Parkside East Historic District
The Parkside East Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Parkside East Historic District in Buffalo, New York is located approximately four miles north of Buffalo's central business district at the east and northeast sides of Delaware Park. The district is characterized by an irregular street pattern, which generally follows the contours of the adjacent park's edge, and by a large number of single family residences built for middle and upper-middle class families during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Parkside East Historic District covers a relatively flat, crescent-shaped area of approximately 226 acres. There are 1768 contributing buildings included in the district; 1109 represent principal buildings and 659 are outbuildings, usually garages. Three of the contributing buildings were listed on the National Register in 1975 as part of the Darwin Martin House Complex: 123 Jewett Parkway, 285 Woodward Avenue and 118 Summit Avenue. The district also includes nine contributing structures, representing historic streets and street segments significant for their association with Frederick Law Olmsted's 1876 and c.1886 plans for the development of "Parkside." These features comprise: Agassiz Circle, Amherst Street, Crescent Avenue, Greenfield Street, Humboldt Parkway, Jewett Parkway, Parkside Avenue, Summit Avenue, and Woodward Avenue. There are 22 non-contributing principal buildings in the historic district. Most of these are infill housing units or post-1926 apartment buildings; however, several represent severely altered buildings constructed within the district's 1876-1936 period of significance. Although there are a number of cast-iron light standards which appear to date from the district's period of significance, these objects have not yet been inventoried or documented and cannot at this time be counted as contributing features. In summary, the Parkside East Historic District includes a total of 1777 previously unlisted contributing features and 22 non-contributing features.
The boundaries of the historic district encompass virtually all of Frederick Law Olmsted's planned Parkside subdivision east of Colvin Avenue, where institutional development separates the Parkside East Historic District from the remainder of the Parkside plan further west (refer to Parkside West Historic District). In establishing the boundaries, every effort was made to include precisely that area represented in Olmsted's historic plans, as a means of ensuring the inclusion of all of Olmsted's contiguous design features within the planned subdivision, while recognizing those features which dictated its original and extant form and shape. The only exception to this objective occurs at the southern end of the district, where a modern four-lane expressway destroys the continuity of the neighborhood, thus forming a non-historic boundary.
The curved north and northeast boundary is formed by a railroad right-of-way which preceded development in the district and confined Olmsted's curvilinear street pattern to its present extent. Although the architectural character of areas north of the railroad reflects some of the patterns observed in the historic district, the streets conform to the historically unrelated grid pattern characteristic of most residential areas in Buffalo. The southeast boundary of the district follows the northwest side of Main Street, an early and important commercial thoroughfare connecting downtown Buffalo with Williamsville and Amherst. The northwest side of the street within the district, is characterized by detached houses, small-scale neighborhood commercial development and a major church complex, all dating from the district's period of significance. The southeast side of Main Street is characterized by large-scale industrial, commercial and institutional development including the Trico Number Two plant, several automobile showrooms and lots and a major hospital complex. The southwest boundary of the district follows a retaining wall which separates Humbolt Parkway and an intact portion of Agassiz Circle from a depressed segment of the four-lane Scajaquada Expressway. Although the pattern of development and architectural character of houses evident along the southwest side of the expressway is consistent with that of the Parkside East Historic District, the expressway, built c.1950, forms a monumental barrier, separating these houses from the historic district and breaking the physical continuity of the neighborhood at this point. The west boundary of the historic district is formed by Parkside Avenue along the eastern edge of Olmsted's Delaware Park, listed on the National Register in 1982 as a component of the Olmsted Parks and Parkways Thematic Resources nomination. With the exception of the Buffalo Zoo and a public golf course, the eastern edge of the park is characterized by an informal arrangement of trees and open green space. Amherst Street separates the historic district at its northwest corner, separating the historic residential subdivision east of the street from two institutional campuses immediately to the west.
The street pattern within the Parkside East Historic District is irregular and somewhat curvilinear, consisting of long streets paralleling the contours of Delaware Park and short connecting streets providing access to the park and the neighborhood from external thoroughfares such as Main Street. A number of these streets were provided for in one or both of Olmsted's major plans for the district, and those which cannot be directly attributed to his plans are generally sympathetic to his overall concept for the area. Lots within Parkside East Historic District are relatively small and narrow and provide for only minimal side lot setbacks and small front lawns except along Jewett Parkway and Tillinghast Place, where more ample lot sizes and setbacks prevail. Streets within the district are edged in most places with Medina sandstone curbs, and lined on both sides with four to five-foot-wide grass parking strips and four-foot-wide concrete sidewalks. Cast-iron street lights, which appear to date from the early twentieth century, line both sides of the district's streets and are situated at 150 to 300 foot intervals. Landscaping within the district generally consists of grass lawns and mature oak and maple trees. Originally, many of the streets within the district were lined with large elm trees. Unfortunately, Dutch elm disease wiped out virtually all of these trees during the past thirty years and only a few scattered examples remain.
The land use and architecture of the Parkside East Historic District is overwhelmingly residential and, with the exception of modern infill, ranges in date of construction from about 1888 to 1936. More than half of the district's buildings, however, date from 1900 to 1920, paralleling a period of phenomenal growth in the geographic size and population of the city of Buffalo. Most of the buildings within the district are detached single family dwellings, although a number of duplexes, flats, and apartment buildings are also present. Virtually all of the residential buildings within the district are of wood frame construction with clapboard or shingle exteriors; however, in some instances, these houses feature brick, stucco, or limestone veneers. The majority of the houses within the district are two stories in height and feature variations on elongated urban houses with narrow, gabled facades, or American Foursquare plans. There is also a significant but smaller number of single-story and one and one-half story houses within the district. Roughly half of the contributing houses within the district are accompanied by detached garages at the rear, usually designed and built to complement their respective houses.
