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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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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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