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(Note from Angela:  Today I am pleased to share a guest post from Dr. Caitlin  Moriarty.  Dr. Caitlin Moriarty specializes in historical and cultural analysis of the built environment. She is the Director of Architectural History for Preservation Studios, a historic preservation consulting firm. Caitlin moved to Buffalo in 2011 and lives in North Buffalo with her husband and two sons.  Enjoy!)

If Lewis J. Bennett read the Buffalo Express Morning on September 7, 1911, he may have protested the verbiage of an article about “Revere place, the pretty new street in the Central Park district.” Bennett, the visionary behind the Central Park area bounded by Main Street, Woodbridge Avenue, Parkside Avenue, and Amherst Street, intended for that neighborhood to be an exclusive enclave of large homes on expansive lots. With the strike of a pen, however, the newspaper associated several new streets north of Huntington Avenue with Bennett’s prestigious residential development.

Willam Suor

Brothers William C.T. (1873-1959) and Arthur Suor (1874-1936) developed several streets just beyond Central Park as the frontier of residential development in Buffalo pushed northward. Between roughly 1908 and 1912, the brothers developed a handful of one-block streets near some of the main thoroughfares of Central Park, including Starin and Vorhees Avenues. Unlike Central Park streets such as Depew, Morris, and Wesley Avenues, however, Revere Place, Taft Place, and Sagamore Terrace featured speculatively built homes on modest lots (see map).

At the time, Arthur Suor worked for Thorne & Angell, one of Buffalo’s largest and most successful real estate development firms at the turn of the twentieth century.* Pursuing the opportunity to lead their own development projects, the Suors capitalized on their connection to Thorne & Angell: “When this company took over a big section of land to develop, the Suor boys would buy a little slice, working nights and holidays to sell it.” For instance, in 1910, the Suors created Revere Place through the middle of block “H” (bounded by Wallace, Huntington, Starin and Hertel Avenues) of the Fairmount Park tract. They appealed to the Common Council in March of that year for permission to lay water pipes on the new street, and by May, construction was underway on ten Revere Place homes.**

The Suor & Suor Building Company constructed homes and led a marketing campaign that offered modern amenities expected of new houses in this growing area of town to a middle class consumer that could not afford to live in Central Park proper. This business model started at the foundational level of how they created streets and parcels. Revere Place, Taft Place, and Sagamore Terrace are one-block streets that bisect three consecutive city blocks located between Wallace and Parker Avenues on the west and east, and Huntington Avenue and Hertel Avenues on the south and north. Revere Place cuts a curvilinear path between Wallace and Huntington Avenues, and Taft runs straight through the middle of the block between Starin and Vorhees Avenues. Sagamore Terrace extends a block and a half south from Hertel Avenue, reaching into the adjacent block below Huntington Avenue. As a result of cutting new streets though larger, more traditional city blocks, the Suors created more street frontage, more lots, and ultimately, more houses to sell.

The lots on these streets were significantly smaller than those in Central Park. On Revere Place, lots averaged 49×56 feet, while narrower and deeper lots—measuring approximately 36×80 feet—lined Taft Place. Sagamore Terrace featured the largest lots, with frontage averaging 45 feet and depths ranging from 80 to 130 feet. Compared with representative lot sizes of 60×157 feet on Woodbridge and 70×180 feet on Depew, the Suors’ homes clearly targeted a different consumer.

The Suors appealed to an upwardly mobile middle class by highlighting both the modernity and affordability of their homes. Descriptions of their “high-grade single-family houses of up-to-date design,” filled the real estate pages of Buffalo’s newspapers. The promise of “no flats being allowed” on their streets bolstered an air exclusivity that resonated with the high status of Central Park.*** Modern features of the new, “artistic homes,” included steam heating, electricity, and mission oak and white enamel finishes. The homes did not, however, include garages, although advertisements indicated that there was room to erect a garage on the lot. The lack of garages both kept costs down and reflected the likelihood that residents of Suor & Suor’s homes used public transportation.****

The company offered prices and payment options for their modern homes that catered to middle class consumers. While regulations stipulated that homes on Central Park lots exceed $5,000, not including the price of the land, most surpassed $6,000 and several reached over $20,000. By comparison, the “Central Park bargains” on Taft Place, Revere Place, and Sagamore Terrace started at $4,350, all-inclusive. Sagamore Terrace, with the largest lots, featured the most expensive homes, reaching up to $7,500. In addition to lower prices, the Suors boasted an attractive payment plan intended to turn renters into homeowners: “Don’t sign another lease,” their advertisements appealed. While some homes sold in cash transactions, the “very practical plan of easy payments [made] it possible for the man with a limited income to buy an up-to-date home on about the same as a rental basis.” The prices and payment plan made it accessible for members of the middle class to buy a new house in an up and coming area of the city.

While it is hard to imagine today how remote this area felt in 1910, North Buffalo was mostly farmland. Years later, longtime residents of Taft Place explained, “When they moved there they could look across Hertel and see the cows placidly chewing in the pastures.” In fact, without homes on Starin, early residents on Revere Place and Taft Place could probably see one another through their yards. Yet, the Suors’ new streets signaled the growing momentum of development in what is now North Buffalo.

1916 Map of Streets (click to enlarge)

By 1930, two decades after the Suor brothers opened these three streets, continued residential and commercial development in the area transformed the surrounding blocks.  No longer the edge of the city, Revere Place, Taft Place, and Sagamore Terrace faded into the pattern of residence-lined streets. Looking back in that year, Buffalo Times reporter Sybil Reppert conveyed the sense of community and seclusion from the city that early residents of Sagamore Terrace and Taft Place prized. As more people moved onto nearby streets, however, some residents lamented the area’s character, “getting more and more metropolitan.”

