City Living – Summit Ave.
A few months ago, my sister-in-law, Brenda, mentioned that her Mother (Sandy) grew up on Summit Ave in Parkside. Now, I’ve known Sandy ever since I’ve known Brenda, which is going on 37 years now. (Wow!) Sadly, we lost Sandy (we all called her Grandma Sandy) back in 2017. And somehow, I never knew she grew up just up the street from one of Buffalo’s most famous homes.
A few weeks ago now, I found myself on a bike ride through the Parkside Neighborhood. As I turned off of Amherst and on to Summit Ave, I was awestruck once again by the homes on this gorgeous street. I decided it was time to write about Grandma Sandy’s street.
Wait till you see what I learned here. You’ll be amazed.
A Quick History of the Parkside Neighborhood
The history of the Parkside Neighborhood is long and very interesting, dating back to the early 1800s. Buffalo’s first postmaster was Erastus Granger. He built his house on Main Street near West Delevan. Granger’s property extended north almost to West Oakwood Place off of Parkside, and west to just about where Elmwood Ave is today.
Dr. Daniel Chapin owned north of Granger’s land just about all the way to UB on Main Street, and also west to Elmwood. Many homeowners in this neighborhood will find one or both of these names on their deeds.
In 1876, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the existing neighborhood as a buffer between Delaware Park and the rest of the city. The homes were added slowly through roughly 1910. As you would expect from Olmsted, the streets resemble a ‘park outside the park’, if you will. Gently curving streets that don’t lead too far therefore discouraging too much traffic. Beautiful homes in a beautiful setting.
I should mention that the Parkside Community Association was created in 1963 to combat blockbusting and redlining that was taking place all over the country at the time. I’m happy to say that the community pulled together and was pretty successful in this endeavor. Today, the area is a diverse and stable neighborhood anyone would be proud to call home.
Let’s Take a Look
So, today I’m going to cover the stretch of Summit between Amherst Street and West Oakwood Place, with a couple of other homes of interest thrown in for good measure. I’ll take a closer look at two local architects. They’re not as famous as Frank Lloyd Wright, who I’ll talk about too, but they’re what I call ‘Buffalo famous’. And if you read my blog with any kind of regularity, you’ve heard me refer to them many times over. Of course, I’m talking about Green & Wicks. Edward Brodhead (E.B.) Green and William Sydney Wicks.
But, let’s start with all the other homes. I should mention that I won’t be able to put every single home in this post. There are so many on this street. But it is a spectacular street. What a place to live!
Look at this fabulousness, below. Love the wood on the ceiling of the porch, the pilasters that match the columns, and that entryway! It’s been maintained perfectly. This house has got it going on!
These two, below, are right next door to each other, and are essentially the same house with subtle differences. Pretty.
Check out the bold red trim on this home, below. The paint job is perfect. And you know what else is perfect? The symmetry. You know how I love a home to be symmetrical. This one is. The dormers are interesting too, kind of low slung and wide. Beautiful home.
Grandma Sandy’s Home
This is the home Grandma Sandy grew up in, at least for part of her childhood. It’s a double, and Sandy’s mother owned it. There are a couple of stories associated with this house.
The first is that there was a fire here in 1947, in Grandma Sandy’s flat. Only her mother was home in their apartment, and two people in the other. No one was hurt, and the family’s two cocker spaniels survived. But unfortunately, the family canary did not survive. Aww.
The second is that two of the occupants of the home in 1945, PFC James Clare, 21, and his brother-in-law Sgt. Raymond Hens, 27, were both injured in World War II, during the same period. Clare in Germany and Hens in Belgium. James Clare lived in this home with his mother. Hens, who was related to the family who owned Hens & Kelly, (more about that later) lived here with his wife and two sons. It is unclear whether they all lived in one flat (I could picture that happening in a wartime situation), or if they had separate flats. It appears that both men came home safely from Europe.
