City Living – The Medical Corridor

City Living – The Medical Corridor

Several months ago, a family member was in Buffalo General Hospital over on High Street in the Medical Campus. For about the one hundredth time, I admired Kevin Guest House as I drove by. But this time I noticed all the other homes around it. I thought, what the heck? How have they survived? I mean, in this little corner of Buffalo, smack dab in the middle of the medical corridor, there are not a lot of homes left. It’s all hospitals, medical labs, the medical school, parking lots and more like it. Buffalo General Hospital, Oishei Children’s Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute are all within view of these homes.

This little block intrigues me. Several houses still stand in the middle of all of this development. It’s time I learned a bit more about them. Come hike with me.

Let’s Get Started with Kevin Guest House

Through the years I’ve wondered about the origins of this house. Who built it? Who’s lived here? What were they like? You know, my usual thoughts as I hike around the city looking at different homes and buildings. So I bought a book about it through the Kevin Guest House website. Very interesting and easy read.

Kevin Guest House

The home was built in 1869 for Jacob B. Fisher, who was a brewer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my reading about Buffalo, it’s that back in the day brewers did very well here. And I think they are again. Just sayin’.

The Speyser Family

In 1904, the home was purchased by Theophil Speyser, a cabinetmaker, for himself and his family. Speyser and his wife, Ernestine, had three children, Louis, Clara and Mathilda, who all lived in the home. Theophil opened a coffin and furniture making company and also purchased a coffin factory. He incorporated in 1906 under the name Buffalo Trunk Manufacturing. The factory building at 127-130 Cherry Street (now Evergreen Lofts) is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Cool.

Mathilda married Louis Beer and the home stayed in the Speyser/Beer family until 1971. Interior photos of the home are available at the Kevin Guest House website.

Who Was Kevin?

Kevin Garvey was born in 1958 in Sharon, PA, to Cyril and Claudia Garvey. Kevin was one of eight children, and his family gave him the nickname Heart. Just after his sixth grade year, in July 1970, Kevin arrived at Roswell Park for treatment of Leukemia. Kevin was, by all accounts (in the book), an example and model to everyone who knew him. He never lost his faith in God throughout the 18 months he lived with the disease.

Kevin Garvey. Photo courtesy of Kevin Guest House website

On January 14, 1972, Kevin passed away.

His family soon after founded the Kevin Guest House, a hospitality house for patients and their families who have to travel long distances for medical treatment in one of Buffalo’s hospitals and treatment centers. Through the years, it has grown to a campus of four houses. The family remains somewhat involved in Kevin Guest House today.

A Source of Inspiration

In my humble opinion, Kevin’s family were (and still are) models and examples to everyone as well. The good work they have done across the country and right here in Buffalo is a testament to the love they have for their son and brother.

Incidentally, Kevin Guest House was the inspiration for the first Ronald McDonald House, which was in Philadelphia, and has served as a model for many others across the country as well. Another Buffalo first – by guests of ours back in 1972. Amazing people if you ask me. To take a loss so great, and turn it into something that has helped countless people through the years. Simply incredible.

This home, part of the campus is for bone marrow transplant patients and their families. The carriage house behind it has apartments above also to be used by patients and their families.

766 Ellicott Street

This home too, is part of the Kevin Guest House campus. It is called the Russel J. Salvatore Hospitality House on Kevin Campus. Schroeder, Joseph & Associates sold the property to Kevin Guest House in order that they may expand their services to more families in need.

As of 2016, Kevin Guest House was serving roughly 1200 families every year, but 400 more were being turned away. This home is already going a long way toward helping these families. To date, in 2020, 2,000 families have been sheltered during their time of need.

Being a history nerd, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the history of this home. This beautiful Second Empire home was built for Albert Ziegler, who was also a brewer.

Zeigler’s story is well known in Buffalo brewing circles. When his brewery on Genesee Street burned to the ground, it was resurrected on Washington Street as the Phoenix Brewery. Ziegler named it for the Egyptian mythological figure that rose from the ashes. That second building has now been redeveloped by Sinatra & Company as residential units.

The home was eventually owned by August Feine, who was a talented craftsman working with iron. He embellished the home in several places with his hand forged ironwork. This home is magnificent!

Moving Right Along

As I move down the block and turn onto High Street I see this building.

I wonder what’s going on inside, looks like construction. So I called Ciminelli Real Estate and spoke to Denise Juron-Borgese, Vice-President of Development & Planning, who tells me that the building was aquired by Ciminelli during their work on the Conventus Building across the street and adjacent to Oishei Children’s Hospital. It was used as a sort of headquarters during construction.

Ciminelli has no immediate plans for 33 High Street at this time. I’m no expert, but I would guess there’s a lot of potential here.

Denise and I also had a very interesting discussion about the Conventus Building. Look for a post about it in the new year. Thank you, Denise.

The Homes Along Washington Street

As I turn left on Washington Street, I see the UB Jacobs School of Medicine on the right. But what I’m interested in are the homes on the left. They appear to be from the 1850’s and are beautiful to my eye, with lots of little details that you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you were just driving by. And they’ve got quite a bit of wrought iron, which makes me wonder if August Feine did some iron work for his neighbors back in the day. This is not your run of the mill ironwork. Some of it is exquisite.

