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cary-streetCary Street is a two block street on the western side of Downtown Buffalo, running from Delaware Avenue to just past Elmwood Avenue.  The land upon which Cary Street sits was originally a wedding gift from Trumbull Cary to his son, Dr. Walter Cary.  The property included the Genesee Hotel (now the Hyatt), and the site of the Cary Home at 184 Delaware Avenue.  The Cary family played a role in Buffalo and Western New York’s development for generations.  Trumbull Cary established the first bank west of Albany, the Bank of Genesee, in Batavia in 1829.  His son, Dr. Walter Cary was a leader in Buffalo’s cultural and social life.  Three of Walter’s sons, Thomas, Charles and George made important contributions to Buffalo.

The first of the Cary family to arrive in the Americas was John Cary, who sailed arrived in Massachusetts from England in 1634.  When Joseph Ellicott came into the wilderness of Western New York during the early 1800s as the agent for the Holland Land Company, he brought with him as his right hand man, a surveyor named Ebeneezer Cary.  Ebeneezer Cary stayed in Batavia and in 1805, he hired his brother Trumbull, who had been living in Mansfield, Connecticut, to fill the position.

Trumbell Cary

Trumbell Cary

Trumbull Cary became postmaster, banker and a leading merchant in Batavia.  He founded the Bank of Genesee, served as adjutant in the War of 1812, and was elected to serve in both the State Assembly and Senate.  Trumbull Cary was married to Margaret Eleanor Brisbane.  Their large mansion, built in 1817, was a center of hospitality and culture in Batavia.  Trumbull Cary died in 1869.  The mansion was demolished in the 1960s.

Trumbull Cary and his family traveled often to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC in days when stagecoach trips were tiring and often hazardous.  The Carys had one son, Walter.  Trumbull Cary died in 1869 and is buried in Batavia Cemetery.  The Bank of Genesee became the Genesee Trust Company and in 1956, the Genesee Trust Company merged with Manufacturers& Traders Trust Company to become the Batavia branch of M&T.

Dr. Walter Cary and Julia Love Cary

Dr. Walter Cary and Julia Love Cary

Walter Cary was born in Batavia in 1818.  He graduated from Union College in Schenectady in 1839, and then studied medicine at University of Pennsylvania.  He also studied at many leading European Universities and hospitals, at a time when the trip across the Atlantic meant six to seven weeks on a sailing ship.  Dr. Cary entered into the practice of Dr. Charles Winne in 1845.  Dr. Cary was well respected for the zeal and skill he executed during Buffalo’s second cholera epidemic.

Dr. Cary married Julia Love, daughter of Thomas Love, judge and congressman.  The Loves lived on the site of the YMCA prior to its construction (at Mohawk and Genesee Streets, now the Olympic Towers).   Judge Love named many of Buffalo’s streets – Edward for his friend Judge Edward Walden, Niagara for the River, Batavia Street (now Broadway) for the village, Genesee for Genesee County, North and South Division because they divided the business section of the city from the residential section, and Exchange Street, for the barter with the Indians conducted there.

Dr. Cary and his wife lived in the American Hotel, which was located where the Main Place Mall is currently located.  The apartment was considered one of the most beautiful apartments in town, modeled from the apartments Dr. Cary had visited in Paris.  Their first son was born there.  The apartment was  destroyed, along with much of the Carys belongings in the historic American Hotel fire.

Undated Photo of Cary House at 184 Delaware

Undated Photo of Cary House at 184 Delaware

After the fire, Dr. Cary built a home at Delaware Avenue and Huron Street.  A potato patch had been growing there, in honor of the potatoes, Mrs. Cary planted Japanese yam vines that grew over the house and bloomed with purple flowers each spring.  After ten years, Dr. Cary decided to stop practicing medicine to spend more time with his wife, daughter and six sons.  During the Franco-Prussian War, he took them all to Europe.  He had a coach built to order and they toured from Brussels to Naples.  The coach is in the collection of the Buffalo History Museum.  During President Grant’s presidency, Dr. Cary brought his family to Washington for the winter.  They were guests at many White House functions during this time.

