Back in September of this year, I wrote a post about Dorchester Road. In response, I received so many emails from past and current residents of the street regaling me with their sweet memories of growing up here. I decided to take another look at Dorchester Road, and share some of those stories with you today.
Let’s Start with the Original Post
Suzanne, the grandaughter of Leo Stall, a longtime Buffalo pharmacist, sent me this 1929 photo below, which I added to the original post. It’s of Leo and his family. I’m sharing it again because I just think it’s so telling of who the family was. Welcoming, always. That seems to have been, and continues to be the prevailing attitude on the street.
Here is a photo of the Stall family home. For more about them, see the original post.
One of the E.B. Greens
I also heard from Bill Blake, who sent me this photo of the William H. Scott house taken in 1915, when Frederick W. Allan lived in the home. I added this to the original post as well. I love this shot of the home for some reason. Maybe it’s because there is less foliage and no fence. It appears more open and welcoming, perhaps because we can see the home better. Either way, it’s a gorgeous home, and happens to be one of the six E.B. Green homes on the street.
Here is the home today. Still stunning.
I also mentioned in the original post that I’d love to live on Dorchester. I would. So a real estate agent contacted me and told me she had a home to show me. I told her I wasn’t really going to move, but that I’d love to see the home anyway. She was super nice about it, and I went over the next day to see 65 Dorchester. Here are a few photos from the day. The home recently sold to a very lucky buyer, in my opinion.
Very recently, I received an email from a current resident of Dorchester. What a nice woman! This is a quote from a portion of her email:
“…in one of your books about Dorchester Rd, you mentioned a desire to live on our street. I’m writing to tell you that there will be 3-4 homes for sale on the street. 1 currently & others coming on the market soon. I so enjoy your books! I hope to see you as our neighbor!”
You see why I love receiving your emails? What a fantastic street! So welcoming! For all of you Dorchester residents, although I would love to be your neighbor, my husband doesn’t want to leave our current home, and I really like him – soooooo… It’s not in the cards for us to move to Dorchester. For now. Wink, wink.
The Losi Family
Enter the Losi family. Michael was the first family member to comment on the post, in early September. He mentioned that I had brought back bittersweet memories for him. He said he could picture his Mother sitting on the porch at 142 Dorchester, and it made him miss her. That told me, not only that he had lost his Mom, but that he had some beautiful memories on Dorchester that included her. Sweet.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I received another email from Joseph Losi, Michael’s brother. Guess what? Joseph has just bought back the family home at 142 Dorchester, and from what I can tell, the entire family is very excited about it! And why not?
A Bit of History at 142
The Phipps Family
The home at 142 Dorchester was built in 1908, and as early as 1914 Charles R. Phipps lived in the home with his wife, the former Anna Beals and their daughter, Carolyn. Charles came to Buffalo in 1901, like so many people did, and was a superintendent of rolling mills at Lackawanna (later Bethlehem) Steel Company. He retired in 1941. Charles was a photography enthusiast and was a founding member of the Buffalo Camera Club. He was also a member of the Buffalo Masonic Consistory, which was located in the former George Rand mansion and is now part of Canisius High School.
Charles’ wife, Anna, was active in social circles in Buffalo. She was a member of the Twentieth Century Club, which, by the way, was the first women’s club founded by women and run by women, in the country. She entertained frequently in their home at 142, usually hosting lunches, teas and bridge games. Now, this being Dorchester Road, these social events probably were not attended by Buffalo’s most elite but they were listed in the social columns of the newspapers of the day. This means that Charles did very well and was respected, but that Anna was also very well liked. She was also an amateur poet, and a member of the League of American Pen Women. Sweet.
Charles and Anna’s daughter, Carolyn, married Dr. Carl F. Howe, a dentist. The two lived in Ithaca, NY and summered in a cottage in Sheldrake, NY. Dr. Howe passed away at only 42 years old, and there is some evidence that Carolyn came back to 142 to live for at least a short time.
Anna passed away in 1934. Charles followed in 1947 after a lengthy illness.
The Vara Family
Sometime after the death of Charles Phipps, Anthony Vara purchased the home. Anthony was an Inspector for the Sterling Engine Company. Having been wounded twice in France during World War II, Vara was an organizer and a four term commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars John Maxwell Post 452. He was very active in the Republican Party here in Western New York, and was named Mr. Republican in 1979. The photo below appeared in the Buffalo Courier Express on July 18, 1979. Vara is second from the right. Also pictured are Sheriff Kenneth Braun and Erie County Executive Ed Rutkowski.
