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…
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*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
Several years back now, my parents were looking in to senior housing. There were some new builds going up adjacent to Amherst State Park that they went to take a look at. A few days later my Mother and I were going somewhere, and we made a slight detour to drive through the parking lot just so I could see the place. They had already decided they didn’t want to move there, but I was (of course) curious anyway.
When we pulled into the lot, I said, “What is this place?” My Mom explained that the new, and at the time, incomplete buildings off to the right hand side, were what they had looked into. But the other, older building straight ahead is what I was interested in. She went on to say that that building used to be the Motherhouse for the Sisters of St. Francis. But that now there was a state park on most of the grounds of the convent.
A state park? What? In Amherst? Just a stone’s throw from Main Street in Williamsville? Yep.
Best kept secret, ever. At least to me.
It’s been a long time coming, but I finally made it over to the park several weeks ago for one of our quarantine hikes. Great decision, it’s a sweet find.
St. Mary of the Angels Convent
My fascination with old buildings immediately drew me to the old convent. Of which I had already done a little bit of research.
I learned that it’s Gothic Revival style is pretty common among convents, and was designed by Deitel and Wade. The same architects who designed our own city hall. At around the same time too – 1928 for this building. 1929 – 32 for City Hall. This building is impressive.
Most of the Franciscan Sisters who lived here were involved in health care and education throughout Western New York. They ministered at such institutions as Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Niagara Falls, local colleges, high schools and grammar schools. Including my own grammar school.
Nuns have always been the butt of many jokes told by people of all walks of life. And maybe I was at the right age for this, but the sisters who taught me were mostly very nice, and at times sweet ladies. Of course there were one or two that stood out for being ‘mean’, but there are also one or two lay teachers who stand out for the same reason. In my 30’s I had occasion to work with some Felician Sisters, and it was then that I realized for the first time, that sisters are people. (!) They each have their own personality. Some are gossipy, some are pious, some are funny, some are quiet etc. Just people though, trying to get through life just like the rest of us.
Anyway, what a beautiful contemplative place this must have been for them to retreat to, once the rigors of work brought them home in the evenings.
Amherst State Park
The Business End
Roughly 80 acres of the convent land was put up for sale in 1999. New York State and the Town of Amherst acquired the property after splitting the $5 million price tag, in 2000. The agreement states that the town maintain the property which is to be used for conservation and passive recreation only.
And that is exactly how it is being used.
The old convent building is now St. Mary’s Apartments for seniors 55 and over. Very affordable if you look them up. The apartments themselves appear small, but nice. Just think of the yard though! And you wouldn’t have to maintain any of it!
The Park that Brings on Daydreams
While hiking around the park, we came upon a set of old stone stairs. As I walked up them, I had a very clear memory of being of being here, many years ago. My grammar school class had a field trip in what used to be the convent orchard. A couple of us stole away, and when we saw some stairs, we snuck up them. The building we saw at the top was like nothing any of us had ever seen before! We stood at the top of the steps just staring at what we were sure had to be a castle! Are kids still this easily impressed nowadays?
The old orchards are evident in the still existing (apple?) trees. Ellicott Creek ambles in curving paths through the property, bringing peace as it rolls by. Water does that to us, brings peace. There are wooded areas, nature paths, and a bike path too. There are secluded areas, and wide open meadows, and even a pine forest! If this place is not the stuff of daydreams, I don’t know what is!
Graffiti Art and The Cemetery
Bet you’re not used to seeing graffiti art and cemetery used in the same sentence.
Well, while taking a bike ride on another occasion, we took the bike path to the south end of the land. There were some ruins of what appear to be outbuildings for the convent. Now, they are mostly covered in graffiti art, and no one is removing it. Love this.
But when we reached the end of the path, and indeed the property, we noticed a cool looking little chapel in the middle of a field. We, like the little kids who found those stairs years ago, kept going.
Well, it wasn’t a field. It was a cemetery. Specifically, Gethsemane Cemetery, and it appears to be for the sisters who lived and served the community here. The Sisters of St. Francis. I have to admit, it’s a beautiful, serene resting place. And just a stone’s throw to Main Street in Williamsville.