By contrast, as a current Revere Place resident, I find the “metropolitan” location of these streets between Hertel Avenue and Central Park part of their appeal. I relish both the privacy of my one-way street and easy access to the commercial offerings on Hertel Avenue and the picturesque streetscapes of Central Park. The Suors quickly moved on to new developments after opening Taft Place, Revere Place, and Sagamore Terrace; yet, their “Central Park bargains,” remain charming urban streets that connect residents with the contemporary city while also embodying its past.

Notes:

*Thorne & Angell is responsible for developing streets including Richmond, Elmwood, Lafayette and Plymouth.

**Numbers 41, 43, 44, 45, 49, 50, 53, 54, 60, and 61 were under construction in May.

***Despite this rhetoric, it appears that Suor & Suor constructed several flats on Huntington and Vorhees Avenues.

****According to the City Council minutes, several Revere Place residents erected garages in 1917, 1918, and 1921.

 

Sources:

  1. “Main Street Homesteads Sold,” Buffalo Express Morning, September 7, 1911.
  2. “Real Estate Dealer 60-Year Veteran Here,” The Buffalo Courier-Express, September 30, 1951, 18-D.
  3. Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Buffalo. Buffalo: Common Council, 1910.
  4. “Central Park—New Houses,” The Buffalo Courier, September 27, 1911, 11.
  5. “Central Park,” Commercial September 20, 1907, Buffalo Library, Streets Clippings, 97.
  6. “Main Street Homesteads Sold,” Buffalo Express Morning, September 7, 1911.
  7. Sybil Reppert, “Taft Place—They Dwell Together in Unity,” Buffalo Times, September 30, 1930. Streets Scrapbook pg. 73-74.
  8. Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Buffalo, New York, 1916, Sheet 511.
  9. Sybil Reppert, “‘Home Folks’ Live on Sagamore Terrace,” Buffalo Times, August 30, 1930. Streets Scrapbook pg. 44-45.

 

exchangeExchange Street has been an important street in Buffalo since the early days of settlement.  Exchange Street runs approximately 1.75 miles from Main Street in Downtown to Selkirk Street, near the Larkin District of the East Side of Buffalo.  Exchange Street was one of the first streets in Buffalo, originally a pathway that was traveled by Red Jacket and other members of the Seneca Nation as they came into Buffalo from the Buffalo Creek reservation. Joseph Ellicott incorporated the path when he laid out the original street plan for Buffalo.  The street was originally named Crow Street.  Exchange Street was particularly important during the railroad era of Buffalo’s history.

Map Showing the Inner Lots of Buffalo. Source

Map Showing the Inner Lots of Buffalo.  Source

John Crow arrived in Buffalo around 1801 or 1802, coming from Whitestone in Oneida County, New York.   Mr. Crow occupied a house on Inner Lot No. 1, the southwest corner of Washington and Crow Streets.  The log house had been built by Mr. Johnston, an Indian agent and interpreter who served for the British government and remained here until the Holland Land Company arrived.  Mr. Johnston had received land from the Native Americans in exchange for providing them with boards and planks from the timber on his land.  Legally, Mr. Johnston’s  land hold was not binding.  In negotiations with the Holland Land Company, Mr. Johnston gave up a portion of his land in exchange for keeping a portion along Buffalo Creek where he had his lumber mill separate from the Buffalo Creek Reservation.  Mr. Crow built an addition to the house with a tavern.

When Erastus Granger arrived in Buffalo to serve as postmaster, he set up shop in Mr. Crow’s tavern.  The tavern was also the first place of lodging for Samuel Pratt when he arrived in Buffalo.   You can visit a replica of the Crow Tavern and Mr. Granger’s post office in the Pioneer Gallery at the Buffalo History Museum.  At the time, Exchange Street only ran from Main to Washington, as no streets at the time had been laid out beyond those early streets.   In 1806, Buffalo had 16 houses (8 on Main Street, 3 on the Terrace, 3 on Seneca Street, and 2 on Cayuga-now Pearl Street), two stores – a contractor’s store and a drug store, two taverns, and two blacksmiths.  Mr. Crow stayed in Buffalo until 1806, when he moved to Hamburg and later Pennsylvania. Mr. Crow died in Waterford, PA in 1830.

In 1809, Crow’s Tavern became Landon’s, which burned down in 1813 during the Burning of Buffalo. It was rebuilt by Mr. Landon after the war, and was operated by him until 1824.  In 1825, Phineas Baron took over and renamed it the Mansion House.  Mansion House was in business until 1929!

Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo

Source: Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo

The street was named Crow until many “gentleman” of the city felt that Crow was a vulgar name, since crows were considered to be vulgar, dirty birds, so the street was changed to Exchange Street in 1836.  By 1839, there were several unsuccessful petitions to try to change the name back to Crow.

ex-post

Exchange Street Terminal – NY Central

Many train stations were located along the Exchange Street corridor as early as the 1850s.  The New York Central Exchange Street Terminal was built in 1870, with expansions in 1885, 1900, 1901, 1906 and 1907.  The station was the starting point from where most people entering the City of Buffalo.  For 58 years, the station was the arrival point of most people coming to Buffalo.  Exchange Street was the first thing most people saw when they arrived.

In 1929, New York Central transferred its base of operations to the Curtiss Street Terminal (what we refer to today as Central Terminal) in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood of Buffalo.   They all closed their doors after the new terminal was built.  The Exchange Street station was still used by some commuters but they did not provide the neighborhood with enough spending to support businesses, as they rushed from their train to their office for work. The majority of the station was boarded up and only the western entrance was open.  The station restaurant and newsstand closed, and only one door was opened for coming and going.  Only two ticket windows remained open.  The offices over the station closed because most of the personnel went to Curtiss Street.

