Evening News in May of 1956 for celebrating 55 years as a pharmacist, and 44 years in the same location. He spoke to the News about the changes that had taken place since he became a pharmacist, the biggest of which was antibiotics. But right behind that was the use of many other medicines instead of the traditional herbs and tinctures that were popular when he received his pharmacy degree from the University of Buffalo School of Pharmacy in 1901. Stall stated that the new medicines were “a hundred times more effective”.
The things he must have witnessed in his time as a pharmacist in Buffalo at that time! And he lived in this beautiful home on Dorchester Road.
I received an email from Leo Stall’s granddaughter, Suzanne, who sent me this photo, below, of the Stall family. It is from roughly 1929. It seems the family were very hospitable! Suzanne still has the lamps and and the painting behind the family! Thank you for sharing this with us, Suzanne!
Let’s Finish Up with the Other E.B. Green Homes
I was so thrilled to see these homes (I knew they were here, but never really sought them out until recently). Here they are, in no particular order.
This is the Fred Dullard House, built in 1910. I admit, I’d love to see this one, below, with some of the plant life removed. Or trimmed way back. I see what I think are Tudor influences, some quoining, some brackets, but it’s tough to say. I cannot even see the entry. Wish we could see it better. Maybe someday.
C.E. Mickler House
This one, below, is lovely, and also has some Tudor influences. It was built in 1909 for C.E. Mickler.
I love the way the entryway is set back. It’s gorgeous. This home is meticulously maintained, but in my opinion, a little boring. Not what I expected from the great E.B. Green! But we have to remember, that was part of his genius. He did what the customer asked of him. Sometimes he was allowed to run free with his designs, sometimes not so much.
H.S. Griffin House
This next one was built in 1907 for H.S. Griffin and if you are a fan of ivy, then this one’s for you. I, however, am not a big fan. Let me see your house! That’s how I feel. I’ve heard people say that the ivy ruins your foundation, some say it doesn’t. I’ve done a little reading on the subject and the consensus is that it depends on the quality of the home and what kind of condition it’s in. In other words, the definitive answer is maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Haha. Sorry. The jury is still out on that subject.
No one could argue that in this case, it would be easier to see the home without the ivy. I think it’s a lovely house and if you’d like to see more of it, check out this listing.
H.C. Gerber House
The next one, below, is my favorite E.B. Green home on the street. It was built for H.C. Gerber in 1908.
It reminds me a little bit of one of Green’s homes on Summit Ave, but I like this one better. In fact, there’s nothing that I don’t like about this home. I love the colors chosen, and the use of each one. The Roman bricks, and the Flemish bonding used are fantastic. I love that the shutters are real, and that the cut-outs are diamonds, not the usual hearts. The wide dormer is great, and the dark entryway is drawing me in. I’d love to see the inside of this one!
William H. Scott House
This home is spectacular. It was built in 1903, for William Scott. And it’s larger than it appears in the first photo. You see, it’s a sort of flat iron shape, like the Dun Building (oh, also a Green design!). This highly decorative Tudor makes me think of an English garden. The setting is perfect just going into the curve as the street makes its way over to Bidwell. Green had a way of setting buildings just so, on the lots they were to rest, and this is no exception.
I especially love the overhang at the front door, and the decorative detailing above the windows. The windows on the front appear to be original. Love this home!
Below is a photo of the William H. Scott house taken in 1915, when Frederick W. Allan lived in the home. This photo was brought to my attention by reader Bill Blake. Isn’t it fantastic!? Thanks so much Bill!
When I walk over to Dorchester from Bidwell Parkway, I feel like I’m walking into a park. This street has a feeling. A good one. From one end of the street to the other. The center medians filled with plantings and flowers help. But the median is not huge. And I think that keeps the feel cozy and intimate. The neighbors aren’t so far apart that they don’t see each other regularly. I like that.
Here’s an odd observation I made while walking Dorchester. All of the street numbers were new and modern looking. Okay, not all of them. But I would say a good 60% of them are new. Especially between Richmond and Baynes. Just a weird thing I noticed, but I’ll tell you, it made me think that the people on this street are on top of things. If they care enough to replace their old, worn out house numbers, the insides of these homes must be fantastic. It’s all in the details. Just sayin.