The homes are owned by the Medical Campus (927-937 Washington Street LLC). Word on the street has it that there are asbestos issues that will need to be taken care of, but when I was there the other day, new roofs were being put on all of them, so that’s a good sign. Nice to know we won’t be losing them.

The St. Jude Center

As I continue east on Carlton Street, I come upon the St. Jude Center.

I have never heard of it. I have, however, passed it many times though, on the northwest corner of Carlton and Ellicott Streets.

So, here’s what I’ve learned since then.

The St. Jude Center was started by Msgr. Edward J. Ulaszeski in 1969, in response to the need for better pastoral care for people experiencing the pain and suffering of illnesses, by either themselves or a family member. It is easy to see why the center is located where it is, in the heart of Buffalo’s medical campus.

The director now, Fr. Richard Augustyn, tells me that when he came here to work as a chaplain at Buffalo General Hospital, in 1975, the neighborhood was so rough that they had police escorts for emergency visits to the hospital. One block away! He also tells me that the neighborhood has done a one-eighty. It’s now very safe. Patrolled regularly by police. I know I feel safe when I’m in the area.

The Center serves the community in several ways. Fr. Richard is a full time chaplain at Buff Gen. The center offers mass twice a day on weekdays, twice a day on the weekends. And mass every day at Buff Gen too. This is in addition to the regular chaplain duties of offering emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

There are several programs offered in the St. Jude Center as well, including bereavement programs, prosthetic support, and wellness support. They also train all chaplains who work at the hospitals in the medical corridor.

The Home Itself

The home is an old Victorian era house with a carriage house behind. The City of Buffalo lists the house as being built in 1890, but Fr. Richard tells me it was built in 1856 for the Hock family, who lived in the home while running the Victoria Hotel Bed & Breakfast out of it. Interesting story.

The home sat abandoned for quite some time and was pretty rough when Msgr. Ulaszeski bought it in 1969 for the St. Jude Center. A lot of the interior details are still there, although most of the woodwork has been painted. Fr. Richard graciously invited me into his home for some photos.

Check out these chandeliers, which were there when Msgr. Ulaszeski purchased the home, although I’m pretty sure they don’t date to 1856. They are different from any other lighting fixtures I have ever seen! Note that the home is decorated for Christmas, so the ornaments are not normally on the one fixture.

And the living room. This archway and pocket doors are the only woodwork that is not currently painted. And this chandelier (below) was added by Fr. Richard. There are five marble fireplaces intact in the home.

The Carriage House

The day I went to see Fr. Richard was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, so I attended mass at the Shrine to St. Jude which is in the old carriage house, and we met immediately following the mass.

Now, I’ve been to mass in more churches and chapels than I can count, and literally all over the world. I wouldn’t say that I’ve traveled extensively, but I have traveled. And when I travel, I still attend mass. So I’ve been in some really different churches. Like the church in Puerto Rico that didn’t have any windows, just hurricane shutters which are almost always thrown open.

But I have to say that this chapel is different from anything I’ve ever seen. I first walked through the brand new, modern vestibule, which, I admit seems out of place here. But immediately, I saw these doors, and forgot all about that. Note the carriage kicks at the bottom on either side of the door frame. These would prevent carriages from losing wheels if they bumped the door frames. I love it that they’re still there.

And one from the inside.

That Feeling…

When I walked into the chapel I immediately felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. If you read my blog, it was akin to the feeling I get at Corpus Christi Church. There were more people there than I expected (don’t worry they’re following all the Covid rules), one of them said hello to me from her pew and another smiled at me through her mask. I felt comfortable immediately. I don’t know if it’s the lighting in there, or the immediate acceptance of the people when I walked in, but I got a good feeling in this chapel.

Take a look. Note the openings in the upper wall, covered now with wrought iron, this was the hay loft. The brick work on the walls here has been repaired over and over. But it’s beautiful. Through the wrought iron doors is where the Sanctuary Lamp and the Tabernacle are kept. It is where the horses were stabled. I absolutely love the humbleness of this chapel. It’s very real.

More Wrought Iron!

And the wrought iron. It’s everywhere on this property. It is so beautiful and so appropriate here. It just works.

A Quick Story

While I perused the St. Jude Center website I noticed they have a Hungarian mass on Sundays. When I asked Fr. Richard about it, he told me a little story.

A woman he knows through his work at Buffalo General seemed a little down in the dumps, and when Fr. Richard asked her about it, she told him that her home parish church was closing. She is a first generation Hungarian immigrant, and would miss her Hungarian language mass every Sunday. Fr. Richard told the woman to invite her priest in to St. Jude’s on Sunday for mass. As he says, he “squeezed them in” between the 8:45am and the 11:15am masses. And so, the 10am Hungarian mass was born at St. Jude’s.

When, sadly, the Hungarian speaking priest passed away, Fr. Richard learned to say the mass in Hungarian so the congregation could continue with their Hungarian masses. When I expressed amazement that he would do this, Fr. Richard downplayed it. He explained that he doesn’t say his homilies in Hungarian, and that he cannot speak Hungarian. He merely learned to say the mass in that language. Still. It was an awesome thing for him to do.

I have a feeling a lot of things like this Hungarian Mass story goes on here at St. Jude’s.

My Impressions

First of all, I don’t think I have ever seen so much incredible wrought iron within one city block! So beautiful! I still wonder about the August Feine thing. Whether he did wrought iron for his neighbors…I guess we’ll never know.

