City Living – Orton Place + St. Johns Place
On a bike ride several weeks ago, a friend mentioned to me that the area around Orton Place was used as a place for traveling circuses! It’s such a densely populated area that I couldn’t believe it.
Of course, you know I went home that day and immediately looked it up to find out more. And he was right! This area of what is now Allentown was used when the circus came to town! As a matter of fact, shortly before the area was sectioned off and developed, PT Barnum brought Jumbo the elephant here from London. This was in the mid-1880s. Wow! Who would’ve guessed?
I decided to take a closer look and I decided to include St. Johns Place too because, well, there’s something about this street that I really like. Giant old city homes, many of which are the Queen Anne or the Shingle Style, each one with a story to tell.
Let’s Start There
At this first one, on the south side of St. Johns Place is this amazing Shingle Style home. I really wish I’d run into the owners here because I’ve admired the colors of this home for a long time, and I wanted the chance to tell them. It’s so Allentown, isn’t it? Most people pick two, maybe three colors when they paint their homes. These people chose four colors, and each one is spot on. And the paint job itself is unique. Just look at that chimney too. Love the whole house.
Next are a set of twins. And these are fantastic. I’ve never actually seen twins that are this ornate. They’re essentially the same, but with different paint jobs, windows, and finishes. But the same. Look at the upper balcony on the driveway side of the one home (they both have it, but it can only be seen in the one photo). Spectacular. And the pebbled dash on the triangular parts of the peaks. That’s also the same on both homes.
Next, I come to this. You see why I love this street so much? The triple windows in the peak, and the details around them are fantastic, and very unique. The second floor window is also one that makes this Victorian Era home a standout on the block.
In 1900, this home was listed by Gurney & Overturf for sale for $7,200. The ad stated that the property was worth $13,000, and that it was a bargain at that price. In 1900, the median family income in the United States was roughly $450 a year. So you had to be doing pretty well to live on this block. And it shows.
And this, below. Look at the bay window near the peak. Very unusual. I’ve only seen this a handful of times, and these are original. The home itself could use a little attention, but with a clean-up and the right paint, it could be beautiful!
Moving Right Along
This home, below, was built in 1887 for Howard and Jennie D. Bryant. Howard was a writer for the Buffalo Evening News. By 1900, it appears that Howard had passed away, but Jennie still lived in the home with William McNiven, Jennie’s daughter with Howard, Jeannette, and William’s daughter, Agnes.
The home was the victim of arson in or around 2002, but has since been brought back to, and possibly even better than, it’s original state. It is now a two family home, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This home is stunning.
These three are all similar Queen Anne style homes. On this street especially, I’m noticing how the use of color makes a big difference to a home.
And with that, I’m at the corner of Orton at this Stick Style home. This home reminds me of the Humphrey House in North Tonawanda, but it might be just the colors. But, what a Victorian beauty this home is! The corner lot is perfect for this home too. Really shows it off nicely!
I can’t help but think about what a bit of paint could do here. This home could be magnificent.
As I round the corner, I immediately see this home. I’ve always wondered about it. It’s so different from all the others. Alas, no one was around at this home either. There’s a twin to the lion on the other side of the driveway. Love them.
It’s here (on the corner of Hudson) that I ran into Beth. She was doing some yard work for a neighbor. We chatted for a few minutes, and she directed me to a home a few houses away on Hudson to see the amazing gardens. It’s next door to her own home, and her own lovely gardens. Beth’s is the green one, below. I love it that she was modest about her own gorgeous gardens. Might have to head over to Hudson sometime soon…Beth, thanks for the heads up, and for being willing to chat about the neighborhood!
Back to Orton Place
This is where we start to get into some real beauties (as if we haven’t already!). Love the pop of orange on this front door!
This one, below, was owned by one of the developers of Orton Place, Tellico Johnson, who was related to some of Buffalo’s earliest residents. It’s an absolutely lovely home. I could see myself having tea on the upper balcony in the mornings…
Again, note how paint and paint colors really affect the way you see a home.
Mike & Calvin
It’s at this next home that I met Mike and Calvin. That’s Mike on the porch. Calvin was camera shy. Not to be confused with regular shy, because he definitely wasn’t that. I took up entirely too much of their time, but I thoroughly enjoyed their company.
Mike owns the home, and Calvin is an old friend who was visiting. Mike told me of how he first moved into the Allentown area over in Day’s Park. He ‘s been in this home on Orton Place about 20 years or so and has witnessed first hand the changes the neighborhood has gone through. All of Allentown really. It could be pretty rough here back in the 70s and 80s. He’s happy here though, and that’s good to see.
Very friendly guys. Mike, your home is wonderful. Thank you both for taking the time to talk to me. It was very Buffalo of you!
Moving Right Along
Next door to Mike is this amazing home. It was built in 1885 for Dr. Thomas H. Callahan. In 1890 it was featured in “Scientific American Architects and Builders Edition”. One of only four homes in Buffalo to receive that distinction.
Below is a photo of how the home appeared in 1890. Stunning. Note the finial at the top of the bell shaped roof of the turret. Also, the trim at the front of the porch which forms an oval, and at the sides, arches. Love that.
And here is the home today. Once again, paint makes all the difference. It completely changes the look of the house! Back in the 1890s, perhaps this was a more staid neighborhood. The bold color choices here fit right in with the Allentown of today. Note the original balustrade on the second floor porch. Unusual and lovely. We’ve lost the oval and the arches. Wouldn’t it be great to see those brought back?
