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Rumsey Road and Rumsey Woods

Rumsey Road and Rumsey Woods

Rumsey Road is located along the southern edge of Delaware Park.  The road is named after the Rumsey family, a prominent Buffalo family, one of the leading families during the early development and growth of Buffalo.  The portion of Delaware Park near there is called Rumsey Woods.

The parents were Aaron and Sophia Rumsey.  They had three children – Bronson, Dexter, and Eleanor.   The family moved to Buffalo while the children were still young.  Aaron Rumsey established a tannery located on the south side of the Main and Hamburg Streets canal, near Alabama Street.  The sons joined the company as they grew to adulthood.  Aaron Rumsey died in 1864, and the business was handed down to them.  They turned A. Rumsey & Company into one of the leading leather firms in the United States.  The business was eventually absorbed by the United States Leather Company in 1893.

The brothers believed in the future of Buffalo, and showed it by investing much of their fortune into real estate in the City.  It is said that at one point, they owned 22 of the 43 square miles that comprised Buffalo.

bronsonBronson Case Rumsey was born in Warsaw, Wyoming County, NY on August 1, 1823. Bronson was the first president of the Buffalo, New York & Philadelphia Railroad, a director of the Manufacturers’ and Traders’ Bank from its inception and a member of the Park Commission when it was first formed in 1869.  Even after Bronson retired, he was still involved in financial, industrial and civic matters of the city.  He remained on the Park Board until his death.  He was a successful banker, merchant, and capitalist.

Bronson married Eveline Hall.  They had four children – Laurence Dana, Mary Lovering, Bronson II, and Evelyn.  Bronson built Rumsey Park in 1865.  Rumsey Park comprised the land bordered by Delaware Avenue and Carolina Street, Tupper and Tracy Streets.  The land had been previously used as a lumber yard owned by Mr. Hodge.

Sanborn Map showing Rumsey Park in 1889

Sanborn Map showing Rumsey Park in 1889 (click to view larger)

The Bronson C. Rumsey house at 330 Delaware Avenue was likely the first French Second Empire (mansard roof) house built in Buffalo.  The house overlooked a spring-fed lake with a Swiss chalet boathouse, a Greek temple pavilion, terraced gardens, fountains and wooded paths.   Bronson’s children also lived at Rumsey Park:  Mary Lovering Rumsey and her husband Edward Movius lived at 334 Delaware Avenue, Evelyn Rumsey married Charles Cary and lived at 340 Delaware Avenue, and Bronson II lived at 132 West Tupper Street.  The eldest son, Laurence, lived at 1 Park Place, in the house the family had lived in prior to construction of Rumsey Park.

The rear of 330 Delaware Ave. Source: WNY Heritage

The rear of 330 Delaware Ave. Source: WNY Heritage

Bronson Case Rumsey's name in the Rumsey Family Plot

Bronson Case Rumsey’s name on the Rumsey Family Marker

Bronson Rumsey died in 1902 and is buried in the Rumsey Family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.The expansion of Elmwood Avenue south to connect with Morgan Street, cut through the center of Rumsey Park. The lake was filled in and the property was subdivided.  Development of the property into lots began around 1912, as the Rumsey family sold the off the properties.

The second Rumsey son, Dexter Phelps Rumsey, was born in Westfield, Chautauqua County on April 27, 1827.   Dexter donated greatly to charities, particularly those committed to children, his favorite charity was the Fresh Air Mission.  Dexter served as Director of Erie County Savings Bank and was President of the Buffalo Club.  He was also an original trustee of the Buffalo City Cemetery, which established and operates Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Dexter Rumsey

Dexter Phelps Rumsey

Dexter was married three times: first to Mary Coburn who died in 1859, to Mary Bissell who died in 1886 and to Susan Fiske. Dexter had four children.  Cornelia married Ainsley Wilcox, who passed away two years later. Mary Grace then married Ainsley Wilcox in 1883.  The Wilcox Mansion (now known as the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site) was a wedding gift from Dexter to Mary Grace and Ainsley.  Ruth married William “Wild Bill” Donovan.  Dexter P. Rumsey, Jr was friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald during his time in Buffalo.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writings referred to Dexter as among his “fascinating army” of childhood friends.

dexter-house

Dexter Rumsey House, 742 Delaware Ave

Dexter and his family lived at 742 Delaware Avenue, at the southwest corner of Delaware and Summer Street.  The house was owned by the Rumsey family from 1857 until 1945.  The house was one of the oldest in the City, first portions of it were erected in the 1830s.  The house was still located in the countryside when Dexter moved in and he kept cows on the property through the 1860s.  Mr. Rumsey is said that to have bought the house where he did because he was confident of Buffalo’s northward expansion.  Dexter’s stables remain near the grounds of his old Delaware Ave mansion, and are used by Westminster Presbyterian Church.  Dexter’s confidence in Buffalo’s growth was also said to be why he purchased the large tracts of woodland in the vicinity north of today’s Delaware Park, sometimes referred to as the Rumsey Farm.