The homes are gorgeous and historic. Wish I could have seen this block a hundred years ago, when there were more homes just like these. And wish I could meet the people who lived in them. To hear their stories.

But I remain grateful that these few still stand, for a glimpse of the past in our midst.

Seen on the back the the St. Jude Center sign. It’s a framed icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Sweet! You’re not going to notice that when you’re driving!

Secondly, I want to convey to you how blown away I was by both the Kevin Guest House story, and the story of the St. Jude Center. Here are two awe-inspiring entities, sitting quietly in an unlikely, but very fitting, setting. As the medical corridor grows up around them, they remain. Continuing their quiet, but oh so important work. Forever tied to the medical community, and the people they both serve.

Humble is the word that comes to mind. And when people are humble, they often achieve great things for their fellow human beings. This is happening here in Buffalo, on this little block in the middle of the Medical Corridor.

Next time you’re in the area, take a closer look.

And if you can, and you’re looking for a way to give back, or pay it forward this holiday season, I bet they’d both appreciate a donation. 😉


*Special thanks to Fr. Richard Augustyn, The St. Jude Center; Denise Juron-Borgese, Ciminelli Real Estate Corp.; and Betsy Stone, Kevin Guest House.

p.s. Somebody at the St. Jude Center is a Bill’s fan! Go Bills!

How to Celebrate the Holidays in Buffalo, 2020

How to Celebrate the Holidays in Buffalo, 2020

A year ago, I wrote a post about Holiday Traditions. Here I am a year later writing about how to celebrate the holidays in 2020. What a difference a year makes. 2020 has been challenging to say the least. It’s been downright awful for some people, and that can make the looming holidays seem like they’re going to be another challenge to ‘get through’ this year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can face another ‘zoom’ holiday.

So, in preparation for today’s post I went back and re-read last year’s post. Some of my ideas back then still apply in this pandemic year of social distancing. Some, obviously, do not. Take, for instance, the idea to invite friends over for weeknight parties. Who would have thought that something as simple as that would be considered taboo just one year later? Are people still doing it? Sure they are. Should they? Hmmmmm….not so much.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

And just one year ago, I encouraged everyone to invite family and friends over to cook and/or bake together. This year, I’ve got other ideas about that. And inviting a casual friend that might otherwise be alone for the holidays? Not a good idea.

So what is there to do? Lots. There are a lot of great ideas for ‘social distance’ celebrating with just the people in your “bubble”, or your close circle. Some are my ideas, some I’ve heard about from other people. Some of these ideas are Buffalo specific, but most you can do from anywhere. Let’s take a look.

The Holiday Baking/Cooking Thing

The other day on social media, I saw a post by an acquaintance of mine saying that she had made 242 perogies, and that the first 16 people to comment would get a bag of perogies delivered to their door the next day, with the stipulation that they would then pay it forward. The timing was right, so sure enough, the next day, she showed up at my house, with a bag of perogies, and the request to ‘pay it forward’. Which I will do.

That got me thinking about this holiday season, and how we cannot get together with family and friends to cook and/or bake this year. But why does that have to stop us? I mean, would it be more fun to do it with loved ones? Yes, of course. But, my plan is to bake alone this year, but for other people. I’m going to put on some Christmas music, fire up the oven, and go to town, baking some of my Mother’s best cookie recipes. Mom’s cookies are legendary in my family. Recently one of my sons was asked what his favorite holiday cookie is. His answer? “Anything baked by Grandma Mika.” Good answer.

Mom poses with her “Rocks” cookies. Filled with fall spices, raisins and walnuts, (spoiler alert) they do not taste like rocks.

Mom baked with recipes, but she also made up her own. I remember her showing up at my house one day saying she had an idea for a new cookie and had brought some over for us to test taste. When I tried the cookie, it practically melted in my mouth. She had a gift, my mother.

Paying It Forward

And now, I’m sad to say I have my Mother’s handwritten recipe book. When considering what to do to ‘pay it forward’ for the perogies I received, I will be consulting the book. I don’t share my mother’s gift for baking, but using her recipes gives me the best possible chance to show love to the people I pay it forward to.

Here’s my idea for you. You don’t need to receive perogies from someone to be able to pay it forward. We all have something to be thankful for. No matter how insignificant it may seem. Without all the parties, gift exchanges and running around shopping for extended family and friends, we have time this year to do stuff like this. Do it alone, or with the few people in your “bubble”. Whatever works.

And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be homemade baked goods, or enough for 16 people! Could be two people. Could be bakery bought cookies. Make a pot roast or a spaghetti dinner for a neighbor. Or bake a cake. Or anything your heart desires. Pay it forward your way! You decide.

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Come to think of it. This doesn’t have to be a cooking/baking thing. If you knit or crochet, and can make scarves or hats, do that! Deliver them to the city mission. Contact your church, synagogue or mosque and ask if they know a family in need, (they usually do) and send them some anonymous gift certificates, or gently used clothing. Whatever you can do. Just pay it forward.

Thank you Ann, for the perogies, and for the inspiration.

Doing something like this, that takes a little planning and effort on your part, will get you into the holiday spirit!

Send Out Cards This Year

Since we have so much time at home during Covid, why not send out holiday cards this year? No matter what you’re celebrating: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice…wouldn’t it be a great idea to spread some cheer?