The Parkside East Historic District includes large numbers of standardized and modestly scaled houses and commercial buildings important to the history and architecture of the historic district, as well as a smaller number of stylish and highly distinctive houses and churches which express many of the major architectural themes and historic styles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the latter are the prominent Romanesque Revival Church of the Good Shepard at 96 Jewett Parkway, designed by James Marling and Herbert Burdett, a former assistant in Henry Hobson Richardson's office; an excellent Shingle style residence built in 1890 at 94 Jewett Parkway, also designed by Marling and Burdett; a major example of Arts and Crafts design by prominent Buffalo architect William Sydney Wicks at 124 Jewett Parkway (c.1894); and four Prairie style houses by the internationally renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, including the 1904 Darwin Martin House at 125 Jewett Parkway (National Register listed, 1975), the 1904 Barton House at 118 Summit (National Register listed, 1975), the 1909 Gardener's Cottage at 285 Woodward Avenue, (National Register listed, 1975), and the 1908 Davidson House at 57 Tillinghast Place.
By contrast, the majority of the Parkside East Historic District's stock of historic buildings is modest in scale and level of sophistication and often represents standardized house plans repeated frequently with slight variations in detailing. Queen Anne style houses with asymmetrical forms and turreted rooflines occur at scattered locations in the southern half of the district and represent construction dates ranging from 1888 to 1900, as illustrated by 70 Robie Street, built c.1894 and 145 Crescent Avenue, built c.1896. The closely allied Shingle style is also represented by several distinctive but modest examples in the lower half of the district including 11 Robie Street, built c.1900, 90 Robie Street, built in 1895, and 343 Crescent Avenue, built in 1893. A distinctive house type built between 1895 and 1915 and characterized by its deep rectangular plan, tall proportions and steeply pitched gable facade is represented by several hundred examples in the district. Early examples of this urban house type reflect Queen Anne style details, but overall, the house type does not fit neatly into a recognized historic architectural style. An early example of this highly popular house form, built in 1895, occurs at 363 Crescent Avenue and features a two-bay side-entrance facade with swag-detailed friezes and a shingled gable with paired attic windows. Number 206 Woodward, built in 1908, features three-sided window bays at the facade but is otherwise relatively simple in exterior ornamentation.
Another house type which proliferated in the historic district between 1900 and 1925 is the American Foursquare, characterized by its square floor plan, boxy massing and hipped roof. Several hundred examples of this building type are present in the district, many featuring variations in exterior treatment and fenestration. Number 741 Crescent Avenue, built in 1912, and 144 Woodward Avenue, built c.1908, are representative examples. Large concentrations of Four Square houses are present at the upper end of Parkside Avenue, Woodward Avenue, Summit Avenue, and Crescent Avenue, particularly between Jewett Parkway and Amherst Street.
Other modest house types frequently observed in the historic district include single story and one-and-one-half story early twentieth century Bungalows with Craftsman style detailing, as represented by 529 Crescent Avenue (1915) and 631 Crescent Avenue (1916), and modified Colonial Revival style houses with formal, symmetrical facades similar to 216 Crescent (1912), or sham gambrel roofs as at 659 Crescent Avenue (1922). English cottages and Tudor Revival houses are less common but do occasionally appear in the other half of the historic district in the 1920's. In addition to the four major Prairie style houses by Frank Lloyd Wright, the district includes several other good examples of the style for which the architect, if any, remains unknown: 29 Tillinghast Place (1908), 198 Woodward Avenue (c.1911), and 273 Crescent Avenue (1909).
The Parkside East Historic District also includes a small number of significant apartment buildings, neighborhood stores and churches. The apartment buildings were generally built in the 1920's and are often detailed with Colonial Revival entrances and cornices as illustrated by the 1925 Crescent Apartments at 194-196 Crescent Avenue or Spanish motifs including red tile roofs and round-arched windows as seen in a 1929 apartment court at 338-340 Crescent Avenue. Commercial buildings in the historic district feature similar eclectic styling with examples present in the vicinity of Russell Avenue and Parkside and on Main Street near the intersections of West Oakwood Place and Greenfield Street. Major historic church complexes with English Gothic buildings are present at 2434 Main Street (Central Presbyterian Church, 1910-1921) and at 399-415 Woodward Avenue (St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church, rectory and school, 1914-1922).
The Parkside East Historic District includes all or part of eighteen streets. Because of their differing courses, orientation, dates of development and density, the component streetscapes are treated individually in the discussion below:
Agassiz Circle. Only the eastern quadrant of Agassiz Circle survives within the Parkside East Historic District, much of the historic circle having been destroyed c.1950 by the construction of a four-lane expressway through its center. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted as part of his 1876 scheme for Buffalo's parks and parkways, the circle was located at the terminus of the Humboldt Parkway and connected the parkway with major park drives and residential streets. The once fashionable circle was subdivided in the early twentieth century, and two large houses, built in 1906 and 1910, remain within the intact portion of the circle in the historic district. Number 23 Agassiz Place, the earlier of the two, is a two and one-half story Colonial Revival style brick house featuring Palladian windows and limestone rim. Its neighbor at 1 Agassiz Place is a large American Four-square house with brick and stucco walls and a hipped roof. A small quadrant-shaped public lawn remains near the interior of the circle adjacent to the Scajaquada Expressway.