A portion (approximately 350 acres) of Rumsey Farm in North Buffalo was used for the Pan American Exposition in 1901.  The land was flat, treeless and landlocked.  A great deal of deliberation was made in regards to if the site represented enough of Buffalo, without a waterfront or hills.  The site had the benefit of being undeveloped and the lack of hills made it easy to build upon, therefore the site was selected.  The lack of trees was made up for by connecting the exposition grounds to Delaware Park.  After the Exposition, the leased lands were returned to their original state and the properties were subdivided for residential development.

Spirit of Niagara Poster

Many members of the Rumsey family and their in-laws were involved in the Pan-American Exposition.  Bronson’s grandson Charles Cary Rumsey was an artist who created several of the sculptures for the exposition.  The Centaur in front of the Buffalo History Museum is an example of one of Charles’ sculptures.  Charles’ uncle George Cary was the architect who designed the Buffalo History Museum.  Bronson’s daughter Evelyn created the Spirit of Niagara painting that was used for much of the Pan American advertising (one of my all-time favorite paintings!)  Most infamously, Dexter’s daughter and son-in-law Mary Grace and Ainsley Wilcox, were the owners of the house where Teddy Roosevelt was inaugurated following President McKinley’s death.

Dexter died on April 5, 1906 and is buried in the Rumsey family plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  When Dexter passed away, his wife and daughter Grace donated to the City Park Department the block of land adjacent to Delaware Park to add to the grove of trees to the park. The grounds are still known as Rumsey Woods to this day.

Rumsey Woods in Delaware Park

Rumsey Woods in Delaware Park

Bronson and Dexter’s sister, Eleanor, married William Crocker.  Eleanor had two children, William and Nellie.  She passed away in 1863 at the age of 36.  After Eleanor’s death, the Crockers relocated from Buffalo to Pennsylvania.  William Junior became a prominent lawyer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Named for Bronson C and Dexter P Rumsey.  Courier Express April 28, 1940 sec 5 p 12
  2. A History of the City of Buffalo:  It’s Men and Institutions
  3. Buffalo architecture:  A Guide
  4. Larned, J.N.A History of Buffalo:  Delineating the Evolution of the City.  Published by Progress of the Empire State Company.  New York, 1911.
  5. Buffalo Times, Jan 22 1927

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Dodge Street

Dodge Street

Dodge Street is a street in the Cold Springs neighborhood on  the East Side of Buffalo.  The street runs for about a mile, from Main Street to Humboldt Parkway and is named for Alvan Leonard Dodge.

Alvan’s father, Alvan Senior was considered courageous when he built a log cabin on Main Street, north of Summer Street in 1811.   At the time, this was well outside the Village limits and well into the primeval forests.  The area was at high risk for attacks from the Native Americans.  However, the Dodge family lucked out when the village was burned in 1813, as their house was well outside the village, and therefore, left standing.  They were one of the few families to be able to return to their home following the fire.  Alvan Senior served as Magistrate of the County of Niagara (at the time, Niagara County included what is now Erie County) and held other official positions in the towns of Black Rock and Buffalo.  Alvan Senior died in 1846 and is buried at Forest Lawn.

Alvan Leonard Dodge witnessed Buffalo’s development from a tiny frontier village into one of the most important cities in the country.  By the end of his life, the Dodge family farm was close to being in the middle of the City that had grown up during Alvan’s lifetime.  Alvan, Junior was born on March 21, 1808 in Lowville, NY and came with his family to settle in Buffalo in 1811.

Ferry Street Schoolhouse source

Ferry Street Schoolhouse
source

He was educated in the school in a schoolhouse on Ferry Street that was known as Buffalo District School #2 at the time.  One term, his teacher was Millard Fillmore, who taught while he was also reading law and serving as postmaster.  At the time, the actual Cold Springs still flowed through the neighborhood.    The waters from this spring became the Jubilee Water Works, one of Buffalo’s first water systems.  The springs feed into the lake in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

As a young man, Alvan, Junior acquired a farm of several hundred acres, bounded by Main, East Ferry, Best and Jefferson.  Mr. Dodge built a house at the corner of Main and Dodge Streets, using lumber cleared from his property to build the house.

He sold part of his land to the City of Buffalo in 1880.   After selling the land to the City, he subdivided the remainder of his property for development and laid out streets on his land.  The area became the place for many prominent German families to live.   Legend has it that there was one field that grew the best corn around, so Mr. Dodge refused to convert it to a building lot.