Central Terminal Under Construction

Curtiss Street Terminal (Central Terminal) Under Construction

Before the station closed, the Exchange Street corridor was one of the most important thoroughfares.  The street was busy with manufacturing, railroad terminals, hotels, and stores.  The Courier-Express said of the street’s heyday, “Exchange Street took off its hat to none of its rivals.”  There were shops for souvenirs and postcards, neighborhood restaurants and lunch counters, and cafes.  Trains arrived at all times of the day and night, so there was a constant flurry of mail trucks, express trucks, delivery vehicles, and people.  One hundred trains a day stopped at the old station.  A story goes that while Grover Cleveland was President, he was on a train heading to a funeral and a friend was staying at the European Hotel at the northwest corner of Washington and Exchange.  President Cleveland asked the train to stop so he could visit with his friend.  The hotel was then renamed the Washington Hotel in order to capitalize on its presidential connection.  The Exchange Street depot was the starting point of the Buffalo Belt Line railroad in 1883, which circled the city and allowed development of the City of Buffalo outside of the downtown core.

Once the NY Central train station closed, Exchange Street was left “looking something like Goldsmith’s deserted village.”  The popular Mansion House hotel, with its roots stretching back to Crow’s original tavern, closed after the train station left.  Between Michigan Avenue and Main Street, there had been a dozen barber shops which all closed.

eriedepot.jpg

Erie Railroad Depot

In addition to the NY Central station, there was also the Erie Station at Michigan and Exchange Street, and the Lehigh Valley Station was nearby on Washington Street.  In 1935, the NY Central Exchange Street Depot was torn down.  Also that year, the Erie Railroad Station was abandoned, when they moved their facilities into the DL&W Terminal on the Waterfront.   This was considered by some to be the end of Exchange Street as a bustling corridor.

The Lehigh Valley station and the right-of-way was purchased in 1954 by New York State to build the Niagara Section of the New York State Thruway.  In 1955, the Buffalo News purchased some of the surplus lands from the State to build their current building (1 News Plaza). The Thruway was built through this section of Downtown Buffalo and opened in 1960.  The six-mile-long Downtown Buffalo part of the Niagara Section was the last portion to be completed of the 559 miles of the New York State Thruway System.

The Exchange Street Terminal continues to serve trains today.  A new, significantly smaller Exchange Street station was built on Exchange Street in 1952.  This station served 21 trains a day and the station used two platforms that were connected via a walkway.  Passenger railroad traffic continued to decline and the station closed in 1962 when service to Niagara Falls was suspended.  Buffalo Central Terminal closed on October 28, 1979 and Amtrak service switched that morning back to Exchange Street where a new station was being built, which opened in 1980.  The Amtrak station currently serves eight trains a day at Exchange Street.

For more than 150 years, railroads were a huge part of the life of the Exchange Street corridor.  There is current talk (2016) about building a new train station in Buffalo.  The One Seneca Tower, with its one million square feet of vacant commercial space, sits ready for redevelopment at the end of Exchange Street at Main Street.  At the other end of Exchange Street, recent developments in the Larkin District are rejuvenating that area.  What’s next for Exchange Street?  It’s yet to be seen.  What would you like to see there?

To learn about other streets, check out the Street Index!

Sources:

  1. “Rebirth Awaited”. Buffalo Courier Express.  August 6, 1935
  2. Ketchum, William.  An Authentic and Comprehensive History of Buffalo, Vol. II.Rockwell, Baker & Hill, Printers, Buffalo NY, 1865.
  3. “Old Railroad Station Once City’s Busiest Spot”.  Buffalo Times, October 25, 1931.
  4. New York State Thruway Authority Records
  5. “As Silence Reigns in Old Exchange Street” Frank L. Blake.  Buffalo Times, Sept 1, 1929
  6. “Terrace Program Revives Memories of Exchange Street’s Famous Days” Buffalo News. Feb 25, 1950.  Streets Scrapbook Vol 1 pg 43
Rumsey Road and Rumsey Woods

Rumsey Road and Rumsey Woods

Rumsey Road is located along the southern edge of Delaware Park.  The road is named after the Rumsey family, a prominent Buffalo family, one of the leading families during the early development and growth of Buffalo.  The portion of Delaware Park near there is called Rumsey Woods.

The parents were Aaron and Sophia Rumsey.  They had three children – Bronson, Dexter, and Eleanor.   The family moved to Buffalo while the children were still young.  Aaron Rumsey established a tannery located on the south side of the Main and Hamburg Streets canal, near Alabama Street.  The sons joined the company as they grew to adulthood.  Aaron Rumsey died in 1864, and the business was handed down to them.  They turned A. Rumsey & Company into one of the leading leather firms in the United States.  The business was eventually absorbed by the United States Leather Company in 1893.

The brothers believed in the future of Buffalo, and showed it by investing much of their fortune into real estate in the City.  It is said that at one point, they owned 22 of the 43 square miles that comprised Buffalo.

bronsonBronson Case Rumsey was born in Warsaw, Wyoming County, NY on August 1, 1823. Bronson was the first president of the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia Railroad, a director of the Manufacturers’ and Traders’ Bank from its inception and a member of the Park Commission when it was first formed in 1869.  Even after Bronson retired, he was still involved in financial, industrial and civic matters of the city.  He remained on the Park Board until his death.  He was a successful banker, merchant, and capitalist.

Bronson married Eveline Hall.  They had four children – Laurence Dana, Mary Lovering, Bronson II, and Evelyn.  Bronson built Rumsey Park in 1865.  Rumsey Park comprised the land bordered by Delaware Avenue and Carolina Street, Tupper and Tracy Streets.  The land had been previously used as a lumber yard owned by Mr. Hodge.

