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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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rileystRiley Street is a street in the Masten Neighborhood of the East Side of Buffalo, running from Main Street to Fillmore Avenue.  The street is named after Major General Bennet Riley.  Note 1:  sometimes his first name is spelled Bennett, but his gravestone says Bennet, so I’m using that spelling.  Note 2:  There was another famous General Riley in Western New York, General Aaron Riley, whose house still stands in East Aurora.  As far as I can tell, the two men are not related.  Riley street in East Aurora is named after Aaron Riley and Riley Street in Buffalo is named after Bennet Riley.

19547819_122948017206Bennet Riley was born in St. Mary’s, Maryland in 1787.  He served as an apprentice in a cobbler shop as a young man, later serving as a foreman in a shoe factory.

Riley volunteered for service in the War of 1812.  In January 1813, he was appointed Ensign of Rifles.  He saw action at Sackets Harbor, New York, in the second of two battles to control the shipyards on Lake Ontario.  He was promoted to first lieutenant in March 1817.  He later advanced to captain in the 5th US Infantry and in 1821, he was transferred to the 6th US infantry.  He was promoted to brevet major in 1828 and lead the first military escort along the Santa Fe Trail in 1829.

Mr. Riley married Arabella Israel of Philadelphia in 1834.  They had eight children, including  twins William and Samuel who died in Fort King, Florida in 1841 and Bennet, Jr. who served in the Navy and died aboard the war-sloop USS Albany which disappeared with all hands in 1854. In Buffalo, the Riley Family lived in a frame house at Main and Barker Streets (1238 Main Street – where Delta Sonic is now located).  The house was later known as the Cobb Mansion, was home to St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in 1897 before they moved to Kenmore Avenue, and the site was then the location of Bishop Fallon High School.  It is said that Riley enjoyed purchasing second-hand furniture to furnish his house, and he purchased so much that while he was away, Mrs. Riley would send it downtown to be sold at auction.  One story survives that says that General Riley returned home and attended a sale, and ended up buying back many of his items, without an inkling that he was actually purchasing items that he had previously owned!

In 1837, Riley served as major of the Fourth Infantry and was stationed at Fort Gibson on the Arkansas River.  From Fort Gibson, he was ordered to Florida, where he was an active part of the Seminole War.  In 1842, at the close of the war in Florida, he was ordered to Buffalo, where he served at the Buffalo Barracks.

1840 Map showing the Buffalo Barracks. Source: National Parks Service, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

1840 Map showing the Buffalo Barracks.
Source: National Parks Service, Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

The Buffalo Barracks was built near what was then the northern edge of the city in the fall of 1839.  The federal government leased the land from Ebenezer Walden to use eighteen acres of land, bounded by Main, Allen, Delaware and North Streets.  Buildings were erected and were occupied during winter 1839.  The Barracks was built in response to the Patriot’s War with Canada in 1837.  At the time, Buffalonians still remembered the Burning of Buffalo during the War of 1812, which had occurred just 25 years earlier during the winter of 1813-1814.

The facility was also known as the Pointsett Barracks, named after the Secretary of War, Joel Pointsett.  The buildings formed a rectangle around the parade grounds on the northern end of the barracks.  Buildings included company quarters (enlisted men’s housing), officer’s quarters, storehouses, a guardhouse and stables.  The first regiment to occupy the barracks was Col. James Bankhead’s 2nd Artillery.  And was later occupied by Lt. Col. Crane’s 4th Artillery, and then by Bennet Riley’s 2nd Infantry.  The military post became a center of social life in Buffalo, who enjoyed watching military parades and listening to the military band.  Many of the officers became an important part of Buffalo social society and ended up marrying Buffalo women.

In December 1839, Riley is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Infantry.  His officers quarters are located near where Allen Street and North Pearl Street now meet.  In mid-1840, the officer’s quarters were likely moved to the Barracks property.  In 1841, Lt. Colonel Riley is promoted to full Colonel, becoming the 4th and final Commandant of the Buffalo Barracks.   In Mid 1845, Col. Riley and his 2nd infantry are ordered to the Mexican Border.  The government abandoned the post at the Buffalo Barracks shortly after, breaking its lease with the land.  Relations with Canada improved by the mid-1840s and Fort Porter opened in 1845, rendering the barracks redundant.  The property was sold for $2,250 and the buildings were demolished, except for the quarters that house the Commandant and the Post Surgeon.  This building is now the front portion of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.  The quarters made up the portion of the house that includes the present-day library and exhibit room and the second floor above.  The house was originally one of a row of three identical houses, each designed as duplexes to house two officers and their families, one on each side.  The house was renovated into a single family house by Judge Masten and his family.