Amherst Street. Amherst Street is a long east-west thoroughfare which skirts the northern edge of Delaware Park and includes five blocks of the Parkside East Historic District. The 1876 Olmsted Plan incorporated Amherst Street within the Parkside Subdivision, but curve it between Nottingham Terrace and Parkside Avenue to accommodate the curving northern edge of the parks. Amherst Street was subdivided and built-up primarily during the second and third decades of the twentieth century with closely spaced American Foursquare and Colonial Revival style houses consistent in scale and overall massing. A former rail passenger station, built c.1900, with limestone walls and a red tile roof, is located at the east end of the street adjacent to the Belt Line. There are two non-contributing buildings on the street including a 1958 gas station at 1600 and a c.1960 two-story brick apartment house at 1354.
Colvin Avenue. A short, two-block segment of Colvin Avenue borders the Parkside East Historic District at the district's northwest corner. Olmsted accommodated this pre-existing road in his 1876 plan for Parkside; however, it was not developed until the second and third decades of the twentieth century. The east side of the road within the historic district includes a mix of Colonial Revival houses and duplexes, together with several modified American Foursquare houses, two Craftsman style houses with shingle exteriors and limestone front porches and one Prairie style house built in 1912 with a stucco exterior and a flat roof. The Nichols School campus, with its early twentieth century academic buildings, a large, modern gymnasium building, and open playing fields and parking lots is located outside of the district at the west side of the street. Number 91 Colvin, a heavily altered two-story frame building, is the only non-contributing building on the street.
Crescent Street. Although modified at the time of its dedication to the city between 1887 and 1892, Crescent Avenue conforms in general to Olmsted's 1876 and c.1886 street patterns for the planned Parkside subdivision. The curving road extends north from Humboldt Parkway to Amherst Street before turning west and terminating at Colvin Avenue. Virtually all building types and architectural styles present in the Parkside East Historic District are represented by examples on Crescent Avenue, with early Queen Anne style houses occurring near the southern end, and rows of American Foursquare houses and modified Bungalows most prevalent north of Jewett Parkway. Houses on the street are characterized by a high level of architectural integrity; of the approximately 300 houses located on the street, only two are classified as non-contributing: 722, a heavily altered c.1920 Bungalow, and 229, a c.1960 two-story brick residence.
Elam Place. Named for Elam R. Jewett, an early landholder in Parkside East, Elam Place is a short, one-block connector street linking Greenfield Street with Crescent Avenue. The street was deeded to the city in 1889 and includes a row of gabled two-story frame houses with modest Queen Anne style details built in 1903 at the south side, and a group of American Foursquare houses at the north side built between 1900 and 1923. A small stucco church built c.1905 and decorated with Colonial Revival details is located at number 34 at the southeast corner of Elam and Crescent. There are no non-contributing buildings on this street, which is characterized by the consistency and integrity of its architecture.
Florence Avenue. Florence Avenue is a relatively short, straight connecting road extending southeast from Parkside Avenue three blocks to Main Street. The street does not appear in any of Olmsted's plans for Parkside, but was deeded to the city in 1887, early in the development of the subdivision. Architecturally, the street is composed almost exclusively of gabled houses with narrow facades and American Four Squares built between 1900 and 1916. There are no non-contributing buildings on this street.
Greenfield Street. Greenfield Street is a curving north-south street at the eastern edge of the Parkside East Historic District which follows the curvature of the adjacent Belt Line Railroad. The street appears in Olmsted's 1876 and c.1886 schemes for the Parkside subdivision and was laid out in 1886 by the Parkside Land Company and dedicated to the city in 1889. The lower end of the street, near its intersection with Main Street, includes a row of early twentieth century frame commercial buildings; whereas, the remainder of the street, north of Elam Place, is exclusively residential. Lots on Greenfield Street are very narrow with the result that there is a large percentage of narrow houses with elongated floor plans and gabled facades on the street, typically built between 1895 and 1910. Variations on the American Foursquare house are also common and range in age from 1906 to 1924. Because side lot lines along Greenfield are not perpendicular to the street but follow a consistent east-west course, houses are sited at a slight angle to the street, resulting in an unusual saw-toothed streetscape, as house facades recede or advance in relationship to neighboring houses. There are no non-contributing buildings on Greenfield Street.
Humboldt Parkway. Humboldt Parkway at the south side of the Parkside East Historic District was planned by Frederick Law Olmsted in his 1876 Parkway system as a broad tree-lined boulevard, connecting Delaware Park with other parks to the south and east. The center of the parkway was destroyed c.1950 by the construction of the Scajaquada Expressway; however, three blocks of houses at the north side of Humboldt remain and are included in the district. With the exception of a large elongated Colonial Revival house at 106, built c.1909, all of the houses represent variations on the American Four Square house type, ranging from an unusual example at 82 (c.1900), which features an octagonal corner turret and an overhanging Shingle style gable, to 76 (1907), which features a Colonial Revival brick facade with limestone quoins and flat-arched window lintels. Houses on Humboldt are larger and more expensively built than some of their counterparts elsewhere in the district and recall the desirability of a parkway address prior to the intrusion of the expressway. No non-contributing buildings are present on this street.