Sanborn Map showing Rumsey Park in 1889

Sanborn Map showing Rumsey Park in 1889 (click to view larger)

The Bronson C. Rumsey house at 330 Delaware Avenue was likely the first French Second Empire (mansard roof) house built in Buffalo.  The house overlooked a spring-fed lake with a Swiss chalet boathouse, a Greek temple pavilion, terraced gardens, fountains and wooded paths.   Bronson’s children also lived at Rumsey Park:  Mary Lovering Rumsey and her husband Edward Movius lived at 334 Delaware Avenue, Evelyn Rumsey married Charles Cary and lived at 340 Delaware Avenue, and Bronson II lived at 132 West Tupper Street.  The eldest son, Laurence, lived at 1 Park Place, in the house the family had lived in prior to construction of Rumsey Park.

The rear of 330 Delaware Ave. Source: WNY Heritage

The rear of 330 Delaware Ave. Source: WNY Heritage

Bronson Case Rumsey's name in the Rumsey Family Plot

Bronson Case Rumsey’s name on the Rumsey Family Marker

Bronson Rumsey died in 1902 and is buried in the Rumsey Family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.The expansion of Elmwood Avenue south to connect with Morgan Street, cut through the center of Rumsey Park. The lake was filled in and the property was subdivided.  Development of the property into lots began around 1912, as the Rumsey family sold the off the properties.

The second Rumsey son, Dexter Phelps Rumsey, was born in Westfield, Chautauqua County on April 27, 1827.   Dexter donated greatly to charities, particularly those committed to children, his favorite charity was the Fresh Air Mission.  Dexter served as Director of Erie County Savings Bank and was President of the Buffalo Club.  He was also an original trustee of the Buffalo City Cemetery, which established and operates Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Dexter Rumsey

Dexter Phelps Rumsey

Dexter was married three times: first to Mary Coburn who died in 1859, to Mary Bissell who died in 1886 and to Susan Fiske. Dexter had four children.  Cornelia married Ainsley Wilcox, who passed away two years later. Mary Grace then married Ainsley Wilcox in 1883.  The Wilcox Mansion (now known as the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site) was a wedding gift from Dexter to Mary Grace and Ainsley.  Ruth married William “Wild Bill” Donovan.  Dexter P. Rumsey, Jr was friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald during his time in Buffalo.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writings referred to Dexter as among his “fascinating army” of childhood friends.

dexter-house

Dexter Rumsey House, 742 Delaware Ave

Dexter and his family lived at 742 Delaware Avenue, at the southwest corner of Delaware and Summer Street.  The house was owned by the Rumsey family from 1857 until 1945.  The house was one of the oldest in the City, first portions of it were erected in the 1830s.  The house was still located in the countryside when Dexter moved in and he kept cows on the property through the 1860s.  Mr. Rumsey is said that to have bought the house where he did because he was confident of Buffalo’s northward expansion.  Dexter’s stables remain near the grounds of his old Delaware Ave mansion, and are used by Westminster Presbyterian Church.  Dexter’s confidence in Buffalo’s growth was also said to be why he purchased the large tracts of woodland in the vicinity north of today’s Delaware Park, sometimes referred to as the Rumsey Farm.

A portion (approximately 350 acres) of Rumsey Farm in North Buffalo was used for the Pan American Exposition in 1901.  The land was flat, treeless and landlocked.  A great deal of deliberation was made in regards to if the site represented enough of Buffalo, without a waterfront or hills.  The site had the benefit of being undeveloped and the lack of hills made it easy to build upon, therefore the site was selected.  The lack of trees was made up for by connecting the exposition grounds to Delaware Park.  After the Exposition, the leased lands were returned to their original state and the properties were subdivided for residential development.

Spirit of Niagara Poster

Many members of the Rumsey family and their in-laws were involved in the Pan-American Exposition.  Bronson’s grandson Charles Cary Rumsey was an artist who created several of the sculptures for the exposition.  The Centaur in front of the Buffalo History Museum is an example of one of Charles’ sculptures.  Charles’ uncle George Cary was the architect who designed the Buffalo History Museum.  Bronson’s daughter Evelyn created the Spirit of Niagara painting that was used for much of the Pan American advertising (one of my all-time favorite paintings!)  Most infamously, Dexter’s daughter and son-in-law Mary Grace and Ainsley Wilcox, were the owners of the house where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated following President McKinley’s death.

Dexter died on April 5, 1906 and is buried in the Rumsey family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  When Dexter passed away, his wife and daughter Grace donated to the City Park Department the block of land adjacent to Delaware Park to add to the grove of trees to the park. The grounds are still known as Rumsey Woods to this day.

Rumsey Woods in Delaware Park

Rumsey Woods in Delaware Park

Bronson and Dexter’s sister, Eleanor, married William Crocker.  Eleanor had two children, William and Nellie.  She passed away in 1863 at the age of 36.  After Eleanor’s death, the Crockers relocated from Buffalo to Pennsylvania.  William Junior became a prominent lawyer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Named for Bronson C and Dexter P Rumsey.  Courier Express April 28, 1940 sec 5 p 12
  2. A History of the City of Buffalo:  It’s Men and Institutions
  3. Buffalo architecture:  A Guide
  4. Larned, J.N.A History of Buffalo:  Delineating the Evolution of the City.  Published by Progress of the Empire State Company.  New York, 1911.
  5. Buffalo Times, Jan 22 1927

cary-streetCary Street is a two block street on the western side of Downtown Buffalo, running from Delaware Avenue to just past Elmwood Avenue.  The land upon which Cary Street sits was originally a wedding gift from Trumbull Cary to his son, Dr. Walter Cary.  The property included the Genesee Hotel (now the Hyatt), and the site of the Cary Home at 184 Delaware Avenue.  The Cary family played a role in Buffalo and Western New York’s development for generations.  Trumbull Cary established the first bank west of Albany, the Bank of Genesee, in Batavia in 1829.  His son, Dr. Walter Cary was a leader in Buffalo’s cultural and social life.  Three of Walter’s sons, Thomas, Charles and George made important contributions to Buffalo.

