Over Labor Day Weekend this year, I visited my aunt and cousins in Buffalo, New York. On my last full day in the city, we went on a walking tour of Delaware Avenue and the Midway Row Houses: the tour provided a glimpse into society life of Buffalo’s business elite in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and it focused on the architectural elements of each building. I shared the first half of our walking tour–Buffalo Walking Tour Part I–on the blog last week, featuring the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, the Twentieth Century Club, American Legion Troop I Post 665, the Frank Hamlin House and the Robert B. Adam House. This week’s post takes you through Trinity Church, the Mansion on Delaware Avenue, the Midway Row Houses, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Childhood Home and the Seymour H. Knox House; let’s start walking:
Trinity Church is an historic Episcopal church complex located on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, and its design reflects the city’s new developments in the areas of art and architecture in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The oldest part of the church was built in 1869 in the Gothic Revival-style Christ Chapel, featuring castle-like towers, parapets, pointed arches, steeply-pitched roofs and tracery windows. The main church was constructed between 1884 and 1886 in the then-prominent Victorian Gothic style, a mixture of the Gothic Revival style and other ornate, Victorian-era elements.
My favorite aspect of the church, though, is the series of twelve stained-glass windows within the main chapel that feature images from the Gospels. The windows were designed by John La Farge in 1885, a well-known artist and muralist who later became one of the foremost practitioners of decorative opalescent glass windows. The windows La Farge designed for Trinity Church in Buffalo are unique in that they brought about an artistic and technical revolution in the art of stained glass making. Instead of painting on glass, as had been done for centuries, the color in opalescent glass comes from within through the addition of chemicals while still in its molten state. It is then manipulated to alter its thickness and surface. The folds and ripples in the glass along with the layering of multiple pieces, leaded together, give depth to the design.
The Mansion on Delaware Avenue
George M. Allison designed the Mansion on Delaware Avenue between 1869 and 1870 in the Second Empire style. Charles F. Sternberg, a grain elevator operator downtown, purchased the home as a gift for his wife, Mary Blackmar, for $200,000. The Mansion has 18-foot ceilings and 200 windows, including several 12-foot tall bay windows that flood the interior with light. The exterior is brick with hand-carved stone cornices, and the centerpiece of the facade is the elegant entrance porch, elevated several feet above the street. Second Empire features on the Mansion include a mansard roof with pedimented dormers, a scroll-sawn spandrel, three-sided bay windows, paired entry doors and windows flanked by pilasters. The Mansion on Delaware Avenue was undoubtedly my favorite stop of the second half of our tour.
Midway Row Houses
Next up were the Midway Row Houses on Delaware Avenue, so-called because they were, supposedly, “mid-way” between Niagara Square and Forest Lawn Cemetery (spoiler alert: they’re not). While row houses are common in most East Coast cities, Buffalo only has one city block of them. Buffalo’s ample land was widely available and relatively inexpensive during the turn-of-the-century, and wealthy businessmen in the city tended to build prominent mansions on large tracts of land instead of tightly-packed row houses with small gardens out front.
As decades passed, and urban land became scarcer and costlier in the booming city, a plan emerged to build a row of grand townhouses that would be appealing to those wealthy people who cared less about maintaining huge gardens. The vacant Cornell Lead Works factory was demolished in the late 1880s, and architects were brought in to design individual row houses. Each row house on Midway is unique, and while many still remain residential homes, one has been turned into a bakery and restaurant, and another is actually the headquarters for the city’s chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Seymour H. Knox House
We ended our tour with a stroll through the rain past the Seymour H. Knox House and Gardens. Reminiscent of a French estate in the countryside, don’t you think? That’s where I’ll leave you; thanks for following along with my tour.
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.