And this one, below. This home was built in 1887 for Sydney Lake, who was the leader of the Plymouth Methodist Church (now The Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Porter Ave). A few things to note here. The curved gable window and the sunburst trim surrounding it and the other window in the rear gable. Also there is colored glass in the windows on the second and third floors. Love the art in the garden, and also the stained glass ‘additions’ to the second floor windows. Wish the owners would have been around when I went by, would love to know more about those. It’s a beautiful home!
These next few are among the best kept on the street. All have their own beautiful details to marvel at.
Let’s Hop Over to Pennsylvania Street for a Second
At this point I’m going to veer off the title streets again and include a couple of things I want to tell you about. The first, is this building, below. I’ve had actual daydreams about this place. Right across from Kleinhans Music Hall. Perfect location for a funky little jazz club that serves delicious homemade pub food, and has all the best music. Before and after concerts at Kleinhans, of course. And that upper patio for outdoor seating! Or how about a good old fashioned honky-tonk piano bar? (Mike and Calvin, there’s a good use of that word! Haha! ) Or a breakfast and lunch place for the neighborhood?
Dear owners, could you please sell it to me for zero dollars, so that I may make one of these daydreams come true? Seriously though, I love old buildings like this one. I wonder what it was to begin with, who spent time here, and what were they like? It’s Bellini’s Bistro right now and their menu looks fantastic. Think I’m going out to dinner soon…
And this house is kitty corner from the bistro. So beautiful! Oh, and note the arches in the porch…lovely.
Back to St. Johns Place
Now let’s head back to St. Johns Place to check out the north side of the street.
I’d love to see this one, below, get just a little attention. It’s got such great bones! The five ribbon (?) windows in the peak, the arched window on the second floor, and the details between the other two windows on the second floor, and the shingles! This home is amazing!
There’s some work being done here, and I can tell, it’s going to be fabulous when it’s finished. Looking forward to seeing those upper windows at completion! Love the little patio on the second floor too. Looks like an original window to the right of that. I think that because of the way the window opens out from the bottom. And the new paint job is showing off the dentil molding. Wow!
Next is this beauty. My favorite parts? Those upper windows, the simplicity of the porch. And the entryway. It’s very welcoming. Complete with rocker to come in and sit a spell.
All I can say about this one, below, is wow! Just perfect in every way! The paint colors are spot on, and the execution is flawless. Doesn’t get much better than this!
Grassroots Garden WNY
This is where we come to a sweet little community garden. Love this! And right next door I met Jenny, who is one of the volunteers at this garden. What a little oasis this is! And fruitful too! Without even trying, I saw beets, greens, lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, and a bunch of other things! Sweet!
Below is Jenny in front of her own home. She was picking red currants from the bush in front of her house. Apparently, this is the largest yield she’s ever gotten from this bush. She eats them with her oatmeal in the morning, and also will make jam this summer too! Nice!
Jenny and I chatted about the neighborhood. She loves it here, I think she said she’s been here eighteen years (?). You don’t stay that long unless you like it! Love your house, Jenny. Especially the paint colors and that upper window; so many panes! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Appreciate it.
Buffalo Harmony House
And now we reach the last home on the street. And what an interesting home it is! It was designed by H.H. Little, who I first discussed on the blog over on Norwood Ave. It was built for Dr. and Mrs. Hubbard A. Foster and they moved in sometime in 1887. They lived there with their daughter Florence. Eventually Florence married and had a son, they lived in the home as well.
After the Fosters moved out, the Boocock family moved in. William Boocock was a clergyman with First Presbyterian Church. By 1930, the house was owned by Sarah Doxey, and was a two family home.
What is it Now?
It became a boarding house shortly after that, went through several owners, and was left empty for several years. Holly Holdaway bought the home, and along with Daniel Culross, lovingly restored it into the Buffalo Harmony House Historic Bed & Breakfast.
I first met Holly in 2018 when they were just opening up the B & B. She gave me a tour of the home, and it is fantastic! I took tons of photos, which I, of course, lost. (This was before my blogging days so it was before I was forced to be a little more organized about my photos.) Anyway, I spoke to Holly again the other day when she confirmed the B & B has made it through the pandemic and as a matter of fact, they will be expanding this fall. They’ll be opening a lounge with a full bar in the basement level of the home. Look for signage to come!
The stained glass transom window just inside the home inspired the theme of the B&B, and the names of the guest rooms. The Bluejay Billet, Cardinal Canton, Hummingbird Haven, Sparrow Suite, and Robin Room. Sweet. And I believe the floors have been redone since I was there, and they look fantastic.
Listen, I don’t often do this, but Holly and Dan have put their hearts and souls into this place. So have other owners of B & Bs in the area. If you’ve got friends or family coming to town, why not suggest they stay at one of our locally owned B & Bs? This one’s fantastic!
Wow! All of this from a bike ride and a friend telling me about this area being used for traveling circuses before the homes were built! These two streets are seemingly sleepy little streets. But there’s a lot of history here, and there’s a lot going on now. Symphony Circle and Kleinhans Music Hall is just around the bend, and in the other direction, but just as close is the hustle and bustle of Allen Street! There, you’ll find bars, restaurants, shops and galleries galore.
And just like every neighborhood I visit, there are amazing homes. And people. It’s always about the people in the end. I met several on these two streets. Jenny, Beth, Calvin, Mike and Holly (again). It was really nice meeting you all, and I hope to see each of you again soon.
Historic Allentown has always been, and always will be, one of Buffalo’s most popular areas. To live, to eat, to see a play, to visit a gallery, to party. And Orton Place and St. Johns Place are among the best streets in the neighborhood. Take a walk. Go see them. You’ll love what you see.
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