The first of the Cary family to arrive in the Americas was John Cary, who sailed arrived in Massachusetts from England in 1634.  When Joseph Ellicott came into the wilderness of Western New York during the early 1800s as the agent for the Holland Land Company, he brought with him as his right hand man, a surveyor named Ebeneezer Cary.  Ebeneezer Cary stayed in Batavia and in 1805, he hired his brother Trumbull, who had been living in Mansfield, Connecticut, to fill the position.

Trumbell Cary

Trumbell Cary

Trumbull Cary became postmaster, banker and a leading merchant in Batavia.  He founded the Bank of Genesee, served as adjutant in the War of 1812, and was elected to serve in both the State Assembly and Senate.  Trumbull Cary was married to Margaret Eleanor Brisbane.  Their large mansion, built in 1817, was a center of hospitality and culture in Batavia.  Trumbull Cary died in 1869.  The mansion was demolished in the 1960s.

Trumbull Cary and his family traveled often to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC in days when stagecoach trips were tiring and often hazardous.  The Carys had one son, Walter.  Trumbull Cary died in 1869 and is buried in Batavia Cemetery.  The Bank of Genesee became the Genesee Trust Company and in 1956, the Genesee Trust Company merged with Manufacturers& Traders Trust Company to become the Batavia branch of M&T.

Dr. Walter Cary and Julia Love Cary

Dr. Walter Cary and Julia Love Cary

Walter Cary was born in Batavia in 1818.  He graduated from Union College in Schenectady in 1839, and then studied medicine at University of Pennsylvania.  He also studied at many leading European Universities and hospitals, at a time when the trip across the Atlantic meant six to seven weeks on a sailing ship.  Dr. Cary entered into the practice of Dr. Charles Winne in 1845.  Dr. Cary was well respected for the zeal and skill he executed during Buffalo’s second cholera epidemic.

Dr. Cary married Julia Love, daughter of Thomas Love, judge and congressman.  The Loves lived on the site of the YMCA prior to its construction (at Mohawk and Genesee Streets, now the Olympic Towers).   Judge Love named many of Buffalo’s streets – Edward for his friend Judge Edward Walden, Niagara for the River, Batavia Street (now Broadway) for the village, Genesee for Genesee County, North and South Division because they divided the business section of the city from the residential section, and Exchange Street, for the barter with the Indians conducted there.

Dr. Cary and his wife lived in the American Hotel, which was located where the Main Place Mall is currently located.  The apartment was considered one of the most beautiful apartments in town, modeled from the apartments Dr. Cary had visited in Paris.  Their first son was born there.  The apartment was  destroyed, along with much of the Carys belongings in the historic American Hotel fire.

Undated Photo of Cary House at 184 Delaware

Undated Photo of Cary House at 184 Delaware

After the fire, Dr. Cary built a home at Delaware Avenue and Huron Street.  A potato patch had been growing there, in honor of the potatoes, Mrs. Cary planted Japanese yam vines that grew over the house and bloomed with purple flowers each spring.  After ten years, Dr. Cary decided to stop practicing medicine to spend more time with his wife, daughter and six sons.  During the Franco-Prussian War, he took them all to Europe.  He had a coach built to order and they toured from Brussels to Naples.  The coach is in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum.  During President Grant’s presidency, Dr. Cary brought his family to Washington for the winter.  They were guests at many White House functions during this time.

Julia Cary’s sister, Maria Love, lived with the family and accompanied them on their trips.  Maria Love founded the Fitch Creche, Buffalo’s first day nursery.  She was the last member of the family to reside in the old Cary home, living there until her death in 1931.  The Maria Love Fund still exists today, continuing Ms. Love’s work in the community.

Walter and Julia had seven children – Trumbull – who followed in his namesake’s footsteps and became a bank president, Thomas – a lawyer, Charles- a physician, Walter – a journalist, Seward – a sculptor, George – an architect, and one daughter Jennie who became Mrs. Laurence Rumsey.  The Cary family were active polo players, the brothers began the first polo leagues in Buffalo, one of the first two leagues in the country.  Seward Cary is credited with bringing polo to Harvard during the 1880s.  A joke around town was that once when the boys were playing polo, one was injured and the game stopped.  When Mrs. Cary asked why the game had stopped, when she was told that her son was hurt, she replied they should just use one of the other sons to replace him.

Spirit of Niagara

Spirit of Niagara

The Cary family was also very involved in the Pan American Exposition.  The Cary family’s in-laws, the Rumseys, owned much of the land the Exposition was located on.  George Cary sat on the Board of the Exposition and designed the New York State Building for the Exposition (currently the Buffalo History Museum).   Charles Cary’s wife, Evelyn Rumsey Cary painted “the Spirit of Niagara” one of the popular paintings for the Pan American Exposition.

Thomas Cary was instrumental in founding the Charity Organization Society, one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the country.  Charles Cary, M.D., was Dean of the Medical School at University of Buffalo.

George Cary

George Cary

George Cary was a nationally renowned architect.  He apprenticed with McKim, Mead & White in New York City, and studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts in France.  Major buildings he designed included the medical school and dental college at UB, the Buffalo Historical Society, the Gratwick Laboratory (built for UB, part of the original Roswell Park Cancer Institute), the Pierce Arrow administration building, the first Buffalo General Hospital, Forest Lawn’s Delaware Avenue Gate and Administration Building, and many houses in the City of Buffalo.