Jewett Parkway. Located near the center of the Parkside East Historic District and following a gently curving east-west course between Main Street and the former eastern gate to Delaware Park on Parkside Avenue, Jewett Parkway is related to Olmsted's earliest schemes for the Parkside subdivision. The road was built by Elam Jewett through his property in 1875 and deeded to the city in 1884. Lots along the Parkway are somewhat larger than elsewhere in the district, and many of the district's finest examples of historic architecture are located along this road near the intersection with Summit Avenue. These include Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House (1904) at 125 (National Register listed 1975), William Sydney Wick's Arts and Crafts style house (c.1894) at 124, the Romanesque Revival style Church of the Good Shepard (1888) at 96 and the large and impressive Shingle style houses from the 1890's at 94 and 101. More modest bungalows, American Four Squares and several Colonial Revival style houses appear at the east and west ends of the street. Non-contributing buildings include a 1955 church building at 70 Jewett and modern houses at 105 and 183.
Main Street. Main Street is an early Buffalo arterial which pre-dated Olmsted's involvement with Parkside and forms a part of the eastern boundary of the Parkside East Historic District. The northwest side of the street within the district contains several blocks of detached early twentieth century houses, some of which have been converted to professional offices, two clusters of neighborhood stores near the intersections with West Oakwood and Greenfield Streets, a large non-contributing public school built in 1964 between West Oakwood and Jewett, and the significant early twentieth century, English Gothic style Central Presbyterian Church complex at 2434 Main Street. Other significant buildings include a highly intact American Four Square house at 2152, built in 1914 with a half-round front verandah and projecting rafter ends, an unusual brick Romanesque Revival style house at 2178, built c.1892, a two-story brick store building with a rounded corner and original fenestration at 2302-2304 built in 1918, and a limestone Masonic Temple designed by William Sidney Wicks in 1907 at 2456 Main Street.
Parkside Avenue. Parkside Avenue was built by the city of Buffalo in 1888 and conforms to Olmsted's 1876 and c.1886 street layouts for the Parkside subdivision. The road follows the curved eastern edge of Delaware Park from Agassiz Circle north six blocks to Amherst Street, forming a portion of the western boundary of the historic district. Above Amherst, the street continues two blocks north to a railroad underpass at the northeastern edge of the historic district. The predominant building type on Parkside is the American Foursquare, cast in numerous subtypes and variations, but almost always featuring cubic massing and hipped roofs. Several excellent Craftsman style houses are found in sporadic locations, often featuring native limestone walls and porch piers. Representative Bungalows are common at the north end of the street, and a cluster of small neighborhood stores occurs near the intersection of Russell Avenue across from the main entrance to the zoo. Two non-contributing properties are located on Parkside Avenue: a modern one-story convenience store at 281 Parkside and a four-story brick apartment complex built c.1950 at 199-245 Parkside.
Robie Street. Robie Street is a short, straight three-block street at the southern end of the historic district connecting Parkside Avenue with Main Street. The street was deeded to the city in 1887 and includes several Queen Anne style and Shingle style houses from the 1890's, a two-story Bungalow and a brick, half-timber and stucco English cottage from the second decade of the twentieth century, as well as numerous examples of the American Four Square house type built between 1900 and 1915. Overall, the streetscape is characterized by a consistency of scale and a lack of modern intrusions.
Russell Avenue. Named for one of the large landholders involved in the subdivision of Parkside and deeded to the city in 1889, Russell Avenue is four blocks in length, extending east from Parkside Avenue to Greenfield Street near the center of the historic district. Houses on Russell Avenue range in date and type from a large, 1891 Queen Anne style house with elaborately detailed shingled surfaces at 51 Russell, to intact rows of American Four Squares built in the early twentieth century. There is also a large number of long narrow two-story houses with gabled facades built between 1895 and 1910. A distinctive two-story Tudor-styled store and apartment building built in 1915 anchors the western end of the street at 2-4 Russell Avenue, with principal facades on both Russell and Parkside Avenue.
Summit Avenue. Summit Avenue is a gently curving north-south residential street extending four blocks through the center of the Parkside East Historic District between Crescent Avenue and West Oakwood Place. The street appears in Olmsted's c.1886 plan for the Parkside subdivision and was deeded to the city in 1889 and 1892. The street features numerous examples of the American Four Square house type, together with scattered examples of Bungalows, Queen Anne style houses and Colonial Revival houses. There is a strong concentration of Craftsman style houses near the center of the street in the vicinity of Jewett Parkway, including a 1910 house with rustic stone piers and chimneys at 176 Summit, a large half-timber and stucco detailed house built in 1904 at 46 Summit and a Craftsman-detailed American Foursquare with a bellcast hipped roof and battered porch piers at 162 Summit, built in 1909. The Prairie style is represented by Frank Lloyd Wright's 1904 Barton House at 118 Summit (National Register listed in 1975 as part of the Darwin Martin House two-story cottage at 113 Summit, believed to have been built for the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901 and subsequently moved to its small Summit Avenue lot in 1902. No non-contributing buildings are present on the street.
