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Posts Tagged ‘Albright Knox’

blossomBlossom Street is a street in Downtown Buffalo that runs between East Huron Street and Broadway.  It is cut in half by Hersee Alley.  It functions mainly as an alley for buildings along Ellicott and Oak Streets these days, but it is still designated as a street by the City of Buffalo.  Buildings along the street have windows and doorway entrances that once looked out onto Blossom Street, but are now bricked over.

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Street sign that has seen better days

 

20200301_154105It is not named for flowers, but for Ira Allen Blossom.  Mr. Blossom served as right hand man to Joseph Ellicott. Mr. Blossom’s family were pioneers in Monmouth, Maine, where Ira was born in 1789.  In his 20s, Ira moved to Meadville Pennsylvania for work.  When he was 26, he came to Buffalo as Joseph Ellicott’s assistant.

Mr. Blossom started as Joseph Ellicott’saide in 1821 and was later a Subagent for the Holland Land Company following Joseph’s resignation.  Mr. Blossom was connected to the Holland Land Company until the company was sold to the Farmer’s Loan & Trust Company in the 1840s.  He was then appointed receiver of the Buffalo branch of the United States Bank.  He was also made receiver of the Commercial Bank.  While working for the Holland Land Company and the banks, he was known for being lenient with giving credit to promising young men to start their businesses.  A number of businessmen in Buffalo attributed much of their success to Mr. Blossom’s confidence in them and expressing his confidence through credit.

 

Mr. Blossom partnered with Mr.Lewis Allen to lease what is now the site of the Ellicott Square Building.  In May, 1829, they secured a 63 year lease for the property bounded by Main, North Division, Washington and Swan Streets.  They were able to get the lease at a bargain.  This land had been set aside for Joseph Ellicott by the Holland Land Company in 1816 to build his home, but the Village Trustees interfered and straightened the path of Main Street.  Joseph was disgusted and gave the land to Joseph Ellicott the younger, his nephew.  For the first 21 years, they paid only $700 ($16,000 in today’s dollars) per year, for the second 21 years $850 ($19,000) a year, and for the third 21 years, they paid $1,000 ($23,000) a year.

It was written of Mr. Blossom and Mr. Allen at the time, “the magnitude of their enterprise frightened every conservative in town.” They saw the potential of the site and built a block of fourteen 2-story buildings on the site.  The first legitimate theater in Buffalo was built on the site in 1835.  This theater, William Duffy’s Theater, was on South Division Street between the alley at Washington Street.  It burned down in the 1840s.  The Young Men’s Association (which became the Buffalo Public Library) leased and occupied the upper part of the Theater building.  Reverend Cicero Stevens Hawkins worshiped in the theater in the late 1830s with a group of Episcopalians.  These worshipers later formed Trinity Church, on Delaware Avenue.  Other buildings on the site were filled with businesses as well.

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Buildings located at what is now the Ellicott Square Building

Mr. Blossom and Mr. Allen’s lease on the Ellicott Square ran out in 1892, after both men had died.  On March 1, 1893, the properties were all purchased by the Ellicott Square Company for a fee of $1,080,000 (about $33,583,730 today).   By 1895, when they were planning to construct the Ellicott Square Building, the buildings on this property were described as “the sorriest exhibit of business buildings in the city.”  The planned Ellicott Square Building was expected to cost 2 Million to construct.

Mr. Blossom married Eunice Hubbard.  They lived at the triangle at Franklin, Swan and Erie Streets, across from St. Joseph’s Cathedral.   The famous naturalist Audubon was a guest at their home.  Mr. Audubon was thought to have painted portraits of the Blossoms in 1825, which the family treasured.  The house stood in a garden and was framed by majestic trees of the primeval forest.  The Blossoms had one daughter, Anna.

In 1831, Mr. Blossom, along with John Beals, Samuel Callendar, Elizah Einer, James McKay and Noah Sprague met to organize a parish of the Unitarian church.  The congregation grew and constructed its first building in 1833, at the corner of Franklin and Eagle Street.  The building is still standing today, having been remodeled into a commercial building by the Austin Family. 

In 1832, Mr. Blossom was elected to Buffalo’s first Board of Alderman.  For two terms, he represented the old Third Ward on the board.  He was offered other public offices, but he declined them.  He helped to incorporate the University of Buffalo and was on the university’s first council.

He also was known for giving generously to public projects he believed would benefit Buffalo.  He was known for his hospitality.  He was also known for taking care of the poor, at a time when the indigent were not considered a general public responsibility; his gifts and kindness helped many families.

blossom grave 2He died in 1856.  Mr. Blossom’s tombstone read “a man who never turned his back on his honor, a loyal citizen, a generous friend.”  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

After Mr. Blossom died, living across from the Cathedral and hearing it’s carillon inspired Mrs. Blossom to become a Catholic.  She gave the house to the church.  On the site of the house, St. Stephen’s Hall was built.   Mrs. Blossom and Anna moved to New England.  When Mrs. Blossom died in 1875, she was buried along with her husband in Forest Lawn.

