The other day, I spent about three hours doing what I love best. Just walking around the city. You’d be surprised at how much ground you can cover in three hours. But this day, I spent almost the whole time concentrated in one area. Allentown – one of my first loves. And I walked slowly. I didn’t want to miss anything. Today I’m writing about Mariner Street, the stretch between North and Allen Streets. But first, let’s talk briefly about Allentown itself.
There’s so much history here in Allentown. I find myself thinking about Lewis Allen. (Josh Allen came later!) A lot of Buffalonians know Allentown is named for Lewis Allen. Some even know that he was Grover Cleveland’s uncle. But you may not know that Allen’s wife was the one who was related to Grover Cleveland. Isn’t it funny that we never hear about Margaret Allen in that context? I think it’s important enough to mention.
It is true though, that when Cleveland was passing through Buffalo on his way to Cleveland, Lewis Allen persuaded him of the merits of staying in Buffalo. Buffalo was, after all, a thriving, growing, important city at the time. Cleveland, of course, stayed, studied law, went into politics, and well, the rest is history.
What you also may not know, is that Lewis Allen came to Buffalo (with Margaret) in 1827, at a time where Buffalo was just beginning to experience the immense growth to come. Opportunity was everywhere.
A couple of years later, he purchased 29 acres of land that is now almost all of Allentown. You see, one of his endeavors was as a cattle rancher. It is said that his cattle trod a path from Main Street over to what is now Days Park. And that path has become our modern day Allen Street, a beacon in the city for shopping, dining and nightlife.
One more thing you also may not know is that Lewis Allen never actually lived in Allentown. He lived over on Niagara Street in a home previously occupied by Peter Porter. The home (estate, really) was between West Ferry and Breckinridge (see below) with a view of the river. Grover Cleveland lived here with his Aunt and Uncle for a short time when he first came to Buffalo.
Let’s Check Out Mariner Street
I was so taken with Mariner Street! The colors of the homes! Not to mention the ages of them. There are quite a few from the mid 1800s. The gardens! And later, when I did a little digging, the people who lived in them! Let’s see this street.
As I rounded the corner from North Street on to Mariner, I notice this Georgian Revival apartment building designed and built by E.B. Green in 1914. It is certainly something to look at. And it’s luxurious inside with features like marble entry halls and intricate plasterwork ceilings, not to mention servant’s quarters!
It’s fitting that when the movie Marshall was filmed in the E.B. Green designed (former) federal courthouse downtown, Thurgood Marshall’s apartment was filmed here, in one of these apartments designed by Green as well. This was, by the way, Green’s only foray into real estate speculation.
There’s another gorgeous apartment building, right next door, on a smaller scale, but no less beautiful! Love, love, love the entryway here! Great brickwork!
Music Lessons Anyone?
This next house is one I think most would love to call home. In 1894, a gentleman by the name of Mr. E. H. Ferguson was teaching guitar, banjo and mandolin out of this home, which he called the Buffalo School of Music. I’d love to see this street in 1894!
When, oh when, will time travel be a thing?
Take a look at these next homes.
Dr. Ruby Butler
This next home was the home of Dr. Ruby Butler. She graduated from the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri in 1914. Dr. Butler practiced for a short time in Jefferson, Ohio before opening a practice in this home, below. She stayed here until around 1950 when she moved to Springville to live with her sister, where she practiced on a limited basis until her retirement. Very progressive woman! And a lovely home!
It’s tough to see the tops of these houses for the trees! But just look at the entryway on the blue home, below. So charming!
A Sad Story
This was once the home of Staff Sgt. John W. Haney, below.
Sadly, in 1944, Haney was killed during maneuvers in a medium bomber during an electrical storm over Hartselle, Alabama. He was 33 and left a wife, Alice, both his parents, one sister and four brothers. Haney entered the service in 1942, studied as a mechanic at a bomber school in Baltimore and was stationed in Hunter Field, Georgia. What a sad, sad story. One heard all too often during wartime.
Right next door to Sgt. Haney’s home, I have three stories to tell you. One was from World War I, and one from World War II. One of the owners of this home, Cornelius A. Wild passed away in 1948 at the age of 75. He worked on the great lakes as a marine engineer until World War I, when he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. After the war Wild worked as chief engineer at Sheas Great Lakes, Lafayette Theater, as well as Majestic Theater. He was also chief engineer on site when our great City Hall was being built. Cool!
Just three years earlier, Wild’s son, Cornelius D. Wild, returned home in 1945 from a German prison camp. He was injured a year earlier and spent time in a military hospital in France, before being taken to the camp. The young Wild graduated from Canisius College and worked at General Motors before enlisting in 1942. The photo below is from the Buffalo Evening News, May 25, 1945
Okay, so I have one more story about this house. This warrants another photo to clear our minds of war, before moving on to bookmaking.
That’s Right, I Said Bookmaking
So, in 1970, a woman living in this house, above, was arrested for bookmaking. Gladys Oates was reportedly a tavern keeper, and ran a bookmaking ring out of this home, taking in $3,000 a week. But that was not all, she had others working with her. A total of 14 people were arrested and the total take was $8 million. That’s a lot of bread! Ha! There are times when I cannot believe the audacity of some people!
Update: Sept. 22, 2021
I received an email from the nephew of Gladys Oates who sent me the following photos. The first is a calling card that belonged to Jimmie(y) Oates, who was married to Gladys. Jimmie was an entertainer and was known as “the Pennsylvannia Nightengale”. He and Gladys met while performing with the same traveling troup. They married in St. Louis in 1927.
After coming to Buffalo, the couple lived on Mariner Street, which we already discussed. What we didn’t know is that they owned “The Jimmie Oates Grill” which was at the corner of Allen and Mariner Streets (now The Old Pink!). Jimmy passed away in 1970, presumably before the arrests for bookmaking, but clearly, he was involved.
I looked into the phrase ‘Walk Slow’ and my take is that in this particular use, it meant proceed with care. Interesting. Did Jimmie know the ‘heat was on’? Either way, he passed way before the arrests, including that of his wife, Gladys.
Incidentally, I found an article stating that all the charges in the case were dismissed in 1973. Apparently officials used wire tapping to compile their evidence. The defense claimed they used the wire tapping too broadly, listening in on private conversations, not just ‘business transactions’. Seems a pretty flimsy defense, but it worked. Below is a photo of ‘Jimmy’ and Gladys in happier times. Wonder if the photo was taken in the yard on Mariner?
Like I always say, every house holds stories. Most of which we’ll never know. But once in a while, we get a glimpse.
Let’s Move On, Shall We?
Let’s travel back to 1948 (the 40s were very busy on this street!). This is the story of a mother/daughter duo who came over from England to settle in Buffalo. Violet Russell, a partner in the Anglo-American Carbonising Corporation came to live in this home, below, with her daughter, Joan Russell.
Isn’t the house fantastic?!
Joan was a mechanical engineer. In 1948! She sought to come to Buffalo during a time when you could wait months for tickets for a transatlantic crossing. No worries, she and her mother both signed on to work as crew members on a cargo ship! Joan reportedly blew everyone away in the engine room, and was given the honorary title “Sixth Engineer” by the Captain.
After settling on Mariner Street, Joan then took her place as a mechanical engineer at Cherry, Cushing and Preble, a consulting engineering firm located on Delaware Avenue. She worked on heating systems. Cool.
Just a note: my husband works as a mechanical design engineer, and there are still not too many women working as engineers. So for 1948, this was amazing!
Both Violet and Joan loved Buffalo. When questioned though, Joan confessed to having an issue with our weather. She stated that our “nice, cold winters are fine, but that our summers are too hot!”*
That’s kind of hilarious!
Two very interesting women, wouldn’t you say?
Moving Right Along
And crossing the street, these.
This yellow magnificence below. There is so much that I like about this one. The window trim. The side entry appears amazing, but I’d have had to go up the driveway to really see it properly! The front doors appear to be original! Is that even possible?! I mean, this house is listed with the county as being built in 1865! If they were added later, boy are they done well! Love this place!
