1844 – 1872
Henry-Russell Hitchcock Jr.
In 1843 the railroad came to Buffalo. The town at the end of the Erie Canal now became a city of increasing importance as a transportation center and the chief grain depot of America.
The first elevator in the world, the invention of Joseph Dart and Robert Dunbar, was built in Buffalo in the early forties. The Evans elevator, one of the earlier and most famous, was destroyed several months ago. Like other Buffalo buildings of the mid-century it has been immortalized in the paintings of Burchfield.
The new prosperity of Buffalo led to much new and pretentious building, particularly in the mid-fifties before the panic of 1857. A similar condition existed during the boom after the Civil War before the panic of 1873. At this time eastern architects first began to work in Buffalo, although the greater part of the building during these decades was still the work of carpenters and builders. The work of this period is extraordinarily interesting and of considerable variety. Although various individual buildings are perhaps of greater intrinsic architectural worth than in the previous period, the general level of design fell notoriously low. Instead of the homogeneity and anonymity of the early decades, there were now various strats and different types of building barely related to one another. Yet there is a certain consistency which links the great elevators, churches and mansions, and though recognizable as Mid-Victorian is difficult to describe in words.
For instance, the downtown buildings grew larger, heavier and richer with a certain awkward use of detail characteristic of the Victorian age throughout the world. The introduction of new materials lagged here. Although cast-iron was used in the ground story of many buildings and for interior supports, the most important example of large scale cast-iron construction, typical of this period elsewhere, is very late indeed.
The building of houses in continuous rows, so typical of the vast urban expansion in the largest seaboard cities, was little exploited in Buffalo. As in the smaller cities of the northeast, however, many houses of small and even fairly large size were built in pairs. The characteristic type both of the mansion and the cottage, was in most American cities, the isolated one family house. Those houses were often created by builders in groups according to standard scheme, for which the flood of new House Pattern Books – of which Buffalo published two – provided models.
This was an age of stylistic confusion. Greek forms died slowly and the new Gothic style in house design had to vie or to coalesce with the towered Italian Villa and French-roofed type derived at several removes from the splendors of Second Empire Paris.
The most characteristic Buffalo houses of the mid-century, immortalized in the water colors of Burchfield, are of a peculiar Victorian heaviness and clumsiness of form, with rich and turgid detail which defies stylistic analysis. Such houses are not peculiar to Buffalo and their sources may be traced in the architectural books of the fifties and sixties. They rise in striking contrast both to the severe and yet romantic forms of the new elevators and to the more archaeological work of imported eastern architects.
Buffalo, in this period, brought in Richard Upjohn, the great Gothic Revivalist and the leading American architect of the period, to build St. Paul’s Cathedral, a church with much justice, he considered his masterpiece.
In a very different vein, the Blocher monument, although actually much later in date, belongs in spirit to the mid-century. This is even more remarkable for its construction of enormous, beautifully hewn blocks of granite than for its fantastic sculpture.
— by Henry-Russell Hitchcock
1844 – 1872 Architecture
Christ Chapel, Trinity Church
371 Delaware Ave architect: Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson (Remodeled, 1913) years built: 1870 Originally built in 1870, the interior of this chapel is today an excellent example of the work of the best known American firm of Gothic Revivalists. Quiet and restrained in...
Park Grist Mill
Scajaquada Creek years built: Unknown demolished: Unknown (Pre-1940) An early stone mill, but considering its location probably not as early as its picturesque form suggests. It is very possibly outside of the date limits of this period.
William Dorsheimer House
438 Delaware Avenue architect: Henry Hobson Richardson owner: William Dorsheimer George Bennett Company (late 1950s) years built: 1869 demolished: N/A A new epoch opens with the work of the great American architect Richardson in Buffalo. Trained in Paris of the Second...
Washington and Seneca alternate name: Federal Building architect: Ammi B. Young owner: US District Court for the Northern District of New York years built: 1855 demolished: 1965 A refined adaptation of Renaissance palace architecture to the uses of frowing democracy....
House at 76 Tupper Street
76 West Tupper Street years built: C. 1865 demolished: Pre-1940 “With its turgid detail and clumsy broken outline, this is an excellent example of the Buffalo middle-class house of the sixties, immortalized in the paintings of Burchfield.