The City used the property they had purchased to build a reservoir.  At the time, the City relied on reservoirs for water service.  This reservoir was known as Prospect Reservoir, since it replaced the reservoir of the same name which was located on Prospect Hill.  When the Colonel Ward Pumping Station opened in 1915, it rendered most of the reservoirs obsolete.

1988 WAR MEMORIAL STADIUM BUFFALO COLOR edited The reservoir sat unused until the 1930s.  Between 1936 and 1938, Buffalo Civic Stadium was built as a WPA project.  It was originally going to be named Roesch Memorial and then Grover Cleveland Stadium before Buffalo Civic Stadium became its official name.  The stadium was nicknamed “The Rockpile” since it seemed to rise out of the quarried land that had been the reservoir.  The stadium became home of the Buffalo Bills football team in 1946.  The stadium was renamed War Memorial Stadium in 1960.  The Buffalo Bisons baseball team used the stadium after Offerman Stadium at Michigan and East Ferry was demolished.  The Bills left the stadium in 1972 when Rich Stadium was built.  The Bisons left the stadium when Pilot Field opened in 1988.

Once the stadium was empty, many of the nearby residents wanted the stadium demolished.  The stadium hadn’t been maintained well during its final years and was in poor condition..   The Dodge-Jefferson and the Best-Jefferson entrances are all that remain today of War Memorial Stadium, which has been converted into the Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion.   Johnnie B. Willey was a city resident who worked to help young people of the East Side.

Dodge Mill in Williamsville source:  http://www.edyoungs.com/images/dodgemillfront.jpg

Dodge Mill in Williamsville
source

Alvan’s brother, J. Wayne Dodge moved to Williamsville and purchased the flour and grist-mill in 1864 and changed its name to Dodge Roller Mills. The Dodge Mill was across Glenn Falls from the Historic Williamsville Mill that is still standing today.   Dodge Road in Amherst is named after J.Wayne Dodge.  The Dodge Mill burned in 1894, Johnathan Dodge lost is life battling the fire.  The foundations of the mill are still visible near the wall of the creek behind Mill Street.

dodge tombstone

Alvan Dodge married Ruth Bosworth of Clarence.  They had four sons and three daughters.  He died in 1881 at the age of 73 and is buried in Forest Lawn.  The Buffalo Courier said that “his life was quiet and relatively uneventful, yet his life was the history of Buffalo”.

To read about other streets, be sure to check out the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. “Dodge Street Memorial to Pioneer” Courier Express May 21, 1939, sec. 7, p. 5
  2. Steele, O.G. “The Buffalo Common Schools”.  Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume 1.  Pg. 405.
  3. Smith, H. Perry.  “History of the Town of Amherst, Chapter XXXIX” .  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Co Publishers:  Syracuse, NY 1884.

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koonsaveKoons Avenue is located in the Emerson Neighborhood of the East Side of Buffalo.  Koons Avenue was named for the Koons brothers, Henry and Edward, who developed the neighborhood along with Judge Titus and Frank and Henry Goodyear.

The Koons brothers, Edward and Henry, were born into a prominent Buffalo family.  Their father, Jacob Koons, was a merchant, political official and a leader in church and charitable affairs.  Jacob came from Europe in 1828 and became a farm hand outside of Albany, new York.  He came to Buffalo in 1832 and established a store (history books refer to it as an emporium)  for the sale of clocks, dry-goods and groceries at Main Street near Genesee.   The store was successful and branched out to a second store in Paris, Ohio.  Jacob Koons left the business in 1848.  He was then involved in local politics.  He was appointed Superintendent of the Poor in 1856.    Jame Koons, along with his wife and six children, lived at 73 East Huron.  Jacob Koons was a member of St. John’s Lutheran on Hickory Street and was involved in building and improving St. John’s Orphan Home.   You can read more about the Orphan Home here.   Mr. Jacob Koons died on May 9, 1889.

Top: Amelia, Henry, and Elisabeth Center:  Jacob and Elisabeth, nee Dellenbaugh Bottom:  Mary, Edward and Louise

The Koons Family
Top: Amelia, Henry, and Elisabeth
Center: Jacob and Elisabeth, nee Dellenbaugh
Bottom: Mary, Edward and Louise

Henry Koons was born in Buffalo on October 9, 1838 and was educated in the public schools.  He worked for the American Express Company for two years.   Henry then headed West to learn the trade of tanning with G. Pfisler & Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He returned to Buffalo a few years later.  He worked as a search clerk in the County Clerk’s office from 1865 to 1871, engaging in abstracting and tracing titles.  During his time in the clerk’s office, he also started working in the real estate business.   He set up his real estate shop on the 400 block of Main Street.  On June 1, 1884, he formed the firm Henry & Edward Koons, when his brother joined the firm.   Henry boasted that the reason for his success was that his guiding principle was absolute honesty in all business transactions.

