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Screenshot (13)Verplanck Street is a north-south street running between East Utica and East Ferry, parallel to and two blocks west of Jefferson Avenue in the Masten Neighborhood of the East Side.  The street was originally known as Clifton Street but the name was changed in December 1880 to honor Isaac Verplanck.  

Isaac Abraham Verplanck  was born in Coeymans (near Albany), NY.  The Verplancks (sometimes spelled Verplank or Ver Planck) were a prominent family during the New Netherlands era of New York.  Abraham Isaac Verplanck, a Dutch entrepreneur, came to New Netherlands in the 1630s.  One of Abraham’s sons, Isaac Verplanck, moved to Albany and established the Verplanck line in the Capital Region of New York State – he had 10 children!   One of Abraham’s daughters married David Schuyler.  David’s brother was Phillip Schuyler, the G-G-Great Grandfather of the Schuyler Sisters who you may be familiar with, particularly if you (like me) spent a great deal of 2020 watching Hamilton on repeat on Disney Plus.  The Hamlet of Verplanck in Westchester County and Ver Planck Street in Albany are both named after the Verplanck family.  

After several generations of Verplancks, Buffalo’s Isaac Abraham Verplanck was born in October 1812 to Abraham and Elizabeth Verplanck.  Isaac graduated from Union College in Schenectady and moved to Batavia to study law in 1831.  He was admitted to the bar in 1834 at the age of 22.  By the age of 26, he became District Attorney of Genesee County.

In 1847, Mr. Verplanck was lured by the growth of the City of Buffalo and moved here to continue his profession. He grew his law practice by partnering with Henry Smith.  

In 1854, he was elected Superior Court Justice.  The Superior Court of Buffalo had just been formed, so Judge Verplanck was one of the first justices along with Judge George Clinton and Judge Masten.   Judge Verplanck was reelected twice and served for 19 years until his death.  He was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1867- 68.  Judge Verplanck was also an officer of the Buffalo Club. 

Episcopal Church of the Ascension, North Street

Judge Verplanck married Laura Allen of Batavia in 1834.   The Verplank family lived on North Street in Buffalo.  They were members of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension.  Judge Verplanck was very involved, having been one of three laymen who started the congregation in 1855 and often serving as a representative of the church to conventions.  The Verplanks had three children –  Ethan Allen who died at the age of 9; Sarah, who married George C Webster and served as organist at Ascension Church for 17 years; and Abram George.  Abram attended Yale and served in the Army.  Abram died in Washington, March 7, 1880.

Judge Verplanck  died suddenly on April 15, 1873 of a stroke.  His funeral was held at the Church of the Ascension on April 18th.  The church had just opened in their new sanctuary the day prior with a large worship service attended by pastors from many local congregations.  During the service, Judge Verplanck’s death was announced during the sermon.

As a lawyer, Mr. Verplanck was said to be one of the fairest, most logical and most learned jurists ever to preside in a local court.  After he died, his obituary read, “Nature has ordained him to be a dispenser of Justice, and no man ever held the scales more evenly than he” and that he “was a man of great mental resources, an able lawyer, an incorruptible jurist a true gentleman, and a noble hearted generous citizen”.

114108830_138195578916Prior to his funeral, a meeting was held at “the new courthouse” for members of the Erie County Bar to share their remembrances of the Judge.  I believe the new courthouse referred to what we now consider Old County Hall, which was built between 1871 and 1875.  Sheriff Grover Cleveland draped the judge’s desk and courtroom in black for mourning.  After his death, the Genesee County Bar association also passed a resolution to honor Judge Verplanck as he had played such an important role there.  Judge Verplanck is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

If you’d like 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.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year!  2021 will be my 10th year of blogging, can you believe it!  We’ll have to do something special to celebrate ten years next summer.  Let me know what streets you want to learn about this coming year!  Thanks for all of your support, this year, and always!

Sources:

  • “Church of the Ascension:  Opening Services Yesterday, Sermon by Bishop Coxe”.  Buffalo Courier.  April, 18, 1873, p2.
  • Gazetteer and Biographical Record of Genesee County NY 1788-1890, p. 56.
  • “Obituary:  The Late Hon. Isaac A Verplanck”.  Buffalo Weekly Courier.  April 23, 1873, p2.

