Dorchester Road has been one of my favorites from the first time I noticed it. And I’ve been wanting to write about it since I first started blogging, actually. Last weekend, I went on a tour with Preservation Buffalo Niagara that highlighted some of E.B. Green’s work in Buffalo. All I could think during the entire tour was that it was time to write about Dorchester. So here we are.
I first became aware of this street about a dozen years ago. I’d seen it before from Bidwell Parkway, but had never had a reason to walk down it. One day I was in no particular hurry, and so I ventured in off Bidwell. Let me tell you what a sweet spot this street is. It’s one of my favorites in the entire city. It’s got everything! For a lack of a better way of saying it, Dorchester has a feeling of exclusivity while at the same time being extremely neighborly. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true.
I mean, the homes are spectacular and stunning, and yet everyone you meet is willing to chat about whatever comes up. And, it’s right next door to the intersection of Elmwood and Bidwell, which is one of Buffalo’s most walkable neighborhoods. Dorchester is quiet serenity, in walking distance to everything you need.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are six, yes six, E.B. Green homes on this street! If you’re a regular reader, you know about my admiration for E.B.! My history nerd personality knows no bounds, and I don’t care! Ha!
Let’s Talk About EB Green for a Sec
Edward Brodhead Green was born in 1855 in Utica, NY. He studied architecture at Cornell University and was the eighth person to receive a degree from that school in the study of architecture. Before that time, architecture was viewed as more of a trade than a profession, and architects were trained by other working architects in the field.
In 1881, he and William Sydney Wicks made their offices in Buffalo. It was the perfect place for an architect to live at the time. Buffalo was growing like mad, people had money, and they were building. Buffalo kept the pair busy until Wicks retired in 1917.
Green continued on working with his sons, who were both architects, and with other architects, until his death in 1950. In his career, he designed over 370 buildings, and two-thirds of them were in Buffalo! That’s a lot of buildings!
Green moved in high social circles in Buffalo. His closest friend became John J. Albright, largely through all the work Green did for Albright on various buildings and homes. There’s a story that was told by Albright’s grandson, that when the Albright mansion on West Ferry burned to the ground, Albright came across E.B. on the grounds during the fire. He greeted Green by saying something like, “Well, Green, have you brought plans for the new house?”
Green was, and still is, Buffalo’s most prolific architect. Partially because he lived to be 95 years old. But partially because of his passion for design, and his willingness to create the designs his clients wanted.
There are six E.B. Green designs on Dorchester.
So Let’s See Dorchester
I’m beginning at the northwest corner of Richmond and I’ll move west. This is the home I was in front of when I took out my camera to start snapping photos. I actually thought it was on Richmond (as the number 734 shows), but the city and the county both have it listed at 75 Dorchester. Who knew? And also, talk about porch envy! This home is fantastic, and a great start to my hike!
Coming around the corner and heading west towards Baynes, these are the homes I saw. This first one is lovely. Interesting how the front entry is enclosed in glass, right on the porch. I wonder if it’s original? The wrought iron railings make me wonder if they are original, or if the wooden balustrade is? It’s all very well done, and the porch is very inviting.
These yellow shutters appear to be original, and are real, working shutters. Nice!
This one, below, is the same color of the house I grew up in, and it gives me a good feeling. I especially like the brackets under the eaves on both the house and the dormers. With the morning sun shining in the sunroom, I picture myself sipping tea and reading in the mornings here. Love it.
This home below is the quintessential city home. The shingling on the peak, the palladian window, and the dentil molding. And the porch, with its brick columns, and this one also has windows on the weather side. Nice! Love the little lending library too!
The mix of styles on this house, below, works really well. Note the tie rod and anchor securing the chimney. There are several on the block, and this one is lovely. When I see shades on either end of porches like this, I know the people who live here actually use the porch. With the shades, they can relax here during more than just sunny, warm weather. Or maybe they’re trying for privacy from their neighbors, who knows? Haha!
Spectacular – each in its own way.
The First E.B. Green Home
As I approached the first E.B. Green home of the day, I immediately notice the tile roof, the brick lintels above the windows and the brick quoins at the corners of the house. Also, the obviously original wrought iron balustrade. Beautiful. This house was built in 1914 for Edmund Thomas.