Tillinghast Place. Tillinghast Place is a long, gently curving one-block street connecting Colvin Avenue with Parkside Avenue in the northwest corner of the historic district. Named for one of the large landholders involved in Parkside's subdivision, no development occurred on Tillinghast until after 1900. Lot sizes are relatively large on this street, and it is known that restrictive covenants specified minimum building costs. These factors resulted in the construction of relatively larger and more expensively built houses than was common on most streets in the district. Many are designed in the Colonial Revival style, including two-story center-entrance examples at 9 Tillinghast, built in 1924, and 115 Tillinghast, built in 1921. Two outstanding Prairie style houses are located on the street: a modest shingle-sided two-story house with a low hipped roof at 24 Tillinghast, built in 1908, and characterized by its cross-shaped floor plan, stucco walls and diamond-patterned ribbon windows. Tillinghast Place also features representative examples of Bungalows, American Four Square houses and English cottages. There are no non-contributing buildings on the street.
West Oakwood Place. West Oakwood is a four-block-long east-west street in the lower half of the historic district, connecting Parkside Avenue with Main Street. It was deeded to the city in segments in 1887 and 1888. The streetscape is characterized almost exclusively by rows of closely spaced American Four Square houses and rectangular houses with narrow gabled facades, built between 1895 and 1915. Several of the houses with gabled facades, including 74 and 78 (c.1910), feature distinctive limestone front porches, walls and piers and Palladian attic windows. There are no non-contributing buildings on this street.
Willow Lawn. Named after the former estate of Elam Jewett at this location, Willow Lawn is a short straight street connecting Crescent Avenue to Main Street, one block south of Jewett Parkway. The street includes a number of American Four Square houses, one Colonial Revival style house and a Craftsman style house, all built between 1905, when the street was deeded to the city, and 1920. The streetscape contains no intrusions.
Woodward Avenue. Woodward Avenue is a long, gently curving north-south street which parallels Parkside Avenue one block to the east between Humboldt Parkway and Crescent Avenue. A major four-block section of the street between Russell Avenue and Robie Street was planned for in Frederick Law Olmsted's c.1886 Parkside subdivision scheme, and the remaining segments of the street are sympathetic to Olmsted's concept for the area. Woodward was deeded to the city in segments between 1887 and 1892 and contains a number of Queen Anne style houses built during the 1890's typical of most streets in Parkside East. Woodward also includes large numbers of American Foursquare houses and two-story houses with narrow gabled facades dating from 1900 to 1915. The Prairie style is represented by an unusual c.1911 house at 198 Woodward and Frank Lloyd Wright's 1904 stucco-covered Gardener's Cottage at 285 Woodward (National Register listed in 1975 as part of the Darwin Martin House complex). The streetscape also includes St. Mark's Church complex, a major early twentieth century religious group containing an English Gothic limestone church with a bell tower built in 1914, a two-story limestone rectory with crenelated window bays built in 1922, and a limestone school with flanking towers and a projecting gabled pavilion built in 1919. A modern 1954 gymnasium is a non-contributing element of the property. There are no other intrusions in the Woodward Avenue streetscape.
The Parkside East Historic District is architecturally and historically significant for its association with Frederick Law Olmsted's 1876 Parks and Parkways Plan for the city of Buffalo, for its outstanding intact collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century middle-class residential architecture and streetscapes, and for the relationship of its development to an important era of economic expansion and population growth in Buffalo during its 1876-1936 period of significance. The historic district represents one of the earliest examples of Olmsted's pioneering work in the area of suburban residential planning, preceded only by his 1869 plan for Riverside Illinois, a planned suburb of Chicago. In Parkside, as in Riverside, Olmsted strove to provide an ideal residential environment, partaking of the aesthetic amenities of adjacent public parkland, while at the same time buffering the park's perimeter from incompatible development. Olmsted's approach to planned development, exemplified by Parkside, offered a park-like alternative to the monotonous extension of the grid-like development characteristic of most nineteenth-century urban growth. In the context of Buffalo, the significance of the residential subdivision is enhanced by the fact that it was an integral part of a comprehensive master plan for parks and parkways in the city completed by Olmsted in 1876. Significant surviving elements of this plan are included as components of the Olmsted Parks and Parkways Thematic Resources nomination. Although the residential component of the plan was modified in the years following the original 1876 proposal, may of Olmsted's progressive design concepts survive within the historic district, especially the irregular and curvilinear street patterns and their inherent impediments to through and commercial traffic and the concept of a park-like residential community providing a buffer between the passive green space of Delaware Park and intensive urban development beyond. Architecture within the district consists of similarly designed single family houses built during the 1890's and early decades of the twentieth century which illustrate a trend toward increasing standardization and mass production in the housing industry in response to increasing demands for affordable middle-class housing. Other significant buildings in the district represent the work of prominent local architects including, among others, William Sydney Wicks, James Marling and Herbert Burdett, as well as the internationally renowned Frank Lloyd Wright. Streetscapes within the historic district possess a significant degree of visual continuity and historic integrity which set this district apart from surrounding residential and commercial sections of the city of Buffalo.
The land now occupied by the Parkside East Historic District was for many years prior to its development known as the Buffalo Plains. With the exception of Main Street, a major highway built in 1797 linking Buffalo with Williamsville, the area was still rural and largely undeveloped in the 1860's when interest developed in the establishment of parkland in the city in the face of tremendous growth.
In 1868, Mayor William Dorsheimer and a group of interested citizens retained Frederick Law Olmsted to develop a parkland plan for Buffalo before the city's best park sites were engulfed by development. Buffalo and its progressive leadership provided Olmsted with a unique opportunity to engage in comprehensive planning on a broad scale. His plan for Buffalo was essentially completed in 1876 and consisted of a single large park (Delaware Park) and a series of smaller parks dispersed throughout the city and connected by an extensive system of landscaped parkways and circles integrated with the 1804 street pattern planned by Joseph Ellicott. The plan was reminiscent of Baron Haussman's plan for Paris and provided a monumental framework for the continued growth and expansion of the city, while preserving large areas of green space.