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emerson placeEmerson Place is a small one-block street that runs between Michigan Avenue and Masten Avenue in the Masten Park neighborhood on the East Side.  The Street is named for Henry P. Emerson, superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools.  The Emerson neighborhood and Emerson School of Hospitality are also named after Henry Emerson.  In Addition to the Emerson School on Chippewa, the Buffalo schools are about to start classes in a new location on West Huron, where the former CW Miller Livery was converted into classroom space and a new gymnasium was built on a parking lot.  The new school will be The Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, formerly known as Emerson Annex.  The school expansion project was one of Mark Croce’s projects.  Mark passed away earlier this month.  He was a friend of this blog and I always enjoyed talking with him about the history of his buildings.  Since there’s no Croce Street, I write this post in memory of Mark, as well as in celebration of the new space for the students!

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Henry Pendexter Emerson was born in Lynn Field, Massachusetts in 1847. He was the son of Oliver and Eliza (Weston) Emerson and is a relative of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He attended Phillips Andover Academy. in Massachusetts. He received his A.B. Degree in 1871 and A.M. in 1874. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, he started teaching Greek and Latin at Potsdam Normal School.

Mr. Emerson came to Buffalo in 1874 to teach at Old Central (located on Niagara Square). After nine years, he became principal of the school. While he was principal, he obtained $60,000 in appropriations to enlarge the school. This was a very large appropriation at the time.

At the time, the superintendent of schools was a political office. Dr. Emerson ran for it in 1892 on the Republican ticket. He was elected for six successive four-year terms. After the office ceased to be an elected office, he was appointed to continue as superintendent by Mayor Louis Fuhrman. In 1919, Dr. Emerson retired.

Dr. Emerson married Mary Estey of Middleton, Massachusetts in 1874. They lived on Allen Street at the site of what is now the Allendale Theatre (Theatre of Youth) and later at 122 College Street in Buffalo.  The family returned to Middleton every summer and kept a home there on a lake. After retirement, they moved to Middleton full time. They returned to Buffalo every winter for more than a decade to reunite with his fellow teachers and friends.

While Dr. Emerson was superintendent, he was considered an education reformer. He often said, “Better schools make a Better Buffalo”.  Buffalo’s rapid growth had caused school problems at the time.  The population had more than doubled between 1870 and 1900 (from 117,714 to 255,000 people).  Schools were crowded and the quickest growing immigrant populations lived in areas where there were often no schools.  In 1900, almost 3/4ths of the school population was foreign-born or the children of foreign-born.  City services – such as garbage pickup, water supply, sewer, trolley service, etc had difficulty keeping up with the growth, and schools were no exception.  Classrooms at the time could be jammed with as many as 100 students assigned to a single teacher.  The schools were poorly ventilated and poorly lit, with inadequate seating.  Students learned by rote, reciting text together, and passed each grade with a written test, if they passed at all.  In 1890, 76% of children were in 1st and 2nd grade.  There was no school board, school policy was set by the City Council.  As superintendent, Dr. Emerson appointed and supervised the 700 teachers.  Many of the teachers at the time were poorly educated young women from politically connected families.  An October 1892 article in Forum, described the school system of Buffalo as an example of how not to run a public school system.

Dr. Emerson introduced free textbooks for public schools, the first local kindergartens and the first evening classes. He also introduced the first courses in home economics and industrial arts, from which Buffalo’s vocational schools developed. While he was superintendent, four public high schools were built – Lafayette, Masten, South Park and Technical. The Masten High School building is now City Honors. Technical High School was located at Cedar Street and Clinton Avenue (now school administration offices and storage). Technical High School merged with Hutchinson and Central High Schools and is now Hutchinson Central Technical High School (typically called Hutch Tech these days). Lafayette High School and South Park High School are also both still in operation, though Lafayette is now Lafayette International High School.

Dr. Emerson provided free medical and dental exams for students, as well as special classes for the physically and mentally handicapped.  He also introduced non-academic subjects such as music and art.  Dr. Emerson also founded the first local teacher training school. He published two books while he was here – a Latin textbook, “Latin in High Schools” in 1891 and an English grammar textbook “A Course in English For Schools” in 1905. The books were widely used in schools across the country for many years.

Dr. Emerson was president of three educators’ organizations – the Council of School Superintendents of New York State, the State Teachers’ Association, and the National Education Association. He was loyal to his students and encouraged them to finish high school and if possible, college. At the time, it was typical for many students to go into the world of work after they completed 5th or 8th grade, as opposed to completing high school.  For many, it was more important for the students to earn money to help the families than to go on to higher education.  In 1915, the number of students who reached 9th grade was five times more than in the 1890s.  Class sizes were smaller and teachers had better training.