Sending out cards for the holidays has fallen out of fashion. I myself sent out cards much longer than a lot of my friends and family. But even I stopped quite a few years ago. What better year to pick it back up again? At a time when we cannot easily go see friends and family, to me it makes sense to spread some holiday cheer by sending greeting cards.

I know the postal service sometimes gets a bad rap, but look at it this way, what other delivery service will pick up right from your home, and send an envelope clear across the country for you, for 55 cents? It might not be what we used to pay, but it’s still a good deal. And it’s a small price to pay to make someone happy.

Also, be thoughtful about it. Along with your family, be sure to send cards to people you think might be surprised to receive one from you. Or someone you know who has lost a loved one this year. Or someone who lives alone, or is lonely (not necessarily the same person). If you have the time, personalize it by writing a note inside.

You get what I mean here. Send out some holiday cheer in the form of greeting cards. It’ll get you in the holiday spirit. And you might just make someone’s day!

Get Outside

This is one that still applies from last year. If you can, get outside into the fresh (cold!) air. Take a walk, or an urban hike. If you have kids, take them with you! Bundle up, of course, and stay out only as long as it’s safe. But do it. And do it often. You’ll feel better, less stressed, and you’ll sleep better at night.

Where to go? Just about anywhere you want. Not sure? Here are a few suggestions.

Right in Your Own Neighborhood

Walk out your front door, make a left (or a right) at the sidewalk and follow it all the way around the block until you’re back to your house. Sounds crazy, but it could be that simple! The point is, that it doesn’t have to be complicated. I have several different walks in my neighborhood that I take regularly. Which one I take depends on how much time I have, which way the wind is blowing (some routes are more windy than others) and how much snow is on the ground!

Aoife on one of our walks, 2019

Be sure to head out occasionally in the early evening when everyone’s lights are on. People have really gone all out this year with their displays. It’ll lift your spirits to see what some people have done! You’ll be amazed!

Or Someone Else’s Neighborhood

Do like I sometimes do. Drive to a neighborhood that interests you, and take an urban hike. Pick one of Olmsted’s parkways, Lincoln, Chapin, Bidwell, Richmond or Porter. Or check out the Parkside neighborhood. The Darwin Martin House is not the only impressive home in that area. There are lots more! Check out Tillinghast Place (one of my favorites!).

Or explore any street in the Elmwood Village too! While you’re there, do some holiday shopping at one of our locally owned shops. Or try one of the residential parks over in Allentown and beyond. Arlington Park, Days Park or Johnson Park.

The point is to get out and do a little urban exploration. You’ll fall in love with our city!

The Waterfront

Or for a change of scenery, head over to the waterfront. I do this all the time. Park near the Swannie House and walk past the Edward M. Cotter, and make your way along the Buffalo River all the way to the lookout at the Erie Basin Marina. Climb the lookout – the views are gorgeous – even in the winter! Head back and get some wings to-go at Swannie House. Yum! (Support our local businesses!) Or if you prefer, head home for some hot cocoa and cookies. Either will hit the spot after a winter walk. During the holidays though, plan for the after party, especially if you’ve got kids. It’ll extend the adventure and make it more memorable.

I’ve heard that some places in Buffalo are selling Tom & Jerry drinks to-go this year. Another thing to be thankful for!

Hit A Park During the Holidays

Live near a park? Even if you don’t, head out to one of Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks, and walk. Park behind the Art Gallery at Delaware Park for instance, and walk around Hoyt Lake. You won’t get lost. There’s a paved path for some of it and a well trodden path for some of it, but if you keep the lake in view, you can’t get lost. This is one of my go to walks during summer and winter alike. It’s so beautiful and peaceful there. And you’ll see plenty of other folks out too! Don’t forget the after party!

A couple of years ago, my sister and I headed over to Delaware Park the morning after getting about 14 inches of snow overnight. It was early, it hadn’t yet been plowed and was it ever gorgeous! The sun wasn’t even shining, but the snow! It looked so beautiful, and peaceful! If you can time one of these walks just after a snowfall, or during a calm snowfall, the whole world will feel different. Quieter, more insulated…peaceful. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

Plan Ahead for Your Holiday Walks

Plan ahead for a few walks during the holidays, and get creative with the after parties. Get the crock pot going before you go out, and come home to the wonderful smells and tastes that await! Got kids? Finish off the day with one of your family’s favorite board games! Make the game an event! Talk it up to the kids, and they’ll get excited!

Get Creative this Holiday Season

Go Christmas caroling. Seriously. Get the people in your “bubble” to do it with you. You don’t have to get very close to the homes you visit. Get creative by traveling to people’s homes that you know could use a pick me up! Maybe they’ve lost a loved one this year, or have been sick. Maybe you happen to know they’re feeling lonely. Super easy to do, and you could bring some of those cookies to drop off while you’re there! Again, you might just make someone’s day!

Watch some Christmas movies! Now, this sounds like something that we’ve always done to get in the spirit. But this year, make it an event. Cook a special meal to eat while watching. Maybe homemade pizzas with everyone helping and using their favorite toppings. Or make cookies to eat, and cocoa to drink during the movie. Watch the classics, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. And ‘new’ classics too! Elf, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, This Christmas and A Christmas Story. Or whatever your favorites are! Your choice!