Walter and Julia Grave

Walter and Julia Grave

The Cary siblings built the first crematory in Buffalo, the Buffalo Crematory, in memory of their father after his death in France in 1881.  The Cary family owned the house at 184 Delaware until the 1960s.  The house was used for a few years as a restaurant, which suffered a fire and the house was demolished in 1966 when the land was purchased by the federal government.  The Dulski Federal Building was built on the site, which was recently rehabbed into the Avant Building, at 200 Delaware Avenue.

184 Delaware in the 1960s

184 Delaware in the 1960s

 

Source:

  1. “Cary Street is Memorial to Leaders in Area Development”, Buffalo Courier-Express, May 13, 1940.
  2. “Obituary:  Death of HO. Trumbull Cary of Batavia”.  The New York Times, June 26, 1869.  
  3. “Cary House, 184 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, Erie County, NY”.  Historic American Building Survey.  HABS NY, 15-BUF, 1-
  4. Editors.  Buffalo Medical and Surgical Journal.  Vol. XXI.  August 1881 to July 1882, Buffalo.
  5. “Last of the Cary Boys”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  Sept 9, 1948.

rileystRiley Street is a street in the Masten Neighborhood of the East Side of Buffalo, running from Main Street to Fillmore Avenue.  The street is named after Major General Bennet Riley.  Note 1:  sometimes his first name is spelled Bennett, but his gravestone says Bennet, so I’m using that spelling.  Note 2:  There was another famous General Riley in Western New York, General Aaron Riley, whose house still stands in East Aurora.  As far as I can tell, the two men are not related.  Riley street in East Aurora is named after Aaron Riley and Riley Street in Buffalo is named after Bennet Riley.

19547819_122948017206Bennet Riley was born in St. Mary’s, Maryland in 1787.  He served as an apprentice in a cobbler shop as a young man, later serving as a foreman in a shoe factory.

Riley volunteered for service in the War of 1812.  In January 1813, he was appointed Ensign of Rifles.  He saw action at Sackets Harbor, New York, in the second of two battles to control the shipyards on Lake Ontario.  He was promoted to first lieutenant in March 1817.  He later advanced to captain in the 5th US Infantry and in 1821, he was transferred to the 6th US infantry.  He was promoted to brevet major in 1828 and lead the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail in 1829.

Mr. Riley married Arabella Israel of Philadelphia in 1834.  They had eight children, including  twins William and Samuel who died in Fort King, Florida in 1841 and Bennet, Jr. who served in the Navy and died aboard the war-sloop USS Albany which disappeared with all hands in 1854. In Buffalo, the Riley Family lived in a frame house at Main and Barker Streets (1238 Main Street – where Delta Sonic is now located).  The house was later known as the Cobb Mansion, was home to St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in 1897 before they moved to Kenmore Avenue, and the site was then the location of Bishop Fallon High School.  It is said that Riley enjoyed purchasing second-hand furniture to furnish his house, and he purchased so much that while he was away, Mrs. Riley would send it downtown to be sold at auction.  One story survives that says that General Riley returned home and attended a sale, and ended up buying back many of his items, without an inkling that he was actually purchasing items that he had previously owned!

In 1837, Riley served as major of the Fourth Infantry and was stationed at Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River.  From Fort Gibson, he was ordered to Florida, where he was an active part of the Seminole War.  In 1842, at the close of the war in Florida, he was ordered to Buffalo, where he served at the Buffalo Barracks.

1840 Map showing the Buffalo Barracks. Source: National Parks Service, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

1840 Map showing the Buffalo Barracks.
Source: National Parks Service, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

The Buffalo Barracks was built near what was then the northern edge of the city in the fall of 1839.  The federal government leased the land from Ebenezer Walden to use eighteen acres of land, bounded by Main, Allen, Delaware and North Streets.  Buildings were erected and were occupied during winter 1839.  The Barracks was built in response to the Patriot’s War with Canada in 1837.  At the time, Buffalonians still remembered the Burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812, which had occurred just 25 years earlier during the winter of 1813-1814.

The facility was also known as the Pointsett Barracks, named after the Secretary of War, Joel Pointsett.  The buildings formed a rectangle around the parade grounds on the northern end of the barracks.  Buildings included company quarters (enlisted men’s housing), officer’s quarters, storehouses, a guardhouse and stables.  The first regiment to occupy the barracks was Col. James Bankhead’s 2nd Artillery.  And was later occupied by Lt. Col. Crane’s 4th Artillery, and then by Bennet Riley’s 2nd Infantry.  The military post became a center of social life in Buffalo, who enjoyed watching military parades and listening to the military band.  Many of the officers became an important part of Buffalo social society and ended up marrying Buffalo women.

In December 1839, Riley is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Infantry.  His officers quarters are located near where Allen Street and North Pearl Street now meet.  In mid-1840, the officer’s quarters were likely moved to the Barracks property.  In 1841, Lt. Colonel Riley is promoted to full Colonel, becoming the 4th and final Commandant of the Buffalo Barracks.   In Mid 1845, Col. Riley and his 2nd infantry are ordered to the Mexican Border.  The government abandoned the post at the Buffalo Barracks shortly after, breaking its lease with the land.  Relations with Canada improved by the mid-1840s and Fort Porter opened in 1845, rendering the barracks redundant.  The property was sold for $2,250 and the buildings were demolished, except for the quarters that house the Commandant and the Post Surgeon.  This building is now the front portion of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.  The quarters made up the portion of the house that includes the present-day library and exhibit room and the second floor above.  The house was originally one of a row of three identical houses, each designed as duplexes to house two officers and their families, one on each side.  The house was renovated into a single family house by Judge Masten and his family.

