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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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scatcherdScatcherd Place is a short road off of Peabody Street.  The street has never been more than just a short road leading to a driveway. Historically, this road led into Scatcherd and Son lumberyard, which later became Atlantic Lumber Company and is now owned by Battaglia Demolition.  While the street might not be on many people’s radars, it is legal city-owned right-of-way, and was named after a prominent father-son team who may have been forgotten.

James Newton Scatcherd was born in Wyton, Ontario in 1824.  He grew up on his father’s farm in London, Ontario.  James’ father, John, was a prominent Canadian citizen and a member of the Canadian Parliament for many years.  James’ brothers Thomas and Robert both also served as members of the Canadian House of Commons.

Scatcherd and Son Lumber Yard, 1900.  (Scatcherd Place is the lot between 136 and 142 Peabody Street)

Scatcherd and Son Lumber Yard, 1900. (Scatcherd Place is the lot between 136 and 142 Peabody Street)

James Scatcherd was taught about lumbering from an early age, as it was an important industry in his neighborhood.  Mr. Scatcherd moved to Buffalo in 1852 as an agent of Famer, de Blaquiere & Deeds, lumber manufacturers, dealers and shippers.  James took over the lumber firm in 1857 and became one of the principal lumber dealers in the United States.  In 1879, James’ son, John Scatcherd, joined the firm and the firm was renamed Scatcherd & Son.  The firm’s specialty was expensive hard woods.

James Scatcherd made two important contributions to the welfare of Buffalonians:  First, when he became chairman of the Buffalo Water Commission, he found the water supply was controlled by favoritism and political influence.  Politicians and friends obtained water for a small fee, while other consumers were charged more.  He served for 4 years as chairman of the Water Commission and established equal rates for all consumers, and established efficient management of the water system.  Secondly, Mr. Scatcherd served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo General Hospital.  At the time, the institution was burdened with large amounts of debt, and was cutting services due to budget constraints.  Within ten years of James’ leadership, the hospital was completely out of debt.

Mr Scatcherd married Annie Belton of Fairfield, Canada.  Mr. Scatcherd was a founder and trustee of the Delaware Avenue M.E. Church (built by Selkirk, now known as Babeville).    James and Annie had one son, John, and a daughter, Mrs. Seward Cary.  James died in 1885 and is buried in Forest Lawn.

John Scatcherd

John Scatcherd

John Scatcherd was also a prominent member of Buffalo society.  He was a leader in the lumber industry and served as president of The National Wholesale Lumber Association and the Buffalo Lumber Exchange.  John had a part in business interests including the Batavia and New York Wood Working Company, the Bank of Buffalo, and the Ellicott Square Corporation, all of which he was President.  He was a director in the Buffalo Railway Company (which became the I.R.C), the Market Bank, the Third National Bank, and the Buffalo Loan, Trust and Safety Deposit Company.

Teddy Roosevelt (on left) in Buffalo in 1901

Teddy Roosevelt (on left) in Buffalo in 1901

From 1900-1901, Mr. Scatcherd spent most of his time working as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pan-American exposition.  When President McKinley was shot at the Exposition, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was summoned to Buffalo.  Due to President McKinley’s seemingly improving health, Mr. Roosevelt left Buffalo.  When the President died, the scramble to get Mr. Roosevelt to Buffalo for the Oath of Office left him without a suitable hat.  John Scatcherd loaned Theodore his hat and Mr. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 26th President. (You can learn more about Roosevelt’s inauguration by visiting the TR Inaugural Site on Delaware Avenue)

John Scatcherd married Mary Eunice Wood in 1879.  They had two children, a daughter Madeline Steele Scatcherd and a son, James Newton Scatcherd.  John Scatcherd died in 1917 and is buried near his father in Forest Lawn.

Scatcherd Grave

Scatcherd Grave

Be sure to check out the Street Index to learn about other streets.

Sources:

  1. Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York.  The Genealogical Publishing Company:  New York-Buffalo, 1906.
  2. “Scatcherd Street Honors Memory of Civic Leaders, Father and Son”.  Courier Express, April 9, 1939, sec. 5, p.10.

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titusgoodyearkoonsTitus Avenue is a street running between Broadway and Walden in the Emerson Neighborhood of the East Side of Buffalo. The street was named for Judge Robert Titus.  Judge Titus went into a partnership with Charles Goodyear, Frank Goodyear, Edward Koons and Henry Koons to subdivide and develop the land on these streets.  You can read about the Goodyear brothers by clicking here.

