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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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ketchumKetchum Place is a small street on the Lower West Side of Buffalo.  The street runs for just one block, between York Street and Jersey Street.  The street is named after Jesse Ketchum.

Mr. Ketchum was born in Spencerport, New York on March 1, 1782.  His mother passed away when Jesse was six, and he and his ten siblings were distributed among various family and neighbors. The eldest Ketchum Sibling, Seneca, was 16 and was able to live on his own after the death of their mother.  Jesse spent much of his childhood working on a farm from sunrise until sunset; he longed to go to school but was never allowed.  It’s said that as an adult, he rarely spoke of the time between the age of six and adulthood.

Jesse Ketchum

Jesse Ketchum

At the age of 17, in 1799, Jesse went to Little York, now Toronto, to where his older brother, Seneca Ketchum, lived.  He went by foot to Oswego, where he was able to work for passage on a boat to Kingston, Ontario, and then on another boat for passage from Kingston to York.  When Jesse arrived in York, Seneca put his brother in charge of his extensive farm.  Both Jesse and Seneca fell in love with Ann Love, a young widow who worked as their housekeeper.  They drew lots to decide who would marry her, and Jesse and Ann were married.

Jesse and Ann had six children.  In 1804, Jesse moved to the outskirts of York.  He was successful in establishing a tannery there.  During the War of 1812, he became rich while making shoes for Canadian and English soldiers.  While in Canada, Jesse Ketchum served as Constable of York and a member of the Dominion Parliament.

After Ann’s death, Jesse married Mary Ann Rubergall and had three more children.  He recognized that Buffalo was becoming an important shipping hub due to the Erie Canal.   In 1845, he moved to Buffalo. He purchased land on Main Street between Allen and High Streets to build a tannery.  He continued to do good business at his tannery.  He was successful at the buying and selling of farm lands just outside of Buffalo, north of North Street.

Once he had made his fortune, he decided he was more interested in giving it away for the good of the community, rather than accumulate more wealth.  He was considered a philanthropist around town, giving money to those who needed it during the cholera epidemic of 1849.  During the Civil War, well into his 80s, Mr. Ketchum funded for the care of the families of enlisted men.

One of Mr. Ketchum’s other activities in Buffalo was buying of homes and farms.  He would “rent” homes and farms to deserving tenants.  He would then take the rent they were paying and apply it towards the eventual purchase price, allowing people to own land who might not otherwise be able to afford.

The Ketchum House on North Street

The Ketchum House on North Street

Mr. Ketchum lived in a 3-story brick home on North Street called “Tulip Garden”.  The house was located at approximately 267 North Street.  The home had 264 feet of frontage along North Street and the lawns and gardens extended to Summer Street.  The house was a popular place for his children and their friends.  A miniature train that was an exact replica of the then-new steam train connecting Niagara Falls and Buffalo ran trough his grounds.

Mr. Ketchum served as President of the Board of Trustees of Westminster Church.  He donated the land the church was built upon and donated $5,000 to the building fund.  Mr. Ketchum also donated the 5-acres of land to build the Normal School (now Grover Cleveland High School).  Ketchum Place is located close to the school.

He was very interested in the City Public Schools.  He would visit the schools and urge the children to be thrifty and abstain from tobacco and liquor.  He’d teach them about how to be proud Americans (particularly during the Civil War) and would reward students who did well with prizes.  He would visit every room in every school each year to deliver books to every student and teacher.  It is said he did this to make up for his longing to read books as a child.  Students referred to him as “Father Ketchum”.

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Jesse Ketchum’s Grave

Mr. Ketchum died on September 7th, 1867.  He was on his way to visit one of the schools when he felt a chill and returned home, where he died the next day.  His funeral was held at Westminster Church and was one of the largest and most impressive ever seen in Buffalo at that time.  The schools were closed as a tribute to their benefactor.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Jesse’s son-in-law, Barnabas Brennan, inherited the estate.  Mr. Brennan made a gift of $10,000 to Buffalo Public Schools for the awarding of medals for academic excellence, in honor of Jesse Ketchum. The first medals were awarded in 1873 and are still awarded today.  Originally, medals were awarded to high school seniors and to grammar school students in the last two grades of grammar school. Since 1950, the medals are only awarded to 8th grade students.  Approximately 15,000 medals have been awarded since 1873.  The Jesse Ketchum medal is the longest running medal for academic excellence in the country.

Front of the Jesse Ketchum Medal - with a portrait of Mr. Ketchum

Front of the Jesse Ketchum Medal – with a portrait of Mr. Ketchum

Rear of the Jesse Ketchum Medal - the latin reads "A Wise Man Will be Wiser"

Rear of the Jesse Ketchum Medal – the latin reads “A Wise Man Will be Wiser”

Ketchum Hall, one of the five original buildings built at Buffalo State College (formerly the State Normal School), is named after him.  In 1856, Mr. Ketchum donated land in the Village of Yorkville for a public park and for a “Free and Common School”.  The school was replaced by a new school building, which was named the Jesse Ketchum School.  Jesse Ketchum’s descendants founded Ketchum Manufacturing, a company still located in Brockville, Ontario.

Learn about other streets by checking out the Street Index!

Sources:

  1. “Ketchum Place is Memorial to Donor of Scholarship Medals”.  Buffalo Courier-Express, Sept 28, 1941, p. 15.
  2. Severance, Frank Hayward.  The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo.  
  3. Hathaway, E.J. Jesse Ketchum and His Times.  McClelland & Stewart, Toronto:  1929.

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