Parkside West Historic District
The Parkside West 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 West Historic District in Buffalo New York is located approximately four miles north of Buffalo's central business district at the northwest side of Delaware Park. The district is characterized by its curvilinear streets, which generally follow the contours of the adjacent parks edge, and its imposing single family residences on large, landscaped lots.
The Parkside West Historic District covers a relatively flat, crescent-shaped area of approximately 53 acres. There are 137 contributing buildings and structures included in the district; 82 represent principal buildings and 51 are outbuildings, virtually all of which are garages. The district also includes four contributing structures, representing streets and street segments significant for their association with Frederick Law Olmsted's 1876 plan for the development of "Parkside." These include Nottingham Terrace and portions of Middlesex Road, Lincoln Parkway and Delaware Avenue. There are 31 non-contributing principal buildings in the Parkside West Historic District, most typically representing large single-family residences built after the district's 1876-1940 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.
Although the area within the Parkside West Historic District was planned for subdivision as early as 1876, residential development within the district did not begin until 1923. By 1940, most of the building lots within the district were occupied. This unusually brief period of development and construction, together with the use of restrictive covenants relating to architectural styles and costs, resulted in a relatively homogeneous collection of eclectically styled and expensively built houses. The majority of the houses and architect-designed and most are faced in brick, stone or stucco. Three broad stylistic categories account for virtually all of the historic buildings within the district: the Tudor Revival, the Colonial Revival, and the French Chateau style. Tudor Revival houses within the district differ somewhat in their use of materials and scale, ranging from a smaller house at 45 Nottingham Terrace, built in 1929 of brick with a faux half-timber and stucco gable and slate roof, to 175 Nottingham, built in 1932 entirely of random ashlar and cut limestone with projecting window bays and balustraded terraces. Other prominent examples of the style are located at 281 Nottingham built in 1937, 37 Middlesex designed by Bley and Lyman of Buffalo and built in 1925, and 72 Middlesex designed by Shelgren and North of Buffalo and built in 1926. All feature the asymmetrical and picturesque plan and massing characteristic of the style. The style is particularly well represented on Nottingham Terrace and Middlesex Road east of Delaware Avenue.
The Colonial Revival style includes a large number of two-story masonry houses, often featuring balanced, five-bay center entrance facades and gable roofs and combining details derived from both Georgian and Federal style architecture. Number 55 Meadow Road, designed by Bley and Lyman and built in 1926, is one such example, built of stone and distinguished by its parapet gables and Adamesque entrance bay. Number 61 Nottingham Terrace is similar in arrangement, featuring a five-bay center entrance facade, a second story Palladian window, and dormer windows. Several examples of the style are designed with flat roofs encircled by balustrades, as in 92 Middlesex, built in 1926, and others feature porticos, including 273 Nottingham, designed by Shelgren and North and built in 1937, 135 Nottingham, built in 1930, and 85 Meadow, designed by Frederick Backus of Buffalo and built in 1928. Nottingham Terrace west of Lincoln Parkway and Meadow Road north of Middlesex Road have the largest concentrations of this style in the historic district.
The French Chateau style, characterized by its informal elevations and tall hipped or mansard roofs with dormers, is present in scattered locations throughout the district. Among the finest examples are the Kenefick Houses at 51 Nottingham Terrace and 21 Meadow Road, designed by Philadelphia architect Edmund Gilchrist and built in 1931 around a common rear courtyard. The houses feature tile-covered mansard roofs, massive chimney stacks and whitewash brick walls. Other examples include a brick house with a round turreted tower at 25 Nottingham Terrace, built in 1928, and a stucco-covered house at 121 Nottingham, built in 1924, which features floor-length casement windows and stone quoins.
Two manor houses in the district not represented in the above categories are the French Renaissance style Surdam House at 77 Middlesex Road and the Mission style Evans House at 100 Meadow Road. The Surdam House, built in 1926, features a two-story seven-bay facade with a swelling three-bay entrance pavilion. The stucco-covered elevations are detailed with rusticated pilasters and swag detailed spandrels, crowned by a mansard roof with dormers. The Evans House, designed by Frederick Backus and built in 1928 is one of the largest houses in the district. The house features a picturesque assemblage of gabled and turreted elements faced in stucco and covered with tile roofs.
The historic district is distinguished by the high level of architectural integrity possessed by its contributing buildings. There is a virtual absence of non-historic additions and alterations among these buildings and no incompatible landscape features are evident from streets or sidewalks within the district. Although 31 principal non-contributing buildings are present within the district, the impact of these buildings on the historic qualities of the district is largely mitigated by the compatible scale, materials, siting and orientation possessed by all but several of these non-historic buildings.
