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Archive for December, 2021

lyth

Lyth Avenue on the left, Harwood Place on the right.

Today we are going to talk about two streets on the East Side. Lyth Avenue runs between Purdy Street and Jefferson Avenue in the Cold Spring neighborhood of Buffalo. Harwood Place runs a short distance off, across Jefferson Avenue, near Lyth Ave. Harwood Place is a dead-end street, though historically, it ran through to Lonsdale Road at times. The road was initially a driveway leading to the stables of the Lyth homes at Northland and Jefferson. The horses for the Lyth Tile Company were housed there. The street was deeded to the city around 1886. The family also built two houses and a place of business on the street.

john lyth 3John Lyth was born in Stockton-Upon-Tees in England in September 1820. Mary Ann Harwood Lyth was born in England in 1817. At age 13, Mr. Lyth learned the trade of earthenware manufacturer. John and Mary Ann were married in 1843. They had three children while living in England – Alfred, John, and Mary. They emigrated to Buffalo in 1850 and had two more children – William and Francis- born here in Buffalo.
In Buffalo, John Lyth worked for P.A. Balcom, a local brickmaker. He later worked with W. H. Glenny in the crockery business. In 1851, Mr. Lyth’s brother, Francis, invented and introduced the hollow tile arch in York, England. In 1857, Mr. Lyth purchased a plot of land nearly a half-mile square and began to manufacture farm drain-tile. In his first year, he only sold $50 worth of tile. Then, in 1864, he went into business with Mr. Balcom, a partnership that lasted for ten years. They manufactured salt-glazed, citrified sewer pipe and terra cotta goods. Their factory was located at 83 -163 Puffer Street (now Northland Avenue), between Purdy and Jefferson. Lyth Avenue was a driveway to the factory.

lyth works

Lyth Factory. Source: Buffaloah.com

The Lyth family were pioneer residents in the Northland section of the city. Northland Avenue at the time was known as Puffer Street. John Lyth chose the location for the factory because of the abundance of clay in the soil. This clay was the best type for making tiles. The Lyth factory was a landmark of the early neighborhood.

The Lyth home was located at 169 Puffer Street. The house was considered suburban when it was built. In later years, family members would say that they were so far out of town they couldn’t even get a doctor to come, except in gravest illnesses. The large house was surrounded by extensive lawns, gardens, and orchards. The family had a cow, chickens, and vegetable gardens to provide for the family. Mary Ann was devoted to her family. Twice, she refused to return to England on trips b/c she did not want to leave her children.

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire happened. The demand in construction for fireproof hollow tile and bricks for construction leapt after the fire. In the 80s and 90s, the Lyth Tile Company was the largest of its kind in the country.

lyth grave

Lyth Family Plot in Forest Lawn

The Lyth Family were members of the Unitarian Church. They were strong advocates of temperance. John Lyth was a member of the Royal Templars of Temperance, serving as Supreme Treasurer of the Order. John Lyth died at his home at 169 Puffer Street in 1889. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Alfred Lyth was born in 1844. One of his earliest memories was traveling from New York to Buffalo along the Erie Canal when the family arrived here. In 1862, Alfred enlisted in the 100th Regiment, New York Volunteers. He served at Fort Sumter, Gloucester Point, the James River Expedition, and Drury’s Bluff. During his time in the regiment, he suffered from typhoid fever and was wounded in action three times. He was also captured by Confederates and held as a prisoner at Andersonville Prison for a year.  After the war, Alfred joined his father’s tile business with his brothers John and William. They formed the firm J. Lyth & Sons.

183 Northland Spree

183 Northland.  Source  Buffalo Spree.  

In 1872, the Lyth Mansion at 183 Puffer (now Northland) was built by Alfred Lyth. This house is sometimes listed as being lived in by John Lyth; however, city directory records show that John and Mary Ann lived at 169 Puffer. Son Albert and his wife Kate lived at 183 Puffer.

After his father’s death, Alfred headed the business. He also joined Company F of the 74th Regiment, National Guard, and attained the rank of Major. When the Grand Army of the Republic formed, Major Lyth became a prominent member. For 25 years, he attended every state and national GAR convention as a delegate. In 1897, when the GAR National Encampment was held in Buffalo, Major Lyth was Vice-Commander-In-Chief of the convention.

lyth tile angola

Postcard view of the Tile Works in Angola

In 1872, Major Lyth was Supervisor of the Seventh Ward, and in 1873, he was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. In 1874, Lyth Avenue was opened and named in Major Lyth’s honor.  In the 1890s, the Lyth Tile Company plant moved to Angola, New York. By 1894, the former factory site was developed for residential purposes.