There are still Sisters on the property where we found the cemetery. And they are still serving our community in health care and education. How do I know? We ran into one of them out for an evening walk while I was taking photos of the chapel. She told us she didn’t know the age of the chapel, but she thought it was almost as old as the convent itself. It’s a beautiful little chapel.
My Impressions of Amherst State Park
We all know Glen Park. That gorgeous little park on Main Street in Williamsville with the waterfall. If you go to the parking lot on the other side of Glen Avenue, and follow the creek to the north, you’ll end up in Amherst State Park.
Come to think of it, some college friends and I used to go to that very parking lot on beautiful spring days, take off our shoes and walk the creek for what seemed like miles. It’s not miles to the state park, so I suppose we were on convent land at the time. Hmmm. Good thing the nuns didn’t know what we were up to… 😉 Or maybe they did, and just let us be. Who knows?
Anyway, Amherst State Park gives me a good feeling. It’s there for conservation and passive recreation. But really, in my book it’s for walking, hiking, biking, and for getting away from it all. It’s a real retreat from the day to day life right now. And let’s face it, we could all use a break right about now.
The main entrance is on the west side of Mill Street, about halfway between Glen Avenue and Sheridan Drive. If you haven’t been to the park, you should think about getting there this summer. It’s not crowded like a lot of our parks have been this summer. I hope you find it to be as peaceful as I do.
Delaware Park was designed for the city of Buffalo in 1868 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. In the mid 1800’s Buffalo was growing by leaps and bounds and some of the movers and shakers wanted a park that rivaled New York City’s Central Park. It too was designed by Olmsted. So he was brought to Buffalo to give us our own ‘Central Park’.
Shortly after he arrived, Olmsted was given a tour of the city. He felt the design of our streets was conducive to a park system instead of just one central park. He and Vaux convinced city leaders to put in the system. And boy, am I glad they did. It was to become the most ambitious park system in our country, with Delaware Park (originally called simply ‘The Park’) as it’s crowned jewel.
There are two buildings in the park that are still readily accessible to the general public, and I’d like to take a look at both of these today.
Marcy Casino in Delaware Park
Let’s begin on the water side of the park with Marcy Casino. And let’s start before Marcy Casino was built. Originally, Calvert Vaux designed a boathouse in 1874 that was located where Marcy Casino now stands. That is, on the south side of Hoyt Lake east of Lincoln Parkway. The boathouse was a very popular spot for Buffalonians in summer and in winter. Remember, this was when skating was allowed on the lake in the winter months. So the boathouse was used all year round. Just look at that design, it must have been a sight to see! And an exceptionally pretty place to relax and enjoy the view.
Oh, to be able to time travel. I’d definitely put myself there on a beautiful summer afternoon in say, 1890.
Unfortunately, the Boathouse burned down in 1900. Seriously, Buffalo lost so many beautiful buildings to fire. This is another one.
The Second “Boathouse”
The Pan American Exposition was set to take place in 1901, and Delaware Park was to play a big part in the festivities. So Buffalo’s most prolific architect, E.B. Green, was brought in to design another building to replace the former Boathouse. True to form, Green designed a beautiful building. The Casino proved to be just as popular as the original Boathouse.
In 1961, for whatever reason, the entire interior of the building was ‘modernized’. It no longer reflected the style of either E.B. Green or Calvert Vaux. I will never understand how these decisions get made. In any case, in 1990 it was returned, not to the original design, but to reflect the original style of the building. For this, I am grateful.
William Marcy served as the Delaware District City Councilman from 1978 – 1983. The building was renamed for him, both for his devotion to Buffalo and to the casino itself.
I have always loved the look of Marcy Casino. There’s a good reason E.B. Green was one of Buffalo’s most successful architects. Pure talent.