If you’re familiar with the area, you know I’m getting close to the Darwin Martin House on the corner of Summit and Jewett. I often wonder what it would be like to live across the street from that property. Here are some of the homes across the street. All of them remarkable in their own right. I think it’d be pretty wonderful to live in any one of these homes!
Moving Right Along
Crossing over Jewett, and these homes are just as nice as all the others! Aren’t they wonderful?!
It’s here that I met the most amazing, friendly couple, Jane and Frank. We got to talking and they told me they’ve lived in their home for 56 years! Tim and I have been in our home 28 years and I thought that was long! Anyway, Jane and Frank are big proponents of the Parkside neighborhood and seem to know everyone who lives on Summit now, as well as everyone who used to live here too!
What a great conversation we had! They filled me in on the neighborhood (which is apparently full of professors from Buffalo’s various colleges) and they told me about their children and grandchildren as well.
Frank mentioned that he wishes he had gotten the front steps finished before I came by to take photos. I think Frank said this was the third time in 56 years he was re-doing them! As with all homes, theirs is always in need of care. I love that at 83, he’s redoing the steps again, himself.
Jane and Frank live in the upstairs flat of this house, which they bought as a starter home. Friends and family thought they were a little crazy to live upstairs and rent out the lower level. Most people do the opposite. Jane said she liked the upstairs and so that’s where they lived. Frank thinks it’s one of the reasons they’re both so spry – going up and down the stairs. That and great jazz music. I agree.
Obviously, they never bought another house. When you love the neighborhood and your neighbors as much as these two do, why would you go anywhere else?
Take a look at this house. Jane and Frank tell me this is where the Hens family lived, owners of half of the Hens & Kelly stores. What a great upper porch! Actually, the main porch is spectacular!
Green & Wicks
It’s here that I’d like to talk about the men behind the architectural firm of Green & Wicks. You’ve heard me refer to them as the most prolific architects in the city back in the day. And it’s true. Both of them are represented on Summit Ave and Jewett Parkway. But it’s really E.B. Green that was so prolific. Let me explain.
So Green & Wicks entered a partnership together in 1881, in Auburn, NY. They both graduated from the Cornell School of Architecture. Cornell was one of the first schools to offer degrees in architecture. Previous to that time, it was considered more of a trade, with architects going through an apprenticeship.
But with degrees in their talented hands they came to Buffalo at a time of fantastic growth and change. Money was being made and those who were making it were not afraid to spend it. And they spent a lot of it on building. Homes, buildings, churches, etc.
Green & Wicks were kept very busy from 1881 until William Wicks retired in 1917. For 36 years they created many Buffalo icons, including the Market Arcade, Buffalo Savings Bank (Goldome), the Fidelity Trust Building (Swan Tower), and the Albright Art Gallery (Albright Knox). They also designed practically every other mansion on Delaware Avenue’s Millionaire’s Row. The Goodyear Mansion, the Foreman Cabana House and the Clement Mansion (American Red Cross). Just to name a few. And there are many, many more. These are all buildings and homes that are at least familiar to many Buffalonians.
After Wicks Retired
After William Wicks retired in 1917 (he passed away in 1919) E.B. Green worked with his son. After his son’s death Green worked with several other architects until his own death in 1950. The firm itself continued on under the name James, Meadows & Howard until 1971 when it was finally dissolved. It is generally accepted that some of Green’s greatest work was done while he was working with William Wicks.
E.B. Green was so popular in Buffalo that there’s a story that goes like this. When John J. Albright’s home on West Ferry Street burned to the ground, Albright encountered Green on the property, watching the fire. He immediately said to him, “Well, Green, have you brought the plans for the new home?”
E.B. Green worked up until his death, creating over 370 buildings in all, two-thirds of which are in Buffalo. Of those, roughly 160 remain, several of which I have written posts about (see the above links).
Green & Wicks on Summit Ave
Let’s get to some of their work on Summit.