In 1897, residents of Puffer Street asked for the name to be changed to Northland Avenue. The residents felt that people were getting confused between Puffer Street and Tupper Street, and their mail was getting sent to Tupper Street. Picture the old-timey cursive handwritten envelopes, and it’s easy to imagine the confusion! The name change was granted by Common Council in May 1897 and signed by Mayor Jewett on May 23, 1897.

Alfred’s brother William Lyth inherited the house at 169 Northland after Mr. Lyth’s death. In her later years, mother Mary Ann lived with Alfred at 183 Northland. Sometime between 1916 and 1950, the house at 169 Northland was replaced with a retail store.

Major Alfred Lyth died in 1925 at age 81. Major Lyth’s son, Alfred Lyon Lyth, took over the business. Alfred Lyon had been involved in the industry from a young age. His father had insisted on teaching him all aspects of the company before he retired. Alfred Lyon had been known as the “champion quarterback of Western New York and was offered a scholarship to Syracuse University to play football. Times were hard, so his father convinced him to stay in Buffalo for one year to help with the business before entering college. Alfred Lyon became interested in the work and didn’t leave for college.

In 1922, Alfred Lyon Lyth opened Lyth Chevrolet at 1159 Jefferson Avenue, the first Chevrolet agency in Buffalo. He sold J. Lyth & Sons to Globe Plaster Company three years later. Alfred Lyon Lyth was elected as Erie County Supervisor for the 13th Ward in 1908, 1913 and 1927.

royster northland ave

Royster Family in front of 183 Northland Avenue, 1973.  Source:  Buffalo Courier Express.

Lyth Family members continued living at 183 Northland until the 1950s. From 1956 to 1958, Luke Easter lived in the house. Luke Easter was the first African American to play for the Buffalo Bisons in modern times. As a result, the house is often called “the Luke Easter House.” After Mr. Easter, the house was owned by Clifford Royster, who owned the house until 2002.  The house is within the Hamlin Park Historic District, established in the late 1990s.

Next time you drive by Lyth Ave or Harwood Place, think about the Lyth Family and remember a time when Northland was known as Puffer Street!  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.

PS.  I hope you are all having a lovely holiday season and have a very Happy New Year!

Sources:

  • Smith, H. Katherine.  “Harwood Place Memorial to Wife of Area Pioneer.” Buffalo Courier-Express.  December 21, 1941, p7.
  • “Mr. John Lyth”.  Buffalo Commercial.  April 28, 1889, p3.
  • “It is now Northland Avenue.”  Buffalo Courier.  May 23, 1897, p6.
  • “J. Lyh & Sons of Buffalo Coming Here.”  Evans Journal.  September 26, 1957, p4.
  • The Clay Worker, Volume 27-28.  National Brick Manufacturer’s Association of the United States of America:  T.A. Randall & Company, 1897.
  • Nyhuis, Philip.  “Finding Happiness in Hamlin Park.”  Buffalo Spree.  May 15, 2019.
  • Brady, Karen. “Bus Tour of City’s East Side Provides a Trip into the Past”. Buffalo News. August 17, 1992.
  • “Alfred Lyth Will Bequests Total $22,900.”  Buffalo Courier-Express.  May 15, 1953, p19.
  • “It’s Not All Blight”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  July 12, 1973, p18.
  • Smith, Katherine.  Lyth Avenue Honors Family Which Headed First US Tile Plant”.  Buffalo Courier-Express.  September 24, 1939, pL2.

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carltonCarlton Street runs from Main to Genesee Street in the Medical Campus and Fruit Belt neighborhoods of Buffalo.  Like many streets in this area, it was impacted by the construction of the Kensington Expressway (NYS Route 33), which separates Carlton Street into two, with its final two blocks of the 33, cut off from the rest of the street west of the 33.

Carlton Street is named for Ebenezer Carleton Sprague.  Ebenezer went by the nickname of Eben and was born in Bath, Grafton County, New Hampshire on November 26, 1822.  Eben Sprague was the Great Great Great Grandson of Frances Sprague, who sailed to Plymouth on the ship Anne, and was the First Secretary of the Plymouth Colony.  Eben Sprague came to Buffalo in 1825 with his parents Noah Sprague and Abiah Carleton.  Technically, you could say that Carlton Street was named for Eben’s mom and her family.  The name was spelled interchangeably as Carleton and Carlton, depending on the source.

Noah Sprague worked in the mercantile business in Buffalo and was well known around Early Buffalo.  He was elected County Clerk of Erie County in 1831 and 1840.  He was mostly identified with the lake business and had an office on the docks for many years.

EbenCarletonSpragueEben Sprague attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Harvard College in 1843.  After graduation, he studied law in the office of Millard Fillmore and Solomon G. Haven, two of the most distinguished lawyers of their day.  Mr. Sprague was admitted to the bar in October 1846.  He was a successful lawyer and was associated with both Millard Fillmore and his son, Millard Powers Fillmore.  Mr. Sprague founded the firm Moot, Sprague, Marcy and Gulick.  He was well respected among the legal community for nearly 50 years.

