Buffalo Walking Tour Part I

Buffalo3I visited my aunt and my Kuznicki cousins–Lila, Nate and Matt–for Labor Day Weekend this year, and it was the perfect way to end my first week at my new job. We went shopping for novels at Talking Leaves Books, drank way too much coffee at Caffe Aroma, ordered almost everything on the menu at Santasiero’s Restaurant and had drinks at the former Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane (side note–it’s definitely haunted). On my last full day in the city, we signed up for a group walking tour of Delaware Avenue Midway. Our tour guides happened to be my aunt’s former high school teachers, and they took us around a few of Buffalo’s famous row houses, extensive gardens and turn-of-the-century mansions; here’s a glimpse of our trip.

Historically the most prestigious address in Buffalo, Delaware Avenue is full of historic and architectural treasures. Join us for this tour of historic landmarks on the section of Delaware Avenue from North Street to Tupper Street. Featured prominently in the tour are the Midway row houses, which are the only group of row houses built on Delaware Avenue. Also seen on this tour are historic mansions, churches, social clubs, and commercial buildings, which provide a glimpse into society life of Buffalo’s capitalists and business elite in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

McKinleyPresident William McKinley arrived in Buffalo, New York on September 5, 1901 for the city’s Pan-American Exposition; the next day, after a brief visit to Niagara Falls, the President attended a public reception at the Exposition’s Temple of Music. McKinley was shaking hands with members of the public when, shortly after 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Leon Czolgosz fired two shots at him from a gun concealed in his bandaged right hand. The President was taken by electric ambulance to a small hospital for evaluation: doctors were able to locate and remove one of the bullets, and McKinley was removed to a private home to recover.

Vice President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo on September 14 after receiving word that McKinley’s condition was worsening. At 2:15 in the morning, the President died of an infection from the second bullet lodged in his abdomen. President Roosevelt was sworn in at the Wilcox home on Delaware Avenue; the then-Vice President  said, in a voice that wavered at first, but grew stronger with each succeeding word: “I will take the oath at once in accord with the request of you members of the Cabinet, and in this hour of our deep and terrible bereavement I wish to state that it shall be my aim to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace, the prosperity and the honor of our beloved country.” McKinley biographer Margaret Leech describes this transition best:

The new President was in office. The republic still lived. Yet, for a space, Americans turned from the challenge and the strangeness of the future. Entranced and regretful, they remembered McKinley’s firm, unquestioning faith, his kindly, frock-coated dignity; his accessibility and dedication to the people: the federal simplicity that would not be seen again in Washington…[After McKinley’s death,] old men came to the [White House] on errands of state and politics, but their primacy was disputed by the young men crowding forward. The nation felt another leadership, nervous, aggressive, and strong. Under command of a bold young captain, America set sail on the stormy voyage of the twentieth century.

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Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, 641 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, New York

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The Twentieth Century Club

Twentieth Century Club2Miss Charlotte Mulligan, a music teacher and music editor at the Buffalo Courier Express, founded the Twentieth Century Club in 1894, and it is considered to be one of the oldest and most historic private women’s clubs in the United States. The Twentieth Century Club’s founding reflects the growth of the national women’s club and women’s suffrage movements, and Mulligan wanted the club “not to share in current controversies, but to feed those springs of perception and that sweet reasonableness of the soul upon which the right solution of controversial questions depends.” To that end, the avowed purpose of the club was to advance the interests of education, literature and art and to provide an intellectual outlet for upper- and middle-class women.

The club is located at 595 Delaware Avenue in the city, and the elegant three-story building was designed by the famous Buffalo architect, E. B. Green. According to our tour guides, “The Twentieth Century Club is a bel canto aria to space, light, decorative art, and classical decorum. The Indiana limestone and pressed brick façade is balanced by graceful terra cotta cornices and blue marble Ionic columns on the second story, while the wrought iron side entrance gates are echoed in the intricate grillwork on the third story. The whole effect is pleasing, harmonious, inviting, and perfectly proportioned.” The Twentieth Century Club is complete with a music room, ballroom, church building and dining room.

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Twentieth Century Club, 595 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, New York

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American Legion Troop 1 Post 665

American LegionThe American Legion, chartered in 1919, is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization and is committed to mentoring youth, sponsoring community programs, advocating patriotism and honor and promoting strong national security and continued devotion to servicemembers and veterans. 432 Franklin Street in Buffalo was formerly the home of Troop 1 Post 665, a division of the community-service organization that was committed to providing opportunities for social activity and mutual support among Western New York’s veterans.

The building is now the site of the Hamlin House Restaurant; it’s one of a handful of Italian Villas built in the city of Buffalo, characterized by low pitched hip roofs and decorative elliptical lights at the floor level of the attic story. The house also features Corinthian columns, dentil-ornamented eaves, a three-story tower, a molded stone course and segmented arches; it was undoubtedly one of my favorite stops on our tour.

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The Frank Hamlin House

WaiteThe Frank Hamlin House at 420 Franklin Street was, in my opinion, the most beautiful mansion included in the tour; it was designed by the British-born architect Richard Waite (who also designed the initial plans for the Trinity Episcopal Church on Delaware Avenue and Johnson Park) and was constructed in 1877. The house is a second-empire style with straight mansard roofs, a sawtooth course and trefoil arches. Waite included a cross-motif frieze below the sawtooth course as well as segmented arches and dozens of floor-to-ceiling windows. My favorite features are the wooden double doors and the ivy-covered, two-story bay windows on the side of the house. This particular stop on the tour is located in the Allentown Historic District; it was commissioned by and built for Frank Hamlin, the son of the prominent Buffalo merchant and investor, Cicero Julius Hamlin, and still remains a private residence today.

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Robert B. Adam House

Adam House2The first half of our tour ended at the Robert B. Adam House on 448 Delaware Avenue. Lawrence McIntyre’s 1989 article in the “Area Landmarks” section of The Buffalo Evening News provides the history of this mansion: “This Second Empire Victorian mansion, with its brick esterior and mansard roof, is between Edward and Virginia streets. It was designed by well-known 19th century architect Cyrus K. Porter and built in 1876 as a private home for Robert B. Adam, founder of the Adam, Meldrum & Anderson department stores. [Today, the Robert B. Adam house is owned by the TRM Architect company.]

The mansion was a private residence until about 1920, when it became the Johnson & Wilkins Funeral Home. The building was converted to 6,600 square feet of office space [in 1988] by David W. Rumsey, president of Rumsey Real Estate, Inc..the mansion has nine fireplaces, Victorian wood front doors, arched windows on its first two floors and a central staircase of mahogany.”

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For more information and additional photographs of these historic sites, visit Buffalo Architecture and History. The Buffalo logo featured in this post can be found and purchased as a print from PaperFinchDesign on Etsy.

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