Check this Out!

I know a family who, during quarantine last spring, started their own family Olympics! They got really creative and made up silly events and competed with each other! I believe there were upwards of 30 events in all! They did it over several weeks. I, along with many others, followed their progress on social media, including closing ceremonies etc. It was fun to watch, and must have been a blast for them!

The video below is from the Telesco Family Quarantine Olympics – The following quote is the intro to this particular event from facebook.

“Event #2 – Whipped Cream Flip Challenge. The rules: Spray whipped cream on your hand. Flip it up and catch it in your mouth. Top two move on to finals. In the finals, you must flip it up, do a 360 and then catch it. After 4 attempts, if there is a tie, it goes to sudden death in a regular (non-spinning) flip.” I love it.

See how much fun we all could be having with this?! Haha! Now, you don’t have to video your own Olympics and share to social media. But why not plan your own? I thought this was a really creative way to break up the monotony of quarantine. Add a holiday theme, and you might just have fun with it!

Wrap it Up!

Now, I could continue with ideas like getting all of your neighbors to go out on their front steps at 6pm on Christmas Eve to ring bells together to celebrate separately-together this year. Or having a family board game night tournament style (this is not just for kids – keep it to your “bubble” though) with prizes for the winners etc. But I think you get the idea!

Any one of these would surely get you into the holiday spirit.

My Impressions

Sometimes, getting creative can mean stepping back and relaxing a bit. Staying away from the hustle and bustle of the season. Keeping it simple.

The other day I saw someone on TV make an old fashioned paper chain to decorate for Christmas. Always looking for things to do with my grandkids, the next time one of them was over, I pulled out the construction paper, some scissors, and a glue stick. My granddaughter Aoife, my daughter-in-law Kristen and I cut and glued for an hour. Okay, Kristen did almost all of it (thank you!). But Aoife is only three.

But even at three, we were able to convey to her that we were doing something important to get ready for Christmas! When our tree goes up mid-month, as is our tradition, that chain will go on it. And I’ll make it a big deal that Aoife made it, and that it makes our tree perfect this year. I can picture her now, bursting with pride!

That’s what it’s all about if you have kids. YOU have the power to make or break this holiday season for them. Kids will pick up on whatever attitude you project. You will too. If you keep positive with the simple things, this year could turn out to make some of the best holiday memories ever!

It’s The Simple Things

Take some walks in some of Buffalo’s parks. Give to others in a simple way. Have family fun nights. Send greeting cards. Drive around to see the Christmas lights (Buffalo has really gone above and beyond this year!). You get the idea, and most of you are more creative than I am, so have fun with it!

Focus on the positive, even if you have to keep re-focusing on it (I know sometimes I do!). We are all human, and need interaction with others. Perhaps in Buffalo, we have a little more of this than in other cities, in keeping with our ‘Friendliest City in America’ status. But we are creative and can figure out ways to be social while maintaining social distance and staying safe through these unprecedented times. We got this, Buffalo.

Do us all a favor and share your creative holiday ideas in the comments below!

*Special thanks to the Telesco family for allowing me to share that super fun video!

City Living – North Pearl Street

City Living – North Pearl Street

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Midway Rowhouses on Delaware Avenue. After I did, a reader contacted me and told me about the rowhouses on North Pearl Street. I didn’t even know they existed! A week or so later, I did one of my favorite things and took a walk, specifically to look for them. And, wow! They are unbelievable! More about those later.

On this walk, I also noticed the rest of the block as well. I’m pretty familiar with the stretch of North Pearl between Virginia and Allen Streets, but my travels hadn’t yet included the ‘north’ end of North Pearl, between Allen and North Streets. (That’s a lot of norths!) Funny how these things happen, I’ve actually spent a lot of time just around the block on Franklin, between Allen and North, but never on North Pearl.

So, I’ve decided to bring you the whole of North Pearl today. Seems like I keep ending up in Allentown. Hmmm.

North Pearl Background

Most of the homes on North Pearl were built in the second half of the 19th Century. It’s where we can see many of Buffalo’s brick Italianate style homes. They were built by and for Buffalo’s upwardly mobile class who had a bit of extra money but couldn’t afford the larger homes we saw on Franklin Street. Instead of large, Italianate homes with all the trimmings, these homes are smaller. But a lot of them are built of brick instead of wood and do contain some of the trimmings, showing a more modest budget, but very good taste. My father would refer to them as ‘very nicely appointed’.

The homes along North Pearl weren’t built in any particular order. Instead, homes were added only as people bought up lots, over a period of 50 years or so.

Also, I should note that not all of the homes are in great shape, but it was obvious on my walk that several are being renovated.

Take a Look at This!

So, this is one of the first things I saw on North Pearl. Why, thank you. Thank you very much. What a beautiful home.

Let’s Get Started!

As I walk I notice the quiet of the street. There’s a slight breeze, and I hear leaves rustling in the trees and birds singing. It always amazes me that in the middle of the city walking on a street like North Pearl, it can seem so serene. Quiet. As if I’m walking on a side street in a small village somewhere in middle America. Love it.

I’ve chosen to start with number 1. This house was built by Henry Hellreigel, who was a grocer. Like most successful businessmen, he didn’t keep all his eggs in one basket though. He built at least seven houses on this street, to be used for rental income. He lived in one of them with his family while waiting for his mansion on Main Street to be completed.