These next three are triplets!
Wait Till You Hear This!
So we’ve discussed World War I and World War II. Mariner Street also had a gentleman who took part in the Civil War, believe it or not. Actually, judging by the ages of the homes, I shouldn’t be surprised. There were probably several Civil War vets who lived here.
Fast forward to May, 1939. Buffalo was preparing for their annual Memorial Day Parade. The Grand Marshal of the parade was an 89 year old veteran of the Civil War named Edward Hurley.
He lived on Mariner in this house, below. Nice!
Who Was He?
In an interview with the Buffalo Evening News Hurley admitted that he was just 14 years old when he marched with General William Tecumseh Sherman through the south! Fourteen! And he said he was not the youngest. Talk about “boys in blue”! Hurley served for six months, and was on guard duty when Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Walbridge of Buffalo (same family that the Walbridge Building on Court Street is named for) rode in to tell General Sherman of the north’s victory signaling the end of the war.
He went on to say that those six months were both horrifying and exciting. I cannot imagine. At fourteen!
Hurley was apparently well known in Buffalo as a contractor. He worked on the state hospital in Gowanda, the Jamestown Post Office, and our own Erie County Hall (completed in 1876).
Pretty amazing man.
Let’s Keep Moving
Katherine Cornell on Mariner Street
This last home on the block, below, was the Queen Anne style childhood home of Katherine Cornell.
Now the Cornell name is very well known around Buffalo. Katherine’s grandfather was S. Douglas Cornell, of the Cornell Lead Works, located where the Delaware Midway Homes now stand on Delaware Avenue. In 1894, S. Douglas built a beautiful French Renaissance Revival mansion, designed by Edward Kent. Cornell had Kent build a theater on the fourth floor of the home. He had retired from the Lead Works in 1888, and wanted to pursue one of his passions, namely directing and producing plays.
The mansion became a popular place for Buffalo society and artisans alike to see plays among friends. Katherine Cornell spent a lot of time at this home, watching the whole process from casting, to rehearsals to full on production. It was here that Katherine caught the acting bug.
She began acting and had her first break when she played Jo in the London production of Little Women. In 1921, she had her first big hit in the United States in Bill of Divorcement. She went on to become one of the country’s most sought after theatre actors. Cool!
And she grew up on Mariner Street.
It feels so good to get back into Allentown for one of these posts. The homes are old and mostly well kept. The colors are definitely the widest variety in the city. And the overall feeling here is one of serenity and peace. Maybe that comes with the overall Allentown attitude of freedom and acceptance.
That said, I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone who lived on Mariner while I was there. That’s always a disappointment, but there was so much history to be found here! The music teacher from the late 1800s. The veterans – from three wars! A book maker and a famous actress (not to mention that she was a Cornell!). And I ran into my old friend E.B. Green. This was an interesting street indeed!
And the homes are old! Many of them from the mid 1800s. As I walked along, I was struck by what good shape most of them are in. I could easily live on this street. Specifically, in the bright yellow home, or the blue one next door with all the window boxes. Love them both! Actually, I could name several more that would do nicely. Haha!
Next chance you get, take a walk around Allentown. Pay attention to details and take a moment to notice the feel of the area. It’ll bring your stress levels down. And we could all use a bit less stress now, couldn’t we?
*Special thanks to Tim Montgomery for providing family insight and photos of Jimmie & Gladys Oates.
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This post has been a long time coming, as blog posts go. I first became aware of Woodley Road when I was a kid. My best friend growing up had cousins that lived on Burke Drive off of Eggert Road. We spent a bit of time there riding bikes etc. Even as a kid, when we’d ride up and down the area streets, I admired the homes in this neighborhood.
Several months ago now, I saw a home featured on a facebook page that I follow. One of the owners of the home, Rick, posted photos of the new home he shares with his husband Leroy, and their adorable dog, Gunnar. In the post, he highlighted some of the changes and some of the original charm the home holds.
With the speed that life travels, I had forgotten about this neighborhood and wanted to go back and check it out. I contacted Rick, and it’s been months in the making, but he and Leroy opened their home to me. As a matter of fact, they invited Tim and I to visit on a day when the neighborhood gets together for a weekly cocktail hour. It’s something they started during quarantine more than a year ago. More to come about that later.
Back in the 1920s, Cleveland Hill Properties began to develop this neighborhood (which they called, and widely became known as Cleveland Hill) and heavily advertised the homes for sale as “A Beautiful Park of Beautiful Homes”. They held extensive open houses where thousands walked through the newly built homes. Buffalo newspapers sponsored various homes. Decorators, furniture stores, florists and more, all contributed to staging the homes, making them look like the beautiful homes they advertised.
And they are beautiful. Modest maybe, when compared to the homes along some of Buffalo’s grand parkways, but these homes are very well appointed. The building materials were among the finest available. Many of the homes here still retain their original detail and charm. And like we talked about over at Windsor Ave, many of these homes were model homes as well. Making them the best quality possible.
The ads stated that the American dream is within reach of nearly everyone at Cleveland Hill. They urged Buffalonians to take the trip out Kensington ‘Boulevard’ to see the homes. They touted ‘price and terms to suit your pocketbook’ and that ‘every home is different’. I can’t speak to the price and terms, but every home is, indeed, different. And they are beautiful.
To be honest, I always thought this neighborhood was in Cheektowaga. But at closer examination of a map of the city, it’s in Buffalo. There’s an odd ‘bump out’ if you will, that includes the area bordered by Huntley Rd, Century and Treehaven. This week I’ve heard a few stories about why the neighborhood is included in the city of Buffalo, and not the first ring suburb of Cheektowaga.
The most common is this. Remember, this is hearsay. The story goes that judges were required to live in the city back in the day, and there was an influential judge who wanted to buy a home in the area, so the city arranged to acquire the land. More judges followed suit, and moved into the neighborhood. Seems unlikely to me. But there have been, by all accounts, several judges who have lived in this neighborhood. So, hey, you never know.
There is but one judge left today. We’ll talk about that later. For now, come hike with me.
We’re going to do this hike in reverse of how I actually walked it. We’re going to start at the corner of Burke and Woodley with this rather large beautiful home. It comes with a bit of a mystery that I haven’t been able to solve. I found old newspaper clippings listing the address of 9 Woodley Road in advertisements for Cleveland Hill, see below.
And there is a number 9 on the home, at the door that faces Woodley Road. But both the city of Buffalo, and Google maps lists this home as being on Burke Drive. Number 28 to be exact. I don’t usually use house numbers when I write, but this was intriguing. For now, it’ll remain a mystery.
But what a house!
Three Tudors in a Row
Next is this pretty thing. How very unusual! But it works, somehow. This is the first of three Tudors in a row, where rumor has it, different members of the Amigone family had built and lived in at one time. And one, Philip Amigone, owner of Chez Ami downtown, lived in number 16 across the street and then moved into one of these at one point. This is rumor, of course, and sometimes these stories get changed along the way somehow. I haven’t been able to confirm or debunk this story.
Number two of the three Amigone Tudors, below. (It’s Jeff and Kathy’s home now.) This is the former home of Paschal Rubino, longtime Buffalo funeral director, below. Someone suggested that it may have been the Rubino family that lived in the three Tudors. Anything’s possible I suppose.
Anyway, Paschal Rubino, in addition to being president of Rubino Funeral Home, served at least three terms on the Buffalo Board of Education. In October, 1962, he was honored with a testimonial dinner at the Statler Hotel by the Buffalo Teacher Federation for his steadfast support of Buffalo Schools, teachers and school children. This was very rare, as they almost never honor someone who is not a teaching professional. Cool.
And Number 3
And here’s number three Tudor, below. This one’s landscaping is taking over a bit, but look at the bones of the place. Another slate roof. This home is a classic. And I do love the tulips! Would love to see this place in the summer.
