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