Then I see two people working on the gardens out front. Lucky me! It’s here that I meet the owner, Megan (pronounced Meegan) and her friend Skip. Skip kept busy with the garden, but Megan was more than willing to chat.
She bought this home just over two years ago, after moving from Soldier’s Place, where she raised her four children.
Megan has done a lot of work to the home in those two short years and she showed me some of it. Let’s go out back.
Megan did extensive work in the sun room overlooking the patio. The windows are original. She added the patio on to the back of the house. Absolutely stunning! The craftsmanship here is beyond comparison. I looked pretty closely (like my father taught me!), and I couldn’t find one thing out of place. Everything is correctly scaled, all angles meet perfectly, it’s trimmed with copper, and it matches the style of the house. It even has a tile roof to match the house. In short, it’s perfect.
Megan is not done yet! She has plans to convert the two car garage into an entertainment space. It’s all original, brick, and has tons of potential! Megan is also looking for someone to work on the stucco on the house… Anyone?
I take a last look at this beauty before reluctantly moving on. Thank you Megan!
These next several are so pretty!
And this, below,…wow! The sun hit it just right as I was walking by. Beautiful!
These next door neighbors are very similar, but executed somewhat differently. Both are great homes!
Moving Right Along
As I move east towards Richmond and then Claremont, I notice this peaceful feeling has come over me. This street is an oasis. I hear only the sounds of summer. The crickets and birds singing. Gonna have to watch for one of these gems to go up for sale. Would love to live here.
After crossing Richmond, I came upon this stunner. And it’s where I met Faye, her two children and her Mother. Faye has been here six years and loves it. I’m happy to see a young family living on this street. For some reason, I’m always happy to see families filling these beautiful homes. I think it’s what they were built for. And Faye, love your gardens and yard. Just beautiful.
This is where I met Bonnie. She and her family are just moving in. They’ve moved here from a home they still own over on (I think) Ardmore. She tells me they love the area and wanted to stick close, but they needed more room. Great choice in this home, below, Bonnie. As she pointed out to me, the porch adds something extra to the Colonial look of the home. I agree. Love all the detailing here too.
This house was once home to Mr. & Mrs. Judson Rumsey. Big name in Buffalo. Their daughter, Dallas Eugenia Rumsey, was a graduate of Buffalo Seminary and Radcliffe College. She worked as the curator of the Keats Collection in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Nice!
Dallas married Richard Finn, a graduate of Nichols School and (you guessed it) Harvard University. He served as an officer in the Navy during World War II, and eventually was named to a post as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer (diplomat) to Japan. That must have been an interesting job in 1947!
Bonnie’s kids, and some others from across the street, have made an obstacle course on the road. I love this! (Although Bonnie didn’t look old enough to have kids who could do anything but scribble!)
A Few Others
This next house, below, used to be the home of Leo W. Stall, a long-time Buffalo pharmacist, who had his shop at the corner of Grant Street at Bird Ave. He was written up in the Buffalo Evening News in May of 1956 for celebrating 55 years as a pharmacist, and 44 years in the same location. He spoke to the News about the changes that had taken place since he became a pharmacist, the biggest of which was antibiotics. But right behind that was the use of many other medicines instead of the traditional herbs and tinctures that were popular when he received his pharmacy degree from the University of Buffalo School of Pharmacy in 1901. Stall stated that the new medicines were “a hundred times more effective”.
The things he must have witnessed in his time as a pharmacist in Buffalo at that time! And he lived in this beautiful home on Dorchester Road.
I received an email from Leo Stall’s granddaughter, Suzanne, who sent me this photo, below, of the Stall family. It is from roughly 1929. It seems the family were very hospitable! Suzanne still has the lamps and and the painting behind the family! Thank you for sharing this with us, Suzanne!
Let’s Finish Up with the Other E.B. Green Homes
I was so thrilled to see these homes (I knew they were here, but never really sought them out until recently). Here they are, in no particular order.
This is the Fred Dullard House, built in 1910. I admit, I’d love to see this one, below, with some of the plant life removed. Or trimmed way back. I see what I think are Tudor influences, some quoining, some brackets, but it’s tough to say. I cannot even see the entry. Wish we could see it better. Maybe someday.