A unique feature of Olmsted's plan for Buffalo, under development in 1874 and illustrated in his 1876 Sketch Map, was the provision for a planned residential suburb at the north and east sides of Delaware Park designed with curvilinear roads and named "Parkside." The planned development appears to have been initially conceived of as an informally landscaped villa community, secluded from traffic and incompatible land uses, and partaking of the aesthetic and recreational amenities of the adjacent park. "Parkside," together with the extensively landscaped (planned by Olmsted) Buffalo State Hospital to the west (National Register listed 1973) and Forest Lawn Cemetery to the south, provided a ring of aesthetically harmonious land uses adjacent to Delaware Park that would serve to buffer the park from the less desirable development anticipated as the city expanded northward. Olmsted alluded to these themes in 1878 in his description of the subdivision:
"A detached suburb has been laid out by private enterprise adjoining the Park as to secure to it a permanent sylvan character distinct from that of the formal tree-planted streets of the city proper."
The original plan for "Parkside" was very similar to that devised by Olmsted and Vaux for Riverside Park, a suburb of Chicago, in 1869 and conformed to Olmsted's concept of a suburb as a community of urban villagers where "each family abode stands fifty or a hundred feet or more apart from all others and at some distance from the public road." Both Parkside and Riverside relied upon rapid transit to overcome the distances between residences and work places, a separation which Olmsted regarded as essential to the healthy development of cities in an era of rapid industrialization. The informal and picturesque form of these two Olmsted suburbs appears to have been inspired by Llewellyn Park, a villa suburb planned by Alexander Jackson Davis circa 1857 in West Orange, New Jersey.
The eastern half of Parkside, now included within the Parkside East Historic District, originally included a broad, arc-shaped parkway beginning at Amherst Street and Colvin Avenue and terminating at Agassiz Circle, lined with trees and flanked by winding pathways. Narrower streets were planned along the edge of Delaware Park (i.e. Parkside Avenue) and between the parkway and the Belt Line Railroad right-of-way at the northeast edge of the subdivision (i.e. Greenfield Street and a portion of Crescent Avenue). In accordance with Olmsted's desire to limit direct access into the subdivision and discourage through traffic, only four streets entered Delaware Park perpendicularly from the outside: Colvin Avenue at the north, Amherst Street at the northeast, Jewett Parkway at the east, and Humboldt Parkway at the southeast. The 1876 plan also included a triangular church site at an intersection near the center of the historic district near the existing site of the Church of the Good Shepherd, as well as small landscaped "islands" at other major intersections. Lot sizes envisioned by Olmsted varied from one-acre parcels adjacent to the park to eighth-of-an-acre lots on Greenfield Street near the perimeter of the subdivision. Olmsted was convinced that the high costs of land acquisition and development associated with his parks and parkways plan would be offset by a subsequent rise in property values and tax revenues that would be engendered by these amenities. The large and exclusive residences envisioned for "Parkside," in particular, would compensate to some extent for the development potential and tax revenues lost in creating the vast 376-acre Delaware Park.
Interest in the "Parkside" subdivision lagged until after 1883 when the Belt Line Railroad finally extended service to the area and made the subdivision financially viable. In 1885, the Parkside Land Improvement Company was formed to further the interests of some of the landowners in the area of the subdivision, and in 1886, Frederick Law Olmsted and his stepson John Charles Olmsted appear to have been retained by the landowners to revise the original subdivision plan and layout streets and lots. Sketchy correspondence between the Olmsteds and the landowners between 1886 and 1888 seems to suggest that the area's landowners were trying to maximize the number of building lots that could be created on their holdings. A surviving map of the subdivision prepared by the Olmsteds circa 1886 and entitled "Third Preliminary Study for laying out Parkside Buffalo" illustrates a street pattern in the eastern half of the subdivision quite similar to that which exists today, with five tiers of streets extending east of Delaware Park and lot sizes reduced in depth from up to 300 feet to 100-200 feet. Before 1890, the street layout was further altered with the addition of more east-west cross streets in the eastern half, resulting in the existing pattern within the historic district. The date and authorship of these final changes, including the layout of Tillinghast Place, Russell Avenue, West Oakwood Place, Florence Avenue and Robie Street, remains unknown, but there is no evidence to suggest Olmsted's involvement based on the existing research.
Subdivision and construction in Parkside East began in earnest about 1888, a time of dramatic growth for the city of Buffalo. The city's strategic location at the eastern end of Great Lakes navigation and at the western end of major railroad trunk lines to the eastern seaboard led to the city's rise during the later nineteenth century as an internationally prominent center of grain transshipment and flour production. Buffalo's commercial and industrial position in the region was further reinforced in 1895 with the introduction of cheap and plentiful hydroelectric power generated at nearby Niagara Falls. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the city's inherent transportation advantages led to large-scale industrial development generating new jobs in all sectors of the economy and swelling the city's population from 255,664 in 1890 to 573,076 in 1930. The tremendous demands for housing that were created provided the impetus for the rapid development of Parkside.