californiaIn summer of 1846, Riley was ordered away to Mexico to join the army of General Taylor.  After the war with Mexico, Riley served at Fort Hamilton, New York in 1848.  He then commanded the Military Department in Upper California in 1849 and 1850.  He served as the provisional Governor of California.  At the time, congress was debating on the issue of California statehood, which made his role complicated.  The California Territory was transitioning from Mexican to American lawn and the Gold Rush at the time was violent.  Riley commanded eight companies of infantry, two artillery and two dragoons between San Diego and San Francisco.  The military had a hard time preventing the slaughter of California’s native population and was unable to suppress the violence in the often lawless gold camps.

riley grave forest lawnAfter the administrative service concluded in California, Riley was next sent to a regiment on the Rio Grande.  His declining health prevent his further military service, so he retired. He returned to his home in Buffalo, where he was greeted with a grand ovation.  The Mayor and a committee of citizens received him, along with a military escort and a procession of civil societies and citizens.  Of his return, it was recalled in 1892, “flags and banners flying, everything conspired to give a festal appearance to the city”.   There was some talk that he should be nominated to be President (a member of the Whig party).  He claimed that he “never got the presidential bee in his bonnet” and that he ” was far too sensible for that”.  He died of cancer on June 9, 1853.  He had a full military funeral, escorted by the 65th Regiment and the Independent Guard, commanded by Major Bidwell.  He is buried at Forest Lawn.  Riley Street was laid out in 1859 and dedicated in commemoration of his death.

Major General Riley is one of only three generals for whom military posts were named.  In June 1852, Camp Center (Kansas Territory) was renamed Fort Riley in Bennet Riley’s honor.  Riley County, Kansas is also named in his honor.

 

Sources:

  1. “Souvenirs of Major General Bennet Riley.”Publications of the Buffalo Historical Society, Volume 25.
  2. https://www.nps.gov/thri/buffalobarracks.htm
  3. “Streets Have Historical Link”.  Buffalo Courier Express, Sunday December 7, 1952.  p 7.
  4. “An Old Buffalonians Recollections of Gen. Bennett Riley”.  Buffalo Evening News.  April 16, 1892.  p4.

 

 

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Coit Street

Coit Street

Coit Street is a street in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood on the east side of Buffalo, running between Broadway and Howard Street.  The street is named after George Coit, and is only a few streets away from Townsend Street, named after George’s good friend and business partner Charles Townsend (we’ll learn a little about Charles today, and more about him later).  George Coit was called “one of the eminent fathers and founders of Buffalo”.  He resided in Buffalo from June 1811 until his death in May 1865, watching the pioneer settlement rise into a village, rebuild after wartime burning, and grow into a great city.

gcoitThe Coit family arrived in America between 1630 and 1638.  George Coit was born on June 10th, 1790 in Norwich Connecticut.  He learned the druggist business and worked as a clerk in a store with Mr. Townsend (later Judge Townsend) in Norwich.   They came to Buffalo together in 1811 to run a drug store.  For more than 40 years, Mr. Coit & Mr. Townsend worked together in co-partnership.  They quickly were able to buy property at Swan and Pearl Streets, where the built a store.   The day before the Burning of Buffalo, Mr. Coit drove with Mr. Townsend and a wagon full of their goods into Williamsville.  When they arrived back in Buffalo following the burning, they procured a small wooden building on Erie Street which had survived the burning. Their store was in business until 1818, when they sold the business to Dr. John E. Marshall and they entered the shipping business.  They successfully operated several businesses involved in shipping and trade, along with Buffalo Car Works. Their first warehouse was at the foot of Commercial Street, at the mouth of Little Buffalo Creek, where they built a dock and a frame building.  Mr. Coit married a sister of Mr. Townsend, Hannah, on April 4th, 1815.  Hannah and George had eight children:  Sarah Frances, Charles, George, John, Frances, Nathaniel, Eliza, and William.