Vara was married to Jennie (Panzica) and had four sons, Alfred, Anthony Jr., Robert and Richard. The family stayed at 142 Dorchester until 1957, when they moved to Hamburg, NY.
Back to the Losi Family
Joseph and Josephine Losi purchased 142 Dorchester in 1958. They stayed twenty years and raised their large Sicilian family here. By large, I mean they had six children, Joanne, Barbara, Anthony (Tony), Patricia, Joseph and Michael. I was able to spend some time speaking with Patricia, Michael and Joseph recently, and they shared some of their experiences growing up on Dorchester. So many of the stories they told me could have been stories of my own childhood, and while I listened, it struck me that so many of you reading this today will probably be able to relate them to your childhood as well.
Let’s take a look.
All three shared their enormous love for their mother, Josephine. Like so many moms, she was the glue that kept the family together and she also kept the home together, working tirelessly to do so. One of the siblings, not mentioning any names, went so far as to call her a goddess.
Pat told me how she remembers her mother bringing the laundry up from the basement and going out to the backyard to hang it. Now there’s a memory our children probably won’t have of us!
Both Patricia and Michael spoke about Josephine’s lilacs and peonies in the yard, and how she loved them. Both must have been popular then, because my Mother too, kept both of these in our yard growing up, and to this day the smell of lilacs reminds me of Mom.
All three spoke of big, extended family dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Probably other holidays as well. All three spoke of the extra leaves being put into their large dining room table for these meals. Precious memories.
The table is still in the family, and there is talk of it being returned to 142 someday. Wouldn’t that be nice?
All three siblings mentioned that on the third floor of the home there was an apartment, probably originally the maid’s quarters. There was, however, no separate entrance to these rooms. That did not stop the family from filling them throughout their years there. An aunt lived there, as did different cousins throughout the years. Some of Tony’s friends lived there as well. And so did Joanne as a new bride. Apparently, her husband was drafted and had to leave soon (this was during Viet Nam), so the couple got married and moved in to the third floor apartment at 142. I would imagine this type of thing was pretty common in homes such as this. Especially during war time.
These are a few photos of the apartment on the third floor from the recent real estate listing. Impressive. And perfect for extended family members and friends.
Typical antics of the 60s and 70s
Joseph spoke about talking on the rotary phone back in the day, with the cord pulled around the corner to the basement stairs for privacy. Did any kids not do that in the days before cell phones? Because I know my whole family did. He also remembers riding bikes through the neighborhood, over to Claytons Toy Store on Elmwood, to the Art Gallery, and Delaware Park. Love it.
Michael and Patricia both talked about playing ‘cowboys and indians’ (it wasn’t wrong back then) using the back staircase as their home base. Mike told of Pat’s uncanny ability to make the sound of horses galloping…when Pat mentioned that she had this way of making the sound, she very lovingly said that Michael just loved it, and that’s why she always did it. Hearing the three talk about each other, I’m really feeling the love. This is a close family.
Pat fondly remembers one of her older sisters leaving the back staircase during one of these games and saying to her “Cover me!”, Pat, not knowing any better, threw a blanket over her head, thinking that’s what she meant. Haha! Cute!
She also got me laughing pretty hard while telling me the story of a bat being loose in the house. Their grandmother told them to cover their heads with paper bags, so the bat wouldn’t get caught in their hair. The boys caught the bat, apparently killed it and took it outside and burned it, while doing a ceremonial dance around the garbage can where it burned. Haha! I’m still laughing out loud at this one.
Joseph mentioned that while washing his father’s car one day, it somehow slipped into reverse and rolled into the DiGulio’s fence next door. I cannot imagine what ‘somehow’ meant in this case, but I’m pretty sure somebody was grounded in the Losi home that day. And probably for several days afterward.
Michael told me that their brother Tony, who sadly passed in 2007, used to play basketball in the back yard with Tony Masiello and Rocco Dino, who were high school friends of his. Michael would sneak into the back yard, climb up a telephone pole to get on the garage roof, hide behind the backboard and jump up at the last second and swat the older boys’ shots away from the basket.