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The Former Emerson Vocational School on Sycamore Street (now Harvey Austin School)

In addition to the street, Emerson Vocational High School is named after Dr. Emerson. The school had originally opened as Peckham Boys Vocational School in 1911, at the corner of Peckham and Townsend Streets. Peckham Vocational School was the first vocational school in Buffalo to have its own facilities. The school focused on upholstery, tailoring, cabinetmaking, machine shop, welding, drafting, painting, baking and culinary arts. The school was located at the corner of Sycamore Street and Koons Avenue from 1926 to 2002. It was named in Dr. Emerson’s honor in 1937. Emerson school became co-ed in 1975. In 2002, Emerson school moved to Chippewa Street and became Emerson School of Hospitality. The school at Sycamore and Koons was remodeled and became Harvey Austin Elementary School.  Emerson School operates Emerson Commons, also on Chippewa, a cafeteria-style restaurant operated by students.

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The former CW Miller Livery before renovations into classroom space for Emerson School (Source:  Buffalo Business First)

In addition to the Emerson School of Hospitality on Chippewa, Buffalo’s schools will be expanding its footprint very soon.  The Buffalo School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management will be in the renovated former CW Miller Livery on Huron.  Construction of an adjacent gymnasium building is being completed in what was a parking lot.  Students are expected to move in next week (January 2020).  The CW Miller Livery has had a fascinating history of its own – it was built as a “palace for horses” and was considered to be one of the finest stables in the United States.  It uses a unique construction as the floors were suspended from steel trusses at the top of the building.  It provided stalls for approximately 250 horses when it was built.  C.W. Miller was a businessman who had made his fortune providing horse transportation to Buffalonians.  After WWI, the livery was converted to a parking garage for cars.  The building was vacant for several decades before being renovated into the expansion of the school by a development team and the Buffalo Public Schools.

Dr. Emerson also donated Emerson Lodge to Camp Rotary, a camp near his home in Massachusetts that allowed poor boys an opportunity to enjoy outdoor life.  While Camp Rotary still exists, I was unable to determine if the lodge is still standing.

While at college, Henry met Frank Fosdick, who became a lifelong friend. They promised to name their children after each other. Frank Fosdick served as principal of Masten High School from 1914 until 1926. Masten High School was renamed Fosdick-Masten High School in Frank Fosdick’s honor in 1927.  Dr. Emerson had no children himself, but Mr. Fosdick kept his promise and named his first son Henry Emerson Fosdick.  Henry Emerson Fosdick was a prominent pastor, serving at First Presbyterian Church in the West Village, Manhattan and the historic, inter-denominational Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, Manhattan.  He was featured in a Time Magazine cover store on October 6, 1930.

Dr. Emerson died in 1930. He is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Middleton, Massachusetts.

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Emerson Row Houses

Emerson Place is also known for its rowhouses.  It’s one of the only remaining sets of rowhouses left in Buffalo (it was never a common housing style here).  The rowhouses on Emerson were built in 1893 by Benjamine B. Rice.  Benjamin Rice was a real estate developer who developed several streets in the Masten Park neighborhood.  The Emerson rowhouses consist of two seven-unit row houses.  They became a City of Buffalo Local Landmark in 1981 and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

So the next time you grab lunch at Emerson Commons or are driving through Masten Park, think of Dr. Emerson and his attempts to reform our schools.

To learn about more streets, check out the Street Index.   Be sure to subscribe to the blog so that new posts are sent directly to you – you can do so on the right hand side of the home page.  You can also like my blog page on facebook at facebook.com/buffalostreets.

Sources:

  1.  Smith, Katherine H.  “Emerson Place Memorial to Long-Time School Head”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  November 16, 1941, sec6 p3.
  2. “Emerson High School Students Take Part in Funeral Services”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  April 23, 1937. p12.
  3. Motter, HL, editor.  International Who’s Who:  Who’s Who in the World:  A biographical dictionary of the world’s notable living men and women.  William G. Hewitt Press, Brooklyn NY, 1912.
  4. Seller, Maxine.   “The Education of Immigrant Children in Buffalo”,  April 1976.  Found in Institutional Life:  Family, Schools, Race and Religion. Shumsky, Neil Larry, editor.  .  Garland Publishing, Inc, New York.  1996.
  5. LaChiusa, Chuck.  “C.W. Miller Livery Stable”  Buffalo as an Architectural Museum.  https://buffaloah.com/a/whur/75/75.html (online January 2020)
  6. Buffalo City Directories
  7. Emerson Place Row.  Building Structure Inventory Form.  Accessed from NYS Office of Parks and Recreation via cris.parks.ny.gob (online January 2020)

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