146 Elmwood alternate name: Antiques Allentown owner: Charles SpeicherAntiques Allentown years built: C. 1870 This is a more elaborate example of small house design in the better part of town. The rope moldings around the windows were particularly popular in Buffalo....
Row of Small Houses
981-989 Elk Street years built: C. 1870 demolished: Pre-1940 The smaller houses of this period have a simplicity and refinement that the larger mansions lack. This homogeneous group is rather unusual in Buffalo where the traditions of the isolated house discouraged...
186 Linwood Avenue
186 Linwood Avenue alternate name: Dr. James Lewis House owner: James Lewis years built: C.1870 Reduced to cottage scale, the mansarded type, when built by local men working from the House Pattern Books, often had real charm and delicacy. Note that the symmetrical...
Bronson C. Rumsey House
330 Delaware Avenue at Tracy Street architect: Rose Brothers owner: Bronson Case RumseyChildren's Aid Society (1943) years built: 1863-1867 demolished: Sometime After 1943 In the forties an eastern architect, Upjohn, had been brought to Buffalo to build a prominent...
Main near Balcom(1686 Main Street) owner: Franklin Alberger years built: C. 1855 The old colonial plan formula, treated with Greek detail in the thirties, often received in the fifties rather corrupt Renaissance embellishments in the way of arched windows, brackets at...
George Cary House
460 Franklin Street architect: George Cary (Addition) owner: George Cary years built: C. 1855 The smaller house retained through the fifties something of the early romantic delicacy with their symmetrical plan and side wing so popular in previous decades. The...
Lewis Stockton House
561 Franklin Street owner: Orrin B. Titus (1854-1862)Col. William C. Young (1862-1873)Charles C. Clarke (1873-1884)Herman H. Grau (1884)Lewis Stockton (1888 , 30 Years)Apartments (1930s)John and Helen Dempsey (1980)(Dempsey and Dempsey) years built: 1851-1853 Among...
Walter Cary House
186 Delaware Avenue owner: Walter Cary years built: C. 1851 demolished: 1966(Fire 1965) In the building boom of the fifties the large mansions, like the commercial buildings, grew more complex and more richly decorated. Whether their inspiration was gothic, as in this...
Huron near Prospect years built: C. 1845 demolished: Pre-1940 As Buffalo grew more urban the European device of building small houses with party walls was occasionally tried as in eastern cities. However, with apparently unlimited space in which to spread, Buffalo...
John C. Lord House
Delaware near Potomac owner: John C. Lord years built: C. 1855 demolished: 1894 By the fifties more romantic tendencies had replaced the Greek Revival. The delicate ‘gingerbread’ on the eaves and the roof crest together with the vertical boarding and narrow battens...
Dr. Charles Carey House
340 Delaware owner: Dr. Charles Cary years built: C. 1845 Greek detail was still used on houses in the forties. Here it is combined with wide eaves of Italian inspiration and windows very differently proportioned from those of the previous decade.
Evans Street architect: Joseph Dart, Robert Dunbar (Engineer) years built: 1864 "The first grain elevator in the world was built in Buffalo in 1842 by Robert Dunbar for Joseph Dart. The Evans Elevator was originally built by Dunbar in 1847 and several times rebuilt...
St Paul’s Cathedral
Shelton Square (Niagara, Main, Church, North Division, South Division, Erie) architect: Richard UpjohnRobert W. Gibson (1890s Repairs) owner: Episcopal Diocese of Western New York years built: 1870 demolished: N/A Upon his completion of Trinity Church in New York,...
North Presbyterian Church
Main Street owner: Presbyterian Diocese of Wester New York (?) years built: 1846 demolished: 1904 The Gothic Revival was still primarily associated with the Episcopalians. This very distinguished church still follows for the most part the forms of the Greek Revival...
Main and South Division architect: Orson Phelps (?) owner: Orson Phelps years built: 1852 demolished: 1860 (fire) The Greek Revival died slowly. This handsome hotel belongs stylistically to the previous decade.
Niagara and Carolina owner: William C. Sherwood, Jas. Carmichael, Carmicahel Flats Apartments" year built: 1853 An unusual late Greek design of one story with square cupola and heavy carving such as one finds in Benjamin’s and Minard Lafever’s architectural books of...
Main and South Division architect: Orson Phelps (?) owner: Erie/Niagara County years built: 1852 demolished: 1860 (Fire) The Greek Revival died slowly. This handsome hotel belongs stylistically to the previous decade.