Wedding of the Waters at the Buffalo History Museum...depicting Governor Dewitt Clinton with Samuel Wilkeson, George Coit and Charles Townsend at the opening of the Erie Canal

Wedding of the Waters at the Buffalo History Museum…depicting Governor Dewitt Clinton with Samuel Wilkeson, George Coit and Charles Townsend at the opening of the Erie Canal

In 1818, Mr. Coit, along with Mr. Townsend, Samuel Wilkeson and Oliver Forward, secured a bond and mortgage for a state bond for the construction of the Buffalo Harbor.  By 1821, the channel was deep enough to allow for vessels, proving the Buffalo Harbor was successful, despite many people’s concerns about their experiment to build the harbor.  The four men worked together to build the harbor and lobby the legislature to ensure that Buffalo would be the terminus of the canal, not Black Rock.

During the Canal-era, the Buffalo waterfront was a slew of various slips, many owned by private businesses.  The Coit Slip was located near the end of the Erie Canal.approximately parallel to Erie Street.  The slip was filled in when the Erie Canal was filled in during the 1940s, but a portion remains behind Templeton Landing (formerly Crawdaddy’s/Shanghai Reds).  The land around the Coit Slip was owned by Mr. Coit and Mr. Townsend.  The Coit Block/Coit Building (also referred to as the McCutcheon Building) was located at the southern end of Commercial Street adjacent to the western edge of the Commercial Slip.  The Coit Building was located there from pre-1840 until its razing around 1947.  Portions of the Coit Building’s foundations and other features were uncovered during the archaeological investigations during the Erie Canal Harbor project (which created the Commercial Slip and Canalside).  The recreated building housing the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park and Museum was built on the site in 2008.

Map Showing Different Canal Era Slips. For reference, Erie Street's alignment has shifted towards the south. Commercial Slip is the one that has been uncovered at Canalside (click to view at higher resolution)

Map Showing Different Canal Era Slips. For reference, Erie Street’s alignment has shifted towards the south. Commercial Slip, near the center of the map, is the one that has been uncovered at Canalside 
(click to view at higher resolution)

Mr. Coit was a member of the Buffalo Historical Society, the Buffalo Board of Trade, the Buffalo Water Works Company, as well as other organizations.

George Coit's Grave

George Coit’s Grave

Mr.  Coit died in May 1865 and is buried at Forest Lawn.  More than 50 Coit relatives are buried in the plot near George’s grave.  At a memorial before the Buffalo Historical Society in July 1865, Mr. William Ketchum said this about Mr. Coit:  “Although Mr. Coit had lived to see Buffalo grow up from an insignificant village to become a large and populous city, his own chosen dwelling being, as it were, in the very heart of business, he preferred to remain in his old home, and continued to occupy his plain, unpretending residence on the corner of Pearl and Swan Streets, where he had first pitched his tent more than 50 years ago”

Coit House

The Coit House on Virginia Street

The house which Mr. Coit had built is still standing here in Buffalo today and is considered to be the oldest house in Buffalo.  The Coit House is estimated to have been built around 1818, shortly after the Burning of Buffalo in 1813/1814.  The house was originally located at 53 Pearl Street.  The house was moved around 1867 to its current location on Virginia Street between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues.  The house had seem some changes over the years, including being converted into apartments, but has been restored to relatively close to the original layout of a single family home.

In May of 1962, the Coit House was improved by a group who wanted to help the neglected building.  Organizations such as the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce and the City of Buffalo Division of Conservation worked with volunteers to repair clapboard, paint the building and trim the trees.   During the late 1960s, the building was slated for demolition as a part of the Allentown-Lakeview urban renewal project.  This prompted the creation of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier in May 1969.  The Landmark Society worked to restore the building and then help to sell the building to a new owner with a deed stipulation that would prohibit modification of the historic restoration of the building.   The house was purchased by Henry and Linda Priebe, who lived there for nearly 30 years.  The house went back on the market in 1999 when it was purchased by the Allentown Association.  Major renovations were completed on the building, which was then purchased by Gerhart Yakow, and is now owned by Tim Boylan and Sue-Jolie Rioux Boylan.  It’s a beautiful building and if you get a chance to visit, you should take the opportunity!  The wide plank boards in the floor on the third floor will make anyone interested in history and/or architecture swoon.  The Boylans are wonderful stewards of the building, you can tell they care very deeply about the history and heritage of the house.