Robert Cyrus Titus was born in Eden, New York  in October 1839.  His parents came from Otsego County, New York to the “far west”, as the Holland Purchasewas called in 1817.  At the time, there were no roads through the countryside surrounding the small Village of Buffalo.  Guideposts along the way were blazed trees along the lines most frequently traveled by the occasional settler.  By 1831, they had plowed fields and built a house with a large fireplace and dutch oven.  In this house, Robert Titus grew up, the youngest of six siblings.

judgetitusRobert Titus was educated in a one-room school-house and then attended Oberlin College.  He taught school during the winter term to help finance his own education.  He studied law and set up a practice with Horace Boies in Hamburg, New York.  He opened a practice in Hamburg, New York.  In 1863, Mr. Titus organized a company, which became part of the 98th Regiment of the National Guard of New York State.  The regiment was in service from August 10, 1864 to December 22, 1864.  After he returned home, he was admitted to the bar.  Shortly thereafter  he was appointed Special Deputy Clerk of Erie County and held the office until 1864.  In 1867, he was a candidate for the New York State Assembly, but was defeated.  His first public office was Supervisor of Hamburg from 1868-1871.

In 1873, Mr. Titus moved to Buffalo with his wife Arvilla  to enter into a partnership with Joel Walker.  In 1878, he was elected district attorney.  In 1879, Mr. Titus was made a partner in the firm of Osgoodby, Titus & Moot and practiced with them until 1883, when he formed a partnership with B.S. Farrington.   In 1881   he went to Albany as a State Senator.  During his term in Albany, there was a great opposition to the Erie Canal, however Robert was a strong supporter to keeping the canal open.

In 1885, Mr. Titus was elected Judge of the Superior Court of Buffalo.   He was made Chief Judge in 1891.  When the Court was abolished in 1895, the judges were transferred to the New York Supreme Court.

An Artist's Depiction of President McKinley's Assassination.

An Artist’s Depiction of President McKinley’s Assassination.

Robert Titus was considered to be one of the state’s leading trial lawyers before he ascended to the bench. He was chosen by the state Bar Association to defend  President William McKinley’s assassin in 1901.  The trial of Czolgosz was notorious for how quickly it was completed.  President McKinley died on Saturday, September 14th, Czolgosz was indicted on Monday September 16th.    The jury for the trial was selected in two hours and twelve minutes.  The trial began on September 23rd, as soon as the final juror was named.  By the following afternoon, it was over.  Judge Titus had been in Milwaukee attending a masonic convention when he heard he was assigned to the case.

While the judges were highly respected, neither he nor his partner on the case, Judge Loran Lewis, had worked as a trial lawyer in years.  Judge Titus and Judge Lewis had not wanted to represent the assassin; however, they took the side of justice to ensure that he was given a fair trial.  The public outrage over the murder of the President was demanding a speedy trial and at the time, there was fear that it might not be a fair one.  It was a credit to the both of theirs honor that they ensured that Czolgosz was dignified with a fair trial and not disposed of by “lynch or mob law”.  Czolgosz assisted with the trial’s speed by refusing to cooperating with his legal counsel.  Czolgosz tried to enter a plea of guilty; however, due to the magnitude of the trail, he was not allowed. The jury took only 30 minutes to determine that Czolgosz was guilty and he was sentenced to death on September 26th.   One month later, Czolgosz was electrocuted in Auburn Prison.

Judge Titus' House on Columbus Parkway

Judge Titus lived on Seventh Street.  The portion of 7th Seventh Street on which he lived later became Columbus Parkway.  Mr. Titus died on April 28, 1918 at the age of 79.  He was survived by his son, Lieutenant Allan S. Titus, and daughter, Amy Titus Worthington.  Judge Titus is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery in Hamburg, New York.

Don’t forget to check out the Street Index to find out about other streets!

Sources:

  1. Contemporary American Biography:  Biographical Sketches of Representative Men of the Day.  Volume 1, Part 2.  Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Co:  New York, 1895.
  2. Lord, Walter.  The Good Years:  From 1900 to the First World War.  Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007.
  3. Our County and its people:  A descriptive work on Erie County, New York.  Edited by: Truman C. White.  The Boston History Company, 1898
  4. Miller, Scott.  The President and the Assassin.  Random House Publishing Group:  New York, 2011.
  5. “Assassin Czolgosz Refuses to Plead:  His Lawyer Enters a Provisional Plea of Not Guilty”.  New York Times, September 18, 1901.
  6. Obituary of the Honorable Robert C. Titus.  Buffalo Morning Express, Sunday April 28, 1918.