You can’t make this stuff up…it’s the type of things kids really did before computer games. And if you are of a certain age, you know it’s true.
Pat spoke of stealing away to the back porch to sit and read a book, just for the opportunity to be alone. Sounds like something I’d do. She said she was quieter than her brothers, and didn’t spend as much time rough housing in the neighborhood. I can see that.
Joseph told me his father would whistle out the front door in order to call the kids in for lunch, dinner, if the street lights were about to come on, or whenever. My mother did the same thing.
Both Michael and Joseph spoke a lot about the neighborhood and local families. Here are some of the surnames mentioned: Bartolone, Sciolino (Susie), DiPasquale (Charlie), Carnivale, Lorenzo (this family lived in the E.B. Green home at 137, across the street), Taravella (I believe Joseph mentioned one of the Taravellas is his real estate agent), DiGuilio, Abate, Rooney, Leak, Fama (Nancy, Joseph’s first crush) and Vigilante. Almost all Italian (Sicilian) names. Joseph mentions that they didn’t really think of it back then, but, yes, it was a predominantly Italian neighborhood.
Both boys also noted that the neighborhood was filled with doctors, attorneys, the owner of a dry cleaning business, restaurateurs, the owner of Melody Fair etc. Joseph mentioned that his father was an engineer by trade, and that he worked for Hewitt Robbins, and was laid off in 1967. A story all too familiar in Buffalo during the 50s and 60s.
The neighborhood boys would go over to Bidwell Parkway to play football. Michael has a memory of Dorchester playing against Potomac in a championship game over on Bidwell one year. I mean, we’re talking pick up games here, not an organized league with uniforms or anything. This is a memory that was pretty clear for Michael. Must have been a big deal.
Photos of the Home
Joseph has not yet taken possession of the home, but here are some of the photos from the listing.
I’d like to mention something that is pretty typical here in Buffalo, I met another Losi family member, Arlena, quite by accident. A few weeks ago, I was at the Buffalo History Museum selling my books at a Holiday Makers Market. A woman pointed to the Dorchester book, and began to tell me the story of how her cousin just bought back the family home on that street. I asked her if his name was Joseph, and she said yes. I then told her that I had a video call scheduled with him the following week! She told me the whole family was excited for them. Awesome.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that some of the families’ memories were bittersweet. Josephine, their beloved mother, passed away suddenly, not long after the family moved to Kenmore in 1977. Michael, the youngest of the six, was not yet 20 at the time, so all of the children lost their mother at a young age.
Joseph (the father) and brother Tony are both gone as well.
Joseph (the son) spoke about how things changed after their father lost his job in 1967. He feels the pressures of raising six kids affected his father in a big way. Today on the phone, Joseph quoted Michael saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Even though Dad had his issues, he did give us 142 Dorchester.” A fine gift it is. And wise words, Michael.
In addition, there were tragedies on the street as well. One neighborhood boy, Stevie, was hit by a car and died. One of the children in the Rooney family was killed in the World Trade Center bombing. Another neighborhood child was killed (as an adult) in a mob hit. Wow.
So, as magical as the good memories are for the Losi siblings, there are bittersweet memories as well. We’ve all got something we’re dealing with. The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, a lost love. Whatever it is, it’s important that we keep in mind that everyone’s got something.
For the Losis, they are both lucky and blessed that they have been able to reclaim their childhood home. That one of them was in the position to buy it when it went on the market. That everything fell into place. I think it’s great! And even though Joseph lives on the west coast now, and the family is not yet sure when one or more family members will be able to move into 142, I am happy for each and every one of them. They seem so excited. Like a child’s laughter, the Losi family’s excitement is contagious.
This holiday season, take some time to be nostalgic. Remember the good times with loved ones through the years. Share some memories and perhaps some old photos from days gone by with family members and friends.
I wish each and every one of you peace this holiday season and in the coming year.
*Note: The Losi family will be renting the home at 142 Dorchester, available February 1, 2021. If you’re interested, contact Louis Taravella, MJ Peterson Real Estate, Lou@Olear.com, 716-867-0138.
