Letchworth is a small street, running about one-tenth of a mile between Grant and Dart Streets, behind Buffalo State College. Most people know of Letchworth as a park in Genesee County, but did you who it’s name after?
William Pryor Letchworth was born in 1823 in Brownville New York. His biography describes him as a man:
“who spent a modeate part of his life in pursuits of personal business, until they had given him the freedom and the means for effective service to his fellow man, rendered through a long remainder of laborious years, and who exircised in that a service a rare capacity for what may be described as the statemanship of philanthropy, which the labors for the reformation of the evil-working conditions in the world. ”
He was a partner in the Buffalo firm of Pratt and Letchworth. The firm was a malleable iron works, which mainly made the parts for making saddles. He retired at the age of 50 and bought Glen Iris in the Genseee Valley and 1,000 acres of land. His house still stands, as the inn and museum at Letchworth State Park. Most people who get rich, retire from their business and sit back on their laurels. Not so for Mr. Letchworth.
William Letchworth thrust himself into various causes for more than 30 years after his retirement. He served as president of the New York State Board of Charities and president of the Buffalo Academy of the Fine Arts. He was one of the main promoters of the removal of children from almshouses, and worked tirelessly for the improvement of care for the insane and the separation of juvenile prisoners from hardened criminals.
Mr. Letchworth lived to the age of 87. He never married, but he left his house and the land to the state to create a park. The park has since been expanded from the original 1,000 acres to 6,000 acres.
So, the next time you drive past Letchworth Street, or take a hike in Letchworth State Park, take a minute to think of this great humanitarian, who’s motto was to “aim to do all possible good in the world”.
Sources: “William Pryor Letchworth” Courier Express, Sept 4, 1938, sec 6 p 3.
Larned, J. N. Life and work of William Pryor Letchworth. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1912.