The Parkside West Historic District is historically and architecturally significant for its association with Frederick Law Olmsted's 1876 Parks and Parkway Plan for the city of Buffalo and for its outstanding collection of eclectic residential architecture from the 1920's and 1930's. The historic district represents a surviving element of Olmsted's planned Parkside sub-division and together with its counterpart, the Parkside East Historic District, illustrates the master landscape architect's pioneering work in the area of suburban residential planning. Preceded only by Olmsted's 1869 plan for Riverside, a suburb of Chicago, Parkside was envisioned as an idealized residential environment, partaking of the aesthetic amenities of a large adjacent park (Delaware Park, National Register listed, 1982) while at the same time fulfilling Olmsted's desire to buffer the park's perimeter from incompatible and uncontrolled development. Although development in Parkside West did not begin until the 1920's several of the curvilinear streets in the district were laid out in accordance with Olmsted's 1876 plan. The overall layout and low density residential character of the district reflect many of the ideals advocated by Olmsted more than fifty years earlier. Architecturally, the district is significant for its outstanding and highly intact collection of large and stylish residences from the 1920's and 1930's designed in the popular historically derived styles of the period, including the Tudor Revival, French Chateau style and Colonial Revival style. These houses attest to continued prosperity in Buffalo, even after the onset of the Great Depression in the early 1930's, and reflect the desire of Buffalo's leading businessmen and professionals to express their wealth and taste conspicuously. The district's 1876-1940 period of significance recognizes Olmsted's early role in the layout of the subdivision while embracing a discrete and consistent period of architectural development beginning in 1923 with the subdivision of property in the district and ending in 1940 with the virtual cessation of new house construction in Buffalo and elsewhere. This period of significance includes all of the significant buildings and structures within the district.
During the early nineteenth century, the land now occupied by the Parkside West Historic District was commonly referred to as the Buffalo Plains. The area was still rural and largely undeveloped in 1868 when prominent Buffalo politician William Dorsheimer invited Frederick Law Olmsted to develop a parkland plan for Buffalo before the city's best potential park sites were engulfed by unplanned growth. 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 existing 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 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 workplaces, 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 western half of Parkside, partially included within the Parkside West Historic District, was originally designed to encompass the entire area north of Delaware Park between Colvin Avenue at the east. Elmwood Avenue at the west and the Belt Line Railroad at the north. Olmsted's 1876 plan included six tiers of east-west streets which roughly paralleled the curving contours of the northern edge of Delaware Park. North-south access through the subdivision to the park was limited, in accordance with Olmsted's planning principles, to two main corridors, Delaware Avenue and an extension of the Lincoln Parkway. Olmsted altered this scheme extensively c. 1886, apparently at the request of the area's principal property owners; however, development in this area did not materialize until the 1920's. At that time, the street layout and plot plan within the historic district were developed largely in accordance with Olmsted's earlier plan for the subdivision. Nottingham Terrace, Middlesex Road, Amherst Street, Delaware Avenue and Lincoln Parkway now follow alignments shown on the 1876 plan, and Meadow Road, with its curving northern half, is sympathetic with spatial qualities envisioned by Olmsted for the subdivision.
Buffalo experienced tremendous population growth between 1876 and 1900 and Parkside West's counterparts, in the east developed rapidly in response to rising land values and a surge in demand for middle and upper-middle class housing. Development in the western part of Olmsted's planned subdivision, however, did not occur until after the dismantling of the 1901 Pan American Exposition grounds and buildings, which were sited in the western half of this area. Several developers acquired or consolidated their holdings in this general area after the exposition, including the Nye Company and the Rumsey family, with the result that development patterns varied in layout and density across the larger Parkside West area. Only those blocks nearest to Delaware Park and included within the historic district reflect the street layout, density and scale intended by Olmsted in his plan for the Parkside subdivision.
The area of Parkside West nearest the park was consistently developed beginning in 1923 by Dexter P. Rumsey Jr., President of the Delaware Acres Company, using restrictive covenants to govern setbacks, architectural character and construction costs. The visual qualities which resulted corresponded closely with what Olmsted had hoped to achieve in his planned subdivision. As a result, the area of the subdivision included within the historic district acquired an exclusive connotation early in its development. Prominent businessmen, corporate executives, lawyers and public officials flocked to the subdivision as soon as lots were available and expressed their status with large and expensively built houses. Included among these individuals were Lewis Surdam, an executive of the F. W. Woolworth Company, John O'Day, a prominent trial lawyer, Thomas W. Mitchell, an investment counselor, Howard Cowan, President of the Spiro Powder Company, Lee Wells Eighmy, a construction company executive and Assistant City Engineer and Dexter P. Rumsey, Jr., heir to the chief nineteenth and early twentieth century property owners in the Parkside area and the principal developer associated with the historic district.