If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know that my husband Tim and I are both bikers, as in cyclists. In the summer, we ride four or five days a week. We have ridden through Cazenovia (Caz) Park several times. The last time, Tim suggested I write about it. I said what I always say, “I’ll put it on the list.” And I did. Full disclosure, my list is now pages long with something like 80 ideas waiting to be written.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard it was peak time to see fall colors in Buffalo. So I struck out for Caz Park to see what I could see. I admit, I am not very familiar with the park except for those bike rides through it on Warren Spahn Way, and a couple of road (running) races. But this day I drove over and parked at the Shelter House to get a closer look. I see things more clearly on foot.
A Bit of History, of Course
Let’s start with a bit of the history of Buffalo’s Parks and Parkway System.
In the mid 1800s, Buffalo was booming. We were growing as fast as a city could at the time. Commerce flourished along the waterfront with shipping, railroads, cattle, grain and all the smaller industries that supported these giants. Buffalo had money, and by 1860, city leaders wanted to create a park similar to Frederick Law Olmsted’s Central Park in New York City. So, they brought Olmsted to Buffalo to design our own Central Park.
After touring the city through its radial streets design, laid out by Joseph Ellicott in 1804, Olmsted declared Buffalo to be “the best planned city, as to streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.”* He then proceeded to improve upon it, by proposing and creating a park system to compliment the already beautifully designed city we call home. It would become the first park system in the United States, where the parks are connected through a series of parkways, giving the illusion that, when travelling from one to another, you haven’t left the park.
Take a walk down the center of Lincoln, Bidwell or Chapin Parkways to get that feeling. It’s real. Olmsted knew what he was doing. He is perhaps the greatest landscape architect our country has ever seen, even now.
Cazenovia Park and South Park were designed to serve the rapidly growing neighborhood that came to be known as South Buffalo. You know the place. These parks were to become part of the elaborate park system I mentioned just a moment ago.
Caz Park was built between 1892 and 1894, by Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot, including Frederick Law’s son, John. It sits on an 83 acre site roughly bounded by Abbott Road, Cazenovia Street, Potters Road and Seneca Street. Cazenovia Creek ran through the park, and was dammed to create a 20 acre lake near the Cazenovia Street/Abbott Road area. This was news to me. And it made me think. It’s an 83 acre park, so that means the lake took up just about a quarter of the whole park.
Wish I could have seen it. Apparently it was a popular spot for canoeing and boating in summers as well as ice skating in the winter. Which I could totally see. I get that it’s a safety thing, but I wish skating was allowed in the parks again. I suppose we have skating at Rotary Rink and Canalside. Which is fun, but it doesn’t seem quite the same as gliding out onto a lake, or even a creek.
What would we have to do to bring this back? Hmmmm. Not holding my breath.
In 1902, the Shelter House was built to accommodate the boaters and skaters. And for that matter the picnickers too, because this was becoming the place to be evenings and weekends in South Buffalo. The Shelter House was smaller than Olmsted had originally designed it, but where else do you see public restrooms like these, except in an Olmsted park? They’re amazing.
In 1912, funds were available, and the Casino was built. The architectural firm of Esenwein & Johnson was chosen to design it. The firm was well known, and quite popular in Buffalo, having designed many buildings and homes here, including the Temple of Music at the Pan Am Exposition, the Niagara Mohawk Building, the Elephant House at the Buffalo Zoo, the Calumet Building, and more.
The casino was located right along the lake and the lower (basement) level had room for 100 boats and canoes, both private and rentals. There were restrooms, an ice cream shop and a candy counter, with plenty of seating both inside and out on the expansive patios overlooking the lake. The upper floor was used for offices and storage. Must have been something back in the day when the lake was still there, sitting out on the patio sipping a cool lemonade on a hot summer day, watching the boaters. Or hot cocoa in the winter after skating.
The casino is still there, and the views are absolutely lovely today of a meadow with plenty of trees, a playground for kids, baseball diamonds and the creek off in the distance.
What Happened to the Lake?
Because the lake was created by damming the creek, there were all sorts of drainage issues throughout its history. Silt built up often in the (only) 4 -6 feet deep lake, and flooding occurred many times. Over the years, the lake was dredged and redesigned in the hopes that the flooding issue would be rectified, but it was no good.
The lake was eventually removed. I’ll add that I’ve read many different versions of when it was finally removed. I guess there was a small lagoon area that was created during one of the redesigns that was there until 1969 or so, but most of the lake was gone in the 1950s. I won’t quibble about the exact date, because it’s pretty clear that it was completely gone by 1970. It’s sad that they couldn’t make it work, but you can’t fight Mother Nature. She always wins in the end.