C.E. Mickler House
This one, below, is lovely, and also has some Tudor influences. It was built in 1909 for C.E. Mickler.
I love the way the entryway is set back. It’s gorgeous. This home is meticulously maintained, but in my opinion, a little boring. Not what I expected from the great E.B. Green! But we have to remember, that was part of his genius. He did what the customer asked of him. Sometimes he was allowed to run free with his designs, sometimes not so much.
H.S. Griffin House
This next one was built in 1907 for H.S. Griffin and if you are a fan of ivy, then this one’s for you. I, however, am not a big fan. Let me see your house! That’s how I feel. I’ve heard people say that the ivy ruins your foundation, some say it doesn’t. I’ve done a little reading on the subject and the consensus is that it depends on the quality of the home and what kind of condition it’s in. In other words, the definitive answer is maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Haha. Sorry. The jury is still out on that subject.
No one could argue that in this case, it would be easier to see the home without the ivy. I think it’s a lovely house and if you’d like to see more of it, check out this listing.
H.C. Gerber House
The next one, below, is my favorite E.B. Green home on the street. It was built for H.C. Gerber in 1908.
It reminds me a little bit of one of Green’s homes on Summit Ave, but I like this one better. In fact, there’s nothing that I don’t like about this home. I love the colors chosen, and the use of each one. The Roman bricks, and the Flemish bonding used are fantastic. I love that the shutters are real, and that the cut-outs are diamonds, not the usual hearts. The wide dormer is great, and the dark entryway is drawing me in. I’d love to see the inside of this one!
William H. Scott House
This home is spectacular. It was built in 1903, for William Scott. And it’s larger than it appears in the first photo. You see, it’s a sort of flat iron shape, like the Dun Building (oh, also a Green design!). This highly decorative Tudor makes me think of an English garden. The setting is perfect just going into the curve as the street makes its way over to Bidwell. Green had a way of setting buildings just so, on the lots they were to rest, and this is no exception.
I especially love the overhang at the front door, and the decorative detailing above the windows. The windows on the front appear to be original. Love this home!
Below is a photo of the William H. Scott house taken in 1915, when Frederick W. Allan lived in the home. This photo was brought to my attention by reader Bill Blake. Isn’t it fantastic!? Thanks so much Bill!
When I walk over to Dorchester from Bidwell Parkway, I feel like I’m walking into a park. This street has a feeling. A good one. From one end of the street to the other. The center medians filled with plantings and flowers help. But the median is not huge. And I think that keeps the feel cozy and intimate. The neighbors aren’t so far apart that they don’t see each other regularly. I like that.
Here’s an odd observation I made while walking Dorchester. All of the street numbers were new and modern looking. Okay, not all of them. But I would say a good 60% of them are new. Especially between Richmond and Baynes. Just a weird thing I noticed, but I’ll tell you, it made me think that the people on this street are on top of things. If they care enough to replace their old, worn out house numbers, the insides of these homes must be fantastic. It’s all in the details. Just sayin.
I was so happy to finally write about all of these E.B. Green homes on Dorchester. Without men like E.B. Green, Buffalo would not be dripping with incredible architecture like we are. There are others, but Green was one of the best, and certainly the most prolific.
Take a walk on Dorchester Road soon. You’ll forget your troubles for a short while. Everything will melt away and you’ll get that ‘serenity now’ feeling.
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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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The Dun Building. It’s one that I’ve been admiring for a long, long time. There’s just something about it. For roughly 15 years, I drove toward it on Swan Street on my way to work. It’s my favorite view of it. I walked by it daily as well. And still when I see it, I get a feeling that I don’t quite know how to describe.
The Dun Building was designed by none other than E.B. Green and William Wicks for the Union Central Life Insurance Company, who placed a contingency on the plan stating that they’d build it if enough Buffalonians bought policies with their company. Buffalonians didn’t, and the plans were acquired and set into motion by R.G. Dun & Company.
R.G. Dun & Company was founded in 1841 as a credit check service. In those days a small business owner would see his local banker to secure funds for simple loans. These transactions were often completed between virtual strangers, judgments were made in just a few minutes, and the lender frequently lost on the deal due to lack of information about the borrower.