Check out the roof here though. These slate tiles seem to be in perfect shape. Note that the size of the tiles themselves are larger at the bottom and get smaller as the roofline goes up. It’s planned that way to give the effect that the roof is taller than it looks, giving the appearance of a larger home. It’s done on homes like this one, and homes that are three times the size of this. Interesting.
Wish I had a slate roof. When I see them, I know that if the builder used slate for the roof, the rest of the home is good quality as well.
Moving Right Along
At this home I met Marcia. She seemed a lovely woman, a bit shy, but I could see a friendly nature beneath the shy exterior. If I lived here, I believe Marcia and I could become friends. I hope she would agree.
Looks like I just missed Marcia’s daffodils. Too bad, they were probably beautiful.
Then there is this Colonial, below, with its brick foundation. I wonder if there is brick behind the siding? Seems unlikely that the brick would extend to the ground, if there weren’t brick above it. So I searched, and did find an advertisement for a brick Colonial home at this address back in 1935. No photo to corroborate it though. Anyone know?
I love the wrought iron above that massive bay window. I can just imagine the light brought in through that window. Fantastic!
Next, I came to this Spanish influenced home. What a home! The tile roof seems to be in great shape, and I love how the balcony doors and window mimic the main entry at the ground level. The pillars with the rounded archways that also mimic both doors are perfectly executed.
I can tell you this. It wouldn’t take very much for me to move into this home. It’s got it all.
Onetime owner of this home was Christian Laube, who was the vice-president of Laube Restaurants. It was one of the largest family-owned chain restaurants in Buffalo and was started by Christian’s father in 1907 as “My Lunch” on Niagara Street, where the family court building now stands. It eventually was renamed Laube’s Cafeterias and at its peak served 2,000 lunches per day from this one location!
Laube Cafeterias grew to include Laube’s Old Spain, which was next door to Shea’s, a cafeteria inside the YMCA building downtown, and a full service restaurant inside the Lord Amherst Hotel on Main Street in Snyder. They were by their own motto, “known for food”.
Now we come to the homes at the corner of Woodley and Eldon.
First up, is the largest home on the street, with the possible exception of the first house we talked about at the beginning of the post. This home is a spectacular Tudor. My photo definitely does not do it justice.
The address here has changed as well. It used to be considered on Woodley, but now has an address on Eldon Road. Curious when the home obviously faces Woodley.
There are some big Buffalo names associated with this home. In the 30s, there were Amigones living here. I came across numerous articles ranging from 1936 through 1940 regarding newspaper sponsored holiday lights contests. They were apparently a pretty big deal in Buffalo at that time. The Amigones at this address won the contest in the ‘homes worth $9,000+” category one year.
In 1949, Raymond Haimbaugh lived in the home. He was written up in the Buffalo Evening News that year for being named the Division Manager at the Wurlitzer Company in North Tonawanda. Cool.
And Last, But Not Least
Alfred Durrenberger and family lived in this home in the 1960s. He was the founder of one of Buffalo’s other family-owned chain restaurants, Your Host. Right next door to the Laude family. What a coincidence! And they call this street ‘Judge’s Row’? Wondering if we’ll see any Decks from the Deco Restaurant chain on this street? Stay tuned.
Crossing the street now, this is a completely different style from any other house on the street. Although it appears to be on Woodley, this too is technically on Eldon Road. It’s a nice large ranch home, and from the angle I took this photo, it appears to be all garage. But it really isn’t. It’s what I like to call a ‘rambling ranch’. You know, one of those ranch homes that just keeps going…
It’s a lovely home, and is probably the newest on the street, built in 1940.
The Redcoats are Coming…
This next one is perhaps the most original home I’ve ever written about. Even though it’s not original at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. This home, below, is a replica of Paul Revere’s home in Boston.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I first read that! What an odd thing to do, in Buffalo, NY of all places! Haha! But, being the total history nerd that I am, I love it!
This is the home of Les and Ginny. Les is the last of the judges in Judge’s Row. On the day we joined the Wednesday afternoon cocktail hour, the group ended up here at Les and Ginny’s Paul Revere home. We chatted for just a moment (Les knows the complete history of the home.) before he invited us in to take a look around.
The interior is chock full of Arkansas soft pine wood paneling and doors. It’s rich, yet somehow casual too. Not long ago, the couple received in the mail a magazine from 1931, with a story about their home! The magazine came with a letter explaining the story of the home and how the sender came to have the magazine. They felt that the owners of the home should have it, so they sent it, without even knowing who lived there. What a great story!
Below are two photos of the home that appeared in the Buffalo Courier Express in November, 1929. The top photo is of the basement room, and the bottom photo is the living room as it appeared as a model home. All the same woodwork still exists today. And it’s pristine.
Les and Ginny are good stewards, indeed. And I will say, good and gracious hosts. They invited us in on the spur of the moment, and told us everything we wanted to know. They were at once proud, and yet humble about their much loved home.
I love that.
Moving Right Along
Right next door to the Paul Revere house is this beauty. This is another Tudor inspired design. Note the use of ‘clinker bricks’, which are overfired bricks with a sometimes irregular shape and surface. We first saw these on the blog on Lincoln Parkway. In this case, the bricks are added in a random fashion, along with traditional bricks. I think they give the home a very unique look.
Next, is this home. The flowering trees at this time of year are stunning! After seeing this home, I want to put one in front of my house!
The Call of the Bagpipes
This next home belongs to Dan and Carol, who we met at the cocktail party. Well, actually Dan beckoned us to the cocktail party by playing his bagpipes, calling the party to begin. He does it every week, precisely at 5pm. How fun…
Dan and Carol’s home is stunning. It could be just your ordinary, run of the mill Colonial. But the color, the custom shutters, the window boxes, heck, the windows themselves. The impeccable care with which this home is cared for is awesome. I’ll say it again. It’s a stunning home.
This next one also appeared in an ad in the Buffalo Courier Express in June 1935. I have never seen so many advertisements for a neighborhood as I have for this Cleveland Hill neighborhood. I think it was probably because this area of the city was considered further away from everything. The ads beckon the reader to ‘take the drive out’ to see the model homes. It’s interesting to see.
This home has new shutters and a front door, but otherwise appears pretty much original. Love it.
And this. Love the windows here. Just lovely.
Another Amigone on Woodley…
This gorgeous home, below, is the former home of Philip Amigone, who was the owner of Chez Ami. In 1939, his car was broken into outside the nightclub, for a loss of $750 worth of goods. Among them were furs, a silver mesh bag, pearls and more. Wow! In 1939!
Philipp was also the winner of the $100 grand prize in the holiday lighting contest in 1940. I’m telling you, these were popular back then. There were lengthy articles describing quite a few of the displays, and lots of winners! People were into it!
The owners of this house are Al and Barb, who we met at the cocktail party. With the awning up already, and the lawn so well tended, summer appears to have already arrived at their home! I also got to meet their dog, Lucy, when I came back a few days later to get a few more photos. Super cute!
And Last, But Certainly Not Least…
Now, we come to Rick, Leroy and their fantastic home. Rick is the reason we came to Woodley. Let’s take a look at their house. All the photos in this first grouping were provided by Rick.
The windows are large and there are a lot of them, letting in tons of natural light into this home. I mean, who would mind washing dishes in front of this amazing window? I wouldn’t. At least, not the first couple of times anyway, haha… (This photo is mine.)
When this home was advertised, and it was heavily advertised, the ads boasted a rathskeller, which in this case, is a bar in the basement, and also that thousands came through this home when it was a model. Both of the photos below are from the Buffalo Courier Express, October, 1928.
Rick and Leroy have transformed the place in little more than a year into a veritable showhouse. And they’re not done yet. They have further plans for the basement, and the upstairs where there are three spacious bedrooms and a large cedar closet.
When I first saw Rick’s photos on facebook several months ago, I never could have imagined the things I’d learn researching Woodley Road and these homes. Who knew that people built replica houses? That was totally unexpected, but so much fun.