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Curtiss Street
Present Day Alignment

Curtiss Street is runs along the railroad tracks near the Central Terminal.  The street follows the curves of the railroad, which has been there since at least the 1880s.  The streets in the vicinity of the Terminal have changed a bit in the last 100 years.  More information about other streets will be coming in other blog posts.  Since the construction of the Central Terminal, Curtiss Street has run underneath the Terminal at the curve.  (click photos to enlarge for easier reading)

Curtiss Street in 1889

Curtiss Street in 1925

Curtiss Street in 1950

People often believe the street is named after Glenn Curtiss, known for Curtiss Aeroplane Company.  However, Glenn Curtiss wasn’t born until 1878, and the street was named by at least 1889.  While it would have been very interesting if the street had been named in honor of an 11-year-old who ended up being as remarkable as Glenn Curtiss, this was not the case.   I was unable to find any concrete evidence linking Glenn Curtiss to the other Buffalo Curtiss family.  If anyone has any information of their linkage, please let me know in the comments.  But no, Curtiss Street is NOT named for Curtiss-Wright airplanes.

Curtiss Street is named for Charles Gould Curtiss.  Mr. Curtiss was an officer of the Lancaster and Depew Land Company, which developed Curtiss Street and several other streets in its vicinity.

Mr. Charles Gould Curtiss was born in 1827 and grew up in Utica, New York.  He ran the news stand at the Utica Rail Station while he was a boy, and eventually became a produce salesman.  At the age of 23, he formed a connection with a wholesale grocer, which brought him to New York City.  He made many connections while in New York. For a short time, he became an executive of Breckinridge County Coal Oil Company in Louisville Kentucky.  He worked to substitute coal oil for sperm oil. The discovery of petroleum caused the business to fail, as the coal oil was no longer necessary.

In 1857, Mr. Curtiss came to Buffalo to join Levi Willard in the insurance business.  In 1873, he organized a barley and malt firm that continued to operate for nearly half a century.  Charles and his wife Amelia lived in a large stone house at 63 West Huron Street.  He kept his horses at Efner’s Livery Stable at Franklin and Chippewa, and it is said that he rode his horses through Delaware Park on a daily basis.  At the time, the roads were only paved as far as North Street, so riding to the park was a ride out to the country.

In 1882, Charles was a delegate to the Democratic Convention where his friend Grover Cleveland was nominated for Governor.  After his election, Cleveland appointed Mr. Curtiss to the Board of Trustees of the Buffalo State Hospital for the Insane.  The Curtiss family also kept a farm at Delavan and Main Street where he raised chickens and kept a cow.  He felt that “the country was the best place for growing boys”, so he spent a great deal of time on the farm with his sons Harlow and Alexander.   Although his own schooling was limited, Charles felt an education was important, so he sent both sons to college.

Alexander Curtiss House
(currently the Ronald McDonald House)

Alexander studied medicine at the University of Rochester after coursework at Cornell.  Dr. Curtiss (Alexander) was in charge of the first hospital established in Denver, Colorado.  Following the birth of his first son, Colman, Dr. Curtiss returned to Buffalo and became a surgeon for Buffalo State Hospital.  Colman eventually ran his grandfather Charles’ barley and malt firm.  Colman was president of the company when it went under due to prohibition.  Following the closure of the malt firm, Colman worked in insurance for John Hancock Life Insurance Company.  Colman married Sally Cary, daughter of Trumbull Cary (another prominent Buffalonian).  Alexander and his family lived at 780 West Ferry, the house which is better known today as the Ronald McDonald House.

Ethel Mann Curtiss House
(100 Lincoln Parkway)

Harlow was a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and studied law under Grover Cleveland.  Harlow became a lawyer and became an extensive real estate owner throughout the City.  Harlow and his wife Ethel were prominent in Buffalo during the early 1900s.  Ethel was originally Ethel Mann, the daughter of Matthew Mann, the doctor who operated on President William McKinley after he was shot on the Pan-Am grounds in 1901.  Harlow was influential in the development of the Curtiss Building at the corner of Franklin and Huron.  Ethel was considered a community leader as well, she worked with the Buffalo Council of Campfire Girls and conducted programs to develop leadership skills for women.  Ethel and Harlow lived at 100 Lincoln Parkway.

Curtiss Building
Franklin and Huron Streets

The Curtiss Building at Franklin and Huron Streets was designed by Harlow’s brother-in-law, Paul Mann, and was built in 1912.   The building is also known as the King & Eisele Building due to a jewelry firm which located in it during the 20s and 30s.  It was later known as the Hoelscher Building after the Hoelscher Building Corporation which was located there from the 1940s until the 1990s.  Mark Croce currently owns the building and had plans for a boutique hotel about 5 years ago.  However, the project appears to be at a standstill.

COMING SOON:   I became intrigued by the old maps when I saw the land where the Central Terminal now sits was once a park.  Coming later this week:  What was Polonia Park?

Sources:  “Curtiss Street Memorial to Trade Board Head, Developer” Courier Express Oct 22, 1939 sec. 6. p 10.

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