Julia Cary’s sister, Maria Love, lived with the family and accompanied them on their trips.  Maria Love founded the Fitch Creche, Buffalo’s first day nursery.  She was the last member of the family to reside in the old Cary home, living there until her death in 1931.  The Maria Love Fund still exists today, continuing Ms. Love’s work in the community.

Walter and Julia had seven children – Trumbull – who followed in his namesake’s footsteps and became a bank president, Thomas – a lawyer, Charles- a physician, Walter – a journalist, Seward – a sculptor, George – an architect, and one daughter Jennie who became Mrs. Laurence Rumsey.  The Cary family were active polo players, the brothers began the first polo leagues in Buffalo, one of the first two leagues in the country.  Seward Cary is credited with bringing polo to Harvard during the 1880s.  A joke around town was that once when the boys were playing polo, one was injured and the game stopped.  When Mrs. Cary asked why the game had stopped, when she was told that her son was hurt, she replied they should just use one of the other sons to replace him.

Spirit of Niagara

Spirit of Niagara

The Cary family was also very involved in the Pan American Exposition.  The Cary family’s in-laws, the Rumseys, owned much of the land the Exposition was located on.  George Cary sat on the Board of the Exposition and designed the New York State Building for the Exposition (currently the Buffalo History Museum).   Charles Cary’s wife, Evelyn Rumsey Cary painted “the Spirit of Niagara” one of the popular paintings for the Pan American Exposition.

Thomas Cary was instrumental in founding the Charity Organization Society, one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the country.  Charles Cary, M.D., was Dean of the Medical School at University of Buffalo.

George Cary

George Cary

George Cary was a nationally renowned architect.  He apprenticed with McKim, Mead & White in New York City, and studied at Ecole des Beaux Arts in France.  Major buildings he designed included the medical school and dental college at UB, the Buffalo Historical Society, the Gratwick Laboratory (built for UB, part of the original Roswell Park Cancer Institute), the Pierce Arrow administration building, the first Buffalo General Hospital, Forest Lawn’s Delaware Avenue Gate and Administration Building, and many houses in the City of Buffalo.

Walter and Julia Grave

Walter and Julia Grave

The Cary siblings built the first crematory in Buffalo, the Buffalo Crematory, in memory of their father after his death in France in 1881.  The Cary family owned the house at 184 Delaware until the 1960s.  The house was used for a few years as a restaurant, which suffered a fire and the house was demolished in 1966 when the land was purchased by the federal government.  The Dulski Federal Building was built on the site, which was recently rehabbed into the Avant Building, at 200 Delaware Avenue.

184 Delaware in the 1960s

184 Delaware in the 1960s

 

Source:

  1. “Cary Street is Memorial to Leaders in Area Development”, Buffalo Courier-Express, May 13, 1940.
  2. “Obituary:  Death of HO. Trumbull Cary of Batavia”.  The New York Times, June 26, 1869.  
  3. “Cary House, 184 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, Erie County, NY”.  Historic American Building Survey.  HABS NY, 15-BUF, 1-
  4. Editors.  Buffalo Medical and Surgical Journal.  Vol. XXI.  August 1881 to July 1882, Buffalo.
  5. “Last of the Cary Boys”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  Sept 9, 1948.

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joseph ellicottThis is the third and final part in a series about Joseph Ellicott.  Click here to read Part One about Joseph’s family and his early life.  Click here to read Part Two, about Joseph’s days with the  Holland Land Company.  Today, I am going to touch on Joseph’s legacy throughout Western New York.

Mindful of Buffalo’s strategic location as a port, Joseph Ellicott was a strong advocate for a canal to be built from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. He served as one of the first Erie Canal Commissioners and was appointed in 1816 to supervise the canal construction.  He was also responsible for convincing Governor Clinton not to send to England for engineers to design the canal, but to use local talent instead.  He donated more than 100,000 acres of company land for the canal project.  He resigned from the Canal in 1818, due to his declining health.