R.G. Dun hired what they called ‘reporters’ to look into the character and record of the borrowers, therefore helping to secure repayment of such loans. Dun had upwards of one hundred thousand reporters in 1900, offices in most large American cities and indeed many cities worldwide. The Buffalo office was one of its most active. And it’s not hard to see why. At the time, Buffalo was still growing by leaps and bounds and business was booming. The need for capital would have been great, going hand in hand with the need for credit checks.
R.G. Dun & Company later became Dun & Bradstreet, which still operates globally today.
When construction began, the Dun Building was to be the tallest building in the city, in keeping with the building trends of the late 19th century, a time when cities were becoming more and more crowded. Up seemed to be the only way to go. There are a couple of other interesting things about the building that you wouldn’t notice at first glance. There’s a restaurant space in the basement which has independent entrances, along with approaches from inside the building. Also, the utilities of the building are located under the sidewalk along Swan Street.
When it was completed the Dun Building was indeed the tallest building in the city. But only for a very short time as the Guaranty Building at 13 stories was completed shortly thereafter.
Let’s take a minute to compare these two buildings.
The Dun Building was completed in 1895. It is Neoclassical in style, but it has both Greek and Roman influences, as evidenced by the giant arched windows and the highly decorative round windows. It is an odd shape as well, referred to as a flatiron.
At 10 stories, its is considered Buffalo’s first high-rise building. But its not considered a skyscraper in the true sense of the word.
And here’s why.
In the late 1800’s architects were struggling to learn how to design buildings that were taller, but the weight of traditional wood frame construction was too heavy to go more than 4 or 5 stories. Major cities had also experienced tragic fires among these wooden structures, with great loss of lives. The job fell to architects to solve these problems.
By 1890 most architects knew that steel frame construction was the wave of the future, but were unsure how to use it, and didn’t quite trust its strength. These architects were pioneers of a sort, testing the newest technology on the newest type of building to date.
When Green & Wicks set out to build the Dun Building, they started with a steel frame design with load bearing masonry walls ensuring the strength the tall, oddly shaped building needed. They built it in three distinct ‘layers’ if you will. Some refer to it as a ‘stacked’ design, or a ‘wedding cake’ design. The first two floors were built first, the third through seventh floors followed, and the three uppermost floors came last. The Dun Building is also a very narrow building, and these extra precautions may have been undertaken to withstand the high winds coming off Lake Erie as well. None of this is in keeping with what we have come to associate with traditional skyscraper design.
By contrast, the Guaranty Building, completed in 1896 by architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, is everything a true skyscraper has become. Tall, drawing the eye skyward with no breaks to interrupt the movement of your eye straight through to the sky. Everything about this building is vertical. It is a total steel frame construction, built with twice the necessary piers in order to emphasize the verticality of the building.
Almost all skyscrapers to this day follow pretty much the same rules of architecture that were employed in the Guaranty Building. The base, which normally consist of the first floor or two, and hold somewhat public spaces. Retail, conference rooms and the like. The shaft, which holds the offices. And lastly, the capital, which is usually the top floor and cornice of the building itself.
Read more about the Guaranty Building in an earlier blog post here.
The Dun Building and the Guaranty Building are equally beautiful in completely different ways, but it’s the Dun Building that holds my attention longer. Not because I think it’s architecturally superior, because I don’t think it is. There’s just something about it.
The Dun Building was purchased in 2013 by 110 Pearl LLC, an affiliate of Priam Enterprises. It remains a thriving office building, with Sato Brewery (which should be on everyone’s list of things to do) in the basement. And to this writer, the building adds an interesting figure in our city’s skyline. There’s that feeling again.
Now this is going to sound strange, but hear me out. The feeling I get when I see it is that it’s almost like the Dun Building represents Buffalo itself. Both were built during a time of huge growth, both were beautifully designed, and both were built to withstand the test of time. And both have. Each in their own way. And I get all this while merely walking by. There’s just something about this building.
See it for yourself at the southwest corner of Pearl and Swan Streets, standing tall and strong against the elements.
The Dun Building is a City of Buffalo Landmark and is located within the Joseph Ellicott Historic District. Thank you for taking the time to read about it!