One of the best parts about writing this blog is the feedback I receive from my readers.  While I can’t always respond to it all, I appreciate every single one of the comments, messages and feedback I receive.  I’ve had descendants of some of the families reach out to me; I’ve had people email me photos, mail me prints, and I love all of it.

I first “met” Coit family member Susie Coit Williams about four years ago, when she first commented on my blog.  We’ve emailed back and forth, as she was trying to get a historic marker at the Coit House.  The marker finally was installed and was dedicated during an unveiling ceremony on May 21st, 2016!  Here are some photos from that event!

Mayor Brown and Councilman Fronczyk proclaiming it George Coit Day in Buffalo!

Mayor Brown and Councilman Fronczyk proclaiming it George Coit Day in Buffalo!

 

Susie Coit Williams unveiling the historic marker

Susie Coit Williams unveiling the historic marker

Coit House finally has a historic marker!

Coit House finally has a historic marker!

It was a great opportunity to celebrate the history of George Coit, whose story is so ingrained in the fabric of the City of Buffalo!  It’s excited to know that the house is in good hands for the future, and that Mr. Coit’s life is remembered for all who pass down the street!  Take a walk by and check out the marker and think for a moment on Mr. Coit and the life he lived here in Buffalo.

To learn about other streets, check out the Street Index.

 

Sources:

  1. Smith, H. Perry.  History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County.  D. Mason & Co Publishers:  Syracuse.  1884.
  2. Brown, Christopher.  The Coit House Mystique.  June 2007.
  3. Grasso, Thomas.  The Erie Canal Western Terminus – Commercial Slip, Harbor Development and Canal District.  Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

 

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Grosvenor Street

Grosvenor Street

Grosvenor Street is a street on the near East Side of Buffalo.  The street currently runs two blocks, between South Division Street and Eagle Street.  Historically, the street continued south to Seymour Street, and changed name to Heacock after crossing the railroad tracks.  When at-grade rail crossings were removed, the street was shortened, and Heacock Street was later changed to Larkin Street.  The street is named after Seth Grosvenor, who only was in Buffalo for a short while, but left an important impact on the City.  Heacock Street was named after family friend, business partner, and brother-in-law of Mr. Grosvenor, Reuben Heacock (we’ll learn more about him later).    The name is pronounced Grove-nor, with a silent s.  There is also a Grosvenor Road in the Town of Tonawanda.  The name also lives on in the Grosvenor Room at the Buffalo Library, which happens to be where I do most of my research for this blog!

Seth Grosvenor Source: New York Historical Society

Seth Grosvenor
Source: New York Historical Society

Seth Grosvenor was born on Christmas Day, December 25, 1786, in Pomfret, Connecticut.  Seth’s family consisted of sixteen children – Abigail, Lucia, Roswell, Marcia, Godfrey, Martha, Mary, Polly, Betsey, Eliza, Thomas, Abel, Peggy, George, Seth, Stephen.   The family moved to Columbia County, New York around 1800. Little is known about when Seth Grosvenor arrived in Buffalo, as reports from the times tell conflicting stories.  It is believed that Seth Grosvenor arrived in Buffalo in late 1812/early 1813 to settle his brother Abel’s estate and run his store following Abel’s death.  Abel had been attacked by a mob of volunteer troops from Baltimore who mistook Abel for Mr. Ralph Pomeroy, the keeper of the hotel at Main and Seneca Streets.  The story goes that Mr. Pomeroy offended the folks from Baltimore by stating he was a friend of the British, and a mob set out to kill Mr. Pomeroy.  They saw Abel and mistook him for Mr. Pomeroy and attacked him instead.  Abel Grosvenor left Buffalo with his family but died from his injuries a short time later.  It is believed that Seth came to town shortly thereafter, but some reports indicate that Seth had arrived earlier to help his brother at the store.