Joseph worked hard to further the settlement of Buffalo by encouraging development on certain transects.   As hard as Joseph worked, his later years were not as bright.  He suffered from physical and mental health issues in his later days.  As early as 1816 he began to suffer from periods of depression and melancholy.  At the time, his condition was thought to have been brought upon by his lonely, unmarried life as well as the disappointments of the unrealized hopes and dreams.  In 1821, the Holland Land Company suggested that he was no longer needed and  Joseph retired.   He became a hypochondriac and was admitted to Bloomingdale Asylum in New York City by his family around 1824.  He died in 1826 by hanging himself.  He was originally buried in New York City, but was exhumed and reburied in Batavia in the Batavia Cemetery.

Joseph Ellicott's Gravestone

Joseph Ellicott’s Gravestone

Joseph’s grave was erected in 1849 by his sister Rachel Evans. and is engraved with the following:

“He was the first resident agent of the Holland Land Company for whom in 1798 he began the survey of the western part of the state then owned by them.  Even at that day his predictions of its future wealth and importance fell but little short what has since been realized.  For more than twenty years, he used with great judgement combined with liberality, the powers entrusted to him as one of the earliest and by far the most efficient advocate of the Erie Canal.  His name is a part of the history of New York.  His reputation among his fellow citizens as a man of the highest intelligence as well as the influence of his station gave his opinions great weight with every successive administration during the first twenty years of the present century, and in every portion of the tract once subject to his control may be seen marks of his foresight and generosity.  He was the founder of Batavia and Buffalo, NY.”

The following places were named after Joseph Ellicott:

  • Ellicottville, New York – a village in Cattaraugus County
  • Ellicott, New York – town in Chautauqua County
  • Ellicott Square Building – A ten story office building in Downtown Buffalo.  When it was built in 1896, it was the largest office building in the world.  The building was designed by Charles Atwood of Daniel Burnham & Company Architects.  The building sits on the lot that Joseph Ellicott originally owned.
  • Ellicott Street – in addition to the one in Buffalo, there’s an Ellicott Street in Batavia, and an Ellicott Road in Orchard Park
  • Ellicott Complex – dorms at University of Buffalo
  • Ellicott Creek – a creek that runs through Tonawanda and Amherst
  • Ellicott Elementary School  -in orchard park
  • Ellicott Run – in Sinnemahoning State Park in Pennsylvania
Joseph Ellicott's Plan for the Village of New Amsterdam

Joseph Ellicott’s Plan for the Village of New Amsterdam

If you look closely at Joseph’s plan from 1804 (click on the picture for a better view), you will notice that some of the streets have different names.  Joseph named the streets after the dutch investors and  members of the Holland Land Company.

The street changes occurred on July 13, 1825.  There was a battle between the Highway Commissioners of the City of Buffalo and Joseph Ellicott.   As discussed in Part Two, Joseph owned a large lot in Downtown Buffalo.  After the Highway Commissioners decided that Main Street needed to be re-routed to cut through his property, Joseph changed his will to avoid leaving the land for a park.  In order to spite Joseph, the Commissioners changed the names of the streets:

  • Willink Avenue and Van Straphorst Avenue became Main Street
  • Schimmelpennick Avenue was renamed Niagara Street
  • Stadnitski Avenue was named Church Street since it was the location of St. Paul’s Church
  • Vallenhoven Street was named Erie Street
  • Cazenovia Street became Court Street, because the Courthouse was located near where the Central Library is currently located
  • North and South Onondaga Streets were merged to become Washington Street
  • North and South Cayuga Street became Pearl Street
  • Franklin was renamed from Tuscarora Street
  • Busti Avenue became Genesee Street
  • Mississauga Street became Morgan Street (which is currently South Elmwood)

In March 1836, Crow Street became Exchange Street.  In the end, Seneca, Swan, Chippewa, Huron, Eagle and Delaware were the only street names given by Joseph Ellicott that remained.