And once again, I was blown away by the people we met on this street. Beginning, of course with Rick and Leroy, who opened their home to Tim and I, and invited us to the cocktail party, where we met many other neighbors. If I met you and failed to mention you in the article, it’s not because you didn’t make an impression (you all did!) it’s merely because I’m not as young as I used to be and I can’t remember all of your names! Haha!
But Les and Ginny also opened their home to us, and Al sent me some of his own research on the street. Fantastic, and I am grateful.
These parties are inspiring. I’m told they happened spontaneously last year, during quarantine. A couple of people happened to meet outside, and enjoyed a socially distanced visit, drink in hand. Other people began to notice and join in. And they did it all through the winter too, complete with campfires! And a hot toddy or two, I would imagine!
All Are Welcome
But you don’t need to drink, and there is no inviting that takes place for these parties. None are pre-planned. Some people choose to bring snacks. Some don’t. The yard they end up at isn’t pre-planned either. But all are welcome.
So if you live on the block and you’ve noticed the very talented Dan the bagpiper beckoning people out of their houses and into the street to meet up with neighbors, why not go over and say hello? I can tell you firsthand, they are friendly and very welcoming. You’ll enjoy yourself, and you might, no you definitely will, make a friend or two.
This is what a neighborhood should be. I mean, this past year has been trying, to say the least. With something simple like a weekly, social distanced, get together to look forward to, it eases the stress somehow. And it also lets people know there are other people who would be there for them if they needed it. I love it.
And I love Woodley Road. It’s an inspiring street. We should all start a cocktail hour (mocktails if you prefer) on our blocks. When neighbors know each other, the neighborhood grows strong, stays safe, and your quality of life is that much greater!
To the neighbors at Woodley, it was great meeting all of you. Stay close!
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They make great keepsakes, or gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
Last week I headed over to Chapin Parkway to check out a street that a reader mentioned to me. While hiking around the area, I happened upon the south end of Windsor Ave. I wrote about a few of the Larkin homes between Rumsey and Forest Ave, but I’ll admit, I’ve never been on this end of the street. Well, that’s not exactly true.
Years ago, while I was still working for the Canadian Government here in Buffalo, I did leave the official residence (which is on Soldiers Circle) through the backyard once with a friend to head over to her house, which was nearby. You see, there are a few homes on Soldiers Circle whose properties extend to Windsor Ave, and have their garages facing Windsor. To be fair though, we headed toward Chapin Parkway, and didn’t see much of the street.
But this day, on foot, walking from Chapin Parkway down to Forest Ave, I saw the street through fresh eyes. Come hike with me.
This is the first home I came to when I turned off Chapin Parkway. And what a home this is. It was built in 1910, and is that the original hardware on the windows? You know, the kind that held the storm windows/screens in place? Love the diamonds in the upper windows and the front porch is lovely. I especially like the three columns with their details at the capitals. The paint is perfect here.
And this pretty home, below. There is so much going on here. I love the Palladian window on the second floor. All the windows for that matter. I think they may be original. And the trim colors are fantastic. Look at the details in the eaves! Goes to show what you can do with paint. Fantastic!
These Next Three
Next I came to these. This first one looks beautiful now, but in the summer it must be stunning with the trees in bloom. I’ll have to come back to see it. The other two make my point about color making all the difference in the world.
There’s a start with the blue and white trim on this one. It would be great if the blue were extended onto the balustrade or balusters, around the windows and maybe the peak. That would really make this house pop, as they say.
The green with the mustard yellow and dark red trim has been painted within the past, oh, 10 years or so. Looks very different from how it used to look, it’s beautiful!
Mary Carr (Mrs. Robert U. Carr) was living in this home, above, in 1945 with her husband Robert and mother-in-law Anna. Mary took up a very unusual hobby. She wrote books for the children of the family, about the childhoods of their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Often telling funny stories of a bygone age, amusing anecdotes, and poetry written by her mother-in-law, Anna, Mary would compile the books. She’d use magazines, greeting cards and advertisements to illustrate them, type them up on loose leaf, and cover them with different material for children, and sometimes leather covers for adults.
She did one for each child in the family. Word got out and the requests started pouring in, and she ended up making over 100 of them for friends and friends of friends. It was said that she was fascinated by history and days gone by, especially when that history included friends and family. What a unique hobby. I think I would have liked Mary Carr.
The Larkins on Windsor
In November of 1929, the Buffalo Courier Express reported that Mr. & Mrs. Charles Larkin moved into this home, below. They had previously moved to California about ten years before. I was unaware they came back ten years later.
The home is a beautiful two family though. If you want to see what that room above the front entryway looks like on the inside, take a look at this recent listing. Very charming. That would be my reading nook/sleeping porch. Because everyone needs a good sleeping porch.
This one, below, was once owned by Harvey D. Blakeslee, Jr., a Buffalo attorney who founded Mortgage Service Corporation. He was a 1902 graduate of UB Law School, and served on several boards in the city. He lived here with his wife, Eleanor, his son and two daughters.
This next home was built in 1910 or 1911, by R.W. Goode and Company (developers) but it doesn’t appear that it was sold until 1918 (that’s when city tax records begin for this house). This is the case with many homes on this street, where they were built in or around 1910, but not sold until several years later.
This house, above, is great! It’s almost as if everyone on this street consulted with designers when choosing the colors of their homes. Because they’re all spot on with the colors of the period. This one included. Love it.
I wondered about the date discrepancies though, and had a theory, but it was only a theory. Until I met Nancy on my hike (you’ll see Nancy’s house soon). She mentioned that she had heard from a neighbor on Soldiers Circle that this section of Windsor Ave was a “model” street. This is where the developers built a variety of homes on one street, and used them as model homes, showing them to potential buyers. This enabled the developers to fill in the neighboring streets with homes that were already sold. This street definitely has a variety of styles. Where you see two homes with similar styles, you’ll see a different style porch on each, or an offset front entryway on one, etc. Definitely makes sense with this street.
I gotta tell you, it makes for a beautiful, architecturally diverse street.
Just Look at These!
This first one, the navy blue with white trim, wow! Now, that is my style! I love the front porch with the glass sides. So pretty!
Moving Right Along
This next one was owned at one time by Spencer Kittinger, President of the Kittinger Co. Inc. The Kittinger Company was a very successful local furniture maker. Nice!
This next one is interesting. It was formerly owned by Daniel L. Rumsey and his wife, Luella Mary Nitterauer Rumsey. Of note, this whole area was once owned by the Rumsey family, and they sold it off slowly from the 1890s through 1920 or so.
It’s an interesting house too. From what I can gather, the brick section, although it appears to be an addition, has been there from the beginning. Very different.
Check out these next several homes…they’re spectacular!
These next two are the same house, but photographed from two different angles. The third is the same style house, but executed quite differently. I am reminded that this street may have been a ‘model street’.
Crossing the street, I come to this magnificence. I have always admired the side entry to this home, and everything else about it for that matter.
Cara H. Wheeler
This home, below, has one of the sweetest stories of all. But before I get to that, note the side porch and how it has windows on the windy side, and the colors are spot on. Very pretty house.
Cara H. Wheeler lived here with her daughter Mary and Mary’s husband. Cara lived to be 102 years old! She appeared in Buffalo papers several times, twice for voting in every election since women won the vote (when she appeared in the paper for it, she was 93 and 94 respectively). Once for being a frequent airplane traveler (when she was 93!). And she appeared one last time when she passed away in July of 1960 in her obituary. That makes her birth year 1858. Amazing!
At her 100th birthday dinner, Cara’s son presented her with a bound book (seen in photo above) of birthday greetings from all over the world, including then President Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Billy Graham, the Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen, Rocky Marciano, Mickey Mantle, Edward R. Murrow, Helen Hayes, Bing Crosby, Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk and more.
Cara Henry Wheeler is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Going to have to look her up next time I’m there.
And then I came upon this gorgeousness! This is where I met Nancy (I mentioned her earlier). She’s been living here for 17 years and absolutely loves the neighborhood. She grew up on Lancaster Ave so she knows a thing or two about city living. Nancy pointed out something that I noticed as well. On Windsor Ave, there is space between the homes. Every home has a driveway. Honestly, that may have something to do with the ‘model’ street thing. If it looks perfect, it will sell quickly and easily. And this street certainly looks perfect.
