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russell

Map showing the locations of Russell, Fairfield and Greenfield Streets and Orchard Place.

Russell Street is a street in the Parkside neighborhood of Buffalo.  It runs for four blocks between Parkside Avenue and Greenfield Street.   Greenfield and Fairfield Street, as well as Orchard Place, were also named because of the Russell family.  You can explore the Parkside neighborhood at the Parkside Tour of Homes on Sunday, May 20th.  The tour starts this year at the corner of Russell Street and Parkside Avenue.  The tour runs from 11 am to 4:30 pm and you can get more information and buy tickets by clicking on this link.  All money raised goes to support the Parkside Community Association and all the good work they do in the neighborhood.

Russell Street is named after Washington Adams Russell II and his family.  His name is sometimes misprinted (including by myself on my blog post about Elam Jewett) as Washington Russell III.  A Russell relative currently living in New York City, the Great Grandson of Washington Adams Russell II, corrected me and provided some of the information provided below.  There were three Washington A. Russells.  The first two were Washington Adams, the third one’s middle name was Alfred.

Washington Adams Russell, the first, was born in 1799.  He built the oldest home in the Parkside area around 1841.  Mr. Russell was born in Middletown, Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg).  The Russells were a prominent family in Middletown, and Russell Street there was likely named after Washington Russell’s father, James Russell, who had served in the Revolutionary War.  James named his son after the first two presidents – Washington and Adams (the only two presidents at that time!)  Washington Adams Russell came to Buffalo with his father-in-law, Rudolph Barr (originally Bär or Baer), a Swiss brewer.  Mr. Barr had a brewery near Ferry and Main Street.  The Barr family operated Cold Spring Tavern there from 1826 until about 1849.  Mr. Russell bought 200-acres of land in what is now Parkside and built the first brick home in the Parkside area in 1841, at 2540 Main Street.  The house still stands and is now a church.

Washington Adams Russell had eight children.  His daughter Eliza was born in 1827 and married Barton Atkins, a Great Lakes ship captain.   The son, Washington Adams Russell II, was born in 1828.  Mr. Russell the elder died in August 1876 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Buffalo map 1872 (1)_Page_1

Map depicting land owners. Washington Russell’s land is near the center of the photo.  His father-in-law, Henry Mochel’s land can be seen across Main Street to the northeast of the Russell Farm.    Source: 1872 Hopkins Atlas of Buffalo

Washington Russell II went to California in 1849.  He returned to Buffalo and married Mary Magdalena Mochel in 1867.  Mary Russell’s parents ran a tavern across Main Street, near what became Bennett High School.   Washington II and Mary had four children.  Their first-born son, Washington Alfred Russell (called Fred), was born in 1869. A second son, James, was born in 1877.  Daughters, Nellie and Lilian were born in 1872 and 1880 respectively.  The family lived in the Russell House on Main Street.

Washington Russell II, along with Elam Jewett and Dr. J. White, formed the Parkside Land Improvement Company in 1885.  The men began to develop and sell off the lots.   Russell Street was the cowpath the family’s cows would walk to drink from the spring in the Delaware Park Meadow.  Fairfield and Greenfield were the names of pastures on the Russell farm, near where the streets are today.  Orchard Place was the site of the family’s fruit orchard.   The streets were laid out in 1886 by the Parkside Land Company and dedicated to the city in 1889.  Olmstead had planned for Parkside to be comprised of large lots for quiet villas, the developers opted instead to decrease the size of many of the lots from 300 feet to 100-200 feet, in order to maximize profits by allowing more lots to be sold and more houses to be built.  As such, the neighborhood has Olmsted’s curving streets and building setbacks, but not the large lot sizes.  Russell Street was originally known as Russell Avenue, but at some point was changed to Street.

IMG_0133 (3)

Washington Adams Russell II strolling in front of his house (on the right of the photograph). His son’s more ornate Victorian era home at 2532 Main Street is behind him to the left of the photo. Both houses are still standing today. Photo from Robert Russell’s family collection

Washington Russell II. died in November 1904 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

James Russell, son of Washington of Parkside Land Improvement Company, was grandfather of Robert Russell who provided information for this post.  James was sometimes considered a black sheep of the family, because he married a Catholic girl.  Her father also ran a tavern.  James and his family lived at 39 Fairfield Street, which backed into the property at 2540 Main Street where his father lived.   James’ daughter Jean was born in 1908 and was part of the first graduating class of Bennett High School in 1926.  James’ son was James Washington Russell, and James Washington Russell’s son was Robert Russell.

Nellie and Lillian lived in the old house at 2540 Main Street.  Lillian had married Merritt Cook, but they had no children.  Robert Russell notes that in her old age, Lillian was stooped and had a screechy voice, so she fit “the old lady living in an old house is a witch” trope often perpetuated by neighborhood children.

highland lodge

Historic Image of the Highland Lodge on Main Street

Washington Alfred Russell (known as Fred) attended University of Rochester and University of Buffalo Law School.  He was a lawyer and 33rd degree Mason.  The Highland Lodge #835 is at 2456 Main Street.  The building was built by Green & Wicks Architects in 1905 and was used as the community center for Central Presbyterian Church for some time.  The lodge is still standing today.  Fred lived at 2532 Main Street, adjacent to his parents, his house can be seen in the photograph above.  The house is also still standing today.  Fred died in 1944 and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

 

1928_Olympics_4x100m_relay

Henry Russell at the Olympics.    Source:  U&U 1928

Fred had a son named Henry Argue (called Hank).  Hank was born in 1904 and ran track at Cornell.  In the 1928 Olympics Trials, Hank placed third in the 100 meter at the finals.  in Amsterdam at the 1928 Olympics, Hank was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100 meter, but he anchored the 4 by 100 relay, winning a gold medal and tying a world record.  He later left Buffalo to work for DuPont.  Hank died in 1986 in West Chester, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia).

The Washington name continued thru the Russell family for another generation.  Robert Russell had an uncle, Washington Arthur Russell.  His son was named W Arthur Russell, as his mother couldn’t quite accept the Washington name.

Don’t forget to stop by the Tour of Homes on May 20th and impress all your friends with random facts about the Russell family while on the tour!  Tickets can be purchased here.  Very special thanks to Robert Russell for all of his insight and sharing of his family story.  Got a story to share about your family?  I’d love to hear them!

To learn about other streets – check out the street index here.

 

Sources:

  • Severance, Frank H, editor.  “Mr. Hodge’s Reminiscences”.  Buffalo Historical Society Publications.  Volume Twenty-Six.  Buffalo, New York, 1922.
  • Powell, S. R., Rushing the Growler:  A History of Brewing in Buffalo.  Apogee Design, 1996.
  • History of the Great Lakes.  Volume II.  J.H. Beers & Co, Chicago:  1899.
  • Parkside East Historic District.  National Register Nomination Form.  National Register:  90OR3175.  New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
  • Recollections of Robert Russell.  Spring 2018.
  • Cichon, Steve.  “Parkside After the War of 1812”.  blog.buffalostories.com/parkside-after-the-war-of-1812/
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