The Highway Commissioners must have felt a twinge of regret, because the changed the name of Oneida Street to Ellicott Street, honoring the man who laid out our streets and helped the fledgling Village of Buffalo Creek become the City of Buffalo.

To learn about how other streets got their name, check out the Street Index.  If you want to be the first to know about new blog posts, subscribe to the blog and updates will be emailed to you.  And as always, if you have any questions about specific streets, leave them in the comments and I can see what I can do to add them to my queue.

Sources:
  1. “Joseph Ellicott”  Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York. Volume 1, Biographical and Genealogical
  2. Beers, F.W.  ”Our County and It’s People:  A Descriptive Work on Genesee County, New York.”  J.W. Vose & Co Publishers, Syracuse NY 1890.
  3. “Our Street Names:  They Tell Much of Buffalo’s History”.  Buffalo Express, November 14, 1897.
  4. Burns, Rosamond.  ”Paving the Way For Settlers:  The Rise and Fall of the Holland Land Co.”  Buffalo News, January 25, 2004.
  5. Houghton, Frederick.  ”History of the Buffalo Creek Reservation”.   Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Volume 24:  Buffalo, 1920.

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Holland Land Purchase

Holland Land Purchase

This is Part Two of a series on Joseph Ellicott, for whom Ellicott Street is named.  If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can read it by clicking here.

Following his time surveying in Washington, DC and along the Georgia-Carolina boundary, Joseph Ellicott began to survey some property in Western PA that a group of Dutch investors purchased.  The Dutch Investors had formed the Holland Land Company to invest in land in New York and Pennsylvania.  The Company also purchased a large tract of land in Western New York known as the Holland Purchase.  The Holland Land Purchase consisted of approximately 3,250,000 acres of land, stretching from 12 miles west of the Genesee River to the present western boundary of New York State.  Much of the land had been owned by Robert Morris, who had purchased it from the Senecas.  Between 1798 and 1800, the area was surveyed under the direction of Joseph Ellicott.  Joseph brought a crew of 11 surveyors, each with his own assistants to survey the property.  Joseph himself surveyed the east line of the purchase.   While Joseph laid out the site of Buffalo, there were many who doubted a city would establish there. Interference from the State and Buffalo Creek Reservations was calmed due to Joseph’s skills as a surveyor and diplomat.  He persuaded the Senecas to leave the Village’s location out of the reservation.  At the time, the Buffalo River as we know it was only a simple stream that ended in a marshland.  Joseph foresaw that Buffalo would be important as a port due to the convergence of Buffalo Creek on Lake Erie.  In Spring 1798, Joseph opened the first wagon track in Erie County, improving the trails from East Transit to Buffalo, and from Buffalo to Batavia.

The Holland Land Company had purchased the land, intending to sell large tracts of lands to investors for a profit. The bankers were unable to sell large tracts of land and began to sell directly to settlers looking to build homes.   Holland Land Company bought the land for 35 cents per acre and sold it for $2-2.50 per acre.

Holland Land Office in Batavia (now a museum)

Holland Land Office in Batavia (now a museum)

Joseph Ellicott was appointed Resident Agent of the Holland Land Company and opened an office in Batavia in 1801.    He oversaw the surveying crews to complete the subdividing the land into townships , each six square miles.  The townships were then subdivided into lots.  The officers of the Holland Land Company had an extensive program to build roads, lay out towns and attract settlers to the area by selling small tracts of land on liberal terms and providing loans to help businessmen set up shops.  The typical agreement was a down payment of  5-25 percent to be paid in 4-8 years at 7 percent interest.  During that period, the settlers were required to clear several acres of land, erect a dwelling and fence in a portion of his property.   Pioneers purchasing land here faced the hard task of relocating.  It took weeks or months to navigate over muddy, rugged roads.   The area was primarily a primeval forest.   A typical settler would have to clear about 50 trees to build a modest log cabin.