I was so happy to finally write about all of these E.B. Green homes on Dorchester. Without men like E.B. Green, Buffalo would not be dripping with incredible architecture like we are. There are others, but Green was one of the best, and certainly the most prolific.
Take a walk on Dorchester Road soon. You’ll forget your troubles for a short while. Everything will melt away and you’ll get that ‘serenity now’ feeling.
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After writing and publishing a post about an urban hike I did in the Medical Corridor, I received an email from a reader regarding a home that used to be at 923 Washington Street, now an empty lot (photo above). What a story it turned out to be!
I had originally reported in the post, that word on the street told me that there was a home on Washington Street at the corner of Carlton. And that the city had tried to take ownership for development. There were two sisters who were in their 90’s living there. They fought the city in court to keep their home. But eventually the sisters and the city came to an agreement to move the house. The person who told me the story didn’t know where the house had supposedly been moved to.
The address at 923 is now a vacant lot. I lamented that the two elderly ladies went through an awful lot of grief to make way for a vacant lot.
After publishing, I received an email from a reader revealing the real story. I did a little research on my own, and decided to write a whole new post about the Beck family home, because I think it’s important that we learn from our mistakes. And I believe that what happened in this case was a mistake. This is what I’ve learned.
The Original Home
The home in question was not moved off of the property on Washington Street, but had been moved to that location. But, let’s go back and start at the beginning.
The home was built sometime around the Civil War, by the grandfather of sisters, Anna and Veronica Beck. It was built on Ralph Street, or Ralph Alley as it was known at the time. Ralph Alley used to run parallel to and one block west of Michigan Avenue near Goodell.
Who Lived There?
Most of the people living on Ralph Alley throughout the late 1800s and into the 1900s were either German immigrants or descendants of German immigrants. Most of the men worked in some way, shape or form in Buffalo’s brewing industry.
The occupation of Anna and Veronica’s grandfather is unknown. As is the occupation of their father, Frank Beck. I believe Anna lived in her grandfather’s home and took care of it on a full time basis. Veronica, however, according to census records, worked as a bookkeeper for Marine Bank. All of the family members, including Frank’s wife Lillian (mother of Anna & Veronica) lived in the home at 42 Ralph Alley. They were members of St. Louis Church on the corner of Main and Edward Streets.
Funny to think of that now. But back then, extended family members lived together much more often. Anna and Veronica lived with their parents, and probably their grandparents until the elders passed away. Think about that for a minute. I love my kids and everything, but I’ll admit I’m glad they don’t live with us anymore. And I’m pretty sure they’re happy about it too. Just sayin.
So, What Happened?
In the 1970’s most of the neighborhood around the Beck home at 42 Ralph Alley was razed as part of the Oak Street Urban Renewal Project. The project included the building of the McCarley Gardens apartments. The neighborhood was very densely populated with homes. Over a hundred were torn down. Anna and Veronica took the city to court in order to save theirs.
It was a lengthy court battle, roughly two years, but the sisters won. Well, sort of. The city agreed to move the house from its original spot on Ralph Street, to the corner of Washington and Carlton, aka 923 Washington Street. Through tough negotiation, the sisters were deeded the land as well, and it was stipulated (by the sisters) that upon the death of the last family member, the home would be torn down and the city was to be given an option to buy back the land for $100. Both the sisters and officials for the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency signed the agreement.
The sisters were happy with the outcome. And by that I mean I’m sure they would have preferred that none of it had happened, but they didn’t lose their home. And they could still walk to their beloved St. Louis Catholic Church, which was apparently one of the sticking points in the negotiations. They had lived in the shadow of the great spire of St. Louis their whole lives and didn’t want to leave it. Now, they wouldn’t have to.
The sisters lived out their days in the home (Veronica passed away a number of years before Anna).
Anna Beck Dies
In 1998, Anna Beck, the last surviving family member passed away. Per the agreement entered into with the city, her will stipulated that the home be torn down and the city be given the option to purchase the property for $100.
Well, guess what? The city changed its mind. To be fair, the common council of 1998 were somewhat more preservation minded than those of the 1970s. The common council felt certain that the home was historic (although it held no such distinction) and so the city took the Estate of Anna Beck to court to block the demolition.