On a Personal Note
My Dad recently told me a story about asking his father to drive him out to Caz Park to do some fishing. He was about 12 years old and had heard the fish were biting. He asked to be dropped off and then picked up three hours later. Normally, he’d have ridden his bike, but it was March and was snowy. My father grew up on the East Side, and rode his bike all over Western New York as a 10 or 12 year old, to fish. Including to a lake out in Clarence. And once he rode to Chautauqua Lake without telling his parents where he was going. But that’s another story for another day.
So my Gramps dropped Dad off at Caz Creek in the park. He was absolutely freezing by the time he got picked up, three hours later. Apparently, the casino was closed that day. When I asked if he caught anything, he replied, “Oh yeah, we ate fish for supper that night, but I don’t remember what kind or how many, I just remember how cold I was.” This was a kid who delivered 120 newspapers every morning, and more on the weekends, so he was no stranger to being out in the cold. But that memory sticks out in his mind about Cazenovia Creek to this day.
Today, the park is chock full of amenities. There are baseball diamonds, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, a playground, a splash pad, a community center, complete with a swimming pool, an indoor ice rink, and a senior center. Oh, and a golf course! There is also a neighborhood library on the grounds, although it’s temporarily closed. And let us not forget the numerous events that would be taking place throughout the year, if it weren’t for covid. (When will I get to write a post that doesn’t include that word?)
And the foot paths. They are used daily by South Buffalonians of all ages. There are always people walking here. With their dogs. Alone. In pairs or small groups. And why not? It’s a beautiful park, with gorgeous, old trees chosen and placed, quite possibly by Olmsted himself. And It’s what I did on this crisp, sunny day at the end of November.
The Shelter House was renamed in 2016 for Robert B. Williams, a former professional baseball player, and longtime Buffalo cop. He also coached and mentored thousands of children while active in the Buffalo Police Athletic League. Very cool.
I am so happy I ‘got to know’ Caz Park. And there is more to see! I’m going to make it a point to get out here in all four seasons to really get to know this park. The foot (bike) paths are just lovely, with lots to see, including wildlife. There are a lot of trees in the park, both old and new. That’s always a good thing. And some of the old ones, boy, are they ever beautiful.
Here’s something I couldn’t help but notice while walking around the park. The park is residential in several areas. Meaning that there are homes that face the park, on Potters Road, Cazenovia Street and more. And guess what? They’re not million dollar mansions like the homes that line Nottingham Terrace, or Rumsey Road. That hits me like a breath of fresh air. They’re great homes to be sure. I might have to return to get some photos on a street or two, and write a post…yes, I think I will. I’ll put it on the list. You know, that list that’s got 89 (I went back and counted) ideas on it, haha!
This park is steeped in history. While walking around, I couldn’t help but wonder about the many, many people who have come before me. What were they like? Did they freeze here in the winter like my Dad did? Did they score the winning goal at a soccer game, or basketball game? Or did their team win the softball championship in 1976?
Or was this the place to come on Sundays in your horse drawn carriage around the turn of the 20th century? With a picnic basket, filled with whatever was popular picnic fare back then? Possibly sitting out on the terrace overlooking the lake?
Who were these Buffalonians? What were they like? Were they happy? Were they kind?
When, oh when, will time travel be a thing? I will be first in line. I’d like to see Buffalo during its heyday. I’d like to see this park in 1915. And not as a woman of Polish/Irish descent who would have worked in service, but as the daughter of very educated parents, who happened to be very successful, and wealthy. Haha!
This place incites daydreams in me. I will definitely be back. And soon. I love walking in the snow…
Get the Book! Click below for a preview!
They make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click hereor on the photo below to purchase yours!
*The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System (Designing the American Park) Hardcover – June 7, 2013. by Francis R. Kowsky
Disclaimer: We’ve received no compensation for writing this post. We simply want to highlight locally owned small businesses for their hard work supporting our neighborhoods.
We’ve been going to Lucky’s for a while now. Ever since we started doing our ‘church tours‘ about a dozen years ago. You see St. Casimir was on the list of churches we went to that first year. And as was our custom, we’d go out to breakfast after going to mass at whatever church we were going to that week. Because of its proximity to St. Casimir, we decided on Lucky’s Texas Red Hots.