The first map of Buffalo was made by Joseph in 1804, calling it the Village of New Amsterdam, to honor the Holland Land Company.   The fledgling Village had a population of about 25 at the time, including a blacksmith, a silversmith, and half a dozen houses.  While Ellicott wanted to call it “New Amsterdam”, the residents preferred the name of Buffalo Creek, so their name stuck, which was then later shortened to Buffalo.  He is responsible for the radial street plan of the City of Buffalo.  He named most of the streets after members of the Holland Land Company.

Buffalo Lots in 1805

Buffalo Lots in 1805
(Lot 104 can be seen in the center of the map)

Joseph Ellicott also purchased his own share of Downtown Buffalo, a 100-acre tract of land known as Outer Lot 104, bounded by the current Main Street, Swan Street, Eagle Street and Jefferson Avenue.  There was a half-moon shaped piece of land along the Main Street frontage of Joseph’s property, from which Niagara, Church and Erie Streets radiated.  Joseph planned to build a mansion on this half-moon; however, in 1809, the Village authorities decided to straighten Main Street.  Ellicott abandoned the idea of building on the lot and during his lifetime, no development occurred on Outer Lot 104.   Also, Ellicott changed his will, which had been drawn to leave the tract of land to the City for a public park.   Today, the Ellicott Square Building sits on the Main Street part of the lot, a fitting reminder of Ellicott’s influence in Buffalo.

Many of the settlers were unable to pay back for their land; however, Joseph was lenient with them and allowed them to extend their payments.   After 10 years, the Holland Land Company opened an office in Mayville in Chautauqua County. This allowed them to better serve the pioneers by ridding them of the burden of travelling all the way to Batavia to make payments.

During the War of 1812, the Holland Land Company allowed settlers to make payments in goods instead of cash.  They mostly accepted black salt, which they would then make into pearl ash to sell to Montreal.

In 1833, New York State laws changed, forcing foreign owners to be taxed the same as residents.  The Holland Land Company began to enforce their payment schedules and were no longer as lenient with settlers.

Holland Land Company Vault postcard, Mayville NY

Holland Land Company Vault postcard, Mayville

In 1835, the Holland Land Company sold its remaining holdings in Chautauqua County to Trumbell Cary, George Lay, Jacob LeRoy and Herman Redfield.  They instituted a new policy called the “Genesee Tariff”, forcing those who still owed to pay a penalty of a specific amount per acre in additional to the original price paid for the land.  They also threatened to sell the land to another purchaser if payments were not made.  The settlers fought back against the Genesee Tariff.  In 1836, 500 men gathered in Hartfield, rioted and marched to Mayville to destroy the Land Office.  The building and furniture were destroyed and the company’s books were burned in a bonfire.  The company salvaged what they could and reopened an office in Westfield.   William Seward was made the Land Agent of the new office, and was able to renew peace.  Seward later went on to become Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, and is best known for “Seward’s Folly”, aka the purchase of Alaska.  A stone vault near the present day County Courthouse is the only visible landmark of the Holland Land Company’s presence in Chautauqua County.

In 1839, the Holland Land Office in Batavia closed.  The last holdings of the company were sold in 1846 at little profit.  The building, which was built in 1815 to replace the original log cabins is still standing in Batavia.   The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The building was saved by a Batavia High School teacher, John Kennedy, and the Class of 1894.  The site currently operates as the Holland Land Office Museum.

For more on Ellicott’s legacy in Western New York, check out Part Three by clicking here.

Sources:

  1. “Joseph Ellicott”  Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York. Volume 1, Biographical and Genealogical
  2. Beers, F.W.  “Our County and It’s People:  A Descriptive Work on Genesee County, New York.”  J.W. Vose & Co Publishers, Syracuse NY 1890.
  3. “Our Street Names:  They Tell Much of Buffalo’s History”.  Buffalo Express, November 14, 1897.
  4. Burns, Rosamond.  “Paving the Way For Settlers:  The Rise and Fall of the Holland Land Co.”  Buffalo News, January 25, 2004.
  5. Houghton, Frederick.  “History of the Buffalo Creek Reservation”.   Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Volume 24:  Buffalo, 1920.

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