If you visit, don’t forget to check out Delaware Park’s Rose Garden, a gorgeous little gem, just south of Marcy Casino. Take a stroll down Shakespeare Hill, directly east of the Rose Garden. Continue on the path around Hoyt Lake. You can’t get lost, except in your own thoughts. It’s a great place for that.
Nowadays, there is a restaurant inside the casino called The Terrace. If you haven’t been there, you should check it out. From the terrace, you can enjoy one of the best views in Buffalo. Sit outside, close your eyes and daydream about being in the original Boathouse, in 1890.
The Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park
The other building that is readily accessible to the public in Delaware Park is the Parkside Lodge. This building is on the east side of the park, with an address on Parkside Avenue. The Lodge was not a part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original plan for the park. But a golf course in the middle of the meadow wasn’t either. We could discuss the golf course pros and cons at length, but not today. Today we’ll discuss the golf course only as it relates to the Parkside Lodge.
Before the Lodge was built, the golf course was put in, and was well used from the beginning. And in 1912, the lawn bowling greens were put in. That’s the area surrounded by wrought iron fencing just to the south of the Lodge. You see, apparently lawn bowling was a big thing shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In 1909, Buffalo had formed a lawn bowling league, and they played in Delaware Park. In fact, not long after the greens were completed, the International Lawn Bowling Association held it’s first tournament in the park. Interesting.
Sometimes, ‘interesting’ is what I say when I can scarcely believe something. I’ve never really thought of Buffalo as a lawn bowling kind of town. Come on now, you were thinking it too. Hey, I’m a firm believer in “don’t knock it till you try it” so maybe I’ll give it a try. You never know, I may bring it back!
A “Shelter” is Built
In 1913, it was clear the lawn bowling greens and the golf course needed a shelter to support their activities. The building we now know as the Parkside Lodge was built in 1914, and is a really nice example of Arts and Crafts design in architecture. I happen to love arts and crafts design. And I think Olmsted would approve too. (Not of the golf course. But, not today.)
Before I get into the lodge itself, let’s talk about the quarry that used to be in the park. Yes, you heard that right. There used to be a quarry in Delaware Park. As a matter of fact, some of the original buildings in the park were built with stone from this quarry. It was close to Parkside Avenue, between the parking lot closest to the 198 and the basketball courts. Olmsted created a ‘quarry garden’ and worked it into his plan for the park. The first time I saw a photo of the quarry garden, I had that feeling like I missed out on something. It’s the type of thing that you can’t really imagine without actually seeing it. And like all amazing things, photos I’m sure don’t do it justice. Here’s one anyway.
In these days of social distancing, we can still head over to Delaware Park for a walk, or a bike ride. Walk around Ring Road and take a look at the Parkside Lodge as you pass by. Better yet, walk over and take a closer look now that you know all about it! On a side note, the real name of Ring Road is actually Meadow Drive. (!)
When you do, notice that in front of the Lodge there are two ‘bridges’ that appear in the grass along the path. I’ve read these were originally bridges over the quarry, and when the quarry was filled in, they were left to add interest to the winding pathway in the grass. More recently I’ve read they were added after the quarry was filled in. Whichever it is, I find them to be charming in that setting. They add to the overall feel of the place.
And that is the feel of a time gone by, filled with tons of historic charm. With the dark woodwork and big fireplace. You can almost picture the lawn bowlers and golfers in 1914 enjoying drinks on the patio after a match. Both men and women, by the way. Women had the freedom to enjoy both in 1914 Buffalo. That’s the upside. The downside is that it was mostly the upper echelon who were able to enjoy both of those games in Delaware Park. We can be glad that’s changed, if only somewhat. I fear that golf will always be a sport of the privileged class. But lawn bowling on the other hand…that we could bring back.
Wrap It Up
Marcy Casino on the west side of the park, and the Parkside Lodge on the east side, are both two Buffalo treasures hiding in plain sight. Go see them on one of your quarantine walks. You’ll be glad you did. Helpful hint: Park on the Ring Road side of the park and walk Nottingham Terrace to cross the pedestrian bridge over the 198 and go see Marcy Casino. Then proceed around Hoyt Lake and head back to Ring Road to see the Parkside Lodge. Might take you a couple of hours if you take your time, but it’ll be beautiful, and you’ll sleep like a baby that night.