Edward Koons was born on October 1, 1861.  He was a schoolmate of Francis Folsom, future wife of President Grover Cleveland.  Edward read law in the office of William Glenney.  His knowledge of law and real estate helped him to become a great success in the real estate business.  He founded and was president of Abstract Title and Mortgage and was director of Buffalo Insurance for more than 50 years.  He was the first Vice President of Buffalo Savings Bank and in 1920 became president of the Chamber of Commerce.

The brothers helped Grover Cleveland become Mayor by managing his campaign.  They were prominent in his campaign for Governor and President as well.  The brothers helped Grover Cleveland become Mayor by managing his campaign.  They were prominent in his campaign for Governor and President as well.

Edward and Henry, along with Judge Titus and Frank and Henry Goodyear, bought a large amount of East Side land and quickly resold it for development.

Sylvanite Gold Mines Kirkland Lake, ONIn 1891, Edward opened the Erie County Guaranteed Search Company, an abstract and title search company.  In 1906, Edward Koons was appointed a member of the commission to revise the City Charter.

The Koons brothers invested their profits in gold mines in Ontario, calling their venture Sylvanite Gold Mines.  Sylvanite is found in the Kirkland Lake Gold District in Canada.  The mine was active until 1961.  Henry Koons never married and died in April 1904 in Buffalo.

Edward married Anna Hengerer, daughter of the founder of Hengerer’s Department Store.  Edward and Anna lived at 1131 Delaware Avenue, which is commonly referred to as the Charles Germain House, after the first resident of the house.

Edward Koons died at eighty-four in the Park Lane Apartments in February 1946.  Edward and Henry are both buried in the Koons plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Koons Plot in Forest Lawn

Koons Plot in Forest Lawn

Learn about other streets in the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. Our County and it’s People:  A Descriptive Work on Erie County, New York.  Edited by: Trumen C. White.  The Boston History Company, Published 1898.
  2. Recalling Pioneer Days.  Volume XXVI, Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society.  Edited by Frank H. Severance, 1922.
  3. History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County.  Reinecke & Zesch, Publishers.  Buffalo NY 1898.

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Granger Place is a short road in the Elmwood Village, running less than 1/4th of a mile, between Elmwood Avenue and Lincoln Parkway between Forest Avenue and Bird Avenue.  The street was originally known as Elmhurst.   The street is named for Erastus Granger, one of Buffalo’s earliest residents and the Village’s first postmaster.

Erastus Granger was a businessman raised in Connecticut.  He was sent by a group of New England businessmen to look after their investments in Virginia and Kentucky.  While in the south, he met and befriended Thomas Jefferson.  He worked on Jefferson’s campaign for President, and when Jefferson took office, he sent Erastus Granger to Buffalo and appointed him postmaster of the Village in 1803.  When Mr. Granger arrived in Buffalo Creek (which is what Buffalo was called at the time), there were only 16 huts, three blacksmith shops, a taverns, a drugstore and a jail.   He sent up his post office in a desk at Crow’s Tavern on Exchange Street.  You can visit Mr. Granger’s desk and see a replica of Crow’s Tavern in the Pioneer Gallery at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society!

Mr. Granger built a house near where the Main Street entrance of Forest Lawn cemetary is today.  His farm extended north to West Oakwood and west to Elmwood Avenue.   Granger Place is located on a small portion of his 800-acre estate, which he called Flint Hill, due to the rock in the soil.  His estate included all of the lands now containing Forest Lawn, Delaware Park, Buffalo State College and the Richardson Complex!    He built the Buffalo Harbor lighthouse in 1817, which was replaced in 1830s by the current Buffalo lighthouse.

During the War of 1812, Mr. Granger worked with Red Jacket and other indian leaders to get them to sign a treaty of neutrality.  The Native Americans kept the treaty until the Indians from Canada invaded their territory, at which time they joined the Americans.    Mr. Granger opened his property as a safe haven for refugees of Buffalo after the British burned the Village.

During the Winter of 1812-1813, The Army of the Frontier under General Alexander Smythe set up camp at Flint Hill in anticipation of invading Canada.  Nearly three hundred soldiers died there.  The dead were buried in Granger’s meadow, in the present Delaware Park.    A plaque at Main Street and Humboldt Parkway, and a stone in the Delaware Park meadow memorialize the Flint Hill Encampment and the 300 soldiers buried there.

Erastus Granger’s grave is located on land that he once owned in Forest Lawn cemetary.   Red Jacket delivered the Eulogy at his funeral.

Sources:

“Granger Place Honors Memory of First Buffalo Postmaster” Courier Express Sept 18, 1938, sec 6 p 10

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