In Parkside East, development began in sporadic locations in the southern half of the historic district almost as soon as streets could be built and gas and water lines extended. By 1900, most of the streets within the district were completed and many blocks had been acquired by land speculators who sold building lots for handsome profits as property values increased. The smaller lot sizes created by the district's original landowners in the late 1880's was in contrast to the development of the spacious "villa community" first envisioned by Olmsted in 1876. However, the informal street layout, with its curving tree-lined streets, helped to soften the transition between Delaware Park and the more congested areas of the city, thus preserving an important objective of Olmsteds original concept for the subdivision.
Although built-up in a relatively short period of time, Parkside East is remarkable for the diversity and quality of its architecture. The earliest buildings in the historic district reflect late Victorian period styles and include the Romanesque Revival, the Queen Anne and the Shingle styles. The 1888 Church of the Good Shepherd at 96 Jewett Parkway is one of the earliest buildings constructed in the district and illustrates the Romanesque Revival style. Designed by Buffalo architects James Marling and Herbert Burdett, the picturesque massing of the church with its asymmetrical tower and the handling of its rustic limestone walls with round-arched openings reflects the influence of Burdett's former employer, Henry Hobson Richardson. The Romanesque influence is also apparent in the design of a house at 2178 Main Street, a two-and-one-half story brick house built in 1892 with a steeply pitched gable facade and round-arched windows. The Queen Anne style is represented by a rambling two-story house at 439 Woodward Avenue, built c.1901 and featuring a characteristically informal combination of porches, loggias, pediments and bell-cast shaped corner turret. Exterior surfaces are varied, ranging from brick and stucco to clapboard and shingle. A number of more modest houses built in the 1890's throughout the southern half of the district reflect Queen Anne style taste in their form and detailing, as illustrated by a small, two-story frame house at 70 Robie Street built in 1890. Several small, vernacular houses of the period are scattered in the same areas and are exemplified by 61 Greenfield Street, built in 1892 with a three-bay side-entrance gabled facade and two-over-two double-hung sash windows.
The Parkside East Historic District also includes excellent examples of the closely related Shingle style, again, most frequently found in the southern half of the historic district. One of the finest examples is located at 96 Jewett Parkway and represents the work of Marling and Burdett. Built in 1894, the house features rustic stone walls and porch piers at the first story sheltered beneath a broad and sweeping roofline with distinctive paired gables at each of the two side elevations. An equally distinguished, but smaller, example of the style is located at 343 Crescent Avenue. Built in 1893, this house incorporates a steeply pitched roofline with a pedimented dormer incorporating a small porch and an elliptical window. Other examples of the style occur at 101 Jewett Parkway, 90 Robie Street, 11 Robie Street and 438 Woodward Avenue, where Shingle style surface treatments and textures are combined with Queen Anne style forms including an octagonal turret.
The architecture of the first decades of the twentieth century within the Parkside East Historic District is characterized by overlapping styles and tastes and diametrically opposed philosophies of design. Progressive and non-traditional approaches to residential design were first introduced to the district in 1894 when William Sydney Wicks, a leading Buffalo architect, designed and built his Arts and Crafts style house at 124 Jewett Parkway, combining stone and half-timber/stucco walls with steep gable roofs and diminutive dormers. His lead was followed by numerous examples of the Craftsman style in the twentieth century, exploiting the inherent natural qualities of stone and wood in their design. No. 781 Crescent Avenue, built in 1918, is an excellent example of the type, featuring informal massing, clapboard and shingle exteriors, bracketed roof overhangs, and a brick chimney at the center of the facade with dark, raked-out mortar joints. The style is also illustrated by 176 Summit Avenue, featuring native limestone porch piers and a chimney and exposed rafter ends. Although many of the district's early twentieth century Bungalows represent standardized designs, some are detailed with carefully crafted masonry details, shingled exteriors with alternating courses of wide and narrow exposures and projecting rafter ends and roof brackets, all characteristic of the Craftsman style.
The Prairie style, identified by its low profiles, horizontal lines and open, innovative plans, is represented by seven houses in the Parkside East Historic District, four of which were designed by the leading architect who was master of the style, Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright's houses were all commissioned by prominent officers in the Buffalo-based Larkin Company, for which Wright also designed his famous Administration Building in 1904 (demolished in 1950). The Darwin Martin House at 125 Jewett Parkway is the largest of the four Wright houses in the district and was built between 1904 and 1906 with a Roman brick exterior and a cross-axial plan. The exterior is characterized by its long, low, horizontal lines, ribbon windows with elaborate leaded glass patterns, and hipped roofs. Originally the Martin house was connected by a pergola to a smaller stuccoed Gardener's Cottage, built in 1905, at 285 Woodward Avenue and to the 1904 Barton House at 118 Summit by a pergola which is no longer extant. (All three of the above houses were listed on the National Register in 1975.) The 1908 Walter Davidson House, also by Wright, at 57 Tillinghast Place is similar than the Martin House in its massing and its built of wood frame construction with a stucco exterior. The Prairie style developed by Frank Lloyd Wright was not universally popular in its day, especially in the East; however, several imitations appear in the Parkside East Historic District at 29 Tillinghast (1908), 273 Crescent (1909) and 198 Woodward (c. 1911), all designed with the horizontal emphasis and shapes characteristic of the master's work.