californiaIn summer of 1846, Riley was ordered away to Mexico to join the army of General Taylor.  After the war with Mexico, Riley served at Fort Hamilton, New York in 1848.  He then commanded the Military Department in Upper California in 1849 and 1850.  He served as the provisional Governor of California.  At the time, congress was debating on the issue of California statehood, which made his role complicated.  The California Territory was transitioning from Mexican to American lawn and the Gold Rush at the time was violent.  Riley commanded eight companies of infantry, two artillery and two dragoons between San Diego and San Francisco.  The military had a hard time preventing the slaughter of California’s native population and was unable to suppress the violence in the often lawless gold camps.

riley grave forest lawnAfter the administrative service concluded in California, Riley was next sent to a regiment on the Rio Grande.  His declining health prevent his further military service, so he retired. He returned to his home in Buffalo, where he was greeted with a grand ovation.  The Mayor and a committee of citizens received him, along with a military escort and a procession of civil societies and citizens.  Of his return, it was recalled in 1892, “flags and banners flying, everything conspired to give a festal appearance to the city”.   There was some talk that he should be nominated to be President (a member of the Whig party).  He claimed that he “never got the presidential bee in his bonnet” and that he ” was far too sensible for that”.  He died of cancer on June 9, 1853.  He had a full military funeral, escorted by the 65th Regiment and the Independent Guard, commanded by Major Bidwell.  He is buried at Forest Lawn.  Riley Street was laid out in 1859 and dedicated in commemoration of his death.

Major General Riley is one of only three generals for whom military posts were named.  In June 1852, Camp Center (Kansas Territory) was renamed Fort Riley in Bennet Riley’s honor.  Riley County, Kansas is also named in his honor.

 

Sources:

  1. “Souvenirs of Major General Bennet Riley.”Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume 25.
  2. https://www.nps.gov/thri/buffalobarracks.htm
  3. “Streets Have Historical Link”.  Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday December 7, 1952.  p 7.
  4. “An Old Buffalonians Recollections of Gen. Bennett Riley”.  Buffalo Evening News.  April 16, 1892.  p4.

 

 

This week marks five years since I started Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.  I started this blog in part because some of my friends were sick of me constantly telling them about the history of Buffalo.  I needed an outlet to share the stories, so the blog was born.  My little hobby has grown and I love the community we have built.

Here are some stats from the last five years:

  • The blog has covered 144 streets.
  • There are 5,627 people who follow the blog.
  • The blog has had 181,839 views.  That is an average of about 100 views a day!
  • I was able to purchase the buffalostreets.com domain.
  • Early in 2014, I started giving presentations of the streets research.  I have presented at Forest Lawn, to church groups, at Senior Centers (via Erie County University Express), on Winging It on WIVB-TV, on the Penny Wolfgang show on the radio, and to other various groups.

I appreciate all of you so much!  Thanks to everyone who sends me comments and emails, and everyone who shares their stories with me.  I hope you all know how much I appreciate hearing your ideas and memories of things just as much as I love giving you the facts.  One of the highlights of my life as a history blogger was when I was recognized as the streets girl by a former congressman!

I may not have time to reply to every single comment – but I do read and appreciate them all.  I notice when you share blog posts on facebook or twitter, and I appreciate that as well.  Sometimes, if I don’t reply, it’s because you piqued my interest and I’m trying to do some research for you before I reply.  Buffalo’s history is a rich fabric and it’s likely we’ll never completely know everything.  But I’m happy to be a part of it all and sharing what I can.  I wish I had time to post more often, but this is still just a hobby for me.  A wonderful, rewarding, satisfying hobby that I will keep up for a long time.

A question I often get is “will you write a book?”  This is on my long range plan.  It may be a long, long, long range plan, but hopefully eventually I will find a way to make it happen.  Until then, I’ll keep plugging away, and discovering Buffalo, one street at a time.

Lots of Buffalove,

Angela Keppel

PS.  Sneak Peak:  The story of Maj. General Riley and what was at the Teddy Roosevelt site before it was the Teddy Roosevelt site will be coming soon!

 

Coit Street

Coit Street

Coit Street is a street in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood on the east side of Buffalo, running between Broadway and Howard Street.  The street is named after George Coit, and is only a few streets away from Townsend Street, named after George’s good friend and business partner Charles Townsend (we’ll learn a little about Charles today, and more about him later).  George Coit was called “one of the eminent fathers and founders of Buffalo”.  He resided in Buffalo from June 1811 until his death in May 1865, watching the pioneer settlement rise into a village, rebuild after wartime burning, and grow into a great city.

gcoitThe Coit family arrived in America between 1630 and 1638.  George Coit was born on June 10th, 1790 in Norwich Connecticut.  He learned the druggist business and worked as a clerk in a store with Mr. Townsend (later Judge Townsend) in Norwich.   They came to Buffalo together in 1811 to run a drug store.  For more than 40 years, Mr. Coit & Mr. Townsend worked together in co-partnership.  They quickly were able to buy property at Swan and Pearl Streets, where the built a store.   The day before the Burning of Buffalo, Mr. Coit drove with Mr. Townsend and a wagon full of their goods into Williamsville.  When they arrived back in Buffalo following the burning, they procured a small wooden building on Erie Street which had survived the burning. Their store was in business until 1818, when they sold the business to Dr. John E. Marshall and they entered the shipping business.  They successfully operated several businesses involved in shipping and trade, along with Buffalo Car Works. Their first warehouse was at the foot of Commercial Street, at the mouth of Little Buffalo Creek, where they built a dock and a frame building.  Mr. Coit married a sister of Mr. Townsend, Hannah, on April 4th, 1815.  Hannah and George had eight children:  Sarah Frances, Charles, George, John, Frances, Nathaniel, Eliza, and William.