About the house. There is so much to love about it. The original windows, the colors are muted but classic, the sunburst balusters in the balustrade. The fan window in the pediment, the natural wood front door flanked by leaded glass sidelights. It’s all these little details that make you look twice when you pass a house.
Nancy was open and friendly, despite the fact that I interrupted a visit with her friend, Liz. Sorry about that ladies, I was just so taken with the house. Thank you both for your Buffalo friendliness.
The Stone Wall
There is a stone wall that ends at Nancy’s driveway. It is left from the estate of Ellsworth Statler, which was at 154 Soldiers Place. The wall runs along this section of Windsor, turns the corner at Bird, and ends just before Soldier’s Circle. Take a look.
There are two homes on Windsor within the Statler walls. I can tell you that the wrought iron in this wall is among the most substantial I’ve ever seen. The houses are lovely, but I would love to see what was originally here.
This last proper house on the street boasts former residents such as Mr. & Mrs. David D. Kennedy, and David W. Rumsey (Sr?). Big names.
I am very glad that I happened upon Windsor Ave that afternoon. It really is a wonderful street, with very friendly neighbors. Nancy was lovely, and because it was a warm sunny day, I met a few others along the way as well, out for walks themselves. All say they love living here. And what’s not to love?
There are beautiful homes with ample yards. If you compare the lot sizes here to other streets nearby, and I’m talking about other comparable streets (Clarendon, Berkley, Granger), Windsor has the largest lot sizes around. This enables the residents to have driveways to park their cars. I know there are people who think that city dwellers shouldn’t need to have a car, but the fact remains that in Buffalo, we still need our cars. And having a decent place to park them is a huge bonus.
In this month of March, when we celebrate women who made history, I find it fitting that most of the interesting history here on Windsor involved women. One who was a history buff herself, and one who took the right to vote so seriously that she never missed an election once women fought for and won that right.
Of course, in their time and in the articles I read, they were referred to as Mrs. Robert U. Carr and Mrs. Clarence L. Wheeler. I actually had to really dig to find out what Cara Wheeler’s given name was, and I only found it because I found a copy of her obituary. And even then, I learned her middle name was Henry! We’ve certainly come a long way.
Every house, every street, every neighborhood has a story to tell, and it’s because of the people. The people are the story. We love to look at the amazing homes they’ve built and lived in, but it’s really about the people. The people of Buffalo.
Get the Book!
They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
I’ve been wanting to write about Lafayette High School ever since the first time I actually walked past it about a year and a half ago with a friend of mine. I, of course, had seen it before, but until you walk past a building, it’s easy to miss how incredible it can be. And the more I walk in the area, the more I notice all the spectacular homes and buildings along here too. Little did I know what I’d find once I really got into it.
When I first sat down to research the area, I remembered another friend of mine, Martha, grew up on Parkdale. I shot her a text to find out which house was hers at the time, and during a small flurry of texts, I thought that she might like to take a walk. She wanted to, our schedules happened to match up, and so we set out the next day.
Come Hike With Me
For this particular hike, Martha and I met up at the southwest corner of Grant Street, at Sweet_ness 7 Cafe. Martha tells me this was a bakery when she lived just around the block on Parkdale. More recently though, it was a beautiful little full service coffee shop, with amazing food, great service and original art. Yes, I said art. Both inside and out. But today I’ll just tell you a story of the mural on the exterior of the building.
A few years ago now, I sat down with Prish Moran, owner of the building, and talked about how Sweet_ness 7 came to be. She told me how she purchased the building and set about getting her vision for the cafe off the ground. The exterior first floor was covered with graffiti. And not the good kind. Lots of nastiness. When it proved to be much too difficult to remove, Prish painted that section of the building brown in an attempt to make it appear a bit better. Afterwards, people in the area began to ‘suggest’ she do something to brighten up the drab brown-ness of it all.
And Brighten it Up, She Did
One day Prish came across a page she had torn out of a magazine that was, basically, the mural that she ended up painting.
Wait until you hear this. Not long after painting it, Prish was sitting inside the unfinished cafe. She was going through bills, hoping she hadn’t made a huge mistake by buying the building, when someone knocked at the door. When she answered it, there was a man there with several women. He introduced himself, and told Prish he was taking the women, who were Burmese refugees, for a walk through the neighborhood. He was showing them around and when they came upon the building, the women became very excited. They began to cry tears of joy.
They explained that when they arrived in Buffalo they were uncertain about the future for their families and for themselves in a new country. Understandable. But when they saw the painting on the side of Prish’s building, they were reassured that they were exactly where they were meant to be. You see, the painting is of a Burmese Fertility Goddess.
Prish had no idea that’s what it was, she just liked it. But after meeting the women at her door that day, Prish knew that she too was exactly where she was meant to be at that time. Of course we all know the cafe turned out to be a huge success.
Sad, but True
Sweet_ness 7 is temporarily closed right now. In an email Prish tells me that both Sweet_ness 7 and the Tabernacle are currently available for rent. I’ll list Prish’s contact information at the end of this post. As for Prish, she has purchased an inn in the Adirondacks. She is, as usual, fearlessly following one of her many dreams.
We here in Buffalo are looking forward to the return of a cafe to this corner.
On With the Hike
Across Grant from Sweet_ness 7 is this little bit of sweetness, below. This home has been brought back to life in the last several years. Love it. My favorite part? The outdoor spaces. Both of the porches that face Lafayette, and the brilliant rooftop patio over the garage on Grant. That last one is perfect for this spot! Makes me want to sit up there with friends and family on a Saturday night in the summer, sipping cocktails. I’d also like to see what’s been done to the basement, I’m intrigued.
Everything here makes sense. From the commercial space in the garage to the solar panels on the roof of the house. It all just works.
Across the street is what used to be Annunciation Parish. Martha tells me that this was her church growing up. When I asked if she walked to church, she said, “We walked everywhere.” And the story began to unfold as we walked and looked at the homes along the way.
This is Our Lady of Hope Parish today, a merger of Annunciation, Our Lady of Loretto, and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a vibrant, multicultural, West Side, Roman Catholic Church. I’m going to have to check this one out some weekend.
Moving Right Along
Back on the other side of the street we see this. I love the dormer on this house!
And this. Check this place out! The style? Second Empire, with attitude. Okay, that’s not a real thing. But those awesome colors, and that monstrous red Medina sandstone porch. Wow. And you can’t see it in any of the photos I took, but there’s an entire house in the backyard! I’m not talking about an in-law cottage. I’m talking about a full house!
And there are others with homes in the backyard right along this stretch. At least five in this square block. It’s curious, but I think it’s cool in a way too. Wonder how that ever came to be? Full homes, in behind others. Interesting.
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur
These next few buildings are the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. I feel bad saying I’ve never heard of them. They taught at Annunciation School when it was open. And they are still here, busy as ever, ministering to the people of the West Side. Excellent.
As a matter of fact, in 2019, the sisters celebrated 200 years of ministry! From their website,
“In this century, as we have become a diverse, global community, the Sisters have been attuned to the changing times, extending themselves beyond the classroom. Parish ministry, refugee work, standing against human trafficking, teaching ESL, home visiting, counseling, spiritual direction and prayer groups are among the many works the Sisters have assumed as the Spirit has led.”
I have a lot of respect for sisters. They, unlike priests, give up all their worldly possessions, take a vow of poverty and agree to serve “as the Spirit has led”. It’s really amazing when you think about it.
Annunciation School, that is. At one time it was K-12, serving the entire community. I knew there was a K-8 grammar school here, but didn’t realize it was a high school originally as well. Interesting. Martha went here for grammar school, along with many of the neighborhood children. The students used to (lovingly, I’m sure!) call the school “A Nun’s Creation”. I see what they did there! Haha. Love it!