Portraits of Mr. Blossom can be found in the collection of the Albright Knox Art Gallery and the Buffalo History Museum, both portraits are the same painting.  The portrait in the Albright Knox Collection was attributed to John James Audubon and was believed to have been painted in 1825. The Albright’s  portrait was donated, along with a portrait of Mrs. Blossom, in 1943 by the grandson of the Blossoms, Ira A.B. Smith.  The second portrait, was donated to the Buffalo Historical Society at a later date by the estate of one of Mr. Blossom’s associates in the Holland Land Company office.  This second portrait was accompanied by Mr. Blossom’s journals.  The 1835 journal reveals that an associate (Mr. Johnson) commissioned the painting, along with a copy, for his colleague in 1835.  The paintings are both believed to have been done by Samuel Bell Waugh and not by Audubon as had been originally thought.  Both museums attribute the painting to Waugh now.  The picture of Mr. Blossom in this article is a newspaper copy clipping of the painting.

To learn about other 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. Winner, Julia Hull.  “The Puzzle of Buffalo’s Two Ira Blossom Portraits that Look Just Alike”.  Buffalo Evening News Magazine.  December 1, 1962, p 1.
  2. “Centennial Planned for Unitarian Church”.  Buffalo Evening News.  November 21, 1931.  p 4.
  3. Buffalo Changes:  The Old Buildings Now on Good Business Sites, and the New Structures which are to Replace Them.  Buffalo Express.  Feb 3, 1895.
  4. Audubon Works Are Acquired by Art Gallery.  Courier Express , Nov 19, 1939, sec 5 p3.
  5. Goldberg, Arthur.  The Buffalo Public Library:  Commemorating its first century of service to the citizens of Buffalo – 1836-1936.  Privately Printed, Buffalo New York, MCMXXXVII (1937).
  6. Smith, Katherine.  Named for Ira Blossom. Courier Express Nov 19, 1939, sec. 5, p3.

 

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knox street

Today’s post was inspired by my trip this past week to the Knox Farm for the Junior League’s Decorator’s Showhouse.  The house is open until May 19th.  The Aurora Historical Society is also doing walking tours of the Village of East Aurora that includes Millard Fillmore’s House and the Elbert Hubbard Museum.  I highly recommend heading out to East Aurora to do both these things!   Knox Street is a small street in North Buffalo, just north of Delaware Park.  The street is named after Seymour H. Knox I.  The Knox family has been an important family in Buffalo since the early 1900s.

Seymour H. Knox I

Seymour H. Knox I

Seymour Horace Knox I was born in Russel, New York in April 1861.  His great-grandfather fought in the American Revolution after coming to Massachusetts from Belfast, Ireland in 1737.  Seymour attended local schools.  At 17, he moved to Hart, Michigan, where he worked as a sales clerk.  He then moved to Reading, Pennsylvania where he entered into a partnership with his cousins.  The Woolworth & Knox store opened on September 20, 1884.  Seymour used his entire life savings to enter into the partnership.  The second store opened in Newark, New Jersey and the third store opened in Erie, Pennsylvania.   The first Buffalo Store opened in Buffalo on October 13, 1888 at 409 Main Street.  In 1889, he bought out his cousins, but kept a business relationship with his cousins after the buyout.

Seymour opened S.H. Knox Co 5 and 10 Cent Store in 1890, partnering with Earle Perry Charlton.  The first store was in the 409 Main Street location.  He second store opened at 549 William Street on June 20, 1891.  In 1893, the Main Street store moved to 519 Main Street after the first store was destroyed by a fire.  In 1895, the store moved to 395 Main Street.

S. H. Knox & Co. 5 & 10c store, 115-117 West National Ave., BrazAt the time of the 1911 incorporation of F.W. Woolworth Company, Knox operated 98 US and 13 Canadian locations.  In 1912, he received $12 Million of the merger proceeds and was appointed Director and Senior Vice President of the Corporation.

In 1913, Seymour purchased Stephen Clement’s interests in Marine National.  At his death, Seymour was Vice President of the Woolworth Co. and Chairman of the Board of the Marine Trust Co.  He was the first of three generations of the family to serve as Chairman.

knox house porter avenueSeymour married Grace Millard in 1890.  Seymour and Grace first lived at 414 Porter Avenue.   They then moved to 467 Linwood Avenue.

Seymour then built the house at 1035 Delaware Avenue in 1903.   The Knox family lived in the 1035 Delaware House until 1918.  They had three children:  Seymour II, Marjorie and Dorothy.  Grace established the University of Buffalo’s first endowment fund in 1916 when she donated $250,000.

1035 Delaware

Following Seymour I’s death, Grace Millard Knox began construction on the 806 Delaware Ave Mansion following her husband’s death.  The Grace Millard Knox house is now known as 800 Delaware Avenue and is now owned by Computer Task Group.