Mr. Sprague served as the lawyer for the International Railroad Company, the Great Western Railway of Canada, Grand Trunk and Lake Erie & Western Railroads as well as other railroad and manufacturing concerns.  His firm went by several names over the years.  He served as attorney for Erie County Savings Bank for more than 40 years, beginning in 1854.

235 Delaware

Sprague House at Delaware and Chippewa in center of photo. Source: Chippewa Street Development Report

In 1849, Eben Sprague married Elizabeth H. Williams.  They had eight children, but only four lived to adulthood – Henry Ware,  Carlton, Louise and Mary.  The Sprague Family lived in a cottage on High Street and then moved to a home on the northeast corner of Chippewa and Delaware.  The house at 235 Delaware Avenue was originally built by W. S. Gardner in 1836 for Alexander A. Eustaphieve.  The house was a three story, Federal-style brick structure.  The house had a basement kitchen, which was the older style of house popular in the early days of Buffalo, called an English basement house.  The house was demolished in 1930.  The site is currently Starbucks and Bocce’s Pizza.

The Sprague house was a center of culture.  Mr. Sprague studied languages – including French and German which he was fluent in, and Latin and Greek.  He enjoyed poetry, especially Shelley.  He always said if he hadn’t’ been a lawyer, he’d have been a writer.

Mr. Sprague served as President of the Young Men’s Association, which developed into the Buffalo Library; Vice President and Curator of Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts (the Albright Knox Art Gallery); a member of the Buffalo Natural Science Association, the Harvard Club and the Thursday Club.  He was also one of the founders of First Unitarian Church.  In 1890, he was made the third Chancellor of the University of Buffalo.

In 1876, he was nominated to fill a vacancy in the State Senate for a single session.  During his time in the Senate in 1877, he was a member of the Committee on Canals and helped reduce tolls on the Erie Canal.  He also was a member of the Judiciary Committee, and worked to better the new code of civil procedure, which included writing 600 amendments to the code!  His constituents wanted to nominated him the next year, but he declined.  He had no desire for other public positions.

In the 1880s, Mr. Sprague advised wealthy Buffalonians to share their riches, saying, “It was wealth without a conscience that sowed the seeds of the French Revolution and drove its possessors into exile and to the guillotine.”  He was a supporter of many charities, giving of his time, money and attention.  He served as a Secretary of the Buffalo Orphan Asylum and a Trustee of Children’s Aid and Charity Organization Society, and of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Mr. Sprague wrote a number of essays that he published.  In 1891, Mr. Sprague printed a book titled “Lessons from the Life of Benjamin Franklin” for the young people of Buffalo.  This book is an autobiography of Franklin’s that was edited by Mr. Sprague.  In Mr. Sprague’s introduction he wrote to the boy and girls, hoping they could learn from Franklin’s life and, “while they cannot all be Franklins, they can become respected and prosperous.”  He desired wide circulation of the book, so he sold it at cost.

sprague graveMr. Sprague died on February 14, 1895 at the age of 73.  He suffered fell into a coma while home reading to his wife by the fire.  He died the next day of kidney disease.  His grave says:  Jurisconsultus Insignis – Civis Fidelis Literis Perdoctus- Hominum Amator, which means “Distinguished Lawyer – A Loyal Citizen – Lover of Human Learning.  He left behind an estate valued at $50,000 in real estate and $150,000 in personal property ($1.6 Million and $4.9 Million in today’s dollars).  Eben left his law office to his son Henry, who continued the practice until his death.  The firm then continued under Eben’s grandson!

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.  “Carlton Street Memorial to Outstanding Buffalo Lawyer.”  Buffalo Courier-Express.  April 20, 1941, p 7-3.
  • “E.C. Sprague Dead”.  Buffalo Enquirer.  February 14, 1895.  p1.
  • “Last Will of Late Eben Carlton Sprague”.  Buffalo Enquirer.  June 14, 1895.  p2.
  • “Loved and Mourned:  A Departed Bright Light of the Bar of Buffalo.”  Buffalo Courier.  February 16, 1895, p6.
  • “Mr. E.C. Sprague:  Sudden Death of One of City’s Most Prominent Lawyers at Noon.”  Buffalo Evening News.  February 15, 1895, p6.
  • Patterson, Roger.  “Chippewa Street Development Report.”  Prepared for the Dept of Community Development, Buffalo New York.  February 1980.
  • Franklin, Benjamin.  Lessons from the Life Of Benjamin Franklin.  Ebenezer Carlton Sprague, editor.  P. Paul & Bro Publishers:  Buffalo.  1891.

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