The school is now closed, but the first floor of the building is a professional incubator office space, and the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center. There are 20 loft apartments of varying sizes above. It’s a great re-use, and if you look at the website, you can see that they’ve kept some of the old school fixtures, like chalkboards! Again, interesting!
The Discovery Trail
I should mention that throughout this hike, we came to stops on the Discovery Trail. It’s a one mile trail that starts at the West Buffalo Charter School at 113 Lafayette, and is marked on the sidewalks of Lafayette Ave between DeWitt and Baynes. The theme of this trail is ‘welcome all cultures’.
I love when a city/neighborhood has these kinds of things. It makes a child love getting out and taking an urban hike! It’s the type of thing they’ll reminisce about someday!
Seriously, if you live in the area, and you haven’t seen these, take a walk. They’re designed by school children at WBCS…and they’re inspiring!
I’ll drop photos of them in, here and there, during our hike so you can experience them just like we did…as we went along.
Back to the hike. As we round the corner on to Parkdale, and as we pass the side of the old school, these are the homes we see.
There are so many things I notice about this home, below. Let’s start at the peak with the pebbled dash. I want to say that there’s a design to the pebbling, but from this angle, I can’t say for sure. The tiles that are set into the bricks are unusual. Martha and I agreed they’ve probably always been there. Note that the bricks directly above the tiles stand out further from the rest, probably to protect the tiles.
Off to the left, you can see that the entry door is on the side of the enclosed porch. But the front of the house has another door, with large sidelights. I like that in the good weather both doors can be open to allow plenty of fresh air.
And this one below, is in great shape! It looks like the upper porch was re-done at some point. I probably wouldn’t have thought to do it, but they saved some of the wrought iron when they did the porch. Really nice touch.
Martha’s Family Home
Next is the home Martha grew up in. She lived here with her parents, three brothers and one sister. It’s a really pretty house. But to get the full effect, check out this listing from a couple of years ago.
Martha and I have to stop ourselves from going into the back yard to look around. I can see the curiosity in her face. She notices that there’s a chimney on what used to be a back porch. If you click on the link above, it’s not just a fireplace that someone’s added, it’s an oven. Maybe a pizza oven? It’s a fantastic porch and yard all around!
As we hike Parkdale Ave Martha is peppering the conversation with names of the people who lived in this house or that. So many that I could never be able to match up the house with the family names. But here’s a few. Guzzetta, LaDuca, Missana, Ciffa, Cavalieri, Lagatutta and Callari.
Some of these families may have lived on Lafayette… But you get the idea. This was a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Martha mentions that she never thought of it that way when she was a child, but telling me all the names really drives it home for her. And it sure does seem like she knew everyone!
As we approached this one, Martha says she thought it used to have an apartment out back, and sure enough, there it is… Note the details around the windows and front entry. I’d never have noticed that if I were just driving by.
At this house below, Martha tells me that when she lived across the street, there was an older couple that lived in this house that didn’t have any children. But they ‘adopted’ all the kids on the street. They must have made an impression, and quite possibly a difference in some of the children’s lives. Sweet story.
This last one is still in great shape. Or back in great shape, I can’t be sure. But it looks good.
On this section of Parkdale (between Lafayette and Auburn) I noticed that a lot of the homes are still the original clapboard. Some have been covered with vinyl siding, but I want to say that most of them are still original. I like this.
Back to the Corner of Parkdale and Lafayette
The first thing I see is this huge, gorgeous old home. Needs a bit of work, but it appears that all the original detail is still intact, most of the original windows are still there, and it could be brought back. I’d love to see it happen. Same color, with white and black trim. Yes, please.
Kitty corner from that home is the Buffalo Dream Center. These buildings are fantastic and appear to be in great shape!
Martha tells me this used to be the Lafayette Baptist Church ‘back in the day’. The Buffalo Dream Center has been headed by Pastors Eric and Michelle Johns since 1993 and now calls these buildings (above) home. The church is very involved in outreach services to Buffalo’s community, serving children, the poor and the hungry. If you are looking to get involved in any of these ministries, take a look at their website. This is one busy place!
As we continue up Lafayette, Martha starts rattling off names again. Castiglia, Battaglia, Cannizzaro, Severino, Cipolla. We stroll on, and this is some of what we see. Fantastic! The two last homes in this grouping are twins!
And this one, back in the day, was home to one of Martha’s friends, the Missana family home. Martha remembers it being beautiful inside. I’d love to see it now.
Along here, they just keep getting better.
And still, Martha is mentioning names, Palumbo, Falcone, Rubbino, Falzone. As we approach Colonial Circle at Richmond, she remembers a family on Richmond Ave named Gulino. She remembers them being very nice.
Here’s a quick story about one of the previous residents of this house, below. Born in 1881, in Italy, Anthony Carnavale came to Buffalo when he was a child. He learned to play the saxophone when he was young, which was considered a pioneering instrument at the time. He played as a member of the 74th Regiment Band, who played at the Temple of Music at the Pan American Exposition. Cool! Carnavale went on to play at many downtown theaters, including the Olympic and the Lafayette.
In 1927, he opened Carnavale’s Spaghetti House on Niagara Street. It became very popular with local politicians and members of the entertainment community in the city. He continued to be active in the music scene in Buffalo until his retirement. Interesting guy. He lived in the house with his wife, Rose, his son and two daughters.
And this one is fantastic. Check out the windows in the dormer.
Lafayette High School
This is where we come to Lafayette High School. Can you imagine going to high school in this building?!
This building was completed in 1903 and designed by Esenwein & Johnson, noted Buffalo architects. Their firm designed the Temple of Music that I mentioned earlier, the Buffalo Museum of Science, the Calumet Building, the iconic Electric Tower, numerous homes, and many, many more!
For whatever reason, Martha didn’t attend Lafayette High School (or Annunciation HS for that matter). So I phoned a friend. Actually, I texted a friend, Lori. When asked what her favorite part about going to Lafayette High School, Lori immediately responded with “Teachers and friends!” I love that about Lori. When I pressed her about the building, she said she always knew how special it was, and always thought it was beautiful. Even as kids, they respected that. Cool. Thanks Lori.
The school is now Lafayette International Community High School, serving the multicultural community that the West Side has become throughout the years. I love this too.
I know a woman who came to Buffalo when she was 16, from Germany, many years ago. She didn’t speak English, and had to spend an entire year sitting in a high school classroom learning English by listening and observing. She felt awkward and, in her words ‘stupid’. It should make all of us happy that Buffalo has schools like this where children can ease into life in a new country more comfortably than in years past.
The Home Stretch
As we pass the high school, we come upon a lot of really great houses.
This one is awesome, below. Martha mentions she loves this kind of sunroom. Me too, Martha! The plaque on the front says 1877, and I daresay that most of those small windows are original! Would that column of windows to the right of the door be considered a sidelight? Either way, I like it. And sweet that there is a literal bell in the place of a traditional doorbell. I love this one.
And this one, below. Like when I hiked Woodward Ave., I’m noticing again that I’m a bit drawn to the orange color of this house. Never would have thought to choose this color, but it works. That said, I’d love it if there were a little more uniformity, maybe the first floor the darker orange, and the second floor and peak the lighter color? It’s possible the owner is working on that. Love the green too!
The entryway is perfection for this house. Goes to show, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Just right.
Guercio’s and More
When we arrived back at Grant Street, we headed over to Guercio and Sons to pick up a couple of things. Martha tells me that she walked over here every Saturday with her Mother to get groceries for the week. Her brother still comes every other week or so. I haven’t been in here in a couple of years, so I took a good look around and if I lived within walking distance, I’d be in here all the time. Great produce, staples, and gorgeous imports. Still love this place.
As Martha and I go back out onto Grant, she mentions again that Sweet_ness 7 was a bakery when she was a kid. After Guercios, she and her Mom would go to the bakery, and then to the Meating Place for, well, meat. Haha! That’s a little up Grant on the east side of the street just before Auburn. You could throw a stone at it from Sweet_ness. Martha says that if they really needed something they couldn’t get at those three places, her Mother would head over to Super Duper, which was further south on Grant.