On December 31, 1813, during the Battle of Buffalo, Seth Grosvenor organized a group of 20 to 30 men to defend the village against the British and Native American Troops, by taking a stand at the corner of Main and Niagara Streets.  During the Battle of Buffalo, the Grosvenor store and all its merchandise were burned to the ground on December 31, 1813.  Four days later, on January 4th, Seth advertised that he was back in the dry goods business, selling out of the Harris Tavern in Clarence.  One of the amazing things about Buffalo’s resilience following the burning of Buffalo is the quickness with which people and businesses returned to the fledgling village.  On April 5th, the Gazette read:  “Buffalo village which once adorned the shores of Erie and was prostrated by the enemy, is now rising again; several buildings are already raised and made habitable; contracts for twenty or thirty more are made and many of them are in considerable forwardness.  A brick company has been organized by an association of most enterprising and public-spirited citizens, with sufficient capital for the purpose of rendering the price of brick so reasonable that the principal streets may be built up of that article”.  Mr. Grosvenor was a member of the brick company.  By May 24th, the Gazette reported the following completed structures:  “23 houses occupied by families, 3 taverns, 4 dry goods and grocery stores, 12 grocery and other shops, 3 offices, 39 or 40 huts (or shanties).”  Mr. Grosvenor had also returned to Buffalo from Clarence by April 24th advertising that he can be called upon “at the new house situate where the Printing Office of Salisburys’ stood, will find him opening an assortment of dry goods, groceries, hardware, cigars and tobacco.”  His shop was located at the northwest corner of Pearl and Seneca Streets, which is where the Pearl Street Brewery is now located.  Later that year, Mr. Grosvenor went into business with his youngest brother, Stephen.

It is said that Mr. Grosvenor remained a bachelor all his life due to a bad romance between himself and Mary Merrill of Buffalo.  Before the Battle of Buffalo, Mary was said to be engaged to Mr. Grosvenor.  Following the Battle, many Buffalonians sought shelter and safety at Harris Tavern in Clarence.  Miss Merrill was said to have been affected by the charm and heroics of Captain Harris.  Two months later, in February 1814, Mary Merrill became Mrs. Harris.  Their breakup is also said to be one of the reasons Mr. Grosvenor left Buffalo for New York City in 1815, after teaching his brother Stephen the ins and outs of business and leaving Stephen in charge of the business.  Stephen Keyes Grosvenor was an active member of the Whig Party, and later served as Justice of the Peace in Buffalo.   Despite Seth only spending two years here, he had established many close ties during those years, and he kept close to Buffalo even after he left.  Mr. Grosvenor lived at 39 White Street in Manhattan.  Following his death, his estate expanded the home and later built a new building, which still stands on White Street.

Seth Grosvenor Grave

Seth Grosvenor Grave

Mr. Grosvenor died in October 1857 and was originally interred in Manhattan at New York Marble Cemetery.  His remains were later removed and re-interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in 1862.  He is buried next to his sister Eliza.

Mr. Grosvenor is often referred to as the “City’s greatest benefactor”.  He donated money to build the Grosvenor Library in Buffalo (as well as money for the New York Historical Society and Library in NYC).  In 1857, while living in New York City,  he announced that he was leaving $40,000 to the City of Buffalo, to be paid two years after his death.  The first $10,000 was to be used to purchase a lot and build a building for a public library.  The remaining $30,000 was given, to be invested forever, and its income to be used for the purchase of books, to be kept open for the use of the public, and the books not to be lent out nor rented, only used for reading within the building.

Grosvenor Library Source: A History of the City of Buffalo: It's Men and Institutions

Grosvenor Library
Source: A History of the City of Buffalo: It’s Men and Institutions

The City accepted the bequest in 1865.  The library first used in space within the Buffalo Savings Bank Building at Broadway and Washington Street, and the library was opened to the public in 1870.   The City set aside $4,000 a year to operate the library.  Over time, a building fund was put together, and in 1891, the trustees erected the Grosvenor Library at the corner of Franklin and Edward Streets.  In 1897, the library was passed into the control of the City of Buffalo and by 1908, the library contained more than 75,000 books and 7,000 pamphlets for reference use.  The library operated for free use for citizens of Buffalo, temporary residents and strangers alike.  By 1920, the collection had grown to 162,000 volumes and the library was open from 9 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and 2pm to 6pm on Sundays.

The Grosvenor Library was open until 1956.  Of note are the Grosvenor Library’s collection of music as well as one of the largest genealogy collections in the country~  At the time, there were three different libraries in the Buffalo area – the Grosvenor Library, the Erie County Public Library – which was founded in the 1940s and provided bookmobile services to rural towns and villages, and the Buffalo Public Library – which developed out of the Young Men’s Association as early as 1836.  In 1953, the three institutions were combined by an act of the New York State legislature, creating the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  In 1963, the collections of the Buffalo Public and the Grosvenor Library were integrated on the shelves in the new Central library, which opened at Lafayette Square in October of 1964.  The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library inherited the collections, which form the core of the Grosvenor Room at the Downtown Buffalo Library.    The Grosvenor Library Building was demolished in 1974.