As I move up the street, I see this one. It’s one of the older homes on the street – 1869. It has amazing detail at the top and around the windows and front door, but the picture window in the front is not original. Look at the brickwork above it. It appears something is missing. But those details below the cornice! Very pretty! Wish I could have seen this house before the window was replaced.

This one below is 1854, and is wonderful! It was built for a bookkeeper but was bought in 1882 by John Dingens, another grocer. He added on to the original house around 1890-92 adding a lot of the details you see here. Love the curved glass in the turret windows, and the second story inset windows with double columns on either side.

And These…

Apartment Living

Just in case you prefer apartment living, North Pearl’s got you covered with The Ardmore. There are 22 apartments ranging from studios to an ‘elegant’ three-bedroom unit. It was built in 1905 and is just lovely to look at. I’m told almost all the hardwood floors are intact, along with the natural woodwork.

Apparently it’s a favorite among college students, being that it’s so close to UB’s medical school and the Buffalo Medical Campus. Would love to have spent my college years living in the middle of Allentown, in a place like this! Especially in one of those front units with bay windows and balconies! Yes, please!

Moving Along…

This next one strays from the Italianate design and is Second Empire, evidenced by the Mansard roof with the dormer windows, in this case, one of them is oval. Look at the details above these windows as well. So beautiful. The front entry is actually Italianate in design. But it works.

When I see an oval window like this one, I wonder what the room on the inside looks like. Is it a child’s bedroom? One where the child looks out and watches snow gently falling in winter? Or fireflies twinkling in the summer?

And Still More

Back to the brick Italianate style. What a great example of what I mentioned earlier when I said ‘nicely appointed’. Love the details at the peak that so beautifully frame the gorgeous double windows! The scrollwork on the wrought iron is spectacular!

Next, there’s this. This Queen Anne style home is so lovely. The paint job is spot on, in my opinion. The colors are perfect for what I picture this style of home to be. Would love to sit on the porch in the evenings chatting with neighbors as they pass by.

Who am I trying to kid? I’d be one of the neighbors passing by. Ha!

And another Second Empire. Beautiful entryway! Love that the rounded windows haven’t been replaced with less expensive squared-off ones. I sometimes wonder if the owners have just been lucky, or did someone have to spend the extra dough to replace the rounded glass windows properly?

Recently, I learned from the owner of a historic Second Empire home about the astronomical cost of replacing/repairing windows in a home such as this one. I have a new appreciation for people who restore properly.

On this particular home, I even like the Dr. Seuss-like evergreen growing up the left hand side of the house. It works somehow.

Take a Gander at These

And that leads me to Allen Street. But first, check out this home attached to the back of Cathode Ray. That entryway! (Hope the window gets replaced soon.) Also, I picture someone writing (a blog perhaps?) just inside the open French doors on the second floor. My daydreams are alive and well on North Pearl!

Continuing up North Pearl

As I cross Allen Street, I notice, not for the first time, but with fresh eyes, this building. Because it’s painted, you have to look close to see the details. I love the entryway (I have a thing about entryways). This is another one I wish I could have seen right after it was built. Is anyone working on that time travel thing? Because I’m ready for it!

Here is the next house that catches my eye. Even though I am not a fan of the bunting, I can overlook it to see the nice paint job and solid design of this home. To me, it’s the quintessential family home. Love those upper windows, something you’d never notice if you were driving.

This is where it gets interesting. The next few are very unique. This one is two homes connected in the center and presided over by the center dormer. The two are mirror images with the exception of the entryway stairs. Love the uppermost windows and the first-floor tri-part windows with semi-circle transoms. Very well designed.

Lots of great features and details here, but overall it lacks something. No flowers, no garden to speak of, and general overgrowth of that small garden (?) near the driveway. It’s so great architecturally, I wish there were some love and care going into this place.

Next, I came upon something really unique, almost strange. Two homes joined together. Take a look. You wouldn’t notice this in a car either.

Here’s the Best Part!

Right about now I come upon those rowhouses I talked about at the beginning of this post. I’m taken in by them all over again. I start snapping pictures just as a woman came out her front door. I introduce myself, and we begin to chat. Her name is Carly, and she tells me a bit of what she knows about the rowhouses. Two are single homes, the other three are doubles. She and her husband own one of the doubles. She also tells me each one has a rooftop terrace! Excellent.

She offered to take me inside her house to look around, solidifying Buffalo’s reputation as one of the world’s friendliest cities. I mean, who does that? We do.

Well, she does have her place listed on Airbnb so that may have something to do with it. But I prefer to think she would have invited me in any way. In we went, and here is some of what I saw. Love the fireplace. The light fixture at the front door. Well, I loved all of it!

The view out the front window isn’t even that great, but isn’t it great?! That wrought iron!

From the terrace – it’s small, but larger than it looks in this photo.

Share and Share Alike

I shared with Carly some of the info I learned in the past couple of weeks about the rowhouses.

The five rowhouses were built in 1888 as boarding houses (tenement). In each home, there was a kitchen, dining, and living room, to be shared by gentlemen tenants who had their own sleeping quarters. Through the years, the rooms for let were divided up, made smaller, and were neglected.

By the 1970s, the rowhouses had really deteriorated. They were in rough shape. Really rough. They were seedy, dirty, disgusting rooming houses and were set for demolition by the city.

