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Archive for November 7th, 2021

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Box Ave

Box Avenue runs between Fillmore Avenue and Moselle Street in the MLK Park neighborhood of the East Side.   I always enjoy finding the origins of streets like Box, where you’d think perhaps there was a box factory near there or something.  Instead, the street is named after Henry Box.

Henry Wellington Box was born in Cornwall, England on April 23, 1836.  His parents died when he was young, so he started working at age six.  He drove sandcarts on a farm.  He worked his way up to making $12.50 (about $440 in today’s dollars) a year.  The sand was necessary in Cornwall to make the soil useful for farming.  At age 13, he came to America.  At the time, the crossing of the Atlantic took 32 days.  When he landed in New York, he had nine English shillings.  He spent three of those shillings on dinner when he arrived.  The rest of his life, he would say that after the weeks of ocean voyage food, the meal tasted better than anything he ever ate after!  His first job in America was working on a farm near Honesdale, PA.  He decided that he finally needed to get an education, and at age 16 enrolled in the rural school while working part-time at the farm.  He became acquainted with a prominent Pennsylvania lawyer who helped him attend Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, PA.  To earn tuition and board, he taught in nearby rural schools.

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Source: Buffalo Times

Mr. Box studied law in the office of Judge Campbell Collins of Wilkes-Barre, PA.  In 1859, Mr. Box was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar.  He came to Buffalo in 1861 and worked as a clerk in the law office of Sherman S. Rogers.  He worked for a salary of $2/week and slept in the office to avoid having to pay rent.  Mr. Box was admitted to the New York State bar in 1862.  He worked his way up in the profession and quickly became recognized.  He was particularly known for his work as a criminal lawyer.  During the 1870s, he started to be in demand as corporation counsel for a variety of companies, so he discontinued his criminal practice.  He served for 31 years as attorney for the Buffalo Street Railway and played an important role in its expansion.  He also served as the attorney for Union Fire Insurance Company, Buffalo Gas Company, Bell Telephone Company and Western Union.

Mr. Box developed an interest in real estate.  He built the subdivisions in the Box Street section; as well as two subdivisions  on Clinton Street – one near the stockyards and the other east of Bailey Avenue; and the Sweet Avenue subdivision.  He named streets for some of his friends – including Warren Street for Orsamus Warren and Sweet Avenue for Charles A Sweet.  He named Selkirk Street after the husband of hiw wife’s sister, John Selkirk.  He built more than 400 houses on the East Side of Buffalo, mainly for railroad employees and mechanics.

Mr. Box married Mary Mason Peabody in 1865.  Mrs. Box was the daughter of John Peabody, another prominent family.  The Box family lived on Pearl Street and later built a mansion at 638 Delaware Avenue.  They adopted one daughter, Mary Elizabeth Box.  Mary Elizabeth’s coming-out party was held on December 26th 1893 at the Hotel Niagara and had more than 1000 guests.  The family collected paintings and books of immense value.

In 1893, he served as a New York State Commissioner to the Chicago World’s Fair.  He was a member of the Buffalo Club, the Country Club, the Buffalo Library, the Historical Society(Buffalo History Museum), and the Fine Arts Academy (Albright Knox Art Gallery).  He returned to Great Britain several times to visit relatives on London and Edinburgh, Scotland.

henry boxMr. Box retired in 1901.  He passed away in 1909 at Saranac Lake.  He had suffered from tuberculosis for five years before his death.  He spent his last year in the Adirondacks to help with his health.  He is buried in Forest Lawn in the Peabody-Selkirk-Box family plot.

The value of Mr. Box’s estate was determined to be $134,974 in personal property and $150,082 in real property.  It took years to close out Mr. Box’s estate due to his extensive real estate holdings.  This would total about $8.5 Million in today’s dollars.  In 1923, to help close out the estate, the remaining 88 lots on Clinton, Archer, Littell, Seneca, Clemo and other streets were offered for $35,000.  Some of the family’s paintings were donated to the Albright Knox and 850 books were donated to the JN Adam Memorial Hospital to build their library.  Donations were also left to Buffalo General Hospital, Sisters Hospital, Buffalo Orphan Asylum and Children’s Hospital.  Mary Elizabeth never married, in her will she left her remaining money to various organizations including the Tuberculosis Association.

Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  • Smith, H. Katherine.  “Box Avenue Memorial to Noted Lawyer.”  Buffalo Courier-Express.  January 21, 1942
  • “Funeral of Henry W. Box.”  The Buffalo Commercial.  February 11, 1909, p10.
  • “Henry W. Box Passes Away”  Buffalo Express.  February 8, 1909, p8.
  • “To Close The Estate of Henry W. Box.”  The Buffalo Enquirer.  June 25, 1923, p5.
  • “Hospital Gets Books as a Henry W Box Memorial.”  Buffalo Courier.  November 3, 1912, p25.
  • “Will of Henry W Box is Filed for Probate.”  Buffalo Courier.  February 16, 190, p7.
  • “Life Story of Henry W Box is History of Distinguished Man.”  Buffalo Courier.  February 14, 1909, p41.

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