This is the last in my three part series about Buffalo’s Residential Parks. Click the links if you are interested reading about part one, Day’s Park, and part two, Arlington Park.
The West Village Historic District of Buffalo is a 22 acre neighborhood in one of the city’s oldest residential areas. It is one of only a few in our country to achieve three designations as an Historic District under both the City of Buffalo and New York State, and it is also listed in the Federal National Register of Historic Places. The jewel of the West Village Historic District is unquestionably Johnson Park.
It is named for Ebenezer Johnson. So who is he, and why is this park named for him?
Ebenezer Johnson. Photo from Buffalo City Hall photos.
Ebenezer Johnson was from Connecticut. He studied as a physician in Cherry Valley, New York, where he met and married his first wife, Sally. He came here in 1810 and opened his medical practice in what was just a glimmer of what he himself would witness Buffalo become during his time here. During the War of 1812 he accepted a position as an assistant surgeon with the volunteers of New York State.
After the war, he returned to Buffalo and opened a drug store as well as resuming his medical practice. After 1823 he became very active in business and eventually became well known for construction, real estate, trade and banking. No small feat. He became quite successful and next turned to politics. He held several posts and sat on many boards, and in 1832 when Buffalo was incorporated as a city he was elected by the common council as Buffalo’s first mayor. Ah, that’s why the park is named for him! That, and the following…
That same year Johnson broke ground on a grand home located on a large piece of property he owned on Delaware Avenue between Chippewa and West Tupper. It was completed in 1834. The home was referred to as “the Cottage” and was considered the most palatial home in Buffalo to date. On the property itself there was a man made lake, fruit orchards, a large vegetable garden and flower gardens. The 25 acre property and “Cottage” was a well known spot for socializing among the elite in Buffalo.
The “Cottage”. Photo from “Buffalo’s Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families”, by Edward T. Dunn.
Johnson served a second term as Mayor of Buffalo in 1834-35, after having turned down the nomination in 1833. Mayoral terms at the time were one year.
Sadly his wife passed away in 1834. He remarried a year later to Lucy Lord. Johnson continued to be an influential member of Buffalo society until selling his estate and leaving the city sometime around 1847, when he moved to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, where he owned an iron ore mine with his brother. He passed away there in 1849.
During the 1850’s Johnson’s property was divided up into one of the most elegant residential sections of the city at the time. The lake became part of Rumsey Park on the estate of Bronson and Evelyn Hall Rumsey. The Cottage was re-purposed as The Female Academy, the most elite, all girls school in the city. Incidentally, it was the first institute of higher learning for women in the country. (!) The Female Academy still exists today as Buffalo Seminary, now located on Bidwell Parkway.
The “Cottage” Photo credit to “History of the City of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.” Published by The Times, 1896.
An 1876 map of city parkland indicates that Frederick Law Olmsted redesigned the green space in the center of Johnson Park and incorporated it into his overall design of our Park System. And it shows. You only have to walk through the park to feel Olmsted’s presence here. The flow of the park is just lovely. No other way to describe it.
Many of the homes on Johnson Park that were built in the 1850’s still exist, and many have been recently restored to their former glory. They are close together, fostering that “neighborly, friendly” feel we discussed in the second part of this series. And like the other residential parks as well, Johnson Park is a great place to walk and to meet and talk to fellow Buffalonians, whether you live there or not. The people here are indeed friendly, and more than willing to discuss what they know of the park and the homes lining it.
Johnson Park has suffered through the socio-economic troubles that have touched our city, and indeed our whole country. Thankfully, Johnson Park and the city of Buffalo both have committed residents willing to stay the course. And like the city itself, the results in Johnson Park are showing. This is due in great part to the commitment of the Johnson Park Association and the Cary Street Association, both of whom lead the way in ensuring that both Johnson Park and the West Village Historic District will remain as an integral, thriving neighborhood in Buffalo for a long time to come.