Wedding of the Waters at the Buffalo History Museum...depicting Governor Dewitt Clinton with Samuel Wilkeson, George Coit and Charles Townsend at the opening of the Erie Canal

Wedding of the Waters at the Buffalo History Museum…depicting Governor Dewitt Clinton with Samuel Wilkeson, George Coit and Charles Townsend at the opening of the Erie Canal

In 1818, Mr. Coit, along with Mr. Townsend, Samuel Wilkeson and Oliver Forward, secured a bond and mortgage for a state bond for the construction of the Buffalo Harbor.  By 1821, the channel was deep enough to allow for vessels, proving the Buffalo Harbor was successful, despite many people’s concerns about their experiment to build the harbor.  The four men worked together to build the harbor and lobby the legislature to ensure that Buffalo would be the terminus of the canal, not Black Rock.

During the Canal-era, the Buffalo waterfront was a slew of various slips, many owned by private businesses.  The Coit Slip was located near the end of the Erie Canal.approximately parallel to Erie Street.  The slip was filled in when the Erie Canal was filled in during the 1940s, but a portion remains behind Templeton Landing (formerly Crawdaddy’s/Shanghai Reds).  The land around the Coit Slip was owned by Mr. Coit and Mr. Townsend.  The Coit Block/Coit Building (also referred to as the McCutcheon Building) was located at the southern end of Commercial Street adjacent to the western edge of the Commercial Slip.  The Coit Building was located there from pre-1840 until its razing around 1947.  Portions of the Coit Building’s foundations and other features were uncovered during the archaeological investigations during the Erie Canal Harbor project (which created the Commercial Slip and Canalside).  The recreated building housing the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park and Museum was built on the site in 2008.

Map Showing Different Canal Era Slips. For reference, Erie Street's alignment has shifted towards the south. Commercial Slip is the one that has been uncovered at Canalside (click to view at higher resolution)

Map Showing Different Canal Era Slips. For reference, Erie Street’s alignment has shifted towards the south. Commercial Slip, near the center of the map, is the one that has been uncovered at Canalside 
(click to view at higher resolution)

Mr. Coit was a member of the Buffalo Historical Society, the Buffalo Board of Trade, the Buffalo Water Works Company, as well as other organizations.

George Coit's Grave

George Coit’s Grave

Mr.  Coit died in May 1865 and is buried at Forest Lawn.  More than 50 Coit relatives are buried in the plot near George’s grave.  At a memorial before the Buffalo Historical Society in July 1865, Mr. William Ketchum said this about Mr. Coit:  “Although Mr. Coit had lived to see Buffalo grow up from an insignificant village to become a large and populous city, his own chosen dwelling being, as it were, in the very heart of business, he preferred to remain in his old home, and continued to occupy his plain, unpretending residence on the corner of Pearl and Swan Streets, where he had first pitched his tent more than 50 years ago”

Coit House

The Coit House on Virginia Street

The house which Mr. Coit had built is still standing here in Buffalo today and is considered to be the oldest house in Buffalo.  The Coit House is estimated to have been built around 1818, shortly after the Burning of Buffalo in 1813/1814.  The house was originally located at 53 Pearl Street.  The house was moved around 1867 to its current location on Virginia Street between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues.  The house had seem some changes over the years, including being converted into apartments, but has been restored to relatively close to the original layout of a single family home.

In May of 1962, the Coit House was improved by a group who wanted to help the neglected building.  Organizations such as the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and the City of Buffalo Division of Conservation worked with volunteers to repair clapboard, paint the building and trim the trees.   During the late 1960s, the building was slated for demolition as a part of the Allentown-Lakeview urban renewal project.  This prompted the creation of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier in May 1969.  The Landmark Society worked to restore the building and then help to sell the building to a new owner with a deed stipulation that would prohibit modification of the historic restoration of the building.   The house was purchased by Henry and Linda Priebe, who lived there for nearly 30 years.  The house went back on the market in 1999 when it was purchased by the Allentown Association.  Major renovations were completed on the building, which was then purchased by Gerhart Yakow, and is now owned by Tim Boylan and Sue-Jolie Rioux Boylan.  It’s a beautiful building and if you get a chance to visit, you should take the opportunity!  The wide plank boards in the floor on the third floor will make anyone interested in history and/or architecture swoon.  The Boylans are wonderful stewards of the building, you can tell they care very deeply about the history and heritage of the house.

One of the best parts about writing this blog is the feedback I receive from my readers.  While I can’t always respond to it all, I appreciate every single one of the comments, messages and feedback I receive.  I’ve had descendants of some of the families reach out to me; I’ve had people email me photos, mail me prints, and I love all of it.

I first “met” Coit family member Susie Coit Williams about four years ago, when she first commented on my blog.  We’ve emailed back and forth, as she was trying to get a historic marker at the Coit House.  The marker finally was installed and was dedicated during an unveiling ceremony on May 21st, 2016!  Here are some photos from that event!

Mayor Brown and Councilman Fronczyk proclaiming it George Coit Day in Buffalo!

Mayor Brown and Councilman Fronczyk proclaiming it George Coit Day in Buffalo!

 

Susie Coit Williams unveiling the historic marker

Susie Coit Williams unveiling the historic marker

Coit House finally has a historic marker!

Coit House finally has a historic marker!

It was a great opportunity to celebrate the history of George Coit, whose story is so ingrained in the fabric of the City of Buffalo!  It’s excited to know that the house is in good hands for the future, and that Mr. Coit’s life is remembered for all who pass down the street!  Take a walk by and check out the marker and think for a moment on Mr. Coit and the life he lived here in Buffalo.

To learn about other streets, check out the Street Index.

 

Sources:

  1. Smith, H. Perry.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Co Publishers:  Syracuse.  1884.
  2. Brown, Christopher.  The Coit House Mystique.  June 2007.
  3. Grasso, Thomas.  The Erie Canal Western Terminus – Commercial Slip, Harbor Development and Canal District.  Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

 

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