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

Sources:

  1. Rooney, Paul M. 150 years, 1836-1986 : Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  [Buffalo, N.Y. : Grosvenor Society, 1986].
  2.  “Grosvenor Street Reminds City of Donor of Library”  Courier Express Jan 11, 1942, sec. 5 p 5
  3. “Seth Grosvenor and Buffalo” Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 4.  June 1921
  4. A History of the City of Buffalo:  It’s Men and Institutions.  Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo. 1908.
  5. Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Vol III.  September, 1920.
  6. “History of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library”.  Buffalo and Erie County Library.  175th Anniversary of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.
  7. “The Grosvenor Family in Connecticut”.  Grosvenor Library Bulletin, Volume 1.

 

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holland placeHolland Place is a one block long street in the Masten Park neighborhood on the east side of Buffalo, running between Riley Street and Northhampton Street.  The street is named after Nelson Holland.

Nelson Holland was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts in 1829.  The Holland family was a pioneer American family, John Holland had settled in Massachusetts in 1633.  Seven years after Nelson was born, his father brought the family to Western New York and bought a farm in Springville, New York.   Nelson attended rural schools and the Springville Academy (now the Griffith Institute).

nelson hollandIn 1850, Nelson Holland moved to Buffalo to work for his uncle, Selim Sears, who at the time was operating a mill in Michigan.  Nelson later purchased a portion of a saw mill, which stood where the Michigan Central Railroad station is (look this up).  He then purchased 4,000 acres of pine lands in Michigan.  In 1855, Mr. Holland purchased a mill in St. Clair, Michigan.

In 1864, Mr. Holland purchased 4,000 acres in Buffalo and came to Buffalo to look after his purchase, leaving his St. Clair mill in the hands of his brother Luther.  Mr. Nelson purchased interests in many mills and lands, stretching into Canada.  He owned lands stretching from Buffalo to Texas.

Mr. Holland’s holdings held firm through the ups and downs of the lumber industry, and survived the panics of 1857, 1873 and 1893.  He had controlling stakes in as many as 4 different lumber companies at the same time.  Even after 40 years in the business, Mr. Holland was said to “retain much of his old-time vigor, ambition and force with which to carry forth plans of future operations”.

In 1877, the Buffalo firm of Holland, Graves and Montgomery was organized.  They handled more than 500,000,000 feet of pine lumber.  Mr. Holland was considered to be a master in the art of manipulating pine forests to get product into marketable form.  It was also said that he had probably cut and consumed more pine lumber than any other man.

Mr. Holland was also prominent in lake transportation interests and was proprietor of the Buffalo Standard Radiator Company, which made radiators.

Holland Family Plot

Holland Family Plot

He was a member of North Presbyterian Church and served as President of its Board of Trustees, and then later became a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Holland married Susan Ann Clark of Silver Creek in June 1857.  They had four children – Jessie Clark, Helen Lee, Grace and Nelson Clark.  Their son Nelson II took over the lumber business from his father. The family lived in a large brick home with sandstone trimmings on the northwest corner of Delaware and Bryant. Mr. Holland died in 1896 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1. Our County and its people:  A descriptive work on Erie County, New York.  Edited by: Truman C. White.  The Boston History Company, Publishers: 1898.
  2. Memorial and Family History of Erie County, New York.  The Genealogical Publishing Company:  Buffalo:  1906.
  3. Larned, J.N.  A History of Buffalo:  Delineating the Evolution of the City.  The Progress of the Empire State Company:  New York.  1911.

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ripleyRipley Place is a short, one-block street on the west side of Buffalo, running between Vermont and Connecticut Streets, near Richmond Avenue.

Mary A. Ripley was a teacher at Central High School from the 1860s through the 1880s.  She was born in Windham, Connecticut in 1831, but grew up in Alden, New York and attended local schools.  She was known around town as one of the few woman who dared in the 1880s to wear her hair short.

mary ripleyMiss Ripley taught for seven years at School 7.  In 1861, she became a member of the faculty at Central High School.  She was determined to make over the school.  At the time, the teachers often had to call in the police to stop the students’ riots.  Miss Ripley asked for the job of taking care of the boys’ study hall, which was where many of the riots originated.  The male teachers doubted she’d be able to handle the boys, but Miss Ripley kept order with little difficulty.  She would tell people her goal was to develop young people’s conduct and character.

