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Marvin Street is a short street running between South Park Avenue and Perry Street in the Cobblestone/First Ward neighborhood of Buffalo.  The street is adjacent to the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino.  The street is named for Asa Marvin, and his family, who used to own a bunch of land in the First Ward of Buffalo.

marvinAsa Marvin was born October 13, 1778 in Norwalk Connecticut.  He grew up in Kirkland, in Oneida County.  He worked as a hatter and invested in property.  Mr. Marvin married Sarah Lockwood. They had two sons, George and LeGrand, and a daughter, Sarah.  Both sons were prominent lawyers in Buffalo during the 1830s-60s.  Asa and Sarah came to Buffalo after LeGrand had established himself here.  The Marvin Family lived at the southeast corner of Court and Franklin Streets.  The elm trees planted in front of the mansion were considered to be the tallest trees in Buffalo before they were chopped down.  Asa Marvin died on December 12, 1849.  He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

LeGrand Marvin was born in 1807.  He attended Hamilton College and then moved to Baltimore to teach.  He returned to Buffalo to study law with Philander Bennett.  Le Grand was admitted to practice as an attorney in 1833.  George was three years younger and attended Yale.  He returned to Buffalo and studied law under his brother.  George was admitted to the bar in 1836.  George married  lived on West Mohawk Street, the site of his house is now covered by the Statler.  George represented the Ninth Ward in the County Board of Supervisors and served as Chairman of the Board during his time.  The Ninth Ward at this time was the area around Niagara Square and up Niagara Street to Porter.  The brothers formed a partnership and worked together in their law practice.  It was said that the Marvin brothers had the largest law practice in the City of Buffalo.  

Buffalo_Evening_News_Sat__Dec_3__1887_

Sketch of Le Grand Marvin, Buffalo Evening News, December 3, 1887

Around 1831, Le Grand had been given power of attorney to care for his parents large estates.  He purchased real estate in the City for his father and managed it until he formed a partnership with George in 1839.  As a result, the Marvin family owned extensive property in Buffalo, including Marvin Street and all the land bordering it.  Le Grand Marvin divided the streets into building lots shortly before the street was opened in 1841.

In the spring of 1842, LeGrand made some bad endorsements for businesses which failed and as a result, became insolvent.  The law practice’s articles of incorporation were changed so that George was in charge, to help protect LeGrand from investors coming after him and collecting against the business.  

Le Grand married Julia Reynolds, a schoolteacher from Syracuse, in 1854.  They divorced in 1861.  

Following the death of their mother in 1963, the brothers began to argue over their mother’s properties.  The properties had been purchased by Le Grand originally.  Mrs. Marvin obtained title by foreclosure when Le Grand had his financial struggles.  She left the property to Le Grand in her will.  The litigation that follows broke up the firm and the law partnership dissolved in 1864. 

properties

Some of the Marvin-owned Properties along Marvin Street. Note: they are labeled here as owned by both George Marvin and Simon Greenwood. These were the properties that were under disputed ownership for 25 years while the case proceeded Source: 1872 Hopkins Atlas of Buffalo

The court case that proceeded was the longest in City history at that time.  After 22 years, the court case was settled in February 1886, in favor of Le Grand.  George had died in October 1882.  The matter was over real estate that was valued at $80,000 (about $2.2 Million today) and $12,000 (about $335,000 today) cash.   The value of the estate changed often, due to the longevity of the case, so various reports indicated differing amounts.  George’s family continued to appeal the case.

LeGrand became eccentric during his later years, and he was known to travel around Buffalo on the hottest days of summer wearing “artics and a woolen shawl”.  Following his death, the Buffalo Commercial said that:

No man, with his own hands, ever built a taller monument to his own eccentricity, than Le Grand Marvin.  He possessed an irrepressible tendency to rush into print on all matters that concerned him, however remotely….as a rule, his contributions to the press were declined with thanks, as the mere fact of publishing them would lay the medium through which they appeared open to libel suits from the inhabitants of Buffalo, consequently his literary remains are to be found principally in pamphlet form.

Whenever he felt anyone ran afoul of him, he’d jot it down and include it in his next pamphlet.  It was said that he distrusted and condemned all churches, political parties and professions.  He claimed that his marriage was not legal because his wife wore rouge at the wedding, so he felt she had defrauded him.  Despite the failure of his marriage and subsequent divorce, he wrote a pamphlet on “The Joys of Perfect Matrimony”.  He didn’t have any children, but he wrote pamphlets on “The Proper Rearing of Children”.  

While he was eccentric, he was still considered a fine lawyer and was well respected as one of the oldest members of the Buffalo Bar.  The court case continued following Le Grand’s death in 1887, with the case in another round of appeals and the will contested by George’s widow and children.  The properties were mainly located in the First Ward, and was some of the most valuable land in the city at the time.  In addition to the value of the land and buildings, they also brought in considerable rent from businesses operating on the properties.  Holmes Mill, Hamlin’s Grape Sugar Works, De Laney’s Forge and Cook’s Distillery were some of the businesses located on the land.

library bookplate

Old Buffalo Library bookplate showing Le Grand’s name. Source

The suit was decided yet again in favor of Le Grand almost a year after his death.  The bulk of his estate was to be left to the Buffalo Library (one of the predecessors to the Buffalo & Erie County Library).   Le Grand left behind a 37 page will, his final pamphlet.  After accounting for 25 year of legal fees and a few gifts to friends, the Library was expected to received about $35,000 or about $950,000 in today’s dollars.  Le Grand had been one of the founder’s of the library and was a life member.  The estate was contested by George’s family and finally settled in February of 1891.  

When he died, Le Grand also donated his body to University at Buffalo for research and dissection.  His skeleton was mounted in the vestibule of the Medical College on High Street for many years.  Do any of my UB friends know if they still have his skeleton?  

Sadly, George’s family was left without that income they had expected to come into after winning the law suit and the estate.  The loss of that money, plus the legal fees strained the family’s finances.   Son Phillip (Le Grand’s nephew) committed suicide in 1915 by jumping from a sixth floor window at the Buffalo Savings Bank.  Prior to his death, Phillip had visited every lawyer in the building trying to negotiate a loan to tide him over from the family’s financial difficulty and keep their home at 450 Richmond.  

So the next time you’re at the Casino, maybe take a look out the back of the parking ramp onto Marvin Street and pour one out for the Marvin Family.  And seriously, UB, someone let me know about that skeleton!

Want to learn about other streets?  Check out the Street Index.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made.  You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right hand side of the home page.  You can also follow the blog on facebook.  If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

Sources:

  • Smith, H. Katherine.  “Marvin Street Linked with Pioneer Buffalo”  Buffalo Courier-Express.  June 19, 1938, 4E.
  • “Le Grand Marvin:  A Chapter of Reminiscences Concerning the Great Litigant- Selections from His Own Works”  The Buffalo Commercial, December 10, 1887, pg 3.
  • “Some Old Buffalo Characters:  Recollections of People and Things in Early Buffalo””  Buffalo Commercial, October 14, 1911.
  • “Le Grand Marvin Wins His Law Suit after 22 Years”.  Buffalo Evening News.  February 9, 1886.
  • “Le Grand Marvin:  One of Buffalo’s Most Noted Characters Gone to His Last Rest”.  Buffalo Weekly Express.  December 8, 1887.
  • Percy C Marvin Jumped to Death at Bank Building.  Buffalo Times.  April 19, 1915.
  • “Le Grand Marvin’s Suit:  Wins a Victory in One of His Long Contested Suits”.  Buffalo times.  November 28, 1888.

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