They were saved by architect E. Bruce Garver in 1972. Garver set about to clean out the homes, redesigning and transforming them back to their original charm. The accounts I’ve read state that most of the woodwork and original features were remarkably intact but were badly in need of restoration.

We owe it to Bruce Garver for saving one of Buffalo’s most unique sets of historic homes.

What Else?

Just a few more shots of the street.

My Impressions

I love learning new things about Buffalo, and it happens constantly. Like when I received an email from a reader telling me about the rowhouses on North Pearl. Like I said earlier, I’ve spent a good amount of time right around the block from them, but never had occasion to head over there.

Buffalo is a beautiful city. Every building, every street, every home has a story. When I look at a broken down, dilapidated building, I wonder who the people were who lived there. Loved there. Spent time there. Had dreams there. Went after those dreams there. I think the same thing when I see a beautiful mansion. Who were the people who lived there? I mean, who were they really?

In the blog posts I write, it’s easy to talk about the ‘movers and shakers’ and the ‘captains of industry’ who built this building, or that home. But I wonder who these people really were. What they were like. How they spent their days. How they treated each other. It’s what keeps me learning, going into these buildings and neighborhoods, and homes. I hope I never lose the willingness to learn new things. To see new things. To meet new people.

It’s the reason I’m the neighbor passing by on an urban hike, rather than the one sitting on the porch. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for sitting on the porch, and I’ll be there eventually. But not yet.

Take the time to get over to North Pearl Street and walk it. When you do, imagine the people who’ve spent time in the beautiful homes there.

* Special thanks go out to Sam, for telling me about the North Pearl rowhouses; and Carly, for being so friendly and open about your rowhouse. Appreciate it!

**All photos in this post are mine.

City Living – The Albright Estate

City Living – The Albright Estate

As most of you know by now, I love my city walks. Today I want to show you the Albright Estate.

Last summer my husband ran a 5k race that started on West Ferry. 780 West Ferry to be specific, now the home of Buffalo’s Ronald McDonald House. Since it was a beautiful summer evening, I decided to take a walk through what used to be the Albright Estate, or the Albright Farm some people called it.

Without getting super into his life and work, that’s a very long story for another day, let’s just say John Albright was a mover and shaker in Buffalo’s gilded age. Everyone who was anyone knew John Albright. His estate was one of the catalysts of society here in Buffalo.

The E.B. Green designed Albright Estate House.
Photo credit: wikipedia

Now, his home did not survive to be preserved with some of our other great architecture. And that is truly a shame, because it was designed by Albright’s close friend, E.B. Green. And it was pretty spectacular. Green fashioned it after a manor house at St. Catherine’s Court of England.

If you follow architecture of any sort in Buffalo, you’re no doubt already familiar with E.B. Green. He was one of Buffalo’s most prolific architects. Many, many of E.B. Green and Associates buildings and homes are still around. He was born in 1855 and died at 95 years old. And was actively designing up until shortly before he passed!

Anyways, on with the walk about.

Tudor Place Style

As I round the corner from West Ferry onto Tudor Place, I’m not sure where to look first. So many gorgeous homes. Here is some of what I saw.

This house is set sideways on the street, with the main entrance on the driveway.

One of my personal favorites

And this home, that I happen to know a little bit about.

This house was built by Louis Greenstein on a piece of land bought from John J. Albright in 1925. Greenstein was an architect, and he purchased the land in his wife Shinah’s name. The property was previously on the grounds of Albright’s estate that faced West Ferry, just around the block. In fact, all of Tudor Place and a good part of Cleveland Ave. was built on the former Albright estate.

The brick wall on the north side of this particular property originally surrounded the entire Albright estate. My photos do not do this house justice. My father would call this home ‘very well appointed’. It means that the person who built it did it in the best way possible, using the best materials, while showing great attention to detail. That definitely describes this house.

Cleveland Avenue

While on Cleveland Ave., I came upon this gem. Last week, a woman asked about it on a facebook page I follow. She was looking for photos because she had grown up in the house back in the 60’s.

It’s an E.B. Green home as well.

This one is fantastic! If you’d like a look at the inside see this link. It’s beautiful, but I don’t love the kitchen, and I don’t think the whole house should be grey and white. Don’t think either fits with the era of the home. But that’s just my opinion. And it does make for a blank slate for the new owner…it was sold in 2019.

Here are a few more interesting homes on Cleveland Ave.

Chemical No. 5

This building was built in 1894 to accommodate horse drawn fire equipment. The first floor had space for the equipment and horses, and the second floor was for the crew. It was designed by Edward Kent, a well known Buffalo Architect, who by the way, was the only Buffalo resident to perish on the Titanic. Read my post about him here.

St. Catherine’s Court

Here’s one you may not have heard of, and several years back I didn’t go down this street because it appeared too private. But I’ve been through it a couple of times since, but really, it is private. And full of trees. And quiet. Real peaceful. You would have no idea Elmwood Ave is just one block over.

On a side note, the name of this court was inspired by the fact that E.B. Green used a manor house of the Court of St. Catherine of England for the inspiration for John Albright’s home, which I mentioned earlier. I love that the street name is historic. Thank you, whoever is responsible for that.