800 Delaware Avenue - The Grace Mallard Knox House

800 Delaware Avenue – The Grace Mallard Knox House

Seymour’s sister Dorothy Knox married Frank Goodyear.  Dorothy and Frank built the Knox Farm House in 1916 as a summer home.  She later sold the house to her brother, Seymour II.  Following Seymour II’s death, Seymour III and his wife lived in the Knox Farm house.  New York State acquired the 633-acre farm in 2000 to create the Knox Farm  Park.  The house is currently on display through the end of May as the Junior League’s Decorator’s Showhouse.

Knox Summer House on the Knox Farm in East Aurora

Knox Summer House on the Knox Farm in East Aurora

Seymour Knox I died on May 17, 1915.  He is buried in Forest Lawn at the Knox Mausoleum.

Knox Mausoleum at Forest Lawn

Knox Mausoleum at Forest Lawn

Seymour II and his wife Helen

Seymour II and his wife Helen

Seymour II was born on September 1, 1898 and was known as Shorty due to his height.  Shorty attended Hotchkiss Preparatory School and graduated from Yale in 1920.  His interest in art began with his parents, who were active in the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy.   He joined the Board of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy in 1925.  In 1939, he and his family donated money to establish a room of contemporary art in memory of Grace Millard Knox.  The gallery used this money to purchase works by Picasso, Matisse, Mir, Mondrian, Beckmann and Braque.

During the 1950s, the director of the gallery allowed Shorty to buy pieces by abstract expressionist painters.  The Albright was the first museum in the world to buy works by Clyfford Still.  The artist gifted 31 paintings to the gallery.

Andy Warhol Portrait of Seymour Knox II

Andy Warhol Portrait of Seymour Knox II

Shorty served as chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts from 1960 to 1975.  In 1986, he was awarded a National Medal of Art at the White House by President Reagan for his contributions to the arts in Buffalo and the Nation.

Shorty married Helen Northrup Knox.  Helen and Shorty lived at 57 Oakland Place, in a house on the estate of Grace Millard Knox’s 806 Delaware Avenue mansion.  They had two children, Seymour III and Northrup Rand Knox.  Shorty died in 1990.

Seymour Knox III dropping the puck at the First Sabres Game, 1970

Seymour Knox III dropping the puck at the First Sabres Game, 1970

Seymour III was born in March 1926.  Seymour III was educated at Yale and Columbia before becoming a Corporal in the United States Army Field Artillery in World War II.  He then embarked in a successful banking career.

Northrup Knox was born 1928.  Northrup served as Chairman of Marine Midland Bank, Director of the Seymour Knox Foundation, and Vice President and Director of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy.

KnoxNNorthrup was closely associated with the University at Buffalo, following in the family connection with UB that started with his grandmother’s endowment fund.  Northrup served as director of the UB Foundation.  Northrup received the UB President’s Medal in 1994.

Northrup and Seymour III are best known in Buffalo for bringing major league hockey to Buffalo with the Buffalo Sabres in 1970.  The Sabres colors of blue and gold were chosen because those were the colors of the Knox family Polo team. The Knox brothers first applied for a NHL franchise in 1965, but were unsuccessful.  In 1969, their efforts to bring a team to Buffalo were successful.  They assembled what was considered to be a top-rated operation.  The Sabres qualified for playoffs in only their third season and reached the Stanley Cup Finals within the first five seasons.

In 1975, Seymour III was named the Hockey News Executive of the Year.  Seymour III served on the NHL’s Board of Governor’s for 25 years and was director of the US hockey Hall of Fame.  The Knox brothers were also behind the establishment of the Buffalo Bandits lacrosse and Buffalo Blizzard soccer teams.  Seymour III was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.   Northrup and Seymour III were both inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame in 1996. The brothers owned the Sabres until their deaths in 1996 and 1998.

The Knox family is still an important family in Buffalo today.  Seymour IV is on the board of several local organizations.

Be sure to check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

You can also check out Discovering Buffalo…One Street at a Time on Facebook.!

Sources:

  1. “Knox Street Named for Seymour H. Knox” Courier Express July 13, 1941, sec 7 p 6
  2. http://www.friendsofknoxpark.org/pdfs/Preservation_Plus_Tour_%20Knox.pdf
  3. Glueck, Grace.  “Seymour H. Knox Is Dead at 92;  Buffalo Banker Was Art Patron”.  New York Times Obituaries.  September 28, 1990.  http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/28/obituaries/seymour-h-knox-is-dead-at-92-buffalo-banker-was-art-patron.html
  4. “Northrup R. Knox, 69, banker sportsman, community leader”.  UB Reporter Obituary.  Volume 30, Number 1.  August 27, 1998.
  5. http://www.legendsofhockey.net/LegendsOfHockey/jsp/LegendsMember.jsp?type=Builder&mem=B199301&list=ByName

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