The antitheses of the progressive architectural trends represented by Wright's work and that of the proponents of the Craftsman style are the derivative historic styles which gained broad appeal in the decades following the Columbian Exposition of 1893. In the Parkside East Historic District, there are modest numbers of Colonial Revival style houses, Tudor Revival style houses, English Gothic Revival style church buildings, and several examples of houses, apartment buildings and stores detailed with vague references to the Spanish Colonial Revival style, all built between 1900 and 1936. Typical examples of the Colonial Revival style include two-story center-entrance houses with gabled dormers at 216 Crescent Avenue (1912), 1456 Amherst Street (1915) and 9 Tillinghast Place (c.1920). In cases where this basic house type is built on narrow lots, the long entrance facade is rotated toward one side, as illustrated by a house at 238 Summit Avenue, built in 1926. The Tudor Revival style is best represented by a half-timber and stucco-faced house at 46 Summit Avenue (1904) and an apartment and store building at 2-4 Russell Avenue (1915). A small number of pattern-book English cottages occur sporadically in the district. No. 14 Tillinghast Place (1921), with its steep gable roof and round-arched entrance, is typical of the type.
The Spanish Colonial Revival style, characterized by stucco walls, round-arched windows and red tile roofs, is alluded to by several houses, apartment buildings and store facades in the historic district built during this same period. Representative examples include a large brick house with a hipped tile roof at 373 Parkside Avenue (c. 1910), a single story store facade with clerestory windows and a bracketed tile pent roof at 2460-2462 Main Street (1925), and an apartment court with round-arched windows and tile pent roofs at 338-340 Crescent Avenue, built in 1929.
The Parkside East Historic District also includes two major religious complexes designed in eclectic interpretations of English Gothic architecture: the Central Presbyterian Church complex at 2434 Main Street (1910-1921) and St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church at 399-415 Woodward Avenue (1914-1922). Both church facilities feature the square-based towers, buttresses, and Gothic-arched windows with perpendicular style tracery characteristic of the English Gothic style.
The majority of residences in the Parkside East Historic District are more difficult to discuss in terms of architectural styles and influences. They represent variations of standardized plans commonly used by local builders and developers between 1890 and 1930 and frequently available through national plan catalogues or pre-cut house manufacturers including Sears Roebuck and Company. The large number of these houses present in the historic district and their high level of integrity help to illustrate the process by which Buffalo's burgeoning middle-class families were provided with comfortable and affordable housing during the city's great era of growth between 1890 and 1930.
Two basic house types proliferated in the district during this period, each represented by several hundred examples. The first type, identified by its rectangular two-story, side-hall arrangement and narrow gabled facade with a front porch, was built in large numbers with many design variants between 1890 and 1910. This form was widely used in many other American cities at this period and appears to be an adaptation of popular late Victorian period house forms to the deep narrow building lots created by the speculative subdivision schemes of the period. Most of these houses are two bays in width across the facade and include steep gables, often detailed with paired attic windows and fish-scale patterned shingles. An early example of this house form is located at 363 Crescent Avenue. Built in 1895, the house is decorated with classically derived porch columns and swag-detailed friezes and seems to refer to the Queen Anne style. Another example at 41 Greenfield Street, built in 1901, is distinguished by a pedimented front porch and a pair of bay windows with rounded corners at the second story A third example, built in 1908 at 206 Woodward Avenue, seems to be one of the more representative examples of the type in the historic district and features a two-story front porch, a doorway and three one-over-one double-hung sash windows at the first story and a doorway flanked by a three-sided bay window at the second story.
The second major standardized house type prevalent in the historic district is often referred to as the American Four Square and is usually characterized by its nearly square floor plan, its boxy massing and hipped roof with dormers. In plan, these houses often included large living and dining rooms with small kitchens at the first story and two to four relatively small bedrooms and a bath at the second story. Parkside East's collection of Four Squares includes numerous variations and subtypes, ranging from a Craftsman styled example at 162 Summit Avenue, built in 1909 with battered brick piers, a bell-cast shaped roof and exposed rafter ends, to a Colonial Revival style example at 1 Agassiz Place, built in 1910 with a Flemish bond brick-faced first story exterior and a rough-cast stucco-covered second story exterior. No. 45 Summit Avenue, built in 1908, is sheathed in shingles and includes windows with multi-paned upper sash and a glazed front porch. No. 741 Crescent Avenue is a highly representative example, featuring paired one-over-one double-hung sash windows, a simple front porch, and shingle siding applied in alternating courses of wide and narrow exposures.
By 1936, the area encompassed by the Parkside East Historic District had been completely developed. The expansion of Buffalo's economy and population ended abruptly at about the same time and declined dramatically after 1950. As a result there was little pressure to redevelop areas within the district for more intensive or higher density land uses. Since 1936, only a handful of new buildings have been constructed within the district. Even more remarkable is the general absence of disfiguring exterior alterations to the district's stock of historic buildings.
Today, the Parkside East Historic District continues to recall the significant design contributions of Frederick Law Olmsted and his farsighted approach to city planning, Frank Lloyd Wright and his innovative architectural design, as well as the anonymous contributions of the many developers, architects and builders who participated in the development of the neighborhood during a significant period in Buffalo's history.
Buffalo Park Commissioners, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Annual Reports (Buffalo: Mathews, Northrup & Co., 1881), p.79.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns (Cambridge Mass., 1870), pp.9-10. Quoted in Albert Fein, Frederick Law Olmsted and the Environmental Tradition. (New York: George Braziller, 1972)
Fein, Albert. Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition. New York: George Braziller, 1972.
Washington D.C. Library of Congress Manuscript Division. Frederick Law Olmsted Papers including Buffalo correspondence relating to Parkside.
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