The Canadian Angle

Back out on Cleveland Ave. I head towards Elmwood Avenue just to see a house that used to be owned by the Canadian government. That may seem random, but I used to work at the Canadian Consulate when they had an office here in Buffalo. They owned several properties in the area, including an absolutely gorgeous home on Soldiers Circle, a ranch on Nottingham Terrace, a couple of condos on the waterfront, and a home on Cleveland Ave. It’s the last house on the north side of the street, right next to Spot Coffee.

If you think about it though, a home on Tudor Place or St. Catherine’s Court would have been more in keeping with all the other residences they owned.

Funny story, the first (and only, I believe) diplomat to live in this house absolutely hated it. You see, she was very private. She hated the location, right next to a very lively coffee shop with outdoor seating. And right around the corner from Elmwood Ave. There were stories of her calling Spot Coffee nightly to complain about patrons laughing and talking on the patio. How dare they? Ha!

The Canadian Government had central air installed, bought her a white noise machine, and I guess that was the end of it. Never would have had this issue on St. Catherine’s Court!

Elmwood Avenue

As I head back over to West Ferry by way of Elmwood Ave, I passed through the grounds of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which was also designed by architect Edward Kent, whom I mentioned earlier. Here’s the one shot I took.

Brittany Lane

On this particular evening, I wanted to check something out that I heard about after I wrote about Mayfair Lane in my last City Living post. I was told by a reader there was a copycat Mayfair Lane on West Ferry near Elmwood. And not a very good copy. Let’s see.

Yep, it’s right there, with a city street sign on the road proclaiming it’s a city street. And yet the road is marked a private lane. Here’ what I saw. Similar idea. But I think you’ll agree it’s not at all like Mayfair Lane. Nothing against anyone who lives in this perfectly great location, just that it’s no Mayfair Lane. The reader was right.

Back to West Ferry

After passing by Brittany Lane, this is the first thing I see that peaks my interest on the north side of West Ferry. I love trees, and this is a particularly nice one, so I’ve included it. Note how hidden the home is, and I’m sure it’s a beautiful one too. Oh well.

This is the next thing I notice on West Ferry. It’s now called Queen Anne’s Gate, and was the original gate that stood outside the Albright Estate. It appears to my eye anyway, to be very original. The opening was not made for large vehicles. I would think a pickup truck might not fit, that’s how narrow it is. Wish the estate house was still there.

I did not enter the gates on this visit. Maybe next time.

Just Two More Things…

I wanted to mention just two other noteworthy buildings on this side of the street. Both are technically outside the original Albright Estate boundries, but both eventually became part of it, if even for a short time. The first is at #780. It is the Dr. Alexander Main Curtiss home and was built in 1895. The reason I mention it is because the second owners were Mr. and Mrs. Evan Hollister. And Mrs. Hollister was Ruth Albright Hollister, John J.’s daughter! Are you surprised? No, I’m not either.

It must have been a lovely place to live. Now, it’s the home of our local Ronald McDonald House. Beautiful. Just beautiful.

And I can’t get away without a few shots of 800 West Ferry. The famed apartment building. Here’s what I know.

Albright bought the property in August of 1905, when it was the home of William Hengerer, well before the apartment building was there. Just two months later, he sold it to William Gratwick. So, he only owned it for, probably less than, two months!

The building that is there now was a million dollar apartment building, built by Darwin R. Martin. He was the son of Darwin D. Martin, who was responsible for the Darwin Martin House on Jewett Parkway over in the Parkside Neighborhood.

Originally, on the ground floor, there were four one floor apartments. On the next eight floors there were 16 two-story apartments, and the top two floors were for Darwin Martin himself. There is parking underneath the building. During the depression, the apartments, which were originally quite large, were broken into smaller apartments and remain so today. I’ve never been inside, but boy would I love a tour of this place! And that entryway! It looks like an altar!

My Impressions

I love the history of this block. The estate is fascinating. I mean, most of us cannot even begin to imagine owning the kind of land that Albright owned back in the day. At one point, he owned almost the whole city block contained within the boundaries of West Ferry and Cleveland Ave, and Delaware and Elmwood. Save for the land at 800 Ferry, and a plot over on Cleveland Ave. He donated the land for the Unitarian Universalist Church at the corner of Elmwood and West Ferry (pictured above). He was also the benefactor of our Art Gallery here in Buffalo, and many other buildings as well, both here and in Pennsylvania, where his parents were from.

This is one of those places I go back to again and again. I get a feeling of comfort and genteel living on and among these streets, with the possible exception of Brittany Lane! But almost all of the homes that are within the walls of what was Albright’s land have that ‘this is how the other half lives’ feel that most of us cannot even imagine. It is indeed, the stuff of daydreams.

**Lead image is on Tudor Place – love the trees! Nobody ever puts trees that close to their houses today!

What is Urban Hiking Anyway?

What is Urban Hiking Anyway?

A lot of people ask me that! What is Urban Hiking? I realized that as an urban hiker (and biker) I needed to have a real answer for this question. In my head I think of it as walking around the city looking at cool stuff, or exploring if you will. There you go, urban exploring. A lot of my urban hiking is in Buffalo, so I  try to find places within the city to go where I might have been before, but haven’t really ‘seen’ it. Or have heard of it, but aren’t really sure what the place is all about. So I go explore it, and see what I can see. When I see something interesting, I research it, and bring it to you. (more…)

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