Here’s why. Because we liked the look of it. And because Tim could get his favorite texas hots, and they have all day breakfast on the menu. I love breakfast foods at all different times of the day! But mostly, it was because we liked the look of it. You see, Tim and I love the simple, no BS restaurants. The Mom & Pops. The kind of place you can stop in, get some incredibly good food, even better service, and be on your way. Or if you choose, hang out and read the paper, or talk into the night if you feel like it.
Lucky’s has that look. And we were right, it’s exactly that kind of place. The kind of place that has a story. Been around forever. Run by the same people, usually family. This is Lucky’s.
Our First Time
We were comfortable the minute we walked in the door and the woman behind the counter said hello and told us to sit wherever we liked. She brought menus and coffee immediately, even though most of the booths were full and she appeared to be the only one serving. I also liked that she didn’t get put out when I asked for a cup of tea. Really, believe it or not, some people do. And sometimes, I’m made to feel like I’m asking for something really special. Any fellow tea drinkers out there hear what I’m sayin?!
The food was delicious! And I believe we both had big breakfasts that day. Bacon, eggs, home fries (mountains of them) with peppers & onions and toast for me. And a Greek breakfast for Tim. Everything was perfectly cooked! We would definitely go back. And have, many times.
Lucky’s is owned by Gus Bechakas. Gus was nice enough to sit down with us last Saturday to chat.
He came to Buffalo from Greece when he was 12 years old with his parents. He went to Buffalo schools, and told us his family has always been in the restaurant business. In 1966, he opened Lucky’s on Fillmore Avenue near Glenwood, in the building that is Mattie’s (sadly now closed). Gus moved into Kaisertown, here on Clinton Street 47, years ago. And with that, a neighborhood icon was born.
Gus runs the Greek/American Lucky’s Texas Hots with his wife, Theodora, and two sons, Leo and George. I’m told, by Tim, the Texas hots are fantastic! Texas hots are not a favorite of mine, but I can tell you the souvlaki here is heavenly. In fact, I’ve never had a bad meal here, or bad service. And we’ve made it a point to come back at least a couple of times a year. Theodora, Leo and George seem to be very friendly, kind people. And Gus? Well, Gus is the salt of the earth.
He spoke humbly about starting the business, keeping it going, their troubles during Covid lockdowns, and coming back afterwards. He mentions, somewhat emotionally, that Theodora is battling cancer. But he’s much more comfortable talking about the restaurant with someone like me, who he barely knows. I respect that.
The other diners all seemed to know each other, saying hello as they come in. This is a real neighborhood place.
While taking photos, I met Leonard, sitting at the counter enjoying his breakfast. Not too busy to talk though. Gus tells me Leondard was one of his first customers when he opened 47 years ago. I asked Leonard how he likes the food here, he said, something to the effect of, “Well, I come here everyday, and I’m 96 years old, so they must be doing something right!”
It’s obvious to me, too, that they are definitely doing something right.
In that brief conversation with Leonard and Gus, Gus turned the conversation to Leonard. He told me that Leonard is a World War II vet, was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, and was a prisoner of war for 12 months. I was instantly humbled. I thanked Leonard sincerely for his service to which he looked me right in the eye and barely nodded, before changing the subject back to Gus and Lucky’s. These two men are more than restauranteur and patron. These two are friends. I love it.
My Impressions of Lucky’s Texas Hots
You’re only going to get this kind of experience at a place like Lucky’s. Good food, good people. That’s really all it takes to make me love a restaurant. And it’s awesome when people like the Bechakas family make it look easy. And owning and running a restaurant is incredibly difficult. Especially at this point in history. This family makes you feel like you’re welcome. Like they’re happy you’ve come for a visit. And it’s sincere. They love what they’re doing, and it shows.
Gus – Tim & I will keep you and Theodora in our thoughts and prayers.
Visit the Bechakas family:
Lucky’s Texas Red Hots, 1903 Clinton Street, Kaisertown, Buffalo
*CASH ONLY* ATM on site.
p.s. Try Theodora’s rice pudding – I had some today (10/8) and it’s fantastic!
**Use the ‘contact’ button at the top of this page to email me your suggestions on your favorite Mom & Pops in and around Buffalo!
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 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!