There were other stores and shops along here as well for all their other needs. I love this.
When I first set out to write this post, I thought I’d research some of the homes along Lafayette and see what I could learn. It’s kind of how I usually start a city living post. But every post evolves in it’s own way, and when I texted Martha about her childhood home, I saw a completely different post taking shape. She was so enthusiastic about the neighborhood, I found I couldn’t wait to see it through her eyes. Sort of like when I hiked around downtown with my 3-year-old granddaughter, and wrote Castles of Buffalo. It’s always good to see things through someone else’s eyes. It gives you a whole new perspective.
Well. Now I have a whole new perspective on the West Side. I’m not a stranger to this area, but I’ve never lived here. I also understand my old friend Martha a little better. That seems to happen when you learn about where someone comes from. Martha became so animated as we turned onto Parkdale! It was pretty cool to watch. I only regret that I was enjoying her talking about the homes and the families who used to live in them so much, that I didn’t get a photo of her ‘in her element’ so to speak.
Idealistically Speaking Though
This neighborhood was a fantastic place to grow up. Martha tells me how they walked or rode bikes everywhere. They’d walk to Front Park near the Peace Bridge to ice skate. They’d walk to church, to school, to their friend’s homes. To relatives nearby. It seems like there were a lot of relatives nearby. Martha and her friends would even ride bikes over to Canada to “this little beach we called the Baby Hole.” Haha. Sweet.
To me it seems idyllic. What more could you ask for?
It’s Thought Provoking
You know, there is a lot of talk around Buffalo about creating livable spaces. Places where people will want to live. This neighborhood is the kind of thing we should want to build. But honestly, I don’t know that you can build it. You can put the infrastructure there, and hope it happens. But I think it has to happen organically. You can’t force it.
Martha and her family could get everything they needed on Grant Street. On the East Side, where my father grew up, his family got everything they needed on Fillmore Ave or the Broadway Market.
It’s a gamble every developer takes. They create from a vision of something they think will be good for the city, or a neighborhood. Then they hope other people see it too. Like when Guercio and Sons first opened their doors on Grant Street sixty some years ago. They took a chance that the people of the neighborhood would want what they had to offer. It turns out that in this case, the neighborhood wanted exactly what they had to offer.
In this little neighborhood, where Martha grew up, what do the people living here now, want (and need) next? The area is coming back, that’s for sure. But what will it take to make it a really idyllic place to live again?
There are people meeting, discussing and planning exactly that, as I write this.
Look for another post on the West Side soon to discuss. This place has got more to say.
Get the Book!
They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!
*Special thanks to Lori Mroz, Prish Moran, and especially Martha Emiliani. Thanks for everything guys!
Interested in renting either Sweet_ness 7 or the Tablernacle spaces at 220 Grant Street, email Prish Moran at email@example.com.
A couple of weeks ago, as I drove on the 198 near Forest Lawn, I lamented to myself (again) about the loss of the once beautiful Humboldt Parkway. Yes, I do have occasion to use the controversial, but also well used highway that split our Delaware Park (and indeed a thriving neighborhood) through the middle. As do, I suspect, a lot of Buffalonians who wish the highway were still a beautiful ‘bridle path’ that ambled through the park and over to MLK Park.
But that’s not what I am writing about today. Suffice it to say that if the Scajaqada were torn out tomorrow, and returned to its former glory, I would rejoice right along with all the principled people who refuse to use it today. But for now, I occassionally need to, and do, use it. Just like I will when it’s returned to a tree lined two lane city street. (Hope!)
But on this day, it was the homes on Agassiz Circle that I was thinking about. Specifically the ones near Medaille College. Who lives along there now? And how does their view differ from the way it was back in the day? Curious, as usual, I decided to take a closer look.
As I left the house to head over to Agassiz Circle, I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t think I’d be able to continue my urban hikes posts through the winter because people are generally indoors at this time of the year. And let’s face it, the people I meet along the way are what makes these posts interesting.
Happily, I was wrong. On this hike, I met and spoke with four residents of this neighborhood who were friendly and willing to chat. Take a look.
The Homes on Burbank Terrace and Burbank Drive
I started this urban hike at the corner of Meadowview Place and Burbank Terrace.
As I entered the street, this is the first home I saw. Just my style. Love everything about this house. I always marvel at how some homeowners get the color just right. The color of this house is perfect. Not fussy with the trim – just all one color and it looks like a classic craftsman style home. I especially love that the windows appear to be original. Love it.
As I start to move on, the homeowner comes out on the front porch to talk to me. Her name is Brittney (I apologize if that’s not the correct spelling) and she’s very friendly. I explain why I’m taking pictures on her street. We talk about her home, about the neighborhood, and about the cemetery. She tells me there have only been two owners of this home. And I believe she is correct. Well, two families that is. The first owner was A.J. Brady Jr, who worked for Brady Bros., which was run by his father and uncle, and was a lumber business located in North Tonawanda. His daughter Mary Louise was the previous owner to Brittney and her family. So two families.
Brittney invites me to the backyard to see their view of Forest Lawn and to take photos. The backyards are very small along this stretch. Here, it’s about having the wide open space of the cemetery on your border. Brittney says that her kids know Sarah Jones very well. At my look of confusion, she explains that Sara’s is the closest grave to their backyard. She speaks about Sarah almost affectionately. I find this to be very sweet, but also very realistic. It teaches children that death is a part of life. We’re all going there; am I right? Why shouldn’t we talk to our kids about it?
Brittney also tells me that this home, below, was built on a bet. Apparently, the people who built it had it designed to fit into this tiny piece of property, because people bet it couldn’t be done. I think they did it very well. No yard here at all, just the wide expanse of cemetery out back.
I love this neighborhood already. Thanks Brittney!
As I walked away from Brittney’s home I took one more photo of it, and another of this one, below, when I met up with Patrick, who was walking his dogs. I handed him my card, and explained what I was doing. He seemed okay with it, but his dogs were definitely not interested in talking to me, so we continued off in opposite directions.
Patrick later emailed me and we’ve had a few back and forths, discussing the neighborhood and Buffalo in general. He loves living in the neighborhood. And why wouldn’t you?
After walking to the end of Burbank Terrace, I turned around to head over to Burbank Drive. It was then that I met up with Jeff, and his super sweet dog, Trixie. She’s 15, but certainly doesn’t act her age! She’s a beautiful girl, isn’t she?
Jeff and I talked about how much he loves living on this street, he’s been here for 23 years. Everyone I meet mentions that everybody knows everybody in the neighborhood. I like that.
As I head on to Burbank Drive, I see a lovely Cape Cod. I have never seen this particular use of wrought iron on a porch, but I like it so much, I wonder why it’s not done more. I think this is one of the best Cape Cod style homes I’ve ever seen. It’s larger than it appears in my photo. It’s the kind of home that is grand, without being massive. Does that make sense? If there is such a thing, it’s a grand Cape. This is one that makes me think that I wish it were summer. I’ll have to come back.
There are a few more houses along here, but the owners expressed an interest in privacy, and always wishing to be respectful, I will not share photos of those homes. The homeowners were friendly, mind you. Just private, and I can understand that.
I decided to take a break at this point and head over to Medaille before starting up again on Agassiz Circle.
The photo above is the main building of Medaille College, which is the former building that housed Mount St. Joseph’s High School.
As I walked towards Agassiz, the first home I saw was this one, below. This home is gorgeous. I love the little balcony above the front door. And the bay windows are really pretty.
It doesn’t, however, have it’s own address. It is (obviously) the office of admissions for the college though, so it probably shares the address of the college. It’s beautiful.
The Driscoll Home
Then I came to this house.
It was once owned by the Driscoll family. Daniel A. Driscoll was a member of Congress for four terms, beginning in 1908. He went on to serve as postmaster in Buffalo from 1934-1947. To that date, only one had served a longer term, Erastus Granger, who was our first postmaster.
