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Posts Tagged ‘James Tillinghast’

Tillinghast Place is a one-block long street in the Parkside Neighborhood of Buffalo.  Tillinghast runs between Parkside Avenue and Colvin Avenue.  The street was laid out in in a curvilinear fashion, which is a common street pattern in Olmsted-designed neighborhoods such as Parkside.  Tillinghast Place is also home to the Walter Davidson house, which is one of several homes in Buffalo designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

tillinghastTillinghast street is named after James Tillinghast, a railroad executive.  Mr. Tillinghast’s father, Gideon, built one of New York State’s first cotton mills.  James was born in Cooperstown in 1822.  He learned about mill machinery while growing up around his father’s mills, gaining practical knowledge as a mechanic without the typical process of being an apprentice.  He decided he wanted to learn a different business as well.  At age 15, he began working as a clerk at a country store.  By the time he was 20, he was part owner of the Cotton Manufacturing Company’s store in Brownsville.  He became interested in transportation from selling to Great Lakes vessels.  He got involved in the lake trade, and operated a machine shop and foundry in Little Falls, New York with his father.  In 1850, he gave the business to his father to enter the railroad business.

At the age of 30, Mr. Tillinghast decided to enter the transportation field when the Utica-Schenectady railroad needed an extra fireman and he offered to take the job.  Quickly, he rose to the rank of a railroad executive.   Ten years later, in 1862, Mr. Tillinghast came to Buffalo to organize a line of steam propeller ships on the Great Lakes.  At this time, he was a part of the Michigan, Southern, Buffalo & Erie and the New York Central railroads.  At this time, he decided to make his eventual home in Buffalo.   He was a close friend of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who often spoke of Mr. Tillinghast’s railroad knowledge and his trust in his judgement.  When Vanderbilt first became in charge of New York Central, his first act was to name Mr. Tillinghast its superintendent.   He arrived back in Buffalo in 1865, when he was made superintendent of the Western Division of the Buffalo &Erie and New York Central Railroad.   By 1881, Mr. Tillinghast was appointed President of the New York Central Railroad.  In addition to his duties with New York Central, he was also president and acting manager of the Canada Southern railroad.  Over the years, Mr Tillinghast was involved in many different railroad companies.

Mr. Tillinghast was also Vice President of the Niagara River Bridge Company, which built the cantilever bridge in Niagara Falls, which opened in 1883.   The bridge was replaced by the Michigan Central Railway Steel Arch Bridge in 1925.

2000px-Niagara_Cantilever_Whirlpool_Bridges_cropped_LOC_det.4a18788.jpg

Niagara Falls Cantilever bridge

Mr. Tillinghast was married twice.  His first wife was Mary Williams of Limerick, New York.  Mary passed away in 1859, leaving three children – a son, James W. Tillinghast, and two daughters, Mrs. Kate Burtis and Mrs. Annie Stow.  Mr. Tillinghast married his second wife, Susan, the window of his first wife’s brother in 1882.  The Tillinghasts lived at 138 Swan Street.  The house had been previously owned by George B Gates; Gates Circle was named in honor of Mr. Gates and his wife by their daughter.   Mr. Tillinghast later moved to 685 Delaware Avenue.  The sites of both Tillinghast houses are now parking lots.  After the family had moved out of the house on Swan Street, the house was the site of an unrelated murder-suicide.  A year later, Mr. Tillinghast’s grandson, Kent Tillinghast Stow, shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself, killing them both at their house on Richmond Avenue.

145796811_1430359753Mr. Tillinghast mostly retired around age 70, but he was still involved with the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.  He died at age 77 in 1898 and is buried in Forest Lawn. One of Mr. Tillinghast’s life rules was “to try and do his whole duty to whatever interests were placed in his charge, and he has never yet asked that his compensation be made any particular sum; invariably leaving that to the person tendering him a position”.  People must have seen value in him and compensated him well enough.  When he passed away, his estate was valued at more than $1.5 Million (about $42 Million in current dollars).

Think about Mr. Tillinghast next time you’re out and about around the Parkside neighborhood, when visiting the Buffalo Zoo or on one of the Parkside Community Association’s Tour of Homes or when visiting the Darwin Martin House.

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

 

Sources:

  1. Smith, Katherine.  “Two Streets Here Honor Railway Executive, Jurist”.  Buffalo Courier Express.  March 29, 1942, p 12.
  2. “Richmond Ave Murder and Suicide.”  Buffalo Courier.  August 11, 1903.  p5.
  3. “Million and a Half”.  Buffalo Courier.  Buffalo Evening News.  April 29, 1899. P7.
  4. H.B. Hall & Sons, “James Tillinghast,” Digital Collections – University at Buffalo Libraries, accessed September 15, 2017, http://crystal.lib.buffalo.edu/items/show/81035.
  5. Smith, H. Perry, editor.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County. Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1884

 

 

 

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