Architecture within the Parkside West Historic District reflects the conservative predilection for historically derived eclectic styles in American residential architecture during the 1920's and 1930's. The styles showcased in the district, including the Tudor Revival style, French Chateau style and Colonial Revival style, alluded to tradition, stability, wealth and taste, and thus appealed to the status-conscious upper-class individuals who chose to build in Parkside West. The most popular style in the historic district in terms of its representation was the Tudor Revival style, an eclectic mode of design loosely based on late medieval English architecture. Examples of the styles in the historic district range in scale and level of ostentation from an imposing limestone mansion at 175 Nottingham Terrace, built in 1932 and designed with steep parapet gables and projecting cut-stone window bays, to smaller houses with brick and simulated half-timber and stucco exteriors, exemplified by 91 Nottingham Terrace, built in 1934. Picturesque massing, varied exterior treatments, Tudor-arched entrances and casement windows are among the design elements commonly employed in examples of the style in the historic district. Particularly fine examples of the style include 72 Middlesex Road, designed by Shelgren and North of Buffalo and built in 1926, 37 Middlesex Road, designed by Bley and Lyman of Buffalo and built in 1925, 281 Nottingham, built in 1937, and 45 Nottingham Terrace, built in 1929.
The Colonial Revival style, derived from both eighteenth and early nineteenth century American sources, is also well represented in the Parkside West Historic District. Balance and symmetry were among the most salient characteristics of the style and elements such as porticoes, fanlights, Palladian windows, blind arcades and roof balustrades were commonly employed features. Outstanding examples of the style include 61 Nottingham Terrace, built in 1929 and featuring a five-bay center entrance facade with arched and Palladian windows, 55 Meadow Road, designed by Bley and Lyman and built in 1926 of stone with paired chimneys at each gable and a modified Palladian window, 92 Middlesex Road, built in 1926, and featuring blind arcading at the first story and a flat roof with an encircling balustrade, and 85 Meadow Road, designed by Frederick Backus of Buffalo and built in 1928 with a portico and attenuated entrance and Palladian window details.
The district also includes a small number of French Chateau style residences inspired primarily by sixteenth-century French architecture. The two Kenefick houses at 51 Nottingham Terrace and 21 Meadow Road, designed by Philadelphia architect Edmund Gilchrist and built between 1930 and 1931, exemplify several of the most salient features of the style with their tiled mansard roofs, tall and massive chimney stacks, and quoined corners. Another outstanding example of the style occurs at 121 Nottingham Terrace, featuring a tall and steeply pitched hipped roof, gabled wall dormers, and floor length casement windows.
Two other revival styles are represented in the Parkside West Historic District by singular examples. The Surdam House at 77 Middlesex Road, designed for an executive of the P. W. Woolworth Company and built in 1926, features an imposing seven-bay stucco facade, elaborately detailed with rusticated pilasters swag-detailed spandrels and a mansard roof with dormers. The 1928 Evans House designed by Frederick Backus, illustrates the Mission Revival style, with its flat stucco wall surfaces, cubic massing, simple fenestration, and tile roofs.
Unlike the Parkside East Historic District, which includes examples of Prairie School and Craftsman style design, the Parkside West Historic District is noteworthy for the complete absence of such progressive early twentieth century residential architecture, apparently the result of covenants control architectural styles. Conversely, the revivalist architecture of Parkside West Historic District far surpasses that of Parkside East in sophistication, scale and craftsmanship.
Construction within the district peaked in the late 1920's; however, major houses continued to be built within the historic district throughout the 1930's in the same historically derived styles. Construction halted within the district after 1940, corresponding with a national decline in housing construction and the massive diversion of economic resources toward war-time mobilization. Construction resumed within the district several years after the conclusion of World War II in 1945; however, the post war development differ markedly in scale and architectural style from that built during the district's period of significance.
Although the Parkside West Historic District represents only a portion of Frederick Law Olmsted's planned residential subdivision west of Colvin Avenue, it is significant for the degree to which it approximates the scale, density, layout and architectural quality envisioned by Olmsted in his original 1876 plan. The curvilinear streets of the historic district and the large and informally landscaped grounds help to soften the transition from parkland to city while extending park-like qualities into the residential neighborhood.
Published: Buffalo Park Commissioners, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Annual Reports. Buffalo: Mathews, Northup & Co., 1881.
Fein, Albert, Frederick Law Olmsted and the American Environmental Tradition. New York: George Braziller, 1972.
Unpublished: Brookline, Massachusetts. "Fairsted." Olmsted collection, including original Olmsted maps and plans of the Parkside subdivision, c. 1876-1886.
Washington D.C. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. Frederick Law Olmsted Papers including Buffalo correspondence relating to Parkside.
†] Peckham, Mark and Ross, Claire, N. Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Parkside West Historic District, Buffalo NY, nomination document, 1986, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.