There are five homes on Summit Ave that Green & Wicks designed, and one on Jewett. The one on Jewett Ave was the home of William Wicks.
Let’s start with the five on Summit. This first one is a Tudor influenced home, that I think used to be a brighter red, but I like this color better. It’s more like a brick red, and more in keeping with the style of the home.
And this, below. I love this one, and would live in it, right here on Summit. Thank you for this Green & Wicks. It’s perfect for me. I love everything about it. Not too big, not too small. Love the eaves, the porch. All of it.
This home actually reminds me that William Sydney Wicks published a book in 1899 about how to build and furnish cabins and cottages. It was quite popular and went through five printings. Wonder if this one is from the book. This house would be so great on a lake in the Adirondacks, wouldn’t it?
This Colonial Revival, below, is so pretty, set back a bit from the other homes on the street. It’s beauty is in its simplicity.
And then there’s this one. Again, I get that cottage-y feel. I can picture this in the woods, near a pond. It’s got a screened in porch for those warm summer nights. The huge eaves and brackets! And look at the railings, how they splay out over the wide staircase. How unusual! This house is fantastic!
And this. Again, here’s that cottage feel. Although the gingerbreading makes me thing of Austria or Bavaria. Love it.
The Home of William Sydney Wicks
Finally, let’s take a look at William Wicks’ home on Jewett Parkway, at the corner of Summit. I absolutely love this home. It features red Medina Sandstone on the lower half and the upper half is the exact same brick as used in the Darwin Martin House, which is directly across the street. It’s Roman brick, which are longer and narrower than most bricks you see everywhere else. The upper half also features half timbering which is purely decorative in this use. The roof and dormers are both slate.
This home is just lovely. And the landscaping fits in well.
Like I’ve said before in other blogs, I’m always interested to see what an architect would build for himself. Now, this home was built in 1890. The Darwin Martin house across the street was completed in 1905. I’ve often wondered what Wicks thought of the home going in across the street. Did he love it, and speak to Frank Lloyd Wright during the design and construction phases? Or did he not appreciate the new prairie design? Oh, to time travel and be able to see for myself!
Speaking of the Darwin Martin House
It seems to me that just about everyone reading this pretty much already knows about the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Darwin Martin House, and so I won’t go into any detail about it. If you’d like more in depth info, check out this link.
Here are a few of my own photos of this fabulous Buffalo treasure. Please note that some of these were taken in early spring 2020, and some were taken just a few days ago. I believe the historic gardens are now complete, and they are stunning.
I started out writing about this street for my sister-in-law Brenda, and the whole connection with her Mother, Sandy. And her childhood home is beautiful! I’ll also add, it’s one of the largest on the street!
But I ended up learning a lot about the area. I spent a good amount of time on the Parkside Association website learning about the history of the area. Check it out if you’re interested. There’s a lot of good information there.
I knew about the William Wicks house on Jewett, and I really have wondered what he thought of the Darwin Martin House. But I didn’t know there were other Green & Wicks houses on Summit. You learn something new every day. And I was glad to finally have a good reason to write a bit more about them and their incredible impact on Buffalo’s architectural scene.
As I’ve said many times before, I am not, nor do I pretend to be, well versed in the academics of architecture. But I know what I like, and I have a good feel for what people like E.B. Green and William Sydney Wicks have done for this town. It’s part of what makes Buffalo great!
To be a good, friendly neighbor is a big part of what makes Buffalo great too. Jane and Frank have an innate understanding of that. I knew it immediately when Jane started chatting with me from their upper porch. She didn’t have to talk to me. But years of experience have taught her that knowing your neighbors is key to what kind of experience a neighborhood will give you.
They talked to me about how they stayed here on Summit because they loved their home and their neighbors. I bet there are many people who stayed on Summit because of the two of you. Jane and Frank, you are absolutely lovely people. Thank you for spending time with me. I loved every second of it.
RIP Grandma Sandy. Loved ya to pieces.
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