Hutchinson Technical Institute which borders Johnson Park on South Elmwood Avenue
I get a feeling in this park. It’s a nostalgic feeling of days gone by. At the same time I feel a sense of future here, like the residents have a clear vision of what they hope for the neighborhood. It makes me want to stay. Live here. Experience city living at its absolute best. That, is Johnson Park.
Go see it, you will be enchanted!
I hope you enjoyed my series about Buffalo’s Residential Parks.
Several years ago now, I heard a story about a particular house in Arlington Park. The person telling it spoke about the architectural detail, the unique building process and the care that has been taken to keep the structure original. I had no idea where Arlington Park was. Of course I asked a few questions and the next chance I had, I took off to explore. Here’s a photo of that house. To my eye, it’s enchanting. And it sparked a real interest in residential parks.
In the beginning (1856), Arlington Park was designed and laid out as a private park on the estate of James Wadsworth. The estate was accessed from North Street and extended to Allen, bordering on Wadsworth Street. Private parks were quite common among the rich in Buffalo at the time. For us, that’s hard to imagine today, even among the rich.
Wadsworth was wealthy to be sure. He was from Durham, Connecticut, and was a Yale graduate who settled in Buffalo in 1845, to open a law practice. By 1850 he was chosen as the city’s attorney, and by 1851 he was elected Mayor of Buffalo. He served one term, which was one year at the time. He was then named president of Buffalo, Brantford and Goderich Railroad after his mayoral term ended, and also served as a New York State Senator from 1856-58.
Basically, you could say he was successful enough to have a private park on his estate. Wadsworth left Buffalo for New York City in 1859.
The city grew up around the park and through pedestrian use, the park was eventually ruled to be part of public domain in 1884.
Frederick Law Olmsted lived on Arlington Park while he was working in Buffalo designing our Park System. He actually designed the green space in the park, going off of his own notion of what a common city space should be. After experiencing the park, I have to agree with that notion. It is everything a residential park should be! Trees, shrubs, flowers, meandering walkways, pretty light posts. Enough space to throw a frisbee around or have a picnic, but not enough space for a baseball diamond. You get the idea.
Arlington Park is in Allentown just one block off of the busiest end of Allen Street. It’s a small 300’ x 100’ plot of land. But standing in the center of the park, you would never believe the shenanigans that go on one block over. The park is such a haven. It’s quiet (it really is!), it’s picturesque, and the homes. They are nothing short of spectacular!
The story goes that because Olmsted lived here, architects were attracted to building here, and they all tried to outdo each other. Whether it’s true or not, we’ll never know. But you have to admit, it must have been a rare opportunity to be able to build on a park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the greatest landscape architect our country has ever seen. What we do know for sure is, the homes that were built here make living on Arlington Park quite a charming prospect.
They are all different styles and sizes. Some are apartments, some are single family homes. They are all well maintained. They are very close together. Some people think this lends itself to the sense of community here. My husband and I have always joked that the reason we have great parties is because our house is small and people are forced to mingle. There’s something to be said for that.
Same thing applies to this type of city living. There is a sense of community when you know your neighbors. Some neighborhoods have it. Arlington Park definitely does. I’ve wandered through many times, and each time, I get into friendly little conversations with residents and visitors alike. This is truly what a community should be.
There also appears to be an active block club in Arlington Park who keeps the residents in touch, the park in good shape, the flowers planted etc. The overall effect of all of it is serene, appealing and friendly.
If you think about it, Arlington Park is actually a microcosm of what Buffalo truly is. A warm, welcoming, friendly place to live.
As I mentioned in part one of this series, residential parks are a great place to do a bit of urban exploration. Arlington Park is no exception. Take some time this spring and summer to get out and experience it and the surrounding neighborhood. Fair warning, you may find yourself getting into some great conversations with the locals. Enjoy it!
Missed the first of three posts about our residential parks? Read about Day’s Park here.
Look for my third and final post about Buffalo’s residential parks next week. It’s going to be a good one!
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