Upon his retirement from government work, Daniel returned to active, full-time management of the family business, the Driscoll Funeral Home at 1337 Main Street, founded by his father in 1861. He was also the president of the Phoenix Brewery Corporation since its organization in 1934.
Driscoll was reportedly quite a character, was known for his quick wit, had a soft spot for Ireland, (his parents both arrived here from Ireland as small children) and was apparently not fond of the mortuary business. He never married, and passed away in the home (above) in 1955, after an illness of several months. He was 80.
Moving Along the Circle
The next few homes are stunners as well. This first one is lovely with that sunroom above the carport! Would love to sit out there on a sunny afternoon.
Here, below, I love the tile roof, and those low slung arched windows that match the arches on the porch.
This home, below, just sold in December of 2020, and interior photos can be seen here. My photo doesn’t do it justice. There is a storage Pod in the driveway presently which I tried to avoid in the photo. It appears to be a well lived in, lovely (large) home.
A Sad Story for Such a Beautiful Home
This home, below, is a quintessential city home, is it not? It’s got a sad story connected with it though. In 1933 the Albert Abendroth, Sr. family lived in the home. Their son, Albert, Jr. (19) attended Canisius College, and because he did well with his studies, his parents gave him a new car.
Shortly thereafter, on May 31, 1933, Al (as he was known) took the car, and along with his friend William (Bill) Shepard Jr. (18) headed over to Long Beach, Ontario, Canada, to a Canisius College class picnic.
At the picnic, the two headed out into Lake Erie in a canoe and were never seen again. The canoe was found during the search for the boys. It is presumed the two drowned. It is unclear whether their bodies were ever found.
In a cruel twist of fate, amid massive search efforts the day after the accident, there were reports that the boys were found alive, and were being brought into Detroit by a freighter. The families, and indeed the whole of Buffalo and Long Beach, Ontario, rejoiced!
But when the freighter arrived, the stunned crew knew nothing of the disappearance of the boys. The freighter did not even have radio equipment on board. (?) It would be June 23, before the obituary for Albert Jr. would show up in the Buffalo Evening News.
The home is beautiful and has been very well maintained. There is even a little free library out front, which you know I love. Note the wrought iron and glass crescent moon hanging above the library. Sweet.
And this amazing, gorgeous home!
This street was aptly named. When these homes were built their view was of a beautiful wood that overlooked the meadow side of Delaware Park. In fact, the view was Delaware Park. Let me tell you what I mean.
Before Humboldt Parkway was torn out and the 198 was put in, the Parkway ambled off to the northwest through Agassiz Circle and straight into what is now the Parkside entrance to Delaware Park. The parking lot at that entrance was much the same as it is today. The Parkway then veered off to the left and continued to amble through the park, over Delaware Avenue and along Hoyt Lake.
So, you see, Meadowview Place used to border Delaware Park. Now it is cut off from it. Essentially, all the space between Meadowview Place and Meadow Drive (what we all now call Ring Road) was a thinly wooded area, and meadow. Below is a view from Meadowview over into that parking area I just mentioned. Picture it, without any roads in between.
Must have been lovely.
The homes are fantastic. Even with the 198. They’re mostly set back aways from the street, so there’s plenty of room.
Here’s the view from these homes, below. Not too bad in the middle of a Friday afternoon; I only see a couple of cars.
Then I came upon this home, below. It reminded me of one of the Sears homes that I found over on Tillinghast. But the dates don’t match up. This one was built in 1900, and Sears didn’t start selling kit homes until 1908. Boy, it really does look like one!
I keep thinking on this hike, I’ll have to come back to see this neighborhood in the summer when everything is in full bloom!
This one is lovely as well.
Perhaps the Most Interesting Home in the Whole Neighborhood
This home, below, probably has the most interesting story in the neighborhood. It looks like such a nice family home. And I’m sure it is. But it was not always the case, depending on your opinion, of course. I happen to revel in the history of this house. The audacity is awesome! Read on.
Back on January 4, 1933, there were two arrests made here for the illegal possession and manufacturing of, you guessed it, liquor and intoxicants. Remember this was the prohibition era. Harry H. Hall, owner of the home, and Joe Saco, renter of the ‘barn’ were both charged. Federal agents staked out the house for three weeks prior to the arrests and observed the business comings and goings during what was probably the busiest season for sales, the holidays.
Wonder if they waited until after the holidays to raid the place in order to let people have a good holiday (the customers, I mean), or would the charges be ‘greater’ with proof of so many sales? We’ll never know. But the scope of production was incredible. The government estimated that 500 gallons of 150 proof alcohol was being produced here daily. Daily! Moonshine anyone? Wow! That is a lot of booze!
How did they come to know about it, you ask? They smelled the mash while driving by one day. How could you not, with that much in production?
The ‘barn’ was built into the side of a hill. The upper floor held an apartment and lockers for the wealthy Buffalonians who rented riding horses from Mr. Hall. The horses were kept in the basement level where the still was kept and were brought up to the riders. The renters of the horses would have no idea that there was a large still in the lower level, unless they recognized the smell of the cooking mash.
It was apparently quite the operation. There were seven vats that held 2,000 gallons each and one 5,000 gallon vat. Wow! The contents of the building, including 12,800 gallons of mash, and 2,000 gallons of syrup, and other distilling equipment were seized and taken to a government warehouse. Wow!
I believe the photo below is the “barn”. The road dead ends at this building. From the 198 a stone wall is visible on the side of a hill, constituting one wall of the lower part of the structure.
It is unclear if either of the two men arrested were found guilty or served any time. Mr. Hall maintained that he merely rented the “barn” to Mr. Saco. But he was the one renting the riding horses. How could he have not known?
Pretty interesting story, eh? Well, read on for another one.
Rock Stars on Agassiz?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this because it’s pretty cool.
In one of my conversations with Patrick, he mentioned that Gregg Allman and Cher stayed on Agassiz Circle back in the mid 70’s. Allman was going through rehab here at BryLin at the time and the couple, along with Chaz (Chastity, at the time) and the couple’s son Elijah Blue, stayed for several months. I knew they were here back then, but I didn’t know they lived on Agassiz Circle while they were here.
On a personal note, the doctor who treated Allman was the brother-in-law of a friend of mine (I am aware that this statement is so Buffalo!). My friend loaned the couple a crib for Elijah Blue, who was a baby at the time. Can you imagine? Loaning a crib to a mega star like Cher?!
You can read a very interesting story about Allman and Cher’s time here in this Buffalo News Article. It confirms they were living on Agassiz, but I still don’t know which house. Anybody?
Also, while reading about it, I found another article about Gregg Allman playing a concert for Canisius High School while the couple was in town. It’s a great story, and is from the Buffalo News as well.
So happy I looked into this area! I’ve been wondering about it for quite a while now, and I ended up meeting some pretty nice people on this urban hike. I saw a lot of beautiful homes, and learned some more about our city.
I love the history here. From the story of a family who lost a beloved son, to an interesting postmaster, to bootleggers!
I’ll admit the story of the Abendroth family hit close to home for me, having lost a family member in a similar way, complete with a 5 day search. I know the devastation a death like this causes a family. So my heart really went out to the Abendroth family while reading about it.
But, I have to also admit that I did not expect bootleggers in this neighborhood. As I said before though, the audacity of that crime was amazing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like a big operation. 500 gallons a day! Literally taking place just steps from the Buffalo Parks Labor Department, which I believe to have been there at the time. And even if it wasn’t there yet, anybody could have wandered up to it from Delaware Park, because remember, there was no 198 at the time! Oh Buffalo.
When I take these urban hikes, I always choose a neighborhood because of the homes. But on every hike, it always ends up being about the people. I met some really nice ones on this hike. And found some great stories about Buffalo as well.
Like I always say, take a walk Buffalo! You’ll see more of our city on foot than in a car any day! And you just may make a friend or two!
**Get the book! They make great gifts for family and friends (or yourself!). Click here or on the photo below to purchase yours!