Attorney for Anna Beck, Mary Kennedy Martin, argued that Ms. Beck was adamant the house be demolished.
It seemed the City of Buffalo and the late Anna Beck had unfinished business.
What About the Home Itself?
The home itself was a veritable museum at this point. It was reported at the time that it appeared that no updates had taken place in the home after the 1930s. The contents included cooking utensils, an early Hoover vacuum cleaner, a refrigerator that was not much more than an ice box, a wringer washing machine, a treadle sewing machine (run on foot power!) and vintage 1930’s furniture. All still being used in the 1990s! Anna cooked on the same cast iron stove her mother used before her. The home was painted the same yellow color with green trim.
The Final Fate of 923 Washington
But, in a court of law, the will stood up to the challenge. Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina ruled for Ms. Beck, as her will was very clear and ironclad. In what he called a very difficult decision, he had to uphold the letter of the law (as he is charged) and ordered that the executor of Anna’s estate go through with the demolition. The ruling itself is a fascinating read. (Believe me, I know what that sounds like!) Read it here.
The executor, by the way, was the Rev. Louis Gonter, who was a parish priest for the Diocese of Buffalo. The bulk of Anna’s estate, amounting to roughly $150,000 was left to St. Louis Catholic Church, which meant so much to Anna and her family.
Throughout my research into this topic, I found myself wondering about Anna Beck. Wish I could have met her. She must have been the definition of a complete minimalist. I think I live pretty simply. But not like Anna Beck.
I have so many unanswered questions. Why would she have been so adamant about having the house razed? Was it out of spite because the city forced her and Veronica off Ralph Street and over to Washington Street? Or did she really feel that no one else should live in her family home? Also, the way she never changed or updated anything in the home. If she was really so attached to the stuff of her parents and grandparents, why demolish the house?
Also, what would cause a person to never update anything in their home at all? I get the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But…geez. A wringer washer? Who knows? It may have been living through the depression that was at the root of Anna and Veronica’s thrift. I don’t think it was money. Anna left a residual estate of $150,000 in 1998. She wasn’t loaded, but she wasn’t poor either.
I guess we’ll never know.
I have mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, I’m a preservationist at heart. To be able to see this home now, as Anna left it in 1998 would be amazing. The fact that we lost a home, much preserved back to the 1930s, is a real shame from a historical standpoint.
I’m sure that all of the items inside, or ones like them, would be able to be gathered to create the museum that was 923 Washington Street. But it wouldn’t be the same, would it? Just the fact that they were all under that roof, being used regularly until 1998 would make it a museum worth seeing.
That’s such a big part of what we history nerds love so much. It’s the stories behind the buildings we so admire. Wondering about the people and the places they inhabited. Where they lived, laughed, cried, and loved.
This simple home told the story of three generations of a Buffalo family. It lasted far longer than most of the mansions on Millionaire’s Row over on Delaware Ave. I’d love to be able to see Anna Beck’s home today, just as it was when she lived there.
On the other hand, I understand the law, and in this case, it was upheld to the letter. Erie County Surrogate Joseph S. Mattina’s ruling was fair, thorough and brilliant. He saw both sides of the argument, and no stone was left unturned in his decision. From the ruling: “Valid contracts cannot be so cavalierly breached.”* The City of Buffalo (Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency) and Anna Beck entered into a binding contract. Anna Beck executed her agreement with her last will and testament. The city of Buffalo was forced to uphold theirs.
And with that, we lost the home at 923 Washington Street, formerly 42 Ralph Alley. It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.
Just One More Thing
There’s no real sense in spending a lot of time on it. What’s done is done. But at the beginning of the post, I said I thought that what happened here was a mistake. By that I mean that back in the late 70s, no one recognized this home for what it was. And in the twenty years following, still no one noticed. No move was made towards preserving the treasure that it was. To have a vernacular home from the 1860s, in the heart of the city, virtually unchanged since 1930…would be incredible.
The judge’s hands were tied in this case though.
We are better at this now than we used to be. We’re moving in the right direction. As a city, let’s not make this mistake again. Let’s move forward.
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!