In 1867, Miss Ripley published a volume of poems.  She also wrote a textbook of Parsing Lessons for small school room use and a book titled Household Service.  Many considered Miss Ripley a talented poet and writer; however, her heart was truly dedicated towards her students.  She made long lasting impacts on her students.

Several of her poems were featured in magazines.  The following comes from the Magazine of Poetry and Literary Review, Volume 6:

ripley poem

When the State Normal School opened in Albany, Miss Ripley was summoned there to become one of its first teachers.  She went to Albany to teach for a few years, but missed her old school so she returned to Buffalo.  She taught at Central until 1888.

Miss Ripley received many honors in her years teaching.  During the Civil War, at a Washington’s Birthday celebration, she was seated with former President Millard Fillmore.  In 1886, for her 25th anniversary of teaching at Central, she was given a gold watch and roses.  For her retirement, she was given a diamond ring from “Miss Ripley’s Boys and Girls”.  They formed the Mary A. Ripley Association, which met for several years.  Miss Ripley passed away in 1893.

Mary Ripley Library in the Union Hall.  Source:  WNY Heritage

Mary Ripley Library in the Union Hall. Source: WNY Heritage

The Mary A. Ripley Memorial Library was established in the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union building.  Miss Ripley was a member of the Board of Directors of the Union.  The Ripley Memorial Library was furnished at a cost of $2,000 and contained 500 volumes when it first opened.  The Ripley Memorial Library was established with the Public Libraries division of the University of the State of New York.  The library was widely used as a place to read and study.

The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union was established in 1884 by Harriet Townsend.  We’ll get to more about the Townsend men and Townsend Street on another day, but it’s women’s history month, so we’ll talk about her today!  Mrs. Townsend was made the CEO of the organization due to her intelligence, vision and management skills.  She had no children, which allowed her to work full time for the advancement of women, advocating for women’s rights all of her life.  The Union building was located on Delaware Ave at Niagara Square (site of the City Court Building) in the former Babcock house, which was later demolished to build a larger building.  During the dedication ceremony of the new building, Miss Ripley recited a poem she had written.

Membership into the Union was $1. Union reports stated “We no longer listen to the selfish moralist who cries ‘Let the woman stay in her home, her only safe haven'”, and that “it is not, an association of benevolent, well-to-do women, joined for the purpose of reaching down to help the poor and persecuted women, but a Union of all classes and conditions of women”.  The concept was unique at the time.

Union Building on Niagara Square c. 1890.  Source:  WNY Heritage

Union Building on Niagara Square c. 1890. Source: WNY Heritage

The Union building contained the first gymnasium for women in Buffalo, kitchen space for instruction in nutrition and cooking, and provided classes on various topics not provided in public schools.  The Union gave scholarships to women to attend Bryant and Stratton and trained women for low wage jobs, such as cooks, domestics, and seamstresses.   The Union taught members how to navigate the bureaucracy of government.  The Union lobbied to establish equal guardianship rights for women in case of divorce.  The Union successfully got a women appointed to the School Board and fought for rights for all women.

The Union dissolved in 1915, finding that its work was finished – most of its groundbreaking programs had been adopted by educational, governmental and civic organizations.  These Women’s Union began programs we take for granted today such as vocational education, physical education, night school, free kindergartens, probation officers, Legal Aid, etc.  The building then became Townsend Hall, part of the University at Buffalo and was the college’s first College of Arts and Sciences, named after Harriet Townsend.  The building was razed in 1959 after it was destroyed by fire.  The Townsend Hall name was transferred to a building on South Campus.

Learn about other streets in the Street Index.

Sources:

  1. “Ripley Place is Memorial To Beloved Central High Teacher” Courier Express Oct 5, 1941, sec 5 p 3
  2. “Streets Have Historical Link” Buffalo Courier Express. Dec 7 1952 p 7-8
  3. The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Buffalo.  Compiled by Mrs. Frederick J. Shepard.
  4. “Harriet A. Townsend:  The Women’s Union.”  Susan Eck.  Western New York Heritage Press.
  5. The Magazine of Poetry, A Monthly Review.  Charles Wells Moulton.  Buffalo NY 1894.

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Richmond Avenue

Richmond Avenue

Richmond Avenue runs north-south through the West Side of Buffalo, running between Forest Avenue and North Street.  The road was originally known as Rogers Road and served as a trail from Buffalo to what was known as a Shingletown area in the north.  Even when the City reached to North Street, Shingletown was still mainly open fields used for grazing animals and raising vegetables.  The most prominent building on the street was a tavern located on a terrace within a fruit orchard at the corner of Rodgers (now Richmond) and Utica Avenues.  The tavern allowed travelers heading between Buffalo and Black Rock a place to rest.  Residential development of the area increased in the 1880s and by 1900 the area resembled its current appearance.  The street was named in 1879 in honor of Jewett Richmond, who was involved in the salt and grain industries.

jewett richmondJewett Richmond was born in Syracuse in 1831.  He entered the salt business at a young age and began shipping salt to Buffalo and Chicago.  On his trips to Buffalo, he saw Buffalo’s potential to become a grain center.  He moved to Buffalo in 1854 and entered the grain business, building a grain elevator and establishing a company on the lakeshore.  He built the Buffalo and Jamestown railroad.  He was president of the Marine Bank, the Mutual Gas Light Company and the Buffalo Board of Trade.  He also served on the City Council.

At one point, in 1881, a delegation of prominent citizens wanted him to run for Mayor.  Mr. Richmond was among 5 people they asked to run for Mayor that year (Major Doyle was another).  Mr. Richmond suggested that they ask Grover Cleveland first.  Grover Cleveland accepted, and was elected to his first important political post.

Mr. Richmond was involved in many organizations.  He was a member of the Young Men’s Association, which established the Buffalo Public Library.  He was a trustee of the Charity Organization Society and the Forest Lawn Cemetery Association.  He was a charter member of the Buffalo Historical Society (now the Buffalo History Museum), the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences (now the Buffalo Museum of Science) and the Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts (now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery).   He was a founder of the Buffalo Club and the Country Club of Buffalo.

The Richmond family lived at 844 Delaware Avenue.  The property originally encompassed all of the land between Delaware Avenue and Richmond Avenue and was landscaped with gardens and some of the oldest trees in Buffalo.  In 1879, a petition was submitted to City Council to rename Rogers Road to Richmond Avenue in Mr. Richmond’s honor.

844 Delaware Avenue

844 Delaware Avenue

In January 1887, the Richmond house was destroyed by a fire.  In 1888, a new home was built at 844 Delaware Avenue.  The house is often referred to as the Lockwood house, as the 2nd owner of the house was Thomas B. Lockwood.  The house is currently owned by Child and Family Services.

Mr. Richmond died in 1899.  In addition to the street, two stained glass windows are also dedicated to his memory – one in Westminster Church and one in the Richmond Chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Richmond Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

Richmond Monument in Forest Lawn Cemetery

1920s version of the Richmond Avenue Extension

1920s version of the Richmond Avenue Extension

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was a proposal to extend Richmond Avenue further south of North Street.  During the late 1930s, residents of Richmond Avenue petitioned to have the city change the name from Richmond Avenue to Richmond Parkway in order to preserve the residential nature of the street.  In Olmsted’s plan, the “Avenues” were single drive lanes with double rows of trees on either side, while the “Parkways” were the double drive lanes with a carriage path in the center.  The residents were determined to keep the street as only a street of “homes and churches”.  Another proposal to extend Richmond Ave came to life after the construction of the Skyway in the 1950s.  This proposal would have connected Richmond Avenue to the Skyway.  None of these proposed extensions were built.

Check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

Sources:

  1. Times, Oct 26, 1929, “Days of Auld Lang Syne” Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, vol 2
  2. Richmond Ave may extend to downtown Courier Express July 10 1935, p 13
  3. Named after Jewett Richmond “Richmond Avenue Perpetuates Memory of Cleveland Sponsor” Courier Express Oct 16, 1938 sec 5 p 3
  4. “Name Change Asked:  Richmond Would become Parkway” Courier Express December 2, 1938.  Found in Buffalo Streets Scrapbook, Vol 2 p 134

 

 

 

 

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